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2 Corinthians 6:3-4; No Obstacle But The Cross

03/10_2 Corinthians 6:3-4; No Obstacle But The Cross Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190310_2cor6_3-4.mp3

Context

Paul has just laid out the riches of gospel truth; that we are reconciled to God through the finished work of Christ; that the sinless Christ was counted as a sinner when he took my sin, and now I am counted righteous because I am found in Christ. He has called the church in Corinth to respond rightly to this message; he begs them as God’s ambassador ‘be reconciled to God’ and he appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain; in a meaningless, worthless, empty way, in a way that does not save. He quotes from the suffering servant section of Isaiah (49:8) to impress them with the urgency of responding to his message now, while God’s grace is being extended.

Here in verses 3-10 he presents his résumé as God’s minister, Christ’s ambassador, God’s fellow-worker. This is a memorable, lyrical, eloquent passage, on par with 1 Corinthians 13, and just as worthy of memorization.

The content of this highly structured résumé will have to wait until next week, but we will look at his cover letter in verses 3-4 today.

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

First, a note about how this sentence fits with the context. The main verb is all the way back in verse 1, ‘we appeal.’ “We appeal to you not in vain to receive the grace of God.” This is modified by the participle that begins the sentence ‘working together’. Then after the quotation in verse 2, he modifies this verb with two more participles:

1. ——–working together with God

We appeal to you

3. ——–giving no obstacle

4. ——–commending ourselves

Paul’s appeal to the church is his working together with God; his appeal comes with both negative and positive force. Negative in verse 3, which could literally be translated ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’; and positive in verse 4, literally ‘but in all things commending ourselves.’

The Offense of the Cross

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle [προσκοπήν] in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

What does Paul mean when he says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’?

Let’s start by clarifying what he does not mean. Back in 1 Corinthians, he said

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block [σκάνδαλον] to Jews and folly to Gentiles,

Paul is fully aware that the word of the cross, the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is foolishness and a stumbling block, literally a scandal to many. When he says that ‘we put no obstacle in anyone’s way’ he does not mean that he ceases to preach the gospel for fear of tripping up or offending anyone. In Galatians 5:11 he refers to the ‘offense’ or ‘stumbling block’ or ‘scandal’ of the cross. He refuses to compromise or water down the simple gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and raised on the third day. That will be an obstacle to many; however to attempt to remove that obstacle empties the gospel of any power to save. To tell people that they have sinned and offended a holy God, and that the wages of sin is death is offensive. To say that your only hope is that God had to become human in order to take your sin and die in your place is hard to swallow, but it is the gospel. We must not, we dare not tamper with the gospel. Paul refused to tamper with the offense of the cross.

Removing Obstacles

So what does Paul mean, when he says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’? Paul did talk at length in 1 Corinthians 8-10 about Christian rights, Christian liberties, and avoiding unnecessary offenses or obstacles. In that section (and in Romans 14) he discusses what you should or shouldn’t eat, specifically concerning meat that may have been sacrificed to idols. His conclusion is: flee idolatry (1Cor.10:14), but eat whatever is sold to you or set before you without raising question of where it came from (1Cor.10:25-27).

1 Corinthians 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block [πρόσκομμα] to the weak.

1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble [σκανδαλίζει], I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble [σκανδαλίσω].

In chapter 9 he uses himself as an illustration of letting go of legitimate rights for the good of others. He has the right as a minister of the gospel to make his living by the gospel (1Cor.9:4,14).

1 Corinthians 9:12 …Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle [ἐγκοπή] in the way of the gospel of Christ.

This is the passage where he says “I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. …I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel” (1Cor.9:19,22-23). He removed any unnecessary obstacles to the gospel, any unnecessary offenses; he was always conscious of his surroundings and intentional about how he conducted himself. He was aware of contrasting cultures and careful not to unnecessarily offend.

His conclusion in 1 Corinthians 10:

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense [ἀπρόσκοπος] to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

When Offense is Fruitful

But it’s more complex than just seeking never to offend anyone. Many people attempt to live that way today and are utterly useless for Christ. Paul offended plenty of people; that got him beat up, run out of town, thrown in jail on multiple occasions. He said some really offensive things. His first time in Corinth, in Acts 18, he was testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus,

Acts 18:6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

That’s offensive! That’s the kind of thing that started riots in other cities. That’s not very culturally sensitive. But we learn from Romans 11:11-14 that his goal was “in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.” This was a fruitful offense; a gospel driven offense.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:12 that he refused to receive compensation from the Corinthians in order to avoid putting obstacles in the way of the gospel. But that was contrary to their culture and offensive to them. In their culture, the better the teacher, the higher the price, and the more you paid for your instruction, the more bragging rights you had. He took that away from them. He took a job and worked with his own hands in menial labor to support himself, which tripped them up. But he claimed that this was to avoid ‘putting an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.’ He was more concerned with the integrity of the gospel than he was in simply avoiding offense. If he accepted pay from them, it would send a message that the gospel was out of reach of the poor, that it was not all of grace, that it was only for those who could pay top dollar.

Another way he offended the Corinthians was in his manner of speech. Although fully capable of eloquence, as this passage so clearly demonstrates, he says “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Cor.2:2), and this was contrary to their expectations. Paul made a conscious decision when he came to Corinth to not fit the mold, to fly in the face of their culture and not use oratorical skill or eloquent words of wisdom, because if he did it would imply that the gospel was only for the wise, the literate, the well educated.

Here’s an illustration of this principle of ‘becoming all things to all people’ tragically misapplied. Paul records in Galatians 2 that Peter in Antioch ‘was eating with the Gentiles;’ but when a Jewish delegation came from James in Jerusalem, ‘he drew back and separated himself.’ Isn’t this a case of ‘To those outside the law I became as one outside the law’ and ‘To those under the law I became as one under the law’? Paul says No! ‘I opposed him to his face’; he ‘acted hypocritically’; his ‘conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel’. By withdrawing from eating with the Gentiles, he was saying that Christ had not successfully broken down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Greeks. He was actually contradicting the gospel.

This calls for discernment. How can I be culturally sensitive without compromising the gospel? What unnecessary obstacles do we put in the way of the gospel? How do I unnecessarily offend? Am I content with my own friend group, not open to others? Am I unwelcoming, unfriendly, sometimes irritable? Am I unwilling to get out of my comfort zone or risk being inconvenienced? These would be evidences of pride, selfishness, and would be potential obstacles to the gospel.

What are things in our church body that are stumbling blocks to the gospel? Our heart’s desire above all else should be to see God glorified as people come into a reconciled relationship with God through our Lord Jesus. And this reconciliation is from God. All this is from God. God alone can save. We cannot. But we can remove obstacles from the gospel. We can clear the way for the gospel to have full impact in someone’s life. What things are we doing – or not doing that are obstructing the gospel?

Purpose: A No Fault Ministry

Paul says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault [μωμηθῇ] may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

His purpose for avoiding unnecessary obstacles is ‘in order that no fault may be found with the ministry.’ This word for ‘finding fault’ shows up again in chapter 8, illustrating what he means here. There he is talking about the collection of money from the churches that he intends to bring to the poor saints in Jerusalem. He makes it clear that he will not be doing this alone; he will be taking others with, people known by them.

2 Corinthians 8:20 We take this course so that no one should blame [μωμήσηται] us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.

He seeks to be honorable, above reproach in the way he handles other people’s money. He wants accountability. He aims for integrity that is unassailable.

There are a hundred ways to discredit your ministry. Sadly, you have seen enough examples of this in the news, and you know the immense hindrance it is to the gospel.

Commending Ourselves

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

‘To no one in nothing giving an obstacle… but in all things commending ourselves.’ This commending his ministry is a thread woven through this letter. He said in 3:1 in exasperation ‘we are beginning to commend ourselves again!’ We’ve already been through the introductions; you know me. I spent 18 months with you, and then another visit and wrote at least two letters. You ought to know my character by now. You yourselves are evidence of my authenticity.

He says in chapter 4

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

The way we handle God’s word demonstrates our integrity. He says in chapter 5:

2 Corinthians 5:12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

You ought to be able to defend us to those who are attempting to undermine our character. This thread appears again in chapter 10, where he points out that some commend themselves by comparing themselves with others, but only those whom the Lord commends are approved (10:12,18). In chapter 12 he says that he ought to have been commended by them (12:11).

Ministers of God with Faultless Ministry

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

In all things we commend ourselves as servants, ministers of God. We remove unnecessary obstacles, so that no fault can be found with the ministry. Ministers of God with faultless ministry.

How does Paul commend himself? What is the content of his résumé? It may not be what you expect. This is his cover letter. Next week we will review his resume.

Takeaway

What can we take away from this? As followers of Jesus, each of us is a minister, called to serve others for their good.

-Is your ministry blameless or blameworthy?

-Does your character and conduct discredit your message or commend it to others?

-Are you holding fast to the offense of the cross, or are you willing to manipulate the message to make it seem less offensive?

-What stumbling blocks are you putting in front of others?

***

*Ask God to open your eyes to see the obstacles you place in front of others.

*Ask him to give you a tenacious grip on the gospel

*Ask him to create integrity of character that displays his grace

***

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

March 13, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2:14-16; The Aroma of Christ to God

04/15_2Corinthians 2:14-16; The Aroma of Christ to God ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180415_2cor2_14-16.mp3

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

Paul’s spirit had no rest in Troas because of the unresolved tension in his relationship with the Corinthian church, so he said goodbye and headed to Macedonia, leaving behind an open door of gospel ministry.
Yet instead of expressing his frustration, or rebuking them, he thanks God who always triumphs over us in Christ, and who displays the odor of the knowledge of Christ through us in every place.

The triumph put on display the military might of Rome. A triumphing general in a display of his victory would parade the spoils of war through the streets of Rome, along with the chief enemies he conquered and any Roman citizens he had freed. This parade would appeal to all the senses, with blasts of trumpets, the clanking of weapons, the rumble of horses and chariot wheels, and songs of soldiers, with gold and silver and jewels, with colorful banners and garments, even with clouds of fragrant incense wafting through the streets.

Paul sees himself as a conquered enemy of Christ, but now a glad participant in the parade. The triumph had a political aspect, increasing the fame and promoting the popularity of the triumphing general. And Paul is glad to promote and display the fame of his new Lord.

Spreading the Knowledge of Jesus in Every Place

God is displaying the odor of the knowledge of Christ through the apostles in every place. God is triumphing and God is spreading. These are the two main verbs in the sentence; triumphing and spreading. ‘Spreading’ translates a word that at its root means to show or shine out, to make manifest, to cause to appear, to display. But what is put on display is something invisible; a smell, the odor of the knowledge of him; hence the translation ‘spread.’ The odor of knowing Jesus is made perceptible through them. The scent of knowing him is being sensed everywhere through the ministry, especially through the suffering of the apostles.

And this speaks to Paul’s itinerary. The Corinthians accuse Paul of changing his plans on a whim. God is marching Paul around in triumph. God is the one ultimately dictating where the apostle goes and when and for how long. God through the apostles is spreading the aroma of the knowledge of Christ in every place. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth. God intends that the scent of knowing Jesus be smelled in every place through the lives of his people. Paul makes his decisions as best he can, with a view to the advance of the gospel and the good of God’s people. And I’m sure he questioned; ‘should I have walked away from an open door for the gospel? Should I have toughed it out and stayed?’ And yet he can sleep at night thanking God that God is spreading the fragrance of Jesus in every place though him.

The Aroma of Christ to God

Notice what kind of smell this is, where it comes from, and who smells it. In verse 14 and again twice in verse 16 he uses a neutral word for smell; an odor. As we will see in verse 16, this could be a pleasant odor or a foul one. But in verse 15 he uses a distinctly positive term, with the prefix ‘good.’ This is a pleasing smell.

And the source of this pleasing aroma is Christ. The apostles are not going around spreading the knowledge of themselves everywhere. They are spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus. They are making him known. They are spreading his fame. Everywhere they go, they smell like Jesus, and Jesus smells like sacrificial service for the good of others.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The apostles are being crushed and poured out as the fragrant aroma of Christ. When the saints of Caesarea urged Paul to avoid the dangers that awaited him,

Acts 21:13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

He tells the Philippians:

Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

The smell of genuine Jesus shaped ministry is a life broken and crushed and poured out for the sake of others.

And notice who is smelling this pleasing aroma.

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God…

The smell is the smell of Christ, and it is a pleasing fragrance to God. In the Roman triumph, incense was burned creating a fragrance to attempt to please the Roman gods. In the Old Testament, sacrificial animals offered in faith on the altar were said to be a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:2 uses this sacrificial imagery when it says that Jesus “gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

God is smelling the life of the apostles, and to him it is a pleasing aroma. Their weakness, their suffering, their afflictions, their ‘not my will but yours be done’ smell like Jesus to the Father. And this is well pleasing to the Father.

Remember in Genesis 27, when Isaac thought he was going to die, so he sent his firstborn son Esau to hunt and bring him game so that he could bless him, and Isaac’s wife and his other son Jacob schemed to deceive him? Rebekah dressed him up in Esau’s clothes, and put goat skin on his hands and neck. Isaac was suspicious; he said “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” It wasn’t until “he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of this garments and blessed him and said, ‘See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!”” It was the aroma of Esau that pleased his father, and caused him to bless him. It is the same with us, although there is no deceit. We are clothed with the clothes of our older brother, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and we have the smell of Christ about us, and when the Father smells the pleasing aroma of his only Son on us, we are included in the inheritance that belongs to Jesus.

Two Kinds of Noses

The sense of smell is a powerful sense. I was driving through town the other day, and someone somewhere was barbecuing. I don’t know who or where or how far away, but I smelled it through the rolled up windows of the car. And it smelled wonderful. I thought about trying to locate the source and inviting myself over for dinner. Just last week my nose woke me up. The savory smell of sausage and bacon was wafting from the kitchen all the way up the stairs to our bedroom.

The sense of smell is an interesting one. Smells are perceived differently by different people. There are these little glass plug-in fragrance things that are supposed to make your house smell nice. And some of them I like. But I have noticed that certain aromas I can’t handle. It’s not just that I don’t like the smell. It’s that when I walk into the room, I feel like my throat is closing off and I can’t breathe anymore. To other people it smells pleasant. But I have to leave the room.

This aroma of Christ is one kind of aroma, and it is always pleasing to the Father. But there are two kinds of noses in the world.

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. …

This is the same dividing of humankind Paul pointed out in the beginning of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

There are those who are perishing, and those who are being saved. There is no third group, no neutral category. The word of the cross divides humanity into two groups.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Christ crucified divides humanity. There are those who are perishing, to whom Christ crucified is foolishness, a stumbling block, an offensive aroma of death. And there are those who are called, those who are being saved, to whom the word of the cross is the power of God and the wisdom of God, a sweet fragrance from life to life. In 1 Corinthians he contrasts wisdom with foolishness, power with weakness. Here in 2 Corinthians he compares this to the sense of smell.

He is talking about how things are perceived. It is the same word of the cross that is perceived by some as foolishness, which is perceived by others as wisdom and power. It is the same smell of the knowledge of Christ that is perceived among some as the smell of death to death, and by others as the smell of life to life.

In the Roman triumph, there were often two groups. There was the conquered enemy led captive and put to open shame, and the smells of the triumph would be for them the smells of death to death. They had been conquered in battle, and now they were being marched as slaves, likely to their deaths. And then there were the Roman citizens who had been living as slaves to the enemy. They too were led in the triumph, but the sights and sounds and smells would mean something entirely different to them. To them, this was the smell of an end of slavery; it meant liberty, freedom, victory. They owed their freedom and their allegiance to the conquering general. This was the smell of life to life. They had been rescued, saved out of slavery to the enemy, and were now being restored to their homeland as freed men. Same fragrance. Same odor. Two very different perceptions, depending on which side of the battle you were on.

What Nose Have You?

How Jesus smells to you, how the word of the cross sounds to you is a good test of what category you are in. Do you hear the gospel message, the word of the cross; that the Omnipotent God became human to die a shameful death that we deserved in order to rescue us; does that sound like foolishness, a fairy tale, nonsense? Do you take offense at the implication that you are so bad a sinner that you deserve to die? That you are utterly incapable of contributing to your own rescue? Does all the talk of death and blood and crucifixion seem like a morbid fascination?

Or does the message of Immanuel, God with us, come to rescue us from our sins, not only make sense, but fill your heart with joy? Do you, as the old hymn goes, ‘cling to the old rugged cross?’ How do the words of this old hymn, penned in 1771 by William Cowper smell to you?

1 There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains…

2 The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away…

3 Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its pow’r,
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Be saved, to sin no more…

4 E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die…

[William Cowper, 1772]

There is a fountain filled with blood; Drawn from Immanuel’s veins; And sinners, plunged beneath that flood; Lose all their guilty stains. Is that the sweet aroma of life and hope? Does your soul resonate with those words, or is that distasteful and offensive imagery to you?

Here is just one verse of another hymn written just over 100 years later; ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus’

2 O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
just to trust his cleansing blood;
and in simple faith to plunge me
neath the healing, cleansing flood!

[Louisa M. R. Stead, 1882]

Is it sweet to you to be plunged beneath the cleansing blood of Jesus, to trust him, to depend on him completely? Is the blood precious to you? Is the cross to you a symbol of foolishness and death, or a symbol of life and power?

Gospel Call

This is one way to diagnose where you stand with God. The fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus, who he is, why he came, what he did, the message of the cross, smells different to different people. To some it is the stench of death and it results in death, to those who are perishing. To others, to those who are being saved, it is the sweet fragrance of life and it results in eternal life.

Which is it to you? If it is sweet to you, thank God! He has given you the ability to savor the knowledge of Jesus rightly. And if you are in the other category, if you can’t honestly say that the cross is precious to you, that would seem to indicate that you are perishing.

But here is some good news for you. God loves to take those who are perishing and rescue them. Ask God to give you a heart to receive the word of the cross as wisdom and power for salvation. Ask God to give you a nose to smell the fragrance of the sufferings of Christ as the sweet aroma of life to life. Ask God to save you. Ask God to grant you to perceive Jesus as life, and receive his free gift of life.

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

April 17, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Patience Like Jesus

06/25 The Spirit’s Fruit; Patience like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170625_patience-like-jesus.mp3

We are studying the fruit of the Spirit. Notice, fruit is singular. These nine characteristics describe one whole fruit. This is not a buffet line – a little bit of this, a lot of that, I’ll pass on that. No, for the fruit to be present, all of these characteristics must be there and growing. And remember, this is the Spirit’s fruit, and it is in contrast to the works of the flesh. You cannot produce this fruit on your own. God the Holy Spirit must come inside and make this happen in you. It is evidence that he is there. There are counterfeits. Things that we might call love and joy and peace and patience, in our lives or the life of an unbeliever, but they are not Spirit produced. What we are talking about is what the Old Testament pointed forward to in the promise of the New Covenant.

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

So take heart! Notice who is doing the work. God says ‘I will.’ I will cleanse you. Because of the blood of Jesus, because of his crucifixion in your place, I will cleanse you. I will set you free from all your idols. Idols like enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy (Gal.5:20-21). I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove your hard stony heart. I will put my Holy Spirit within you. I will cause you to walk in my statutes. I will cause you to be careful to obey my rules. This is fruit. This is New Covenant fruit. This is God the Father, founded on the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, through his Holy Spirit working transformation in us for his glory. I will sprinkle, I will cleanse, I will give, I will put, I will remove, I will put I will cause.

We need this confidence. We need this encouragement, because today we are looking at patience. Love, joy, peace, patience. Love is willing, costly self-giving for the good of others. Joy is a weighty delight in God that is unaffected by outward circumstances. Peace is God’s own quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is under his control, and all is well. What is patience?

Patience and Anger

There are some things that go under the name of patience which are not the real fruit of patience. I tend to have a patient temperament. In high school I had friends try to make me angry just to see if it was possible. Where my friends failed, somehow my children have succeeded! That is not what we are talking about. You can act patience and put up with a lot because you just don’t care that much. Patience is not being passive, indifferent, or tolerant of wrongs (Powilson, p.78). It is not merely a stoic resolution to not be ruffled by circumstances.

The Greek New Testament word for patience here is: μακροθυμία macro as opposed to micro. Micro when you are near, step in close, zoom in like a microscope. Macro is when you step back, far far back, and take in the big picture. It can mean distant or long. Μακροθυμία; θυμός is where we get thermal; heat. It means fury, wrath, indignation.

Romans 2:8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath [ὀργὴ] and fury [θυμός].

In Galatians 5:20 the works of the flesh include (θυμοί) fits of anger.

The idea of this word μακροθυμία is that it takes a long time to get angry; anger is distant, far off. It takes a long time to get hot. We say someone is hot tempered and has a short fuse. This is the opposite; a long fuse. Slow to anger. The Old English word is longsuffering. Love suffers long.

Notice this passage does not say that the fruit of the Spirit is ‘never angered’ but ‘slow to anger’. There is a place for anger. Anger is a good God given emotion. Anger is the passionate response to what is evil that does something to bring about good. Anger often goes bad in us, but that does not mean that anger itself is bad.

Patience with Circumstances and Patience with People

There is another Greek New Testament word that is also on occasion translated ‘patience’. It is ὑπομονή. We see both in Colossians 1:11.

Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance [ὑπομονήν] and patience [μακροθυμίαν] with joy,

Notice God’s power is supplied to bring about both endurance and patience with joy. The description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 begins with μακροθυμία and ends with ὑπομονή

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient [μακροθυμεῖ] and kind; … 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures [ὑπομένει] all things.

ὑπομονή patience leans in the direction of patience under adverse circumstances, patience with outward pressures. Μακροθυμία patience is more patience with adverse people. What do you do when someone wrongs you? How do you respond to irritating people? People who impose on you, inconvenience you, offend you?

Ephesians 4; Unity, Humility, and Putting Up with Crap

We see some of this in Ephesians 4.

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

Notice how patience is here, but it is not alone? It is connected with humility, gentleness, love. It is rooted in an eagerness. There is an eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit. There is a diligent labor toward unity. Not superficial unity, but real, genuine unity, unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Patience is a tool toward this kind of unity. Not being easily angered by my brother or sister but bearing with one another is a powerful tool toward unity. This striving toward unity with patience grows out of humility. This verse uses two words that can both be translated humility; modesty and meekness. Patience comes when I don’t think that I’m better, more important, more worthy than someone else. Patience comes with a proper view of who I am. I become impatient, even hot tempered when I feel that my schedule is more important than yours. My need for that parking spot is greater than yours. ‘I was here first!’ My comfort, my agenda ranks higher than yours. ‘Why are you getting in my way? Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you understand what I have to accomplish? You are hindering me. Me!’

Jesus initiates an upside down kingdom. He says it is the one who puts others first, who cares for the least of these who is truly great (Mt.25).

Matthew 18:4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

This humility of considering the needs of others as more important than our own is what allows us to patiently bear with one another in love. There is stuff we will have to put up with. There are misunderstandings. There are unintentional insensitivities. There are also legitimate wrongs. But because we are actively pursuing spiritual unity, because we are walking in genuine humility, we can genuinely love the other person by patiently putting up with the crap they throw our way.

Colossians 3; Patience and Forgiveness

We see this same thing in Colossians 3:12.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Again, we see patience does not stand alone. Patience is coupled with compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness. Patience puts up with the junk people knowingly or unknowingly throw at us. It is intentionally moving toward love and harmony and peace and unity in the body. Patience moves in this direction by bearing with and forgiving. Not everything has to be confronted. Some things we can choose to let go. Was it really that big of a deal? Can I just let it go? Can I assume the best, assume it was unintentional, assume you meant well, give you the benefit of the doubt and just let it go? Have I ever wronged or offended someone unintentionally? Can I in humility bear with them?

But maybe my complaint is genuine (or at least I have convinced myself that it is genuine). Then for the sake of unity, for the sake of harmony, for the sake of the peace of my own heart, in thanksgiving, because Christ Jesus has forgiven all my legitimate wrongs, I must forgive. Here we see patience and putting up with one another linked to forgiveness. The word in this verse for forgiving is χαρίζομαι from the root χάρις -grace. It means to grant as an undeserved favor, to gratuitously pardon or rescue. What you did was wrong. I have a legitimate complaint against you. I have a valid reason to be angry. You don’t deserve to receive my patience. But because Jesus has freely and undeservedly extended his gracious forgiveness to me, I must freely, graciously forgive you.

God’s Immense Patience

Do you see where we get this kind of patience? It comes from the same place all the other facets of the fruit of the Spirit come from. It comes from God. It is produced by the Spirit in us. It comes through looking. Looking in faith to God. Looking to who God is, to God’s character, as we long for God’s character to be reproduced in us. It comes through looking to Jesus. Our patience, our slowness to anger grows out of a relationship with God who is slow to anger.

Back in Exodus, shortly after God had rescued his people out of their slavery in Egypt, and he had called Moses up to the mountain to receive his laws, and the people grew impatient and made for themselves idols to worship. God was rightly angry, but Moses prayed, and God relented from the disaster he had spoken of bringing on the people (Ex.32). Because of this, Moses is emboldened to ask to see the glory of God.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Our God is a God who is immensely slow to anger. He has a long fuse. He is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is eager to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin. Yet he is also just. He will right every wrong, and punish every sin. This understanding of the nature of God should cause us to be cautious in condemning God for seemingly excessive acts of violence. We read things like ‘The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven’ (Gen.19:24).

Numbers 16:31 …the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

Or in the conquest, at the command of the LORD, ‘we … devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors’ (Deut 2:34, 7:2). Our inclination is to say ‘that’s too harsh’. But we must remember the patience of God. As Peter says,

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God is longsuffering toward all, eager for all to turn and find repentance. We are to

2 Peter 3:15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,

Paul says in Romans 2:

Romans 2:3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

God is slow to anger, immensely slow to anger, but his anger will come at the proper time. He is absolutely just. God’s anger is not quick and reactionary, it is not intended for his own convenience. God’s anger is cautious and constructive, slowly bringing about his own good purposes. God’s judgment is inescapable. But he is rich in kindness and forbearance. He is rich in longsuffering.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

So where does this kind of patience come from? The kind that is legitimately wronged and does not demand payment? The kind that does not say ‘you have wronged me, and I will make sure you wish you hadn’t. I’m going to hold you in my debt (which is bitterness) and make sure you feel the weight of what you did to me. The kind that freely, graciously, undeservedly reaches out and rescues my offender from what they deserve, at great personal cost? This kind of slow to anger patience only comes from looking to Jesus.

The Anger of Jesus

Let’s look at an instance of the anger of Jesus. In Mark 3,

Mark 3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, …

This is a set-up. The religious leaders are against him. Jesus is doing good, and exposing the religious people in their predatory and self-serving ways. He describes them in another passage

Matthew 23:4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others….

Jesus knows this is a setup. He knows they are out to kill him. So he asks them a diagnostic question; is it lawful to do good or to do harm? To save a life or to kill? They are seeking his harm, they are seeking occasion against him. He holds up a mirror to reveal their own hearts. But they were silent. They were resolute in their determined opposition to him. They refused to look at their own hearts, their own need. Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart. Jesus was angry, but his anger was mixed with sorrow. He understood what they would do. He understood their need. He loved his enemies. He was grieved that they didn’t care about this person with a withered hand; they were willing to use him as bait. He was grieved that they couldn’t see their own shriveled hearts, and that one who with the power to make them new on the inside was standing among them.

Mark 3:5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Jesus was angry and grieved, but he acted in love. And he sealed his own fate. His enemies went out and held counsel against him, how to destroy him. Jesus’ anger was not moved by what would benefit himself. It moved out to do real good for those in need. It saw the real problem and moved decisively to fix it.

Jesus’ lovingly patient anger led him to the cross. Jesus was angry and grieved at their hardness of heart. And he took my hard heart on himself, he took my selfish pride, my callous indifference to the needs of others, my blindness to who he was, ‘He himself bore my sins in his body on the tree’ (1Pet.2:24).

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.

The cross of Jesus the display of the patient anger of God against all that is wrong and hurtful and broken in his world. The cross fully displayed his perfect love of justice and righteousness; his incomprehensible love toward those who wronged him, by acting in anger for their eternal joy.

I can be slow to anger with those who have wronged me, because Jesus endured the full heat of the fury of Almighty God against all my sin. ‘It was the will of the LORD to crush him’ (Is.53:10). I can bear with the wrongs of others against me, I can act in love, because he bore all my wrongs, because when I was his enemy, he laid down his life in love for me.

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

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:5c; Love is Not Irritable

01/11 1 Corinthians 13:5c Love is Not Irritable; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150111_1cor13_5c.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends...

We are in the middle of 1 Corinthians 13, the ‘Love Chapter’. We are looking at what love is, what God’s love is, and learning together about the God who is love. We see this love perfectly displayed in our Lord Jesus Christ, and we also ought to see evidence of this love growing in the lives of the followers of Jesus. That is what this chapter is about. In the context of a church full of people who were all about status, position, importance, thinking each was better than the other, or feeling they were of no significance and didn’t belong, asking what gifts or manifestations were true evidence of advanced spirituality, Paul answers by saying that all the tongues speaking, all the prophesying, all the faith in the world amounts to nothing, reduces the speaker to nothing, and will gain us nothing of eternal significance without love. Love is long-tempered. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love does not boast or puff up self. Love is not rude. Love does not seek its own. Love is not irritable. Love does not keep records of wrongs done. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoings, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears and believes and hopes and endures. This is the kind of love God has, the kind of love Jesus displayed as the image of the invisible God, and this is the kind of love that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of the follower of Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is love. This kind of love is the primary evidence for those who are truly spiritual.

So this chapter is a rebuke. The Corinthians lacked love. They were the opposite of all these things. The Corinthians were impatient, unkind, envious, braggarts, puffed up, indecent, self-seeking, irritable, and they held grudges. Paul was humbling them, pointing them to the way of love, pointing them to the utter worthlessness of their spiritual giftedness without God’s love at work among them.

Today we look at the sixth in a list of eight negatives, describing what love is not. The ESV translates this ‘not irritable’; (NIV) ‘not easily angered’; (KJV) ‘not easily provoked’; (ISV) ‘never …gets annoyed’; (Phillips) ‘not touchy’.

Passive

This is a passive verb, indicating not something that I do (that would be an active verb), but how I respond when someone does something to me. This does not have to do with if I provoke others, but how I respond when others provoke or irritate me. ‘If only people would stop irritating me, I wouldn’t get so angry!’ I am on the receiving end of provocation. This assumes that there will be provocation. People will provoke me. Circumstances will irritate me. Things will annoy me. That is not the problem, and the solution is not to eliminate the annoyances. The problem is in me. The problem is with how I respond. Jesus promised his followers “in the world you will have tribulation [pressure, affliction, distress]” (Jn.16:33). That is unavoidable. But Jesus offers in the midst of the pressure “that in me you may have peace.”

Irritable Corinthians

So what does it mean that love is not irritable? How were the Corinthians acting irritably? How is God who is love not irritable? What can we learn from Jesus about not being irritable?

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

The Corinthians were irritable. They were easily provoked. We see that from how they conducted themselves. There was quarreling, dissension, disputes, jealousy, strife. There was boasting, some thought more highly of themselves than they ought to think, puffed up, thinking they were wise and powerful and important, who didn’t think they needed anyone else. Others felt pushed down, trampled, unimportant, undervalued, they were easily offended. They were all eager to insist on their own rights, demanding what was their due, even if that meant taking one another to the courts of law to settle disputes. This is not the way of love.

God’s Righteous Provocation

If love is not irritable, not provoked, then we should be able to look at the God who defines love to see more clearly what this does and doesn’t mean. When we look to the Old Testament, we find something interesting.

Psalm 7:11 God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. 12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; 13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.

God feels indignation every day. This does not sound like a God who is not provoked. In fact, we find God provoked frequently through the scriptures. Listen to Deuteronomy 9, where Moses warns the people against provoking the Lord.

Deuteronomy 9:6 “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. 7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8 Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.

…12 Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.’ 13 “Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’

…18 Then I lay prostrate before the LORD as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger. 19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the LORD bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me that time also.

…22 “At Taberah also, and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath.

It sounds like the God who is love is at times provoked to anger and wrath. If God is love, then there must be a righteous and loving kind of provocation as well as an evil and unloving kind of provocation.

Deuteronomy 32:16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

God is provoked to anger when his people whom he loves and cares for turn away from him, the only source of life and joy and run after false hopes that will fail to satisfy. He is provoked to anger because he loves his people, he wants what is best for them, and he knows that he alone is best for them. Even at the disobedience of his people, God is patient. Nehemiah prays:

Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

God can be provoked, but he is slow to anger. He is patient, he is great in mercy, he is abounding in steadfast love.

Provocation of Jesus

When we look to Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God, we see him reflect the same kinds of things. In John 2,

John 2:14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Jesus was provoked. He was passionate. He was rightly irritated and offended by people seeking to make a profit off of those who had come to seek God.

In Mark 3, the Pharisees had set Jesus up. They were using a crippled person – using him to test Jesus.

Mark 3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Notice Jesus’ response. He was provoked. He attempted to reason with them. They were callous. He was provoked to wrath. Wrath and sorrow. He was grieved and angry. Angry at their insensitivity to the needs of a person. Grieved at their callousness to the truth of God, their hardened refusal to consider that he might indeed be who he claimed to be. They set him up, and Jesus was angry and grieved, and he healed the man. And the Pharisees conspired to kill him.

His Provocation and Ours

When we look at Jesus, we begin to see some of the differences between God’s perfect, loving provocation, and our sinful selfish provocation. God is provoked when we seek satisfaction in things that will bring only harm and heartache. Jesus was provoked when God was dishonored and people were hurt. Jesus was provoked when people were more interested in self-preservation and their own agenda than the good of hurting people and the glory of God.

We are irritated when things don’t go our way, when we are inconvenienced, when we are hurt, when our plans are thwarted. We are provoked when people are thoughtless or unkind toward us. We want to defend ourselves, our ideas, our reputation, our honor. Anthony Thiselton describes our irritability as a “readiness to overreact on one’s own behalf.” He describes a provocation that “takes offense because one’s self-regard has been dented, wounded, or punctured by some sharp point” (NIGTC, p.1052). Our irritability is rooted in selfishness, which is the opposite of love. He also points out how these characteristics of love work together. Love is patient, or long-tempered. Love does not seek its own. “patience delays exasperation … and …lack of self-interest diverts a sense of self-importance away from reacting on the grounds of wounded pride” (NIGTC, p.1052).

Jesus is Not Irritable

We look to Jesus for an example of a selfless life surrendered to pursuing passionately the purposes of God, and how to respond to people and circumstances and things that bring irritation and provocation.

Interruptions

How do you respond when you have purpose, when you are on mission, when you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, when you are moving forward, going in the right direction, and someone comes along with an interruption and derails you? How do you respond to interruption? Do you respond with irritation, with frustration, with anger? In Mark 5, Jesus was on mission. He had been summoned by a desperate father whose daughter was dying. He was going to help someone. What he was doing was very important. But he was rudely and inappropriately interrupted.

Mark 5:22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

This delay was not only inconvenient, poorly timed, and inappropriate, but the delay caused the death of the girl he had set out to heal. He was derailed. How would you respond to this kind of interruption? How did Jesus respond to it? He allowed the interruption. He embraced it. He stopped. He turned. He took the time to identify the one who had interrupted him, to address her. He treated her with kindness and compassion. He cared for her needs. This unplanned interruption served to exaggerate the glory of God as the planned healing escalated into a full-on resurrection from the dead!

Distractions

How do you respond when you have been called to big things, when you are doing important things, and something small and trivial gets in your way? Distractions, diversions, inconsequential things, inconveniences that steal precious time away from the great task at hand. How do you respond to the trivial interruptions of life? In Mark 10, Jesus’ disciples were trying to do a good thing. They were trying to protect Jesus’ time. He had come for great things, he was teaching the multitudes, so they attempted to intercept the insignificant distractions so that he could focus on the more important things.

Mark 10:13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Jesus was indignant, not that people would be so trivial as to bring their little kids to him to get him to touch them, but because the disciples were turning them away. He embraced these distractions. These distractions were people, and he took time to show them love and affection, to bless them.

Impositions

How do you respond to impositions? You have been going and going, serving and pouring out, to the point that you are exhausted, even neglecting your own basic needs. You need to get away. You need time alone. You need rest. You just need a break. And just as you are about to take some precious time to yourself, someone drops in on you. Someone who is needy. Someone who is self-centered. Someone who wants to take from you. Uninvited, unwelcome impositions. How do you respond? In Mark 6, Jesus responds to uninvited impositions.

Mark 6:30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”

Jesus was looking for private time, isolated time, time away from the crowds, time by themselves, time to rest. But the crowds chased him down. They horned their way in on what was supposed to be rest and leisure. How did Jesus respond? He had compassion on them. He saw their hurts, their needs. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He embraced the imposition. He invested in them. And he refused to send them away hungry. He poured into them spiritually, and he cared for them physically. He fed them as much as they could eat. And there was still plenty left over for his disciples. They were satisfied, and God was glorified.

Irresponsibility

How do you respond when you give a trusted friend a simple task and they utterly fail you? A small thing, an easy thing, but an important thing. And they drop the ball and leave you hanging? Do you cut them off? One time and that’s it. I’ll never trust you again. In Mark 14, Jesus gave some of his closest friends a very simple but important job.

Mark 14:32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Watch. Pray. Simple things in his hour of greatest need, and they failed him. They fell asleep. He gave them three opportunities. They failed every time. He didn’t become angry. He didn’t write them off. In his hour of need, he challenged them, he instructed them, he cared for their needs. After his resurrection he pursued them and entrusted them with the greatest commission of being his witnesses and changing the world.

Intentional Offense

But what about intentional offenses? What if someone is really out to hurt you, out to injure you, out to do you harm? What do you do when you know that there is malicious intent? How do you react? How did Jesus react? The prophet Isaiah foretells it this way:

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Peter holds Jesus up as an example for us:

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

Jesus instructs us:

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

What kind of love is this? What kind of love is so selfless that it is not irritable, not resentful, not provoked to anger? What kind of love loves enemies? God’s love. While we were his enemies, God demonstrated his love for us (Rom.5:8-10). Having been loved like this, the Holy Spirit now works this kind of love in us. We can only love like this when we have first been filled to overflowing with his love.

I am not my own. I have been bought with a price. I am a slave sent to do my Master’s bidding. So I love because he first loved me.

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

January 11, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 8:20 – 9:12; The Discrimination of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101031_exodus08_20-9_12.mp3

10/31 Exodus 8:20-9:12 The Discrimination of God (Mighty Acts of God 4-6; flies, livestock, boils)

Intro:

So far, we’ve seen God begin to judge Egypt by unleashing the first cycle of his mighty acts. He turned the waters of Egypt to blood and destroyed the Nile, he caused frogs to overrun the land and be piled in heaps; and caused gnats or lice to infest the land. Today we will look at the second cycle of God’s might acts of judgment against Egypt.

Structure of the Mighty Acts Narrative

This second cycle of three mighty acts of God following the introductory sign of the staff-turned-serpent. There will be one more cycle of three judgments leading up to the final climactic act of God in the Passover and the death of the firstborn. Like the others, this second cycle begins with a morning outdoor confrontation with Pharaoh, warning him of what is to come, followed by a confrontation in the courts of Pharaoh, again warning him of what is to come, then followed by an unannounced mighty act unleashed on unbelieving Egypt.

God is not dependent on means

This cycle is different from the others, in that there is no rod or staff used. In the first three, it is Aaron’s staff that is used to unleash God’s mighty acts. In the final cycle of three, it is Moses’ staff that is used. But in these three, there is no mention of a staff at all. This is significant, because the staff was a symbol of status and power, and the magicians of Egypt used their staffs to duplicate the signs (at least until Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs). God is demonstrating that his power doesn’t come from some magic stick. God is free to use means or no means to accomplish his ends. He can work through an instrument, or he can work independent of any instrument. He can use a shepherd’s stick, or simply the spoken word to cause the laws of nature to be altered. God spoke the whole universe into existence by his word; he can choose to violate the normal laws of nature just as easily by his word. In fact, if we understand what Hebrews (1:3) says, that Jesus ‘upholds the universe by the word of his power’, all that is necessary for creation to run a muck is for him to momentarily withdraw his sovereign power of restraint and all hell will break loose.

Swarms (Mighty Act # 4)

8:20 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 21 Or else, if you will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants and your people, and into your houses. And the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. 22 But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. 23 Thus I will put a division between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen.’””

The first thing we are reminded of is God’s purpose in the Exodus. Moses is to ambush Pharaoh by the river and proclaim to him ‘thus says the LORD: let my people go that they may serve (or worship) me’. The demand of the Lord was clear: Pharaoh must relinquish his claims on the Hebrew slaves so that they are at liberty to worship and serve their rightful Master. This is a battle for allegiance, for worship.

The next thing that should catch our attention in the text here is that the Pharaoh is going out to the water again. Archaeologists have excavated the remains of Egyptian palaces, and they include what appear to be bathing areas. The most likely reason the Pharaoh would go to the banks of the Nile would not be to take a bath, but to worship the gods of the Nile. This is interesting because in the first mighty act, Moses intercepted Pharaoh on the banks of the Nile, and the first mighty act of God was against the Nile, turning it to blood for seven days, causing all the fish to die, causing it to stink and be unusable. God showed his triumph over the life source of Egypt and over her gods, and now Pharaoh is back at the water again, presumably worshiping his defeated gods.

This is the second round of judgments against Egypt. God had warned Pharaoh of the judgment on the Nile, and of the judgment of the frog infestation. Pharaoh begged for relief from the frogs and promised the release of the Israelites. But when Pharaoh did not honor his word, God struck Egypt with the infestation of gnats or lice or biting insects without warning. Now again God sends Moses and Aaron to warn Pharaoh of what is coming. This is really an ultimatum. Release my people. If you refuse, this is what I will do to you. I will send swarms on you and on your servants and on your people and into your houses and covering all your territory. The word is not specific – swarms of what? Our translators have added the descriptive ‘of flies’ to help clarify the situation. This was probably some swarming mixture of biting insects. We deduce that they were biting insects from the inspired commentary we find in the Psalms:

Psalms 78:45 He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them, and frogs, which destroyed them.

If you’ve ever been in the north woods of Minnesota on a calm summer evening, you have just a hint of what this might be like. Devoured is a good description. And there was no refuge. There was no place to hide. There was no relief, day or night. They were swarming in your house and in your bedroom. It says in verse 24 ‘the land was ruined because of the swarms. I can’t stand to have a single non-biting fly buzzing around my kitchen. But this was beyond mere annoyance. This was a devastating judgment.

But there is another unique thing about this mighty act. God made a distinction. God discriminated between the Pharaoh’s people and his own people. This is the first time in the sequence of God’s mighty acts that he explicitly says that he will discriminate.

22 But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. 23 Thus I will put a division between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen.’””

God’s people are not always exempted from suffering. But God does promise to treat his people differently than those who do not follow him.

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

There is no mention of whether the first three mighty acts of God affected the Egyptians only, or all the people who lived in the land. But here God highlights the distinction he is making to drive home a theological point. God says I will set my people apart ‘that you may know that I am YHWH in the midst of the earth’. If there was mass swarming of creatures all over the land, it could be attributed to a freak natural occurrence of some sort, but if there was an artificial ethnic boundary where God’s people were exempted from the judgment, that would be inexplicable outside of a direct intervention of the sovereign Lord of creation. Only God could command the flies to swarm only in designated areas and leave other areas alone. Have you ever tried to train a fly not to cross an imaginary line? But this is exactly what happened. YHWH, whom the Pharaoh did not acknowledge, is indeed showing himself to be mighty and powerful, even in the middle of Pharaoh’s own playground.

24 And the LORD did so. There came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and into his servants’ houses. Throughout all the land of Egypt the land was ruined by the swarms of flies. 25 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” 26 But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so, for the offerings we shall sacrifice to the LORD our God are an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us? 27 We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as he tells us.” 28 So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you must not go very far away. Plead for me.” 29 Then Moses said, “Behold, I am going out from you and I will plead with the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, tomorrow. Only let not Pharaoh cheat again by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” 30 So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. 31 And the LORD did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; not one remained. 32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go.

The swarms are so intolerable that the Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron and concedes to their request. Actually, he attempts to bargain with them. This is customary in eastern cultures. I say my item is worth $500 and you come into my shop and say you wouldn’t pay a penny more than $75. After a bit of haggling, we will end up somewhere in the middle. We will reach a compromise. God has made his demands. The Pharaoh must release his Hebrew slaves so that they can serve YHWH in the wilderness. Pharaoh starts low and makes an offer. “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land”. You are not permitted to leave, but you can sacrifice to your God here.

Moses counters with a restatement of the original demand and a logical explanation of why that is necessary. He doesn’t come down on his price one bit. His reason is clear. What the Israelites must do would be offensive to the Egyptian culture and would cause riots and civil unrest. This would be the equivalent of killing a pig in a Muslim mosque or slaughtering a cow in a Hindu temple. But why? Was Moses bluffing? Why would it be offensive for the Hebrews to sacrifice when the Egyptians offered their own sacrifices? And why, in our own day of tolerance, is Christianity the only religion that is not tolerated? It is simply this. The Old Testament sacrificial system, as the New Testament good news message, has one aim; to decisively deal with sin. And that’s offensive. We don’t want to acknowledge sin. We don’t want to believe there is such a thing as a violation of the standards of a holy God for which we will be held accountable. We certainly don’t want to admit that we have missed the mark and fallen short. Jesus teaches us that this is the job of the Holy Spirit:

John 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

In order to be forgiven of our sins, we need to know that we are sinners and confess that to God.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This is what Jesus means when he says:

Luke 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

The only person who carries a cross is a condemned criminal. Bearing a cross was a public display that I am guilty and deserve the death penalty. All the religions of the world seek to be good enough to earn God’s favor. Jesus tells us we need to own our guilt and daily come face to face with how bad we really are. I truly deserve hell. That’s not a popular message. That is a message that flies in the face of our culture of positive self image and inherent goodness. That’s offensive. And that’s what Jesus is all about.

Romans 9:33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

This is what Paul refers to as the ‘offense of the cross’ (Galatians 5:11). This is what Moses is telling the Pharaoh; if we start killing animals because we believe that we are so bad that we deserve the death penalty and our only hope is if someone or something dies in our place, and blood is shed to cover our sin, that raises the issue of guilt with our neighbors. And our neighbors would rather kill us than face their own guilt before a holy God. That is why we need to travel a significant distance into the wilderness; because our God is holy and just and must punish sin. Pharaoh apparently concedes to Moses’ point, and counters that he will allow them to go into the wilderness to sacrifice to YHWH your God, but just don’t go too far away. I still want you close enough that I can control what you do and bring you back.

Pharaoh is desperate, and as with the frog infestation, again he begs Moses and Aaron to plead with their God on his behalf. Even unrepentant sinners are driven to seek prayer when things get bad enough. Moses does not counter Pharaoh’s offer, probably because he knows it is not genuine. Pharaoh still thinks it is in his power to let the people of Israel go. He will be shown that it is not in his power at all – they are completely in the hands of their YHWH. Moses calls Pharaoh on his lack of integrity, and there is a marked contrast between the words of God and the words of the Pharaoh. God promises and delivers. God speaks and it happens. Even nature itself responds to his command. Pharaoh’s words are hollow and powerless, and he repeatedly fails to deliver his promises. Moses calls him a liar and lets him know that he is on to him. You’ve lied once and proved you can’t be trusted. I will pray for you, but don’t do it again. Moses prays, God answers and relents, and as expected, Pharaoh refuses to keep his own word.

Death of the Livestock (Mighty Act #5)

9:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2 For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, 3 behold, the hand of the LORD will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. 4 But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.’”” 5 And the LORD set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land.” 6 And the next day the LORD did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died. 7 And Pharaoh sent, and behold, not one of the livestock of Israel was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

This is an escalation of God’s mighty acts. This is the first time that God’s actions result directly in death, even though it has not yet escalated to the level of human death. After the gnats, the final mighty act in the first cycle, the magicians of Egypt confessed to Pharaoh that this was the finger of God. Now God says ‘the hand of the LORD will fall’. You think his finger was bad; wait ’till you see what his hand can do! The mercy of God is amazing, warning, incrementally judging, answering prayer and relenting, warning again, giving an abundance of evidence to believe, giving time to reconsider. God is patient and slow to anger, but he is just. And judgment does fall on the stubborn hardhearted Pharaoh. But first it falls on his livestock. All kinds of livestock all over Egypt will suffer from a severe disease and die, but again a distinction will be made. Not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died. Again, what will happen is told in detail in advance so that it will be evident that Pharaoh is up against the God who controls the future. But even in the face of undeniable evidence, Pharaoh’s heart remains hard.

Severe Skin Disease (Mighty Act #6)

8 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. 9 It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.” 10 So they took soot from the kiln and stood before Pharaoh. And Moses threw it in the air, and it became boils breaking out in sores on man and beast. 11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils came upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians. 12 But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

This is poetic justice. The Hebrews were forced to make bricks, and now some of the ash from the brick kilns is used to bring judgment on the Egyptians. Moses threw handfuls of soot into the air, and God caused it to spread and settle all over Egypt and become boils breaking out in sores. The word here is emphatic – angry boils, boils which become ulcerous and leave deep, painful scars. This might act crosses lines that have not yet been crossed. Up until now, the effects on people were indirect – severe inconveniences and irritations, loss of property and possessions. This judgment is personal – it attacks personal health and well-being; it creates sores in the flesh of each Egyptian. We are reminded of Job, where God allows Satan to take all that he has but not to stretch out his hand against him personally. When Job responded to this with worship, Satan rejoined ‘Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face’ (Job 2:4-5)

The magicians of Egypt are mentioned for the last time here in this section. These powerful sorcerers who had duplicated the first of God’s mighty acts, cannot even protect themselves from these painful sores. To a lesser degree, they had replicated the staff to serpent, the Nile to blood, and they had worsened the frog infestation, but they admitted their failure to reproduce the gnats. They were up against the finger of God. Now as Moses is standing in the presence of Pharaoh, these magicians, the physicians of Egypt, are so incapacitated by these painful boils that they can’t even stand in the presence of Moses. God had decisively demonstrated his superiority over the most powerful men in Egypt, he has outdone them in their secret arts, elicited a confession from them of his awesome power, and left them totally incapacitated and unable even to stand in the presence of his servant.

James 4:6 …“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

The knees of the sorcerers had buckled under the sovereign hand of God. Nothing but the sovereign hand of God himself could prevent the Pharaoh’s knees from buckling as well under this kind of overwhelming pressure, and that is exactly what we are told is going on – YHWH hardened the Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not listen, just as he had promised he would do. But in the end, at the right time, even Pharaoh’s knees will buckle and he will admit his sin and God’s superiority. He will obey the command of the Lord. In Philippians 2, it says of Jesus:

Philippians 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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

October 31, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 2:6-10

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20081123_1peter_2_6-10.mp3

11/23 1 Peter 2:6-10 shame or honor; proclaiming the excellencies of Him

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

2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation–– 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

6 dioti periecei en grafh idou tiyhmi en siwn liyon eklekton akrogwniaion entimon kai o pisteuwn ep autw ou mh kataiscunyh 7 umin oun h timh toiv pisteuousin apistousin de liyov on apedokimasan oi oikodomountev outov egenhyh eiv kefalhn gwniav 8 kai liyov proskommatov kai petra skandalou oi proskoptousin tw logw apeiyountev eiv o kai eteyhsan 9 umeiv de genov eklekton basileion ierateuma eynov agion laov eiv peripoihsin opwv tav aretav exaggeilhte tou ek skotouv umav kalesantov eiv to yaumaston autou fwv 10 oi pote ou laov nun de laov yeou oi ouk hlehmenoi nun de elehyentev

It is God’s word in the preaching of the good news that brings about the new birth (1:23-25). So we are commanded to be like infants and crave pure spiritual milk so that we can grow to maturity (2:1-2). And having tasted that the Lord is good (2:3), we will come to Jesus and keep coming back to Jesus over and over and over again (2:4) to meet him in his word to receive sustenance and nourishment for our souls.

We come to Jesus as a life giving unshakable stone. But as we come to Jesus we see massive conflict. Peter knew this. Peter had been with Jesus as he taught and as hostility rose against him. On that awful night, Peter denied his Lord three times to avoid the consequences of being identified with Jesus. Now Peter was likely writing from a dungeon in Rome because of his unashamed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And Peter’s readers knew this. They were followers of Jesus who were scattered across Asia Minor, who had become exiles and foreigners in their own hometowns because of their newfound faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the watershed. Jesus said:

Luke 12:51-53 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother–in–law against her daughter–in–law and daughter–in–law against mother–in–law.”

John 15:18-20 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

The cross divides:

1 Corinthians 1:23-24 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Peter has looked at Jesus as a living stone and we as living stones built into a spiritual priesthood offering acceptable sacrifices to God. Peter is looking at Jesus as the foundation stone that God has established and that divides people. He begins by quoting Isaiah 28:14 which is a decree of destruction to the leaders of Israel for their disobedience and unbelief.

Isaiah 28:14-17 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers, who rule this people in Jerusalem! 15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter”; 16 therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ 17 And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”

Jesus is the watershed, Jesus divides people. But Jesus is a stone laid by God the Father appointed and set by him as the cornerstone. He is elect or chosen by God and he is precious or honored in the sight of God. God gave Jesus honor by raising him from the dead. Jesus is a solid foundation to build your life on. Those that put their trust in him will never be shamed. If you are trusting in Jesus, you will not ultimately be disappointed. It may seem now that your persecutors are receiving honor and you are being shamed, but God has established Jesus as the cornerstone. Jesus defines and establishes the shape and direction of the building. Believers in Jesus have their feet on the rock that cannot be moved. Peter draws the application from the text that as the Father honors Jesus, so you who are depending on him will also be honored by the Father. This is in contrast to those who do not believe. Honor for those who believe in Jesus; shame for those who reject Jesus. In spite of their efforts to undermine and overthrow and marginalize Jesus, he has indeed become the cornerstone. Peter is quoting Psalm 118:22:

Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This appears in a Psalm that draws contrast between trusting in man and trusting in the Lord.

Psalm 118:5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? 7 The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.

The original context of the Psalm is the return of the king to the temple in Jerusalem after God has given him victory over his enemies. The ‘builders’ were the foreign kings who assured their own destruction by fighting against Israel, God’s chosen. Peter follows Jesus in his application of this Psalm, not to the foreign nations, but to the Jewish leaders who in attempting to build God’s building have rejected the cornerstone. Let’s take a minute to look at Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees:

Matthew 21:31-45 (cf. Luke 20:9-19) … Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. 33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.

Jesus is the divisive stone. Jesus is abrasive and offensive to his enemies. But Jesus will be victorious. Those who trust in Jesus will be victorious in the end. Those who reject Jesus will be ashamed. In verse 8 he quotes a phrase out of Isaiah 8:14. This passage is a warning to Israel and Judah to fear and trust the Lord rather than fearing other nations. Here’s some of the context:

Isaiah 8:9 Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. 10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us. 11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

God set Jesus as cornerstone to do two things. For those who are willing to stake their life on him as foundation, he is solid and reliable and will bring them honor. To those who choose to fight against him and reject him as foundation, he becomes to them a stone of stumbling and rock of offense. And Peter’s commentary on these passages is ‘They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do’. The word for ‘stumble’ can mean a violent beating against something. The cause of their stumbling is their disobedience to the word. Disobedience is synonymous with unbelief;

1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

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

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

‘The word’ is synonymous with the good news message:

1 Peter 1:25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

So they stumble over Jesus because they refuse to embrace the good news message. The question that Peter addresses here is ‘doesn’t their unbelief frustrate the purpose of God?’ God’s word is the indestructible life giving seed as he said in:

1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

If the imperishable good news word of the Lord that remains forever and accomplishes its purpose becomes something that people stumble over, doesn’t that nullify its life giving purpose? Peter’s answer is ‘no, they were destined to be disobedient to the word and stumble.’ God’s purpose is fulfilled even in those that reject him. It is an encouragement to believers who are suffering at the hands of unbelievers to know that what is happening to them is not beyond the control of their sovereign God. Just as the unbelief and rejection of Christ by the Jewish leaders who had Jesus crucified served the purpose of God by inadvertently accomplishing what God had set out to do (Acts 4:27-28); in the same way, the unbelievers who are grieving Peter’s readers with various trials (1:6) are serving the purpose of God in testing the genuineness of their faith (1:7). Peter contrasts their destiny with your destiny:

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

In contrast, you are an elect race – chosen – descendants of a common ancestor, people with a common heritage, sharing the unity of a common life. Because of the new birth this chosen race transcends the natural distinctions of ethnicity, language and culture. Peter draws his language from Isaiah 43:20:

Isaiah 43:15 I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” …19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?… 20… for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21 the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.

He calls us ‘a royal priesthood.’ Jesus, our foundation stone, is both King of kings and our great High Priest. Being built on him, we are a royal priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God, and we will reign with him. This and the next description come from Exodus 19:6.

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

We are a holy nation. We are a community of people held together by the same laws, customs, and mutual interests. Holiness is our distinctive characteristic. We are a people set apart for the Lord.

And we are ‘a people for his own possession’. God ransomed us (1:18); he owns us and he delights in us. This language comes from Isaiah 43:21, Exodus 19:5 and Malachi 3:17.

Malachi 3:16…those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

And now he gives our ultimate purpose, our reason for existing as his possession; his elect race; his holy nation; his royal priesthood; it is

9 … that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

We are called to proclaim his excellencies! God who spoke into the darkness and said ‘let light be’ has called us effectually out of darkness and into his marvelous light. Now that we are in the light, our eyes are opened to see the glorious grandeur of his nature and character. (1Cor.4:4-6) Our purpose is proclamation. The subject of our proclamation is God – the excellencies of his being. God is great – make it known! And in the middle of our great high calling, verse 10 calls us to an appropriate humility. Peter reminds us that it is all of grace. We were in darkness and would have remained in darkness had it not been for the great mercy of God. He reminds us with the picture of Hosea, and the unfaithful wife that the forgiving and faithful husband won back and made his own:

Hosea 2:19-23 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD. …23… And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.”’

We were people with no identity; God made us his own people. We were rightly subject to the wrath of God and had no claim on his mercy, and he who is rich in mercy poured out mercy in abundance on our heads! Let us in humility as recipients of God’s great mercy proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light!

November 23, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment