PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

What We Are All About

09/24 What We Are All About; The Vision and Mission of ECB; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170924_what-we-are-all-about.mp3

Today is an exciting day for us as a church. Ephraim Church of the Bible is multiplying ministry for the glory of Jesus!

About 26 years ago [1991], Pastor Dick Fellars and Immanuel Bible Church in Phoenix, AZ sent Chip and Jamie Thompson and their family to Ephraim Utah. They began a Bible study in their home, which God blessed and grew. And May 5, 1995 Ephraim Church of the Bible began. Around 2003/2004 the college house was purchased and the college ministry began. As the college ministry grew, Chip stepped down from his role as pastor in order to pour his energy into the college ministry, and in 2005 the church called us to come and serve the local body here.

In 2006 we remodeled the sanctuary and moved the baptistery to the back to gain some additional seating. In 2011, as the church continued to grow we added on to our sanctuary to enable us to serve more people, and we purchased the adjacent property to the North, and by the end of 2012 the new Fellowship Hall was in use.

As a church on a mission field, it is essential to keep an outward focus. We have had the great privilege and pleasure of seeing some of the young men and women who served in the college ministry go off to get training in bible college with their eyes on the mission field. In 2012 God granted us the honor of partnering with Jason and Jen Byers as they went to Thailand, and Brody and Liz Olson as they went to Colorado City. So a church on the mission field is now sending missionaries out into the mission field!

Ephraim Church of the Bible has always had a desire to reach our surrounding communities with the gospel, and over the years, we have had home groups in Ephraim, Manti, Gunnison, and Fairview. We have prayed about what it might look like to see a healthy sister church planted both to the north and to the south of us, and we have explored various options.

In 2015 Carl began a home bible study in Gunnison/Centerfield, with about 6 people attending regularly. Last summer, he prayed that if God would give them a bigger house, they would do everything they could to fill it for his glory. They did some door to door advertisement, and the study began to grow. Pastor Ryan Shaddix of Calvary Chapel Sevier Valley in Richfield, who also has a heart to see a gospel centered Jesus honoring healthy church planted in that area, encouraged his people who live in that area to be a part of what God is doing. That bible study has now grown to 40 + people, and next Sunday morning church services will begin in the Wimmer home.

What We Are All About

What I want to do today is simply lay out what we are all about. Who are we as a church? What are we passionate about? I want to keep who we are, what we are about in front of us as we launch into a new season of expanding ministry for the glory of Christ.

So what are we all about? What are we to be about as a church? What are we to be passionately pursuing as a local body of believers? I’ve broken this down into three main things. The local church exists to equip and enable the saints to glorify God, to enjoy God, and to engage in gospel ministry.

Equipping and the Mess Hall

First, I want you to see that the role of the church, and specifically the leadership of the local church is primarily a behind the scenes training and equipping role. Ephesians 4 says that ‘[Jesus] gave …the pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body…” (Eph.4:11-12). Picture it this way. Think of the church as a military battalion stationed in a hostile country. The church is not a building; the church is made up of people. The goal is to engage culture, to set captives free, to effect change for good. Every person and every role is essential for the success of the mission. One necessary part of the base of operations is a mess hall and a medical wing. That is the church building. It can be a tent, a re-purposed store front, someone’s living room. It doesn’t matter. But the soldiers need to be fed; refueled. They need a place to be cared for, to be treated, to be healed. There needs to be a cook, and there needs to be medical staff. That’s the church leadership. It’s a behind the scenes thing, but it needs to happen. If the soldiers aren’t fed and cared for, they can’t do their job effectively. That’s the picture I want you to have of the church. The church is a place to refuel, to recharge, to be equipped to go back out into the battle and accomplish the mission. Church services are not the main thing. The battalion is not stationed in a hostile country to have a great mess hall. The church is often a mess. But the church is stationed in the world to engage the culture and set captives free.

We see this in Jesus’ statement;

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

The church is not stationary; gates are stationary. The church is on the move, on mission, taking ground from the enemy, battering down the gates of hell and setting captives free. When Jesus commissioned Peter, he told him

John 21:15 … “Feed my lambs.” 16 … “Tend my sheep.” 17 … “Feed my sheep.

The church is made up of sheep. Sheep need to be tended, to be fed, cared for, to be refueled for the work of ministry. The church gathers for that. The church then goes out to accomplish the mission.

Take a moment to picture this, to put these two metaphors together. The church is sheep that need to be tended, and the church is to wage war on hell. Sheep, one of the most helpless, defenseless, clueless, needy animals, an animal that is not the natural predator of anything, except maybe grass, and this is the picture; sheep storming the gates of hell. This is a reminder that it is not about us. It is not about our skill, our ability, our gifts. It is all about God who has made us competent to be ministers of the gospel (2Cor.3:6).

The Mission: To Glorify God

So what is the mission? We see the primary thing in this illustration of sheep. It is ‘to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us’ (2Cor.4:7). Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we are to do it all to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31). It is all ‘to the praise of his glorious grace; to the praise of his glory, to the praise of his glory’ (Eph.1:6, 12, 14). ‘You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body’ (1Cor.6:19-20).

We are created for this; we are meant to glorify God in everything. We are meant to spread the fame of his name. We are meant to exult in him, to praise him, to worship him, to celebrate him. Our purpose is to magnify him, to make much of him in all things.

The Mission: To Enjoy God Together

So how do we glorify God in all things? What does that practically look like? To glorify anything is to show how much better that thing is than any other thing. That is what commercials seek to do; this product, this service is superior to all other products and services; this one will deliver. This one will bring peace, tranquility, satisfaction, fulfillment. It will do what you need. How do commercials glorify their product? They may list the ways that this one is superior to others, but often they show someone enjoying the product. Some amazingly perfect person cracks open an ice cold Mountain Dew on a hot day and is refreshed, renewed, transformed. The atmosphere changes. Suddenly everyone likes them. Everything is better. They glorify the product by enjoying it.

Believe it or not, this is biblical. This is exactly what we as followers of Jesus are called to do. Only we have the one thing that truly satisfies. Psalm 16 says things like:

Psalm 16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Verse 4 contrasts this with the counterfeit product:

Psalm 16:4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply…

Then he turns back to the real thing:

Psalm 16:5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Only in God’s presence is there fullness of joy. Only at his right hand are there pleasures forevermore. I have no good apart from you.

In Psalm 34, David sets out to ‘bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.’ He sets out to boast in the Lord, to magnify the Lord, to exult his name. How does he go about this glorifying God at all times? Verse 4 says

Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 6 ​This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

How does the Psalmist bless, praise, boast in, magnify, exult the Lord? By seeking him and being rescued by him, by looking to him for help, by crying out to him to be saved from troubles, by being protected and delivered by him. And then he says:

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

How do we glorify God in all things? We drink deeply of him, we run to him and cry out to him with all our brokenness and emptiness and longing and need and invite him to fill and heal and mend and rescue, to satisfy us with his own all sufficient goodness. We glorify him by enjoying him.

Notice there is a corporate aspect to this enjoying. He starts out this Psalm by saying ‘I will bless the Lord at all times,’ but by verse 3 he is saying ‘Oh, magnify the LORD with me,and let us exalt his name together!’ There is an enhancing of the enjoyment when we enjoy God together.

The Mission: To Spread Joy in God

This brings us to our last point. We have looked at the vertical dimension; the church exists to glorify God and to enjoy God. There is also a horizontal dimension; the church exists to spread this joy to others. The church equips the saints for the work of ministry. Ministry is service. We are equipped to serve others for their good, to call them into relationship with this all satisfying God.

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 4 tells us that as God’s amazing grace extends to more people, more people give God thanks for his amazing grace, thanksgiving increases to the glory of God. We glorify God by increasing the number of people who enjoy God.

We must be passionate about the centrality of the gospel of grace and the message of the cross.

It is all grace. Jesus died for sinners; we are broken and helpless and can contribute nothing. Jesus took our place, paying in full the penalty our sins deserve. He makes us alive with resurrection power and clothes us in his perfect righteousness. We live in total dependence on him for everything. It is all of grace.

Both salvation (the rescue from the penalty and power of sin) and sanctification (growth in godly character) are by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone. Salvation is designed by God in this way to bring glory to him alone and not to us.

This good news of God’s amazing grace is so good that it must be spread. We cannot keep it to ourselves. It must spill over to those around us. We must not be content until every person has heard this good news.

We are passionate about actively pursuing unity with other believers and keeping the main thing the main thing. There are plenty of secondary issues that Christians hold opinions about, and often these opinions are given undue importance, and these secondary issues often detract and distract our attention from the main thing. It really is all about Jesus. We must determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified (1Cor.2:2). The gospel message; the message of the cross is central. Jesus defines who we are. As we live gospel transformed lives, as we enjoy gospel shaped community, we are enabled to proclaim transforming gospel truth. We must keep the main thing the main thing as we glorify and enjoy God together, and seek to spread joy in him to all people.

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

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September 26, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 7:11-38; Eating The Peace Offering

07/03 Leviticus 7:11-38; Eating The Peace Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160703_leviticus-7_11-38.mp3

Leviticus chapter 7 deals again with the peace or fellowship offering that was introduced in chapter 3. In chapter 3, it was the third of the 5 offerings, listed as the last of the three voluntary offerings which were a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Here in chapter 7, the peace offering is moved to the final place, and other general instructions are included. Leviticus 3 gave detailed instructions to the worshiper on the peace offering. It gave instructions on which animals were acceptable, how they were to be prepared, what was to be done with the blood, and what parts were to be offered on the altar. The peace offering was an offering ‘to the LORD’ (3:3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 14), and Chapter 3 said that it was a ‘pleasing aroma to the LORD’ (3:5, 16). This language of ‘pleasing aroma’ is missing from chapter 7. Chapter 3 was entirely Godward, it focused on this offering as an offering to please the LORD. Chapter 7 comes at it from the perspective of the offerer and the priests. What is to be done with the rest of the offering? What accompanies the offering? What occasions might prompt a peace or fellowship offering?

Lord, surprise us once again with the relevance of your Word. May our hearts be penetrated by the power of your truth. Let us learn and grow from this ancient book that was breathed out by you, which you promised that not the smallest part of a letter would pass away until all of it is fulfilled. Open our eyes to see the fulfillment of your law in Jesus!

Eating the Offering

Leviticus 7:11 “And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. 12 If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. 13 With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14 And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the LORD. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16 But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. 17 But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. 18 If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity. 19 “Flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned up with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh, 20 but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21 And if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether human uncleanness or an unclean beast or any unclean detestable creature, and then eats some flesh from the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

One of the main things we notice about this offering is how much of this sacrifice was to be eaten. In chapter 3 there was no mention of any bread products. Remember, the peace offering was an animal sacrifice. But here we see that it is to be accompanied by three different kinds of bread; unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and leavened loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. This also is surprising, because in 2:11 we were told that “no grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven”. In chapter 2 leaven is allowed in the offering of firstfruits, but it is never to be burnt on the altar (2:12). But this is the peace or fellowship offering. Why is leaven specifically commanded to be included here? I’m going to leave this question hanging for now, and we will come back to it later.

One loaf from each offering was to be brought as a gift to the LORD, but it went to the priest who was officiating to supply his need. We are not told what was to be done with the rest of the loaves, but we could speculate, based on the rest of the passage, that they were given back to the worshiper as food.

The Third Day

It is carefully specified what happens to the rest of the animal. Its flesh is to be eaten by the worshiper. If the peace offering is an offering of thanksgiving, the animal is to be eaten the same day; none of it is to be left until morning. If the peace offering is a vow or freewill offering, it is to be eaten on the same day or the next day, but any meat left until the third day must be burned. This of course had a simple health reason; without refrigeration, meat would begin to spoil and not be safe to eat on the third day. But there may also be a picture here. We are told in Paul’s presentation of the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus

1 Corinthians 15:4 …that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

But you will not find a clear prophecy in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be raised on the third day. But it is said that his third day resurrection is ‘in accordance with the Scriptures. Psalm 16 is quoted twice by the Apostles in Acts (2:27; 13:35) and applied to the resurrection of Jesus .

