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1 Corinthians 15:12-19; Objective Truth

04/19 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Objective Truth; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150419_1cor15_12-19.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

12 Εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς κηρύσσεται ὅτι ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται, πῶς λέγουσιν ἐν ὑμῖν τινες ὅτι ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν; 13 εἰ δὲ ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 14 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, κενὸν ἄρα τὸ κήρυγμα ἡμῶν, κενὴ καὶ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, 15 εὑρισκόμεθα δὲ καὶ ψευδομάρτυρες τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι ἐμαρτυρήσαμεν κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι ἤγειρεν τὸν Χριστόν, ὃν οὐκ ἤγειρεν εἴπερ ἄρα νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται. 16 εἰ γὰρ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 17 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, ματαία ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, ἔτι ἐστὲ ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν. 18 ἄρα καὶ οἱ κοιμηθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ ἀπώλοντο. 19 εἰ ἐν τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ ἐν Χριστῷ ἠλπικότες ἐσμὲν μόνον, ἐλεεινότεροι πάντων ἀνθρώπων ἐσμέν.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: 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 to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I have recently talked to two different people who said very nearly the same thing. What they said went something like this. It doesn’t really matter what you believe or what faith you belong to, as long as you believe it and live by it and you are a better person for it. If everybody would really live and truly follow what they believe, we all would be better for it, and the world would be a better place. It doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as whatever you believe makes you a better person.

This is appealing, this sounds inclusive, and there is even an element of truth to it. If the common denominator of all belief systems were love and being nice, that would make for a much more pleasant and peaceful coexistence on the planet. A major problem with this way of thinking is that this is simply not true. Many belief systems are openly hostile and hateful toward others who do not embrace their teachings. But even if it were true, this is a view that is limited to this life only. If life on this planet is all there is, and whatever you believe helps you to be a better world citizen, then this makes some sense. But if there is a God, and if there is existence beyond death, then it matters a great deal if what you believe is right or wrong, true or false. What if God has a dearly loved Son, whom he sent to die in my place for my sins, and he raised him from the dead as proof that he was who he claimed to be and accomplished what he set out to do, and what if I live a life that is good and I treat others with kindness, but give no regard to God or his Son? It matters not only that what I believe makes me a better person, but that what I believe is true. Really, objectively true.

This is what Paul deals with in our text today. He has built the historical case for the gospel – the good news that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was really and truly dead, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he was really and truly alive, as attested to by many trustworthy eye-witnesses. These are the historical facts with theological meaning. Paul has given us himself as an example of a life radically transformed by the power of God’s resurrecting grace. And now he gives us some logic. He challenges us to use our brains. He reasons with us. He invites us to think clearly and carefully. Ideas have consequences. Some truth claims lead us to conclusions that are contrary to the evidence, so they must not be true. In verse 12, Paul states the problem. In verses 13-15 and in verses 16-18 he lays out two parallel lines of logical reasoning demonstrating by the necessary conclusions that their belief in verse 12 must be false. Then in verse 19, he gives a concluding logical argument.

Problem Stated

1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul has just declared the united preaching of all the apostolic witnesses of the resurrection. So we preached and so you believed. All the eye-witness agree and proclaim Christ as raised from the dead. That is the gospel message that was preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to it, unless you believed in vain. Some in Corinth were questioning the resurrection. It appears they were not specifically doubting the resurrection of Jesus, but rather questioning any kind of physical resurrection at all. Some were saying ‘the dead are not raised’ and ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ What happens when a person dies? We know physiologically, that the body decays, decomposes, is eaten by worms, and returns to dust. But is that all? We know that the Sadducees believed that there is no resurrection, and they came to Jesus with their own logical argument to try to prove the absurdity of the idea of resurrection (Mt.22:23; Mk.12:18; Lk.20:27). There was much in Greek and Roman thought that also doubted the idea of a resurrection. When Paul proclaimed the good news of the resurrection in the Areopagus at Athens, some mocked, but others were curious (Acts17:32). It seems some at Corinth had begun to question and doubt that resurrection was possible. Their issue was not what happens to your soul or spirit or consciousness after you die; their question had to do with what happens to your body. What happens to your person, to all of you? Does your decomposing rotting worm eaten flesh actually come back to life? That sounds impossible, that sounds creepy and gross. Paul challenges the logic of their thinking. If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, then how can you say there is no resurrection of the dead? You can’t have one without the other. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. Christ was one individual who died. If none of the dead are ever raised, then it follows that Christ was not raised, and Paul will now point out the tragic consequences of this idea.

Round One

1 Corinthians 15:13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Paul starts with their premise, that he will restate in verse 16, that ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ If this premise is absolutely true, then it follows that not even Christ has been raised. This leads to three unacceptable consequences.

Consequence one: our preaching is in vain. In verses 8-11, Paul used himself as an example of God’s resurrecting grace at work in someone who was once vehemently opposed to the gospel. If Christ has not been raised, all my missionary labors, all my hardships, all my pain and heartache and sacrifice, all the abuse and persecution I have suffered has been for nothing. It is empty, fruitless, worthless. There was no point. And not only Paul. Stephen had been stoned to death. James had been beheaded. All the preaching of all the eye-witness was empty, vain, useless, for nothing. A complete waste of time and energy and resources. Because if Christ has not been raised then there is no good news to bring, which leads to the second tragic consequence.

Consequence two: your faith is in vain. Paul had cautioned in verse 2 that they not believe in a way that is empty, fruitless, worthless, pointless. He encourages them to receive the gospel, to stand firm in the gospel, to hold fast to the gospel, to be transformed by the gospel. He will encourage them in verse 58 that their labor is not in vain in the Lord. But if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then all their believing, all their standing firm, all their holding fast is in vain. It accomplishes nothing. It is worthless, futile, empty. If Christ is not raised, your belief gets you nothing. Nothing. Zero.

Consequence three: We are shown to be false witnesses.

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, …15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Not only did we who proclaimed the gospel of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus waste our time and accomplish nothing, but worse, we misrepresented God, we bore false testimony about God. We broke the ninth commandment, and probably also the third, to not take the name of the Lord in vain. We bore witness that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead. If it is true, as you say that the dead are not raised, then God did not raise Christ from the dead, and we all, Peter and the twelve, the five hundred, James the Lord’s brother, and all the apostles together are demonstrated to be false witnesses. This is a grave accusation. They apparently did not think through the consequences of their assertions very carefully. Paul challenges them to think.

Round Two

1 Corinthians 15:16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

Paul again revisits their premise, that ‘the dead are not raised,’ and again points them to the necessary logical conclusion that if that is true, not even Christ has been raised, and points them to three more devastating consequences of their truth claim.

Consequence one: Your faith is futile. He is picking up the middle of his first three consequences and fleshing it out. Their believing in vain was sandwiched between the vain preaching and false testimony of the eye-witnesses. Here he uses a synonym to the word ‘vain’ that he used there in verse 14. Worthless, empty, devoid of truth, bringing no results. Your belief in the gospel is futile.

Consequence two: you are still in your sins. This gets to the root of the gospel and the reason for the vain futility of their faith if the resurrection didn’t happen. The good news proclaims that Christ died for our sins. If Jesus claimed to die for our sins, and then he stayed dead, his claim is empty. He didn’t accomplish what he set out to do. Romans 1 tells us that the resurrection validated that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

Romans 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, (cf. Acts 17:31)

And Romans 4 tells us:

Romans 4:25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

If Jesus stayed dead, then he was a fraud and his death accomplished nothing for us. This highlights the absolute centrality and necessity of Jesus. If Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be, as evidenced by the resurrection, then you are still in your sins. There is no other way for sins to be dealt with. Jesus claimed to be the way; the only way to God (Jn. 14:6). If Jesus’ sacrifice was not accepted by the Father, there is no way to be delivered from our sins. We are finally and forever lost. Our salvation, our justification, our forgiveness is contingent on the resurrection.

Consequence three: those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. To fall asleep is a gentle euphemism for the death of a believer. To die is merely to fall asleep, with the confidence that you will wake refreshed. But if the dead are not raised, and the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then those who put their confidence in Christ, those who were depending on Jesus, holding fast to the gospel, they have perished. He is not saying that they simply died and ceased to exist. That is not how Paul uses the word ‘perish’. In chapter 1:18-19, he uses this word to contrast those who are being saved with those who are perishing, who are being completely destroyed, whom God is opposing, shaming, bringing to nothing. God’s justice demands that if our sins are not paid for by another, we will pay for them through eternity.

Conclusion

Paul now brings this part of his argument to a conclusion. If the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised. If Christ is not raised, the gospel is false, preaching is worthless, believing the gospel will profit nothing, you are still in your sins. All we have left then is whatever benefit we have in this life.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

What if it’s not true? What if there is no resurrection? What if the gospel we believed turns out to be a lie? At least we were sincere and it gave us hope and we were better citizens, right? It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere and it makes you a better person, right? Paul’s answer is No! If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. Pathetic. Miserable. Pitiable. How can Paul say this? Isn’t the Christian lifestyle better, even if it is not true? Doesn’t it make you a better person, a better citizen?

Paul does say in 1 Timothy 4:8 that

1 Timothy 4:8 godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come

He exhorts us to be good fathers, husbands, citizens, good employees and employers. But if what we believe is not true, we are pitiable, miserable. Why?

As followers of Jesus, we are to be good citizens and live in submission to the authorities, but we are citizens of a different country and submit first to a higher authority. We are to be good husbands and parents, but we are to be devoted to our first love that takes precedence over all earthly loves. We are to serve our employers well, but all our service answers ultimately to the supreme Master.

Look at Paul, for example. It seems that in almost every city Paul visited a riot broke out. The authorities had to work overtime to try to keep the peace. He often required a military escort and protection. He moved around a lot, sometimes picking up jobs, sometimes taking donations to cover his expenses. He spent a lot of time in prison. Whenever he opened his mouth he was offending someone. Sometimes what he said hurt local businesses and they ran him out of town. He got himself beat up and almost killed on multiple occasions. He was successful in persuading many people to leave their long held religious beliefs and follow his teaching. He stirred things up so much that people were taking vows to assassinate him. Paul the model citizen!

Paul was passionate about one thing; making Jesus known. If the resurrection was not an historical reality, Paul wasted his life. We should feel sorry for him.

What about you? What about me? Do we live this life in such a way that if the resurrection were not true, if Jesus were not who he claimed to be, our lives would be viewed as a colossal waste? Have you sacrificed? Have you suffered for the sake of Christ? Is it true of you that if you have hope in Christ in this life only, you would be of all people most to be pitied? Or is your best life now? Is life comfortable and safe and happy and not too much is risked for the gospel? Do people view you as a good person, a respectable citizen, a responsible neighbor, or do they see a life so transformed by God’s resurrecting grace, so centered on Jesus, that there is tangible evidence that Jesus is really alive today?

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

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April 19, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:8-11; Resurrecting Grace

04/12 1 Corinthians 15:8-11 Resurrecting Grace; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150412_1cor15_8-11.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

8 ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί. 9 ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι ὁ ἐλάχιστος τῶν ἀποστόλων, ὃς οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς καλεῖσθαι ἀπόστολος, διότι ἐδίωξα τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ· 10 χάριτι δὲ θεοῦ εἰμι ὅ εἰμι, καὶ ἡ χάρις αὐτοῦ ἡ εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ κενὴ ἐγενήθη, ἀλλὰ περισσότερον αὐτῶν πάντων ἐκοπίασα, οὐκ ἐγὼ δὲ ἀλλὰ ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ σὺν ἐμοί. 11 εἴτε οὖν ἐγὼ εἴτε ἐκεῖνοι, οὕτως κηρύσσομεν καὶ οὕτως ἐπιστεύσατε.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: 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 to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Paul has made known the gospel, the good news message of Christ crucified for sinners and risen triumphant. This is the powerful resurrection message that transforms sinners into saints, brings life out of death, and makes people new creations in Christ. Paul holds himself out as a caricature, an exaggerated example of the gospel at work in an extreme case. His emphasis is on grace (he uses the word 3 times in verse 10) – God’s startling, unexpected, irrational grace extended toward unworthy recipients at inopportune times. Grace is that which is freely given, lavishly poured out, extravagantly supplied, and it is completely unearned, totally undeserved, absolutely unmerited. The polar opposite of grace is wages, that which I earn, that which I deserve, that which is owed to me. The gospel is all about grace.

Paul could have held up any of the apostles as exhibits of God’s grace. Peter, James, and John, common fishermen, called into the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. Matthew, a despised tax collector, chosen to follow Jesus. Simon, a violent Zealot eager to overthrow Rome with force, called now to lay down his own life in love as part of a different kind of rebellion. He could have pointed to James, one of the Lord’s earthly brothers, who did not believe in Jesus until after the crucifixion, yet the risen Lord appeared to him, and by grace, he became a leader in the Jerusalem church. Each one is a trophy of grace, evidence of God pouring out favor on those who didn’t earn it, transforming broken people and using unlikely instruments to accomplish his good purposes.

Saul

But Paul holds himself up as the extreme example of God’s resurrecting grace at work. He says:

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Paul was called by God to be an apostle. But Paul considers himself least of all the apostles. He considers himself unworthy to be numbered among the apostles. And that is the definition of grace; a good gift extended to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Grace and unworthy go together. They must be kept together. God doesn’t give grace to those who think they deserve it. But if we could rank unworthiness on a scale, Paul was at the extreme end of unworthy. Paul was formerly called Saul, and he was present when Stephen preached the good news about Jesus, and, we are told:

Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Saul took pleasure in the execution of this godly man. Saul was ravaging the church. The persecution became so severe that the believers fled Jerusalem and scattered into the surrounding areas. But Saul was not content to drive them out of Jerusalem. He intended single-handed to extinguish this faith in Jesus from the earth.

Acts 9:1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Saul was seething with rage and malice toward the followers of Jesus. His was not just a passive feeling of hostility; he was actively creating opportunities to carry out evil against Jesus’ disciples. He obtained authority to pursue the scattered believers into the surrounding regions, even past the borders of Israel, far north, about 135 miles, to Damascus in Syria.

When he was interrupted on his way to Damascus, Jesus asked him “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

Paul describes himself in 1 Timothy as formerly a ‘blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent”

1 Timothy 1:14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

He refers to himself as the chief or foremost or most prominent of all sinners, the worst of the worst, completely unworthy of any kindness from God. Given the opportunity, it seems, Saul would have gladly taken the crown of thorns from the soldier’s hands and beat it into Jesus’ skull himself, spitting in his face.

An Abortion [εκτρωματι]

Paul describes his conversion on the Damascus road this way:

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

The word translated ‘to one untimely born’ could more literally be translated a miscarriage or an aborted fetus. This word is used in Numbers 12:12, Job 3:16 and Ecclesiastes 6:3 of a stillborn child.

We see this imagery in Ezekiel 16, addressed to Jerusalem, vividly describing the unworthiness of God’s chosen people.

Ezekiel 16:4 And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. 6 “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’

I don’t think there is a more startling or graphic picture of helplessness and hopelessness than this. This is Paul’s view of himself. When Jesus appeared to him, he compares himself to a discarded abortion, wallowing in his own blood. God called him when he was helpless and hopeless, hostile toward God, dead in his trespasses and sins.

Our Condition

I think Paul means for us to recoil at the thought, to be amazed by God’s grace, and then to identify with him. What a grotesque image, an aborted fetus, rejected, discarded, wallowing in its blood. Helpless, far beyond all hope. A blasphemer, persecutor, insolent opponent, breathing threats and murder against the disciples, ravaging the church. Why? Why extend grace to this one? What amazing grace that saved a wretch like …Saul. This is the way Paul describes his own condition, but this is also the way he describes our condition. We need to see ourselves in this light. He says in Colossians:

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

He says in Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

This is free, sovereign, undeserved, resurrecting grace. This is immeasurable riches of grace. We, we who were dead were made alive with him. I was utterly helpless, beyond all hope, hostile toward God, entirely self-focused. When he saw me wallowing in my blood he said ‘live!’ I was dead in my trespasses, and he said ‘Live!’ He spoke life into me, he made me alive, he raised me up, he seated me with his beloved Son. He demonstrated immeasurable riches of grace to an utterly unworthy sinner.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

He caused us to be born again. He poured out unmerited resurrecting grace on a wretch like me.

Grace, Grace, Grace

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am,

God’s unmerited grace came to Saul and said ‘Live!’ and Saul, although last of all the apostles, least of all the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, by God’s irrational grace, he is made eyewitness to the resurrected Lord, apostle to the Gentiles. Anything good he is, he is by God’s grace. He is alive because of grace. He was confronted with his own sinfulness by grace. He turned to Jesus by grace. He became a follower by grace. He was appointed to serve by grace.

Ephesians 3:7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

This was all of grace. Paul acknowledges his entire and absolute dependence on God’s grace. Nothing was earned. Nothing deserved. All was freely given to him by grace.

Grace Works

Paul goes on to say that, although he did nothing to work for that grace, that grace was hard at work in him.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them,

God’s grace was not in vain. It was not empty, fruitless, or without effect. God’s grace produced results. It produced fruit. Unlike Jerusalem in Ezekiel 16, where God’s grace brought life, and cared for an nurtured, and made her his own, provided for her needs, but she became unfaithful to him. In Paul, God’s grace was effective. He worked harder than any of them. Paul is comparing himself to the other apostles. I think he is saying, ‘I worked harder than all twelve of them put together.’ And what we see in the record of Acts bears this out. Paul proclaimed Jesus in Damascus, Jerusalem, Tarsus, Caesarea, Syrian Antioch, Seleucia, Cyprus, Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Attalia, Troas, Neapolis, Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Cenchrea, Ephesus, Assos, Mitylene, Trogyllium, Miletus, Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Antipatris, Sidon, Myra, Fair Havens, Malta, Syracuse, Rhegium, Puteoli, Appian Way, Nicopolis, and Rome. 2 years after writing 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, stating:

Romans 15:15 …because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles … 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, … 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Paul brought the gospel to the provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia, and by 57 AD he considered the evangelization of the Agean lands complete. His ambition was to visit Rome briefly and then to travel on to Spain!

In 2 Corinthians Paul catalogs the hardships he faced in service to Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul could rightly boast ‘I worked harder than them all,’ but he is quick to clarify:

1 Corinthians 15:10…though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Everything I accomplished for the cause of Christ was not me. It was God’s grace. God’s grace accomplished it all through me. Paul gives all credit to God for every accomplishment.

Romans 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me

This is the way he talked in the book of Acts.

Acts 15:12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

Acts 21:19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

Notice, it is all the things God has done. Christ has accomplished. He had already told the Corinthians:

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

God, by his grace, accomplishes his good purposes through us. Paul teaches the Philippians:

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

God is at work in you. You are his workmanship. He works in you to will. If you want to do great things for God, God worked that desire in you. If you have an unstoppable passion to preach the gospel from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, and then in Rome and on to Spain, that is grace. God worked that desire in you. If you carry it out, that is God’s grace, God working in you to work for his good pleasure.

This is how Paul describes his ministry in Colossians:

Colossians 1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Paul labors, he agonizes, he is wearied from the work, but it is God’s energy that is energizing him in power. God’s grace is at work in him.

Peter says it this way:

1 Peter 4:11 …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus said it this way:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How do you let your light shine? Where did you get the light? It was a gift! How do you do good works? God’s grace is working in you! Then God gets the glory for your good works, because God’s grace has become effective in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

All of Grace

It is by unmerited grace that I am forgiven, purchased, redeemed, made clean and set apart for his use. It is by undeserved grace that I am given grace gifts with which to serve others. It is God’s powerful resurrecting grace that is at work in me that supplies both the desire and the energy to use those gifts in service to others for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

So we preached so you believed. This gracious message, that Christ died for our sins, and that he was really and truly dead; that he was raised from the dead and he is really and truly alive, this undeserved gift to unworthy recipients, this transforming message that is at work in me healing my deepest hurts and mending what is broken in me, making me useful for the glory of God in the earth, this is the unanimous voice of apostolic witness on content of gospel. It really doesn’t matter who preached it, Paul or Peter or James or Matthew or Thomas, we all preach one message, that Christ died for our sins according to scriptures and that he was raised. This is what we preached, and this is what you believed. This is what you are trusting in, clinging to, being transformed by. This is a message of resurrecting grace.

Have you believed? Do you see yourself as utterly helpless and hopeless, dead in your trespasses and sins? Do you believe that God took action when you were unworthy and could contribute nothing? That God provided everything necessary in Christ for you? That he gives it freely to you as a gift? That he takes you to be his by grace, and that he enables you by his grace to be pleasing to him? Is his resurrecting grace at work in you?

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

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

1 Corinthians 7:10-16; Marriage and Divorce

11/17 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 Marriage and Divorce; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131117_1cor7_10-16.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

10 Τοῖς δὲ γεγαμηκόσινπαραγγέλλω, οὐκ ἐγὼ ἀλλὰ ὁ κύριος, γυναῖκα ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς μὴ χωρισθῆναι —11 ἐὰν δὲ καὶ χωρισθῇ, μενέτω ἄγαμοςἢ τῷ ἀνδρὶ καταλλαγήτω — καὶ ἄνδρα γυναῖκα μὴ ἀφιέναι.12 Τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖςλέγω ἐγώ, οὐχ ὁ κύριος· εἴ τις ἀδελφὸς γυναῖκα ἔχει ἄπιστον, καὶ αὕτη συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτοῦ, μὴ ἀφιέτω αὐτήν·13 καὶ γυνὴ εἴ τις ἔχει ἄνδρα ἄπιστον, καὶ οὗτος συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτῆς, μὴ ἀφιέτω τὸν ἄνδρα.14 ἡγίασται γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ ὁ ἄπιστος ἐν τῇ γυναικί, καὶ ἡγίασται ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄπιστος ἐν τῷ ἀδελφῷ· ἐπεὶ ἄρα τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν ἀκάθαρτά ἐστιν, νῦν δὲ ἅγιά ἐστιν.15 εἰ δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος χωρίζεται, χωριζέσθω· οὐ δεδούλωται ὁ ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἡ ἀδελφὴ ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις, ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ κέκληκεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θεός.16 τί γὰρ οἶδας, γύναι, εἰ τὸν ἄνδρα σώσεις; ἢ τί οἶδας, ἄνερ, εἰ τὴν γυναῖκα σώσεις;

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband11 (but if she does, she should remainunmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Today we find ourselves in a challenging passage of 1 Corinthians. Paul is answering questions he had received from his church plant in Corinth. The verses we are studying address issues of marriage, divorce, and re-marriage. There was a teaching that had become popular in Corinth that Paul refers to in verse 1; “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. Paul, as a good shepherd, responds ‘it depends’.

In verses 2-5 he addresses married people, and he says that if you are married, it is good for you to enjoy sexual intimacy. Coming to Christ does not mean that you abandon your existing relationships in a pursuit for greater spirituality. In fact, depriving one another within marriage is sin.

In verses 6-7 he holds up his desire that, in light of the present distress, all would be content in singleness with its advantages for gospel ministry that he will outline later in this chapter. But he acknowledges that not all have received the same gifting, and God’s gifting is decisive rather than his preference.

In verses 8-9 he addresses the unmarried and widows. He may have in mind specifically widows and widowers, or he may be addressing more broadly those who are presently not married, whether single, widowed or divorced. His advice to them is that it is good to remain as they are, but if they are not gifted for celibacy then they must marry.

In verses 10-11 he addresses the married, specifically marriages where both husband and wife are believers.

In verses 12-16 he addresses another category of married people, those marriages where the husband or wife has come to Christ, but the spouse has not.

In verse 25 and following he will take up issues concerning virgins, those who have never married.

The Teaching of the Lord and of Paul

Let’s look at what Paul has to say to believers who are married to believers.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

We know that he is addressing marriages where both husband and wife are believers in these verses, because in the next verse, he addresses a different group (the rest), specifically those who are married to an unbeliever.

He differentiates his instructions to the two groups by saying to the first that the charge comes not from him but from the Lord; where to the rest he says ‘I, not the Lord’. It is very important that we do not misunderstand what he is saying. Down in verse 25 he will say:

1 Corinthians 7:25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

Some have wrongly interpreted these statements to mean that Paul is differentiating between divine revelation and his own personal opinion, between inspired and uninspired Scripture. There is no such thing as uninspired Scripture! All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. As God’s word, all Scripture is authoritative. Paul, as an apostle of our Lord Jesus, was commissioned by our Lord Jesus to instruct his church, and what Paul, controlled by the Holy Spirit, taught was no less authoritative than what Jesus himself taught. Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16) categorizes Paul’s letters as Scripture. In verse 17, Paul will say of his instructions:

1 Corinthians 7:17 …This is my rule in all the churches.

Jesus’ teaching is authoritative in all the churches. Paul’s teaching is also authoritative in all the churches. What he is doing is simply distinguishing between things that Jesus himself spoke to directly, and things that Jesus did not speak to, but by the Holy Spirit equipped his Apostles to address. At the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians, the gospels had not yet been compiled, but there was a body of memorized sayings of Jesus that the churches held dear, to which Paul would be referring here.

The Command of the Lord to the Married

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Paul is saying, in the context of the question of the Corinthians about it being good for a man not to touch a woman, that his command, based on Jesus’ own command was that the wife should not separate from her husband and the husband should not divorce his wife. It is not spiritual for a husband and wife to abstain from sexual intimacy in marriage, and it is not spiritual for them to terminate the marriage by separation or divorce. To do so would be to disobey the clear command of Jesus. Jesus’ clearly brought us back to the original intent of marriage as one man and one woman made one flesh by God for life. Jesus taught:

Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (cf. Mark 10:8-9)

Jesus taught that divorce was allowed and regulated because of the hardness of our hearts (Mt.19:8; Mk.10:5). Sadly, that hardness of heart still exists. Paul is aware that wrongful divorce among believers does happen. His instruction to believers divorced from believers is clear. Remain unmarried or be reconciled. The background for Jesus’ teaching is Deuteronomy 24. This is the passage the Pharisees appealed to as their scriptural basis for divorce. It will be helpful to look back at that passage to help us understand the context of Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching.

Deuteronomy 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Much of the debate in Jesus’ day revolved around the meaning of the phrase ‘some indecency’. The rabbi Shammai taught that ‘some indecency’ was limited to fornication or immorality. That is the only legitimate ground for divorce. The rabbi Hillel, on the other hand, taught that ‘some indecency’ meant that a man could divorce his wife for anything that displeased him, like if she burned his meal or if he found another woman more attractive than his wife (Adams, p.64). Rabbi Hillel with his broad understanding of ‘some indecency’ was closer to the actual meaning of the phrase. In the chapter immediately preceding, instructions are given to the Israelites to go outside the camp and bury their excrement, so that the Lord would “not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you” (Deut.23:14). This is the same phrase used in chapter 24 of the grounds used for divorce. So the immediate context demonstrates that ‘some indecency’ is much wider than sexual immorality. But both of these rabbis and their schools of thought missed the point. Deuteronomy 24 is not about what constitutes legitimate grounds for divorce, but rather regulates a current practice that was out of control for the protection of the woman. If a man divorced his wife for ‘some indecency’ and she remarried, he could never have her back again, even if her second husband died. Protection and restraints are put in place because of the hardness of human hearts. The passage says that she is defiled by the second marriage, which implies that the reason for the divorce was not legitimate. This fits Jesus comments on this passage in the gospels.

Jesus’ teaching was that divorce on illegitimate grounds did not free a person for remarriage. He clearly states in the gospels that the husband who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mt.19:9; Mk.10:11; Lk.16:18); the divorcing husband causes the wife to commit adultery (Mt.5:32); that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Mt.5:32; Lk.16:18); that the woman who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mk.10:12). However, in Matthew’s account, Jesus states that the only legitimate exception was sexual immorality, in which case the divorce would be legitimate (5:32; 19:9).

Paul’s reiteration of Jesus’ teaching is crystal clear.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Believers must not divorce. If, due to hardness of heart, they do separate, they have only two options open to them: remain unmarried, or be reconciled to their original spouse. Even in the exceptional case of adultery, (which Paul doesn’t address here) believers are permitted, but never required, to divorce; rather the goal is repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation. Believers have God’s word to guide them, God’s Holy Spirit living inside them, and God’s church to counsel and correct them. They have everything they need to find healing and hope and help for difficult circumstances and broken relationships. Because our broken relationship with God was reconciled through the blood of Jesus, we now have access to the power of the gospel to reconcile our relationships with one another.

Remain with the Unbelieving Spouse

Paul goes on to address a situation created by the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. As the good news penetrates the darkness of this world, it reaches into homes. Sometimes a husband and wife will hear the gospel and they will both reject it. Sometimes they will both embrace the gospel and together become followers of Jesus. But sometimes one will reject the gospel and one will become a follower of Jesus. What is to be done in these situations? It seems the counsel in Corinth was ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’. If the higher spirituality was celibacy, and even married believers were being encouraged to abstain or divorce, then for a believer to have intimacy with an unbeliever would certainly defile them. In chapter 6, Paul warned against a believer joining with a prostitute.

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

Paul will warn in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This clearly forbids a believer from entering into a marriage relationship with an unbeliever, or even dating an unbeliever. But if we apply this to existing marriages where one spouse becomes a follower of Jesus and the other does not, we might wrongly conclude that the best thing for the believer to do is to terminate the marriage. This is not Paul’s counsel. Instead he says, if possible, remain as you are.

1 Corinthians 7:12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

The gospel transforms us. A believer is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come. New ways of thinking and feeling and acting. A new heart, new desires. New convictions. This total transformation can cause tension in a marriage. The believer is never to sin, compromise conduct or violate conscience to keep a marriage together. However, the believer is never to use the gospel as an excuse to get out of a marriage. If the unbeliever is willing to put up with the gospel transformation in their spouse, and consents to continue the marriage, the marriage must continue. Paul’s reason goes like this:

Because They are Made Holy

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

This seems confusing at first read. We know that salvation is not transmitted from one person to another. Christianity is not genetic. A child is not a Christian because he is born to Christian parents. A child becomes a Christian when he puts his faith in Jesus and becomes a follower of Jesus. A husband does not become a Christian because his wife converts to Christianity. He must himself trust Jesus and be born again. If we read ahead it becomes clear that Paul is not talking about salvation here. In verse 16 he asks:

1 Corinthians 7:16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So the salvation of the spouse is desired, but in no way assured. The holiness he is talking about is not the holiness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. This holiness is holiness in the sense of ceremonial cleanness or uncleanness. In the Levitical laws, if an Israelite, who is part of God’s people, came in contact with a dead body, they would become unclean (or contaminated), and they would have to go through the appropriate process to become clean or holy again (Lev.21:1). The thinking would go like this: If I, a believer who has been cleansed by the blood of Christ, come into intimate contact with my unbelieving spouse, whom the Bible says is dead in their trespasses and sins, wouldn’t I become contaminated or defiled? No, Paul says, it is more like the altar in the tabernacle; whatever touched the altar became holy or set apart to God (Ex.29:37). He uses children as an example. If your children have not yet become followers of Jesus, do you cut off relationship with your unbelieving children because they may contaminate you? Or do you invest in them with the longing to see them become followers of Jesus? How much more should you invest in your unbelieving spouse! Because of their relationship with you, they are set apart, and God is at work! Peter gives instruction to wives with unbelieving husbands.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

If the Unbelieving Spouse Separates

Paul’s instruction to those with an unbelieving spouse is ‘if at all possible, remain as you are’. But that is not always possible.

15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So here Paul deals with real life situations. The believing spouse is to do everything in his or her power to make the marriage work, short of sinning. But in this case both parties do not have everything they need to resolve difficulties. The unbeliever may not be willing to listen to the word of God or the counsel of the church, and the unbeliever does not have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work within. The unbeliever may choose to end the marriage. In this case, Paul commands the believer to cooperate with the divorce. In this situation, the believer is not enslaved. This would imply that the divorce is legitimate and the believer now has the freedom to marry a believer. This does not mean that they should remarry, but only that they may. Paul’s counsel in this entire chapter is that, if possible, it is best to remain as you are. His instruction to the separated believers in verse 11, that they must remain unmarried or be reconciled, is not repeated here. Instead he says that the believer divorced from the unbeliever is not enslaved. Paul has told us that this new situation is outside the scope of Jesus’ teaching on divorce in the gospels. His instructions are an application of the principle of peace found in Romans.

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

If you are married to an unbeliever and they are willing to live at peace with you, then stay. If they are hostile toward you and toward the gospel, let them leave.

His last statement brings hope as well as freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? If the unbeliever is willing to stay, they may very well, as Peter indicates, be influenced by the gospel transformation they see in you, and ‘be won without a word’. There is hope. But ultimately there is freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? Salvation is from the Lord. None of us can save anyone. We may be used by God as instruments in the salvation of another, but God alone is the one who saves. We as followers of Jesus are under obligation to live lives consistent with the gospel. We are called to communicate the gospel. But we are not held accountable for anyone’s response to the gospel. And I should not be so arrogant to think that I am the only instrument God has at his disposal to reach any particular lost person. God is in control and I can trust him. 

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

November 17, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:6-9; The Un-Married

11/10 1 Corinthians 7:6-9 The Un-Married;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131110_1cor7_6-9.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατε, καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι· 2 διὰ δὲ τὰς πορνείας ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα ἐχέτω, καὶ ἑκάστη τὸν ἴδιον ἄνδρα ἐχέτω. 3 τῇ γυναικὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἀποδιδότω, ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἡ γυνὴ τῷ ἀνδρί. 4 ἡ γυνὴ τοῦ ἰδίου σώματος οὐκ ἐξουσιάζει ἀλλὰ ὁ ἀνήρ· ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ τοῦ ἰδίου σώματος οὐκ ἐξουσιάζει ἀλλὰ ἡ γυνή. 5 μὴ ἀποστερεῖτε ἀλλήλους, εἰ μήτι ἂν ἐκ συμφώνου πρὸς καιρὸν ἵνα σχολάσητε τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ πάλιν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ἦτε, ἵνα μὴ πειράζῃ ὑμᾶς ὁ Σατανᾶς διὰ τὴν ἀκρασίαν ὑμῶν. 6 τοῦτο δὲ λέγω κατὰ συγγνώμην, οὐ κατ’ ἐπιταγήν. 7 θέλω δὲ πάντας ἀνθρώπους εἶναι ὡς καὶ ἐμαυτόν· ἀλλὰ ἕκαστος ἴδιον ἔχει χάρισμα ἐκ θεοῦ, ὁ μὲν οὕτως, ὁ δὲ οὕτως. 8 Λέγω δὲ τοῖς ἀγάμοις καὶ ταῖς χήραις, καλὸν αὐτοῖς ἐὰν μείνωσιν ὡς κἀγώ· 9 εἰ δὲ οὐκ ἐγκρατεύονται, γαμησάτωσαν, κρεῖττον γάρ ἐστιν γαμῆσαι ἢ πυροῦσθαι.

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Paul is addressing issues that the church in Corinth had written him about. Chapter 7 deals with sexual relationships between men and women. He had already addressed incest, adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, and other forms of sexual immorality in chapters 5 and 6. His conclusion was that those who continue to practice such things, along with idolaters, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Not that there is no hope for someone who has sinned in any of these ways. He makes it clear that some of the believers in Corinth had fallen into all of these categories. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (6:11). There is forgiveness and hope for every sinner who turns to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing.

At the beginning of chapter 7, he addresses the teaching that was circulating in Corinth “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. This is simply not true in all circumstances. He clarifies that for the married, they have obligated themselves to their spouse. He forbids them to deprive one another and encourages enjoyment of sexual activity within marriage as a defense against Satanic attack.

He will go on to address questions about the unmarried, widows and widowers, the married, those married to an unbeliever, issues of divorce and remarriage, and single people. He gives much practical teaching and pastoral counsel to people who find themselves in various circumstances. This is a difficult passage, not only because the subject matter is very personal, but some of Paul’s vocabulary is open to differing interpretations. With God’s help, we will do our best to work our way through this passage together.

A Concession Not A Command

1 Corinthians 7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.

Verse 6 is a difficult verse. We have to try to understand what ‘this’ refers to. What is it that Paul is saying that is not a command but only a concession? Different interpretations have been suggested. Some see ‘this’ as referring to what immediately precedes, the requirement for a married couple to come back together again after a time of abstinence. But he is clearly commanding that they come back together again, and as a defense against Satanic attack. Some have suggested that all of verse 5, where he allows temporary abstinence by mutual agreement for a limited time and for the purpose of prayer is a concession and not a command. In other words, I am not mandating that married couples abstain for prayer, but is conceding to this practice within the stated conditions. This is a possibility, but he has already made it clear that abstaining is not a command by his wording ‘except perhaps’. Some take ‘this’ to refer back to the whole of verses 2-5, that his command that each man should have his own wife and each woman should have her own husband is not a command but a concession. He is not mandating marriage for all; in the next verse he holds up his wish that all would remain single as he himself is. He discusses the value and advantages of singleness in verses 32-35. This is a good possibility. Others take ‘this’ to refer forward to what he is about to say. His following wish that all were single like himself is a concession not a command. He will go on to say that although he wishes that all could be fully devoted to pleasing the Lord as he himself is, he is aware that not all have the same gifting he has and for them this would not be good. Both of these last two interpretations fit well with what Paul says in this passage, and both are true. Not every person is commanded to be married, and not every person is commanded to live a life of celibacy.

Spiritual Gifting in Marriage and Singleness

1 Corinthians 7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

Paul will talk quite a bit in 1 Corinthians about spiritual gifts. In chapters 12-14 he will talk about things like speaking in tongues, utterances of wisdom and knowledge, gifts of faith and healing, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, and working miracles. In chapter 1, he thanked God that the Corinthians were “not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1:7). Here in chapter 7, dealing with marriage and singleness, he refers to another kind of grace-gift from God. Each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. The Corinthians were eager to outdo one another with their spirituality. If it was considered more spiritual to live a celibate life, the married people were willing to put away their spouses to win the title of spirituality. Paul says ‘stop it!you’re playing with fire!’ What is more spiritual is to see how God has uniquely gifted you as an individual and use your gifts for the glory of God. Paul here is claiming that the celibate life, which he practices, is a grace-gift from God. And equally so, marriage is a grace-gift from God, each to be used to bring glory to God. Paul was given the gift of contentment in celibacy. Many are given the gift of contentment in marriage. Each has his own gift from God, one of one kind, one of another. Paul will list advantages he sees in singleness, especially considering the circumstances in which they were then living, but he holds both singleness and marriage up as valuable gifts from our good God. If you are gifted by God with singleness, it is better for you to remain single. If you are gifted by God for marriage, it is better that you marry. Going back to the statement of the Corinthians ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’ Paul would say ‘yes!, if you are gifted by God for singleness.’ But if you are gifted by God for marriage, then each one should enjoy his or her own spouse as a good gift of God.

To the Unmarried and the Widows

1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.

Here is another challenge in interpretation. To whom is Paul referring when he says ‘unmarried’? The word itself can refer to anyone who is currently without a spouse for whatever reason. It can refer to singles who have never been married, or it can refer to widows or widowers or the divorced or separated. If Paul is using the word in this broad general sense, then ‘the widows’ is one subcategory of ‘the unmarried’, and we could translate ‘to the unmarried, especially to the widows.’ Paul uses this word in verse 11 to refer to the wife who is separated from her husband. In verse 34 he uses this word to distinguish the unmarried woman from the virgin. Frequently in this chapter Paul gives equal treatment to the male and female counterpart in each situation, and he will deal specifically with the ‘never been marrieds’ in verses 25 and following, so we could translate verse 8 as ‘to the formerly marrieds’, or ‘to the widowers and the widows’.

Whether he is addressing the broad category of unmarrieds or the specific categories of the formerly marrieds, his advice is ‘it is good for them to remain as I am’. We will see as we work our way through this passage that this is Paul’s repeated advice in a number of different situations given their present circumstances. It is good to remain as you are. If you are married, stay married. If you are single, stay single. Don’t seek to change your status. Not that it is wrong to change your status, but it is good to remain as you are.

Was Paul Married?

This raises an interesting biographical question about the Apostle Paul. It is clear from this and other passages that Paul lived a celibate life. But had he ever been married? That question is more difficult to answer. It is possible that Paul was never married, in which case he tells the widows to remain content in celibacy as he is. It is possible that Paul was married and his wife either died and he never remarried, or that his wife left him, possibly because of his conversion to Christianity. This is speculation, based largely on Jewish tradition. The reasoning goes like this; Paul claimed to be a “Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee” (Phil.3:5). He says “And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal.1:14). Later Jewish traditions tell us that men by the age of twenty were expected to be married, so for Paul to have advanced in Judaism as he claims would imply that he must have been married. Some take his statement in Acts 26:10 about his former persecution of Christians, “when they were put to death I cast my vote against them” to mean that he was a voting member of the Sanhedrin, and later laws about Sanhedrin membership require a man to be married. The bottom line is that none of this is conclusive. The bible does not tell us, and we cannot say with certainty whether Paul was ever married or not. All that we are told is that he was not married at the time he wrote his New Testament letters. He says in chapter 9:

1 Corinthians 9:5 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?

He claims to have the right to be married, but he did not take advantage of that right.

For Those Without Self-Control

1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

For the unmarried and widows, it is good to remain unmarried. But that is not the only thing permitted, and that may not be the best thing for them. He says that it is good to remain unmarried, but if they are not self-controlled, they must marry. Unfortunately, this verse is difficult to translate without implying that the lack of self-control is negative. May read this and conclude that Paul has a low view of marriage, which is only a vent for the weak who can’t control their sexual urges. But that is to misunderstand the text. The lack of self-control in this verse is not negative or derogatory. We might be better to paraphrase it ‘if they are not predisposed to continence’ or ‘if they don’t have the gift of celibacy’. There is no negativity toward those who have a different gifting. In fact, the strength of sexual drive may be one clear indicator of gifting by God for marriage or celibacy. Each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. Those without the gift of celibacy should not attempt to live as if they had the gift. Paul’s instruction to them is clear. Let them marry. This is a command, in the imperative.

Paul gives extended instructions about the status of widows in the church to the young pastor Timothy.

1 Timothy 5:3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

It was the obligation first of the family to care for widows. If they had no family, the church would care for their needs. But Timothy was cautioned against placing younger widows in the care of the church. Instead they were encouraged to marry a believing husband and maintain their independence. He has a whole list of the dangers of enrolling younger widows into church charity programs. One major reason is that they may not have the God-given gift of celibacy. Paul says ‘if they are not exercising self-control, let them marry’.

Better To Marry Than To Burn

1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

He said it is good to remain as they are if they are gifted in that way, but it is better to marry if they are not gifted with celibacy. It is better to marry than to burn. What does Paul mean when he says it is better to marry than to burn? Probably he means that it is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion, so many modern translations add the interpretive phrase ‘with passion’. This would fit well with the first section of this chapter, where marriage is rightfully used as a weapon against Satanic temptation to sexual immorality. Pursue the God-given path to sexual fulfillment in marriage rather than sentencing yourself to a life of temptation and frustration.

Some have understood this burning in a different sense. Two rabbis were walking along a road. (This sounds like the beginning of a good joke, but it is not. It is actually from the Jewish Talmud [TB Qiddusin 81a; cited by Bruce, p.68]) Two rabbis were walking along a road and they see a woman walking ahead of them. Rab says to R. Judah ‘Hurry up and get in front of Gehenna’. Gehenna was a place of idolatry and child sacrifice in the fires outside of Jerusalem. It became a picture of the fires of eternal punishment, often translated ‘hell’ in the Gospels. I think the idea was to put the temptation to lust behind you, a temptation which would send you to hell. Let’s bring this up to date. We often hear an attractive member of the opposite sex referred to as ‘hot’. From now on when you hear ‘hot’ think ‘hot’ as in Gehenna. Paul said that the ‘pornea’, the sexually immoral would not inherit the kingdom of God. It is better to find fulfillment in marriage than to burn with lust that will end up sentencing you to burn in hell. As Jesus said

Matthew 18:9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell [Gehenna] of fire.

Practical Advice

Paul is intensely practical in this passage. He doesn’t say everything there is to say about marriage or singleness here. But what he does say is practical. Let’s end with some practical advice.

What if you are single today and thinking ‘I don’t think I have the gift of celibacy’? First, get your priorities straight. Recognize that your body is not meant for sexual immorality, it is meant for the Lord. So glorify God with your body. Take advantage of the freedoms of your present singleness to bring maximum glory to God.

Next, as Paul said at the end of chapter 6 ‘flee sexual immorality’. Smash your I-phone. Tear out your internet connection. Do whatever it takes to flee sexual immorality. Paul promises in chapter 10

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Then, if you recognize that you are not gifted for singleness, prepare yourself for marriage. Guys, this might mean you need to grow up. Get a job. Start bathing. Stop playing video games all the time. Stop texting and learn to have a real conversation. Be responsible. Learn to put someone else’s needs and desires ahead of your own. Stop making excuses and start following Jesus with all your energy.

What if you realize today that you have blown it big time? Maybe you are seeing for the first time what God has to say about the seriousness of sin. Maybe you’re realizing that based on what you have done you deserve to be cast straight into the fires of Gehenna. Is it too late for you? Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’ (Jn.8:11). If you run to Jesus, you can be washed, set apart, declared not guilty because Jesus took the punishment you deserve on himself at the cross. He would love to forgive your sins and make you new and transform your desires. Come to him.

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

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

Acts 18; Paul and Corinth

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121028_paul-corinth.mp3

10/28 1 Corinthians Background and History

We are going to take some time to study a fascinating letter from the Apostle Paul. Let me read you the first lines of the letter.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth,

This is a letter that, more than most in the New Testament, gives us insight into Paul’s heart. Some of the details of this letter are difficult to understand, because we are listening in on one end of a conversation. Multiple letters and other communication went back and forth between Paul and the believers in Corinth. What we know as First Corinthians is actually the second letter Paul wrote to this young church. In 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul refers to a previous letter.

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one.

This mention is all that has survived of this earlier letter. Apparently this letter was misunderstood by the church, and Paul needed to write again to clarify what he had meant. So the letter we have before us is actually his second letter. The church in Corinth had also sent the apostle a letter.

1 Corinthians 7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: …

In chapters 7-16, Paul answers at least 6 specific questions the Corinthians had asked him. So we find in this letter a kind of a Q&A with the apostle. Apparently, a report from ‘Chloe’s people’ had told him of trouble in Corinth (1:11). And Paul had no doubt heard from Apollos more details about the situation in Corinth, when he arrived in Ephesus. So Paul wrote this letter to address some of these issues and to answer their questions. He sent off this letter, and also sent Timothy to address the situations. Shortly after, new problems arose in the church. It appears there was a third letter, as well as a painful visit, that he refers to in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. …9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.

2 Corinthians 7:8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it–though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while.

This tearful letter doesn’t seem to fit what we have in 1 Corinthians, and the painful visit couldn’t be his first visit when he planted the church, so there was another round of communication between 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Our 2 Corinthians would then be the fourth letter. We are listening in on one end of the communication, and trying to piece together what exactly is going on.

It will be helpful to become familiar with the background of this city and try to piece together the history of this church from the book of Acts. That is where we will spend our time this morning.

Corinth

The city of Corinth was located in a very strategic place. It was on a narrow isthmus connecting Northern Greece to the Peloponnese peninsula. It was also close to two major ports; Lechaeum to the East and Cenchreae to the West. There was a 3.7 mile drag-way, called ‘diolkos’ where smaller ships and cargo could be put on rollers and portaged between the Corinthian and Saronic Gulfs, so they could avoid the long and treacherous trip around the south shores of the Peloponnese. The city itself was built on the north side of the Acrocorinthus, a 1900ft. natural citadel atop which stood the temple of Venus or Aphrodite, and to which the citizens could retreat to defend themselves when attacked. The city boasted an inexhaustible water supply in fountain of Peirene. This city had a totally immoral reputation. The historian Strabo records that there were 1,000 temple prostitutes that served the temple of Aphrodite. A ‘Corinthian girl’ was a way to refer to a prostitute, and ‘to corinthianize’ meant to indulge in immorality.

The city was completely destroyed by Roman General Leucius Mummius in 146BC in retaliation for the part it played in the revolt of the Achaian League against Rome. Its inhabitants were slaughtered or sold as slaves. It lay desolate for 100 years. Julius Caesar saw the potential of the location, and in 44 BC re-founded the city as a Roman colony. It was populated by free-men (which were slightly above a slave), a population of Jews, and many retired soldiers also settled there. There was no established status by birth, so Corinth provided an opportunity for anyone who could gain wealth to gain status and respect; the poor were despised or ignored. Corinth presided over the Isthmian games, held every 2 years, in which all the Greek city-states participated. This city became the capital city of the Roman province of Achaia. By the time Paul visited, the population was estimated at around 600,000.

Timeline for Paul:

Let’s look at an overview of Paul’s life and ministry.

Born in Tarsus as an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin, a Roman citizen (AD 5-10?)

Trained as a Pharisee by Gamaliel I (15-20?)

Death, resurrection of Christ (33)

(Acts 7-8) Present at stoning of Stephen; persecuted Christians (33-34)

(Acts 9) Paul’s conversion (33/34)

(Gal. 1:17) Paul in Arabia (33/34-36/37)

(Acts 9:26-30; Gal. 1:18) Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem to meet Peter and James (36/37)

(Gal. 1:21) Paul ministers in Syria/Cilicia (37-45)

(Acts 11:25-26) Paul spends a year in Antioch with Barnabas (44-47)

(Acts 11:27-30; Gal.2:1-10) Paul’s second Jerusalem visit (famine relief) (44-47)

(Acts 13-14) Paul’s first missionary journey (46-47)

(Acts 15) Paul’s third Jerusalem visit (apostolic council) (48-49)

(Acts 15-18) Paul’s second journey (including 1.5 years in Corinth) (48/49-51)

Here we want to pick up the story in detail from the book of Acts. On Paul’s first missionary journey he left Antioch with Barnabas and went to the island of Cyprus, then on to six cities in Lycia and Galatia. On his second journey, he took Silas and visited some of those cities in Galatia again, where he picked up Timothy and continued northwest around the Aegean Sea. In Troas, Paul saw a vision of a man from Macedonia urging them to come to Macedonia to help them (Acts 16:6-10). They traveled to Phillipi, where the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to what Paul was saying. But when Paul cast a demon out of a slave girl, her owners who had made a lot of money from her fortune telling, dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates and had them beaten with rods and imprisoned. They were put in the stocks in the inner prison.

Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.

The jailer and his family believed in Jesus and were baptized. The magistrates were informed they were Roman citizens and apologized for beating them and asked them to leave their city. They traveled to Thessalonica and Paul preached for three Sabbaths at the synagogue that Jesus is the Christ, and that according to the Scriptures it was necessary for him to suffer and rise from the dead. Some from the synagogue were persuaded, along with many devout Greeks and leading women. The Jews were jealous and incited a mob, but they could not find them, so they dragged Jason their host and some of the other brothers before the authorities and made accusation that they were preaching against Caesar, saying there was another king, Jesus. The brothers sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. Many there believed, but when the Jews from Thessalonica heard they were preaching in Berea, they followed them there stirring up the crowds against them. Paul escaped by sea, but Silas and Timothy remained behind in Berea. Paul came to Athens alone, where he reasoned in the synagogue and in the marketplace, and preached in the Areopagus, but with very limited success, a few believed, only two are named. It seems he left Athens alone and discouraged and headed for Corinth. He records his feelings in:

1 Corinthians 2:3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,

Apparently he was in desperate need of encouragement, because:

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.”

Let’s look at Luke’s record of what happened in Corinth.

Acts 18:1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.

This is a very helpful bit of information for nailing down the date of Paul’s stay in Corinth. This edict of expulsion is recorded by Suetonius, (Lives of the Caesars, Claudius 25.4 published 120AD). “Because the Jews of Rome were indulging in constant riots at the instigation of Chrestus he expelled them from the city” This is likely a slight misspelling of Christus or Christ, which fits Paul’s recent experience that when he preached Jesus as the Christ, the Jews began riots. This decree of Claudius is dated AD 49.

Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. 5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 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.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Corinth became a great source of encouragement. Silas and Timothy rejoined him there. When the Jews rejected his message, he turned to the Gentiles. It so happened that Titius Justus lived next door to the synagogue and opened his house to Paul as a place for him to preach Jesus. Many believed, including Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue. Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth teaching the word of God. This was the birth of the church in Corinth.

Acts 18:12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

Here we have another significant connecting point to secular history.

Lucius Junius Gallio, brother of famous philosopher Seneca, was appointed as the new Roman proconsul of Achaia July 1 of AD 51. A rescript from Claudius was discovered in Delphi mentioning Gallio as proconsul of Achaia in the period of the 26th acclamation of Claudius as Imperator (known from other inscriptions to cover the first seven months of AD 52). So Paul would have been brought before Gallio in the fall of AD 51.

Gallio’s handling of this case was significant for the future of Christianity in the Roman empire. He simply dismissed the case, assuming Paul was protected under Roman law as a Jew, and assuming that this was a religious debate within Judaism. This set a precedent for other Roman colonies, granting freedom to the preaching of Jesus. Gallio’s snub of the Jewish leaders provided an opportunity for the non-Jewish population to vent their anti-Jewish sentiment on the new synagogue leader Sosthenes. If this Sosthenes is the same as the Sosthenes mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:1, then he must have subsequently become a believer in Jesus and followed Paul to Ephesus.

Acts 18:18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. 21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. 23 After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

Here we see the start of Paul’s 3rd missionary journey. He had returned to Caesarea, Jerusalem, and Antioch, and then went to encourage the believers in many of the places he had visited previously. In Ephesus, we meet another key figure in the history of the church in Corinth.

Acts 18:24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

19:1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.

Apollos was from Alexandria in Egypt. He met Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus, before Paul returned, and they explained to him the way of God more accurately. He was eloquent, passionate, powerful. He was encouraged to go to Achaia and settled in Corinth, where ‘he greatly helped those who through grace had believed’. Paul viewed Apollos as continuing the ministry he had started in Corinth. He says:

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

And in the close of the letter, Paul refers to him as ‘our brother’.

1 Corinthians 16:12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

Paul spent 3 years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31). During his stay there, he received correspondence from the church in Corinth, and reports from Chloe’s people, and Apollos also returned to Ephesus toward the end of his stay there. He wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians from Ephesus. Apparently, both his co-worker Timothy and his letter were unable to manage the situation so Paul paid Corinth an immediate short painful visit (2Cor.2:1). Paul was personally attacked in deeply insulting ways (2Cor.2:5-8, 10; 7:12) by self-proclaimed apostles who had infiltrated the church and were undermining his authority. He returned to Ephesus and decided not to return immediately as he had planned (2Cor1:16ff). Instead, he sent another (lost) letter; out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears (2cor.2:4), delivered by Titus. This letter assured them of his love, laid down the standards expected of the churches, and demanded punishment of ringleader who opposed Paul (2:3-9; 7:8-12).

Ephesus was now becoming dangerous; as he describes in

2 Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

He is likely referring to the riot in the theater started by Demetrius and the other idol-makers (Acts 19:23-20:1). Paul left Ephesus for Troas hoping to meet Titus returning with news from Corinth.

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

When Paul arrived in Macedonia, he was still troubled over Corinth, because he did not find Titus there.

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn–fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it–though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Paul wrote what we have as 2 Corinthians from Macedonia, after Titus had brought his good report of their repentant response. Paul continued south from Macedonia to visit Corinth again, spending three months, during which he wrote the letter to the Romans (Acts 20:1-3). Paul then returned to Jerusalem, where he was arrested, imprisoned in Caesarea for two years, then on his voyage to Rome, was shipwrecked in Malta for 3 months. Paul finally made it to Rome in AD 60. He spent two years under house-arrest in Rome, then was released for a time before he was re-arrested and lay down his life for the cause of Christ in Rome.

What can we learn from all this?

If you are into history, this may be really interesting stuff. If you like puzzles and mysteries, then piecing all the facts and details together is very satisfying. If not, you’re probably bored out of your mind. I’m not interested in giving a history lesson for history’s sake. Here’s a few things I think we can take away from this.

-God’s word is true. We see so much historical confirmation of the details that demonstrate the accuracy of the bible.

-Corinth was an evil city. There is no place too dark or hopeless for us to bring the light of the gospel. The gospel has the power to transform lives.

-We see from Paul’s travels that God orders our circumstances and even our detours for his good purposes.

-Even Paul got discouraged. God comforts the downcast.

-From Paul’s example we can learn to love the gospel more than our own lives.

-From Paul’s example, we can learn to love the church, be grieved over division, pray and work hard for unity.

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

October 28, 2012 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5; Resolved to Know One Thing

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100110_1corinthians1_17-2_5.mp3

01/10/10 – Resolved to Know Christ Crucified

We’re ten days into 2010. Many of you have already blown your New Year’s resolutions. It’s a good time to consider What are you resolved about? What is essential, firm, unbendable? What are you passionate about? What will not change, no matter what?

re⋅solve [ri-zolv] verb, -solved, -solv⋅ing, noun –verb (used with object)

1. to come to a definite or earnest decision about; determine (to do something): I have resolved that I shall live to the full

What is Paul resolved about?

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul, when he came to Corinth to preach the gospel, he resolved to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Paul intentionally, strategically limited his presentation to Jesus Christ and him crucified. Now, 3 to 5 years later he reminds them of his approach and why he limited his message to this one thing.

First of all, this was not a new thing for the Apostle Paul. Resolving to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified was not an experiment he used only with the Corinthian church. He says of his preaching in Galatia “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Gal.3:1). To the Ephesians he says “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ …and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Eph.2:13, 16) To the Colossians he wrote about “…the Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. …through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col.1:14, 20). In 2:13-14 he says “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” In Pisidian Antioch, Paul preached “

…to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead. ..Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:26-30, 38-39).

In Thessalonika, Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ’” (Acts 17:2-3). In Paul’s defense before King Agrippa, he said

“I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22-23).

The core of Paul’s gospel message in Romans is

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23-25).

To Timothy he writes

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (1Tim.2:5-7).

Paul, who had been Saul, was a smart man. He was at the top of his class, schooled by Gamaliel, the leading rabbi of his day (Acts 22:3), outstanding both in skill and understanding, as well as in zeal for the truth. He was a man of influence and power; he had entered house after house in Jerusalem, dragging off the followers of Jesus and throwing them in prison. Not satisfied with that, he went to the High Priest and received authorization to attack the believers in Damascus as well. As we see from his letters, his mastery of the Old Testament and his ability to reason from the scriptures was unparalleled. His logic was rigorous. Paul could have won any argument with any person on any subject. As we see from the account in Acts, this man was virtually unstoppable in his courage and determination. Most of those who heard him either believed or resorted to violence to attempt to shut him up. And Paul says he decided, he determined, he resolved to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Why would Paul self-impose such a severe handicap on his ministry? Why limit the possibilities for ministry so drastically? What would motivate him to limit some of his greatest God-given gifts of wisdom and rhetoric and persuasive power to only one subject?

To answer that, we have to look back to what was going on in Corinth, and to how Paul addressed it in this letter. First, there were divisions among the believers, competition over who was the greatest and who followed who. Everyone picked their favorite Christian teacher and argued over which one was better or smarter or more effective. Some followed Apollos, some followed Cephas (or Peter), some followed Paul, and some even sounded more spiritual than all the rest and said ‘I follow Christ’. It is into this pride-filled divisive atmosphere that Paul writes this letter. And Paul takes us back to his commission by Jesus Christ as reason for the single focus of his preaching.

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

Paul was sent by Christ to do one thing; to preach the gospel, to proclaim the good news. And that good news centers on Jesus Christ and him crucified. That was the message Paul was commissioned to preach. Everything he ever said or did was connected back to the cross as its source. All of his ministry flowed out of the good news of Christ crucified and the implications of the cross on all of life.

Notice Paul does not say that Christ sent him to share the gospel, or to discuss the gospel or to submit the gospel for consideration. Paul was to preach or proclaim the gospel. This is not just for pastors or preachers or Christian ministers. This is for every believer. We are called to announce or proclaim, to herald or declare. This is because in the gospel “God has taken action”; and we proclaim what he has done. “God is not not negotiating; he is both announcing and confronting” (Carson, Cross & Christian Ministry, p.37)

And Paul alerts us to a danger here. We need to watch not only the content of our proclamation, but the style of our gospel communication. Paul is afraid that by his preaching style he might empty the cross of its power. That is a terrifying thought. That I, in my presentation of the gospel could so empty the cross of power that it is completely useless and ineffective. Paul says that to preach the gospel with words of eloquent wisdom could empty the cross of its power. What could that possibly mean? Paul was speaking into a context where philosophical debates were the sport of the day and style was everything. Eloquent words would roll off the tongue like honey. Oratory was judged not by the content but by the presentation. Words were assembled with such style and rhythm that it was entertainment be in the audience and cheer for the performer regardless of the content. Paul sensed a danger that people would enjoy listening to the gospel without engaging the message of the gospel. So Paul devoted himself to clearly communicate the life-transforming message of Christ crucified.

Paul understood that the message of the cross divides humanity into two categories:

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

The word of the cross distinguishes between those who are perishing and those who are being saved. To the one category it is foolishness, to the other it is the power of God. In Romans he said “I am not ashamed of the gospel” because some might feel that he ought to be ashamed of it “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom.1:16). In 2 Corinthians, Paul says:

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

The cross divides all people absolutely, and this was by God’s good design. Paul continues by quoting Isaiah 29:14, which says that it is God’s purpose to destroy the wisdom of the self-proclaimed wise man through the preaching of the gospel.

19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

It was God’s wisdom that the world will not attain a true relationship with God through a pursuit of wisdom. Man’s wisdom delights to see himself as resourceful, self-sufficient, and in control. The gods we have discovered (or invented) by human wisdom are gods created in our own image, gods that are projections of our own pride, reachable through our own efforts, gods that we can please, or even manipulate to do what we wish, gods that fit into our self-centered system.

Human wisdom is offended by everything the cross stands for. The cross demonstrates that we are so bad that we deserve the death penalty, that we are so helpless that we can do nothing to remedy our situation, that God is so just that he must punish sin, that God is so merciful that he freely gave his own Son to bear the penalty of our sins and rescue us from inescapable doom, and God is so generous as to give us an eternity of enjoying his presence. The cross “makes humans look dependent and helpless and infantlike and makes God look all-sufficient and all-providing and free in giving salvation to sinners” (Piper, Pleasures of God, p.276)

21 … it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The message, Christ crucified is by nature crass and offensive. The promised king is executed as a common criminal. The anointed one is under God’s curse. This is nonsense, madness, insanity, foolishness, a stumbling block. Yet Paul resolves to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

There is a clear purpose in God’s design of the ridiculous message of a crucified Messiah. Although we could not attain to a true knowledge of God through worldly wisdom, God chose to show his superior wisdom and power by calling out people from every nation to believe the word of the cross. God chose a method that seems foolish, weak, low and despised to save those who by grace will humbly acknowledge their sinful inability and desperate need. God chose this method to eliminate boasting. No one can claim to have attained to a knowledge of God. God “is the source of your life in Christ Jesus”. Any boasting must be boasting in the superior wisdom and strength of God to save all who trust that he forgives based on the price paid by Jesus on the cross.

“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The cross is the wisdom and power of God for salvation. The word of the cross is the message of the good news to sinners that God has done everything necessary to secure for us righteousness and sanctification and redemption. We are counted righteous in Christ. We are set apart to enjoy his glory forever. We have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus. In Jesus Christ crucified we see the wisdom of God that destroys and shames the wisdom of the wise and brings to nothing those that think that they are something.

“I resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” I’m good friends with the criminal that was just executed. This is the exact thing that caused Peter to deny knowing Jesus on the night of his trial. It is costly and dangerous and harmful to your reputation to be identified with a death-row criminal. Do we empty the cross of Christ of its power and seek to be thought well of by the perishing world?

Are we willing with Paul to resolve to know one thing, to know Jesus, to embrace the cross and all its implications that I am a guilty sinner in desperate need of God’s undeserved grace? Are we willing to center our lives on the message of God’s promised Messiah butchered like a sacrificial lamb in my place? Are we willing to risk being laughed at and considered foolish by the world? Are we willing to resolve to sound one note, to beat one drum, to arrange our lives around this one thing; knowing Jesus Christ, and him crucified? Are we resolved to proclaim unapologetically the one message that is life giving transformational power to all who humble themselves to embrace a crucified King?

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

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

January 10, 2010 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment