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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 3:12-16; Unveiled Boldness

06/03_2Corinthians 3:12-16; Unveiled Boldness ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180603_2cor3_12-16.mp3

Sufficient to Speak God’s Word

Paul has said that through us God in Christ is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2:14); that he is the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing (2:15). To one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. And he asks; ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ (2:16) He claims to handle God’s word sincerely, from God, in the face of God, speaking in Christ (2:17). And he says:

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Paul claims to speak God’s word from God in the presence of God in Christ. And he has confidence through Christ toward God, because his sufficiency does not come from himself; his sufficiency comes from God. He is competent to be a minister of the new covenant, a minster of the Spirit, because God has made him competent. He contrasts the glory of these two ministries; the letter and the Spirit

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Letter vs. Spirit; stone tablets vs. tablets of flesh hearts; that which kills vs. that which makes alive; a ministry of death vs. a ministry of the Spirit; a ministry of condemnation vs. a ministry of righteousness; that which is abolished vs. that which is permanent. Although Moses’ ministry came with great glory, the ministry of the Spirit comes with such surpassingly greater glory that Moses ministry has come to have no glory at all in comparison.

He goes on in verse 12:

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Such a Hope

Having this kind of hope, we have much boldness. What hope is he talking about? Remember, hope in the Bible is not wishful thinking, but solid confident expectation that God will do what he said. He has hope in the life giving ministry of the Spirit. He has hope in the ministry of righteousness. He has hope in the lasting glory of the transforming power of the new covenant. He has hope in God, who through his ministry spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere. He has rock-solid expectation that God is leading him and God is at work, even in the middle of afflictions and burdens and despair.

Bold Openness

He says this hope leads to boldness. What does he mean ‘boldness?’ In verse 4 he spoke of his confidence of sufficiency in ministry that comes from from God, confidence that is through Christ, confidence that is toward God. In 2:17 he claims to handle God’s word with sincerity, speaking in Christ in the sight of God. This word ‘boldness’ is the unhindered confidence to speak what is true regardless of the outcome. It refers often, especially in the gospels and Acts to a plainness of speech, a freedom or openness of speech, out in public; in contrast to a self-conscious shyness, secrecy, or a desire to hide or conceal, to speak in riddles or parables. Paul says that genuine apostolic ministry is plain, up front, honest, clear speaking, nothing to hide. This fits right in with what he said in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Paul said it straight, told it like it is. The gospel is the gospel; it offends many, it turns many away. The apostles refused to water it down, change it up, repackage it to make it more palatable.

You are a sinner. You deserve hell. But God loves you, he sent his only Son Jesus to become a man to die in your place to rescue you. If you turn away from your pride, from your merit, if you come to him needy, as a taker, to simply receive what he freely gives, he will forgive you and save you and transform you and make you his forever.

The gospel is not about me. It is all about Jesus. It is all about Jesus Christ and him crucified. It is simple. It is so simple a child can receive it. It is so simple you can tell it to your friends.

This is the main point of this passage. Paul goes on to illustrate this from Moses in Exodus, and there is a lot of debate over exactly what he means in the illustration, but I don’t want to miss the main point. Paul is defending his apostolic ministry and he says ‘because we have this kind of hope we are very bold, open, plain.’ We are not like Moses.

Moses’ Veiled Glory

Last time we looked at Exodus 34, the narrative Paul is drawing from. Moses asked to see the glory of God; God said he would make all his goodness pass before him and put on display his grace and his mercy (33:18-19). He proclaimed his name, his character, his mercy, grace, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness, and his justice and righteousness. It says Moses ‘was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights’ (34:28). And it says

Exodus 34:29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Paul has already drawn attention to the shining or glorious face of Moses in 3:7.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end,

Now in verse 13 he draws attention to the veil that Moses used to hide his face.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.

Both verses talk about what was being brought to an end. As we saw last time, this word literally means being abolished, extinguished, destroyed, or done away with. This word shows up in verses 7, 11, 13 and 14. The glory of Moses’ ministry is rendered inoperative or ineffective.

In verse 7 the Israelites were not able to give attention to Moses’ face because of its glory. In verse 13 the veil blocked the Israelites from giving attention to the goal or outcome. So the glory is parallel to the outcome. This word outcome is the point aimed at or the termination. We could think of the finish line of a race. It is the end point where the race concludes; it is also the goal or purpose, the thing aimed at. The veil prevented them from fixing their eyes on the goal of what was being abolished. What was the glory and the finish line of Moses’ ministry?

I think we can find the answer in this passage in Exodus. After the rebellion of Israel with the gold calf, God said depart, go to the land I promised to you, ‘but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people’ (Ex.33:1-6). Exodus 33:7-11 described how Moses would enter the tent to speak with the LORD, and how “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex.33:11). In verses 12-16 Moses asks God in his grace to go with his people. “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found grace in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” The Greek version of Exodus 33:16 has

Exodus 33:16 (LXXE)“And how shall it be surely known, that both I and this people have found favour with thee, except only if thou go with us? So both I and thy people shall be glorified beyond all the nations, as many as are upon the earth.”

The goal and the glory of Moses’ ministry was the presence of God with his people. This was visibly displayed in the pillar of cloud and fire, and the glory cloud resting on and filling the tabernacle. The goal of Moses’ ministry pointed beyond itself to the greater presence of Immanuel, God with us.

It was this glory that the Israelites, because of their hard hearts, could not bear, but requested that Moses speak to them, “but do not let God speak to us, lest we die” (Ex.20:19). When Moses came down from talking with God, the people were afraid because of the glory of his face. This glory of God, the very presence of God with his people, Moses concealed, hid, blocked with a veil to prevent the Israelites from fixing their attention on the goal of his ministry. They were unable to look past the letter to see who the letter pointed to. They were not able to look, and then they were blocked from looking.

Hardened Minds

Paul says in verse 14 ‘But their minds were hardened.’ The fault was not in Moses. The flaw was in the people. They rebelled. They rejected and fell short of the glory of God. God offered to be with them as their God and take them to be his people, but they refused. And so their minds became like stone.

Jesus, in John 12,

John 12:37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

Unbelief in the face of God’s proof becomes an inability to believe, and this is a divine act of judgment to ‘entrap them in their very defiance’ (Seifrid, p.167), to keep them from seeing and understanding and turning.

The Veil Abolished

2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Paul says that the same veil conceals the goal of Moses’ ministry today whenever the Old Testament is read. The old covenant, in contrast to the new covenant in Jesus’ blood. The Torah or the books of Moses are equated with the old covenant. Moses pointed beyond his own ministry to the full manifestation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus. Why was Paul run out of so many synagogues? Why was his ministry so ineffective among his own people? Because there is a veil blocking them from seeing the true goal of the Scriptures. There is a hardness of mind, a veil draped over their hearts.

Jesus said to his disciples on the road to Emmaus:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Paul says ‘only through Christ is it taken away’. Only in Christ is the veil abolished, destroyed, brought to nothing, made ineffective. It is in relationship with Christ that the veil disintegrates. We can expend a significant amount of effort attempting to lift veils. We can become very clever at dismantling the things that prevent people from seeing. But the problem is they don’t want to see. It is not an eye problem so much as a heart problem. Paul was content to proclaim Christ and him crucified. Because Christ is mighty to save. Jesus destroys veils. He rips open veils top to bottom.