Psalm 16:10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

If we link this statement by the Psalmist that the Father would not let his holy one see corruption with this statement that flesh left till the third day is tainted or becomes an abomination, we could draw the conclusion that Jesus must be raised on the third day. We learn from John 11 that Lazarus was expected to stink because he had been dead four days.

Offerings Taken Home

It is also worth noting what is missing from the instructions here. It was stated about the priests portion of the grain, the sin and the guilt offerings that it must be eaten in a holy place. This is not said of the peace offering. Apparently the peace offering may be taken outside the Lord’s courtyard. Meat from a vow or freewill offering that is eaten the second day would likely be eaten on the journey or at home. This explains the further regulations about sacrificial meat not coming in contact with anything unclean. Nothing unclean was allowed in the tabernacle. But if meat that had been offered as a sacrifice was brought outside, it must be carefully handled so that which is holy would not come into contact with that which is unclean. An unclean person can be cleansed by the appropriate sacrifice, and then have access to the holy, but for someone who is unclean to come uncleansed in to contact with the holy would mean death. But anyone who is clean, even those who did not participate in the offering, may eat of it.

The Severity of Holiness

There is serious consequences for not treating the holy things as holy. The language is severe. ‘He shall not be accepted,’ ‘it shall not be credited to him,’ ‘he shall bear his iniquity,’ ‘that person shall be cut off from his people.’ God is merciful. He desires to dwell with his people. But he must be treated as holy. His instructions must be heeded. For anyone to say ‘I know God says this, but…’ is a very dangerous thing.

Eat No Fat or Blood

Leviticus 7:22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat. 24 The fat of an animal that dies of itself and the fat of one that is torn by beasts may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it. 25 For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the LORD shall be cut off from his people. 26 Moreover, you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwelling places. 27 Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

It makes sense in the context of what portion of the sacrifice may be eaten by the worshiper to include this general prohibition against eating any fat or blood. “All the fat is the LORD’s” (Lev.3:16). The fat of animals that were not offered in sacrifice may be used for other purposes, but it may not be eaten. No blood is to be eaten, because “I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls” (Lev.17:11). The consequences for disobedience is severe.

The Priests Portion

Leviticus 7:28 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 29 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever offers the sacrifice of his peace offerings to the LORD shall bring his offering to the LORD from the sacrifice of his peace offerings. 30 His own hands shall bring the LORD’s food offerings. He shall bring the fat with the breast, that the breast may be waved as a wave offering before the LORD. 31 The priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast shall be for Aaron and his sons. 32 And the right thigh you shall give to the priest as a contribution from the sacrifice of your peace offerings. 33 Whoever among the sons of Aaron offers the blood of the peace offerings and the fat shall have the right thigh for a portion. 34 For the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed I have taken from the people of Israel, out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, as a perpetual due from the people of Israel. 35 This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD’s food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the LORD. 36 The LORD commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations.”

Notice in this section the necessity for hands-on personal worship. A wealthy person cannot send his servant to bring an offering on his behalf to the tabernacle. He must go himself. His own hands shall bring it. And this is a messy labor intensive operation, slaughtering, cleaning, and butchering an animal. The fat is burned on the altar. The breast is shared among the priests for food. The right thigh goes to the officiating priest. God is emphatic “that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings” (1 Cor. 9:13). God uses the first person “I,”

34 …I have taken from the people of Israel, out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, as a perpetual due from the people of Israel. 35 This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD’s food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the LORD. 36 The LORD commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations.”

This is strong emphatic repetitive language. God is serious about ‘the laborer deserving his wages’ (Luke 10:7). The worker is worthy of his hire, but do not give your minister your heart, your deepest affections. Chapter 3 was very specific. The fat covering the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, the long lobe of the liver, the choicest and best parts, the seat of one’s very self, the mind, emotions and will, belong to God alone. Your innermost being must be devoted to God alone. Too often the middle-man becomes the focal point. People talk too much about their favorite preacher and too little about Jesus!

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.

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

Yes support your local church! By all means pray for your pastor. He needs it! But keep your focus on Jesus! Give all your affections to Jesus!

Summary Statement

Leviticus 7:37 This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering, 38 which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.

This is a concluding statement of the first seven chapters of Leviticus. This connects the regulations here to the historical context. God delivered this directly to Moses on Mount Sinai after the Exodus out of Egypt. These are the very words of God. One thing interesting to note is that we have looked at the burnt, grain, sin,guilt and peace offerings, but the ordination offering is mentioned here for the first time in Leviticus. It will appear 5 times in the next chapter, and it appeared five times in Exodus 29, another chapter dealing with the consecration of the priests. The ordination was hinted at in the special grain offering of the priests in 6:19-23. So these verses bring to a close the section dealing with the offerings and they introduce the next section of Leviticus, dealing with the ordination of the priests.

Fellowship

As we wrap up today, I want to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the peace or fellowship offering. Each offering points to Jesus in a specific way. The peace offering does not take away our guilt over specific sins; the sin and guilt offerings do that. The peace offering does not deal with our sin nature and present ourselves completely to God; the whole burnt offering does that. Now that we have received forgiveness, the peace offering does not make acceptable to God the work of our hands; that is the picture of the grain offering. What does the peace or fellowship offering teach us?

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The peace offering is a voluntary response to grace. We have experienced something we did not earn, something we do not deserve. We have been forgiven! Our debt has been paid! We are released from guilt and shame. We have been declared righteous by the Judge of all the earth. Our most inward affections are now directed toward God the source of all grace. This is the only sacrifice in which the worshiper partakes of the sacrifice. This offering is a shared meal in God’s presence. It is a feast in the courtyard of the LORD who has done great things for me!

Psalm 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Psalm 107:21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

Why is leaven included in this offering? Leaven puffs up, and it is usually a symbol of sin and pride that puffs up. But in the sin and guilt offerings our sin has been decisively dealt with. In the whole burnt offering all of self has been placed on the altar. Our works are now motivated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And in response, we are filled to overflowing, puffed up, not with pride, but filled with a fullness of joy that is uncontainable! In Deuteronomy 16, unleavened bread is called ‘bread of affliction’. Leaven is that which ferments and bubbles up and overflows.

Jesus came eating and drinking, and when he was questioned,

Luke 5:34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?

… 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

Are you today enjoying your blood-bought fellowship with God? Are your deepest affections fixed on God? Does your heart uncontainably overflow as you enter his courts with praise and thanksgiving?

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

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 4; The Sin Offering

05/08 Leviticus 4; The Sin Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160508_leviticus-4.mp3

We are not under law; we are under grace. Praise God we are under grace! ‘The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death’ (Rom.8:2). But the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Gal.3:24), and ‘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’ (Rom.15:4). The Scriptures give us instruction, give us encouragement, give us hope, hope in Christ! We are not under law, but we can learn from the law. ‘All Scripture is …profitable …for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2Tim.3:16). We can benefit greatly from this training in righteousness that the law offers us.

Overview

We are in Leviticus 4, which deals with a new category of sacrificial offering to the Lord. The first three offerings were voluntary offerings, said to be offerings ‘with a pleasing aroma to the Lord’. The whole burnt offering was an entire animal that went up in smoke to the Lord, addressing our sin nature. The grain offering was a tribute offering of the work of our hands, given in tribute to our new King. The peace or fellowship offering was a shared meal that celebrated our reconciled relationship of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Leviticus 4 begins with the words ‘And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘speak to the people of Israel, saying’. These words, similar to the words which open the book, indicate that this is a new section dealing with different issues. Chapter 4:1 – 5:13 deals with the sin offering, and Chapter 5:14 – 6:7 deals with the guilt offering. These are both required offerings when any person sins.

Chapter 4 begins with an introductory statement of the sin offering, then lists four categories of people, and the procedure for making atonement for that person. Verses 3-12 deal with the anointed priest; verses 13-21 deal with sins of the whole congregation; verses 22-26 deal with sins of a leader; and verses 27-35 deal with the atonement for the common people. Chapter 5:1-13 lists four specific occasions in which a person would incur guilt and gives three different types of offering dependent on what the worshiper can afford.

Unintentional Sins

Leviticus 4:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the LORD’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them,

One startling thing to notice right up front in this chapter is that this offering makes atonement and brings forgiveness for unintentional sins. Did you even know there was a category for that? Verses 13, 22, and 27 clarify that if he “sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him”. These could be sins of ignorance, ‘I didn’t know that God considers this a sin’; they could be sins of carelessness, ‘I was not paying attention or thinking and I did this’; or they could be accidental sins, ‘I didn’t mean to do this but it happened’. What is startling about all of these is that they all require the death penalty. The bull or goat or lamb doesn’t get a spanking or a time-out. It is killed. Even unintentional sins miss the mark of God’s perfect standard, and the wages of sin is death. Sin is serious. Deadly serious.

Numbers 15 helps us understand this category of unintentional sins. Verses 22-29 form a rough parallel to Leviticus 4. Verses 24-26 deal with atonement for unintentional sins of the whole congregation; and verses 27-29 deal with atonement for unintentional sins of the individual in very similar terms to what we have here in Leviticus 4. But verses 30-31 draw a distinction between unintentional sins and sins done with a high hand, and then verses 32-36 give an incident as an application of this principle.

Numbers 15:28 And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who makes a mistake, when he sins unintentionally, to make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. …30 But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.”

There is no sacrifice, no atonement, no forgiveness for sins done intentionally, in willful disobedience, with a high hand. The person who does this is said to revile the LORD, to despise the word of the LORD, and breaks his commandment. Have you ever heard someone say, maybe you’ve said it yourself ‘I know this is wrong, but God is gracious, he will forgive me. After all, I’m not under law, I’m under grace.’ This is dangerous thinking. Paul answers this in Romans 6.

Romans 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Here’s the event that illustrates the principle in Numbers 15:

Numbers 15:32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him.

Gathering sticks. Maybe he and his family were cold. He needed to build a fire to stay warm or to cook over. What’s the big deal? God said:

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.

This man was despising the word of the LORD. He was reviling the Lord. He was deliberately breaking the commandment.

Numbers 15:35 And the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses.

There was no sacrifice, no atonement, no forgiveness for a high-handed intentional sin.

We tend to categorize sins; ‘all I did was tell one little white lie’. Only one, it was little, and it was white; I meant no harm, it didn’t hurt anybody. What category would God put this sin under? It is a lie, intended to deceive, an intentional, a willful, a high handed sin. ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’ (Ex.20:16).

Numbers 35 helps us to understand what is meant by an unintentional sin.

Numbers 35:11 then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. …15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills any person without intent may flee there.

Without intent. This is the same word we have in Leviticus 4. Killing can be unintentional, and if it is unintentional, there is protection provided for the one guilty of manslaughter. There is a distinction drawn. If he used and iron, stone, or wooden tool that could cause death, he is a murderer.

Numbers 35:20 And if he pushed him out of hatred or hurled something at him, lying in wait, so that he died, 21 or in enmity struck him down with his hand, so that he died, then he who struck the blow shall be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.

22 “But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or hurled anything on him without lying in wait 23 or used a stone that could cause death, and without seeing him dropped it on him, so that he died, though he was not his enemy and did not seek his harm, 24 then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these rules.

The motive is considered. If it was a sudden reaction, if it was not premeditated, if he did not intend to do harm, if it was an accident, these were considered unintentional. They were still sin, the taking of a life in God’s image, but they were unintentional, and forgivable.

Go and Tell Him His Fault

So much of our sin is unintentional. We simply have no idea. Often an unintentional sin is a sin you don’t know you committed. Verse 13 says ‘the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly’. We are often blind to our unintentional sins. Verse 14 says ‘when the sin which they have committed becomes known’. I can’t seek forgiveness if I don’t know I have sinned. We are not told how the sin becomes known. It could be conviction from the Holy Spirit, or a feeling of guilt. Verses 23 and 28 say ‘the sin which he has committed is made known to him’. We need each other to help with blind spots. This does not authorize you to become the sin police, eagerly finding fault with your neighbor and relishing every opportunity to point it out. But it is helpful to know that often the sins of our brothers and sisters are unintentional sins. We feel hurt, offended, slighted, mistreated. That passing comment really cut deep. This is why Jesus tells us:

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

Note well, Jesus does not say ‘if your brother sins against you, give him the cold shoulder until he realizes what evil he has done’; He does not say ‘if your brother sins against you, bitterly rehearse in your heart how hurtful it was over and over again while you wait for him to crawl back to you in contrite penance’. He does not say ‘go talk to your other brothers and sisters to see if they have also been hurt in similar ways by the offending party’. Notice also that Jesus does not say ‘if you sin against your brother, go apologize to him’, because this kind of sin we are often blind to. Jesus tells us to go directly and privately to our brother or sister who sinned against us, and tell them their fault, because they probably have no idea that they hurt you! If you go to them directly, that gives them the opportunity to say ‘I am so sorry you took it that way! That is not at all what I meant’.

Sometimes the issue is more serious. We need to be watching out for one another, encouraging one another. We need to have the humility to be aware that we have blind spots, and be thankful that we have brothers and sisters who love us.

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

When we realize our guilt, then we lay our hand on the head of the animal. We identify with the animal, that we deserve to die, and it will die in our place. We confess our sins, agreeing with God that even our unintentional sin is worthy of punishment.

All Have Sinned

Who is it that the sin offering is meant for? The first instance is ‘if it is the anointed priest who sins’ (3); then ‘if the whole congregation of Israel sins’ (13) ; then ‘when a leader sins’ (22); finally, ‘if anyone of the common people sins’ (27). Who is left out of this chapter? This covers absolutely everyone. We know the verses ‘none is righteous, no not one’ and ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rom.3:10, 23), but do we really believe this? God is communicating to his people that everyone sins. Religious leaders, national leaders, everyone. We tend to hold religious leaders to a different standard. Religious leaders should never sin. And if they do sin, their sin is unforgivable. Your pastor is human. He is a sinner in need of forgiveness. If you expect sinless perfection, your expectations are misplaced. Jesus is the only one who has never sinned and will never sin.

Some might think, ‘well, I’m no one of significance, so it doesn’t matter what I do’. Not true! From the great high priest to the national leader to the common person, sin brings guilt and requires forgiveness through an atoning sacrifice.

It is interesting to see that there is such a thing as corporate guilt. A group of people, the whole congregation, can sin. We tend to think of sin as exclusively an individual matter. But this text is clear that whole groups of people, just like individuals, can have blind spots and can sin unintentionally. Whole congregations can be guilty and in need of forgiveness. Often in Israel’s history we see the congregation grumbling against God or its leaders, and the Lord was displeased.

Not Many Should Become Teachers

While all sin is sin against God that brings guilt and requires atoning sacrifice to be forgiven, the sins of some are more weighty and require a greater offering. The sins of the national leader requires a male goat, while the sins of a common person requires a female goat or lamb. For both of these, the blood is smeared on the horns of the bronze altar of burnt offering in the courtyard of the tabernacle. But for the sin of the anointed priest or the whole congregation, a bull is required, and the blood must be presented in the holy place, applied to the curtain and to the horns of the golden altar of incense.

Leviticus 4:3 if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the LORD for a sin offering. 4 He shall bring the bull to the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the LORD. 5 And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the tent of meeting, 6 and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the LORD in front of the veil of the sanctuary. 7 And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the LORD that is in the tent of meeting, and all the rest of the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8 And all the fat of the bull of the sin offering he shall remove from it, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails 9 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys 10 (just as these are taken from the ox of the sacrifice of the peace offerings); and the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. 11 But the skin of the bull and all its flesh, with its head, its legs, its entrails, and its dung— 12 all the rest of the bull—he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it shall be burned up.

The sin of the leader and the individual remain in the outer court, but the sin of the priest and of the whole congregation penetrate into the very presence of God. This is why James tells us:

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

The blood needed to be splattered seven times on the heavy curtain that separates the most holy place from the holy place. Imagine the priest, who daily entered the holy place to tend the lamps, replace the bread of the presence, and burn incense, who would daily see the blood splattered on the curtain, a reminder of his own sinfulness before God. A reminder of his weighty responsibility. But also a reminder of God’s provision of forgiveness. He was able to enter into the holy place by means of blood. Repeated four times in this chapter we find the affirmation ‘and the priest shall make atonement for him and he shall be forgiven’ (20, 26, 31, 35). What good news this is! The priest makes atonement, but it is God who forgives. This is why the statement of Jesus to the paralyzed man that ‘your sins are forgiven’ (Mk.2:5) was so shocking. Only God can forgive sins!

Jesus the Better Priest

This of course, like all the offerings, points us to Jesus.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus had no sin of his own that required a sacrifice.

Hebrews 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 10 specifically mentions the sin offering as being obsolete because of Jesus.

Hebrews 10:8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will 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,

We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all!

Hebrews 13 refers to the sin offering being burnt outside the camp. Lepers and the unclean were forced to reside outside the camp.

Hebrews 13:11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.

Praise God forgiveness through Jesus is not limited to unintentional sins.

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

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

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 2; The Grain Offering

04/24 Leviticus 2; The Grain Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160424_leviticus-2.mp3

We are in Leviticus 2, the second of the 5 offerings. The first three offerings, the burnt offering, the grain offering, and the peace offering, are voluntary offerings, and they are each said to be “a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD”. The last two, the sin and the guilt offering, are required to be offered when anyone sins. The whole burnt offering, we saw, was a foundational offering, dealing not with specific sins, but with our sinful nature. It was a costly offering, and it was a completely Godward offering, the entire animal (except for the hide) going up in smoke as a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

Jesus said to the religious leaders in John 5

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.

All these offerings together, the whole sacrificial system, points us to Jesus, and his once-for-all sacrifice for us.

Tribute

This second offering is unique among the offerings, in that it is not a bloody offering. No animal is involved. It is a grain offering. This offering is called in Hebrew a ‘Minhah’, simply a gift. This kind of gift often expresses gratitude, reverence, homage, or allegiance. This was often a tribute offering. In Genesis 32, when Jacob was returning to his homeland and his brother Esau, from whom he had stolen both birthright and blessing, who had wanted to kill him, was coming out to meet him with 400 men, he sent a ‘minhah’ ahead of him

Genesis 32:20 …For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.”

This was a gift intended to appease, to gain acceptance. In Genesis 43, when Jacob reluctantly agreed to send his youngest son to the leader of Egypt who had interrogated his other sons and was holding one prisoner,

Genesis 43:11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. …14 May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin.

This was a gift to a powerful leader intended to gain a favorable outcome.

When we come to the time of the Judges, we see Israel subservient to other nations, and in Judges 3 a ‘minhah’ is sent from Israel to the king of Moab. In 2 Samuel 8, when David conquered the Moabites, they became David’s servants and brought him ‘minhah’.

It was common for a defeated king to enter into a treaty with the conquering king where he would bring a regular gift of grain or produce to express loyalty, allegiance, and fidelity to the king, and to acknowledge his debt to the king for their very life and existence. We might think of it as a sort of tax; in exchange for peace and security, they offer a percentage of their income to the king who rules over them. This is a good way to think of this offering, but this grain offering is not mandatory, it is voluntary.

Leviticus 2:1 “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it 2 and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 3 But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the LORD’s food offerings.

This was a tribute to the conquering King. This was a gift to express loyalty, allegiance, faithfulness to the King. This was a recognition that we owe our very life and existence to the King. God has conquered our enemies, he has broken our own rebellion and resistance, he rules over us with peace and justice. God owns all, but he allows us to keep a portion of what we produce for our own needs. God demands our allegiance. Yet this offering is voluntary. It is a way to freely express our loyalty to our King.

How and How Much?

There were different ways that were acceptable to make this offering. All used fine flour, the best of the best, the choicest of the grain, consistently and carefully ground very fine. The fine flour could be brought raw, as flour. Verses 1-3 give instructions for an uncooked grain offering. The fine flour could be prepared as bread. Verses 4-10 give instructions for three categories of cooked grain offerings; verse 4 says “When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering” it can be brought as loaves or wafers. Verse 5 says “And if your offering is a grain offering baked on a griddle”; verse 7 says “And if your offering is a grain offering cooked in a pan.” There is no requirement given of what kind of grain offering to bring when. There is freedom for the preference of the worshiper, and for the means of preparation available to the worshiper.

Notice also, no quantity is specified. Should I bring a quart? A bushel? A truckload? Two loaves? Ten? A thousand? Bring as much as you wish. Jesus said:

Luke 6:38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

I know this can be frustrating for some. How much should I give? Am I giving enough? How much do most people give? Is it still ten percent? Gross or net? I want to know where I stand. You are not under compulsion. You are to give freely, cheerfully, liberally. When we recognize how much, how very very much we owe to God, how much we have been freely graciously given, giving back to him becomes not an obligation or a debt but a delight.

Where Does It Go?

But where does my gift go? It is brought to the priests, and they offer a handful of it as a memorial portion to be burned on the altar as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. The remainder belongs to the priests. This was God’s way of providing for the needs of the priests. It is called most holy, or literally ‘a holy of holies’, which meant that it was set apart, and only for the priests to be eaten only by them, only in a holy place. Your offering is given to God, and God in turn uses that offering to care for those who are in his service. Paul applies this principle to Christian workers in 1 Corinthians 9.

1 Corinthians 9:13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

He says in 1 Timothy 5:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

It is quite flattering, by the way, to be likened to an ox treading grain.

What to Bring and What to Leave Out

Although there was freedom in the quantity and method of preparation, there is also very specific instructions on what is to be brought and what must be left out. As we said, this was a grain offering, and it was to be the best of the best, fine flour. Regardless of the preparation, it was always to be offered with oil, and it was always to include frankincense. Never was it to include leaven of any kind, or honey, and it was always to include salt.

Oil in the Scripture is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, and joy. This is to be a Spirit filled offering, not a fleshly offering. It is to be a joyful offering, not a reluctant offering.

Frankincense is an aromatic resin. It was an ingredient of the incense that was to be burned on the altar of incense in the holy place every morning and every evening. No incense for common use was to be made like it. It was set apart for God. All the frankincense on the grain offering was set apart to God. The portion of the grain offering that was burnt on the altar of burnt offering included all the frankincense. It was wholly set apart and devoted to God. Frankincense, you will remember was among the gifts the Magi brought to honor the child Jesus. Frankincense was symbolic of holiness, total Godward devotion.

In chapter 5, we will see that for the sin offering, no oil or frankincense is to be included. A sin offering was not a joyous occasion, sin had been committed, and an offering had to be made to deal with the consequences of sin.

Never was the grain offering to include leaven or honey. In Matthew 16 Jesus warns his disciples to watch out for the leaven of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and Herod, which he says in Luke 12 is hypocrisy, to appear different than you are.

In Matthew 13, Jesus:

Matthew 13:33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

This is in the context of parables about weeds sown by an enemy among good seed that is then allowed to grow together until the harvest, about a mustard seed that grows so large it even provides a nesting place for the evil birds who snatch away gospel seeds, and a net in the sea that gathered fish of every kind, to be sorted in the end good from bad.

Leaven is what we would think of as a sourdough start, a piece of the old dough that contains microorganisms that eat the sugars and convert them into bubbly gasses which puff up the bread. Leaven is that which inflates or puffs up, it is pervasive and affects all it touches. Honey refers not only to honey from bees, but to any sweet nectar, like that from fruits. This too can have a leavening effect. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:

1 Corinthians 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Leaven is boasting, malice, evil, in contrast to sincerity and truth. No leaven is ever to be burnt on the altar. Verse 12 clarifies, because the offering of firstfruits in Leviticus 23 allows leaven. Leaven is allowed in that offering, but the leavened bread is never to be burned on the altar.

Salt is a required part of all grain offerings. Three times in three different ways in verse 13, salt is emphatically not to be left out of the offerings. Salt has the opposite effect of leaven, actually counteracting leavening influences, stopping the fermentation process and acting as a preservative. Salt was also used in judgment, placed in the ground it would prevent anything from growing. It is called ‘the salt of the covenant with your God’. Salt pointed to the permanent, lasting, eternal character of the covenant.

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus calls his followers ‘the salt of the earth’. In Mark 9, in the context of warning against the dangers of sin and encouraging us to take drastic action against sin in our lives, he says

Mark 9:49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

We are told in Colossians 4:

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

All our conversations are to have a preserving, not a corrupting effect. All our conversations are to be gracious.

The Work of Our Hands

So what is the grain offering? The grain offering is the work of our hands. The soil is worked, grain is planted, watered, harvested, threshed, ground fine, cooked or prepared in various ways, presented. In this we acknowledge that God has rights over all, that all that we have is only that which he first gave to us.

Jesus in the Grain Offering

But is there more here? How does this offering point us to Jesus? This is not a bloody offering; it is a bread offering. In John 6, Jesus said:

John 6:48 I am the bread of life.

Jesus said:

John 6:32 …my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Some have seen in the grain offering a picture of Jesus in his humanity. Jesus humbled himself. Jesus in his humanity is perfectly humble. There is no trace of leaven of pride or hypocrisy, no trace of malice or evil. Jesus is full of grace and truth. Everything he said was seasoned with salt. His whole life was a pleasing aroma to his Father. It is interesting to note that in verse 4, it is to be loaves mixed with oil or wafers smeared with oil. Oil is to be mixed in with the grain to form the dough. Jesus’ human body was prepared for him by the Holy Spirit. But at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit came to rest on him. Jesus said:

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit for ministry. The word for ‘smear’ is ‘mashak’, literally ‘anointed’; the verb from which we get ‘messiah’. Jesus was tested by the devil, as if in an oven, and he refused to do anything to please himself. In John 6, where he claimed to be bread from heaven he said:

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus, as the perfect man, submitted himself in perfect obedience in all things to the will of his Father. And all his works were perfectly pleasing to the Father. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.3:17; 17:5). Where Adam, when tested, brought sin and corruption into this world, Jesus perfectly obeyed in all things.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

But why, in verse 6 is the grain offering to be broken in pieces? Some suggest this would allow the bread to burn better in the fire. Jesus, on the night he was betrayed,

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

The grain offering that is burned on the altar is called a ‘memorial’, literally a reminder or a remembrance offering. The grain offering was a reminder that God is the provider of all, and it was an offering to remind God to be faithful to his covenants and treat the worshiper with grace. Breaking bread was a normal daily activity that ministered to both physical and social needs within the context of a meal. May we come to know him more fully in the breaking of the bread (Lk.24:35).

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

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:15-18; Refreshing Saints and Apostles

07/12 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 Refreshing Saints and Apostles ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150712_1cor16_15-18.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

15 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί· οἴδατε τὴν οἰκίαν Στεφανᾶ, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀχαΐας καὶ εἰς διακονίαν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἔταξαν ἑαυτούς· 16 ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑποτάσσησθε τοῖς τοιούτοις καὶ παντὶ τῷ συνεργοῦντι καὶ κοπιῶντι. 17 χαίρω δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ παρουσίᾳ Στεφανᾶ καὶ Φορτουνάτου καὶ Ἀχαϊκοῦ, ὅτι τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα οὗτοι ἀνεπλήρωσαν, 18 ἀνέπαυσαν γὰρ τὸ ἐμὸν πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὑμῶν. ἐπιγινώσκετε οὖν τοὺς τοιούτους.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Paul is giving his closing exhortations to the Corinthians church. Back in chapters 9 and 10, Paul held himself up as an example to the believers in surrendering rights and seeking the good of others above one’s own good, and in 11:1 Paul says ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Here at the close of this letter, he holds a member of their own congregation up as worthy of honor and imitation. He points to the household of Stephanas.

Firstfruits

Here he says that the household of Stephanas was the firstfruits of the region of Achaia. This is the same word ‘firstfruits’ that he used in 15:20 of Christ as the firstfruits of the resurrection of believers who have fallen asleep. The firstfruits was an Old Testament offering, a sample from the harvest, it shares continuity with the rest of the harvest, it was a part of the harvest, and it was a promise of more good things to come. In 1:16, he said that he had baptized the household of Stephanas. The household of Stephanas were some of the first to believe the gospel in that region, and Paul looked at them as a promise of more to come. The good news of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and risen from the dead had penetrated into a dark place, had created new life, and had begun to transform sinners, and he expected that to spread.

Devoted Themselves

Listen to how Paul describes these believers. He says that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. This is not something that was pushed on them. This is not something they did unwillingly or half-heartedly. They devoted themselves. This word can be translated ‘to addict, to appoint, to determine, to ordain, to set.’ They addicted themselves to the service of the saints. They set themselves apart to this purpose. They were determined to serve. This was voluntary, eager service. This was not under compulsion, these were cheerful givers. They delighted themselves in serving others. They set themselves aside to be useful to the believers. Do you know anyone like this? We need people like this in our churches, people who are not looking for position or recognition, people who simply want to be useful to God by serving his people. This word service is where we get our word ‘deacon’ – it simply means a servant.

These are often behind the scenes people, people who are not interested in the limelight, selfless people who prefer to remain unknown and unrecognized. People who simply see a need and do whatever is within their power to care for that need. These are people who recognize their gifts and without drawing attention to themselves, simply get busy using their gifts to love and serve and build up others. These are truly selfless people, who genuinely care about others more than they care about themselves.

Household

Notice that Paul is not referring to one particular individual. He says ‘you know the household of Stephanas’. This was a family that served together. We aren’t told details, but a household would likely include Stephanas and his wife, his children, and possibly any servants he employed, possibly others who lived with them, who were under his care, who together found joy in serving the saints. This is family ministry. A whole family that was united to serve others. The family unit is a powerful thing.

Sometimes the gospel divides families. When an individual hears the gospel, he may have to choose to follow Jesus, knowing that following Jesus could destroy his relationship with his wife, with his children, with his family. Paul understands the dynamic where a family is divided over the gospel, and he gave practical instructions on how to handle these kinds of situations in chapter 7. But here he is looking at a family that is united by the gospel and transformed by the gospel with a passion to serve the people of God.

Joshua said ‘choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD’. This is a household that has recognized the many different things that families are all about, the many different things families are passionate about and centered around, and they have chosen to center family life around service to the believers. They have prioritized in a radically different way than the culture around them and given themselves over to Christian service. Mother, father, children old and young, all looking away from themselves and their own wants and needs at how to love and serve and care for the body of Christ.

This is a radically different model for life and ministry. This is not the family making sacrifices so dad or mom can go off and serve in this or that ministry. This is the family together as a team loving and serving in ways that can only be done by a household. Certainly this includes hospitality, where the home is an environment defined by loving service to others, where others can be welcomed in and cared for and nurtured. Quite possibly, the church used the home of this family for their meetings, which would mean that the family took on the responsibility of preparing for and cleaning up after the meeting of the church. This doesn’t necessarily mean an immaculate showroom house, but it would include essential things like making sure the bathroom is clean and functioning, providing appropriate space for guests to feel welcomed and cared for, creating an atmosphere of others-focused selfless welcoming love.

What is your household like? Is your home a Christ centered home? Is your primary aim to advance the gospel? Is your home a place where believers can feel safe and loved and cared for and built up?

Servant Leadership

Paul holds up the household of Stephanas as an an example of what devotion to Christ can look like in a household. He encourages the believers to ‘be subject to such as these’. We often want leaders who are in control, who are determined, aggressive, forceful, who speak well and look good out front. But Paul has a different perspective. And this is in line with what Jesus taught. In Luke 22 we see:

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

It is startling to remember the context of this conversation. Jesus had just taken bread and said ‘this is my body broken for you’ and ‘this cup is my blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of your sins’. He had told them that he was about to be betrayed and crucified. And they around the table are disputing about who is the greatest.

Luke 22:25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Jesus initiated a different kind of leadership. His authority is not a top down controlling authoritarian you-serve-me kind of leadership. His leadership is a humble-hearted others-centered loving service. The household of Stephanas was a real life example of what this looks like, and Paul exhorts the Corinthians to voluntarily submit to such as these. These and every fellow worker and laborer.

We see Paul hold up another example of a fellow-worker who gave him joy, ministered to his needs, and is to be honored and imitated. He writes to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 2:25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Epaphras, like Stephanas, was a selfless servant who put other before himself, who filled up the lack and brought joy to those he served. He was a brother, a fellow-worker, a fellow soldier.

Some people talk about going into the ministry as if it were a glamorous career choice. Ministry simply means service, and service to people can be painful and messy and just plain hard. Paul says to be subject to every fellow-worker and laborer. This word laborer literally means to be weary or feel fatigue. Serving others, especially serving those who are disgruntled or opinionated or easily offended can be draining and exhausting. Ministry is eternally rewarding, but it can be just plain fatiguing.

Refreshing the Spirit

Listen to what the Apostle Paul says.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

It seems the letter the Corinthian church wrote to Paul was delivered by these men. He says that these three filled up what was lacking on their part. Paul had strong affection for the Corinthians. These were people he led to Christ, people he had invested his life in. He walked life with them. He missed them. He truly enjoyed their company. The visit from these three brought the apostle much joy. They refreshed his spirit. We don’t often think of the great Apostle to the Gentiles as needing to be refreshed, maybe even becoming depressed and discouraged. But he says in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that ‘we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.’ In two of his letters, Paul describes himself as being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ (Phil.2:17; 2Tim.4:6). Even in the midst of fruitful ministry where many were believing the gospel and being baptized, Paul needed encouragement from the Lord.

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Paul, afraid? Paul silent? Paul was human. He had needs. Emotional, spiritual, physical needs. He felt a poverty of spirit in being away from his beloved friends at this church. It brought him joy when dear friends came to visit.

Even leaders in ministry need other co-workers who will come along side them, others who understand the unique challenges and hardships of ministry, others who will bring refreshment to their spirits. This is what the coming of these three friends did for Paul, in the midst of something he describes as ‘fighting wild beasts at Ephesus’.

I have a dear friend and co-worker in the gospel who was so deeply hurt in the course of pastoral ministry that he describes it as if something deep inside him broke. He went into a deep depression, to the point where he had to take an extended break from ministry. God is healing him and giving him a renewed sense of vision and passion for ministry. I enjoyed the privilege of spending some time with him over the past week, and he was an encouragement to my soul.

There are some people who sap the spiritual energy out of you; who drain you of life and vitality. There are others whose love for Jesus and love for other people is a contagious overflow that refreshes your soul. Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus were that kind of friends, co-laborers in service to Christ, selfless servants who brought refreshment to everyone they were around. We need those kinds of people in our lives, people who are filled with the love of Christ, those who will just be a friend, who will love us as we are, who will be patient with our flaws and shortcomings, who will laugh with us, cry with us, hurt with us, just be with us, who will lay aside expectations and care for us.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

May we be those kind of people for others. May we refresh the spirit of those who are downcast. May we bring joy to those we are around. May we develop households who addict themselves to the selfless service of the saints. May we create places of refuge where broken sinners can be loved and nurtured and find healing and hope. May we be people who bring joy to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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

July 12, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:27-28a; 1.Apostles, 2.Prophets, 3.Teachers

10/05 1 Corinthians 12:27-28a 1. Apostles 2. Prophets 3. Teachers; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141005_1cor12_27-28a.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

27 Ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε σῶμα Χριστοῦ καὶ μέλη ἐκ μέρους. 28 καὶ οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας, τρίτον διδασκάλους, ἔπειτα δυνάμεις, ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, ἀντιλήμψεις, κυβερνήσεις, γένη γλωσσῶν. 29 μὴ πάντες ἀπόστολοι; μὴ πάντες προφῆται; μὴ πάντες διδάσκαλοι; μὴ πάντες δυνάμεις; 30 μὴ πάντες χαρίσματα ἔχουσιν ἰαμάτων; μὴ πάντες γλώσσαις λαλοῦσιν; μὴ πάντες διερμηνεύουσιν; 31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

So far Paul has said concerning spirituality that every follower of Jesus is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, and is therefore spiritual. Grace-gifts, services, activities or workings all come from the same triune God, are distributed distinctly and freely as God himself purposes, and are given to each one of us for the common good.

He uses the metaphor of the body to make the points that every believer is a necessary part, that no believer is independent of other parts, and that extra respect should be shown to the less presentable parts. All are an interconnected, interrelated, interdependent parts of the whole.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

You (plural), you all are the body of Christ. You all, believers, followers of Jesus, together are the body of Christ. Each individual allotment is a body part. Many body parts, organs and limbs, but one body. You are the body of Christ!

The Corinthians it seems were eager to make one gift, especially the more sensational gifts the measure of true spirituality. They were impressed with outward appearances, and status and privilege were of utmost importance. Paul re-orients their thinking and turns their social jockeying on its head.

28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Once again, Paul points to the sovereign hand of God in appointing and apportioning his grace-gifts in the body exactly as he so wisely intended. All the gifts come from God, and all the gifts are distributed intentionally by God just as he purposed. God established, God set, God place, God appointed the gifts in the church exactly as he intended. And there is a God-established order to the gifts. This list has a definite sequence. First, second, third, then, then… In this list, tongues comes last. In the list in verses 29-30, tongues and interpretation come last. In the list in verses 7-11 various tongues and interpretation of tongues come last. In chapter 14, he will make the point that prophesy is more beneficial to the church than tongues. God takes the status seeking sensationalism of the Corinthians and turns it upside down.

First Apostles

God has appointed in the church first apostles. We might think apostle sounds impressive and important, but remember what Paul said about apostles back in chapter 4:

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

The apostles were not some high-class elite. They were put on parade like a band of death-row criminals. They had become a spectacle. They were fools, weak, held in disrepute, hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, beat up and homeless, reviled, persecuted, slandered. They didn’t pull a six figure income; they worked with their own hands. They were the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. In society’s eyes, they were lower than the lowest. The word ‘apostle’ is no grand title. It simply means someone sent out, a servant sent on a mission, an errand boy. The 12 were chosen by Jesus, as Mark’s gospel tells us:

Mark 3:14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: …

They were to be with Jesus. They spent time with him, listening to him, learning from him during his earthly ministry. When the 11 decided to choose a replacement for Judas, the requirement was

Acts 1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

The requirement was having been an eye-witness of Jesus starting with his baptism by John through his ministry, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The primary role was to be a witness, to testify to the truth of historical events. Jesus named the 12 ‘apostles’ because he sent them out to preach, to herald, to announce the news that the Messiah, the King had come.

As the other apostles died, there is no record of them appointing successors. Theirs was an historically unrepeatable role as eye-witnesses of the ministry, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:20 tells us that the ministry of apostles was foundational to the church.

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

There is only one cornerstone, and his name is Jesus. There is only one foundation that was laid, that is the proclamation of the good news about Jesus by his eye-witnesses. The household of God is built on this once-for-all foundation.

The Corinthians had a celebrity mentality, choosing their favorite hero. Paul diffuses this in chapter 3, telling them how they should think about their apostle.

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Paul, by the grace of God, served as a wise master builder. He laid the one apostolic foundation, and that foundation is our Lord Jesus Christ. No other foundation can be laid. The Apostles proclaimed the gospel of Jesus.

Hebrews 3:1 calls Jesus the apostle.

Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,

Jesus is the original apostle, sent out by the Father to be the Savior of the world (1Jn.4:14). He did not come to seek status and be honored, but rather left the place of highest honor to become a servant, to be mistreated, to suffer, and ultimately to die for others.

Jesus said ‘I will build my church’ (Mt.16:18). He said he would build his church on the rock of the divinely revealed apostolic confession that Jesus is Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God.

The apostles he appointed would follow the example of their Master. They too would be despised and rejected and suffer for the eternal good of others.

We too are apostles, not in the foundational sense of the eye-witnesses, but in the broadest sense of the term, as those who have been sent out by the Master to announce the good news, sent out to serve others, sent out to sacrifice and suffer for the good of others. Every believer has been sent as an ambassador of our Lord Jesus Christ, to proclaim the good news about him.

Second Prophets

28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets,

What is a prophet? This is a more difficult question. To answer this, we need to look at what a prophet was in the Old Testament, what if anything changes with Jesus in the New Testament, and how the ministry of a prophet is described in the context of the church.

If we look back to Exodus, we get a helpful description of the primary role of a prophet.

Exodus 6:29 the LORD said to Moses, “I am the LORD; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.” 30 But Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?”

Exodus 7:1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land.

Aaron is called Moses’ prophet because he spoke on behalf of Moses to the Pharaoh. The most basic definition of a prophet is someone who speaks for another.

If we study the prophets of the Old Testament, we see that the vast majority of their ministry was speaking to the people, calling them to repentance, calling them to return to their covenant commitment with God. A very small percentage of the prophet’s ministry was predictive of future events. And much of the predictive part of the prophets is the promise of judgment for continued disobedience, and the promise of restoration and forgiveness for those who turn back to God.

Zechariah prophesied over his son John:

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

John’s role was to prepare the way for Jesus. John called people to repentance and to faith in Jesus. Jesus called John a prophet, and more than a prophet. He said:

Matthew 11:11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Jesus said that John was the greatest among those born of women. But Jesus looked forward to something greater. The least in the kingdom would be greater than the greatest of the prophets. Jesus said

Matthew 11:13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,

Jesus indicates that the ministry of the Old Testament prophet had come to an end with John. Something greater was here. When God spoke in thunder and lightning and smoke to the people from Mount Sinai, the people trembled…

Exodus 20:19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”

They wanted Moses to go between God and them, to speak God’s words to them. In Deuteronomy 18, Moses said:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. (Acts 3:22-24; 7:37; cf. John 1:25)

That greater prophet is Jesus. Jesus is the one who goes between God and the people. Jesus is the one mediator between God and man (1Tim.2:5). Jesus speaks to us everything that the Father puts in his mouth (Jn.8:26, 28, 38, 40).

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…

Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophets. God has spoken. Finally. Decisively. He has spoken to us in Jesus.

When Moses was feeling the weight of caring for all the people of Israel, God told Moses to select 70 of the elders to assist him in bearing the burden. God poured out his Spirit on those 70, and they prophesied. When two of them were prophesying in the camp,

Numbers 11:28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”

This is what the prophet Joel predicted.

Acts 2:16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Joel 2:28-29)

What was it that fulfilled the prophecy of Joel?

Acts 2:11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

God’s Holy Spirit had been poured out. The apostles were declaring the mighty works of God. God had put his Holy Spirit on all of his people, and all of his people, young and old, male and female, rich and slave, were prophesying. They were speaking on behalf of God to people.

So in the most broad sense, whenever we speak to people on behalf of God, whenever we call people to repentance and faith in Jesus, whenever we bring light to those in darkness, whenever we declare forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are prophesying.

The best way to understand what Paul means by prophesying in this verse is to look in the immediate context. What does he say about prophecy in this chapter and in chapter 14 that helps us understand what he is talking about?

14:3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

We can learn from this that prophesy is a speaking ministry. A prophet speaks to people. The goal of the prophet’s speaking is upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation. We can learn from 14:24-25 that if everyone prophesied in church, an unbeliever would be convicted, called to account, his heart would be laid bare, and he would worship God, recognizing that God is among us. So one effect of prophetic speech is conviction of sin and belief in God. From 14:29 we see that the speech of prophets bring about learning and encouragement to everyone. In 14:1 and 39 we see Paul encouraging all the believers in the church to desire to prophesy. In 14:29, the content of what is prophesied must be tested and weighed by the other believers (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21), and in 14:37 the one who claims to be a prophet must acknowledge the superiority of apostolic teaching over his prophecy.

So prophecy is inferior to apostolic teaching and must be evaluated, it is speech that brings about conviction of sin and faith in God, upbuilding, learning, encouragement, and consolation.

Third Teachers

28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,

Jesus was often addressed with the title ‘teacher’.

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

Jesus said:

Luke 6:40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

A teacher makes disciples, followers or learners, who can then in turn teach others. Paul exhorted Timothy to

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

In Ephesians 4, Paul lists the gifts Christ gives to his church.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

In Ephesians 4, Paul adds evangelists to the list, and couples teachers with pastors or shepherds. All these gifts are given for equipping, for building, for unity, for maturity, for protection against false teaching.

While every part is essential to the healthy functioning of the body, and while no part is sufficient on its own, Paul gives priority to the gifts that build up the body through the ministry of the word. Where the Corinthians were fixated on the more sensational spectacular gifts, Paul highlights the despised and rejected, the seemingly foolish and ordinary things like preaching and teaching, things that point away from themselves to Jesus, and gives them special honor.

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

October 5, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 9:1-14; kNOw your Rights!

03/09 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 kNOw Your Rights!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140309_1cor9_1-14.mp3

1 Corinthians 9 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐλεύθερος; οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος; οὐχὶ Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἑόρακα; οὐ τὸ ἔργον μου ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ; 2 εἰ ἄλλοις οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος, ἀλλά γε ὑμῖν εἰμι, ἡ γὰρ σφραγίς μου τῆς ἀποστολῆς ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ. 3 Ἡ ἐμὴ ἀπολογία τοῖς ἐμὲ ἀνακρίνουσίν ἐστιν αὕτη. 4 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν; 5 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν, ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ Κηφᾶς; 6 ἢ μόνος ἐγὼ καὶ Βαρναβᾶς οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν μὴ ἐργάζεσθαι; 7 τίς στρατεύεται ἰδίοις ὀψωνίοις ποτέ; τίς φυτεύει ἀμπελῶνα καὶ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἐσθίει; τίς ποιμαίνει ποίμνην καὶ ἐκ τοῦ γάλακτος τῆς ποίμνης οὐκ ἐσθίει; 8 Μὴ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ταῦτα λαλῶ ἢ καὶ ὁ νόμος ταῦτα οὐ λέγει; 9 ἐν γὰρ τῷ Μωϋσέως νόμῳ γέγραπται· Οὐ κημώσεις βοῦν ἀλοῶντα. μὴ τῶν βοῶν μέλει τῷ θεῷ, 10 ἢ δι’ ἡμᾶς πάντως λέγει; δι’ ἡμᾶς γὰρ ἐγράφη, ὅτι ὀφείλει ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι ὁ ἀροτριῶν ἀροτριᾶν, καὶ ὁ ἀλοῶν ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι τοῦ μετέχειν. 11 εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν τὰ πνευματικὰ ἐσπείραμεν, μέγα εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῶν τὰ σαρκικὰ θερίσομεν; 12 εἰ ἄλλοι τῆς ὑμῶν ἐξουσίας μετέχουσιν, οὐ μᾶλλον ἡμεῖς; Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐχρησάμεθα τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ταύτῃ, ἀλλὰ πάντα στέγομεν ἵνα μή τινα ἐγκοπὴν δῶμεν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 13 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ τὰ ἱερὰ ἐργαζόμενοι τὰ ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ ἐσθίουσιν, οἱ τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ παρεδρεύοντες τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ συμμερίζονται; 14 οὕτως καὶ ὁ κύριος διέταξεν τοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καταγγέλλουσιν ἐκ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ζῆν.

1 Corinthians 9 [ESV2011]

1 Am I not free? 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. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 9:1-14, Paul overbuilds the case that he as an apostle has the legitimate right to be supported by the churches that he serves. He builds this case so thoroughly that no one would dare to dispute that he has this right. He musters evidence from the example of the other apostles, from the example of basic principles common to all society, from Old Testament law, from the precedent of priestly shares in temple offerings, and from the command of the Lord Jesus himself. He does all this in the context of the Corinthians insisting on their so-called rights that were really not legitimate rights, as he will show in the next chapter. He builds this bulletproof case for his rights so that he can stagger them with the concept that even when you do have legitimate rights, the path of love may be to voluntarily forgo those rights for the good of others.

Paul asks a lot of questions in this section. Rhetorical questions, to which the answers are obvious. He expects his readers to be able to fill in the correct answers and in doing so powerfully affirm his rights. He begins with this: ‘Am I not free?’ Paul is passionate about freedom. He wrote to the churches in Galatia passionately defending the freedom that we have in Christ. He says

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

He will come back to this issue of freedom and how to use it in the second half of this chapter (v.19).

His second question is “Am I not an apostle?” and he follows this with two more questions that affirm his calling as apostle. “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” A primary prerequisite of an apostle, one sent by the Lord Jesus was to have actually seen Jesus. Jesus blinded Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and personally commissioned him to bring the good news about him to the Gentile nations (Acts 26:14-18). “Are you not my workmanship in the Lord?” Paul points to the existence of a church of God in Corinth as evidence of the authenticity of his apostleship. He begins this letter by addressing:

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

And he gives thanks to God

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

The very fact of their existence as followers of Jesus in the pagan city of Corinth is proof positive that Paul was sent by Jesus to bring the good news to the people there. Their existence as believers was dependent on the fact that the apostle Paul preached the good news to them. So he says:

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.

God’s grace was extended to the pagan city of Corinth through Paul, and many who were entrenched in the false beliefs of that culture were supernaturally transformed into Jesus followers through his preaching. Paul claims in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

The church in Corinth was the evidence that Paul was sent out by Jesus. Even if no one else in the whole world acknowledged Paul as an apostle of Jesus, the followers of Jesus in Corinth must acknowledge him. This is his defense to anyone who would challenge his calling.

Apostles’ Rights

Then starting in verse 4 he unleashes a tirade of rhetorical questions defending his rights.

4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Who would deny someone the right to eat and drink? But in the context, he is saying that if someone receives services from someone without paying for those services, that is to deny them the right to eat and drink. In chapter 8 we see that the Corinthians were defending their purported right to participate in idol feasts and eat food sacrificed to idols. Paul asks the question ‘don’t we have the right to eat at all?’ The question here is not food connected with idolatry; the issue here is the right to basic subsistence. Paul has the legitimate right to be compensated from those he serves in preaching the gospel.

That right goes beyond himself.

5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

Paul is not claiming the right to be married. That is a given. When he laid out the advantages of singleness in chapter 7, he was careful to make it clear that marriage is good and a legitimate option. Paul claims here that the church is obligated not only to pay his own personal expenses, but also the expenses of his family if he had one. If he comes to preach the gospel, those to whom he preaches are obligated to provide for his needs and the needs of his wife. He points to the other apostles as examples of this. We don’t know much about the family lives of the other apostles. We are told in the gospels that Peter (or Cephas) had a mother-in-law (Mt.8:14), which would imply that he was married. The brothers of the Lord, James and Joses and Judas and Simon (Mk.6:3) apparently were also married. James, we know from the book of Acts, became a leader in the church in Jerusalem. According to Paul, most of the other apostles and the brothers of Jesus who were serving the church were married, and they and their wives were supported by the churches. For Paul’s original readers, this was common knowledge that did not need to be defended; it was the basis of Paul’s defense of his rights.

6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

Paul is asking if he and Barnabas were the only exceptions to the rule. All the other apostles and leaders of the churches were supported by the churches they served. Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John left their fishing to follow Jesus. Matthew left collecting taxes to follow Jesus. Why were Paul and Barnabas not allowed to stop making tents and be provided for by the churches?

Soldier, Vinedresser, Shepherd

Paul continues to build his case. He asks three more rhetorical questions that point to the normal expectation in society for one’s occupation to provide for one’s own needs.

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

Soldiers don’t go to serve their country and pack a sack lunch for battle. It may be simple and basic, but their needs are taken care of. And in that day, the soldier was entitled to share in the spoils of war. The one who plants the vineyard does so expecting to enjoy the fruit that the vineyard produces. The shepherd who tends the flock enjoys the dairy products that come from the flock. In our day we could ask ‘who goes to work and expects never to get a paycheck?’ This is absurd. A principle so basic and so common sense that someone who works for a living expects to make his living by his work must certainly be applied to someone who gives his life to proclaiming the gospel.

Interestingly, all three of these illustrations, the army, the vine, and the flock are all used in the bible to describe the people of God. The soldier, the vinedresser, and the shepherd or pastor all are occupations used to describe those who are entrusted with the leadership of God’s people. Paul says to the elders in Ephesus:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for (shepherd) the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

And Peter exhorts the elders:

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

In Matthew 20, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to the master of a house who hired laborers for his vineyard. In Matthew 21, he told a parable about a master of a house who planted a vineyard and leased it to those who would tend it, and went on a journey expecting to come back and enjoy its fruits. Jesus said in John 15

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Paul viewed his own work as a field hand. He says in 1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul told Timothy:

1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience….

and

1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In 2 Timothy, he says:

2 Timothy 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

Jude says

Jude 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

His point in all of this is that those who serve as a soldier, those who work in the vineyard, those who tend the flock all expect to have their needs met through that work. How much more those who defend and advance the truth, feed the sheep and tend the branches so they stay connected to the vine and produce fruit?

The Law

Paul moves now from common-sense human illustrations to a biblical defense of his right to make a living by the gospel.

8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

Deuteronomy 25:4 says “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.” Paul takes this and applies it to himself and others who preach the good news. This may seem a bit of a stretch, until we actually turn back to Deuteronomy and find that this one statement about oxen is sandwiched in a whole section where everything else is dealing with protecting the rights of laborers, hired servants, the poor and needy, widows, orphans, foreigners, those in debt and those found guilty of minor offenses, making sure that they are protected, cared for, clothed and fed. In that context, if a beast of burden has the right to eat some of the produce while it is working, how much greater the obligation to care for a human person created in the image of God. Paul takes this scripture and says that it was written for our sake. As Luther said, God did not have this written for oxen because oxen cannot read. This was written for rational humans, because we labor in hope of sharing in the produce. Again, these farming metaphors are directly applicable to gospel ministry. Paul uses this scripture also in 1 Timothy 5 as a basis for caring for those who preach and teach in the church.

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

Paul argues from the greater to the lesser. If an ox is entitled to eat of the good grain that he is threshing, surely he would be entitled to eat of his regular feed. Paul says:

11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

If we have invested in you things of greater eternal value, is it too much to ask that we share in the lesser temporary material benefits?

Galatians 6:6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Paul argues that the Corinthians were financially supporting other workers.

12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

Surely the apostle who brought to them the good news in the first place has a rightful claim to be supported by them. He says in

2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

If he is serving in a church, he has the right to be supported by that church. Paul tips his hand to where he is going with all this talk about his rights. He has not made use of these legitimate rights in order to remove every possible obstacle to the gospel of Christ. The good news message that forgiveness of sins comes through the sacrifice of Jesus to all who believe is primary. If my rights hinder that message in any way, then it is time to forfeit my rights for the sake of the gospel. This is the whole point of this passage. Paul is compounding his defense of the legitimacy of his rights not so that he can finally get what he deserves, but so that he can demonstrate that it is right to surrender your rights out of love for others and for the sake of the gospel.

The Temple

But he is not done yet. He brings up another Old Testament principle and applies it to the New Testament church.

13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul includes a gentle rebuke here. He asks the Corinthians, who claim to know so much ‘do you not know?’ This is something he expects them to know. Numbers 18 outlines in detail the things that were given to those who served in the Old Testament sanctuary. The contributions, the consecrated things, the grain offerings, the sin offerings, the guilt offerings, the wave offerings, the best of the oil, the best of the wine, the grain, the firstfruits, all the devoted things, all the holy contributions, and every tithe were given to those who served in the Lord’s temple as their portion to provide for their needs and the needs of their families. The contributions that came to the Lord in the temple were given to those who served in the temple to free them up to serve. Paul connects this Old Testament practice directly to the New Testament church. He says:

14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

In the same way. Just as the Old Testament priests were cared for by the donations of the people, so those who proclaim the gospel should earn their living by the gospel. This, Paul says, is no less than a command of the Lord Jesus himself.

When Jesus sent out the seventy, in Luke 10,

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, …7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. … (cf. Matthew 10:7-10)

When Jesus sent out the twelve in Matthew 10, he said

Matthew 10:7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.

Jesus sent his followers out without provisions, expecting them to be provided for by those they ministered to. Those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul is free. He is an apostle. He has the right to eat and drink. He has the right not only to have his own needs met, but also the needs of a family through the support of the church. He has the right to stop supporting himself through manual labor and be cared for by the church. Those in common occupations expect to earn a living through their work, how much more those who defend the faith, tend God’s vineyard, and pastor his flock? Those who invest in others eternal good surely have the right to have their temporal needs met. The Scriptures confirm that those who serve God have the right to be provided for thorough the donations of God’s people. The command of the Lord Jesus is that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. And yet in full possession of these inalienable God-given rights, Paul has the radical right to let go of his rights out of love for others and for the sake of the advance of the gospel. 

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

March 9, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Leaders

01/19/14 Church Leaders Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140119_church-leaders.mp3

We have been looking at the church, the assembly of Jesus-followers, the blood-bought possession of our Lord Jesus, those who acknowledge him as King, who proclaim the good news that Jesus was crucified for sinners, those who make disciples, those who gather together to devote themselves to the apostolic teaching, to the fellowship, to remembering Jesus through the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.

We looked at church members; that every believer is a member who belongs to the body of Christ, a body part intended to be a connected, healthy, functioning part of the body, each uniquely equipped and enabled to function as a vital part of the body of Christ.

Today I would like to look at those parts of the church body who have leadership responsibilities. What is the relationship between leaders and the rest of the body, and what are the responsibilities of the body to their leaders? What does God expect of leaders in his church, and what should we expect of them? We will look at a number of biblical passages to piece together what it should look like to be a leader in the church.

Pay Careful Attention

Paul addresses the elders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20. He prepares them for his absence, and charges them:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Feel the weight of responsibility laid on the leadership of the church. Wolves are coming. Fierce wolves who will not spare the flock. The responsibility of the leaders of the church is that of a shepherd with a flock. It is imperative that they be alert, diligently persevering in watchfulness. Pay careful attention. First, pay careful attention to yourselves, because he says that it is from among your own selves that men will arise distorting and dragging disciples away. I must keep vigilant watch first over my own heart so that I am not veering off course. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock. Leaders are to watch over the sheep that have been entrusted to their care. Notice the gravity of this responsibility: care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. If God paid the ultimate price for his church, he would expect us to guard his bride with no less passion and commitment. Notice also where this responsibility comes from. This is no man-made authority; there are no self-appointed leaders. The Holy Spirit has made you overseers. This is a responsibility given by God, and recognized by his church. In this verse we see the care of the triune God for his church. The church was purchased with the blood of the Son, the church belongs to the Father, and the Holy Spirit establishes and enables leaders to care for and protect the church.

Feed my Sheep

After his resurrection, Jesus entrusted Peter with responsibility over the sheep.

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

Notice well, the sheep do not belong to Peter. Jesus claims them as his own. Jesus says they are ‘my sheep, my lambs’. Jesus entrusts Peter with their care; feeding and tending. The leader who loves Jesus first of all will be sure to keep his sheep well fed.

The Priority of Prayer and the Word over Physical Needs

As the early church grew, tension arose between the physical and spiritual needs of the followers of Jesus. Acts 6 records how they addressed some of these issues.

Acts 6:1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

People began to complain, to grumble, to murmur, and the focus of attention of the leaders was being diverted to address their grievances. Notice, by the way, that it was not the widows themselves who were doing the grumbling. Others complained on their behalf. The apostles said ‘it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.’ Pure religion, James tells us, is to visit orphans and widows (James 1:27). But here we see the priority of the spiritual over physical needs. Prayer and the preaching of the word must not be neglected or interrupted. So they appointed deacons to address complaints and meet physical needs, Spirit-filled men, wise men, men of good reputation. This freed the apostles to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

Paul tells Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

Preaching and teaching is hard work. It is critical work. It must be a priority in the church. In 1 Timothy 3, a passage we will look at later that outlines the necessary character of church leadership, Paul refers to “the church of the living God” as “a pillar and buttress of the truth”. Truth must be defined, defended, and held to tenaciously. The word must be taught.

Equipping the Saints

Look with me at Ephesians 4. God poured out his undeserved grace on each part of his body to fulfill the purpose he designed for each one.

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

…11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Here he clearly defines the goal of church leaders. The purpose of gifted leadership in the church body is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Pay close attention to what this is saying: who is doing the work of the ministry? The saints, the body of Christ, every believer is doing the work of the ministry. The work of the ministry is not delegated to a few professionals. The work of the ministry is the work of the body of Christ, functioning together in unity, each member doing its unique part.

By his grace, God has given gifted leadership to his church to equip the saints. The role of leadership is primarily one of equipping. Equipping the saints for the work of ministry. This word means to mend, to restore, to perfect, to fit or frame together, to prepare, to perfectly join together. Equipping for growth in the body, equipping for unity, equipping to know Jesus better, equipping for maturity, equipping in Christ-likeness, equipping to detect and resist false teaching, equipping for love. Equipping for the work of the ministry. Every saint, every follower of Jesus is a minister, called to do the work of the ministry. You and I are ministers, servants, intended to serve others for the glory of Christ. The main purpose of those gifted to lead is to equip every believer for the work that they as a part of the body of Christ are called and gifted to do. Think of this as the base where you are issued equipment, where you assemble for tactical training, where you receive marching orders, where you are prepared to be sent out on mission. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

In 1 Corinthians 14 as Paul lists the gifts, he repeatedly emphasizes that the gifts are given for the building up of the church.

1 Corinthians 14:3 …one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 …one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 … so that the church may be built up. 6 … how will I benefit you …? …12 …strive to excel in building up the church. …17 … but the other person is not being built up. …19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others …26 … Let all things be done for building up. …31 … so that all may learn and all be encouraged, …40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Each part of the body is functioning properly when each part is all about building up the whole body in love.

Selfish Shepherds of Israel

In the Old Testament,God incriminated the selfish leaders of Israel for not doing what they were called to do.

Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Notice on what grounds he accuses these greedy shepherds. They do not feed the sheep. They feed only themselves, they eat the sheep, they use the sheep for their own benefit. They fail to strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strayed, or seek the lost. They have failed to protect the sheep from predators, becoming predators themselves. They rule with force and harshness. God will judge these shepherds. They will be held accountable.

10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

God himself will shepherd his people

11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out … and gather them… And I will feed them … 14 I will feed them with good pasture,… There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. …19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? …22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. …23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. …

27 …And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 … they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, … 30 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.”

God will seek for and rescue, gather and feed, give rest, bind up, strengthen, bring back, deliver, protect.

Servant Leadership

Jesus is the good shepherd. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything a shepherd was meant to be. Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). Jesus instructs his disciples to follow his example.

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

Leadership in the church is not about position or power or prestige. Leadership in the church is not about being served; leadership in the church is defined by self-sacrificial service for the good of others.

Qualifications for Leaders

That is why we find the character qualifications for leadership in Christ’s church.

1 Timothy 3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

In his instructions to Titus, he adds:

Titus 1:7 … He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Leaders in the church must be men of character, men who have proven themselves responsible, men who are sound in doctrine, men who are selfless, eager to serve. Leadership in the church is not at all about what you can get; rather it is all about what you can give.

Shepherd the Flock

Peter says this to the leadership in the churches.

1 Peter 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Peter tells the leaders to shepherd willingly, eagerly, as examples; not under compulsion, not for shameful gain, not in a domineering way.

He tells those who are younger be subject to the elders; and he tells everyone to be clothed with humility toward one another. Church leaders are to shepherd God’s flock as under-shepherds responsible to the chief Shepherd, the one to whom they will ultimately give account.

Obey, Submit to, and Pray for your Leaders

The author of Hebrews gives instruction to the church.

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In this passage he points to the responsibility of the leaders to keep watch over your souls, and he reminds that they will have to give an account. In light of this weight of responsibility of leadership, He commands all of us to be continual in worship, to do good, to share, to obey our leaders, to submit to them, and to pray for them; to make their job pleasant and not painful. He reminds us that God is the great shepherd of the sheep; and God is the one who ultimately will equip you with everything good so that you can do his will. By his unmerited grace, he sees fit to equip the saints for the work of the ministry through the instrumentality of church leaders. God himself is the one who through Jesus Christ will work in each one of us that which is pleasing in his sight. 

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

January 19, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:1-2; The Must of Christian Ministry

07/28 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 The Must of Christian Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130728_1cor4_1-2.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὕτως ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος ὡς ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ καὶ οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων θεοῦ. 2 ὧδε λοιπὸν ζητεῖται ἐν τοῖς οἰκονόμοις ἵνα πιστός τις εὑρεθῇ. 3 ἐμοὶ δὲ εἰς ἐλάχιστόν ἐστιν, ἵνα ὑφ’ ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ ἢ ὑπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας· ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω· 4 οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ σύνοιδα, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι, ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριός ἐστιν. 5 ὥστε μὴ πρὸ καιροῦ τι κρίνετε, ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ κύριος, ὃς καὶ φωτίσει τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῦ σκότους καὶ φανερώσει τὰς βουλὰς τῶν καρδιῶν, καὶ τότε ὁ ἔπαινος γενήσεται ἑκάστῳ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ.

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Paul is correcting the misunderstandings of Christian leadership in the church in Corinth. They viewed Christian leaders as figureheads to rally around. There was quarreling and division, jealousy and strife, each believer identifying himself with one Christian leader over against any other. Paul is eager to correct this misunderstanding. Only Christ was crucified in your place as your substitute, so only Christ deserves your devotion (1:13). No human leader, not Paul, not Apollos, not Cephas, has earned your allegiance. Each of them was sent to preach the gospel, to announce the message of the cross, of Jesus Christ and him crucified. We proclaim the message to everyone, but it is God’s power, God’s choosing, God’s calling that saves. God is the source of life, and we must boast only in God.

Paul has re-framed their thinking about leadership in the church. He has painted himself as a nurse-maid, faithfully feeding the infant believers what they most need to be nourished (3:1-3). He has framed himself and Apollos as fellow field hands, one planting, another watering, each fulfilling his unique role, both looking to God to give the growth (3:5-9). He has illustrated himself as a wise master-builder, having laid the one and only foundation for the church, who is Jesus Christ, and other builders continue to build upon it, and will be held accountable for the quality of their work (3:10-15). At the end of chapter 3, he told the Corinthians that they had it all backward, and they were cutting themselves off from the blessings that belong to them in Christ. The Corinthians were saying ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos’. Instead, Paul and Apollos and Cephas belong to the church, and are given by God to serve them and bless them.

Here in chapter 4, Paul tells them how they should view Christian leaders. He gives them two descriptions of Christian leadership, and one characteristic of Christian leadership, and then he confronts their critical judgmental attitudes with some corrective balance.

Servants of Christ

‘This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ’. We are not apostolic celebrities, to be waved as a banner over your competing ships. We are servants. The word here translated ‘servants’ is different than the word translated ‘servants’ back in 3:5. There, the word was diakonos [διάκονος], from which we get our word ‘deacon’. A deacon was a server or a table waiter. The word here is [ὑπηρέτης] huperetes, literally an under-rower. The word has its origin in Greek military ships, which were propelled by oarsmen who rowed from below the main deck. In the gospels we see this word used most often of guards or officers sent to carry out the orders of a superior. In John 7, the chief priests and Pharisees sent ‘huperetes’ to arrest Jesus. They returned without him, and were asked why they did not carry out their orders. They replied ‘No one ever spoke like this man!’ Jesus uses this term to describe servants who would fight to defend their king (Jn.18:36). Luke uses this word in chapter 4 referring to the synagogue attendant responsible for the care and storage of the scrolls of scripture. In Luke 1:2, he describes the eyewitnesses of Jesus as ‘huperetes’ of the word who delivered them to us. In Acts 13:5, Barnabas’ cousin John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas as an assistant or ‘huperetes’ on their missionary journey, but he later deserted them. In Acts 26:16, Jesus appointed Paul as a ‘huperetes’ and witness of him. This is how Paul says that the believers should consider their Christian leaders, not as the ones in charge on the deck shouting out orders, but as the ones down below, propelling them forward. They don’t act on their own, they are a team, working in unison. They are servants acting under authority. They are officers carrying out the orders of their superior.

Paul is very clear to specify who they report to as servants under authority. They are servants of Christ. They are under the direction of Christ. They will answer only to Jesus for how they carried out their orders. At the end of the last chapter, Paul said to the Corinthians that

1 Corinthians 3:21 …all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours,

Here Paul is careful to clarify. Paul, Apollos and Cephas, apostles and Christian teachers and leaders are given to the church, they belong to the church, they are all given by God to bless the church, but they will not answer to the church. Both the church and her leaders belong to Christ and will answer to Christ. Paul warns Timothy

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Sometimes what the church needs to hear is not what the church wants to hear. There is a dangerous temptation for a church to hire someone who will tell them what they want to hear, someone who won’t challenge or confront or reprove or rebuke or exhort, someone who won’t expose the sin in their hearts and force them to deal with it. There is a deadly desire in ministers to be liked by their people. Don’t say anything that will offend or rock the boat, people won’t like you, and they might even fire you.

The first thing the church needs to understand about her ministers is that they are servants of Christ. They have one Lord and Master, and his name is Jesus. I will not answer to you for how I have served you. I will stand before Jesus and give an account of how I served you.

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

The second thing the church must understand about her ministers is that they are stewards of the mysteries of God. Paul has used this word ‘mystery’ already in this letter,

1 Corinthians 2:7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

Mystery in the New Testament refers to something that had been hidden and undiscoverable, that has now been revealed and made known. Paul claims to communicate the hidden mystery wisdom of God, which he says is “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:2). The message of the Scriptures is that the great King will ultimately triumph over evil and reign in righteousness and justice, but that which was hidden and is now openly proclaimed is that this great King would triumph over evil by stooping to become part of his creation, taking that evil into himself and dying. Jesus, the promised Messiah, crucified in the place of the sinners he came to rescue. The cross is the hidden mystery wisdom of God.

Paul calls himself and all ministers in the church stewards of this gospel message. A steward is a servant who was entrusted with the management of household affairs. Jesus helps us understand what this steward or household manager was.

Luke 12:42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

The household manager was a servant appointed to oversee the preservation and expansion of the estate, including the care and supervision of the other servants. Paul says that is how you should view leaders in the churches. Fellow-servants entrusted with a greater burden of responsibility. This is how one should regard us, stewards or household managers of the mysteries of God. We are custodians of the gospel message. We have been entrusted with the preservation and expansion of the kingdom of God, which advances through the proclamation of the good news, good news that the King was crucified to bring the rebels home.

It is clear that even an apostle, even an angel is not at liberty to change the gospel message in any way. Paul uses the strongest possible language to make this point in Galatians 1

Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

The second thing the church must understand about her ministers is that they are entrusted with the preservation of the gospel message. It is absolutely critical that we cling tenaciously to the historic gospel message once for all delivered to the saints (Jude3);

1 Corinthians 15:3 …that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

We must add nothing to it, we must take nothing away from it. We are not authorized to alter it in any way. We have received it; we must hold fast to it, we must stand firm in it, we are being saved by it.

The Requirement of Faithfulness

1 Corinthians 4:1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

A Christian leader, an under-rower of Christ, a household manager, entrusted with the care of the gospel message, must be trustworthy. This is the one absolutely critical characteristic of Christian leadership. It says nothing about being smart or good looking or persuasive, a good communicator, with good people skills, able to make great decisions, raise money, or manage people well. Those may all be helpful, but without faithfulness, they are worthless. The one characteristic that Paul tells young pastor Timothy to look for when passing on the gospel message is faithfulness.

2 Timothy 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Someone entrusted to guard the gospel must be trustworthy. He must be faithful; he will do what he said he would do. You can believe him, depend on him, count on him, rely on him, trust him.

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful…

God is the ultimate standard of faithfulness. God is worthy of our trust, our belief, he will always do what he said he would do. God is faithful to himself and to his promises. Christian leaders must reflect God’s character of faithfulness.

Jesus repeatedly highlights the importance of faithfulness in those who would be entrusted with responsibility.

Luke 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Faithfulness is a character trait that does not increase with the size of the responsibility. Many people feel that they can be irresponsible with the little things, but if only they were trusted with something really important, they would rise to the occasion. It simply doesn’t work that way. A faithful person will be faithful with a very little or with much.

Jesus goes on to say that faithfulness is knowing who your master is. In order to be found faithful, you need to know who you are being faithful to. Your allegiance must be clear. A Christian leader cannot serve both God and his people. He can serve God by serving his people well, but he must know who his true master is. When a conflict of interest comes, and it will come, it must be resolved which is the one master. As Paul says in Galatians:

Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

If a minister or leader wants most of all to please his people, he will end up being unfaithful to God and harming his people. But if he has determined to be relentlessly faithful to God and his word, he may deeply hurt and offend his people as he speaks the truth in love, but as the Proverb says:

Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Every Christian, and especially Christian leaders are under-rowers, sent to carry out the orders of our superior, who is Christ. We must have no question who our master is. We are household managers, custodians of the gospel, the message of Christ crucified for sinners. As stewards of this most important of all messages, it is essential that we be found faithful. We must faithfully obey our one master, Christ, and we must faithfully cling to the one message, the message of the cross.

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

July 28, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 5:1-4; God’s Under-Shepherds

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090705_1peter5_1-4.mp3

0705 1 Peter 5:1-4 God’s Under-Shepherds

4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.

Peter is writing to the suffering saints in Asia Minor. He encourages us not to ‘be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice…’ He tells us that when we suffer for the name of Christ, we bring glory to God. And he tells us that God’s judgment is ready to be unleashed on the unbelieving world. But when God’s judgment comes, he begins by cleansing his own house; his own people. We saw this when we looked back at some Old Testament passages like Ezekiel 9

Ezekiel 9:5 And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house.

So Peter warns his readers that judgment is coming and exhorts us to self-examination.

1Corinthians 11:31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

God’s judgment is coming on the world, and God’s disciplinary judgment has already begun in the suffering of his people. If God’s judgment begins with his own house, particularly with the leaders of his people, that’s where Peter starts. Peter addresses the elders and exhorts them to shepherd in a godly way.

This is an awkward passage to teach from. As I teach God’s word, I am obliged to find truth that applies to every person who hears. But not every person is called to lead God’s people. So this morning you all get to listen in on a private exhortation to leaders in God’s church. And as a leader in God’s church, I am acutely aware of my own shortcomings and inadequacies and how desperately I am in need of God’s mercy and grace. I am deeply challenged by this passage to be a better shepherd of God’s people. So for me today, this is awkward and humbling, and I feel vulnerable. But that is meant to be. That is built in to the passage. God intended it to be so. Put yourself for a minute into a first century group of believers gathering in Asia Minor for worship, teaching, prayer, and communion. One of the elders addresses the group and announces that we have received correspondence from the Apostle Peter, who we have heard has been imprisoned in Rome under the emperor Nero. The letter is addressed ‘to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythinia’. This is a circular letter, intended to be read to all the believers in all the churches in this diverse geographic region. The letter would be read aloud to the entire group. There was no separate sealed envelope containing this paragraph to be read behind closed doors of a board meeting somewhere. If an elder was know in the congregation as pushy and domineering, he would have to read this aloud to the people he was lording it over; if a leader was living large at the expense of his people, he would be publicly rebuked by the Apostle Peter; if he was leading with a grudging heart rather than joyfully, he would be publicly exhorted to lead as God would lead. So from this passage we see that God has designed that there be godly leadership in his church. It is not anarchy and the church is not a democracy. Jesus Christ rules over his church. And he has appointed leadership under him to care for the church. But there is some healthy public accountability built in to that leadership.

Before we dive into the text, we need to have a Greek vocabulary lesson. There are some terms we need to be familiar with to help us understand this passage.

The first term is ‘elders’ (presbuterov) – it’s where we get our English word ‘presbyter’ – this is where the Presbyterian churches take their name. The word itself points to wisdom that comes from age and experience and maturity, hence the translation ‘elder’

The next term is ‘shepherd’ (poimainw) ‘poimano’ – here it’s a verb, derived from the noun ‘shepherd’ (poimhn) ‘poimen’. The Latin translation of this word is ‘pastor’ – which is where we get our word ‘pastor’. The task of the shepherd or pastor is primarily to lead the sheep to food and to guard the sheep from danger.

The third term we need to look at is (episkopew) translated here ‘exercising oversight’. It is the verb form of (episkopov) ‘episcopos’ which came to us through the Vulgar Latin ‘ebiscopos’ as ‘bishop’. This word is where Episcopalians or the Episcopal Church derives its name. The word means ‘to watch over’ or ‘to oversee’; hence our translation ‘exercising oversight’.

So in this one passage (and this is supported by a study of these words in the rest of the New Testament documents), we have lumped together pastors, bishops, and elders. The elders of the church are told to pastor and to bishop or oversee the flock of God that is under their care. Or, dropping the titles, those who have wisdom and maturity and experience are to feed, nurture and protect; they are to supervise, look after and watch over with vigilance and care, God’s sheep. Now, understanding the vocabulary, lets dive in to the passage:

5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Peter comes along side the elders of the church to exhort and encourage them to do what God has called them to do. But Peter doesn’t appeal to his authority as Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather he calls himself a ‘fellow-elder’. Addressing those who hold a leadership role in the church, the Apostle comes along side them as one who together with them also holds a leadership role in the church and will with them give account to the Chief Shepherd and Judge. He further designates himself as ‘a witness of the sufferings of Christ’. That., for Peter must be a vivid and humbling recollection. I was a witness of the sufferings of Christ. I was with him in the garden when he prayed to his Father and sweat great drops of blood. I fell asleep. I was with him there when he was arrested. I pulled out my little sword and mangled a man’s ear. After Jesus repaired the damage and rebuked me, I too ran away and abandoned him. I was there in the courtyard warming myself by the fire while he was being falsely accused and three times I denied that I even knew him. Yes, I am a witness of the sufferings of Christ. But I am also ‘a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed’. Peter claims to presently be a participant in the glory that will be revealed in the future. When Jesus returns in all his glory, Peter is assured fellowship with him in his glory. Peter, as a fellow-elder, as one who witnessed Christ’s sufferings, as one who participates in his future glory, exhorts the elders among the congregations. His exhortation is simple. Shepherd. Shepherd the flock of God. Peter had failed in his devotion to Christ. He didn’t live up to his own expectations. Jesus had called him to make him a fisher of men, but Peter went back to his fishing. Our resurrected Lord met him on the shore, fed him breakfast and spoke to him:

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. …19 … And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

In three different phrases, Jesus commissioned Peter to shepherd his flock. Peter now passes on that exhortation to the elders in the churches – feed the sheep. Shepherd the flock. And we must always keep in mind whose flock it is. Consistently in the bible it is God’s flock, Jesus’ sheep. The lambs do not belong to the elders who are over them. They belong to the Good Shepherd. But what does it mean to shepherd the flock of God? Surely we are not to buy land and graze livestock! Martin Luther put it this way:

Therefore to tend them is nothing else than to preach the Gospel, by which souls are nourished, made fat and fruitful – since the sheep thrive upon the Gospel and the Word of God. This only is the office of a bishop” [Luther, p.205]

Jeremiah confirms that he is on the right track:

Jeremiah 3:15 “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Turn to Ezekiel. God has an extended rebuke to the shepherds of Israel:

Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. 6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. 7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. 11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

The shepherds of Israel are rebuked for not shepherding rightly. From this passage we get a clearer picture of what God expects from his shepherds. Shepherds are to feed the sheep, strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strayed, seek the lost, protect from danger, keep the flock together. Peter gives the clear instruction; Shepherd the flock of God exercising oversight. That is the task. But successful completion of the task is not all that is required of elders. The attitude and motive with which they go about the task is also mandated. Motive matters to God. Attitude matters. Peter gives a list of three negative / positive contrasts to paint the picture of what is expected. Not this, but this; not this, but this; not this, but this.

The first contrast is ‘not under compulsion, but willingly’. We are not to have an attitude of grudging obligation and duty bound faithfulness. Instead, the service that God desires is willing voluntary service. Not because I must, but because I get to; not because I am required but because I choose to. What a supreme honor, to be entrusted by the Chief Shepherd with the oversight and care of his own sheep! The church of God is in need of happy pastors in glad service to the King. Peter qualifies this with the phrase ‘as God would have you’. In the original that is just two words ‘according to God; as God; or like God’. As God is not under compulsion to care for us, but rather willingly and freely chooses to shepherd us and serve us, so we must reflect his glad-hearted service as we care for his sheep.

The next contrast is ‘not for shameful gain, but eagerly’. The motive for service is questioned. Why go into pastoral ministry? It’s a respectable way to make a living. There’s money to be had selling books and videos and holy handkerchiefs. Send your money to me and God will bless you and cause you to prosper. Send lots of money and God will bless you more. Support my ministry and God will heal you.

The bible is clear that ‘the laborer deserves his wages’ (Lk.10:7; 1Tim5:17-18) ‘especially those who labor in preaching and teaching’, but this is why part of the qualification for leadership is ‘not greedy for gain’ (Titus 1:7). Money must not be the motive for service. The contrasting attitude to being motivated by shameful gain is ‘eagerly’ – with passion, fervor, enthusiasm, zeal. God would have passionate preachers not calculating preachers. The problem with calculating preachers is the content is controlled by the motive for money. Don’t teach that – that would offend the biggest givers. Passionate preachers, teachers who have a zeal for God and his truth will get themselves fired for speaking the truth – because they are more concerned about what God thinks than whether the paycheck keeps coming.

The third contrast is ‘not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock’. This is exactly what Jesus taught:

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

Shepherds do not drive the sheep. They walk ahead and call the sheep to follow. We are talking about leadership positions in the church – Pastors, elders, overseers. There is real authority in those offices. There is authority to direct and authority to discipline. But the authority to lead is authority to keep safe from danger and lead to green pastures. The authority to discipline is authority to serve the stray by bringing back into the fold. Jesus was the ultimate example of servant leadership. Peter tells us that we must model for the people what we would have them do. Leaders must serve the people so that the people will in turn serve one another.

Shepherd, exercising oversight not under compulsion, not for shameful gain, not domineering, but rather shepherd willingly, eagerly, living as an example for the flock to follow.

Now that Peter has given us the charge and clarified what it does and does not look like, he gives us the true motive for shepherding. Shepherding can be thankless, emotionally draining, painful, hard work. Overseeing a persecuted church can be dangerous, even life threatening. Peter tells us that it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God, and James tells us that ‘we who teach will be judged with greater strictness’ (James 3:1). So why do it? Who wants that? Here is the motive:

4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

The motive for faithful shepherding is the appearance of the chief Shepherd. Jesus is coming, and he will reward faithful service. This is amazing, because any service that is faithful is because of his grace, which is why the crowns of glory we receive will go right back to his feet and redound to his glory. At the end of the day, every pastor has much more in common with the sheep than the Shepherd. Leaders by nature are sheep. And all we like sheep have gone astray. But by his grace, he gives some sheep the privilege of caring for and serving other sheep. And by his grace, he enables faithful service. And in the abundance of his grace, he rewards the service he enables.

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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

July 5, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment