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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 2:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise

06/06_Daniel 02:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210606_dan02_17-23.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him. So he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans to tell him his dreams. They confidently assured the king that he could tell them the dream they would give the interpretation. Archaeology has unearthed extensive dream manuals that offer explanations of different dream symbolism based on centuries of case histories.

But the king was apparently skeptical of the ability and authenticity of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. He insisted they tell him not only the interpretation, but also the dream that he had dreamed to demonstrate that they indeed had access to the supernatural, and that he could trust their interpretation. They argued, ‘that’s not how this works; you tell us the dream, and we will show its interpretation’. They even appeal to his pride ‘No great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean; surely you want to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings, don’t you?’ But he had made up his mind. He offered gifts and rewards and great honor to the one who made known the dream and its interpretation, but if they failed to tell him the dream and its interpretation, they would be torn limb from limb and their houses buried under a pile of human excrement.

Because his wise men proved incompetent to provide the validation of their legitimacy that the king required, because he suspected them of trying to buy time, of conspiring to speak lying and corrupt words to him until the times change, he became angry and very furious, and ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. If the teachers were corrupt, their students would also be suspect, so this extended even to Daniel and his friends, who recently completed their training in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

We see the utter bankruptcy of magicians, enchanters, diviners, sorcerers. Even this pagan king was able to see through their treachery and deceit. They confidently claim and make a living selling their secret and hidden wisdom, but they are incompetent and speechless when it comes to true wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The wise men of Babylon argued that only the gods could fulfill the demand of the king, and they do not dwell with flesh. But Israel’s God is Immanuel, God with us, a God who is near to all who call on him, who desires to dwell in the midst of his people, a God who we now know ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’

When Arioch the captain of the king’s guard came to arrest Daniel and his friends to put them to death, Daniel, who knew the one who is the source of all wisdom, answered with prudence and discretion.

Daniel 2:15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed boldness and humble confidence both with Arioch and with king Nebuchadnezzar. By God’s grace, Daniel gained audience with the king and received time from the king, the very thing the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans.

Daniels Gift of Understanding Visions and Dreams

Here we begin to see where Daniel’s humble boldness came from. Before we move forward, let’s back up and look at something we were told in chapter 1 that is important background for this part of the story.

In verse 2, we were told it was God who gave the king of Judah and the vessels of his holy temple into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 9 we learned that God gave Daniel favor and compassion; grace and mercy in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. Then in 17,

Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

We are told that God blessed all four with learning and skill, but Daniel specifically was given understanding in all visions and dreams. This is much more than a proficiency with the dream manuals of the Chaldeans. This is God’s gift to one of his children, a God given ability to understand dreams and visions. We are not told if Daniel even knew about this gift before this chapter. But if he was aware of his specific gifting from God, this would be a source of great confidence in approaching both the captain of the king’s guard and the king himself.

The Reminder of God’s Character

Daniel requested and was granted a time to show the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,

Wait, I thought back in chapter 1 they were re-named with Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Why revert to their Hebrew names here in chapter 2?

Let’s read it again. Remember, names have meanings. ‘God is My Judge’ went to his house and made the matter known to ‘YHWH is Gracious’, ‘Who is What God Is’ and YHWH Will Help’. Their lives were literally on the line. They were on death row. They needed to remember that God is my judge, not Arioch, not even Nebuchadnezzar. They needed to be reminded that YHWH is gracious. They needed to be reminded that there is no other God like the Lord our God, that he is above and sovereign over all the false gods of Babylon. They needed to be reminded from where their help comes; ‘My help comes from YHWH, who made heaven and earth’ (Ps.121:2).

God’s Gifts and Dependence on God in Prayer

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Wait, I thought we just read in chapter 1 that Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams, and here in chapter 2 that he confidently went to the king and offered to interpret his dream. Why pray? Why call a prayer meeting and ask your friends to pray? Why not just use your gift and interpret the dream?

We don’t know at this point how much Daniel knew about his gifting from God. But Daniel did know that gift or no gift, he and his friends were utterly and completely dependent on God.

Daniel didn’t presume on his gift; that because God gave him understanding in all visions and dreams, he didn’t need to pray. Exactly the opposite; we see Daniel’s gift operating through prayer. Expressing dependence on God in prayer was the means through which his gift became operational.

God’s Gifts and the Necessity of Community

And Daniel didn’t go it alone. Daniel’s gift didn’t puff him up. He didn’t think of himself more highly than his three friends because he had this gift and they didn’t. He demonstrates humility and the need for unity with his brothers, that together they need to seek God’s mercy. God’s gifts are given for building up the body, for through love serving one another (1Cor.12:7; Eph.4:8-12; Gal.5:17).

We need to remember that we are completely dependent on God. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). Abide in me and you will bear much fruit. But apart from me you can do nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Nothing. We must acknowledge our dependence on God in prayer.

And we need to remember that we need each other. We need to remind one another that the Lord is gracious, that there is no one like our God, that the Lord will be our help, that we are accountable ultimately only to him. We are meant to function as a body, to complement one another. We are incomplete on our own.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Seeking Mercy from the God of Heaven

These four knew the character of God, that he ‘a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). They knew that God is abundantly merciful, but they didn’t presume on his mercy. They knew that God is also just, and they understood what they deserved. Remember, mercy is not getting what we deserve. Daniel and his friends understood that the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23); they were all sinners, so sooner or later, they deserved death. Life is a gift, grace from God, something we don’t deserve. They knew their lives were on the line, so they sought mercy from the God of heaven. They asked. They prayed.

We know the character of God. We know the grace of God. But we need to remember to ask. God loves to give good gifts to his children in response to our prayers (Mt.7:11). Sometimes ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (Jas.4:2). If you are in need of help, if you are in need of mercy, if you are in need of grace, ask! God is ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph.2:4); it is not in short supply. And he loves us with a great love. We need only ask. ‘Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full’ (Jn.16:24).

Specificity in Prayer

Notice also the specificity of their prayer.

Daniel 2:18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

They don’t just ask God for general mercy. General prayers get general answers. They have a specific need, they are in a specific crisis. And so they ask for very specific help. Seek mercy concerning this mystery, we need to know the king’s dream, so that we will not be executed along with the rest of the satanic practitioners of Babylon.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for specific help in time of need.

God Answers Prayer

Daniel 2:19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

God answers prayer when we ask! God may not give us what we ask for, but he will always give us what is best. God loves to bless his children. God promises to answer our prayers. And he loves to give specific answers to specific prayers.

The Necessity of Praise

In Luke 17, there were ten lepers who cried out to Jesus for mercy. He told them to go show themselves to the priests (the priests were responsible for declaring people clean or unclean). In going, they were cleansed, but only one turned back ‘praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks’ (Lk.17:15-16). Jesus asked ‘where are the other nine?’ Why did only one return to give praise to God?

Daniel and his friends recognized their dependence on God, they asked God for mercy, and they did not fail to thank God when that mercy was extended. Given the urgency and gravity of the situation (remember, the ‘king was angry and very furious’, the decree of the king was urgent, and they ‘were about to be killed’) it would have been natural to rush with the answer in hand to Arioch to tell him the good news. After all, that would be giving glory to God, right?

First, Daniel worships.

Daniel 2:19 …Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

to whom belong wisdom and might.

21 He changes times and seasons;

he removes kings and sets up kings;

he gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding;

22 he reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with him.

23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

God’s name is to be praised forever and ever. He is eternal. God owns wisdom. God owns strength. God is worthy of worship, omniscient, omnipotent.

God is the author of time, of history. It is truly His story. He changes seasons. He can turn a season of grief, of mourning, of terror, into a season of joy and dancing. God is sovereign over empires, over nations, over politicians and kings. He is absolutely sovereign over history. He removes from power whoever he will, and he puts into power whoever he will.

God owns all wisdom, and he gives it to whom he will. The wise are wise because it is given to them by God. Those who have understanding have it because knowledge is a gift from God. God is the source of all true wisdom and knowledge (not the dark powers sought out by magicians, enchanters and sorcerers).

God is the revealer of deep and hidden things. No secret is hid from his sight, and he can reveal it to whomever he wills. Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). God knows what we dream in the dark. God is ‘the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (Jas.1:17). ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1Jn.1:5). Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn.8:12).

Second Person Worship

Notice, verses 20-22 are about God, in the third person; God is referred to as ‘he’. Daniel is declaring God’s greatness, he is talking about God to others. Many of our worship songs are in the third person, declaring God’s greatness and worth to each other. That is an appropriate form of worship, and Daniel uses it here.

But notice, in verse 23, Daniel switches from the third to the second person, from talking about God to talking to God. He addresses God directly in worship. This too is an appropriate form of worship.

Daniel 2:23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel and his friends know the character of God and worship him for his eternity, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his sovereignty, his grace and mercy. But they have also experienced first hand a specific answer to their specific request, and so they address him personally.

Have you experienced God personally? Have you prayed to him, and has he answered your prayer? Our God is a personal God, he answers personally. We can experience him, experience intimacy with him, speak to him and know that he hears, that he cares, that he knows you fully and answers you personally. The Lord is near to all who call on him. (Ps.34:18; 145:18).

***

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

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 11:30-33; Boasting in Weakness

01/31_2 Corinthians 11:30-33; Boasting in Weakness ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210131_2cor11_30-33.mp3

We are going to jump back in to our study of 2 Corinthians today. We have been away from this book for the holidays, so a quick overview to orient ourselves in this letter from the Apostle Paul to a troubled church.

Acts 18 recounts Paul’s first visit to Corinth (around AD 50 or 51), where he spent 18 months preaching the gospel and establishing the church. But shortly after leaving, he heard there were troubles in Corinth, so he wrote them a letter (AD 52) confronting some of the issues, a letter that was misunderstood. He again received visits from some in Corinth communicating that all was not well, so he wrote them again (AD 53; the letter we have as 1 Corinthians). About a year later (AD 54), he heard of more problems, so he traveled in person to Corinth, a visit that did not go well. He quickly retreated, and wrote them a letter through his tears. Having sent his co-worker Titus ahead to Corinth to try to patch things up, he was now traveling through Macedonia en route to visit them again, and he wrote this letter (AD 55) to prepare them for his visit.

Chapters 1-7 seek to re-orient their thinking about ministry. They had developed a distorted understanding of what ministry is all about; Paul argues that gospel ministry is ministry that is shaped by the gospel. The good news is that God humbled himself, became one of us, to seek and to save the lost, to lay down his life for us. Christian ministry is not all about paychecks and positions and privilege. Gospel ministry must be shaped by the gospel, by the cross. It must look like humility, like sacrificial service for others. It must pattern itself after Christ crucified. It must conform to the cross.

Paul says:

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 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. …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 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

In chapters 8-9 he reminds us that this gospel grace that has been extended to us by God will so transform our hearts that we will overflow in practical generosity to others. Part of his purpose for this trip through Macedonia to Corinth is to take up a collection for the poor and persecuted believers in Jerusalem, so he extends them the opportunity to participate in this practical ministry.

In chapters 10-13 he confronts head on the false apostles who had gained a hearing in the church, who were proclaiming a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.

Paul changes his tone in this section to biting irony. The false teachers are engaged in foolish boasting, so he answers fools according to their folly so that their folly will become evident to all. He warns the Corinthians are being led astray from a sincere devotion to Christ, and that the false apostles are taking them as slaves, devouring, taking advantage of, putting on airs, even striking them in the face (11:20).

2 Corinthians 11:21 …But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I.

Paul possesses the credentials to meet them in their foolish boasting. In fact, he can go further than that.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman…

But here he switches gears on them. He reminds them that a servant of Christ is just that, a servant.

2 Corinthians 11:23… —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. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

Res Gestae Divi Augusti

When we put this in historical context, we see Paul is making a parody of the typical self-praise of the powerful.

Augustus Caesar (who reigned 31 BC to 14 AD) had his lengthy autobiography inscribed on two columns in Rome. Here is a short excerpt:

“the achievements of the deified Augustus by which he placed the whole world under the sovereignty of the Roman people, and of the amounts which he expended upon the state and the Roman people”.

[4] Twice I triumphed with an ovation, thrice I celebrated curule triumphs, and was saluted as imperator twenty-one times. Although the Senate decreed me additional triumphs I set them aside. When I had performed the vows which I had undertaken in each war I deposited upon the Capitol the laurels which adorned my fasces. For successful operations on land and sea, conducted either by myself or by my lieutenants under my auspices, the Senate on fifty-five occasions decreed that thanks should be rendered to the immortal gods. The days on which such thanks were rendered by decree of the Senate numbered 890. In my triumphs there were led before my chariot nine kings or children of kings. At the time of writing these words I had been thirteen times consul, and was in the thirty-seventh year of my tribunician power.

It was common for the powerful to catalog their accomplishments. Paul meets the super-apostles in their boasting, but he takes it in a direction they wouldn’t anticipate. We expect boasting to be in accomplishments, in victories, in triumphs. But Paul boasts in his trials, in his brokenness, in his sufferings.

Divine Commission

We pick up on some of the credentials they were looking for from chapter 12, where Paul says ‘I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. …The signs of a true apostle were performed among you …with signs and wonders and mighty works’ (12:1,12). They expected the supernatural; visions, revelations, signs, wonders.

We could think of the divine commissioning of the Old Testament prophets, like Ezekiel, who said “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” or Isaiah; “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” or Jeremiah; “Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” or even the Apostle John “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book…”

We would expect Paul to share with us his commissioning by the risen Lord that we find in Acts 9:

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. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (cf. Acts 22:6-11; 26:12-18)

No doubt this was well known to the Corinthian church, as Paul had referenced it in 1 Corinthians 9:1. But that’s not what he says here.

Glory To God Alone

Paul says

2 Corinthians 11:30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

Paul is answering a fool according to his folly, but he refuses to play their game on their terms. He will not answer a fool according to his folly. He changes the criteria. He says ‘You make it necessary for me to boast, but I’m going to boast about that which puts on display my weakness, so that God gets all the glory.’

2 Corinthians 11:31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.

God must get all the glory. God alone is blessed forever. God is related to Jesus as his God in his humanity, and he is the Father of our Lord Jesus in his eternal divine nature. Christian ministry is intimately linked to the Father through our Lord Jesus.

Paul takes an oath by the God who is Truth, that he is telling the truth. This heightens our expectation of what he is going to say next. He brings up his Damascus experience, but not in the way they expect.

Damascus Escape

2 Corinthians 11:32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me,

This account, by the way, is anchored in history. Aretas was a royal title. This was Aretas IV, a Nabatean vassal king who reigned in Petra from 9 BC to 39/40 AD; he was the father-in-law to Herod Antipas. Herod divorced his daughter to marry Herodias, the former wife of his brother Philip (Mat.14:3-4; Mk.6:17-18 Lk.3:19). This is the Herod whom John the Baptist rebuked, and was eventually executed by. Aretas avenged his daughter by attacking and defeating Herod Antipas in 36 AD.

2 Corinthians 11:32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands. (cf. Acts 9:20-25; Gal.1:17)

This is shocking. He turns boasting upside down. Paul was powerful, triumphant, marching in broad daylight to Damascus with authority to persecute and imprison followers of Jesus. This is the posture of the false apostles. But he didn’t know Jesus. Jesus knocked him from his high horse, lowered him to the dust, so that he could reveal himself to him.

And then he was helpless, blind, weak; he had to be led by the hand. He had to be prayed for by a reluctant disciple from Damascus that he was coming to persecute. Ananias laid his hands on him to restore his sight. He immediately began to proclaim Jesus, and this soon got him in trouble. The hunter became the hunted; the persecutor became the persecuted. The powerful became weak. The pursuer was pursued. The one who came to take lives had to flee for his life. In a humiliating turn, those he came to persecute helped him escape; he was lowered in a large basket under cover of night, a basket normally used for salted fish or produce.

Saul the persecutor came to know what it was to be persecuted for the name of Jesus. But he had met Jesus, and Jesus was worth the cost. Christian ministry is characterized by humility, willingly sacrificial for the good of others.

Corona Muralis

It was well known that one of the highest military honors for valor was the Corona Muralis or Wall Crown. It was awarded to the first Roman soldier to successfully scale the wall of an enemy city. Ironically, Paul boasts in his weakness. He didn’t scale the wall in victory; he was lowered down the wall and slunk away under cover of darkness.

The false apostles wanted credentials, they wanted evidence of divine commissioning. They wanted an account of a vision or evidence of divine favor. In bringing up Damascus, Paul alludes to his divine call and commissioning, but instead he recounts his shameful exit from the city.

Jericho and David

But Paul was not the only one to escape down a city wall. Under Joshua’s command, the two spies who entered Jericho were let down a scarlet cord through an opening in the wall by Rahab the prostitute (Josh.2:15). David escaped from King Saul when Michal let him down through the window, and he fled (1Sam.19:12). In each of these accounts, what seems like an ignominious and shameful escape turns out to lead to a display of God’s power.

This is exactly Paul’s point. God’s power is displayed most vividly through human weakness. So he is glad to boast in the things that display his weakness, so that God alone would get all the glory.

***

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

February 2, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:7-10; The Paradox of Ministry

03/31_2 Corinthians 6:7-10; The Paradox of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190331_2cor6_7-10.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. He is commending himself in everything as God’s minister. He purposes that no fault may be found with the ministry. He refuses to create stumbling blocks for anyone in anything. He will allow no stumbling block but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In verses 4-7 he gives a bullet-point list of 18 ways he commends himself, each introduced by the word ‘in’. He introduces the list by the way he faced adversity; in much endurance. Then he gives three general hardships, three specific forms of persecution, and three voluntary hardships, all in the plural.

Starting in verse 6 he lists four character qualities, fruit of the Spirit in his life: purity, knowledge, patience, kindness; followed by four divine enablements for the ministry: in the Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in the word of truth, in the power of God.

The Means of Ministry

Now after 18 bullet points of adversity and how he responds to it, all beginning with ‘in’, he switches prepositions; starting at the end of verse 7 he uses ‘through’ three times, followed by seven uses of ‘as’, introducing contrasts or paradoxes.

We are all called to minister, to serve others in love for their good. Ministry is conflict. Ministry is tension. Ministry is war!

You cannot please everyone ever. Jesus said ‘Woe to you when all people speak well of you’ (Lk.6:26). There will always be something someone doesn’t like about something you do. Expect it! Expect tension in ministry.

7… through weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; [διὰ τῶν ὅπλων τῆς δικαιοσύνης τῶν δεξιῶν καὶ ἀριστερῶν,]

Paul uses a military metaphor here. Ministry is war. He endures hardships in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. He is equipped to respond this way in or by means of the Holy Spirit, God’s unhypocritical love, the word of truth, the power of God. He is equipped for war!

He uses this word ‘weapons’ in 2 Corinthians 10:4 also in the context of the power of God.

2 Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

He is thoroughly equipped from right to left, for the battle. His weaponry consists in righteousness or justification. ‘The one who knew no sin, on our behalf was made to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ (2Cor.5:21). In Ephesians 6, righteousness is mentioned as the breastplate. Clothed with God’s righteousness in Christ he now stands ready, both for offensive and defensive, as with sword and shield. God’s righteousness is a weapon both offensive and defensive.

The next two contrasts are also introduced by ‘through’, indicating that all four of these nouns could be seen as part of his weaponry.

8 through glory and shame, [διὰ δόξης καὶ ἀτιμίας,]

through slander and praise. [διὰ δυσφημίας καὶ εὐφημίας·]

Paul’s sequence is positive-negative, negative-positive; sandwiching the negative inside the positive.

Glory is how he describes the new covenant ministry in chapter 3; the far-surpassing glory of the ministry of the Spirit; the lasting ministry of righteousness and life. It is a glorious ministry, but there is little glory in it. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor [in-glory], but we in disrepute [ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄτιμοι. (adj)].

It is a glorious ministry, but its ministers are held in disrepute or shame. We understand how glory or honor could be considered a weapon, part of our equipping for ministry, but shame or dishonor?

In Acts 5,

Acts 5:40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor [ἀτιμασθῆνα (v)] for the name.

Did you hear that? They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonored in the name of Jesus! Worthy to be shamed! They counted it an honor to be publicly dishonored. They remembered what Jesus had said in Matthew 10:

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, …17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Look at what Jesus is saying. You will be dishonored. You will be shamed. But in the midst of betrayals, even beatings and arrests is an opportunity to testify; to give Spirit empowered witness to Jesus. They saw slander and shame as an opportunity; an offensive weapon to bring glory and praise to Jesus!

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 4 to describe his role as a spectacle to the world, as fools for Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered [δυσφημούμενοι (v)], we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul is slandered, treated as scum and refuse, yet through it all he implores all to be reconciled to God. Shame and slander, glory and praise, in it all his desire is to make Christ known; to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2:14).

It is particularly in the slander and shame that we become like Christ.

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Matthew 27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

1 Corinthians 2:8 …they …crucified the Lord of glory .

Peter says:

1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Seven Paradoxes in Ministry

Paul switches in the next seven pairs to ‘as’ to introduce contrasts or paradoxes in ministry. Ministry is paradoxical. It is not always what it seems. Paul has already described gospel ministry as paradoxical; there are differing responses to the gospel between different groups of people; to those who are perishing and to us who are being saved. The same message of the cross sounds stupid to some and comes with power to others (1Cor.1:18). The same aroma of knowing God stinks like death to some and smells alive and beautiful to others (2Cor.2:14-16).

as deceivers, and yet true; [ὡς πλάνοι καὶ ἀληθεῖς,]

Paul himself said in 1 Corinthians (15:15) that ‘if Christ has not been raised… We are even found to be misrepresenting God’. Jesus was accused of being a deceiver in speaking about his own resurrection (Mt.27:63). Some perceive him to be a deceiver, yet

2 Corinthians 4:2 …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.

9 as unknown, and yet well known; [ὡς ἀγνοούμενοι καὶ ἐπιγινωσκόμενοι,]

Paul was unknown in the sense of being unrecognized, not considered authentic. His character was being questioned. Yet…

2 Corinthians 5:11 … what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

Even if you don’t know me, don’t recognize me, God knows me fully, and that is all that matters.

1 Corinthians 13:12 …Now I know [γινώσκω] in part; then I shall know fully [ἐπιγνώσομαι], even as I have been fully known [ἐπεγνώσθην].

as dying, and behold, we live; [ὡς ἀποθνῄσκοντες καὶ ἰδοὺ ζῶμεν,]

Paul was all to familiar with death. He said in chapter 4 that we are…

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the [dying] of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Paul faced death daily (1Cor.15:31). Yet he interjects an exclamation Look! Behold! We live!

2 Corinthians 5:14 …one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

We died with Christ, and his resurrection life is now at work in us!

as punished, and yet not killed; [ὡς παιδευόμενοι καὶ μὴ θανατούμενοι,]

These two statements echo the language of Psalm 118.

Psalm 118:17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. 18 The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.

If we look at the content, we see the Psalmist in his affliction, surrounded by the nations, crying out to the Lord, and the Lord as a valiant warrior bringing victory with his right hand. Then the gates of righteousness are opened so that the righteous may inter in. Psalm 113-118 were traditionally sung at Passover, and these Psalms were likely sung by Jesus and his disciples at the last supper. Only a few verses later we find this familiar paradox:

Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

The rejected stone is the cornerstone. Hosanna! Save us we pray! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Paul is embracing the paradox of ministry shaped by his Master. “As dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed.”

Isaiah 53:4 …we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,…

The punishment that brought us peace was on him.

Throughout this Paul is identifying with the suffering servant. He is willing to take up his cross and follow Jesus.

10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; [ὡς λυπούμενοι ἀεὶ δὲ χαίροντες,]

In a life of ministry, there is sorrow, but there is always joy. Paul writes from prison to Philippi:

Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

There is sorrow, mingled with joy. Like Jesus,

Hebrews 12:2 …who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Paul writes also to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. There is joy in the midst of sorrow when in our service we sacrifice for the good of others.

as poor, yet making many rich; [ὡς πτωχοὶ πολλοὺς δὲ πλουτίζοντες,]

How does someone who is poor make others rich? When Peter and John encountered the lame beggar, Peter said “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you” (Acts3:6). He gave him something of greater value than what he was seeking.

Paul fleshes this out most clearly in 2 Corinthians 8

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Matthew 8:20 …the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Paul voluntarily embraces a life of poverty in order to open the riches of eternal wealth to them.

as having nothing, yet possessing everything. [ὡς μηδὲν ἔχοντες καὶ πάντα κατέχοντες.]

How does someone have nothing while at the same time fully have all things? In Mark 10 Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give away all that he had and come follow me.

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

This is the paradox of the Christian life and ministry. You can give up everything and find that you have lost nothing. If you seek to preserve you life, you will lose it; you must lay down your life to truly find it (Mk.18:35)

This is the way of the cross; are you willing to take up your cross and follow Jesus? Are you willing to risk everything to experience the joy he promises in following him? Do I “ count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”? Am I willing to “suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”? Is my supreme desire

Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

?

***

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

April 1, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God All Knowing and Wise

11/29 God All-Knowing and Wise [omniscience] ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151129_god-all-knowing-wise.mp3

We are spending some time savoring together what God tells us about himself. He is the most perfect being, and to know him is to know true joy and fulfillment. We have the pleasure of enjoying a blood-bought relationship with this God who is Father, Son and Spirit. Throughout Scripture, we are pointed back to the character and nature of God as the foundation for our lives, for hope in troubled times, as an anchor for our souls. We are warned of the dangers and consequences of believing false things about God or imagining him to be other than he is. We want to know God, to see what he has said about himself, to worship him in truth.

The Good News of Omniscience

Last time we looked at the power of God, the freedom and authority of God. God is sovereign. God has the right and ability to rule over his creation however he sees fit, and that is good news because he is good and only does what is best.

Today we will look at the wisdom and knowledge of God. The Bible teaches us that God ‘is perfect in knowledge’ (Job37:16); that ‘he knows everything’ (1Jn.3:20); Peter told Jesus ‘Lord, you know everything’ (Jn.21:17); Solomon addresses God ‘you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind’ (1Ki.8:39); the Psalmist declares:

Psalm 147:4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 5 ​Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

The author of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

This is terrifying to those who do not know the forgiveness that comes only through a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows my heart, and my heart is ‘deceitful and desperately sick’ (Jer.17:9-10). I must ‘give account for every careless word’ I speak (Mt.12:36). But to those who do know him, this is good news indeed! He knows everything about me, and he loves me anyway?! He will never find out something about me that he doesn’t already know, that would cause him to turn away from me? There is nothing I will do in the future that he doesn’t already know, that would change his heart toward me? Truly, as David said:

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity… (Romans 4:7-8)

God who Cannot Learn

We stand amazed at a God who is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God does not fully know. God cannot increase in knowledge, because he is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God must learn. God will never be surprised, or caught off guard by new information.

So often our decisions are just plain bad. Have you ever made a bad decision? We make the best decisions we can based on the information we have, but we never have all the information. And the information we do have, we do not always know how to best utilize it. Have you ever said after the fact, ‘well that would have been really helpful to know’?

When I was younger, my mom used to make homemade frosting, and put it in these little orange Tupperware containers in the fridge. I would often spread some on a graham cracker for an after school snack. One day I remember coming home from school, opening the fridge, grabbing the little orange container, scooping up a finger full of the ‘frosting’ and popping it in my mouth, only to learn too late that this little orange container did not contain frosting, it was lard! That would have been nice to know before I stuck some in my mouth!

God never makes a bad decision based on incomplete information.

Sometimes our decisions are based on bad information. Did you know that sometimes people will tell you only part of the story in hopes that you will make the decision they want you to make? We have learned this through the challenging process of raising kids. ‘Dad, my brother sat on me and tried to scratch my eyes out! Look what he did to me!’ Your sense of justice is roused and you let the gavel fall. Then, through the tears, you come to find out that there is another side to this story. The ‘victim’ had been ruthlessly taunting and provoking her brother to the point where out of sheer frustration he responded the way he did. There is guilt on both sides. Sometimes people are less than truthful. How do you know who is telling you the truth? How do you know if it is the whole truth? God is never left to wonder. God knows the truth. God sees the thoughts and intents of the heart. God is never duped into making a judgment based on false information. God is perfect in knowledge.

God and ‘Chance’

But even if we had access to all the information, even if we had all the facts, we still can’t know what will happen in the future. Companies spend lots of money on surveys and statistical studies and analyzing trends and data and probabilities, but in the end, they have to roll the dice and take a chance. God never takes a chance. God ‘declares the end from the beginning’ (Is.41:22-26; 46:9-10).

It is true that the Bible talks of God as ‘regretting’ or ‘repenting’ or ‘changing his mind’ (Gen.6:5-7); but should we understand this to mean that God didn’t know what would happen before it happened? Should we understand that God took a chance and was surprised and caught off guard by what happened, and through the experience learned some things, and needed to quickly come up with plan B? God is grieved by the sinful choices of his creatures; he responds differently to disobedience than he does to obedience, but he is not surprised. He does not regret in the sense that he wishes he had had access to better information on which to base his actions.

Proverbs 16:33 ​The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

In fact, there is no such thing as chance. God’s providence rules the world, he determines the outcome of every roll of the dice. ‘Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father’ Jesus said (Mt.10:29). We can take comfort that the things we view as chance are in the omnipotent hand of an all wise God who loves us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Even tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, even death, even the uncertainties of the future, (Rom.8:35-39) God will work even these things together for our good.

God Aloof or Involved?

In Psalm 139, the Psalmist expresses amazement at the wisdom and knowledge of God.

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

God knows all my actions, even insignificant ones. God knows all my thoughts. God knows my plans, my habits. God knows how I will respond to any given situation. God knows everything I will ever say before I ever say it.

But is God a passive spectator? An all-wise sideline observer? He never interferes, right?

5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 ​Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

This word ‘to hem in’ means to bind, confine, cramp, enclose, shut in, secure. This seems to indicate that God is not passively watching, but is actively involved. And the Psalmist responds that this knowledge is wonderful.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 ​If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

God is present to lead, guide, or govern; and to hold, grasp, seize, take possession of, or enclose.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 ​even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 ​My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 ​If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

Every day of my life was written in God’s book before I existed! Every one of my days was formed as a potter forms the clay. There is no room here for the god of the deist, who set creation in motion, and then passively observes from a distance, aloof and uninvolved. God is intimately involved in our lives, leading, holding, hemming in, forming. And this is a good thing. God’s thoughts are incalculably great and precious, treasured, valuable.

The Psalmist concludes with a glad invitation to God’s interference in his life.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

God’s knowing is not a mere distant awareness of facts, but an involved nurturing protecting directing care.

Knowledge of what Might Have Been

God knows all things, even what might have been, had things been different than they are. In Jeremiah 38:14-23, God reveals to King Zedekiah what will happen if he surrenders to the King of Babylon, and warns of what will happen if he does not surrender. In 1 Samuel 23:10-13, God tells David what Saul will do, and how the people of the city he is hiding in will respond when Saul comes to seek him, so David and his men escape from the city.

In Matthew 11, Jesus:

Matthew 11:20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Jesus tells us what might have been if things had been different. If Jesus had done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, or in Sodom, they would have repented, and they would not have been destroyed. We are left to ask why? Why, if God knew that they would have repented, did he not send Jesus to them? God did not lack the power to act differently than he did. Jesus could have done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, and Sodom. God could have acted differently to bring about different results; however for his own wise and good purposes, he always chooses to bring about the highest good. It is right and good and wise to punish evil, and although God did not do all he could do to bring about their salvation, he also did not leave them without a witness. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, and Zechariah prophesied against Tyre and Sidon. Peter says:

2 Peter 2:6 …by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

Peter holds up ‘righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)’ (2Pet.2:7-8); Lot who was rescued from Sodom as an example that ‘the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment’ (2Pet.4:9)

This is a sobering reminder that God is not obligated to save anyone. God is able to save, but he is wise and just to punish evildoers, and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We should thank God that he does not give us what we deserve.

Jesus in the next verses of Matthew 11 responds to this with praise to God:

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “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; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus rejoices (Lk.10:21) at his Father’s gracious will to hide these things from some and reveal them to others. In the same breath he invites all who recognize their need to come to him and find rest for their souls.

Foolish Wisdom of the Cross

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul speaks of the seeming foolishness of the message of the cross, which is in reality the power and wisdom of God.

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. 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 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The good news of the cross seems foolish to the perishing, but God uses this foolish message to confound the wise and save all who humbly believe. God in his wisdom saves in this way ‘so that no human being might boast in the presence of God’.

Wisdom to the Praise of His Glory

In Romans 11, Paul responds to the wisdom of God’s plan with a shout of praise, his wisdom to show mercy to both Jew and Gentile, even when this means that many Jews will reject Jesus for a time in order to open a door of salvation to the Gentiles, so that God may show mercy to all.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

God is deep and rich in wisdom and knowledge. He does not need advice. His ways and judgments are inscrutable and unsearchable. Everything he does wisely moves toward the one overarching purpose of bringing him glory. From him and through him and to him are all things.

Ephesians 1 talks about God’s wise purpose to bring praise to his glorious grace.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

God works all things according to the purpose of his will, in all wisdom and insight, to the praise of his glory. Our salvation is according to his wise purpose, according to his wise counsel, to bring praise to his glory. Paul goes on to pray that we might have eyes enlightened to know the riches of our hope, our inheritance, his power toward us who believe; that we might know him.

In chapter 3 of Ephesians, Paul spells out for us what is the mystery of his will, that Jews and Gentiles together are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (3:6). The many faceted wisdom of God is made know to everyone through the church according to God’s eternal purpose (3:10-11). Paul uses this as motive to not be discouraged in the face of suffering, and he prays that we would have strength to comprehend what is the immeasurable love of Christ to us (3:13-19). He prays:

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

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

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Stop Judging!

08/04 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 Stop Judging!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130804_1cor4_3-5.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

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

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

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

The Corinthian believers are involved in quarreling, division, jealousy and strife, much of it centered in groups formed around a favorite teacher or leader. Paul is addressing the true nature of Christian leaders. He describes himself and other leaders as under-rowers, those who labor in unison alongside others on the lowest deck, propelling the ship forward, following the orders of the one Captain, Christ. He describes himself as a steward, or household manager, a custodian of the mysteries of God. He was a slave under the authority of his one Master, given a responsibility, entrusted with the good news of a crucified Messiah, and having been entrusted with this great responsibility, he must prove trustworthy. Faithfulness is a requirement for leaders. The question is, who is qualified to judge faithfulness? The Corinthians are eager to pass judgment on their leaders, choosing one over against another.

Judging is a hot issue today. It seems that none of us want to be judged by anyone else. What I do in my own private life is no one’s business but mine. In many circles, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged” are better known and more often quoted than John 3:16. Just try this: when one of your Christian friends posts something foolish on facebook, gently, humbly, in love, post a reproof. See what kinds of comments are generated. (For that reason, I would recommend getting together for lunch, dropping by their house, calling them on the phone to come along side them and address the issue, rather than commenting on facebook or by e-mail).

And yet, ironically, it seems that everyone has their own opinion about everybody else. Can you believe what so-and-so is doing? The media thrives on digging up the dirt about a public figure. Whole organizations and websites are devoted to exposing and discrediting leaders. Criticism of people in leadership is the common currency of so many of our own conversations.

It is to this issue of judging that Paul turns his attention in verses 3-5, and gives some much needed perspective on this hot topic. He addresses issue of judging others and being judged, of self-examination and issues of conscience, and whose judgment ultimately matters.

Judged by the Church

Paul says that it it a very small thing for him to be judged by the people in the church he planted. He says it is the least. The smallest. He doesn’t say it is nothing, or completely without significance, but only one tiny step up from that. What they think of him means next to nothing to him. He simply doesn’t care very much about people’s opinions of him.

Judged by Human Courts

Then he says that it is a very small thing to be judged by any human court. Paul would stand before many human rulers in his day. He would stand before Jewish authorities and Roman rulers. He would even stand trial before the emperor himself. And he considered this next to nothing. When he stood before the Christian leaders in the Jerusalem church, he refers to them as “those who seemed influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) (Gal.2:6). He spent time under arrest, in prison, and ultimately surrendered his life as a witness to Jesus. What any human authority decided about him meant next to nothing to him.

Self-Examination and Conscience

Paul says “I do not even judge myself.” Paul knew that it is futile to spend too much energy on introspective self-examination. The word he has been using in this passage for ‘judge’ means a critical examination, a condemning, scrutinizing investigation or examination, an interrogation. Quite honestly, too much introspection is downright discouraging and depressing. How much better to ‘fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith’ (Heb.12:2)

The Failure of Conscience

The conscience can be a helpful guide, but my conscience may be inaccurately calibrated. The Bible says that our conscience can be seared (1Tim4:2) which means that it can be made numb to things it ought to be sensitive to. The conscience of some can be weak, easier to ignore than others with a more robust conscience. The conscience can be wounded by violating it (1Cor.8:7-12). Some may have a hyper-sensitive conscience, that troubles them even when God clearly says that they are in the right (1Jn.3:20)

Your conscience should continually be being shaped and adjusted and corrected by the word of God, but it is never wise to go against your conscience.

The limitations of Self-examination

Paul says ‘I am not aware of anything against myself.’ Not being aware of anything does not mean that there is nothing to be aware of. Paul spoke of his own experience as a Pharisee and said “as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Phil.3:6), but when Jesus met him and opened his eyes to the truth, he saw himself as foremost of sinners (1Tim1:15), and his own self-righteousness he saw as rubbish (Phil.3:7-8), offensive to the God he was trying to impress. The Psalmist, aware of the limitations of his own self-examination, cried out:

Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Even if my conscience is clear and I can think of nothing against myself (and most often that is not the case) that does not justify me. I cannot declare myself righteous based on my own clear conscience. To have a healthy self-image is not the primary goal. There is something greater than my own estimation of my self-worth. Justification, the legal standing of righteousness before the Judge of all the earth, comes not through our own efforts, but only through faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

The Lord is My Judge

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

The Lord Jesus is the Judge. The reason Paul puts little stock in what others think of him or even what he thinks of himself is that he has only one Master and only one Judge. There is only one to whom he is ultimately accountable. When you get that – when you really get that in your bones, it will set you free. When you get that in the core of your being that only what Jesus thinks of you matters, it will free you from the slavery of what others think of you. It really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of me; it only matters what Jesus thinks of me. When you most care about what Jesus thinks of you, you are free to be who you were created to be, free to be the real ‘you’. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn.8:36). When you know who your Master is, and you know who your Judge is, you no longer have to waste time and energy worrying about what other people think of you. You can focus all your resources on pleasing that one Master.

Stop Judging!

So Paul tells the Corinthians to stop judging! Apparently they were already hard at it, forming opinions about who was more godly than whom, who was the better communicator, who was more right, who was more effective, who had less flaws, who was more worthy to be followed. Paul says ‘stop it! Stop judging!’ And he gives several good reasons why they should not become expert at judging others.

All Human Judgments are Presumptive

The main reason all human judgments are fundamentally flawed is that we are not given that responsibility. We were not appointed as final judges of one another. Paul says in Romans 14

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Romans 14:10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

God is the judge. God is the one to whom we will all give account.

All Human Judgments are Premature

The second reason Paul gives for not judging each other is that it’s not yet time. It’s not over yet; the time to judge has not yet come. It’s not over ’till it’s over. Some may start this race very slow and falteringly, but end strong. Others who start strong and seem promising may crash and burn somewhere along the path. Faithfulness cannot be judged mid-race. The Lord is coming, and he will judge at the proper time. That time is not yet.

All Human Judgments are Partial

Another reason Paul gives for not judging each other is that we don’t know everything and we don’t see everything. Some things are hidden. Nobody knows everything. Nobody sees everything. Even if someone could see everything, they could not always accurately determine the motives of the heart. God does see everything and he knows everything, and he can without fail determine the hidden purposes of the heart. His is the only judgment that is absolutely accurate and true.

We do not have the right to be constantly critical, critiquing and condemning godly Christian leaders.

It is Our Responsibility to Judge

Does this mean we have no biblical room for judging anyone ever? Keep in mind that the word for judging in this chapter is a critical examination, a condemning, scrutinizing investigation or examination, and the context is weighing one leader against another to see who is more worthy to be followed.

In the very next chapter, Paul hits the issue of someone who claims to be a believer who is persisting in sin. He says ‘I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing’ and it is your responsibility to judge those inside the church. Someone who refuses to listen to correction and persists in sin is a corrupting influence, and they should be removed. So clearly Paul is not saying that we can never pass judgment on a brother or sister in Christ. Rather he says that it is our responsibility, and it is to be done with the goal of repentance and restoration always in view.

But does this mean we can never judge a leader in the church? In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul expresses concern that a teacher who comes preaching a different Jesus or a different gospel might be welcomed by the church. He calls these satanic deceivers disguised as apostles of Christ. So it is clear that he expects the church to be discerning about doctrine and careful to judge between true and false teachers.

Paul even called Peter out publicly when he was acting hypocritically and the truth of the gospel was at stake.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all,…

In 1 Timothy, Paul commends elders who rule well as worthy of double honor, and then he cautions against receiving an accusation against a leader too quickly.

1 Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

So even church leadership is to be held accountable by the church, but it is to be done cautiously and carefully.

What about judging ourselves? Paul says he does not scrutinize himself. But in chapter 11, he warns about selfishness and division in the celebration of the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.

So we are encouraged to do some self-examination and self-judging, not to see who is better than whom, but to make sure we are really remembering Jesus and his death together with our blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ.

At the end of 2 Corinthians, Paul is warning those who are persisting in sin and resisting his correction. He says

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

For someone who is willfully persisting in sin, it is appropriate for them to question the reality of their relationship with Jesus.

Jesus did say ‘judge not, that you be not judged’ (Mt.7:1) in the context of hypocrites who are attempting to take a speck out of their brother’s eye when they have a log jammed into their own eye. A few verses later he tells us to

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

He also said

John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Each One Will Receive His Praise From God

God is the one who brings to light things hidden in darkness and discloses the purposes of the heart. With that sobering reality in mind, it is amazing to see how this passage ends.

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

We might expect it to say ‘each one will receive his condemnation from God’, because that is what we all deserve. But it says that each one will receive his commendation, each one will receive praise from God! Jesus said that “whoever believes in him is not condemned” (Jn.3:18) and whoever believes …does not come into judgment” (Jn.5:24).

All who have been justified by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ will receive not judgment or condemnation, but praise, much praise, applause, a loud and clear acclaim of commendation; we will hear our Master say to us:

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

This is not what I deserve, but by God’s grace, this is what he promises to me!

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. 

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

August 4, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Peter 3:17-18; Grow in Grace, Knowledge, Glorify Jesus

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100328_2peter3_17-18.mp3

03/28 2 Peter 3:17-18 Grow in Grace and Knowledge and Glorify Jesus

Today we conclude our study through the New Testament letters of 1 & 2 Peter. Jesus, when he appeared on the shores of the lake after his resurrection, told Peter to ‘feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep’ (Jn.21:15-17). Peter was faithful, and now we hold in our hands among the books of the New Testament, these two God saturated grace filled truth packed letters from the pen of the apostle Peter. We’ve spent some time unpacking what Peter has given us by way of instruction and warning and encouragement, and as we come to the end, I’d like to look back over some of the highlights of these weighty documents.

Peter wrote his first letter to churches who were suffering fiery trials and persecution from those outside. He writes the second letter because these churches are being attacked by scoffers from within who question the return of Christ and undermine the need for moral integrity.

Peter says:

3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,

So Peter wrote primarily to stir us up by way of reminder. As believers we all know some things about God and his grace toward sinners. Peter assumes that we know some things. Peter’s stated purpose in both his letters is to stir us up by way of reminder. The truth of God’s word can settle out at the bottom of our hearts and minds and we can go on and live as if it were not there at all. Peter aims to agitate our hearts and minds to bring the truth that we know up to where we will do something about it and live in light of it. In his first letter, he reminds us of our identity as elect or chosen by God, but aliens or strangers in this world (1:1). He prays for us that grace and peace would be multiplied to us (1:2) and then his heart erupts in worship God who is rich in mercy (1:3). Peter spends the beginning paragraphs of his letter unfolding the truth of God’s gracious purposes toward us in salvation (1:3-12), and then he exhorts us to set our hope fully on God’s grace that is still to come (1:13) as transforming power for holy life. Our life is to be a life lived in light of the facts of who God is and what he’s done for us (1:17-19). We are to live life in light of the cross. And we are to live lives that put God on display. The purpose of our existence is to ‘proclaim the excellencies of him who called you’ (2:9). Our lives are to be such that ‘they may see your good deeds and glorify God’ (2:12). Peter has given us practical instruction on how to glorify God by our conduct in relation to gossips, to government, to evil employers, and to unbelieving spouses (2:12-3:7). He encourages us when we find ourselves suffering unjustly, because this is grace in God’s sight, and we are called to put God on display through how we face suffering (2:20-21). Jesus is the ultimate example of redemptive suffering – through his suffering in our place, we have been brought near to God (3:18) and through our suffering, we have an opportunity to display the good news of the total sufficiency of God for hopeless sinners. Because God uses suffering to refine us, we should humble ourselves under his mighty hand, so that at the proper time he will lift us up (5:6). We have an adversary that would like to swallow us whole, so we must be on our guard and keep our faith firmly fixed on God (5:8). God is ‘the God of all grace’ (5:10), and he ‘will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you’ so that all power is seen to be his (5:11). Peter concludes that ‘this is the true grace of God’ and he tells us to ‘stand firm in it’ (5:12)

Throughout the letter, he points us to Jesus, Jesus who sprinkles us with his blood (1:2); Jesus who gives us a living hope through his resurrection (1:3); Jesus who will reward us at his coming (1:7). The Old Testament prophets pointed to the sufferings and glories of Jesus (1:11). The precious blood of Jesus is our ransom (1:19); Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree (2:24); Jesus suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (3:18). This is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it (5:12).

In his second letter, Peter tells us that we have obtained faith as a gift by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (1:1). He asks that grace and peace be multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (1:2). He reminds us of his divine power that has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us (1:3) and he wants us to be effective and fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:8). He wants us to be diligent to make our calling and election sure by growing in godly qualities so that we will be given entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:11). Peter knows his death will be soon, so he is making every effort to leave a permanent written reminder to stir us up and establish us in the truth (1:12-15). He warns us of the danger of those who secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them (2:1). These false teachers are characterized by arrogance, sensuality and greed, and he warns that it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness then to have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and then later to become entangled in them again (2:20-21). Peter re-interprets the perceived delay in the fulfillment of God’s promises as the abundant mercy of God toward sinners, patiently giving them multiplied opportunities to repent. But Peter’s warning is clear – judgment is coming and the ungodly will be destroyed. He implores us to diligence – to be found by him without spot or blemish and at peace. And he concludes the letter this way:

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

This is the fourth time Peter addresses us as his ‘beloved’. He deeply cares about the flock of God and wants to prepare us and protect us from the dangers at hand.

The ‘you’ in this verse is personal and it is emphatic; ‘you therefore – you!’ You, in contrast to the ignorant and unstable who twist the scriptures to their own destruction.

You, knowing this beforehand. Knowing that scripture twisters would come, knowing that it was predicted that scoffers would come following their own lusts; knowing that the judgment of God is coming and all the works done on the earth will be laid bare, knowing that God is

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

Because we know this beforehand, take care. Be on guard. Watch out! This is the first of two imperatives that Peter gives to keep us from falling. Watch out!

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

1Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

You! Do not think you are exempt from this! Most people do not say ‘I think today I will embrace a destructive heresy and deny the Master who bought me’. It is a gradual, almost imperceptible slide down a slippery slope.

When Paul had to confront Peter publicly about his actions that were inconsistent with his beliefs, he says:

Galatians 2:13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

Even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. This is that same word that is used here – carried away. Enormous social pressure is often applied to individuals. Even Barnabas was carried away. Barnabas, the son of encouragement, who introduced the newly converted Paul to the rest of the Apostles who were afraid (Acts 9:27); Barnabas, who was a trusted messenger sent on several important assignments in the early church; Barnabas, who accompanied Paul on much of his missionary work, even Barnabas, who had the guts to stand up to Paul in their dispute over taking John Mark along on another missionary journey, this Barnabas lost his own stability and was carried away by the hypocrisy of the Jews in undermining justification by faith alone with his actions.

Peter knew first hand what this was like. Peter bowed to the social pressure of the Jews from James who came to Antioch. Peter, who told Jesus he would die with him (Lk.22:33; Mt.26:33,35), even after he was warned that Satan desired to sift him like wheat (Lk.22:31); even after Jesus told him to watch and pray that he might not enter temptation (Mk.14:37); even after Jesus explicitly predicted that he would fail three times, when he was asked by a servant girl, he denied three times with oaths that he even knew Jesus (Lk.22:55-61).

We are all in danger of losing our own stability. In 1 Peter 5:6-9, he cautions us toward humility and sober-minded watchfulness, because ‘Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.’ And he tells us to ‘resist him, firm in your faith, knowing …’ We gain the victory through humility – not thinking we can handle it, but knowing that we can’t and depending on the God of all grace, who will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peter’s second imperative to keep us from being carried away ultimately to our own destruction is to grow. Grow in grace. Grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Grow!

But how do we grow? Growth seems to be something that happens to us, yet here Peter commands us to grow and he expects us to heed the warning and obey. How do we grow? Peter told us in his first letter.

1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation– 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Plants grow and produce fruit. Babies grow. Growth is natural, almost a passive process. But for growth to happen, the proper nutrients need to be ingested. When Hannah was born at 2lbs 15oz, she needed to grow. They put a tube through her nose into her stomach, and we would pour nutrient rich milk down that tube, and she grew. When I hold Isaiah, he opens his mouth and grunts and roots around looking for food. Then he gets mad and cries because he can’t find what he’s looking for. He has an insatiable appetite for milk. Peter tells us that we are to be like that – with spiritual milk – the pure milk of the word. The milk of the word is the God-given means for growth. And ultimately it is God who produces the growth:

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

But how do we grow in grace if grace is an undeserved gift? Peter told us this in his first letter too – God gives grace to the humble. We grow in grace by acknowledging our dependence on God for everything. Jesus invited us to become like little children – ask, seek, knock. Ask.

Peter has prayed for us in both letters that grace would be multiplied to us. He told us that all things necessary for our life and godliness have been given to us by God’s divine power. God’s precious and very great promises have been given to us. We are to appropriate and enjoy the benefits of God’s favor toward us. We must grow in God’s free gift of grace.

We are also to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Peter’s prayer, we see that grace and peace are multiplied to us ‘in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord’ (1:2). And Peter told us that God’s supernatural power gives to us everything we need for life and godliness ‘through the knowledge of him who called us’ (1:3). This knowledge of Jesus we are commanded to grow in, but this knowledge is also a gift.

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.

We grow by coming to him needy and hungry and thirsty and we ask. We use the God-appointed means for getting to know him – God’s word. We know Jesus as our King and our Redeemer, our one Authority that must be obeyed, and our Rescuer. Our Lord and Savior

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

And as we grow as recipients of more and more grace, and as we grow in our knowledge and appreciation of who Jesus is and what he does for us, the natural expression will be doxology – an outpouring of praise to him. To him be glory. To Jesus be all the glory. God said:

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

And Jesus said:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Peter started this letter out by pointing to the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our God and he is our Savior. And as God, he alone deserves to be glorified as God. Most New Testament doxologies attribute glory to God the Father (Rom.16:25-27; Phil.4:20-23; 1 Pet.5:10-14; Jude 24-25) , but there are a few (2Tim.4:18; Heb.13:21; Rev.1:5-6) like this one, that give the glory to Jesus. To Jesus be glory now. The false teachers were denying the Master who bought them. The antidote for this is to become recipients of his grace and grow in his knowledge and overflow with praise to him. Knowledge that does not result in worship and love will only puff up and destroy. Knowledge here is not information but an ever deepening relationship with a person. The Christian life must be defined as continual movement toward Jesus through the means he has given us to know him. That is Jesus’ description of what eternal life consists in:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Experiencing his grace, increasing in intimacy, exploding with worship. Glory belongs to Jesus right now. Right now from us today! And glory belongs to Jesus to the day of eternity. When we receive his grace and grow in our relationship with him, we will never throughout eternity tire of giving him our adoration and affection and admiration and worship and honor and praise.

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

March 28, 2010 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fitting Response to Jesus – Worship

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20091220_worship_of_jesus.mp3

12/20/09 – the appropriate response to Jesus – worship

We’ve been looking for the past few weeks at Jesus; at who Jesus is. Jesus claimed to be the eternal all glorious pre-existent self existent one, sent from the Father, equal to and one with his Father and worthy of the same honor as the Father, in and of himself truly and fully God. But Jesus humbled himself and became a man, truly and fully man. In addition to being God, he took on the nature of genuine humanity, so that he was indistinguishable from any other Jewish man his age. He ate and drank and got tired and slept, he learned and laughed and wept and bled and died. God himself, the eternal self-existent uncreated creator of all things, the second person of the Trinity, entered history and became flesh – he was born into this world as a man in order to be our substitute and rescue us from sin and death and hell. He came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for rebellious sinners like you and me. In this he showed us what God is like, not by the way he looked, but by his actions and attitudes, by his joys and sorrows. He is the image of the invisible God. He makes God known to us.

Last time, we touched on the response of people to Jesus. We looked at John 1, where John introduces us to Jesus as the Word who was with God and who was God, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory. And he says:

John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

The creatures didn’t know their creator. More than that, God had chosen a people – a people he wanted to bless and to reveal himself to and to rescue and to pour out his favor on. Those chosen people did not receive him when he came to visit them. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

But that is not the end of the story. There were some who did receive him. It describes those as the ones:

John 1:13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

God birthed people who would receive him, people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. These are a people not based on ethnic descent or moral effort or human will, but on God’s supernatural creation of life.

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

That’s what I want to look at today. We’ve seen who Jesus claimed to be and he met with different responses. Some were hostile and wanted him dead. Some were apathetic and took no notice. Some had no room in their inns for the one to be born king of the Jews. Some allowed him to stay, but out back in the stable where he wouldn’t be seen, where he wouldn’t be an embarrassment to friends and family. But others received him. I want to look today at some of those who received him, those who believed in his name.

Let’s start in Matthew 2, probably a year or two after the birth of Christ, after the family had moved into a house in Bethlehem.

Matthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

If we pay attention, we can learn several things about these men who welcomed Jesus. They had some expectation of the Jewish Messiah. They must have had access to some of the Jewish scriptures that foretold the coming of the promised One. They took those scriptures seriously and watched expectantly for the fulfillment. This expectation and hope had been preserved and passed down from generation to generation. When they saw the indication they had been waiting for, they traveled hundreds of miles on a lengthy journey to pay homage to this king. But why would foreigners pay homage to a Jewish king? They were certainly out of his jurisdiction. They must have had some indication that this One to be born king of the Jews would be more than just a local king. The significance of this birth was not limited to one region or even one generation. It is interesting that this apparently was not a journey of ambassadors seeking peace with another nation. They went to the one currently in command – Herod, who was not Jewish, who had been appointed by the Romans to rule over Judea, and asked him about the one who had been born king of the Jews. That would not be a good political move. They didn’t come to bow down and present gifts and pay homage to Herod or to the Roman Emperor; they came to find one who was greater than Herod and greater than the Roman Empire. They had come to seek the King of kings. They had come to worship him. Let’s skip down and look at their act of worship.

Matthew 2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Notice first that their pursuit of this Child was emotionally charged. They were not on a scholarly pursuit of information searching for answers to riddles. They were not grudging and complaining about the long journey. They did not come out of duty or obligation. They took personal pleasure in this privilege. They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

And imagine the scene: Mary in her humble home, cooking dinner or doing the dishes, the young Jesus underfoot, crawling, maybe using Mary’s apron to pull himself up to stand on wobbly legs. She may have had to dry her hands quickly and scoop Jesus up to see who was at the door.

And when these foreign dignitaries saw the child, they got on their faces before this toddler and worshiped him. Grown men bowing before a child. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts. They may not have fully understood the deep significance of the gifts they brought. Gold was a gift for royalty – this child was the King – he was God incarnate. Frankincense was a priestly gift. Frankincense was offered by the priests in the temple. Jesus is our great high priest. And Myrrh pointed to suffering and death. Myrrh was used to prepare a body for burial. Jesus was to be the suffering servant who would bear in his body the sins of the world.

These wise men from the East studied and discerned and hoped and expected and planned and went out of their way at great personal expense and humbled themselves before this Jesus. They received him. They worshiped him. They were not the only ones to worship Jesus.

Matthew 8:2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

Matthew 9:18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

When Jesus walked on water during the night in the storm,

Matthew 14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

When a Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter came to Jesus for healing,

Matthew 15:25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

The demon possessed man from the region of the Gerasenses,

Mark 5:6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him.

When Jesus revealed his identity to the man he healed who had been born blind,

John 9:38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

When Jesus appeared to the women who came to the empty tomb after his resurrection,

Matthew 28:9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

Then he appeared to his disciples,

Matthew 28:17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

Then he appeared again and invited Thomas to stop doubting and believe,

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

As he ascended into heaven,

Luke 24:52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

The word that we have been looking at, translated ‘worshiped’ or ‘knelt down’ or ‘fell before’ is a word that means to acknowledge the deity of someone by falling prostrate before them and kissing their feet the hem of their garment, or the ground. Early Christians refused to bow to the Roman Emperor not because they were unwilling to show proper respect for authority, but because bowing in this way indicated an acknowledgement that the person was in fact divine. Satan attempted to usurp the honor due only to God when he requested that Jesus bow to him,

Matthew 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”’

We are to worship no-one but God. When Cornelius fell down to worship Peter, Peter refused to allow that kind of reverence,

Acts 10:25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”

Twice in Revelation, John was overwhelmed by the presence of an angelic being and fell at his feet to worship. And twice the angel exclaimed ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you – Worship God.’ (Rev.19:10; 22:8-9). Yet Jesus repeatedly and unhesitatingly accepts worship from many individuals. In fact, God says of Jesus,

Hebrews 1:6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Jesus is to be worshiped not only by men, but by all God’s angels. Then in Revelation, we see the scene in heaven,

Revelation 5:11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

The Lamb, Jesus, is worshiped equal to the Father. This is exactly what Jesus demanded when he said,

John 5:23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Jesus here tells us how we must respond to him. He is not looking for respect, admiration, honor as a great teacher or healer or guru. He is not asking for us to be impressed by his wisdom and compassion and grace. He is not inviting us to strive to imitate him. He is demanding that we honor him, that we worship him, that we bow to him in the exact same way as we worship the Father. And he ties this demand to eternal life. A few verses later, he makes this even more explicit,

John 5:40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The Jewish leaders claimed to worship God and to love their bibles, but Jesus said that by refusing to worship Jesus they rejected eternal life. As we celebrate the birth of Christ we must ask ourselves how we receive him. He told the religious leaders,

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Jesus asked his disciples the most pivotal question “Who do you say that I am?” And when Peter answered correctly, Jesus said that he was blessed by God, because he didn’t come up with that on his own. John wrote his gospel with this purpose,

John 20:31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

How do we receive him? Do we have room for him in our busy lives? Do we put him out back as if we were embarrassed of him? Are we hostile or apathetic? Or do we fall at his feet and worship Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, the I Am, equal to and one with the Father, God in the flesh come to rescue his rebellious creation? Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

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

December 20, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 2:18-21; God Honoring Conduct While Suffering Unjustly

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090208_1peter_2_18-21.mp3

02/08 1 Peter 2:18-21 God honoring Conduct; subjection to crooked masters

Peter is writing to believers scattered across Asia Minor, who have become outsiders in their own communities because they are now followers of Jesus. They are aliens and exiles to society, but to God they are elect and precious. They have been selected by God for obedience (upakohn) to Jesus Christ. They have been birthed by God into a new inheritance that is kept for them in heaven. They are looking forward to a future salvation and their trials here are only temporary. They are to fix their hope fully on this future grace. They are no longer to conform to the foolish passions from which they came, but they are to live distinctly, set apart from those around them. They are to fear only God. They were ransomed from the futile ways of their forefathers and set free to hope in God. They are to love the community of believers. Everything else will wear out and fade away, but they have been born again of imperishable seed. Jesus, their cornerstone, was also rejected by men, but in the sight of God chosen and precious. They are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. They will be honored by God when others are put to shame. They are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, and their ultimate purpose and destiny is to bring glory to God.

Based on the facts of who they are in Christ, these believers who find themselves in a hostile society, could draw some wrong conclusions, and Peter warns against these. One danger is that they would use their freedom and position in Christ and say “I’m a king’s kid and I have a royal inheritance. As a child of the king I’m entitled to a life of pleasure and ease.” In 2:11 he warns us to ‘abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul’ and in 2:16 he tells us to ‘live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God’.

The other danger is to take their position in Christ and say “I am an alien to your society and I am no longer under its laws. I fear only God and I obey a new master, the Lord Jesus Christ. My citizenship is in heaven and I am no longer obliged to obey you or your laws or customs.” In 2:12 Peter says ‘Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that … they may see your good deeds and glorify God’. And in 2:13 he says ‘be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution’ particularly the government under which you live.

Peter has laid out our freedom and privileged position in Christ very clearly, and now he gives some very practical instructions on how to flesh this out in society. In relation to the state, we are to give honor and live in obedience in so far as our conscience and respect for God’s ultimate authority allow. In the remainder of chapter 2, he addresses our relation to unjust masters or employers and he points to Jesus as our example; in chapter 3 he addresses our relationships within the family. Let’s read the passage in its context, then we’ll focus our attention on verses 18-21

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover–up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

In this section Peter is addressing servants or slaves. We might be inclined to think that since we have abolished slavery in our country, what he says here has no relevance to us today. We need to understand who he is addressing, so that we don’t make the mistake of tuning him out. The word is (oikethv), a household servant or domestic slave. This was a semi-permanent employee without legal or economic freedom. Peter probably doesn’t use the more common New Testament word (doulov) for ‘slave’ because he just used that in verse 16 where he commanded all believers to live as slaves of God. Here he’s focusing on those who serve a human master. Although we don’t have the same social structures, what he says is applicable to our employer/ employee relationship. He is specifically addressing servants, but in verse 19 he says ‘when one endures’, widening his application to anyone who ‘endures sorrows while suffering unjustly’. The master/ servant relationship is just one example of where unjust suffering can take place.

Peter is putting his practical instruction in the context of our ultimate purpose: we are

1 Peter 2:9 …a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Last time we saw that our submission to the state is not so that we might live peaceful comfortable lives but that ‘they may see your good deeds and and glorify God’. We are not to be submissive for our own sake, but ‘for the Lord’s sake… that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Our obedience is to be a God centered God honoring obedience. By our actions we seek to proclaim the excellencies of God.

The same is true as he talks about our submission to unjust masters. He says ‘Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect…’ The word translated ‘respect’ is literally the word ‘fear’. It’s the same word that he used in verse 17 when he told us that we are to fear God alone. I don’t think he’s telling us in one breath not to fear the emperor and in the next telling us to fear our earthly masters or employers. Literally he says ‘servants, be subject to your masters in all fear’ He’s referring us back to what he just said. Fear God. In all fear of God, be subject to your masters. And look at verse 19: he doesn’t say that you are blessed simply because you tough it out and endure while suffering unjustly. We can endure unjust sufferings for many wrong reasons. We might put up with mistreatment because we feel like we have no choice and are powerless to do anything about it. We might put up with unjust suffering because we feel like it is the noble thing to do. Or we might put up with it simply because we are too lazy to do anything about it. None of these reasons in and of themselves has any virtue with God. He says ‘when, mindful of God you endure – that is a gracious thing’. It is a conscious intentional seeking to show the surpassing worth of God in our suffering that has merit with God.

He tells us that we are to be subject, not only when it’s convenient and easy, but especially when it’s hard. He describes masters as ‘unjust’; the word is (skoliov) from which we get our word scoliosis. It literally means ‘crooked or perverse’. Peter goes on:

19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

He says ‘this is a gracious thing’; literally ‘this is grace (cariv) … this is grace in the sight of God.’ Enduring sorrows – emotional grief or mental anguish as a result of unjust treatment – is reason for God to show favor. Peter draws the contrast in verse 20: ‘what credit is it if you sin and endure a beating?’ That’s not something that deserves honor or fame, and it certainly doesn’t bring glory to God. But if you do good and endure suffering, that is grace before God.

This is the same teaching in the same language Jesus used in Luke 6:

Luke 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit (cariv -grace) is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit (cariv -grace) is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit (cariv -grace) is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 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. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

If we only do what is normal and common and expected, it requires no grace and merits no reward. But to do what is extraordinary and noteworthy, we need God’s gracious help, and we bring pleasure to God and praise to him as people see our good deeds and give glory to God. If we endure sorrow and patiently bear injustice, this proclaims the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. When, mindful of God; in trusting awareness of God’s presence and never failing care; we endure sorrow while suffering unjustly; having confidence that God will ultimately right all wrongs and do justice, we can in fear of God submit to an unjust master without resentment, rebelliousness, self-pity or despair.

Notice the next verse:

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Because to this you have been called. Did you know that you and I have been called to suffer unjustly in order to bring glory to God? That is our calling. We are called to be saints (Rom.1:7); we are called to belong to Jesus (Rom.1:6); we are called according to his purpose Rom.8:28); we are called ‘beloved’ (Rom.9:25); we are called ‘sons of the living God’ (Rom.9:26); we are called into the fellowship of his Son (1Cor.1:9); we are called in the grace of Christ (Gal.1:6,15); we are called to freedom (Gal.5:13); we are called to hope (Eph.4:4); we are called to into his own kingdom and glory (1Thess.2:12); we are called in holiness (1Thess.4:7); we are called to eternal life (1Tim.6:12); we are called to his eternal glory in Christ (1Pet.5:10); we are called to his own glory and excellence (2Pet.1:3); we are called children of God (1John3:1); but did you know we are called to suffer? Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples:

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

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Paul and Barnabas taught

Acts 14:22 … that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Paul encouraged the Thessalonian believers:

1 Thessalonians 3:3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.

Paul told Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

Friends, we are called to be aliens in our culture. And we are called to suffer for doing good if that should be God’s will (1Pet.3:17). We have been called out of darkness and into his marvelous light, and we have been called to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us.

1 Peter 2:9 …a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

One of the main ways we proclaim his excellencies is by suffering well even under unjust circumstances:

1 Peter 2:12 …so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Suffering is not a sidebar in the Christian life. Suffering is the main way through which God brings us to possess the promised inheritance, and in the process we bring him glory and praise.

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

February 8, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:3-5

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080914_1peter_1_3-5.mp3

9/14 1 Peter 1:3-5 praise God for new birth and the guarding of my faith

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1:3 euloghtov o yeov kai pathr tou kuriou hmwn ihsou cristou o kata to polu autou eleov anagennhsav hmav eiv elpida zwsan di anastasewv ihsou cristou ek nekrwn 4 eiv klhronomian afyarton kai amianton kai amaranton tethrhmenhn en ouranoiv eiv umav 5 touv en dunamei yeou frouroumenouv dia pistewv eiv swthrian etoimhn apokalufyhnai en kairw escatw

Peter is writing to encourage the suffering saints scattered across Asia Minor to stand firm in the true grace of God.

5:12 …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

He points them first to their position as Christians in tension; they are the elected rejected; the chosen outcasts. And he points them to the work of the trinity in securing this position for them. The Father had foreknown them; the Spirit sets them apart; they are destined for obedience to the gospel and washing with Jesus’ blood. He points them to the origin, the experience and the destiny of their elect standing with God.

Next, and flowing out of the trinitarian work of election, he leads the suffering church in worship. This teaches us some things about worship: worship is appropriate even in hard times. Peter’s readers may have read this and responded ‘but we don’t feel like blessing God. Peter, we want you to lobby the government about our situation. Get some good lawyers to change the political landscape. Raise some funds to give us some relief from our difficult circumstances.’ But Peter starts by turning their attention away from their situation and toward God. They need to look up and have God in his awesome majesty consume their entire field of vision before they can look rightly at their own circumstances.

Another thing we learn about worship: worship is substantive. Worship is not merely a feeling or experience. It is that, but it is more. It is a feeling or experience based on and coming out of solid biblical truth. We will see what Peter points to as a foundation for their worship.

This text is a worship text. So I pray that as we study it together and learn what it says, our response is that of worship. I hope that a deep heartfelt sense of gratitude wells up inside each one of us. So after his profoundly deep theological greeting, He starts with the words ‘Blessed be’ or ‘praise be’. The word is ‘ euloghtov eulogetos‘ and it’s where we get our English word ‘eulogy’. When I think of an eulogy, I think of all the nice things someone says that may or may not be true of the person in the casket. Their strong points are exaggerated; their weaknesses are forgotten. They are painted larger than life. But when our eulogy, our praise is directed toward God, we are seeking to express what is true about him, to give him the honor and praise that is his due. That is what worship is – declaring the worth of God, speaking to him and to ourselves and to those within earshot of how truly awesome he really is.

Our worship is directed to God. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not just addressing any god. Peter specifies – this is the God that Jesus worshiped and prayed to. Jesus connected us with the God who revealed himself in the Old Testament scriptures as YHWH, the self existent creator of all things, who would send his only Son to suffer and die for our sins. This is the God and the Father of Jesus. Jesus described his relationship with God the Father in terms of the relation of a loving father to his son, and he said this was true even before the foundation of the world:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Jesus is described as ‘our Lord’; our master, our sovereign, our ruler, our king, the one we submit to as our absolute authority. And he is the Christ – the fulfillment of all messianic hope and expectation. Our worship is directed to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And then the grounds for worship are given. Why are we worshiping? Because of who God is and what he has done. Before he explains the main subject of his praise, Peter gives a descriptive phrase about the character of God: ‘according to his great mercy’. This is the origin of what follows. Just as God’s foreknowledge was the source or origin of our election in verses 1-2, now God’s great mercy is the source of his action toward us. God is a merciful God. So let’s define mercy:

mer·cy \ˈmər-sē\ noun 1 a: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment <begged for mercy> b: imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder (taken from m-w.com)

Mercy is forbearance shown to an offender; not giving the guilty party the full punishment that their crime deserves; clemency.

When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said:

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Part of God’s glory is his authority and freedom to show mercy to whom he wills. And when God declared his nature and character to Moses, he started with mercy:

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

The distinction between mercy and grace is that mercy is negative and grace is positive. Mercy is the ‘slow to anger’; grace is the ‘abounding in steadfast love’. God’s mercy is his not giving us the punishment we deserve; grace is giving us blessings we didn’t earn. From our point of view, mercy is not getting what we do deserve; grace is getting what we don’t deserve. And Peter praises God because God has ‘much mercy’. One way to encourage persecuted Christians is to remind them of what they deserve but have been spared of. These Christians might fear the emperor; if they don’t bow and worship him as a god, they might even be put to death. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

We have committed hight treason against the King of kings. We refuse to bend our knee. We think and feel and act as if we were more important than the king. We walk into his presence and expect Him to bow to us and do what we demand! If we contemplate who we are and what our sins deserve, this is grounds for worship! Praise God that he is more than just and righteous! Praise God that he has ‘much mercy’!

Peter tells us here that God’s mercy is the source of our new birth. It is according to the muchness of his mercy that he has caused us to be born again. This is the same metaphor that Jesus used with Nicodemus to describe the work of the Spirit. I want you to think for a moment about being born. I trust all of you in this room have been born, so we share that common experience. Reflect back on your conception and birth. What was your part in it? Could you in any way say that you caused your conception and birth or was it something that happened to you? You can thank God for it or you can complain to God about it, but you can’t take credit for it. That’s what Nicodemus struggles with when Jesus tells him that he must be born again. How can I do that? What do I have to do? I can’t very well get back inside my mother’s womb. Being born isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens to you. Jesus pointed to the fact that rebirth is the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter here points us to the truth that our new birth is a merciful act caused by God. And when you’re born, you’re born into something. We were all born into this cold cruel world. I was born into my family. Peter tells us that we were born again into a living hope. Jesus said:

John 10:10 …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

And when we were conceived spiritually by the Father, that new life was created in us. We were dead, but God in his mercy made us alive.

Ephesians 2:4 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––

Peter is writing to scattered aliens in a hostile community. People will treat us badly. They might make fun of us. They might take our stuff. They might even harm us or kill us. And Peter tells them that they have an unquenchable life force inside of them that gives an unshakable hope in the future. When the gun is at the head of the Christian we can say with joy:

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

And that’s the new life inside of us speaking. This new life comes ‘through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ We might think, since we’re talking about the Father and new birth that it would say ‘through the incarnation in the manger at Bethlehem’. But never is our new birth tied to the incarnation. The new life we have is resurrection life.

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Ephesians 1:18 …that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

And that is the power that is at work in us as a result of our new birth. And this resurrection power is securing for us our inheritance. By the Father’s great mercy he has given us new birth and since we are born into his family, we are born into his inheritance:

4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

Here’s where language fails us and disappoints. Peter doesn’t tell us what the inheritance is. All he can tell us is what it’s not. Your inheritance is so !!!! There’s no words to express it. So think of the best earthly inheritance you can think of and I’ll tell you how it’s different. Peter tells us the inheritance we have is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is free from death and decay; it is free from uncleanness or moral impurity; it is free from the natural ravages of time. And it is not kept in the stock market which can plummet on any given day. It is kept in heaven for you. Just as Jesus said:

Matthew 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

So your inheritance is incredible beyond words. It is free from all the negative implications that an inheritance might have here. The inheritance is safe. Nobody can get to it. But that may raise the question: will you be able to get to it? Is it so safe that you will not be able to access it? It is kept safe for you, but in the end will it be kept safe from you? It is safe in heaven, but what if I can’t make it safe to heaven to claim it? What if I fail along the way? Will I make it? What if I throw in the towel; give up; what if I stop believing? So Peter turns his attention from the inheritance to you, the elected rejected:

5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

So God’s resurrection power produced the new life in you, and God is keeping the inheritance safe for you, and now God’s sovereign power is keeping you for the inheritance. The word ‘guarded’ is a military term that can mean both ‘kept from escaping’ and ‘protected from attack’ [Grudem, p.58]. The issue clearly is salvation; our future final salvation. We are being guarded for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. We are not being guarded until the salvation is made ready – Jesus work is finished and perfect. The salvation is ready and waiting for the right time to be revealed. The implication is that if we were not being guarded by the power of God we might not be saved. So from what are we being guarded and how are we being guarded? Peter is going to warn us in chapter 5 to:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober–minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

So we could say that we are being guarded from the devil. But in what way is Satan seeking to devour us? We could say he is seeking to kill us. But if that is what we are being protected from, then God’s power to guard has failed Peter and countless other Christian martyrs. If Satan succeeds in killing a believer, he has only sped them on their way to heaven – remember, to die is gain! So the guarding can’t mean that they are protected physically. The only way the devil could devour a believer is to cause him to walk away from Jesus and stop clinging to Jesus. Paul warns about the potential of believing in vain:

1 Corinthians 15:1 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.

Jesus used the image of a branch being connected to the vine and drawing its life from the vine, and he warned:

John 15:6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

So if we don’t hold fast to the gospel we will have believed in vain, and we will not be saved, and if we walk away from Jesus we will be destroyed and Satan will have won. So being guarded by the power of God must mean that God is guarding our faith. God is using his power to keep us believing. I think the context makes it clear that we are on the right track. Peter says in verse:

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––…––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

And in this verse he says:

5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

So God is not guarding us in spite of whether we keep on believing or not. He is guarding us through our faith. He has caused us to be born again, and he will nurture that life of faith so that we are indeed saved in the end. I think this was especially personal and precious to Peter. Before his betrayal and arrest, Jesus said to Peter:

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus was going to allow an intense trial in Peter’s life to sift him, so that the chaff would blow away and only the wheat would remain. The danger of this is that if Satan is allowed to sift you, there might prove to be nothing left. And Jesus says ‘but I have prayed for you’ and what was his prayer? ‘that your faith may not fail’. Jesus was sustaining Peter’s faith. And Jesus wasn’t wondering what the outcome would be. I wonder if Peter will make it. When Jesus sustains your faith, your faith will not fail. And Jesus is praying for us too:

1 John 2:1 … we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Jesus looked right through the trial to the other side and said ‘and when (not if but when) you have turned again, strengthen your brothers’. Peter was sifted like wheat. He denied Jesus three times. And he went out and wept bitterly. Those tears were produced by God in answer to Jesus’ prayer. And Peter is now strengthening his brothers scattered across Asia Minor and strengthening us by reminding us that God’s power is guarding us by keeping us believing so that we will obtain the inheritance in the end. All the resources of sovereign omnipotence are fighting for your faith. God is at work in you to keep you believing. And this is a reason to worship God. God’s great mercy has caused us to be born again and God’s great power is guarding us so that our faith does not fail and we do obtain the promised inheritance.

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

September 14, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment