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2 Corinthians 7:7-8; Divine Guidance and Apostolic Regret

06/30_2 Corinthians 7:7-8; Divine Guidance and Apostolic Regret; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190630_2cor7_7-8.mp3

Paul had changed his travel plans. He had hoped to cross the Aegean from Ephesus to Corinth and visit them on his way up to Macedonia, and then again on his return trip down from Macedonia. <<MAP>>

2 Corinthians 1:15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. …23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. 2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Upon hearing some concerning news, he made an emergency visit, a visit which proved painful for him. He refused to make another painful visit, instead sending Titus ahead with a severe letter, and traveling north from Ephesus by land to Troas, where he planned to meet Titus and hear news of how they responded. But Titus did not meet him in Troas, so he continued on to Macedonia, where he was comforted by the coming of Titus.

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while.

Good News of Grief

Paul says that he was comforted by the God who comforts the depressed; by the comfort with which Titus was comforted by you. This is reciprocal comfort, reciprocal encouragement.

A Risky Letter and Apostolic Regret

Paul says something very interesting here; he wrote a letter that he regretted writing after he sent it. He took a risk. He was deeply concerned about them, and they hadn’t responded well to a visit, so he wrote a forceful letter. But after sending it off, he questioned, was it too much? Will it push them farther away? Things seem to be on the verge of falling apart. What if his severe letter pushes them over the edge? If this church falls apart, what will come of the advance of the gospel in the region of Achaia?

We get yet another glimpse into the real human struggles of an apostle. Led and empowered by the Spirit of God, he had to make hard decisions and afterward, he wasn’t confident he had made the right decision. I believe we get a glimpse here into what it means to be led by the Spirit. We tend to think only in categories of the mystical and supernatural, that they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” and “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go into Bithynia” (Acts16:6-7)

Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

God can and sometimes does lead in those direct clear ways. But there is also “even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest …So I took leave of them and went on” (2Cor.2:12-13). A gospel door was opened, but because of what was going on, I couldn’t take advantage of it and had to leave. Do we say that Paul was disobedient to the Spirit’s leading? Or was his ‘spirit not at rest’ also leading of the Spirit? Was there only one right answer? To stay may have meant fruitful ministry, but he chose to leave, and God brought his comfort to him in Macedonia.

Paul ‘wanted to come to you first …but …I refrained from coming again. …For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you.” (2Cor.1:15; 2:1). Acts records it this way “Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia…” (19:21). Paul has desires, and he wrestles with what will be best for them. He reasons and thinks and makes up his mind. He writes a letter and then begins to regret writing the way he did, wondering if that was best. Paul is empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, and yet he doesn’t always have a ‘word from the Lord’ on what he is supposed to do. The Spirit is growing in his heart an affection and care for the churches, he wants to serve and love and bless them, but he uses his God given wisdom to choose how to do that. He takes risks. Writing the severe letter was risky. It could backfire. They might misunderstand his intentions. And yet he makes a decision and prayerfully moves forward in ministry, trusting God to direct his steps.

The Revealed Will of God

It’s a very common question; how do I know what God’s will is in any particular situation. And it’s a good question, because we ought to be making it our aim in all things to please him (2Cor.5:9). We should be asking ‘what would the Lord want me to do? What would please him? What would glorify him? I think it’s worth taking some time to look at what the Bible has to say about God’s will and how to make decisions that please God.

On one level, this is a very easy question, because a quick search in bible software or a concordance will give you some very specific verses dealing with the will of God. Here’s one:

1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;

This is the will of God, your sanctification. You are set apart for God. Sexual immorality of any kind is inconsistent with who you are in Christ. This is clear. You don’t have to pray about if you should have an affair or go too far with your girlfriend, or indulge in pornography. God has said clearly that abstinence outside of a traditional marriage relationship is his will. But this doesn’t tell me what job I should take or what school I should attend or where I should live.

Or maybe it does. Is there wisdom here, that tells me that although this job pays more, it puts me in a position that exposes me to more frequent and more intense temptations to sin, and it would be unwise to put myself in those positions?

Here is another will of God verse:

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Usually those asking the question of how to determine the will of God are facing a life decision that will place them in very different circumstances. This verse doesn’t tell us which circumstances to choose, but rather what God’s will is in any and every circumstance. You can find joy in any circumstance. Never stop praying. In every circumstance give thanks to God. That is God’s will. If you choose A, find joy in it, give thanks for it, and never stop praying. If you choose B, find joy in it, give thanks for it, and never stop praying. The will of God is not necessarily choosing A over B or B over A, but in A or B or C or D to rejoice and stay connected to God and give him thanks.

Here’s another one:

1 Peter 2:15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Peter says that we should “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” God’s will is that we live lives of integrity that are above reproach, lives that bless others, so that the name of Christ is not reproached.

How to Do the Will of God

Ephesians 6 tells us how we are to do the will of God;

Ephesians 6:5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

This is addressed to servants, and the focus here is not what you do outwardly but where your heart is, what your attitude is like. This is a circumstance few would choose. A slave doesn’t get to make many choices; they are told what to do. And yet even in a situation of slavery, Paul says that they can do the will of God. The will of God defines how you serve a master. With a sincere heart, from the heart, with a good will, as to the Lord and not to man. God’s will reaches beyond what you do into the heart motivations of why and how you do it.

Discerning the Will of God in Every Situation

We still haven’t tackled directly the question of how to discern the will of God in any given decision. Romans 12 is an important passage for how to determine the will of God. And it begins with a ‘therefore’. It is built on top of the foundation of 11 chapters of gospel, of the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you [or encourage; Παρακαλῶ] therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In response to God’s mercy displayed in the gospel, that we all are sinners deserving of wrath, that none is righteous, no not one, but God gives us his own perfect righteousness as a gift to be received by faith, that God put his only Son Jesus forward as a propitiation, placing all our sins on him and pouring out his just wrath on him as our substitute.

That we have been justified, that we have peace with God, that we have received the Spirit as a guarantee. In view of God’s many mercies, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service, your spiritual worship, your logical liturgy.

The first point if you want to discern the will of God is to know the gospel well. Soak in it, marinate in it, enjoy it, savor it. Any attempt to live a life that pleases the Lord must be rooted in and grow out of the rich soil of treasuring the gospel.

The second point we see here is this. Refuse to be shaped by this fallen world system; don’t let the world press you into its mold. Don’t follow the patterns of thinking of a Christ rejecting world. If we want to please Jesus, we need to recognize that this world system is opposed to Jesus and his ways. He told his followers:

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus made it clear that his kingdom operates on principles that are upside down and out of step with this world. We must stop thinking in worldly categories if we want to please God.

Here is a simplistic example; (real world decisions are often more complex than this). You are contemplating two jobs. One pays more than the other. You want to live a comfortable life, you want to be able to afford the fancier car and enjoy the luxuries that money can buy, so you choose the higher paying job. It is not that your decision is wrong, as if you chose A and God’s will was for you to choose B. Rather, your reasoning was wrong. You were thinking according to worldly patterns. Maybe the lower paying job would be a better choice because it would free up time to spend with family and serve in the local church. Maybe there would be more opportunity to be a light for Jesus in one than the other. Or maybe the higher paying job would enable you to use your gifts and talents to earn more money so that you can give sacrificially to advance the kingdom of God in the world. In your thinking, in your reasoning, do not be conformed to this world system.

Instead, be transformed, be metamorphosed by the renewing of your mind. This is where marinating in the gospel, treasuring the gospel, being washed in the water of the word, comes in. Let God’s word transform your mental framework, your priorities, your deepest desires. Let God renew your mind.

The result of this is ‘so that by testing you may discern what is the will of God. This word ‘testing to discern’ [δοκιμάζειν] is a word that is used in the refining of precious metals; to test in order to demonstrate its genuineness, to prove. When a refiner puts the gold into the fire to prove it, he risks losing it all if it is false; and yet there is no risk for what he would lose is merely the imitation.

Here is how this works. As you treasure the gospel, as your heart and mind are transformed, as you pursue a life pleasing to God, you prove what is the will of God as a fire proves gold. You have a decision to make and so you consider what would advance the gospel, what would glorify God, what would be most pleasing to him. And then you have to do something. This testing, this proving, this involves risk. You have to take the next step. God’s will is good, it is pleasing, it is complete or perfect, it achieves the intended goal.

Paul made it his aim in all things to please the Lord. When circumstances arose, he applied his gospel sanctified common sense, and moved forward with what he though would most glorify God. He was human. He didn’t always claim to have a word from the Lord on a specific matter. Sometimes he felt regret, wondering if he had done the best thing. Sometimes he was discouraged. Sometimes he was depressed. He needed brothers and sisters to come along side him and encourage him. And yet he could move forward with boldness and humble confidence, knowing that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom.8:28)

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

June 30, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:1; Sanctification – Promises & Commands

05/19_2 Corinthians 7:1; Sanctification; Commands and Promises; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190519_2cor7_1.mp3

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

What to Do With the Promises

We just finished up the end of 2 Corinthians 6. Paul has just affirmed that we are the temple of the living God, and has listed for us scriptural promises, promises from Leviticus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and 2 Samuel, promises that God will indwell in us, that he will walk among us, that he will be our God and take us to be his people. He gave us the promises that he will welcome us, that he will be a Father to us, that we will be his sons and daughters. Big promises. Staggering promises.

What do we do with these promises? We have the promises. God gave us the promises. Now what do we do with them? Do we just read them and sit back and say ‘wow, that’s really cool!’ Do we read the promises and file that information away and move on to the next thing? What do we do with the promises? What are we supposed to do with them?

Future Blessing or Present Help?

We tend to think of promises as a guarantee of something that will come to us later, that we just have to wait for. For example, if I tell my kids on Friday that I will buy them ice cream on Sunday afternoon, then they eagerly wait until Sunday afternoon rolls around. In fact, they would probably be thinking ‘I hope church gets over quickly, so we can go get ice cream.’ Is this how we are to think of the promises of God? Are the promises of God pointing to something that is coming to us in the future, that we just wait around for? Are they promises of something he will do for us in the future, regardless of what we do?

Or are they different than that? Are they more like this: ‘I have purchased swimming lessons for you. Go get your suit on and we will go to the pool together; don’t be afraid, I will be with you and help you as you learn to swim. I will always be right there to be sure you don’t drown. And when we are done, we will go get ice cream together.’ Are God’s promises promises of future blessing or of present help?

I believe the answer to that question is ‘yes!’ Yes, God’s promises are promises of future blessing. Listen to these promises from Jesus;

(Jn.6:37) “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (Jn.6:47) “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Promises of future blessing, and promises of present help, because Jesus also says:

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

We need present help for that! We are told:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived….

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Whoever believes has eternal life, whoever comes will not be cast out; and there is a holiness, a righteousness without which no one will enter, no one will see the Lord. We can’t take one without the other. God promises us his future blessing, and he promises us his present help to certainly get us there.

This is what he is saying in Philippians 1:6

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

He began the good work in you. It is work. It is his work. He will bring it to completion.

Promises and Commands

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. …16 … For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Paul gives us a command, and the reason he gives for the command is our identity, who we are because of the promises of God. “For we are the temple of the living God.”

He listed these promises; promises of his indwelling, his presence, his covenant relationship, his welcome, his adoption of us as a father to his sons and daughters; all these promises are the basis for his command, ‘do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’ (6:14). And in the middle of these promises he also quoted a verse of command for God’s people from Isaiah 52; ‘therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing’.

Fighting With Promises

Paul tells us here exactly what he intends for us to do with the promises of God, how to put them into action. How to utilize them to great effect in our lives. We are to use the promises to battle against sin. To battle for holiness. God gave us the promises as weapons for the right hand and left, to kill sin and pursue holiness.

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Therefore, having these, the promises, we can cleanse ourselves. What this implies is that without the promises, without the prior and continuing work of God we are utterly unable to cleanse ourselves. God provides the water for washing, he gives us the ability, he implants within us the will, the desire to be holy. He is at work before and in and under and through our work. What this means is that if you don’t know the promises, if you don’t have the promises, if you don’t know who you are in Christ, you won’t be successful in your battle with sin.

Beloved

Therefore, having these promises, beloved. ἀγαπητοί. Beloved. Just stop for a moment and hear that. You are loved. This is a term of affection. Paul writes to the Corinthians, and calls them beloved. He loves these people. He loves this church. But more than that, he addresses them as beloved because they are loved by God. You, today, are God’s beloved. That is your identity, who you are. You need to know who you are, whose you are. In order to fight right, you need to know who you are.

Let Us Cleanse Ourselves

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves. Paul puts himself in it together with his readers; Paul the apostle is on journey toward holiness together with us his readers. As he writes, he has not yet arrived, he must pursue holiness, he must cleanse himself. And he invites us his readers to join him in cleansing ourselves. When we hear this, we might think, wait, there’s a song I know that asks the question “what can wash away my sins” and it answers? “nothing but the blood of Jesus.” We might be wary of this language ‘let us cleanse ourselves.’ But that is exactly what it says, and it doesn’t contradict what the song says.

As David Powlison in his book on sanctification puts it, “We turn – from darkness to light, from false gods to the only true God, from death to life, from unbelief to faith. You ask for help because you need help. You repent. You believe, trust, seek, take refuge. You are honest. You remember, listen, obey, fear, hope, love, give thanks, weep, confess, praise, delight, walk. Notice all these active verbs; they speak of wholehearted, whole-person action… No one does any of this for you. You are not passive. You are not a puppet or a robot. You are 100 percent responsible, and yet you are 100 percent dependent on outside help. Any other way of putting it makes you either far too independent or far too passive.” [Powlison, How Does Sanctification Work? p.67]

We have God’s blood-bought promises, and so we cleanse ourselves. Because we are the temple of the living God, because God dwells in us, because he walks with us and takes us to be his own, because he has adopted us into his family as beloved sons and daughters, because of who we are, because of who he made us to be, we live different. We cleanse ourselves. We cleanse the temple. We fight. God’s presence ejects evil, and we have the Holy Spirit of the living God living inside, so we have the power to cleanse ourselves.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We work because God is working in us. He is working out our will, our wants, and he is working in our work. We work because he has ignited a passion in us to be holy, and he ignites that passion through his stunning promises.

Defilement of Flesh and Spirit

Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit. There are things that defile us physically, and there are things that defile us spiritually. And we are to cleanse ourselves from both. We are to apply the blood of Jesus to our sin-soiled self.

‘Cleanse’ implies that we are defiled, already dirty. We need to be cleansed. When Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, he said:

John 13:10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean…”

We have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. And from our daily walk in this world, we daily get our feet dirty, and we daily need to wash our feet. We are clean, completely clean, and we need our feet washed. Daily temptation, daily struggle, daily interaction, daily defilement; daily cleansing. Let us point fingers and condemn each other when we see someone tripping up. No, that’s not what it says. Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves.

Bringing Holiness to Its Intended End

Bringing holiness to completion. Does this mean that we can attain perfection, become completely holy? Philippians 1:6 tells us that he will bring the work he began “to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” So no, I don’t believe we can achieve perfection this side of glory. “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1Jn.3:2).

What does it mean then to say that we are to bring holiness to completion? The word ‘completion’ has at its root the word ‘goal’; the point aimed at, to fulfill, finish or complete. We bring holiness to its intended goal when we become holy as he is holy. We are set apart or made holy; that is our position. We have been sanctified; we are saints. But we are saints who sin. We are in need of daily cleansing. We are being made holy day by day, we are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14 brings both of these ideas together.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, … 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

He has perfected us for all time. That’s a promise. That cannot change. And we are being sanctified; we are in the ongoing process of being made holy. That process is sure, because he is in control. He began it and he will bring it to its intended end. And we actively participate in the process. We bring about the intended goal of our holiness when we cling to God’s promises and cleanse ourselves. When we take his blood and apply it to ourselves. Daily.

In the Fear of Him

Bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Christians still to fear God. This is and has always been the path of true wisdom;

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Proverbs 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.

We must deepen in our awesome respect and reverence for who God is. Jesus told us not to fear people. He said:

Luke 12:5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

Application

Take up God’s promises and do battle. I am a temple of the living God. I will not make room for that in my life. God is always with me; he lives in me. I will not drag him into that. I will not look at that. I will not think that. I will not feel that. I am his son, his daughter; he is my father. I will seek to bring joy to his heart. I will bring him my problems, crawl up into his lap. He is big enough to handle anything. I can trust him. Depend on him. He has made me a saint, he has called me holy. I will pursue holiness in the fear of him.

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

May 20, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fruit and Abiding in Jesus; John 15:1-17

09/10 Fruit and Abiding in Jesus; John 15:1-17 Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170910_fruit-abiding-in-jesus.mp3

We’ve taken the summer to look at the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in the life of the believer. We saw that love love is willingly self-giving for the good of the other. Joy is unaffected by circumstances, overwhelms suffering, rejoices in trials. Peace is a quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is well. Patience bears a long time with others and graciously forgives the wrongs of others. Kindness is palatable, functional, fitting; not severe, biting, harsh or chafing. It is redemptive. Goodness is the generous outward expression and overflow of a kind heart, especially to the undeserving. Faithfulness is doing what the Master commands when he commands, in utter dependence on him, taking risks in service to others. Gentleness or meekness is an awareness of deep personal need, my own spiritual poverty, and in helplessness seeking help from God alone. Self Control is Spirit supplied inner strength over lesser desires.

We have seen that this is not nine things; this is one thing; fruit. It is whole Christian character. In Isaiah 40:26 God brings out the starry hosts ‘by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.’ Spirit produced character will be comprehensive; the whole fruit will be growing.

Last week we looked at 2 Corinthians 3 and saw that this spiritual transformation comes through looking. Looking to Jesus.

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

Today I want to look at Jesus’ teaching on fruitfulness in John 15. Jesus talked a bit about fruit. He said that a healthy tree bears good fruit, and that a tree is known by its fruit; you will be able to recognize a false teacher by the fruit they bear (Mt.7, 12; Lk.6). He told a parable about fruitful and unfruitful soils (Mt.13; Mk.4; Lk.8). He told a story about efforts to get an unfruitful fig tree to produce fruit (Lk.13), and he even cursed a fig tree that had leaves but no fruit (Mt.21; Mk.11). He told a story about a vineyard that the master developed and rented out to tenant farmers, and when he returned to receive his share of the fruit, they refused (Mt.21; Mk.12; Lk.20).

Jesus talked about fruit as evidence of the nature of a tree, and warned about some of the things that prevent fruitfulness. But in John 15, he tells us how to be fruitful, how to bear much fruit. In the gospel of John, the word ‘fruit’ appears 10 times, and 8 of those are in John 15:1-16. Jesus is instructing us how to bear much fruit.

In John 13 Jesus says:

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. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The fruit of love is evidence of a relationship with Jesus. He repeats this new commandment to love in 15:12 and 17. We are to have Jesus’ own love in us. He says in John 14

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

Jesus gives us his own peace. Then in John 15:11 he says

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Jesus gives us his own joy. Love as I have loved you, my joy in you, my peace I give to you. Jesus’ love, Jesus’ joy, Jesus’ peace in us. Oh, and Jesus talks much about the promised Holy Spirit in John 14-16. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ own love, joy, peace in us.

The False Vine and the True

Look with me at John 15 to see how this fruit is produced in us.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

Fruit is the issue of this passage. The vine is meant to bear fruit. In using a vine as an illustration, Jesus is not making something up. He is picking up an Old Testament illustration that would be familiar to his hearers. Many times in the Old Testament, Israel is compared to a vine. Isaiah 5 is one place we could look.

Isaiah 5:1 Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

Sound familiar? This is almost the same story Jesus tells after he cleansed the temple, when his authority was challenged. The master of the vineyard is looking for fruit. Isaiah 5:7 says:

Isaiah 5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

Israel was a false vine that yielded wild grapes, that refused to give the master the fruit that was his due. Jesus is contrasting himself with unfaithful Israel. I am the true vine. I will produce good fruit for my Father in the proper season. Notice, Jesus says ‘I am the true vine’ and he says someone is caring for the vineyard. Someone is cultivating and tending the vineyard to ensure maximum fruitfulness. My Father is the farmer. Look at Isaiah 27.

Isaiah 27:2 In that day, “A pleasant vineyard, sing of it! 3 I, the LORD, am its keeper; every moment I water it. Lest anyone punish it, I keep it night and day; 4 I have no wrath. Would that I had thorns and briers to battle! I would march against them, I would burn them up together. 5 Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me.” 6 In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.

Jesus is the true fruitful vine. His Father is the vinedresser. Fruitful branches are tended to maximize fruitfulness; dead wood is cleared away to allow room for healthy growth.

Pruning and Cleansing

John 15:2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

He prunes fruitful branches to maximize fruitfulness. Anyone familiar with this? Anyone have any experience with this? There is a play on words here in the original. Takes away is [αἴρει] and prunes is [καθαίρει]. They sound similar. And then in verse 3, clean is [καθαροί].

These two words are related. In fact, verse 2 might be translated ‘every branch that bears fruit he cleanses that it bear more fruit. Already you are clean.’ We find this exact phrase ‘you are clean’ [ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε] if we turn back two chapters to John 13, where Jesus laid aside his outer garments and washed his disciples’ feet. When Peter objected, Jesus answered him

John 13:8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean [ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε], but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Judas was a picture of the dead branch that was taken away. Peter was completely clean. He had had a bath. But he needed his feet washed. Two chapters later, in John 15, Jesus clarifies.

John 15:2 …every branch that does bear fruit he [cleanses], that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

Peter was completely clean because of the word Jesus spoke. Peter was cleansed with a word. But Peter who was completely clean needed his feet washed. Fruitful branches are branches that are already clean because of Jesus’ word. But fruitful branches need to be cleansed, that they may bear more fruit.

Ephesians 4 picks this up; cleansed by the washing of the water with the word.

Ephesians 5:25 …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

We see the tension here between the already and the not yet. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. You are completely clean. You are justified. By the blood of Jesus you have been once for all cleansed of all your sin. But there is an ongoing tending of the vine, washing of the feet, cleansing, pruning, in order to maximize fruitfulness. The Father is the vinedresser. The Father is faithful to cleanse those who are are already clean. The Father is actively tending his vineyard.

Abiding and Independent Inability

Notice, we have not yet been given the identity of the branches. So far, we have Jesus the true vine, and his Father, the vinedresser.

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Abide. The branch is incapable of bearing fruit apart from the vine. Here we finally get the identity of the branches. Jesus is the true vine, we are the branches. Not until we are told that we are incapable of bearing fruit apart from the vine are we told that we are the branches.

I grew up with a grapevine in our backyard. It is almost impossible to tell where the vine ends and the branches begin. They are one. That is Jesus’ point. The branch is in the vine, and the vine is in the branch. They are one. They are virtually indistinguishable. There is a vital connection. Abide in me and I in you. Jesus is in me, and I am abiding in Jesus. I am totally dependent on Jesus. I can bear no fruit without being connected with Jesus. This is why there are good works that are called dead works that are not the fruit of the Spirit. There are a lot of kind, generous, loving, patient, self-controlled people in the world who don’t know Jesus. They may be loving, but it is not Jesus’ love. It is not Jesus’ sap running through their veins that produces supernatural self-sacrificial love. And it may look great. But it is worth nothing if it is apart from Jesus. Only fruit that is produced as an outworking of Jesus in me is worth anything at all.

Don’t forget the connection here with pruning and cleansing. We could look to Hebrews and see that ‘the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives’ (Heb.12:6).

Hebrews 12:10 …he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Pruning, cleansing, discipline is painful. But it is ‘that we bear more fruit’ that ‘later it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.’ As the Father is faithful to prune and cleanse, we are to push in to Jesus and draw our everything from Jesus. It is for our good. The Father is the vinedresser, and he is at work for our good. We can trust his good design even in the painful process of pruning.

Practical Help for Abiding

So Jesus is the true vine, the Father is the vinedresser, we are clean and connected to Jesus through his life-giving word, and as we are being pruned for maximum fruitfulness we are to press into Jesus as Jesus lives his life in us and through us.

Jesus Word in Us, Pursuing God’s Glory, Asking in Dependence

Practically what does it mean to abide? What does this abiding look like? Day to day? Jesus doesn’t leave us guessing.

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

What does it mean to abide in Jesus and have Jesus abide in us? To have Jesus abide in us is to have his words abide in us. Remember, we are clean because of his word spoken to us. He says to dead things ‘LIVE!’ and there is life. And he sustains that life by his word. Jesus is the Word made flesh, and he abides in us as his words are the life in our veins. Get Jesus’ words into you! Meditate on his words for they are your life! Listen to him! Hide his word in your heart! Let his heart capture your heart. What is Jesus’ heartbeat? What is Jesus’ passion? ‘By this is my Father glorified.’ Jesus lives to glorify his Father. Let his heart be your heart. Let this be your supreme want. I want in all things to glorify the Father. I want in all things to have Jesus’ character shine through my life, for this glorifies the Father. And ask! Ask God to work his fruit in you. Ask Jesus to put his love in you, his joy in you, his peace in you for the glory of the Father. Ask whatever you wish as you pursue more than anything else the Father’s glory. Ask the Father through his pruning in your life to put Jesus on display for all the world to see!

Get Jesus’ words into you. Let Jesus’ words permeate your thinking. Pursue the glory of God above all else, and ask whatever you wish! This is what it looks like for Jesus to abide in you. Meditating on his word, pursuing his glory, coming to him needy, acknowledging your dependence and inability and asking.

Receiving Jesus’ Love and Joyfully Loving

What does it look like to abide in Jesus?

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

What does it look like to abide in Jesus? Abide in my love. Let my love wash over you and saturate you. Place yourself under the Niagara Falls of my love until it permeates every pore of your being and defines you. Do you have any idea how much the Father loves his only begotten Son? Jesus’ love for us is that love; the overflow of the Father’s love for him! The Father delights in every perfection of his only Son. Jesus takes perfect pleasure in you! As the Father delights in Jesus, Jesus delights in you! To abide in his love is to receive. To feel his pleasure. To enjoy.

John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Do not misunderstand. This obedience, the Son’s obedience to the Father is not in order to earn his love. The Son is forever secure in the Father’s love. The obedience of the Son is not tedious and burdensome. The obedience of the Son to his Father is the joyful response and overflow of love received. It is the joy of the Son to pursue what pleases his Father.

What is the command we are to keep out of the joyful overflow of being securely loved?

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

The joyful overflow of abiding in Jesus’ love is loving others with the love with which he loved us. This is not burdensome obedience; it is joyful obedience. It is not slavish obedience, blindly doing what I am told without understanding why. No, Jesus has called us friend! Jesus invites us to knowingly join him in his ultimate pursuit of glorifying his Father. Abiding in his love and advancing the Father’s fame by loving others with the love with which he loved us.

Confident Certainty

Jesus says:

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Jesus is the true vine. This is all Jesus’ doing. We are selected by Jesus, cleansed by Jesus, appointed by Jesus to abide in him as he abides in us, to bear fruit in him, and that our fruit should abide. This is the certainty we have. This fruit, this love is not temporary or intermittent. This is abiding, lasting. It can only be lasting because it is not my love. This is Spirit produced Spirit sustained supernatural love. It is Jesus’ love in me, flowing through me to others. Jesus’ words abiding in us, abiding in Jesus’ love for us, joyfully pursuing God’s glory by loving others, in prayerful dependence on his strength and his abundant supply.

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.

Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

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

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience

04/30 Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170430_leviticus-26_14-39.mp3

Leviticus is a covenant document between God and his people. Leviticus 26 gives the terms of the covenant agreement. Verses 1-2 are a reminder of the central demand of the covenant, that by entering into this covenant, Israel is promising to have no other gods but the one LORD. They are to trust him by honoring his time and his place. God’s instructions are to be kept and his presence is to be feared. Verses 3-13 list the blessings that accompany obedience; blessings of produce and peace and progeny and most importantly the gift of God’s presence with his people.

But the blessings of the covenant are conditional:

Leviticus 26:3 “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you …

Verses 14-39 are the consequences of a refusal to follow the terms of the agreement.

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you:

Notice in both cases, it is God himself who is active in fulfilling the terms of the covenant. If you do what I command, I will give you… If you will not listen to me and do… then I will do this to you. God takes his covenant seriously, and will personally bring about either blessings or the curses.

Notice the blatant disobedience that is warned against in these verses; “if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant” A refusal to listen to God’s instructions, a refusal to do what he commands, is followed by an emotional reaction against God’s truth; ‘if your spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules’. This revulsion at God’s commands results in a refusal to obey, and a violation of the covenant contract.

This chapter is essential for understanding the rest of the Bible. This passage provides essential context for the rest of the Bible. It gives the covenant context for the history of God’s judgment on Israel. What happened under Joshua, and then in Judges when ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ and ‘the LORD gave them into the hand of’ their enemies, and ‘they cried out to the LORD and he sent’ a deliverer; what happened under the kings who disobeyed and under those who tried to turn the people back to the LORD, what was spoken by the prophets who were sent to confront idolatry and turn the hearts of the people back to the LORD, what happened in the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests and captivities, what was said in the prayers of the captives like Daniel and Nehemiah, even what we today enjoy as New Covenant believers, all find their root in the terms of this covenant agreement between God and his people.

This section of consequences for covenant treason is structured in 5 cycles of escalating discipline. Each section begins with ‘if you will not listen; then I will…’

14-17 general curses – illness, famine, defeat

18-20 Drought and bad harvest

21-22 Wild animals

23-26 War, leading to plague and famine

27-39 War, leading to cannibalism, devastation and deportation

First Stage

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.

God promises to visit the covenant breaker with panic, disease and fever, with stolen productivity, with defeat and oppression, with paranoid fear. God says ‘I will visit you …I will set my face against you.’ God is not absent in the sense that he has merely withdrawn his hand of protection and is allowing bad things to happen; no, he promises to be actively engaged in bringing about these consequences. Hell is not the absence of God; God is everywhere present. Hell will be the presence of God in righteous anger and punishment against those who have rejected him.

Second Stage

Leviticus 26:18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

God here promises to escalate the punishment for continued disobedience. Notice, ‘If in spite of this you will not listen to me.’ There is a hope held out here. At any stage in this discipline, if his people will turn to him and listen to him, the discipline does not have to go any further.

Discipline

This is discipline; discipline is meant to teach, to train, to correct. Discipline is meant to confront, to protect, to restore, to bless. God is saying ‘I want to bless you, but I cannot bless your disobedience, so I promise to do whatever is necessary to bring you around and create in you a heart attitude that I can bless.’ Remember, God loved Israel. God chose Israel. Not because of anything in her, but rather because he loved her (Deut.7:6-8; 9:6). Proverbs reminds us:

Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Discipline is rooted in love. Moses tells the generation about to enter the land that God:

Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled you …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. …5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.

Psalm 94 tells us:

Psalm 94:12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law,

Blessed, happy, is the one you discipline; because discipline is for our greatest good. Hebrews 12 lays this all out.

Hebrews 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Discipline is not pleasant, but it is for our good. The things in this chapter are horrific, but that is intended to teach us that there is something worse. A slap on the child’s wrist is painful, but it is nothing compared to the pain of the emergency room visit that it is intended to prevent. The things in this chapter; disease and death and cannibalism and captivity are nothing compared to what they are meant to keep you from; an eternity separated from a good God who loves you.

Greater Accountability

Notice, the discipline of this chapter is promised to God’s covenant people, not to the nations. God has a special relationship with his own people, and these are the consequences for treating carelessly that relationship. Those who have experienced grace; those who have seen the truth and rejected it are judged much more severely than those who have not; Peter warns:

2 Peter 2:21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

Because those who have been offered grace will be held more accountable, God relentlessly pursues us with his discipline in order to bring us back.

Pride

In this second section, to those who have refused to respond to the first stage of discipline, God promises to ‘discipline you again sevenfold for your sins’. This is an escalation of discipline toward those who refuse to listen. God says ‘I will break the pride of your power’. He will prevent the land from producing. So often our hardness toward God is a result of pride. The prayerless person is a proud person. I will not cry out to God for help, because I can handle this without him! God did not create us to be independent, but dependent. We are not to stand on our own; we are to rely on him, to depend on him, to lean into him, to trust him. We are not self-sufficient; he alone is self-sufficient. We are to lean on his all-sufficiency. Repeatedly we hear the warning, when things go well for you, do not thing it is because of your own greatness, but because God has blessed you. Do not become proud, but recognize that every good thing is a gift from God.

O Lord, whatever it takes, break our foolish pride!

Third Stage

Leviticus 26:21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted.

The third stage is an escalating progression in disipline. If you will listen, I will use the least severe means of discipline available. If you choose to harden your heart, I will be required to use more severe forms of discipline. ‘Then,’ after the first two stages, ‘if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me.’ I will let loose the wild beasts against you’ bereave you of your children. This is opposite of the blessing in verse 6 ‘I will remove harmful beasts from your land’.

‘Wild beasts which shall bereave you of your children’ seems severe, but remember, this is the third stage of rebellion, having refused to listen to the first two rounds of discipline.

Fourth Stage

Leviticus 26:23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

Here the goal of all this is clearly stated; ‘if by this discipline you are not turned to me.’ Hear God’s heart in all of this. His heart is toward you, not against you. He knows that there is no good apart from himself. So he intends to turn your heart back to him, whatever it takes.

This is a response to active disobedience. ‘If you walk contrary to me, the I also will walk contrary to you. I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.’ ‘I will …execute vengeance for the covenant’. This is a breach of a covenant that they agreed to. Going after false gods is both foolish and treasonous. God must defend the honor of his glorious name. He will execute vengeance for the covenant. Sword, pestilence, famine. Ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven. It seems polygamy is a curse, not a blessing. You shall eat and not be satisfied. True satisfaction comes only through walking with God, enjoying the good of his presence. Seeking satisfaction anywhere else will leave us eating without ever experiencing satisfaction.

Fifth Stage

Leviticus 26:27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

‘If in spite of this,’ having hardened your hearts through the first four stages of discipline ‘you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.’ This is escalating discipline due to the callousness of the people’s hearts. It takes severe consequences to rip the callouses off and expose their hard hearts to the gravity of their situation. Cannibalism. When Syrian king Ben-Hadad beseiged Samaria and caused a great famine,

2 Kings 6:26 Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” … 28 And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” 30 When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body—

This is a heart-wrenching story, and the king tore his clothes. Tearing clothes is a sign of repentance and mourning. But even this horrific event did not turn the kings heart back to the LORD. Instead he sent messengers to kill the LORD’s prophet Elisha, who had been calling Israel to repentance.

God says ‘I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.’ The way to desecrate a place of worship was to scatter it with bones. This is an ironic promise that God will desecrate the false worship of his people with the corpses of those who trusted in these false gods. And he says ‘my soul will abhor you’. We often hear it said that ‘God hates the sin but loves the sinner.’ But here God himself says to the one who persistently violates the terms of the covenant and refuses to repent after extended discipline ‘my soul will abhor you’.

All this sounds horrific, but remember, the punishment fits the crime. The level of horror we have at these punishments, should alert us to the gravity of disregarding the word of the LORD, and turning away from God, spurning his patience and discipline that is meant to bring us to repentance.

Sabbath Rest and Hope

Leviticus 26:34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. 36 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

God promised that the land would enjoy its Sabbaths while his people are in captivity. God’s people ought to have enjoyed the Sabbath rest God provided for them. Instead the land would enjoy that rest without them. We read in 2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 36:15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy.

…20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

But even in this there is hope. There is an end in sight. The prophet Isaiah writes:

Isaiah 54:7 For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.

Law and Gospel

God’s heart is to turn the hearts of his people back to himself. In the Old Testament this was rare. Except for a small remnant, the people persisted in their disobedience, hardened their hearts, and refused to respond to his loving discipline. Although there were amazing blessings promised, the law brought a curse. We read in Galatians 3:

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”

The law is based on performance, perfect performance, and because no one can ever keep the law perfectly, we are all under the curse. Everything written in this chapter addressed to covenant breakers belongs to us, because we are covenant breakers. None of the promises belong to us, because we have failed to walk in obedience. But once we feel the weight of this, there is amazingly good news here for us!

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”— 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.

On the cross, Jesus experienced the curses of Leviticus 26 for us. God executed vengeance for the broken covenant on Jesus; The Father turned in abhorrence from the one who had been made sin for us. Why? So that all the promised blessings might come to us who believe in Jesus!

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

May 2, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 10; God Sanctified and Glorified

07/24 Leviticus 10; God Sanctified and Glorified; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160724_leviticus-10.mp3

As The LORD Commanded

In Leviticus 8 we have seen the consecration of Aaron and his sons ‘as the Lord has commanded Moses’. In chapter 9 we have seen the first offerings made ‘as the Lord commanded Moses’. Back at the end of Exodus we saw every detail of the tabernacle constructed ‘as the Lord commanded Moses’. We heard this refrain ‘as the LORD commanded Moses’ in Exodus 39:1, 5, 7, 21, 26, 29, 31, 43; 40:16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32. At the end of Exodus we read

Exodus 39:32 Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses; so they did.

Exodus 39:42 According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. 43 And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.

And then we hear again this refrain ‘as the LORD commanded Moses’ in Leviticus 8:9, 13, 17, 21, 29; 9:7, 10. This all climaxes at the end of chapter 9, when

Leviticus 9:23 …and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

Which He Had Not Commanded

This is what makes chapter 10 so shocking.

Leviticus 10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.

This should sound like fingernails on chalkboard. The newly ordained priests in the newly consecrated tabernacle in response to the manifestation of the glory of God, suddenly do something that God had not commanded them, offering something that was unauthorized. We tend to be shocked by what happened to them. We need to be shocked at what they did. In the context of grace, in the context of covenant treason, forgiveness, and then delighted obedience by all the people, we have priests who have been set apart to the LORD by a seven day process, now step out and do something unauthorized, something the LORD had not commanded. The exact details of their violation are not clear. Some speculate they were drunk based on verse 9. Some suggest they attempted to enter the most holy place, because of what is said in chapter 16. In light of that chapter, they may have been attempting to usurp the responsibility of the high priest. Some think they used the wrong censers, or the wrong fire, or the wrong kind of incense, or that they offered it at the wrong time. What the text tells us is that they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded. It could be any combination of these possibilities, but the bottom line is that their act was an act of defiant disobedience to the clearly revealed instructions of the LORD. They did that which was unauthorized in the presence of the LORD. They did that which he had not commanded them.

Fire From the LORD

2 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

God is just, God is holy. God will not be trifled with. God will not be taken lightly. This is a warning to us all. We tend to take God for granted. To think of him lightly. To presume on his grace. God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate rivals. He will not be approached any way we choose. God is worthy of all honor and affection, all glory and praise. God will defend his own honor.

In Ezekiel 20, recounting the rebellion of the people in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt, God restrained his anger and did not fully destroy his people.

Ezekiel 20:22 But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. (cf. 20:9, 14)

In Ezekiel 36, God promises to regather his people from the nations into which he had scattered them in judgment for their rebellion.

Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (cf. 36:21; Isaiah 48:11)

Ezekiel 39, looking to a future time,

Ezekiel 39:7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

God acts for the honor of his holy name. He defends his honor. God cares about his reputation. If he is treated as common, ordinary by the people who claim to know him, to be close to him, then those that do not know him will more readily blow him off as no big deal, not worth attending to, to their eternal harm. So ‘fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.’ This was radical, startling, shocking. But it was right. For the sake of the advance of the gospel, God must defend his honor.

3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

The appropriate response of anyone who has access to God’s presence is ‘holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ (Is.6:3). God will be set apart, recognized to be in a class by himself, by those who are near to him. He will be glorified before all the people. This is evangelistic. God has made a way for himself to be approached by sinful people. He has instituted sacrifices by which he can be approached while at the same time preserving the seriousness of sin and the absolute holiness of his nature. To come in a different way than he has established is to scorn his provision and to set oneself up as a higher authority than God. God’s sanctity, God’s glory is primary.

Aaron held his peace. Aaron was silent. Notice the contrast with the last chapter. In chapter 9, God’s instructions were heeded, and fire came out from the presence of the LORD in blessing, demonstrating that their sacrifice was acceptable, and the response was shouts of joy. Here in chapter 10, God’s instructions were disregarded, and fire came out from the presence of the LORD in judgment, consuming those who violated his commands, and the response was stunned silence. Aaron had lost in an instant his two oldest boys. But his silence affirmed the righteousness of God. God was right to punish them.

Priests and Mourning

4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.” 5 So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the LORD has kindled. 7 And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.

Because of their position as ordained priests, they were not permitted to touch dead bodies, or mourn or leave the tabernacle courtyard. They were set apart to God for service. Their service was to be characterized by joy, because ‘in your presence there is fullness of joy’ (Ps.16:11).

Matthew 9:15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? …

These were set apart to draw near to God. It would be inconsistent to mourn in the presence of God. Even in the face of great tragedy, the presence of God is greater, and joy in his presence outshines sorrow. Here we find a refreshing return to obedience. “And they did according to the word of Moses.”

Duties of the Priests

8 And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.”

This is a significant word from the LORD. In Leviticus we see 29 times ‘the LORD spoke to Moses’; 4 times ‘the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron’; only here do we find ‘the LORD spoke to Aaron’. God gave ‘wine to gladden the heart of man’ (Ps.104:15); but the priests are to be clear-headed in carrying out their duties. The first duty of the priests is to distinguish between the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean. They need to know the difference. Anything that would blur their judgment in these issues was prohibited while on duty. Nadab and Abihu failed to treat God as holy. They treated him as common. The first seven chapters on sacrifices deal with issues of what is common and what is holy. The next section, chapters 11-15 deal with making distinctions between the unclean and the clean.

The second duty of the priests is to teach the people the rules of the LORD. We rightly identify priests with sacrifice in the tabernacle, and with entering God’s presence on behalf of the people, but probably a more common role of priests in Israel was to apply the law to distinguish between holy and common, clean and unclean, and to teach the people. Priests were to be teachers, communicators of God’s truth.

Priests Rights to the Offerings

12 Moses spoke to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his surviving sons: “Take the grain offering that is left of the LORD’s food offerings, and eat it unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy. 13 You shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons’ due, from the LORD’s food offerings, for so I am commanded. 14 But the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed you shall eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you, for they are given as your due and your sons’ due from the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the people of Israel. 15 The thigh that is contributed and the breast that is waved they shall bring with the food offerings of the fat pieces to wave for a wave offering before the LORD, and it shall be yours and your sons’ with you as a due forever, as the LORD has commanded.”

At first glance, this section seems out of place. The rights of the priests to eat specific portions of specific offerings has already been explained in the earlier chapters. Why repeat that here? This is addressed to Aaron and his surviving sons in the immediate aftermath of serious sin in the family where two of Aaron’s sons were executed by the LORD himself. It would be natural to wonder if this kind of sin in the family disqualified the remaining family from service or from the benefits of service. Moses affirms to the survivors that they are still fully entitled to eat the priests’ portions of the offerings.

Violation of the Command Approved

16 Now Moses diligently inquired about the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it was burned up! And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the surviving sons of Aaron, saying, 17 “Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD? 18 Behold, its blood was not brought into the inner part of the sanctuary. You certainly ought to have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.” 19 And Aaron said to Moses, “Behold, today they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and yet such things as these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?” 20 And when Moses heard that, he approved.

Nadab and Abihu were judged by the LORD and killed. Now Moses is angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the other two sons of Aaron. Moses rarely is angry, except when God’s glory is dishonored. He is angry because Aaron and his remaining sons failed to do what they were commanded to do. Nadab and Abihu did what they were not commanded to do and they were judged by God. Now Eleazar and Ithamar have failed to do what they were commanded to do and Moses is angry. They failed to eat the priests portion of the sin offering that was clearly given to them in chapter 6. Were they any less guilty than their brothers? Would they suffer the same judgment? To understand what is going on here, we need to step back and see the structure of this passage.

1-3 Incident of Nadab & Abihu’s disobedience

4-7 Holiness prohibits grieving for the dead

8-11 Description of Priests Role

12-15 Holiness requires eating of the sacrifices

16-20 Incident of Eleazar and Ithamar’s disobedience

The central part of this chapter is the description of the Priests role in verses 8-11. The rest of the chapter is mirrored around that instruction. The chapter begins with Nadab and Abihu’s disobedience, and the chapter ends with Eleazar and Ithamar’s disobedience. But where Nadab and Abihu were immediately judged by God, Moses receives Aaron’s reasoning for the disobedience of he and his younger sons. What is going on here? Aaron is stepping into his role as priest, distinguishing between the holy and the common. He is evaluating the situation and seeking in all things to honor the LORD. His heart and his desire in all things is the LORD’s approval, not man’s.

Andrew Bonar, Minister of the Free Church of Scotland commented in 1846 on this passage: “He saw that Aaron entered into the spirit and meaning of the rites he ministered among; and was satisfied. And it is to be noticed that this attention to the spirit, and not to the mere letter, of the ceremonial law, at the very outset, indicated to Israel that the things signified by these types were their chief concern, not the bare types themselves. …Aaron’s service was not formality; it was a worship done in the spirit; and where the spirit could not accompany the rite, he left the rite undone. Herein he glorified God – he gave Him the honour due unto His name! He felt that it was not worship at all if his soul was not engaged; for “God is Spirit.” [Bonar, Leviticus p.207-208]

Where Nadab & Abihu’s disobedience was proud, arrogant and flagrant; Aaron was carefully distinguishing in his own heart what was common and what was holy, and what would be acceptable to God.

Application

What can we take away from a passage like this? First of all, God is holy. God is zealous to defend his own honor. Especially among those who draw near to him. Lest we thing this is a distant Old Testament event with little relevance today, we need to be reminded of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, who in the early church were struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. God still cares deeply that he be treated as holy. This is a gospel issue. Our interaction with God must reflect accurately who he is or no one will listen to our message, and God cares deeply that sinners come to him through the one way that he is to be approached, through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus.

Second, We must listen to God’s word.

Hebrews 12:25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Finally, God cares about your heart. Mere outward obedience without genuine affection for God is hypocrisy. True worship is not about my preference; true worship is that which is pleasing to God. Acceptable worship, worship in spirit and truth is worship characterized by reverence and awe. God is pleased when we approach him on the basis of Christ’s finished work.

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

August 2, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 11:3; Christ the Head and the Head of Christ

07/20 1 Corinthians 11:3 Christ the Head and the Head of Christ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140720_1cor11_3.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 11 [SBLGNT]

3 θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι ὅτι

παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν,

κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ,

κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός.

1 Corinthians 11 [ESV2011]

2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

Last time, we looked at the big picture of this passage, what it means to bring honor or shame to others and to God. We are to eat, we are to drink, everything we do, we are to do it all to the glory of God. We are to seek not our own but that of the other, we are to seek the eternal good of others. Our goal is to bless others, that the lost might be saved and our brothers might be built up, and in all this that God would be glorified. By our conduct, by our attitude, by our appearance, by how we treat one another, by our sensitivity to the culture in which we live, we can bring honor or shame to God, and we can bring honor or shame to our brothers and sisters.

As I said last time, I want to go back to the foundational principle laid down in 11:3 and study it in more detail.

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

This is the core of everything Paul says in this section. How we bring honor or shame to one another and to God grows out of an understanding of what it means to be head or to have a head over us.

What ‘Head’ Means

At first read, this sounds like it has something to do with authority. I looked up the word ‘head’ in Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary. He defines it this way:

HEAD, n. hed.

1. The uppermost part of the human body, or the foremost part of the body…. This part of the human body contains the organs of hearing, Seeing, tasting and smelling; it contains also the brain, which is supposed to be the seat of the intellectual powers, and of sensation. Hence the head is the chief or more important part, and is used for the whole person, in the phrase, let the evil fall on my head.

3. A chief; a principal person; a leader; a commander; one who has the first rank or place, and to whom others are subordinate; as the head of an army; the head of a sect or party. Eph 5.

4. The first place; the place of honor, or of command. The lord mayor sat at the head of the table. The general marched at the head of his troops.

To say that the husband is the leader, the one who has first rank, the one who holds the place of honor, and to whom his wife is subordinate, is unpopular in today’s political climate. To say that woman is subordinate to man and is to be under his authority may be downright dangerous. But that is what the text seems to say.

There is a feminist movement within Christianity that has attempted to re-define ‘head’ to mean something that avoids the idea of authority or submission. These scholars have taken ‘head’ to mean ‘source’ as in ‘the head of the Mississippi river is found in northern Minnesota.’ Webster does list something like this; he gives as meaning #30 for the world ‘head’:

30. The part most remote from the mouth or opening into the sea; as the head of a bay, gulf or creek.

But even this doesn’t seem to indicate that ‘head’ means ‘source’; rather that which is ‘most remote from the mouth or opening’. But the various ways the English word is used is not essential to understanding how the word is used in the bible. We need to look at the context of the passage and the way the word is used in other places in the Bible to understand what the author intends by it.

This passage as a whole teaches that men and women are different and should appear different. It teaches that a man can bring glory or shame to God by the way he conducts himself in the public worship of the church. It teaches that a woman can bring honor or shame to her husband or father, and as a result, to God, by the way she conducts herself in the public worship of the church.

In verse 10, the word ‘authority’ is used, indicating that this passage has at least something to do with authority, and the normal meaning of the word ‘head’ implies authority.

Man under Christ

Notice, though, that the relationship between man and woman is sandwiched in this verse between the relationship between man and Christ, and Christ and God. Although issues between man and woman are central, Christ frames the passage. We can understand more about what it means to be head or to have a head by looking at these two parallel phrases.

First, he says

3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ,

Christ is the head of every man. For man to cover his head in worship would bring shame to Christ. Paul gives the theological reason for this in verses 7-9

7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

Man is the glory of God, and in worship, the glory of God must be revealed.

He balances this in verses 11-12.

11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

There is an interdependence between man and woman. There is a sense in which man is dependent on woman. Every man since Adam was born of a woman. And all things are from God. God is supreme over all.

Man is not head of woman in any absolute unrestrained sense. Man too is under authority. Man is under the authority of Christ. Man will lead a woman well only when he is submitting well to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clear from this that his authority is restrained. He has no right to overstep his bounds and exercise authority that is not Christlike authority.

We see this portrayed beautifully in Ephesians 5.

Ephesians 5:20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The husband is to model his leadership over his wife after the example of Christ’s authority over his church. This includes, on the wife’s side submission and respect; and on the husband’s side loving leadership, self sacrifice, and nourishing, cherishing sanctification.

Authority Among Equals

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

In the three parallel statements dealing with heads, two (if we can talk this way) have to do with members of the same species, and one does not. Man and woman are different genders, but both are human. The person of Christ and the person of God the Father are one God. It is natural to expect the first statement, that man, who is a created being, would be under the authority of Christ, the uncreated Creator of all things. It is less expected to see that there is a similar authority and submission role within the human species, and it may seem downright shocking to see that within the one God, there are roles of submission and authority. Between man and God there is clear superiority and inferiority, where authority and submission seems obvious. But between man and woman, and between Christ and God, there is no superiority or inferiority, so authority and submission is a difference in role among equals.

We are told in Galatians

Galatians 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

In Christ the social inequalities have been done away with. Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female, all are equal before God. None has advantage over another. All are alike helpless sinners rescued by the benevolence of a merciful God.

Yet in Colossians we are told:

Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

So there remain social roles among equals that are appropriate to maintain. These roles include authority and submission; wives to husbands, children to parents, employees to employers.

Christ Under God

The model for obedience to authority among equasl is given within the persons of the triune God.

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Let’s look at the divine side of this parallel. The head of Christ is God. This is an amazing statement. Earlier in 1 Corinthians, speaking of various gifted teachers in the church, Paul said:

1 Corinthians 3:22 …all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

You don’t have to pick only one favorite teacher; all are yours. They are given to you for your benefit. And you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Jesus is equal in essence with his Father. He is fully God. He shares all the characteristics that are exclusive to God, he is the self-existent one, the uncreated Creator, he is all powerful, all wise, everywhere present, unchanging, without beginning or end, God will not give his glory to another (Is.42:8; 48:11), yet Jesus possesses the very glory of God (Jn.8:54; 17:5). The Father, the Son and the Spirit are one eternal God, equal in essence, yet functioning in different roles. We see this nowhere more clearly than from the statements of Jesus himself in the gospels.

Jesus’ Submission in John

In John 5, Jesus was being persecuted by the Jews because he was working miracles on the Sabbath.

John 5:17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

The equality of the Son with the Father is clearly presented in this passage. An artist creates something different than himself. A masterpiece may display the skill, the creative genius, the glory of the artist, but it is essentially different from the artist; a work of canvas, stone, metal, or wood. But when a father begets a son, he is of the same DNA, of the same stuff as the father. Jesus, claiming to be the Son of God, was uniquely claiming equality with God. But at the same time that he claims this essential equality with his Father, he asserts his dependence on his Father. The next verses read:

John 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

The Son is worthy of the same honor as the Father, yet the Son can do nothing of his own accord. He perfectly imitates his Father in everything. He perfectly submits to the will of his Father.

John 5:30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus seeks not his own will, but the will of his Father. He is perfectly obedient.

John 5:36 …For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.

The Father testified about the Son; ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’ (Mt.3:17; 17:5). The Father gave Jesus works to accomplish, and Jesus was joyfully obedient in everything.

John 8:28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.

…49 Jesus answered, “… I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.

…54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’

John 10:37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

John 12:49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

…28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

…31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father…

Jesus did not seek his own. His aim was to honor the Father in everything. The relationship between the Father and the Son is the ideal relationship. Loving authority and joyful surrender.

Submission Demonstrated

There is one place in particular that we gain depth of insight into the surrender of the Son to the will of the Father. It is in the garden.

Matthew 26:38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. … 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.

Jesus, looking toward the cup of the fury of the wrath of almighty God against the sins of the world (Is.51:17, 22, Jer.25:15) that he would drink for mankind on the cross, begged escape if at all possible. This kind of perfect submission that the Son models is not without struggle, not without hesitation, not without discussion, not without exploring other possibilities. But ultimately, there is glad surrender to authority. Hear the resolve in his voice when he rebukes Peter during the arrest.

John 18:11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Eternal Subjection of the Son

Lest we think that this submission of the Son to his Father is restricted to his time here on earth as the perfect man, Paul, speaking of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, says:

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

In the perfection of eternity, there will still be good authority and glad surrender, even among the equal persons of the triune God. Not all authority is selfish and domineering, and not all submission is fearful cowering. Paul puts authority and submission in proper perspective for us when he frames it this way:

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Paul held himself up as an example of what it looks like to surrender your own rights for the eternal good of others and the glory of God, so that many would be saved. In this he invites us to imitate him as he imitates Christ. 

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

July 20, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology of the Incarnation: Humanity

12/15/13 Theology of the Incarnation; Humanity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131215_incarnation-humanity.mp3

We are taking a few weeks to stand in wonder at the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. We want to know him, to know who he is, to know all that we can about him, so that we can worship him rightly. We are looking at probably the greatest mystery the universe has ever known, the theology of the incarnation, that God became a man. Last time we looked at the full deity of Jesus, that he always existed as God, fully possessing all the characteristics of God, equal to the Father and in perfect fellowship with his Father for all eternity. We saw Jesus as Creator of all that is, the divine Word who spoke everything into existence. We saw Jesus the omnipotent one, to whom all of nature and even the demonic hordes must bow, the sovereign one. Jesus, immortal, who has the power of life in himself, Jesus, all-knowing and unlimited by space and time. Jesus, the Son, sharing all the characteristics and attributes of deity with his Father, equally worthy to be worshiped with his Father.

Outline

Today we are going to look at Jesus in his humanity, and next week at how these two natures, humanity and deity, are united in one person forever. I want to warn you that these three messages go together and each one is incomplete without the others. Focusing on the divine nature of Christ to the neglect or dismissal of his true humanity is one of the earliest heresies of the Christian church. The Apostle John wrote:

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

There were many in the early church who attempted to deny the full humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. John calls them deceivers and against Christ. The early creeds put it this way: ‘Jesus …very God of very God, …who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, …and was made man’ (Nicea, 381). In order for Jesus sacrifice to be of infinite value to save us, he must be fully God. In order for Jesus to legitimately be our substitute he must be fully human. A savior not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end; while a savior not quite man is a bridge broken at the nearer end (H.G.C.Moule, F.F.Bruce). The church fathers put it this way ‘remaining what he was, he became what he was not’. The Son of God, continuing in undiminished deity, became what he had never been before, a real human being. This is what the bible teaches.

The Supernatural Conception

John’s gospel tells us that the Word who was, who existed in the beginning with his Father, the Word who existed as God,

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word, the eternal I AM who had always existed became something he had never been before. He became flesh [σάρξ]. The invisible God became carnal, God who is spirit became embodied.

John tells us that the Word who became flesh is the only Son from the Father. We know Jesus as the Son of God, but that title is open to misinterpretation. The Jews expected a merely human messiah, and Greek mythology told of occasions where one of their many gods would come down and have relations with a mortal and produce superhuman offspring. John is careful to make it clear that Jesus does not fit into either of these categories. Jesus is not merely human, he is the self-existent God who created everything who became man. Neither is he some hybrid half-god half-man produced by an illicit relationship. He had always existed as God and this one, the eternal Son, has now become also fully human. Jesus is one of a kind, the only one who pre-existed with the Father. This one, really truly became flesh. He didn’t just appear in the form of a human, as angels sometimes do, he really truly became genuinely irreversibly human.

The angel Gabriel said it this way to Mary:

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

You will conceive in your womb; that is how all babies are normally conceived. With a placenta and an umbilical cord, cells dividing, DNA replicating, organs and limbs developing. Morning sickness. Stretch marks. Movement. You will bear a son; not an alien, a baby boy. Birthed in the normal natural way. Labor pains, contractions, water breaking, umbilical cord cut, messy. The song is wrong; ‘no crying he makes’. With that first gulp of oxygen from this planet his lungs begin to function. He cried. He nursed. He burped. Spit up. Long sleepless nights. Messy diapers (or swaddling cloths).

Mary’s question was one of biology and morality.

Luke 1:34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

Mary’s question is ‘how will this be since I have not known a man? She understood what precedes conception, and for conception to take place, there has to be a father. This is the miracle. No human father would be involved. Her morality would remain intact. The Holy Spirit of God would supernaturally place the divine seed inside of her.

Matthew’s gospel records it this way:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew’s gospel, it is Joseph that has the questions. Mary is pregnant. He naturally assumes the worst.

Matthew 1:20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

He is assured that her purity is intact. The origin of this child is supernatural. The Word became flesh. But everything else about this child is as normal and natural as any other child. The birth is inconvenient. The timing is inopportune. The circumstances are terrible. The visitors were probably an awkward intrusion.

Natural Development

They had him circumcised on the eighth day (Lk.2:21), which tells us that he came with all the standard equipment that every other baby boy is born with. And I’m sure he cried then.

Luke tells us that his growth and development was normal and natural human development.

Luke 2:40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

He nursed. He had to be fed. He rolled over. He began to crawl. He stood up. He took his first step. He learned to eat. He learned to walk. He learned his aleph-bet. He was taught to be quiet in church. He was taught to read the Torah. He learned how to relate to other people. He learned how to relate to God. He had to grow up just like every other boy had to grow up. There was only one unique difference with Jesus. He never once sinned. In everything he pleased his heavenly Father. He got left behind in Jerusalem when he was 12. He was submissive to his parents.

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Doctor Luke tells us that he developed intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially like every other human. The Quran and the non-biblical Infancy Gospel of Thomas have the boy Jesus doing mischievous miracles, cursing, healing, and breathing life into clay birds. But this clearly contradicts the historically reliable biblical accounts. When Jesus changed over 100 gallons of water into fine wine at the wedding in Cana, we are told this was the first of his signs (Jn.2:11). When he returned to his hometown of Nazareth claiming to be the fulfillment of Scripture, those who saw him grow up took offense at him.

Matthew 13:54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”

Jesus was so normal, so ordinary, so familiar, so human, that his own townspeople refused to believe that he was anything more than a mere man.

Human Limitations

We see Jesus in the gospels as fully human. He thought, felt and acted in a fully human way. His human body was subject to the same limitations that we all have.

Jesus had an ordinary human mind. As we have seen, Jesus learned. He increased in wisdom. He asked questions in order to find out information he didn’t know. When a woman touched him in the crowd, he asked “who touched my garments?”. In conversation with a demon-possessed boy’s father, he asked “how long has this been happening to him?” In response to questions about the timing of the end of the age, Jesus said:

Mark 13:32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Jesus had ordinary human emotions. In John 11, we are told:

John 11:5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

At the death of his friend, not only did Jesus ask “where have you laid him?” but it says:

John 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. … 35 Jesus wept.

When Jesus predicted that one of his own disciples would betray him, it says “Jesus was troubled in his spirit” (Jn.13:21). Looking toward the cross, he said “now is my soul very sorrowful, even to death” and he begged his Father to remove the cup from him (Mk.14:34-35). Luke tells us:

Luke 22:43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

From the cross, Jesus cried out:“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt.27:46).

Jesus had an ordinary human body. At the beginning of Matthew, we are told

Matthew 4:2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

And after the temptation, Jesus was so physically weak we are told:

Matthew 4:11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well and asked her for a drink, it describes his physical condition this way:

John 4:6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

In Matthew 8, Jesus was so exhausted from a day of ministry that he was sleeping right through a great storm. After his scourging, Jesus was apparently so weak that the Roman soldiers compelled a man named Simon to carry his cross for him.

Jesus’ body was real. And he really died a violent human death of public execution. John tells us after his death,

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

Real physical human blood. Real physical human death. In a real physical human body. Mark tells us:

Mark 15:44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

A Roman centurion verified the real physical death of Jesus. His dead physical human body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb. The women came Sunday morning with spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus (Mk.16:1), because they fully expected that his body like any other dead physical body would begin to decompose and stink.

When Jesus presented himself alive to his followers, he made a point to demonstrate that he was really bodily physically there.

Luke 24:36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

Providentially, Thomas was absent from this first appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Thomas refused to believe unless he could handle real evidence.

John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus ascended bodily, physically into heaven, where he is now bodily, physically seated at the right hand of the majesty on high. He promised that he would bodily, physically return to this earth.

The Importance of His True Humanity

Why is this so important? Why do the gospel writers give so much evidence to demonstrate that Jesus was really truly human? According to the Apostle John, the true humanity of Jesus is essential to Christianity.

Substitution

The author of Hebrews gives us several reasons.

Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

God the Son took on human flesh so that he could experience human death as a legitimate substitute for sinful humans. In order to die in the place of humans, he had to be himself human.

Hebrews 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

Animal sacrifices could never take away sin, because animals are not human, created in the image of God. Jesus took on a human body so that he could substitute himself for us.

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.

Jesus partook of flesh and blood so that he could destroy the consequences of sin, death, by dying. He did not become an angel to rescue angels. He became human to rescue humans.

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

He had to (notice the language of necessity); he had to be made like his brothers in every respect (being sort of human or partially human would not be adequate; he had to be fully human); he had to be made like his brothers in every respect in order to carry out his role as our great high Priest making propitiation for sin. To bear the wrath of God against the sins of mankind, he had to be a man.

Sympathy

The next verse gives another reason he became a man.

Hebrews 2:18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus really truly experienced temptation, so we can go to him for help when we are tempted.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because Jesus in every respect has been tempted as we are, we can confidently come to him to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Obedience

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 calls Christ the last Adam or the second man. Where Adam was placed in paradise with all of his needs met and he disobeyed, Jesus, driven into the wilderness and literally starving to death, fully obeyed his Father. He lived his whole life in perfect obedience. He was even obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Paul says in Romans 5:

Romans 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience as a man to his Father, his perfect righteousness as our substitute now makes us righteous.

Mediator

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

For Jesus to truly mediate and be the spokesman both for God and for men, he must be both fully God and fully man.

The old creed says it this way: (would you say it with me?)

[We believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

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

December 15, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 8:34-38; Follow Jesus

04/14/13 Mark 8:34-38; Following Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130414_follow-jesus.mp3

He is Risen! (He is risen indeed!) He is Risen! (He is risen indeed!) Jesus Christ is still risen. Some of you are wondering if I am confused, and forgot what day it is. I am aware that we celebrated Resurrection Sunday two weeks ago. But I wonder if we are aware that Jesus is still risen. Jesus is really alive. Acts chapter 1 tells us:

Acts 1:3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

We only have a little more than a handful of resurrection appearances recorded for us in the New Testament. Did you realize that Jesus continued to appear to his disciples and to teach them for forty days after his resurrection? My calendar puts ascension day on May 9 this year. The resurrected Jesus ministering among them for 40 days. Do you think that the disciples continued to celebrate the resurrection of their Lord throughout those 40 days, and beyond?

The resurrection is not something we celebrate once a year. The resurrection of Jesus reshapes all of life. Are you living like Jesus is really alive? Are you living like someone was raised from the dead? Imagine with me for a moment that one of your loved ones who died and was buried was resurrected and is now alive and with you. How would that change things for you? Do you think that would make a difference in the way you lived? Do you think you would be eager to spend time with them? Do you think you would treasure your conversations with them? Do you think you’d tell anybody? Do you think that news would shake your friends, your family, your community? As amazing as that would be, that would not change things nearly as much as the fact that Jesus is alive. Death is a reality that we all have to face. Resurrection is a reality that we don’t know what to do with; we don’t even have a category for it because none of us have ever seen it. But Jesus is really alive. He presented himself alive by many proofs. And he intends that this radically alter the way we now live.

To let this truth grip us, we need to go back and look at what it means for us to be followers of Jesus, and to live life in the power of the resurrection and not our own strength.

Follow Me

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus’ demands of his followers are high. These demands were not for only a special class of super-dedicated disciples; this was his announcement to the crowd. This call was to anyone who would follow him. To follow Jesus means to deny self and take up your cross. How Jesus describes what it means to follow him makes it clear that this is a matter of eternal life or forfeiting your soul. He says that the one who loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. If you are killed for Jesus’ sake, and that means you save your life, the life you save can only be eternal life. If saving your life means losing it, that must mean that tenaciously grasping at life in this world will result in losing your life for eternity. If that is not clear enough, Jesus asks, what profit is there if you gain the whole world and forfeit your soul? The time context is ‘when [Jesus] comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels’.

The first thing Jesus demands is that we deny self. We might think that we are denying ourselves when we deny ourselves of something. I think it would be a great sacrifice to deny myself chocolate. But Jesus doesn’t tell us to deny ourselves something. He tells us to deny our self. We are to deny, to reject, renounce, or disown, not something, but our very self. Jesus says that if I would save my soul, I will lose it. Denying self means that I give up trying to save my self. I can never be righteous enough to earn favor with God. I cannot dig my way out of the pit of sin I have dug myself into. Denying self means I renounce my own ability to contribute to my own salvation. Denying self also means a change in who we are living for. Denying self means I am no longer living for my own sake. I am no longer living for my own profit. Denying self means I am living for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of his gospel.

The next thing Jesus demands is that we take up our cross. This would be easy to misunderstand, because we hear people say things like ‘we all have our own cross to bear’, and by this, they mean that each of us have our own unique trials or difficulties in life that we need to buck up and persevere through. The people listening to Jesus would never hear Jesus tell them to take up their cross and interpret him as meaning that they need to tough it out through their physical disability or emotional wounds or painful circumstances. Neither would they conclude that they should go to the local hardware store, purchase some lumber and nail it in the form of a cross and carry it around town. Jesus didn’t say ‘take up my cross’; he said ‘take up your cross’. The cross was a Roman instrument of cruel torture and execution reserved for the worst of condemned criminals. The only people in that day who would ever be seen carrying a cross were condemned criminals on their way to die. To take up your cross was a public display that you were guilty of treason and your life was over. When Jesus tells me to take up my cross, he is telling me to publicly admit that I am guilty of treason, not against Rome, but against the King of the universe, and that I deserve to die. I have placed myself at the center of the universe and given my allegiance and worship to myself and not to Jesus. I must renounce self and sit down in my electric chair and die to myself.

Only when I have renounced allegiance to self and owned my rebellion against God as worthy of capital punishment am I ready to really follow Jesus. Many people want to follow Jesus. Some want to follow him because he is a means to political reform. Some want to follow him because he is a great teacher. Some want to follow him because it will look good on a resume. Some want to follow him because they like his strict morality. Some want to follow him because they think he will give them a free ticket to heaven and allow them to live as they please. Some want to follow him because they think he will meet their needs and give them what they want. Jesus demands that we deny self, that we let go of our own life for his sake and the sake of the gospel. Jesus demands that we take up our cross, own our guilt before him, and follow him. To follow him literally means to accompany him where he is going, to be on the road with him, to do life with him and let him set the agenda.

This is what it means to believe in Jesus. We stop believing in self or relying on self and depend on him. We recognize that we have sinned against God and that the wages of our sin is death. We begin to do life with him in control, letting him set the agenda for our lives. We give up our plans and submit to going with him where he is going.

Discipleship Illustrated

We are so thick-headed that we need a picture of what this looks like in real life. When we watch the disciples we can allow Jesus to shape our idea of what discipleship looks like, what it means to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Mark 1:16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

Mark 2:14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

Following Jesus meant leaving things behind. It meant joining Jesus and going where he was going. It meant personal cost. But this is not sacrifice. It means leaving behind something of value to gain something of infinitely greater value. But too often, the disciples got discipleship wrong. They misunderstood what it was that they would gain in following Jesus. It seems they envisioned prestige and power and fame, and they were often trying to push their way to the top. James and John even came with their mom to Jesus to try to secure the top positions in the kingdom. When all the other disciples caught wind of this, they became indignant, not because they thought the desire to be first was wrong, but because they all wanted to be first. Luke 22 even records a dispute over who is the greatest at the conclusion of the last supper!

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus says that he came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for others. If you are going to follow Jesus, then you need to put aside political maneuverings, serve others for their good, and learn to be a slave to all.

Jesus’ words that we looked at in Mark 8 about what it means to follow him come in response to Peter, who thought he had scored some points when he correctly identified Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God. But Jesus began to adjust their expectations of Messiah.

Mark 8:31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Peter thought he understood better than Jesus what it meant to be the Messiah, and he attempted to correct Jesus! This is not what being a disciple should look like. Jesus sets the agenda. Peter had his mind set on things of man, not on the things of God. Peter had to be rebuked and put in his place. He needed to learn to deny himself. But this was not an easy lesson to learn.

Mark 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.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

Peter was self-confident. He was determined. He was unflinchingly settled. He knew what he knew, he knew what was right, and he was purposefully resolved that he would do what was right. He knew this time Jesus was wrong.

Mark 14:66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

When it came down to it, his allegiance to self was deeper than even he knew. His allegiance to self was deeper than his allegiance to his Master. Peter had to learn this the hard way. Peter had to be taught to believe, to trust, to deny self and depend on another. Peter’s self-confidence had to be dismantled and destroyed. He broke down and wept. This is such a beautiful scene. Peter had finally come to the end of his pride and self-sufficiency, broken, he realized that he could not rescue Jesus. He needed to be rescued. His self-confidence was so deep seated that Jesus had to be crucified to break its power in his life. Up until this point, when Jesus said he came to seek and to save the lost, I don’t think Peter ever saw himself as lost. He would never put himself in that category. He was the one who said ‘look Jesus, we left everything to follow you’ (Lk.18:28). Look what we did for you. Jesus says ‘I did not come to be served by you, Peter, not by your good deeds or valiant efforts. I came to serve you, to give my life for you, to die in your place, because you are so self-assured and self-centered that you can’t even see your own lostness’. Peter broke down and wept bitterly. We know Peter was truly broken, because of his interaction with the risen Jesus on the beach.

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Peter had claimed that even if all the other disciples fell away, he would never fall away. Jesus asks him ‘do you love me more than these?’ Peter replies that he does love Jesus, but he doesn’t claim that his love is any more than any of the others. And the word Peter uses for ‘love’ is different than the one Jesus used. Jesus asked if Peter loved him with a self-sacrificing love; Peter responds that he loves with the love of a friend. The second time, Jesus again asks if he loves with a self-sacrificial love, but he leaves off the ‘more than these’. Peter again responds with the lower friendship love. The third time, Jesus takes the word Peter used and asks if he loves him with a friendship love. Peter, grieved at this, recognizing that Jesus knows his heart better than he himself does, appeals to the omniscience of Christ and again affirms his friendship love. Peter was undone. His self-confidence was broken. He is now broken to the point of being useful. So three times Jesus reinstates him with a task ‘feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep’.

Peter is now broken to the point of being useful. But he is not yet ready to be used. Luke records for us Christ’s instructions before he ascended to heaven:

Luke 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

And then in Acts:

Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

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.”

Is anything more difficult than waiting? Jesus is alive! He is risen from the dead and is ascended into heaven. Jesus has opened their minds to understand the scriptures. You are witnesses. We have the best news ever! But don’t do anything yet. You’re not ready. Don’t post it on facebook. Wait. There’s about 10 days from the ascension to Pentecost. We know this was difficult for Peter, because in the mean time, right or wrong, he decided to pick a new apostle to replace Judas. He just couldn’t wait!

But he had learned not to trust himself, not to depend on himself. He learned to deny himself and take up his cross and follow Jesus. And when Pentecost had fully come, and the Holy Spirit was poured out, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached a crucified and resurrected Jesus, and his hearers were cut to the heart and 3,000 repented, received his word, and were baptized.

Application

So are you living like someone was raised from the dead? Have you learned what it means to follow Jesus? Have you taken up your cross, acknowledging that you deserve eternal death? Are you denying yourself, refusing to rely on self, depending completely on God to rescue you and to live his life through you? Are you living no longer for own sake, but for the sake of the gospel and the glory of Jesus? Is Jesus setting your agenda? Have you died to yourself? Have you been broken so that you can be useful? You must die to your self before you can be raised to newness of life.

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

April 14, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1 Corinthians 1:13-17; The [Secondary] Importance of Baptism

02/10 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 The [Secondary] Importance of Baptism; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130210_1cor1_13-17.mp3

10 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἵνα τὸ αὐτὸ λέγητε πάντες, καὶ μὴ ᾖ ἐν ὑμῖν σχίσματα, ἦτε δὲ κατηρτισμένοι ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ νοῒ καὶ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γνώμῃ. 11 ἐδηλώθη γάρ μοι περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί μου, ὑπὸ τῶν Χλόης ὅτι ἔριδες ἐν ὑμῖν εἰσιν. 12 λέγω δὲ τοῦτο ὅτι ἕκαστος ὑμῶν λέγει· Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, Ἐγὼ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Κηφᾶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ. 13 μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός; μὴ Παῦλος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἢ εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Παύλου ἐβαπτίσθητε; 14 εὐχαριστῶ ὅτι οὐδένα ὑμῶν ἐβάπτισα εἰ μὴ Κρίσπον καὶ Γάϊον, 15 ἵνα μή τις εἴπῃ ὅτι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ἐβαπτίσθητε· 16 ἐβάπτισα δὲ καὶ τὸν Στεφανᾶ οἶκον· λοιπὸν οὐκ οἶδα εἴ τινα ἄλλον ἐβάπτισα. 17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

After giving thanks to God for the evidences of grace that he sees at work in the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul begins to address their problems. The first issue on his list is quarreling. It had been reported to him that the Corinthians were dividing over non-essentials, aligning themselves behind their favorite teacher, creating competing fan clubs. Paul would have none of this. He points them back to Jesus and the the centrality of the cross.

1 Corinthians 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Christ is not divided. When we divide up those who belong to Christ over trivial matters, we lie about Jesus and are not telling the truth. Jesus is one. His body is one. If you belong to Jesus, if you have been bought by his blood and transformed by trusting in him, then you are part of his one body, the church. If you belong to Christ, if you have been called by God into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, then you are a part of the larger body of Christ, in fellowship with his people, the church. We are one. Paul is not sacrificing truth on the altar of unity. Jesus prayed that his followers would be one, but he also taught that there would be some who claimed to follow him but in reality had no relationship with him. The people Paul is addressing knew and loved and believed the true gospel, or he would have attacked and dismantled their false teaching, as he does in other letters. But their conduct was not in line with the truth they believed. This is often our problem. We know the truth; we believe the truth, but so often our conduct, our daily life, our Christian walk is not in step with the truth of the gospel. We need daily to be reminded of the gospel, challenged by the gospel, transformed by the gospel. Moment by moment our conduct needs to be brought in step with what we believe. Paul takes their conduct and describes the belief that would go behind that conduct to help them see how incongruous their lives had become. You are acting like Jesus is chopped up into little pieces and each group clings to a piece over against the other group. Jesus is not divided! Don’t act like he is!

You are acting like your favorite teacher died on the cross for your sins. None of them believed this. But it was how they were acting. They were clinging so tenaciously to their preference, their favorite that you would think that Paul or Apollos or Cephas was their savior. The cross is central to all of the Christian life. Our life finds its source in Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. Jesus took our place, died in our place, bore our guilt and shame, so that we can now enjoy a healed relationship with the all-holy God. Focus on the one who was crucified in your place, not on your style or preference or favorite.

Baptism

His third question introduces the subject of our study today. Were you baptized into the name of Paul? Today we will look at verses 14 – 17, where Paul gives us some insight on the significance of baptism.

This question, like the others is intended to show the readers how out of step their conduct is with what they believe. It is ludicrous to think that we were baptized into the name of Paul, because that is not what baptism is about. What is baptism about? What does baptism mean? It might be helpful to start with a simple definition of the word itself. Our English word ‘baptize’ comes straight over from the Greek word [βαπτιζω] ‘baptizo’. It is a transliteration, where Greek letters are replaced by English letters. The word ‘baptizo’ means to submerge or immerse, to soak. Around 200 BC Nicander used this word and a related word in a recipe for making pickles. He said the vegetable should first be dipped [bapto] into boiling water, then baptized [baptizo] or soaked in the vinegar solution. Both words refer to dipping or immersing into liquid, but the first is temporary, where the second, baptizing, produces a permanent change [Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989; cited in Online Bible note on Strongs #907] What kind of change is produced will depend on what you are immersed into. Paul is outraged that some are acting like they have been immersed into Paul. Christian baptism is being immersed into Jesus, being saturated with Jesus, being changed and transformed by Jesus. Paul is saying ‘I don’t have the power to transform anyone. Don’t get immersed into who I am; get immersed into who Jesus is!’

John’s Baptism

John the baptizer pointed to the essential difference between his baptism and Jesus. He said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

John’s baptism consisted in immersing people in water. John pointed to Jesus, who would immerse us in the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism was to prepare the way for Jesus, pointing people to Jesus. John’s baptism was for repentance; those who came to John to be baptized came confessing their sins, turning from their old way of living, from what they had been trusting in, from their dead works, and turning to the coming Messiah.

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

John’s whole ministry was to prepare people for Jesus, to point people to Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the one who would take away sins. Jesus is the one who would baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Paul highlighted this when he came across some disciples of John in Ephesus.

Acts 19:2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Who Baptized Whom?

Notice in this text that it doesn’t say that Paul baptized them into the name of the Lord Jesus. It doesn’t say who baptized them at all. It simply says that they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. That may seem like I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but that is the very thing Paul highlights in the next verses in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:13 … Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Reflecting on his experience in Corinth, Paul gives thanks that in the providence of God he only baptized a very few of the first converts, probably before his co-workers Silas and Timothy arrived (Acts 18:5). Paul was eager to clear himself from the potential allegation that he was making disciples of Paul, baptizing converts into his own distinct form of Christianity. The point is it doesn’t make a hill of beans of difference who did the baptizing. What matters is who your were baptized into. We can see how people could make a big deal out of this. ‘I was baptized by the hands of the Apostle Paul himself. Oh yeah, well I was baptized by Peter, the first Pope! I don’t feel very special; I was only baptized by deacon Dan’. From this passage we see that Paul intentionally avoided baptizing people himself and delegated this responsibility to others, in order to avoid this very thing. This seems to be the practice of the early church. When Peter went to the home of the Gentile Cornelius and preached the gospel, proclaiming that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins, and while he was still speaking the Holy Spirit fell on them, he said

Acts 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

These Gentiles had believed in Jesus and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They had been baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Since they had already experienced the inward reality, they should also be allowed the outward sign. Baptism with water was the outward picture of what was an inward reality. And Peter commanded them to be baptized. He didn’t do the baptizing. Apparently, some of the brothers from Joppa who were with him did the baptizing. In John 4, we see that this was Jesus’ practice as well.

John 4:1 …Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),

Believers are baptized into Jesus, immersed into a relationship with Jesus, saturated with, permeated by Jesus. Jesus makes all the difference. Who does the baptizing makes no difference. Paul is thankful to God that he didn’t baptize many in Corinth, so there would be no room for people running around with t-shirts that said ‘I was baptized by the Apostle Paul’.

Inspiration

From this passage, we can glean a beautiful insight into the process of the inspiration of scripture.

1 Corinthians 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

Paul is dictating this letter, as is his usual practice, maybe to Sosthenes, the former synagogue ruler. Paul dictates that he baptized no one but Crispus and Gaius, and Stephanus, who we know is with Paul at the end of the letter (16:17), starts waving his hands and says ‘Hey Paul, what about me? Have you forgotten?’ Or maybe Sosthenes politely reminded him. The bible tells us that all scripture is breathed out by God and that means it is without error. We do not believe that the authors of scripture were granted infallibility or omniscience or even fully understood everything they were writing (1Pet.1:10-12). But we believe that God was sovereignly at work in the writing of scripture, so that what was written was protected from error. God may have very naturally used one of the guys in the room to remind Paul of something he had forgotten and so preserve the text from error.

The (secondary) importance of Baptism

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Paul goes back to his commission as an apostle, and claims that Jesus sent him to evangelize, not to baptize. Paul recounts this in Acts 26

Acts 26:15 … the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you 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 was appointed to be a witness, to open people’s eyes to the truth, so that they might believe, receive forgiveness of sins and enter the kingdom of God. There is no mention of baptism. In the commissioning of the twelve apostles at the end of Luke’s gospel, there is likewise no mention of baptism.

Luke 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The focus is on the message proclaimed; repentance and forgiveness of sins. The primary role of Apostle was that of eye-witness. That is why when they chose a replacement for Judas, the requirement was someone who had been an eye-witness with them from Jesus’ baptism by John up through his ascension (Acts 1:21-22).

Matthew’s account makes baptism an explicit part of their charge, but a secondary part.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The primary command in this text is ‘make disciples’. ‘Going, baptizing, and teaching’ are all things that go along with the primary call to make disciples.

Baptism is important, but it is of secondary importance. Baptism is not essential to salvation, but the New Testament does not imagine an unbaptized believer. Jesus taught that whoever believes has eternal life. He never said ‘whoever believes and is baptized’. But when someone believed in Jesus, they were baptized. That was their public pledge of allegiance to Jesus Christ, and their public reception into the family of believers. Believing and being baptized went together. Baptism was looked at as a privilege, even a right for those who believed in Jesus. When Philip explained the good news about Jesus from Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch,

Acts 8:36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

When Peter visited a Gentile’s house and proclaimed forgiveness of sins to all who believe in Jesus, when these Gentiles believed, Peter responded:

Acts 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ….

The physical sign should follow the spiritual reality. Paul taught in Romans:

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul doesn’t undermine the importance of baptism; rather he brings our focus back to where it should be. The picture means nothing without the spiritual reality it is intended to represent.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

The proclamation of the gospel is primary. The cross is central. Forgiveness of sins comes through the sacrifice of Christ as my substitute on the cross. Eternal life is given to everyone who believes, everyone who repents, turning from what they were trusting in, and clinging to Christ as their only hope for rescue from hell. Everyone who comes to Jesus, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. We are saturated with Jesus, who he is, everything he is. We are immersed into his death, burial, and resurrection. Water baptism is a beautiful picture of being immersed into all that Jesus is, being connected with Jesus. But it is a symbol that means nothing and accomplishes nothing apart from this spiritual reality. Don’t come to the symbol hoping to gain any spiritual benefit. Use the symbol to point to Jesus. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom.1:16). Come to Jesus, trust Jesus, be united to Jesus, immersed into Jesus, pledge your allegiance to Jesus, follow Jesus.

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

February 10, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:8; Sustained Guiltless

01/20 1 Corinthians 1:8 Sustained Guiltless; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130120_1cor1_8.mp3

1 Παῦλος κλητὸς ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ καὶ Σωσθένης ὁ ἀδελφὸς 2 τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν· 3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῇ χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ δοθείσῃ ὑμῖν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 5 ὅτι ἐν παντὶ ἐπλουτίσθητε ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν παντὶ λόγῳ καὶ πάσῃ γνώσει, 6 καθὼς τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐβεβαιώθη ἐν ὑμῖν, 7 ὥστε ὑμᾶς μὴ ὑστερεῖσθαι ἐν μηδενὶ χαρίσματι, ἀπεκδεχομένους τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ· 8 ὃς καὶ βεβαιώσει ὑμᾶς ἕως τέλους ἀνεγκλήτους ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 9 πιστὸς ὁ θεὸς δι’ οὗ ἐκλήθητε εἰς κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν.

8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

After taking a break, we are going to jump back in to our study of the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians. Paul is writing to this wayward church to address some serious sin issues that are out of control. There are divisions in the church, lawsuits among believers, sexual immorality – a kind not even tolerated among pagans – and they are proud of it. There are questions over marriage and divorce, questions over eating food sacrificed to idols, their church gatherings are out of control, spiritual gifts are being misused, there is an evident lack of love, the Lord’s Supper is chaos, there are even doctrinal uncertainties about the basic Christian truth of the resurrection.

It is to this dysfunctional group of sinners that Paul addresses his letter. He didn’t give up on them. And he begins by affirming that they are indeed a church – the church of God in Corinth! He says they are sanctified or set apart in Christ Jesus; they are called to be saints or holy ones, and they are indeed a part of the larger body of believers who worship Jesus as King.

He asks that the grace of God and the peace of God be on them, and then he thanks God for them. He thanks God that they were made recipients of God’s grace. He thanks God that they were gifted with eloquence and wisdom, that the gospel was demonstrated effective among them, that they lack no spiritual gift, and that they were anticipating the return of Jesus.

Listen to the gracious words of the apostle to this sin-sick church.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul turns their attention back to Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Nine times in nine verses he points them back to the centrality of Jesus. It is all about Jesus! The apostle lifts their eyes to the one who heals our hurts and bears our burdens and rights all wrongs. Each line of this greeting is a treasure trove of rich morsels of spiritual sustenance that will nourish our souls as we are pointed to Jesus. Today our focus is on verse 8

7 …as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The believers in Corinth, indeed all true believers of all time are waiting for the apocalypse of Jesus, the revelation of Jesus. We are eagerly anticipating that day when he is revealed for who he is in all his glory, and every knee bows and he is worshiped as he deserves.

If You Hold Fast?

But that raises the question; where will I be on that day? I’ve read some things in the Bible that scare me. When Paul reminds the Corinthians of the gospel, he says:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.

So there is something he calls believing in vain, it is evidenced by not holding fast to the gospel, and it results in not being saved. That is a terrifying thought; that you can know the gospel and it can do you no eternal good. In his parable on the sower and the soils, Jesus describes different responses to the gospel.

Matthew 13:20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.

Some hear the word, receive it with joy, and endure for a while. But then they fall away. In Matthew 24, Jesus warns of the dangers to our faith:

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Jesus says that many will fall away when persecution comes. Many will be led astray. The love of many will grow cold. Only the one who endures to the end will be saved. Jesus said:

John 15:6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

These are terrifying warnings. I don’t want us to dismiss them or explain them away. I want us to feel the weight of them. I have heard and believed the gospel. I have received it with joy. So far, I think I am enduring. But how do I know when tribulation comes that I won’t fall away? How do I know that my love won’t grow cold? How can I be sure that I will endure to the end? I’ve seen some who seem to have a strong relationship with Jesus, who have walked away. As the old hymn puts it ‘prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love’. If only the one who endures to the end will be saved, how can I know where I stand until the end comes? What if I flake out?

Misplaced Confidence

Thank God we are not left without any assurance. Thank God we are not left to wonder and fret. God in his word gives us confidence so that we do not need to fear. We can heed the warnings and take comfort in the promises of God. Our confidence is not in ourselves. That’s what Peter did.

Matthew 26:31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

Peter took confidence in himself and he answered in the flesh.

Matthew 26:33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”

Matthew 26:35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Peter was resolved. Peter was determined. Peter was ready to fight. That night, Peter denied his Lord 3 times, just as Jesus had said. Our flesh is weak. Our hearts are treasonous. We are not to be trusted. Our confidence does not, can not come from us. And that is the good news! Our confidence is outside of us. Our confidence is in a person, but that person is not me.

To whom does ‘who’ refer?

In whom does our confidence lie? The first word of this verse in 1 Corinthians 1:8 tells us who. The verse begins with the personal pronoun ‘who’. The pronoun refers back to the subject of the sentence, usually the nearest antecedent. Since ‘our Lord Jesus Christ’ appears directly before this ‘who’, most would say that this ‘who’ refers to Jesus Christ. But some bible scholars argue that the subject of the whole sentence starting in verse 4 is God, so this ‘who’ must refer to God the Father. Although I am inclined toward the first view, I don’t think it is worth fighting about. Jesus said:

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. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Jesus said ‘whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise’ (Jn.5:19). So whether the ‘who’ refers to Jesus or to his Father, the main point is that this is not something I do; it is something God does. My security is not something that is left in my hands. Both the Father and the Son are preserving, protecting and keeping me.

Sustaining and Confirming

8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This word ‘sustain’ is the same word we saw translated ‘confirmed’ back in verse 6:

6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you–

There it was passive, something that was being done in us; here it is active, something that God is doing. The word means to make firm or solid, to make legally valid, guaranteed or established. Jesus is the one who will establish you, make your footing sure, legally guarantee you. Jesus will ensure that you don’t stumble to the end. He will bring you safely all the way. Paul writes to the Philippians:

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Jude writes:

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

Our confidence that we will be those who endure to the end is in Jesus and not in us. Paul thanked God that God would sustain the Corinthians, keep them abiding in Jesus, cause them to endure.

Guiltless!

Notice in what state we are sustained, established and confirmed:

8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Guiltless! This refers to our legal standing before God. Unaccusable. Unreproveable. Blameless. We cannot be called to account. We are those against whom there is no accusation, against whom no charge can be made. This word is translated ‘above reproach’ in the four other places it appears in the NT (Col.1:22; 1Tim.3:10; Titus 1:6,7).

How can we be guiltless? Blameless? Above reproach? All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Our greatest offense is a failure to give God the glory he deserves, a failure to love him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. This is not saying that the charges have been dropped and we have been forgiven. This is saying that no charges could be brought; that we have done nothing at all. Our problem is that we stand not only accused but guilty and condemned. The amazing thing is in Christ, we have also been judged, executed, and are dead and buried.

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.

I have been crucified with Christ. The guilty me is dead and gone.

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

We died with Christ. The case is closed. The guilty party has been executed. The law has been satisfied. Sin has no legal claim on us.

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

Jesus died for us, in our place. We died with him. The old me is gone. I am now a new creation. Jesus is living in me. And he will establish me blameless, above reproach in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What an amazing truth for us to get a hold of. Our guilt was nailed to the cross of Jesus, and it is forever gone.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Before God, we are unblameable. And we will be kept, preserved, sustained to the end, to the final judgment, to the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, established in total innocence.

Good News for Sinners!

This is good news for the Corinthian church. Paul is confident not in the character and ability of the Corinthians, but in a God who is able to transform lives by his gospel. In the face of division, sexual immorality, lawsuits, idolatry, divorce, doctrinal uncertainty, and a self-centered lack of love, Paul expresses his confidence in God, who is able to sustain them to the end guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus.

Paul writes in chapter 6 of this letter:

1 Corinthians 6:9 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.

These Corinthians, who were unrighteous, sexually immoral, idol worshipers, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers – these people for whom Christ died, are now washed, set apart, justified, declared not guilty, established blameless and preserved forever. The transforming power of the gospel was confirmed, demonstrated, proven effective in them.

There is hope for us! No matter what our background, no matter what we have done, no matter who we were, we can become a new creation in Jesus Christ, transformed by his resurrection power, controlled by his love, living lives to please him. No one is beyond the reach of the good news of Jesus.

Our Part

What does this mean for us? What is our part? What is required of us? Jesus said ‘the one who endures to the end will be saved’ (Mt. 10:22; 24:13; Mk.13:13). This word ‘endure’ literally means to remain under, or to abide. Abide; stay connected to Jesus, keep looking away from yourself and to Jesus. Keep trusting in Jesus, his death and resurrection, keep believing in Jesus, keep holding on to Jesus, keep following Jesus, listening to Jesus, obeying Jesus. Stand in the gospel. Hold fast day by day to the gospel. If you walk away from Jesus, all is lost. If you are his, he will keep you abiding in him.

It’s all about Jesus. Paul points this messed up Corinthian church, and us, back to Jesus.

7 …our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

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

January 20, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment