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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry

03/24_2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190324_2cor6_6-7.mp3

Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. The Corinthians were looking for outward evidence of God’s blessing on his ministry, and they were beginning to question his authenticity. They were looking for power, prosperity, praise, eloquence, something flashy. Paul commends his ministry as a ministry that gives obstacles in nothing and to no one. Paul’s goal is that no fault could be found with the ministry. In all things he commends himself as God’s minister. He cares much more about what God thinks of his ministry than what anyone else thinks.

And the way he commends himself is not what anyone would have expected. What he includes in his resume is in the way he responds to adversity: ‘in much endurance’. And he lists three general hardships: ‘in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities’; then three specific types of persecution: ‘in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots’; then three hardships he willingly endures for the sake of the advance of the gospel: ‘in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers.’ Nine hardships, faced with much endurance.

The Manner; Four Essential Characteristics for Ministry

Now beginning in verse 6 he lists eight means of ministry; four essential character traits for effective ministry, followed by four enablements for effective ministry.

He started the list in verse 4 with the character trait ‘much endurance’; remaining under these nine different types of hardships. Now he gives four more character traits; in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. These describe the manner of his ministry, not so much what he does as much as how he does it, and ultimately who he is. Character. When hiring for a position, many companies are looking for skills, abilities, experience. Have you been trained in this field? Do you have the knowledge necessary to carry out the task? How much experience do you have in this field? What are your accomplishments, successes, abilities? Paul emphasizes not so much what he does as how he does it, who he is.

Who are you? Are you a butcher, a baker, a candle-stick maker? That is not who you are; that is what you do. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a pastor. Those are roles, hats I wear. They define my relationships to other people. I was born in a Christian home, raised in a healthy two parent family in Minnesota, the youngest of five. That is some of my history, my background, where I come from. That is not who I am. I like to hike, canoe, to be outdoors, to be creative, build things, fix things. Those are hobbies, likes, preferences. But who are you? Strip all that away, who are you when no one is looking? What is your character?

6 In Purity [ἐν ἁγνότητι]

Paul starts with purity. This word shows up only here and in chapter 11. The verb shows up in the gospels and Acts referring to ceremonial purification, and in James, Peter and 1 John it shows up in reference to heart and soul purified through the new birth. The adjective shows up a little more frequently in contexts of moral purity, blamelessness, innocence, integrity. In 11:2 the adjective is used in the metaphor of betrothing a pure virgin to her husband, and in 11:3 this noun shows up alongside sincerity, and in contrast to being seduced or beguiled with trickery or cunning, being defiled, spoiled or corrupted.

In 1 John 3:3 the adjective describes the character of God;

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

We become like God as we see him as he is; through our hope in him, in looking to him, we purify ourselves as he is pure.

Paul points us to his innocence, blamelessness, integrity, moral purity. This purity is not because he always had clean hands and a pure heart; rather his blood-stained hands were washed clean by the blood of Jesus, and through the new birth he stands pure and holy, a new creation in Christ.

In Knowledge [ἐν γνώσει]

Next he lists knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. He recognized that they were ‘enriched in all knowledge’ (1Cor.1:5). But he drew a contrast between the knowledge they claimed and love for brother and sister (1Cor.8:1,7,10,11; 12:8; 13:2,8). They prided themselves in their knowledge.

But as Paul had already made clear,

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.

For Paul it was not about what you know, but it had everything to do with who you know. He was in everything pursuing and advancing the ‘knowledge of God’ (2Cor.10:5).

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Paul was spreading the knowledge of God, the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus, knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified. For Paul everything else was worthless, except “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … that I may know him” (Phil.3:8,10).

In Patience, In Kindness [ἐν μακροθυμίᾳ] [ἐν χρηστότητι]

Next he mentions patience and kindness. The word translated patience is literally ‘slow to anger’. These two words are listed side by side in Galatians 5:22 as the fruit of the Spirit.

Both patience and kindness are attributed to God in Romans 2

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Where patience or slowness to anger is negative, refraining from responding immediately in anger even when there is something to be rightly angry about; kindness is its positive counterpart, actively doing good to those who have wronged you. God not only refrains from immediately punishing our sin; he also shows us his undeserved kindness. As Jesus instructs in Luke 6,

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

We are to extend kindness even to our enemies; in doing so, we reflect the character of God. In being patient and kind, we are living out the gospel; we are conducting ourselves toward others how God has been toward us.

It is clear that these character traits are not natural. Who joyfully endures afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleeplessnesses, hungers? Who extends patience and kindness to enemies? These are supernatural character traits. In Colossians 1 Paul prays:

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

He combines endurance, the first on his list, and patience, and he says that we need God’s strength; we need the glorious might of divine enablement to respond to circumstances with endurance, slowness to anger, and joy. He says in Colossians 3:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

He tells us that because we have been raised with Christ (3:1), because we are his chosen ones, because we are holy and beloved, because we have been strengthened with his mighty power, we can clothe ourselves with kindness and patience.

The Means; Four Divine Enablements for Ministry

When we understand how Paul uses these words, it makes complete sense where he goes next in this list. He gives four divine enablements for ministry. The character, endurance, purity, knowledge, slowness to anger and kindness is fruit. It is not Paul as he is naturally; this is Paul as he is empowered by God through his Holy Spirit for the ministry to which he has been called.

In Holy Spirit [ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ]

After four character traits, fruit necessary for ministry, Paul turns to the source. In the Holy Spirit. This is not the first time he has brought up the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit in this letter.

In 1:21 he mentions God in Christ by the Spirit who establishes, anoints, seals and guarantees us, by the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (and then again in 5:5). In chapter 3 He announces the new covenant ministry which has everything to do with the Holy Spirit, who writes on tablets of human hearts (3:3); who gives life (3:6); who brings freedom (3:17); who effects transformation in us (3:18). He said

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. …

His competency is not from himself but from God through the enabling ministry of the Holy Spirit. God has made Paul competent for the ministry. This is God a ordained, God empowered, God initiated, God sustained task.

In Love Unhypocritical [ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἀνυποκρίτῳ]

In love unhypocritical. Paul seems to have shifted gears when he mentioned the Spirit from a list of four character traits or fruit to the means or divine enablements for ministry. Is he switching back to character traits here when he mentions sincere love? Is this his love for others, or God’s love for him that enables him for ministry. To see this as God’s love for him seems to fit his flow of thought, as well as the context. He has just said (in 5:14) that ‘the love of Christ compels us’ and there he defines that love concretely as Christ dying for us; that God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. God’s love is a compelling force for ministry. It is when I know that I am loved, sincerely loved, loved without a mask, that I am freed to love others as I have been loved. It is seeing the gospel in action, that God so loved me that he sent his only Son to die for me, that I am freed from the need to seek love, freed and empowered to give love freely away. Love without a mask.

7 In Word of Truth [ἐν λόγῳ ἀληθείας]

In the word of truth. Here again we could ask, is he referring to his own integrity? Should this be translated ‘in truthful speech’ (NIV, ESV) or ‘in the word of truth’ (NASB, KJV)?

So far in 2 Corinthians, Paul has referred to how he handles God’s word, speaking in Christ (2:17); he refuses to tamper with God’s word but openly proclaims the truth (4:2). God has entrusted to him the word of reconciliation. If we turn to Ephesians we see that he refers to ‘the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation’ (1:13). And in Colossians he points them to ‘the word of the truth, the gospel, which… is bearing fruit and increasing,… since … you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth’ (1:5-6). Paul encourages Timothy to ‘rightly handle the word of truth’ (2Tim.2:15). Peter says that we were born again ‘ through the living and abiding word of God’ (1Pet.1:23), and James says that God ‘brought us forth by the word of truth’ and that we are to ‘receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls’ (Jam.1:18,21).

What ultimately authenticates Paul’s ministry is the content of the gospel he proclaims. It is not a mere human message. It is not his own message; it is God’s word, a word that causes new birth, that is able to save your souls, a word that is bearing fruit and increasing. As he commends the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

This word is at work. It is a powerful word.

In Power of God [ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ]

In the power of God. Paul opens the letter to the Romans by saying

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…

The gospel is the power of God for salvation. He says in 1 Corinthians

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

The word of truth, the word of the cross, the gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Throughout 2 Corinthians Paul contrasts God’s power with human weakness.

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant,

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

His competency for ministry, even his character is not from himself. It is from God. It is God’s Spirit at work in him and through him. His endurance of hardships, his purity, his knowledge, his slowness to anger, his kindness, is all of God worked in him by the Spirit.

May we too reflect the character of God in our conduct by the power of the Spirit of God living in us, through the transforming word of truth, the gospel.

***

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

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March 25, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:6; The Creative Power of Authentic Ministry

08/19_2 Corinthians 4:6; The Creative Power of Authentic Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180819_2cor4_6.mp3

Paul is describing authentic Christian ministry; giving reason why he does not lose heart, get discouraged, give up, burn out. Ministry, the ability and opportunity to serve others, is a gift. It is God’s mercy to sinners.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

He describes his methods; he does not use shameful hidden methods; he refuses to water down, add to, or distort God’s word. He speaks plainly, openly, with integrity.

He recognizes there is an adversary to the truth, a powerful enemy who seeks our eternal destruction, who would cast a veil over the hearts and minds of people to keep them from seeing the truth.

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

He lays out the simple message he does proclaim; the person of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord, and he explains his role as a minister of the gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Verse 6, our subject today, he gives us the creative power of authentic ministry, the ultimate ground of his confidence in gospel ministry, why he is content to openly proclaim the truth, to not adjust the message to suit his audience, and why he does not lose heart even in the face of seeming ministry failure. We proclaim Jesus, and God speaks and shines light in hearts that are veiled and blinded. God is powerful to overcome the darkness. Authentic ministry is ministry God speaks through to accomplish his purposes.

God Said

The ministry Paul is talking about is primarily a speaking ministry; he simply and plainly heralds the Lord Jesus Christ. He proclaims. He uses words to communicate truth. He communicates simply, openly, plainly. His ministry is ministry of the word; he administers God’s word to people. He communicates God’s truth. He communicates the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ as Lord. Ministry is speaking, proclaiming, communicating truth, to reflect our God who is a communicating, speaking God. Verse 6 begins ‘because God said.’

Don’t ever let this cease to amaze you. Our God is a speaking God, a communicating God. He could have left us wondering, guessing, groping in the dark. But he spoke. He communicates who he is, what he is like, what he requires, how we can have a relationship with him. Our God is a speaking God. We speak because he has spoken.

The Power of The Word

And his speech has power. When God speaks, things leap into being. That which did not exist comes into existence. Psalm 33 says:

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. …9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

By his word, by the breath of his mouth, by his speaking, at his command, everything came into being. The heavens and all their starry hosts, universes, galaxies, all breathed out by him. Hebrews 11 says:

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

The universe created by the word of God. That which is visible came out of that which is invisible, the spoken word. God’s word is creative! God’s word has power! Romans 4 talks about

Romans 4:17…the God …who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

God calls, God speaks, and things that do not exist come into existence! This is absolute power! Everything God says happens.

This is what we are asking when in the Lord’s prayer we ask that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May we respond to your word with unhesitating and absolute obedience, the way your word causes even things that do not exist to be for your pleasure.

Out of Darkness, Light Shine

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”

God commanded ‘out of darkness, light shine!’ Any idea what passage Paul is referring to here?

The first thing that comes to mind is creation, where ‘God said Let light be, and light came into existence’ (Gen.1:3). Darkness was over the face of the deep, and God said “Let there be light.” and there was light. Genesis 1 is clearly in mind here, because God is creating light out of darkness. And he does it with his word. He speaks, and it comes into being. 2 Corinthians 4:6 starts out ‘the God who said’ and Genesis 1:3 starts out ‘and God said’. But in Genesis 1, God says ‘let light be or exist; in 2 Corinthians he says ‘let light shine’ – a different verb. And Genesis 1 takes place at the beginning of creation, before humankind exists; where 2 Corinthians is talking about God shining light into human hearts made flesh. So while Genesis 1 is definitely in mind, there may be other passages in mind as well.

There is another passage that includes darkness, light, and the same verb ‘to shine’ that we find in 2 Corinthians 4. It is Isaiah 9. You are probably familiar with the well-known Christmas passage Isaiah 9:6:

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

Isaiah 9 begins by pointing us to ‘Galilee of the nations,’ and verse 2 says:

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

Here the subject is people, people walking in darkness, upon whom the light shines. And in the context of Isaiah 9, the light shining is the child born, the son given, whose name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Matthew 4:13-16 quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 and says that it is fulfilled in Jesus. The light shining in the darkness of human hearts is Jesus!

In Isaiah 60 we see this same theme again of light coming into darkness, and it is the glory of the Lord on people.

Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The light that overcomes the thick darkness is the glory of YHWH rising. What we proclaim is Jesus Christ as Lord; YWHW.

John’s gospel begins this way.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

Jesus is the true light that shines in the darkness, that gives light, that was coming into the world. Notice in John’s gospel that he names this one ‘the Word.’ The Word gives life and light. It is the speaking one, the communicating one, the one we proclaim; Jesus Christ the Lord.

Paul takes a thread from Genesis 1 where God brings light into existence that did not exist by his powerful word, and ties it together with Isaiah 9, where the promised Son of God shines light into the deep darkness of humankind, and Isaiah 60 where the light is the glory of YHWH.

The Means of Conversion

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Paul is talking about confidence in gospel ministry, and he points to his own conversion, and he invites us to think of our own conversion. The God who said ‘out of darkness, light shine!’ has shone in our hearts.

Do you remember? Do you remember when the lights came on for you? I grew up in a Christian family, in a Christian church, attending camp and Sunday School. I knew all about Jesus, and Samson and Delilah and David and Goliath and Adam and Eve and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Paul and Timothy. I knew all about creation and Babel and the ark and the tabernacle and the disciples and the miracles and the cross and the resurrection. I knew that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I knew it. I saw it all in living color on Mrs. Dean’s flannel graph. I even believed it. But I remember when I got it. When it came home to me. When the lights turned on. When God shone in my heart to give the light of the knowledge of Jesus. I felt the weight of my sin, and I was a grievous sinner at the ripe age of seven. I had been feeling the weight of my sin, but now I saw that Jesus took that sin – my sin. He died in my place. For me! He loved me and gave himself up for me. He was pursuing me. He wanted a relationship with me! I finally got it, and I wanted it. I wanted him! I embraced his forgiveness. I embraced him. How did it happen for you? When did the lights come on?

Paul invites us to look at our own conversion, our own transformation, our own new birth, as something God did. God the Creator spoke light into existence in our hearts and our blind eyes began to see! People talked ’till they were blue in the face, explained, clarified, answered questions… nothing. But when God said ‘let light be,’ then the lights came on.

The Creator God has shone in our hearts and we saw. We can take confidence in gospel ministry because we experienced God’s illuminating power. And we know he can turn the lights on for anyone!

Paul is confident in proclaiming plainly the simple message of Jesus Christ as Lord; he does not lose heart, because he is confident that God is at work shining in dark and veiled hearts to illuminate Jesus to them.

Romans 10 is helpful here. Romans 10:13 says:

Romans 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

And then he goes on to explain:

Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? …17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Salvation comes through calling on Jesus in faith. Faith comes through hearing the word proclaimed. But not all who hear believe. God must turn the lights on. Proclamation is necessary, but it is not the decisive thing. God must be speaking in our speaking to create light in the hearts of those who are blind. Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 1:21 … it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. …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.

How is it that the folly of what we preach becomes the saving power of God and the wisdom of God? Through the God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ shining in our hearts to give light. We can confidently proclaim the simple message of Christ crucified, Jesus Christ as Lord, confident that God will open blind eyes and conquer hard hearts. We cannot ‘claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God’ (2Cor.3:5)

The Glory of God is the Glory of Christ

Let’s look again at what we see when God shines in our hearts.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

What is it that we see? It is the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Let’s pair this with what our enemy wants to keep us from seeing in verse 4. What the enemy wants to blind us to is what God overcomes by his creative word to give us the light of knowledge. Paul states the same thing in different words, and the pairing of these two verses sheds even more light on Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

What our adversary wants to keep us from seeing is ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’

2 Corinthians 4:4——————————–2 Corinthians 4:6

In their case the god of this world————-For God, who said,

——————————————————- “Let light shine out of darkness,”

has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,—-has shone in our hearts

to keep them from seeing———————–to give

the light of the gospel—————————the light of the knowledge

of the glory of Christ,—————————of the glory of God

who is the image of God.———————–in the face of Jesus Christ.

‘The light of the gospel’ is ‘the light of the knowledge.’ what is the content of this knowledge, this good news? ‘The glory of Christ’ is ‘the glory of God’. Paul as plainly as ever identifies Christ with God. The knowledge of the glory of God is the good news of the glory of Christ. The glory of Christ is that he is very image of God. The glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

Christ.

O Lord, open our eyes to behold the good news of the glory of Christ the image of God; let us see the glory of God in the face of our Lord

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

August 19, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Sovereign and Free

11/22 God Sovereign and Free [omnipotent] ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151122_god-sovereign-free.mp3

Allow me to read a letter

By the president of the United States of America. A Proclamation.

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

G. Washington.”

[http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=3584]

Washington mentions the providence of Almighty God – God’s preserving and governing of all things – as a primary reason for our thanksgiving.

We are studying who God is, what he is like, what God says about himself, how we can honor and worship him as he really is.

God is God. What does it mean for God to be God? The most common Hebrew word for God is El, Eloah, Elohim, which at its root means to be strong. He is God Almighty. God is the supreme ruler over all, he is the sovereign authority of the universe.

Let’s look at some of the things the Bible tells us about God.

Power in Creation

Psalm 33 says:

Psalm 33:4 For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 ​The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. That is unfathomable power!

Have you ever made something? I worked for a time in the engineering department of a manufacturing firm. When we were developing a new product, there were countless hours of meetings discussing the concept and planning the product. There was much thought and effort put in to the best design. There were sketches and conceptual drawings, calculations, reviews, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, more discussions, schematics, blueprints, fabrication drawings, solid modeling, prototyping, testing, reviews, more meetings, adjustments, revisions to the drawings, more testing, more meetings, lots of head scratching… And then there was the parts sourcing. What kind of materials should we use? How long will they last? Where can we get them? How much do they cost? Will they arrive on time? Can we get enough? How will we make sure the parts are correct? Once we have all the parts, how long will it take to build? Who has the skill and training to assemble it correctly? How do we make sure it works? Will it actually do what we designed it to do?

Imagine this kind of power! He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm! Some of our higher executives thought they had this power. They would march into the engineering department and demand: “I spoke, why isn’t it done yet? I commanded, why isn’t it in my hands?” The answer was often “You haven’t given us the proper resources to complete what you requested. We need more time, more money, better technology, more manpower.”

But think of this. God didn’t have anything outside of himself to work with! God didn’t start with any raw materials. Into nothing he spoke and something was immediately there at his command!

Power in Fulfilling His Purposes

We are told in verse 11 ‘the counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations’. This is in contrast to the counsel and plans of nations and people. Have you ever made plans that came to nothing? You spend time and energy and resources and you are excited and it just doesn’t happen the way you had hoped. Maybe it doesn’t happen at all. Your plans come to nothing. How often are your plans frustrated? How often are you frustrated? How fun is it to be around you when you are frustrated? Something comes up, things get interrupted, you run out of time, something doesn’t work out, someone you were counting on forgets or lets you down. Imagine, God is never, ever frustrated! There is never a plan God makes that doesn’t work out exactly the way he had planned. We get frustrated because we didn’t plan well enough, or we made plans based on inadequate information, or we were unable to carry out our plans, or our plans were contingent on someone else who didn’t do what we were depending on them to do. God runs into none of these problems; he has all knowledge and all wisdom, he has unlimited resources within himself, his plans are dependent on no one outside himself. God is not limited by any of the things that we are limited by. God has never ever had his plans frustrated. “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. ​The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” Our response ought to be fear of the LORD and awe filled worship.

Psalm 148 says:

Psalm 148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. 6 And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. 7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, 8 ​fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! 9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! 10 ​Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! 12 Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

He commanded, he established, he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Romans 4 describes God as the one who:

Romans 4:17 …—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

God calls into existence the things that do not exist. He creates something out of nothing.

Psalm 115:2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 ​Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

God does all that he pleases. Whatever he wants to do, whatever he wills to do, whatever he desires, that he does. There is nothing that God wants to do, wishes he could do, but is thwarted or frustrated in his plans or desires. We worship a happy God, not a frustrated God. He does all that he pleases and he is pleased with all that he does. This is what it means to be God. He has the right to do all that he pleases, and what pleases him is always what is best.

God says in Isaiah 45

Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. 8 “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. 9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’or ‘Your work has no handles’?

God does all that he pleases, and all that pleases him is right and good. God is the Creator of all things, and as Creator, he has the right over all his creation to do with it what pleases him. He can punish, and he can make alive, he is free to show his mercy or his justice. He is sovereign. He has authority to rule and govern his creation in the way that is right and best.

God Cannot…

We need to pause and clarify here. Is there anything that God cannot do? The Bible actually lists several things that God cannot do. Because God is truth, God cannot lie (Heb.6:18). Because God is good, he cannot be tempted by evil (Jas.1:13). Because God is all-wise, he cannot change his mind (Num.23:19; 1Sam.15:29). Because God is perfect, he cannot change (Mal.3:6). Because God is just, he cannot condone sin or let sin go unpunished (Ex.34:7; Prov.11:21). Because God is sovereign, he cannot fail to accomplish all his good purposes (Is.46:9-11). Because God is all glorious, he cannot share his glory with another (Is.48:11). Because God is God, he cannot deny himself (2Tim.2:13). God cannot act contrary to his own nature. God cannot be other than he is. None of these ‘cannots’ limit the power of God. To say God can act contrary to his own nature would be a weakness, not a strength.

Free

God can do more than he does. Creation has not exhausted his abilities. We could conceive of other things which God has the power to do, but that he has not done. Picture a bodybuilder with his wife who has given birth to their tiny baby. As he holds this fragile life in his muscular arms, he has enough power to crush this baby. The fact that he does not is not a limitation to his power. Although he can do it, he is not compelled to do all he is able to do. When we say that he can do it, we mean that he possesses sufficient strength and ability. Although he has the strength, he does not want to do it. We would even be right to say that he cannot do it, not because he lacks the strength, but rather because it is against his will and his desire. He wills to use his strength to protect the infant rather than to destroy it, and he cannot use his strength do do something that violates his own will and purposes.

Psalm 135:4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession. 5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 ​Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. 7 ​He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. 8 He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; 9 who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; 10 ​who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, 11 ​Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, 12 and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel.

God is omnipotent, or all-powerful, but God is also free, free to use his power in the way he chooses. “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does.” He is not obligated or bound in the way he uses his power by anything outside of himself. The only way we can say God is not free is when he has freely bound himself by his own word and promises.

Power to Sustain

God’s power and authority is seen in his creation, but it does not end with creation.

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Jesus is sustaining all things. Every sub-atomic particle is directly governed by God. Not one molecule in the universe is out of its proper place. God’s power not only created all things that are, but also sustains and maintains those things.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. …

Jesus is upholding the universe by the word of his power. He is ensuring that every orbit of every planet around every sun or star and every orbit of every electron around its nucleus is precisely in the course he intends for it. God actively and sovereignly sustains his creation. Speaking of his creatures, Psalm 104 says:

Psalm 104:27 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

God gives life, sustains life, and takes life away. Psalm 3 says:

Psalm 3:5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.

Do you consider that when you wake up? Every morning that you wake up, thank the Most High God that he sustained you through the night. He gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25). He is active, intimately involved in sustaining his creation. This should bring us freedom from anxiety. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

God vigilantly watches over the most insignificant of his creatures. This should not only give us freedom from fear and worry, but also clothe us with boldness for daring and dangerous advances of the gospel.

Psalm 118:6 ​The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom.8:31).

Romans 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Power to Redeem

God is able to bring something out of nothing, he is intimately active in sustaining, providentially preserving and protecting what he has created, and he is even able to conquer the hard hearts of his enemies and make them his own.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

God is demonstrating his power in the gospel.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. …24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The same God who spoke light into existence can create life in hearts that are blind toward him.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 19, a young man approached Jesus asking what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus pointed out to him that he loved his possessions more than he loved God.

Matthew 19:22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a person whose heart is set on the things of this world to embrace God as his greatest treasure. “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are folly to him” (1Cor.2:14). The disciples recognized the impossibility for a person who is clinging tightly to this life to release his grip and reach out for God. Impossible, not so much because he cannot, but, like this rich young ruler, because he will not. Yet Jesus speaks hope for salvation, hope even for this rich man.

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God. God can open blind eyes to the beauty of the gospel. This is what the new birth is all about. God says I will “remove the heart of stone from from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you” (Ezek.36:26-27). This is great hope for evangelism even in the most unlikely places, even among the hardest people, for ‘what is impossible with man is possible with God’.

We should stand in awestruck wonder at a God like this. Our hearts should resonate with thanksgiving to our Almighty Sovereign. We should stand in worshipful fear at a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. We should enjoy the happy presence of a God who is never frustrated, who does all that he pleases. We should fearlessly obey this God in whose hands we are, and boldly go to the unreached peoples, confident that our God is mighty to save!

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

November 22, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:4-6; Distributions of the Triune God

08/31 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 Distributions of the Triune God;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140831_1cor12_4-6.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν. 2 οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι. 3 διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.

4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα· 5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος· 6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. 7 ἑκάστῳ δὲ δίδοται ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

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

Paul is addressing a new topic, the topic of who is spiritual, of what distinguishes someone as a spiritual person. The Corinthians, who were all about status and position, impressing others and being thought well of, emphasized the more dramatic and showy manifestations of the Spirit like the supernatural ability to speak in an unknown language. Paul brings them back to the basics of the gospel again, reminding them that all of humanity falls into only two categories, those who are being saved and those who are perishing (1:18); those who serve idols and those who worship Jesus and own him as their King. Authentic belief in Jesus as Lord is evidence of the Spirit’s work in the heart, because “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” Paul says in Romans 8:

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Everyone who belongs to Christ has the Holy Spirit, and is therefore spiritual. The confession of faith ‘Jesus is Lord’ is enabled by the Spirit. So there can be no ranking of believers within the body of Christ as to who is more spiritual or less spiritual, because by Paul’s definition of spiritual, all those and only those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit are spiritual.

Spirituals and Grace-gifts

In the next verses, Paul looks at the various distributions of gifts to individual believers. Where in verse 1, Paul used the Corinthians’ word [πνευματικῶν] ‘spiritual ones’ or ‘spiritual things’, focusing the attention on the status of the one who possessed a specific manifestation of the Spirit as spiritual, in verse 4, Paul changes to a different word [ χαρισμάτων] ‘grace-gift’, which shifts the focus to the giver and the free and undeserved nature of the gifts. This word has its roots in the word ‘grace’; a free and undeserved freely given gift. Paul used this word back in chapter 1 when he said:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— …7 so that you are not lacking in any gift,

Because of the grace of God given to you, you were enriched in him and lack no grace-gift from him.

He uses this word again in chapter 7, referring to the gift of self-control in singleness and the gift of marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:7 …each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

In Romans 12, as here in 1 Corinthians 12, he uses this word to refer to the free gifts of divine enabling by the Spirit.

Romans 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

These are grace-gifts, they are given to us freely by God’s undeserved grace. Peter uses it the same way in 1 Peter 4:10.

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Grace-gifts are something we have received, they are a grace-gift, and they come to us through God’s multifaceted unearned favor. In Romans 5 and 6, Paul points to justification and eternal life as a grace-gift from God.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Notice the contrast between what is earned and what is freely given. The Corinthians wanted to boast about their spirituality, as if certain gifts were evidence of higher spiritual achievement. Paul undercuts their boasting by pointing to the free and undeserved nature of God’s grace, who freely gives good thing to the undeserving.

Varieties or Distributions

1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Paul highlights the various distribution of these grace-gifts three times in this passage. The verbal form of the word translated ‘varieties’ is translated ‘apportions’ in verse 11:

1 Corinthians 12:11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

The word means to separate or distribute, and the focus is on the freedom of the Spirit to apportion or distribute what he wants to whom he wants. The emphasis of the context is on the sovereign distribution of various gifts to various individuals more than on the multiplicity of the gifts. There is a distinction arising from different distribution to different persons (Thayer). We could translate: ‘there are distributions of grace-gifts, …distributions of services, …distributions of activities …the same Spirit who distributes to each one individually as he wills’.

Gifts, Services, Activities

1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Paul uses three words to describe the gifts of the Spirit. He calls them grace-gifts, services, and activities. We have already looked at ‘grace-gifts’ as pointing to the free and undeserved nature of the gifts.

The word ‘service’ or ministry is used in different ways. Sometimes it is used of serving food to the needy, sometimes of delivering money to the poor, sometimes of delivering the gospel to sinners. The root of this word is where we get our English word ‘deacon’, which is a servant or a minister. There are various distributions of of services, some that minister to physical needs, some that minister to financial needs, some that minister to spiritual needs. Services shifts the focus to the others-centered nature of the gifts.

There are distributions of activities. The word ‘activities’ and the word ’empowers’ later in this verse are the noun and verb forms of the same word [ἐνεργέω], where we get our word ‘energy’. It means ‘activity, effect, operation, that which is worked’. There are different things that are powerfully worked, but the power for working comes from God. There are various distributions of energies, but it is the same God who energizes them all in all.

Energies Energized by God

In Philippians 2 we are told to ‘work our your own salvation with fear and trembling’

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

It is God’s working in us which causes our work to be effective and well pleasing to him. In Colossians 1, Paul speaks of the ministry he was given to make the word of God fully know, the mystery of Christ in you. He says:

Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Paul claims to carry out his God given ministry with the energy that God works in him in power.

Peter, speaking of the grace-gifts received by God’s free grace, says:

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.

All service, whether ministering to physical, financial, or spiritual needs, is to be done in the strength that God supplies so that God gets the glory. Workings or activities focuses on the divine source of the abilities.

The distributions of the Spirit are gifts of free grace, they are services to the saints, they are the workings of God’s power. Each spiritual gift is an undeserved grace-gift, a service to others, and a powerful working of God’s power.

Spirit, Lord, God

1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Notice that all the gifts find their origin in the triune God. It is the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God who works all in all. The Holy Spirit, the Son and the Father together freely give gifts to the saints.

In verse 11 we see that it is the “Spirit who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” But in verse 18 we see that “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them as he chose.” In verse 24, we see that “God has so composed the body”. In verse 28, ‘God has appointed in the church” the various gifts. We see here both the distinct personality and the full deity of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not an ‘it’, a force, a thing. The Spirit is a ‘he’. He performs actions. He wills, he distributes, he gives, he empowers. He is a personal being who chooses and acts, who plans and carries out his purposes. And the Spirit is put on the same level with the Father and the Son. What the Spirit does, God does. In verse 6 it is the Father who empowers all in all, but in verse 11, all the gifts are empowered by one and the same Spirit. God empowers and the Spirit empowers and that empowering is one. The Spirit wills and God wills and that willing is one.

We see this in the giving of the grace-gifts. We also see the work of the triune God in salvation; only by the Holy Spirit can one acknowledge Jesus as Lord, …to the glory of God the Father. In John 6, we see that the work of God is that you believe in him whom he has sent. Jesus said:

John 6:33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jesus came from the Father to give his life for the world.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

The Father gives people to his Son.

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Only those that the Father draws will come to the Son.

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

The Father gives people to the Son and draws them to him, the Son will raise them up on the last day, but it is the Spirit who gives life. The Father, the Son and the Spirit together give life to dead sinners.

Ephesians 2:18 For through him [Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Salvation is through Jesus, in the Spirit, to the Father.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are loved by the Lord, chosen by God, sanctified by the Spirit. The Father, Son and Spirit together secure our salvation.

In John 14, Jesus spoke of the Spirit who:

John 6:17 …the Spirit of truth, … he dwells with you and will be in you.

The Spirit will dwell in believers. Then in verse 18 Jesus says:

John 6:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. …20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

Jesus says ‘I will come to you, I will be in you. Then in verse 23 he says:

…23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

We will come to him and make our home with him. The Father, Son and Spirit residing in the believer. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 we are told that we are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in us. 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God”

The work of salvation is the work of the triune God. The believer is then possessed by the triune God, and the believer is gifted, empowered and placed into service by the triune God.

Thesis

Paul gives his thesis statement in verse 7, a statement that he will explain, defend and unpack in the rest of chapters 12-14:

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

To each. Every believer is spiritual. Every follower of Jesus has been gifted, empowered and employed in service to God.

Is given. The gifts of the Spirit are gifts. They are undeserved. Freely given by a gracious God.

The manifestation of the Spirit. The gifts demonstrate the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. They show off the Spirit, they make known the Spirit.

For the common good. This is the purpose. Literally, ‘toward the coming together.’ The gifts, and those who are spiritual are for others. We are to serve others. Gifts are not given for personal advancement. Gifts are given to bless others, to benefit all, for the profit of all. Grace-gifts, ministries, empowerings, all the manifestations of the Spirit are for the common good.

Conclusion:

To answer the question ‘who is spiritual?’ It is the one who has been gifted by, deployed into ministry by, and empowered by the Spirit, the Son and the Father. This is the one who is spiritual. The one who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, the one who confesses Jesus as Lord, the one who believes in God, this one is spiritual. Marvel at the generosity of our God, who raises the dead and gives us life. Wonder at the Spirit who pours out the riches of his unearned grace on us. Be amazed at our Lord, who makes us useful to him. Stand in awe of the God who empowers us to please him.

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

August 31, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:26-29; Calling that Excludes Boasting

03/10 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 Calling that Excludes Boasting; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130310_1cor1_26-29.mp3

26 Βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς· 27 ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά, 28 καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα, ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ, 29 ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 30 ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐγενήθη σοφία ἡμῖν ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις, 31 ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται· Ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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.”

Addressing Problems with the Gospel

Paul is dealing with the problems in the church in Corinth. The first on his list is division. Division is tearing apart the body of Christ, fracturing and splintering the church of God by quarreling, not over serious doctrinal issues, but over personalities and preferences. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, he appeals for unity, that they all agree, or say the same thing, that they be united in the same mind and same judgment. And he applies the good news of the cross to heal these divisions. He reminds them of the gospel that had brought them into this relationship with God and with one another. He takes them back to the cross. We can learn so much from his approach. Problems in the church are often a result of a misunderstanding of or a misapplication of the gospel. If we go back to the gospel and let our crucified Lord shape our thoughts and emotions and words and actions, many of the problems that we face will be resolved.

The Corinthians were seeking status by aligning themselves with a particular teacher or leader within Christianity. Some followed Paul, the one who first brought the gospel to Corinth. Some followed the eloquent and passionate Apollos, the powerful preacher from Egypt. Some followed Cephas, or Peter, the primary spokesman of Jesus’ twelve. Some felt they were spiritually beyond the need for any human teacher and claimed they followed Christ directly. All this is rooted in pride and a desire to feel superior to others. Paul undercuts all of this by bringing them back to the clear simplicity of the gospel, that Christ was crucified for you.

This is the simple message he preached, and this simple message divided the world into two groups; those who are perishing and us who are being saved. There are not four or six or eight groups. The cross of Jesus divides all people into only two categories.

Crucifying Pride

Paul confronts their desire to be thought wise by pointing to the fact that it had been God’s wise intention all along to frustrate human wisdom and save people through what seemed a foolish, scandalous method. Wonder of wonders, God saves those who believe the foolish message of the cross. Believing by definition is giving up any reliance on self and depending on, trusting in another. Believing is the polar opposite of pride.

Pride is such an insidious disease. It is ironic that even in a group of fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, even among Jesus’ own disciples, pride tended to creep in. Who is the greatest? This seemed to be a persistent problem that Jesus had to address on more than one occasion.

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Pride is out of place among believers. Believers are those who acknowledge they are helpless, weak, unable to fix their situation and are trusting in another, in humility receiving a gift. You can’t even enter God’s kingdom unless you enter like that. Jesus prayed like this:

Luke 10:21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (cf. Matt.11:25-27)

Paul has told us in verses 18-25 that it was God’s wise intention to undermine human wisdom by saving people using a foolish message, the message of a crucified Messiah. Now he tells us that God undermines human wisdom by saving foolish people. Make no mistake about it, this is insulting. This is demeaning, degrading, and offensive. And it is meant to be. Paul is intending to strip away the pride of his readers so that we would begin to see the cross more clearly, and to see each other in the light of the cross. And yet, to soften the blow, Paul comes along side us and includes himself in this category. Paul calls us his brothers.

Calling and Choosing

Paul instructs his fellow believers in Corinth to consider your calling. What does it mean to be called? In verse 24 he says that the gospel, the message of Christ crucified is to those who are called, Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God. There he says ‘to those who are called’; here he says ‘consider your calling’. What is this calling? Do you get a telephone call? Do you hear the dinner bell calling you to dinner? Are you called to a specific job?

Let’s see what we can learn from this passage about what Paul means when he says ‘called’. First, this calling cuts across ethnic barriers. In verse 23, he says the cross is folly to Gentiles and a stumbling block to Jews, but to the called, both Jews and Greeks, it is power and wisdom. We also see that this calling changes things for the one who is called. What was foolishness and scandalous now becomes the power and wisdom of God. It seems this calling creates a new category. Before, the categories were Jew or Gentile. Now, the categories are ‘those who are perishing’ and ‘us who are being saved’. The ones who are being saved in verse 21 are those who believe, and in verse 24, the same group is referred to as those who are called. So ‘the called’ and ‘those who believe’ and ‘us who are being saved’ are all ways of referring to the same group. If we jump back to the introduction of this letter, verse 2 tells us that the church of God is made up of those who are called to be saints. This calling cuts across ethnic barriers; it creates a new category, ‘those who are called’ is another way of saying ‘us who are being saved’ or ‘those who believe’.

After inviting the Corinthians to consider their calling, he goes on to describe God’s choosing. Not many wise, not many powerful, not many of noble birth, but God chose what is foolish, God chose what is weak; God chose what is low and despised, even the nothings. The calling of the Corinthians is here connected with God’s choosing.

Have you ever wondered why in response to the same preaching of the gospel one person is moved to tears, broken over their sins and desperate for a Savior, and they cry out ‘what must I do to be saved?’ while in the very same room, having heard the very same message, another person walks away totally unmoved. Someone else may walk away angry or offended. What makes the difference? Is it the passion of the preacher? The eloquence of the delivery? The rigor of the logic? No. Is it the upbringing of the hearer? From this and many other passages, it seems the Bible’s answer is that God’s call makes the difference. As Luke puts it in the book of Acts, “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). In 2 Corinthians, Paul compares this to God’s act in creation when he says:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In Romans 8, Paul describes those who love God, those to whom all things work together for good, as those who are called according to his purpose. Then he places this calling at the center of God’s saving work, preceded by predestining and foreknowing, and followed by justifying and glorifying. Jesus said ‘all that the Father gives me will come to me’ (Jn.6:37) and he said to the Jews who did not believe in him “you do not believe because you are not part of my flock’ (Jn.10:26). Peter points us to “the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pet.2:9).

Not Many

Paul invites the Corinthians to consider their own calling as evidence that God destroys the wisdom of the wise and makes foolish the wisdom of the world by saving those who believe.

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.

He says that God did not call many wise or powerful or noble. He does not say ‘not any’ but ‘not many’. There was Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue (Acts 18:8), and Sosthenes, the next ruler of the synagogue (Acts 18:17; 1Cor.1:1). There was Gaius Titius Justus, probably a wealthy Roman, who owned a house next door to the synagogue, and opened his home to host the new church (Acts 18:7; Rom.16:23; 1Cor.1:14), there was Erastus, the city treasurer (Rom.16:23), whose name has been discovered in an inscription on a pavement in Corinth. None were excluded simply because they were wise, powerful or noble. But not many of those believed. The majority of the church in Corinth was made up of former idolaters, sexually immoral, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunks, foul-mouths, and extortioners (1Cor.6:9-11). Many were slaves. Most were from the lower classes. And yet even among them there seemed to be a desire to be thought well of. Paul invites them to look at the purpose of God to confound the wise and then to look around.

James confronts the same kind of problem. The churches he addressed had a tendency to treat with preference those who were rich and well dressed over those who were poor and shabbily clothed. James says:

James 2:4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

God has chosen the poor in this world. We see this so clearly in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was frequently criticized by the religious leaders for who he spent time with. Mark records:

Mark 2:15 And as he reclined at table in his [Levi’s] house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus says that he came to call sinners, and sinners came. It seems that Jesus was continually surrounded by the weak, the sick, the outcasts, the demon possessed, the desperate, the despised, the needy, the nobodies of society. “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus rebuked the chief priests and elders in the temple, who refused to believe in him.

Matthew 21:31 …Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

The religious leaders were rebuked and held accountable for their unbelief, for their rejection of Jesus. Not many were called. Jesus said “how difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Lk.18:24). But he also said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Lk.18:27). Even they were not beyond the reach of God’s grace. Even among them, a few humbled themselves, became like little children, acknowledged their sin and their need and received the free gift. The rich man from Arimithea, Joseph, a respected member of the Council (Mt.27:57; Mr.15:43; Lk.23:50; Jn.19:38), and the Pharisee Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews (Jn.3:1; 19:39) became followers of Jesus. Even Paul himself, a Pharisee trained under Gamaliel, God knocked to his knees and called him to follow.

Nothings Nullify Things that Are

Paul says:

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.

God chose the foolish, weak, low and despised, even nothings. God shamed the wise, shamed the strong, brought to nothing the things that are. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). This is the kind of God we worship, a God who can take nothing and make something beautiful out of it.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

God brought something out of nothing with his word. And it was very good. The rougher the raw material, the more impressive the accomplishment of the Artist. So God delights to take nothings, zeroes, the low and despised and create trophies of his grace. When Jesus was told that his dear friend Lazarus was ill, he said

John 11:4 …“This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Jesus intentionally delayed two days before going (Jn.11:6), and then he tells his disciples:

John 11:14 …“Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Jesus waited until his friend had been dead four days so that everyone would see that his voice, his call, creates life in the dead.

We are told in Romans 4 that Abraham,

Romans 4:17 …–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, … 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

That is a great definition of faith; being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised. He believed in the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. He grew strong in his faith and gave glory to God. That is what this is all about. That is what we were created for. We are designed to give glory and honor and praise to our great God. We glorify God because God is the only one worthy of glory.

Ephesians tells us:

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins …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– …7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The goal of God’s call to the nothings, the goal of God’s gracious gift of life to those dead, the reason God excludes our works, the reason it pleased God through the folly of what is preached to save those who believe is so that he gets all the glory, so that he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace, or, as Paul concludes here:

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

When we boast as if we have done something commendable, we rob God of the glory that he alone deserves. To God alone be all the glory!

Response

Consider your calling brothers and sisters. So what do we do with this truth? How do we respond? First, this should create in us a humble amazement. God called me out of darkness and into his marvelous light! Why me?

Remember the context. Paul is dealing with divisions and quarreling. Let this truth shape how you view one another. We naturally categorize people into losers and winners; drop-outs and the educated; well dressed and shabby; rich and poor; those who have it together and those who just can’t get it together. Let the good news of the cross shape how you view others. God levels pride and lifts up the downcast. The cross places us all on level ground. Look around you today and wonder at those God has called saints!

This truth should result in humility and boldness. Take heart; no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. The most horrific sinner and the most hardened Pharisee can both be transformed by the call of God. What is impossible with men is possible with God. God calls into existence things that do not exist.

All this is to the glory of God. God is the one who saves, so God gets all the glory. I can take no credit for my own salvation. All glory goes to God alone.

How do You Know?

Consider your calling. Have you been called? How do you know?

Have you felt the weight of your sins? Have you felt the seriousness of your sins before a holy God? The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and righteousness and judgment.

Have your eyes been opened to the light of the glory of the gospel in the face of Jesus Christ?

Have you believed? Have you put your faith only and completely in the finished work of Jesus? If you are feeling the weight of your sin and you see Jesus as your only hope then cry out to him today.

The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are his children. This is the call of God.

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

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