‘When one turns to the LORD, the veil is removed.’ Moses took off the veil when he entered the presence of YHWH, the LORD in the tent in the wilderness. When he turned away from the people and toward the LORD, he removed the veil. Moses is a picture. Moses, the one through whom the law was given, spent time with the Lord, without a veil, and he was transformed. He was able to look beyond himself to the goal, to the purpose of his ministry, to the one his ministry pointed to, he one he wrote about, to Jesus. Only in Christ is the veil abolished. When one turns to the LORD, the veil is removed. Jesus is the LORD, YHWH of the Old Testament. When anyone turns to Jesus Christ as the LORD, the veil is removed.

When Saul, on the road to persecute followers of Jesus, was struck blind by the glory of God, he asked ‘who are you LORD?’ When the LORD answered ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’ the spiritual blinders fell off and Paul began to really see. This is the ministry of the Spirit, this is the hope that gives us boldness, freedom to speak openly and plainly the simple veil-rending gospel message that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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

June 4, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

Ministers

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

Covenant

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

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

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

Deuteronomy says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Letter Kills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans and the Law/Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Covenant

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

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

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

forgiveness

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

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

they shall all know me

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

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

a new heart and God’s Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation

04/29_2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180429_2cor3_1-3.mp3

Paul gets to the heart of the issue here. He lays out his credentials as a minister by pointing to the transformation that has happened in the lives of his readers.

Paul Commends Himself (Again!)

Paul has described the apostolic ministry in 2:14 as ‘ through us God in Christ always …spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.’ In 2:17 he contrasts himself with ‘so many,’ who peddle God’s word for profit. We are not like them; rather we are men of sincerity, our source of authority is God, everything we do is in the presence of God, and it is in Christ that we speak. Back in chapter 1:12, Paul boasted ‘in the testimony of his conscience, that he operated with simplicity and godly sincerity, by the grace of God.’

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

This first phrase of chapter 3 should probably be read as an exclamation, not a rhetorical question. We are beginning to commend ourselves to you again! Paul is making a case for his integrity; he is laying before them the evidence of his authenticity. He even contrasts his ministry with those who are in it for profit. We, who planted the church, who spent 18 months with you investing in you, who visited you in the past and plan to visit again, who sent letters and messengers to you, we need to go over the formality of introductions all over again!? You, who experienced new life as a result of our ministry among you, now we are forced again to present evidence of our authenticity!

The letter to the Romans is a letter of self-commendation; Paul writes to believers he has never met, introduces himself and his ministry, and lays before them the gospel he preaches. In chapter 15 he outlines his plans to visit them, and his desire to be supported by them in his mission to Spain. In Romans he is commending himself to a church he has never visited.

In Romans 16, he says:

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

We call this a letter of reference or a recommendation. A trusted person writes to affirm the character of another. Do you recommend this person as a student in our college? Would you recommend this person as a good fit for this particular job? Paul is not against letters of commendation; he writes them himself. In fact, in Romans 5:8 he says:

Romans 5:8 but God shows [commends] his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The death of Christ for sinners is a commendation of God’s love for us.

Paul uses the word ‘commend’ or ‘recommend’ twice in 2 Corinthians 3:1, and 7 more times in the rest this letter. He says in the next chapter

2 Corinthians 4:2 …by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

In chapter 5 he says that his character should be well known to them; he is not really commending himself again, but giving them reasons to defend against those who boast in outward appearances and not in the heart. In chapter 6 he says:

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

And then he lists not only his positive character traits, but also his hardships, afflictions, persecutions, his weakness. In chapter 10 he clarifies:

2 Corinthians 10:18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Paul is not against letters of recommendation. He is not even against presenting one’s own credentials to establish credibility. 2 Corinthians could be seen as an extended commendation of authentic apostolic ministry. The issue is not in the necessity of introductions. The problem lies in the ‘again.’ His point here in chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians (in actuality his fourth correspondence to this church) is that they ought to be well beyond the stage in their relationship that requires formal introductions.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:1 …Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.

If I am not to others, at least I am to you! They were believers in Jesus because he had traveled to Achaia and preached the gospel in Corinth. They owed their very existence as a church to his apostolic ministry. In chapter 12 he says:

2 Corinthians 12:11 …I ought to have been commended by you. …

The Corinthians, who ought by this time to be Paul’s loudest fans, now need to be re-acquainted with what genuine Christian ministry is all about.

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

This second question is rhetorical, and it is framed to demand a negative answer. We do not need letters of recommendation to you, and we do not need letters from you. The Corinthian church had the audacity to place themselves over apostolic ministry as if the final authority to evaluate apostolic ministry was with them. Paul expected them to be able to discern between a true apostle and a false one, but they were flirting with false apostles and rejecting the one they knew to be true.

You Are Our Letter

2 Corinthians 3:2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.

The Corinthians don’t realize they are the letter. They are the objective evidence of Paul’s apostolic ministry. The fact that there are now followers of the Jewish Messiah gathering as a church in the pagan city of Corinth is evidence of a genuine work of God.

But notice where this is written. It is written on the heart of their Apostle. In this he is like his Master. In a similar metaphor Isaiah looks forward to Jesus “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (49:15). In the Song of Solomon we find this language of love:

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.

Paul communicates not only that the Corinthians are a letter of reference, an authentication of his apostolic ministry, but also that he carries them always with him, not in his travel bag, but in his heart. As he says in chapter 11,

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches

As we saw at the end of chapter 2, Paul carries the Corinthians so close to his heart, that the relational tension prevented him from taking full advantage of an opportunity to preach the gospel.

And this is no secret. They are written on his heart, but he wears it on his sleeve. His heart is an open book, and anyone can read what is written there. Anyone who knows Paul knows of his affection for his churches. Certainly those in Troas would be aware of his great affection for them.

A Letter From Christ

2 Corinthians 3:3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

‘You show that you are’; this is the same word from 2:14 that the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is put on display or made manifest through us in every place.

Paul’s primary concern is always making Christ known. The Corinthian church, for better or worse, whether they know it or not, puts Christ on display. They put on display that they are a letter from Christ. This is the highest authority. This letter originates from Christ Jesus himself.

And this letter, Paul says, is ‘delivered;’ literally ‘ministered’ by us; this is ambiguous. It could mean that Paul pictured himself as the one delivering the letter, or it could mean that Paul is the amanuensis or scribe writing down every word Christ dictates to him. Because the Corinthians are the letter, it seems to make more sense to see Paul holding the pen, or possibly Paul is the pen in the hand of the Lord Christ. Either way, Paul is in a subordinate role to Christ. Scribe or errand boy, Paul is in service to Christ, ensuring that the message of Jesus is scrawled in large letters on the hearts of the Corinthians.

Ink / Spirit

Written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. This is that which is actually applied to the page; not ink but the Spirit of the living God. Paul is instrumental in applying the ink of the Spirit to the page of the Corinthians lives in order to make Christ known.

Here we see the triune God at work in the ministry of the apostle. The letter originates from Christ, it is written with the ink of the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit is the Spirit of the living God, sent out by the Father.

Heart of Stone / Flesh

The next contrast is what is written on. That which is written on is not tablets of stone, but tablets of human (literally ‘fleshly’) hearts. Normally in Paul’s day we would expect ink on papyrus. But Paul mixes metaphors once again; it is ink on stony tablets contrasted with the Spirit on fleshy heart-tablets.

Paul is linking several Old Testament themes; the tablets of the covenant given to Moses on Sinai, tablets of stone written on with the finger of God, and the hard stony hearts of the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 9, when Moses recounts the initial giving of the law, he rebukes Israel for their stubbornness and rebellion against the Lord. While he was on the mountain with God receiving the tablets of stone, the people were provoking God to wrath by their idolatry. God’s law was written on stony tablets corresponding to the stony rebellious hearts of his people.

But Paul also has in mind the promise of the Spirit poured out in the New Covenant, promises we find in Ezekiel and Jeremiah

Ezekiel 11:19-20 says:

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

And again in Ezekiel 36:26

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

God knows that his people need a heart transplant. The heart of stone must be removed and replaced with a responsive fleshy heart. Ezekiel goes on in verse 27

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Not only will God remove their hearts of stone and give them a fleshy heart, he will put his own Spirit in them, enabling and empowering them to walk in his ways.

Just as the law written on stony tablets corresponded to the stony hearts of the people, so now the New Covenant work of the Spirit of God corresponds to the new fleshy hearts given to his people.

New Covenant Writing

Another New Covenant passage, Jeremiah 31, is the piece that gives the picture of God writing on the hearts of his people.

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The content of what is written is not different; God writes his law; a law summed up by Christ as

Matthew 22:37 …“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

(love fulfills law: Rom.13:8,10; Gal.5:14; Mt.7:12)

But God has written, no longer on stony tablets, but on the newly given fleshy heart-tablets of the Corinthians, not with ink, but with his own Holy Spirit. As a result, Christ is put on display in the lives of the Corinthians. In this New Covenant transaction, Paul is a minister of Christ, facilitating their transformation. Paul’s evidence of authenticity is this very transformation that has taken place in the hearts of the Corinthians. And this has affected the heart of the apostle as well. These struggling new believers are written on his heart.

Application

What is your heart like? Is it hardened toward God? Ask him for a new heart; a heart that is tender toward him. Has your heart been transformed by love to love? Has God’s own self-sacrificial love written love for him and for others on your heart? Do you have people written on your heart? Is the Spirit of the living God bringing about real heart transformation in you?

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

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

April 30, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater Priest

12/10 Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater Priest ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171210_advent-greater-priest.mp3

This Christmas season, we are looking at Jesus. Jesus is greater! 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us that ‘all the promises of God find their Yes in him.’ This Advent we are looking at some of the sweeping themes of the Old Testament and how Jesus is the Yes to all the promises of God. Jesus is the greater Prophet, the greater Priest, the greater King, Jesus is the greater Man, the greater Israel. Last week we saw that Jesus is the greater Prophet, the one who faithfully speaks God’s words to his people. Jesus is the Prophet greater than Moses. Jesus is the one who communicates God’s words to us; Jesus is the Word made flesh!

Today we will look at Jesus the greater Priest, the greater Tabernacle, the greater Sacrifice.

Priests and the Presence of God

In the beginning, God made man to be in relationship with him, to enjoy his presence. But man rebelled and was forced to leave the garden, and the presence of God. God covered the shame of the first man and woman with skins, presuming that a death occurred to satisfy the wages of their disobedience. Man must now approach God with sacrifice.

In the Exodus, God took Israel to be his people, to be in relationship with him; God intended to dwell among his people and again be with them. In Exodus 29, God gave instructions to consecrate Aaron and his sons, those who would serve him as priests.

Exodus 29:42 …at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

God intended to dwell among the people and be their God, but for sinful man to be in the presence of the holy God is dangerous. So God set apart Aaron and his sons as priests who would approach him with the necessary sacrifices. The first chapters of Leviticus elaborate in detail the sacrifices necessary to approach God, and by chapter 9 Aaron and his sons have been set apart and Aaron offers sacrifices to God, and God accepts those sacrifices. Then in chapter 10, two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, offered something God had not proscribed, and fire from the Lord consumed them.

Leviticus 10:3…“This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’”…

It is dangerous for sinful man to approach the holy God. We must approach on God’s terms, not our own.

In Leviticus 16,

Leviticus 16:1 The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD and died, 2 and the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

Only one man, the high priest, and only once a year, on the day of atonement, was allowed to enter in behind the veil, into the very presence of God, and only with the appropriate sacrifices.

Distinction between Prophet and Priest

God appointed priests in under the old Covenant to minister and mediate his presence. Where Moses the prophet went into God’s presence to listen to his voice and bring his word back to the people, Aaron was the one who officiated at the altar of sacrifice, and carried the blood of the sacrifices in to the presence of God to make satisfaction for the sins of the people.

Hebrews looks back on the old system and gives us a concise description of the role of a priest.

Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

Where a prophet was one who spoke on behalf of God to man, a priest was one who acted on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin.

Imperfection of the Old Covenant

The Old Testament priest was the one who mediated God’s presence, who offered gifts and sacrifices for sin. But the old system was flawed. As Hebrews points out, the Old Testament priests were flawed. Hebrews 7:27-28 tells us that every priest appointed under the old system was himself a sinner, so it was required that he first offer sacrifices for himself and then he could offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. And Hebrews 7:23 says that every priest was mortal, so they were interrupted by death from performing their duties. There were many successive high priests, some better, some worse.

And the sacrifices they offered were insufficient and ineffective. Hebrews 10:4 tells us that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins. In Hebrews 10:1-3, 11 the sacrifices had to be repeated day by day, year by year. The sacrifices effected no lasting change. Hebrews 7:18-19 calls them weak, useless, sacrifices that could made nothing perfect; Hebrews 9:9 says “gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper.” Hebrews 10:1-2 says it “can never …make perfect those who draw near;” they cannot cleanse; they cannot take away consciousness of sin. The sacrifices offered were ineffective. They temporarily covered sins, but they could not change the heart of the worshipers.

Under the old system only the high priest was allowed access behind the veil, into the very presence of God, and only once a year. The old system, Hebrews 9:8 tells us, failed to open the way into the holy places to us (cf. Heb.6:19-20).

The Old Testament left us longing for something more, something better, something more powerful. Someone; a greater High Priest, a greater sacrifice, a better covenant.

Jesus the Lamb of God

Jesus is introduced to us in John’s gospel this way:

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

John 1:35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

Behold, the Lamb of God! A lamb that takes away sin, every Israelite would understand, is a sacrificial lamb, a lamb that would die in place of a sinner. But this is the Lamb. The one Lamb. When Solomon brought the Ark of the covenant to the temple, they were “sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.” (1Ki.8:5); when he dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, he sacrificed 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep (1Ki.8:63). And John says of Jesus “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Jesus is the singular Lamb of God.

Jesus is the Lamb of God. He is God’s Lamb. This takes us back long before the temple, back to the time of Abraham. God had promised Abraham a son with Sarah his wife. Finally, when Abraham is 100 years old, he has Isaac. It is through this promised son that “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen.18:18; 22:18). And then God says:

Genesis 22:2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Sacrifice your son. Your only son. Your beloved son. Offer him as a burnt offering. Abraham lays the wood for the offering on his son, and they walk alone together to the mountain, Abraham carrying the fire and the knife. Isaac asks “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Genesis 22:8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

God will provide for himself the lamb. After the Angel of the Lord intervened and stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son,

Genesis 22:13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

God will provide for himself the lamb. The Lord will provide. Jesus comes to John and John declares “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The sacrifice to end all sacrifices. For Abraham, God provided a lamb in place of his only son. In Jesus, God provided his beloved only Son in place of all the sacrificial lambs. Jesus is the greater sacrifice.

The Greater Priest; Healer, Teacher

Jesus is the greater Sacrifice, but Jesus is also the greater Priest. If we go back to Leviticus, we see one of the main duties of the priest was judging, diagnosing, distinguishing, and teaching. The LORD told Aaron:

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

The priest was to differentiate between clean and unclean. Much of Leviticus lays out criteria for what is clean and what is unclean; what we may eat, and what we are not to eat; what health conditions or actions are permissible and what prevents one from entering the presence of the Lord. Childbirth, skin diseases, mold, bodily discharges; the priest had the authority to differentiate and diagnose, and to teach. But he had no power to change the condition of anyone. He could inspect and identify a condition that would deny access to the tabernacle, or even exclude from the community, but he could do nothing about the condition.

Enter Jesus.

Luke 5:12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” (cf. Mt.8:2; Mk.1:40)

What a presumptuous request! No Old Testament priest could do that! They could diagnose, but they had no power to cure. But this man looks to Jesus, calls him Lord, and says ‘you can make me clean.’

Luke 5:13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Jesus does what no priest would do. He touches a leper. To come into contact with anything unclean would be to contract uncleanness. But Jesus is greater! Jesus by a touch and by a word transmits holiness to this man who was full of leprosy! Jesus is the greater priest who came not to diagnose, but to cure.

Jesus taught the people God’s standards. He came as the authoritative interpreter of the law. He unfolded the real intent of the law. He said things like ‘you have heard that it was said …but I say to you’ (Mt.5). When accused by the pharisees that his disciples ate with unwashed hands, he charged them with “rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition” (Mk.7:9). Then he declared to the people:

Mark 7:14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

When his disciples asked him what he meant,

Mark 7:18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, …

A priest had authority to teach the people what foods were clean and what were unclean. But Jesus is greater! Jesus authoritatively teaches that it is the heart God is concerned about, not what you eat or don’t eat. Jesus declared all foods clean. Jesus cleanses foods, cleanses lepers, raises the dead, even forgives sinners with a word. Jesus is the greater priest!

The Greater Priest; Mediator

But the most important way Jesus fulfilled the role of priest was as mediator, the one who offered the sacrifice on behalf of man to God.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

The amazing thing about Jesus our great High Priest is that he is at the same time both priest and sacrifice.

The Old Testament priests were sinners; but Jesus is “a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (Heb.7:26); he had no sin of his own to atone for. Other priests were were interrupted by death, but Jesus “holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever” (Heb.7:24).

The blood of animal sacrifices could never take away sins.

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

The old sacrifices had to be repeated; but

Hebrews 10:10 …we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

The old sacrifices effected no lasting change. But Jesus’ sacrifice of himself ‘has perfected us for all time.’ He, as ‘a merciful and faithful high priest made propitiation for the sins of the people’ (Heb.2:17). ‘The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purifies our conscience from dead works to serve the living God’ (Heb.9:14). ‘He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself’ (Heb.9:26). The once for all sacrifice of Jesus brings about a real inner transformation in the hearts of his people.

The old system failed to open the way into the holy places to us. Only the high priest was allowed access behind the veil, into the very presence of God. But in Jesus, our greater High Priest, ‘we can draw near to God through him’ (Heb.7:25).

Hebrews 6:19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf…

We have a hope that enters in.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Because of Jesus, our greater High Priest, we can enter in. The way is opened to us through the curtain. We can now draw near.

Jesus the greater Tabernacle

Jesus is not only the way in to the Father, he is the greater Tabernacle, the greater meeting place with God. Remember, in John 1:14, where we are told that:

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

The word ‘dwelt’ is actually the word ‘tabernacled’ or ‘pitched his tent.’ Jesus, very God in the flesh, has become the tabernacle, the meeting place of God and man. When challenged by the religious leaders to give a sign of his authority to cleanse the temple,

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” …21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus said:

Matthew 12:6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.

Jesus is the greater High Priest; Jesus is the greater Sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; Jesus is the greater Tabernacle and Temple, the meeting place between God and man; because of his sacrifice, the veil was torn from top to bottom. Jesus is the Word made flesh, God come down to pitch his tent among us; he is Immanuel, God with us (Mt.1:23). Jesus is greater!

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

December 12, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:20; The Yes and Amen in Christ

11/26 2 Corinthians 1:20; The Yes and Amen in Christ ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171126_2cor1_20.mp3

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

This is a rich and deep and beautiful passage, and it is a practical lifeline to hold on to every day, in the good times and in the bad. We are going to look at the promises of God, their certainty, their scope, their sphere, and their goal. And we get to see our essential role in the promises of God.

Free Promises

But the first thing we must see about the promises of God are that they are free. God’s promises are not promises made out of necessity or obligation. There is no bully in the playground holding his arm twisted behind his back demanding ‘I will let you go if you promise to give me the sweets from your lunch every day.’ No, God is under no necessity to make any promise to his creation. He is under no pressure, no obligation. God makes his promises freely; every promise he ever made was made freely and willingly. He wanted to make the promise. He chose to make the promises. He was free to not promise, but he willed to make promises. We are talking about promises of God. No one could force God’s hand to make a promise he did not wish to make.

Certain Promises

And in this we see the certainty of the promises. They are promises of God. They are not promises of man. We expect a man to keep his word, and if he fails to be true to his word, his character is called into question.

Psalm 15 speaks of a man who ‘speaks truth in his heart’

Psalm 15:4 who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

This is rare among people. Often people give their word to get themselves out of a bad situation, or because they think it will benefit them in the end. But when it comes down to it and it’s going to hurt me, to cause loss to me instead of gain, well, I really didn’t mean what I said.

Our culture has cheapened the weight of words. On my cell phone, or on my computer, I want to install software or an app that I need to perform a certain function, and it pops up with this little box that says ‘I accept the terms of this agreement’. By checking that box, you are giving your word. You are making a promise. Who even reads those? ‘Click here to read the terms of this agreement.’ 18 pages of fine legal print that is virtually unintelligible except to a lawyer, including stuff about reverse engineering software and doing illegal things and selling for profit and there is no warranty; if it destroys your device, you won’t complain, and something about privacy and the use of your personal information, and something about your firstborn child… But if you don’t click the box, you don’t get to use the app. So you don’t even read what you’re signing, you just click the box and go on your happy way. I’m not really promising anything; I don’t even know what I just agreed to. I’m just assuming the terms are reasonable. I just wanted a flashlight app for my phone! Our word means nothing!

God’s promises are not like this. When God gives his word, he knows exactly what he is getting himself into. He knows what he is signing up for, what it will cost him. He has read all the fine print.

When God makes a promise, God’s own character is on the line. He is truth. He is unchangeable. He is faithful. To doubt his promises is to question who he is.

Now I might give my word with all good intention, but unforeseen circumstances beyond my control prevent me from following through. I was on my way to meet you but a rock in the canyon fell and crushed the front end of my car and I had no cell service to even call. When God makes a promise, all his sovereign omnipotent power stands behind his word. To him there is nothing unforeseen, there is no circumstance beyond his control, there is nothing stronger than him that could possibly prevent him from carrying out what he purposed to do. God’s promises are his purposes made known.

Hebrews 6 says:

Hebrews 6:13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,… 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, …

God is unchangeable. His word is unchangeable. His promises are unshakable.

Often Jesus gently rebukes his followers for their little faith. There is an interesting event recorded for us in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, where Jesus and his disciples are in the boat on the sea. There is a great storm, and the boat is filling with water, and Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat. His disciples wake him and ask him ‘do you not care that we are perishing?’ After Jesus silences the wind and the waves with a word, he turns to his disciples and asks ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ (Mt.8:26); ‘Have you still no faith?’ (Mk.4:40); ‘Where is your faith?’ (Lk.8:25). Why did he ask about their faith? Faith in the Bible is not some immaterial force that if we have enough of it, it will overcome circumstances, like the power of positive thinking. No, faith is dependence on, trust in God’s word and God’s character. The disciples were questioning God’s character when they asked Jesus ‘do you not care?’ But they were also disbelieving God’s word, God’s promise. As they were getting into the boat, Jesus said ‘let us go across, to the other side of the lake.’ He did not say ‘let us go out on the lake; let us go half way across and perish in a great storm.’ No, he said ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ We would take a comment like that to express intent or purpose; ‘let’s head in this direction; as long as nothing hinders us, that’s where we plan to go.’ We say this kind of thing all the time. ‘Let’s get in the van and go to Provo.’ I have a destination in mind, but we all know that if the car breaks down or the road is closed, we might not actually get there. But Jesus expects his followers to hear more than that in his word! Where is your faith? Jesus expected their faith to be in his person and in his word. His word is not a casual expression of intent that might be thwarted; his word is the very word of God! “ I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;

I have purposed, and I will do it” (Is.46:11). If Jesus says we are going across to the other side, then hell itself cannot stop us from getting there; no mere storm can stand in our way. We can depend on his word! Where is your faith? For faith to be of any use at all, it must be placed squarely on the word of God, because God will always make good on his word. God’s promises are absolutely certain, because they are God’s promises!

The Scope of the Promises

What is the scope of God’s promises?

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, … 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, …in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.

As many as are the promises of God; whatever promise God made, in him is the yes! Has God made a promise? In Christ is the yes. This opens up the whole book to us! Genesis to Revelation we find God’s word, God’s promises, and in Christ is the yes!

There we find promises to every kind of person; to the broken, the despairing, the hopeless, the hurting; even to the sinful, the self-righteous, the hard hearted.

We find promises of every kind. There are promises of rescue, of hope, of security, of provision, of life and resurrection. There is the promise of a new heart. There are promises of righteousness, justification, reconciliation, sanctification, promises of glory. He promises to be with us, to never leave or forsake us. He promises to finish the work he began in us. There are promises of God’s blessing to the nations, that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church, that he will wipe away every tear, that sin and death are defeated and that sorrow will be no more.

When you read God’s word, listen for his voice, his promises. They are firm. They are meant to give us ‘strong encouragement to hold fast tot he hope set before us.’ They are meant to be a ‘sure and steadfast anchor of the soul’. We are meant to ‘flee for refuge’ there (Heb.6:18-19).

The Sphere of the Promises

But there is a specific place where all these promises are yes. Only those who are in that place enjoy the benefits of the promises; those outside are outside the promises. We need to understand where these promises are fulfilled.

2 Corinthians 1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.

The promises are ‘yes’ in him. In the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the one proclaimed by Paul and the other apostles. The Yes to all God’s promises is in him. Jesus has become the Yes to all God’s promises. Jesus is the Yes!

This gives us a lens through which to read the entire Bible. The fulfillment of all God’s promises is Jesus. So when we read the Old Testament, we should be asking ‘What is the promise here?’ and ‘How is it fulfilled in Jesus?’

This way of understanding the Old Testament comes directly from Jesus. He said:

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The scriptures bear witness about Jesus. The aim of the entirety of the Bible is to lead us to Jesus. If we miss this, we misunderstand the Bible. It is really all about Jesus. Jesus said:

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

Jesus did not come to destroy, to dissolve, to throw down or set aside the scriptures. He came to fill them up. He came to fully supply, satisfy, or accomplish the law. It’s as if the law were a beautiful but empty vase. We misunderstood the purpose of the law, we broke the law, we tried to fill it with the filth of our own good works; we tried to stand on it as a step stool to reach up to God. Jesus came as the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley, to fill up the vase, to show us its intended purpose. The law is intended to point to Jesus, to bear witness about Jesus, to put Jesus on display, to show us how far we fall short, and how great Jesus is. Jesus completes it, fills it up, fully satisfies its intended purpose. With his disciples after his resurrection, Jesus:

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

…44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Jesus filled up the scriptures. O that he would open our minds to understand the gospel, the good news of forgiveness of sins through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in all of scripture!

Jesus is the seed of the woman who crushed the head of the serpent. Jesus is the last Adam who walks in perfect obedience and brings life. Jesus the offspring of Abraham through whom all the nations are blessed. Jesus is the righteousness that the law requires. Jesus is the tabernacle, where we meet with God. Jesus is the suffering servant who lays down his life in the place of others. Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is our prophet, priest and king. Jesus is the Word made flesh; Jesus is the one mediator between God and man; Jesus is the long awaited eternal king. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises of God.

As many promises God has made, in Jesus is the Yes. To benefit from the promises of God, we must be in Jesus. This idea of being ‘in him or in Christ’ is something we see throughout the New Testament. We believe in Jesus; trust in him; rely on him; we abide in him. We are buried with him in baptism; we are raised with him through faith. His death is our death; his life is our life. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. We come to be in Christ through faith. We belong to him.

The Yes to all God’s promises is in Jesus. When we are in Jesus, depending on him, trusting in him, all God’s promises are Yes to us!

The Goal of the Promises

We have looked at the certainty of God’s promises (they are God’s promises), the scope of God’s promises (all the promises), the sphere of God’s promises (in Christ), and now we will look at the goal of God’s promises.

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

That is why, through him, the Amen, comes to God, for his glory, through us. It is in Jesus that the Yes to all God’s promises comes to us. It is through Jesus the Amen comes to God for his glory through us. Amen is a Hebrew word, often a response to a benediction or a doxology or a thanksgiving. It is a strong affirmation; let it be so. It is through Jesus, through our experience of the Yes of God to all God’s promises in Jesus that the Amen comes back to God for his glory. God is glorified when we experience the Yes of his promises in Jesus and we resonate together the Amen. God is glorified when his people together enjoy his promises and respond together with the Amen in worship. God’s promises are meant to be experienced and enjoyed. The goal of the promises is to resound to the glory of God. As we enjoy together in Jesus the yes to all God’s promises, we respond back to God with the Amen of worship that brings glory to him. This is astounding! That because we are in Christ, because in Christ we enjoy God’s promises, we now have the capacity to glorify God together!

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

November 28, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus Introduction

04/10 Leviticus Intro Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160410_leviticus-intro.mp3

All Scripture is Profitable

Romans 15:4 tells us

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

The Scriptures give us encouragement and hope to endure. All Scripture is for our instruction. Amen? Do you believe this?

2 Timothy 3 points us to the sacred writings

2 Timothy 3:15 …the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The sacred writings are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Do you believe this?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. Do you believe this?

What Is Leviticus?

Then turn with me to the book of Leviticus. It’s the third book in the Bible, the middle of the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, 27 chapters between Exodus and Numbers. Leviticus gets its English title from the Latin Vulgate translation, which comes from the Greek Septuagint, and it means ‘that which concerns the Levite’, even though the Levites are seldom mentioned in Leviticus. The tribe of Levi was the tribe responsible to set up, to take down, to carry, to care for and to guard the tabernacle in the wilderness (Num.1:47-54). A subset of Levites, those descended from Aaron and his sons, served as priests in the tabernacle.

The book of Leviticus begins with 7 chapters of instructions on the different kinds of sacrifices to be offered in the Tabernacle, then chapters 8-10 give instructions for the consecration of the priests who would carry out those sacrifices, chapters 11-15 give laws on cleanliness for the people, including dietary laws, purification after childbirth, how to handle skin diseases, mold in a house, and bodily discharges. These are all issues of uncleanness that need to be addressed by the appropriate sacrifice. Chapter 16 gives instructions on the great day of atonement and the cleansing of the Tabernacle. Chapters 17-25 give laws for holy living, chapter 26 gives blessings and punishments for obedience or disobedience, and rewards for repentance, and chapter 27 deals with vows.

Remember, all Scripture is God breathed and profitable.

Why Study Leviticus?

Why should we study Leviticus as a Christian? When we finished Exodus a few years ago, I was asked what we were going to study next, so I suggested Leviticus. People threatened to leave the church, or at least find another church for a year or so. Leviticus seems so… irrelevant. We don’t have a tabernacle, we don’t need a temple, we don’t have priests wearing funny clothes and we don’t offer animal sacrifices. Most of us don’t eat Kosher. The stuff about skin diseases and mold and bodily emissions seem a bit gross. So what’s the point? Why take time to study this ancient book?

There is an element of disciplined obedience. If we truly believe that all Scripture is profitable to make us wise for salvation and equipped for every good work, then it is arrogant and unwise for us to stand over Scripture and select the bits that we feel are more relevant or interesting and skip over the rest. A common metaphor used in the Bible for Christian growth and maturity is edification. Build one another up in the faith. This is a construction metaphor, and in building an edifice, the foundation is critical and every stone is important. Imagine if you were having a house built. You come to inspect the progress after the building starts to rise, and you notice a gaping hole in the foundation. When you find the guy who was doing the work, he says ‘well that particular stone just didn’t capture my attention. It wasn’t very interesting or exciting, so I left it out’. It may not be exciting – its a stone! But it’s necessary. It helps to hold the building up. We have been given 66 God breathed books that make up the collection we call the Bible, and they are all important. If we believe God spoke and communicated his truth to his people, if he saw to it that it was recorded in written form, if he ensured that it was passed down to us intact and unaltered, do you think it would be wise to disregard any of it?

Jesus in Leviticus

Now that is true of every book in the collection we call the Bible. But why Leviticus in particular? Why would a Christian want to study Leviticus? Christianity is all about following Christ. I believe we don’t understand Jesus if we don’t understand Leviticus. We are Christians because we follow Jesus, and Jesus said in Matthew 5:

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

Jesus came to fulfill the Law. The Law was pointing to Jesus. We don’t fully understand Jesus if we don’t understand how he fulfilled the Law. When Jesus met his disciples on the Emmaus road, we are told:

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus after his resurrection opened the Torah, the five books of Moses and interpreted in them the things concerning himself. Leviticus is the centerpiece of the five books of Moses. Leviticus is about Jesus! Leviticus is all about Jesus. Jesus came to die – to die on a cross. He came to die as a perfect substitute for our sins. The cross is central to Christianity. We fail to understand the cross if we fail to understand the sacrificial system. The crucifixion of Jesus was a Levitical sacrifice.

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

Jesus is the one who mediates between us and the Father. Hebrews repeatedly (2:17, 3:1; 4:14-15, 5:5; 6:20; 7:26-28; 8:1; 9:11) calls Jesus our great High Priest. We fail to appreciate Jesus as our great High Priest if we don’t understand the role of a priest in the Old Testament. We don’t appreciate the sweetness of the New Covenant if we aren’t familiar with the Old Covenant that it supersedes. The New Testament book of Hebrews is a rich commentary on Leviticus that points us to Jesus, the better Priest who offers a better Sacrifice in the better Tabernacle.

My prayer as we study Leviticus together is that we will fall more deeply in love with Jesus, because Leviticus is all about Jesus.

Holiness

Not only will we grow to appreciate Jesus, Leviticus will teach us some practical things about how to approach God. God is holy. The main theme of Leviticus is holiness. God is holy, we are sinful, and that makes him dangerous. But true joy is found in relationship with him. Leviticus gives instructions on how a sinful people can approach a holy God and experience the joy of his presence safely.

A dangerous tendency among many Christians is to treat God casually. We are saved by grace, and we begin to take grace for granted, we get careless, we presume on grace, thinking it is no big deal. It’s okay to sin; God will forgive me. Leviticus communicates to us the seriousness of sin. God hates sin. All sin. Every sin is serious. And all of life matters. We cannot compartmentalize and think that when we are with church people we live to a different standard than when we are with our family or our friends or our co-workers. God is present in all of life, and all of life matters. A holy God must punish sin. Jesus calls us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48). Lest we think this is limited to the Old Testament, Ephesians tells believers that we were chosen in him “that we should be holy and blameless before him” (1:4). Peter cites Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2, 20:7, 26 and applies it to believers.

1 Peter 1:15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

The goal for believers in Jesus is to become holy. Leviticus helps us to see what that even means, and it helps us understand how that happens.

Imperative Follows Indicative

Our holiness is always only a response that flows out of our sins being covered by sacrifice. We don’t strive to be holy in hopes that God will recognize our effort and accept us. We approach God through sacrifice that covers sin, because we aren’t neutral, we start out sinful. Then, because our sins have been covered, this creates in us a desire to please him in all things. It is fascinating to note that the outline of Leviticus looks a lot like the outline of many of the New Testament letters. They begin by proclaiming the good news of Christ, who met our need, washed us clean, set us free, made us whole, and then as a result of the gospel transformation that God works in us, this births an outflow of practical holiness that permeates all of life. The imperatives, the commands to live a certain way always follow and flow out of the indicatives, the statements of what God has done for us. Romans begins with 11 chapters of the good news of what God has done for us, and then concludes with 5 chapters that give us instruction on how to live in response to the truth of the gospel. Ephesians chapters 1-3 give us a rich overflow gospel indicatives, proclaiming what God has done, and then concludes with 3 chapters of practical instruction, imperatives that naturally flow as fruit out of the deep root of gospel transformation. If we look back at the broad outline of Leviticus, we see it begins with sacrifices that allow us to approach God, with who is qualified to offer those sacrifices, with what sacrifices address which specific issue of sin or uncleanness, and then the book concludes with practical instructions on how to live holy lives as those who have been forgiven by a gracious God.

It is my prayer that as we study Leviticus, we would deepen in our appreciation for the gospel, that we would increase in our hatred of sin, and it would birth in us a desire to please and glorify God in all of life.

Exodus Review

Let’s look at the first verses of Leviticus.

Leviticus 1:1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

The title in of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible comes from the first word of the Hebrew text: ‘wayyiqra‘; it means ‘and he called’. Leviticus begins with waw-consecutive; which means that the first syllable of the first word is a conjunction. How often have you picked up a book to read, and the first word on the first page is ‘And’? What would you do? I would turn back a few pages to see if I missed something, turn the book over to see if this is the second book in a series, because a conjunction like ‘and’ usually connects with something that went before. This is true of Leviticus. The ‘and’ is an indicator that Leviticus continues the story from the last paragraph of Exodus. So it will serve us well, as it has been several years since we studied Exodus, to use our remaining time to review Exodus to locate ourselves in the story. Exodus, of course, follows Genesis, so maybe we should begin at the beginning.

Genesis begins with God, who has always been there, creating everything that is. Everything he creates is good. He creates man to reflect his character to all creation, to rule under him, to be in relationship with him, but man rebels. Man brings sin and its ugly consequences into God’s perfect creation. But rather than immediately destroy rebellious mankind, God promises a rescue. Mankind gets worse and worse, to the point where God washes the earth clean with a flood, but shows grace to Noah and his family, and preserves them through the global catastrophe. Again mankind gets worse, but God extends grace to Abram, makes outrageous promises of land and descendants to this childless migrant, and promises to make him a blessing to all the nations of the earth. God gives him a son in his old age, his son Isaac has a son Jacob, and Jacob has 12 boys who become the 12 tribes of Israel. This family is a mess, with rival wives and favoritism to the point where the brothers gang up on the youngest and plot to kill him but instead sell him as a slave and lie about it. Famine strikes the land, so they move to Egypt, where God has providentially placed their younger brother to provide for them.

Fast forward 400 years, and we get to Exodus. They are now slaves in Egypt, cruelly oppressed by a tyrant king, and God hears their groaning and comes to their rescue.

Chapters 1-14 explain God’s redemption of his people, setting them free from slavery and destroying their enemies. Chapters 15-18 show God’s care for his people, providing for their every need in the wilderness, in spite of their constant grumbling. Chapters 19-24 outline God’s covenant with his people, explaining what it means for him to be their God and for them to be his people. Chapters 25-40 show God’s presence with his people, how he comes to live among them.

The focus of the entire book of Exodus is God’s presence with his people. God saved his people from slavery, cared for his people in the wilderness, entered into covenant relationship with his people, so that he could dwell in the midst of his people. The last section, chapters 25-40, culminating with God’s presence with his people, is broken in half with chapters 32-34, which recount the covenant treason of the people who worship a golden bull idol and break all of God’s laws, and Moses’ prayer of intercession for the people. God with mercy upon mercy renews his covenant with his people. The first half, chapters 25-31, detail God’s instructions for the construction of his tent in the midst of the camp, the tabernacle. The last half, chapters 35-39, recount the faithful, precise obedience of the people following the commands of the Lord down to every detail. This demonstrates the total, complete forgiveness and restoration that God graciously extended to his undeserving but broken and repentant people. Chapters 35-39 read as if nothing had ever happened. The book of Exodus ends with the tabernacle set up according to God’s instruction at the foot of Mount Sinai, and the glory cloud of God’s presence filling the tabernacle in the middle of his people.

This is where Leviticus begins. A stiff necked disobedient, complaining people, prone to wander, and God’s holy presence in the middle of their camp. God’s presence with his people is dangerous. And

Leviticus 1:1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, …

Leviticus is the account of God speaking to Moses from the Tabernacle, giving him specific instructions on how he is to be approached by his people. This phrase ‘The LORD spoke to Moses’ permeates the book, occurring some 37 times. Leviticus, in the most literal sense of the term, is God’s word to his people.

2 Timothy 3:15 …the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

It is my prayer that this increases your affections for Jesus, the one who loves sinners so much that he goes to the cross as a sacrifice for us, the one who forgives even the worst offenses. I pray that if you see yourself today as a sinner, you would approach God through the once for all sacrifice of Jesus and find forgiveness and acceptance and freedom.

I pray that this would empower you to loathe sin, to recognize your relationship with God as a weighty matter, to rightly value your relationship with him and as an overflow of his transforming grace in your life, to pursue holiness.

I pray that this would whet your appetite and made you hungry – hungry for more of God’s word.

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

April 10, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trinity in the Old Testament

10/25 Trinity in the Old Testament; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151025_trinity-old-testament.mp3

We saw last time that the clear teaching of the New Testament is that the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct someones, that Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, yet there is only one true God. This is what we mean when we use the word ‘trinity’ or tri-unity. The one God eternally exists in three distinct someones in relationship with one another. One common accusation is that the trinity is an invention of the church councils. While the word ‘trinity’ is not found in Scripture, the understanding that there are three distinct persons who are each fully divine, yet there is only one God is the only thing that makes sense of a multitude of New Testament passages. Another accusation is that the doctrine of the trinity is a deviation of the New Testament authors from strict monotheism of the Old Testament.

What can we say to this? Does the understanding of God as triune contradict the teaching of the Old Testament? While there is much in the New Testament that unfolds things that were hidden and brings into focus things that were not clear in the Old Testament, if something taught by the apostles flat out contradicts what the Old Testament teaches, we must not accept it.

One thing we should make clear at the outset is that when the New Testament teaches that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God, it does not ever teach that there are consequently three Gods. That would be a flat contradiction. Instead the fact that there is exactly and only one true God is affirmed right alongside the teaching that there are three distinct someones in relationship with one another who equally share the divine essence.

What we will look at today, we should not call proofs of the trinity in the Old Testament. Rather, the consistent teaching of the Old Testament leaves open the possibility of understanding the one God as a triune being. Throughout the Old Testament, there are clues, hints, foreshadowings, pointers that there is more to be said about God than merely that he is one solitary being. Some of these pointers are understood differently by different interpreters, but taken together we can at minimum say with confidence that the Old Testament makes good sense when read with a New Testament understanding of the triune God in mind, and indeed Jesus invites us to see him throughout the Old Testament.

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Creation

We will begin at the beginning. The opening words of Scripture state:

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

Here in the creation narrative, we see the one God creating. But we also see the Spirit of God brooding over the formless deep. Is the Spirit of God another way of describing the divine essence, or is the Spirit spoken of as a distinct someone? We also see the Word of God. God spoke. “The Word spoken by God is not a mere sound but a power so great that the universe is thereby created and upheld” [H.Bavinck].

Psalm 33 tells us:

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

We see the LORD, his Word, and his breath or Spirit. John’s gospel teaches that this Word was not mere sound but someone distinct who was both fully divine, and also in relationship with God.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

The Word is a ‘he, a ‘him’, a someone.

Elohim

Notice what the text of Genesis 1:26 says.

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

This is a fascinating passage. The word translated ‘God’ is the Hebrew ‘Elohim’. Elohim is the plural form of which Eloah is the singular. Eloah is used in some passages to refer to God. But violating the standard rules of grammar, the plural noun Elohim is most often used in the bible with a singular verb. Singular pronouns are most frequently used with this plural noun, also violating the rules of grammar, so our translators have chosen to use the singular ‘God’ rather than the plural ‘Gods’ to make it agree with the singular verbs and pronouns. It would be awkward to say that ‘the LORD he is Gods; there is no other besides him’ (Deut.4:35) or ‘the LORD our Gods is one LORD’ (Deut.6:4). Some scholars believe that the plural form is a plural of majesty, indicating the richness and fullness of the divine being. And this is probably correct. Although the use of the plural ‘Elohim’ with singular pronouns and verbs may not clearly teach the plurality of someones in the one divine essence, the awkward grammar seems to intentionally leave itself open to that possibility.

Let Us

But the honorific plural is seen only with nouns, not with verbs or pronouns. Here in Genesis 1, and also in chapters 3 and 11 and Isaiah 6 we have the plural pronouns ‘we’ and ‘us’ used with ‘Elohim’. The question is who is the ‘we’? To whom does the ‘us’ refer?

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

One suggestion that has been proposed is that he refers to himself and the creation he has just made, but this would make man in the image of God and the earth, and it would include the earth in the creative process. Another is that God refers to the angels or the heavenly court, but this would leave man in the image of God and the angels, and employ the help of the angels in creation, when we are explicitly told that God alone by himself created (Is.44:24). Some have suggested that this is an inner deliberation of God, a kind of self talk, as one might say to himself ‘now what am I going to do?’ This may come closer to the truth. Developing this idea in the context of Genesis 1, we could envision this inner dialogue of God between himself and his Spirit, who in verse 2 was brooding over the face of the deep. It is interesting to note that where in Genesis 1:26 God says:

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. …

In verse 27 he switches to singular pronouns:

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Collective Singular

It is also interesting to note that ‘man’, ‘adahm’ is a collective singular, including both male and female, referring to both ‘him’ and ‘them’. ‘Let us make man …let them have dominion’. The image of God in man seems to include plurality within unity.

Echad

Chapter 2, which focuses on the relationship between man and woman, closes with this statement which forms the basis for marriage.

Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The man and his wife are said to become one flesh. The Hebrew word for ‘one’ is ‘echad’, which is the same word used in the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Could it be that ‘YHWH our Elohim, YHWH is echad’, YHWH is one in a similar sense that the man and his wife are said to be ‘one‘, an essential unity within which there can be us and our?

Mal’akh YHWH

Moving on from the creation narrative, there is a curious character in the Old Testament that appears on several different occasions. He is called the Mal’akh YHWH or Mal’akh Elohim; the angel of the LORD or the angel of God. The word ‘mal’akh’ translated ‘angel’ simply means a messenger or ambassador. Often this word refers to what we would think of as a created heavenly being who serves God, often in the role of a messenger. But what is said about the Angel of the LORD causes us to wonder if he might be something more. In Genesis 16, after Abraham allows Sarai to treat Hagar harshly, the servant girl who was pregnant with his son Ishmael, and she flees into the wilderness, we are told:

Genesis 16:7 The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.”

This seems like it could be a created angel, but listen closely to what he says:

Genesis 16:10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”

The angel of the LORD does not say ‘God will multiply your offspring’; he says ‘I will multiply your offspring’. This seems to be claiming more than a mere created angel can claim. Yet he goes on to distinguish himself from the LORD.

Genesis 16:11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. …

He does not say ‘I have listened to your affliction, but ‘the LORD has listened. The angel of the LORD speaks of the LORD as a distinct person, yet takes credit for multiplying your offspring, something only God can do. What do we make of this? Listen to Hagar’s response:

Genesis 16:13 So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

Hagar refers to the angel of the LORD as ‘the LORD who spoke to her’ and says ‘You are a God of seeing’. She seems to identify the angel of the LORD with the LORD and with God.

In Judges 13, the angel of the LORD appeared to the wife of Manoah, to promise the birth of Samson. There seems to be distinction between the LORD and the angel of God

Judges 13:8 Then Manoah prayed to the LORD and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” 9 And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field….

God listened to his prayer and sent the angel of God.

Judges 13:15 Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” 16 And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) 17 And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” 18 And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” 19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground. 21 The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. 22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”

The angel of the Lord distinguished between himself and the LORD. But Manoah recognized that to see the angel of the LORD was to see God.

Judges 13:24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the LORD blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

We see the angel of the LORD, the LORD and the Spirit of the LORD in this passage. In many Old Testament passages we see the angel or messenger of the LORD who seems to be differentiated from the LORD, yet who is identified as God and given the honor and worship due only to God.

God The Son

There are also passages in the Old Testament that indicate that God has a Son. A son shares the same nature as his father. Psalm 2 speaks of the LORD and his Anointed (or Messiah), the LORD’s established King, who is YHWH’s begotten Son.

In Psalm 45 we see the triumphant king spoken of.

Psalm 45:6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;

The King is addressed as God, yet, God, the God of the king is seen as anointing the divine king. This is said to be speaking of the Son in Hebrews 1.

Micah 5 speaks of a coming ruler:

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

This is a ruler that is promised to come, but whose coming forth is from ancient days. This is an eternal one, but one who will come in time, and who will shepherd his people in the strength of the LORD. The coming one is eternal, yet distinguished from the LORD.

Isaiah 9:6 describes the coming king:

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

This king is a Son, who is called Mighty God and Everlasting Father.

The Divine Spirit

The Spirit is also seen to be a distinct someone.

Exodus 31:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, (cf. Ex.35:30-31)

The LORD is said to fill someone with the Spirit of God.

Isaiah 63 speaks of the LORD, the angel of his presence, and his Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit is said to be grieved by rebellious people, something that can be said only of a someone, not a something. The Spirit of the LORD is the one who is said to have given them rest.

Isaiah 11 speaks of the Spirit.

Isaiah 11:1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

Here we see the sevenfold Spirit spoken of in Revelation. We see the branch, who is the Messiah who comes forth from David, and the Spirit of the LORD, and the LORD.

Divine Three in One

Isaiah 42 says:

Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Notice the three characters in this passage. My Spirit is distinct from both I and him. Matthew 12 tells us that this passage is fulfilled in Jesus. God the Father put the Holy Spirit on Jesus.

Look at Isaiah 48.

Isaiah 48:16 Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.” And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit. 17 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.

Notice again the three characters The Lord GOD, me, and his Spirit; or The LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One. If we as who is the ‘me’ who is speaking, verses 12-13 clear this up.

Isaiah 48:12 “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. 13 My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.

Me, the one the Lord GOD sent with his Spirit, I am the first and the last, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.

Isaiah 61 says:

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

Again we see the three someones. The Spirit of the Lord GOD, me, and the LORD. Jesus applied this passage to himself in Luke 4.

This is a brief sampling of the many many passages in the Old Testament that seem to indicate that the one true God may eternally exist in more than one person. This one God eternally existed as Father, Son and Spirit, in community, in relationship, in conversation, in cooperation, in love. It is this God who says ‘I will put my Spirit within you …and you shall be be my people and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:27-28). ‘Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ …that our joy may be complete’ (1 John 1:3-4)

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

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment