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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 14:26-40; The God of Peace and Order

03/15 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 The God of Peace and Order; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150315_1cor14_26-40.mp3

1 Corinthians 14 [SBLGNT]

26 Τί οὖν ἐστιν, ἀδελφοί; ὅταν συνέρχησθε, ἕκαστος ψαλμὸν ἔχει, διδαχὴν ἔχει, ἀποκάλυψιν ἔχει, γλῶσσαν ἔχει, ἑρμηνείαν ἔχει· πάντα πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν γινέσθω. 27 εἴτε γλώσσῃ τις λαλεῖ, κατὰ δύο ἢ τὸ πλεῖστον τρεῖς, καὶ ἀνὰ μέρος, καὶ εἷς διερμηνευέτω· 28 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ᾖ διερμηνευτής, σιγάτω ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ, ἑαυτῷ δὲ λαλείτω καὶ τῷ θεῷ. 29 προφῆται δὲ δύο ἢ τρεῖς λαλείτωσαν, καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι διακρινέτωσαν· 30 ἐὰν δὲ ἄλλῳ ἀποκαλυφθῇ καθημένῳ, ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτω. 31 δύνασθε γὰρ καθ’ ἕνα πάντες προφητεύειν, ἵνα πάντες μανθάνωσιν καὶ πάντες παρακαλῶνται 32 ( καὶ πνεύματα προφητῶν προφήταις ὑποτάσσεται, 33 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀκαταστασίας ὁ θεὸς ἀλλὰ εἰρήνης ), ὡς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων. 34 Αἱ γυναῖκες ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις σιγάτωσαν, οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρέπεται αὐταῖς λαλεῖν· ἀλλὰ ὑποτασσέσθωσαν, καθὼς καὶ ὁ νόμος λέγει. 35 εἰ δέ τι μαθεῖν θέλουσιν, ἐν οἴκῳ τοὺς ἰδίους ἄνδρας ἐπερωτάτωσαν, αἰσχρὸν γάρ ἐστιν γυναικὶ λαλεῖν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ. 36 ἢ ἀφ’ ὑμῶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν, ἢ εἰς ὑμᾶς μόνους κατήντησεν; 37 Εἴ τις δοκεῖ προφήτης εἶναι ἢ πνευματικός, ἐπιγινωσκέτω ἃ γράφω ὑμῖν ὅτι κυρίου ἐστὶν· 38 εἰ δέ τις ἀγνοεῖ, ἀγνοεῖται. 39 ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου, ζηλοῦτε τὸ προφητεύειν, καὶ τὸ λαλεῖν μὴ κωλύετε γλώσσαις· 40 πάντα δὲ εὐσχημόνως καὶ κατὰ τάξιν γινέσθω.

1 Corinthians 14 [ESV2011]

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Definition of Tongues and Prophecy

So far, in this chapter, Paul has argued for the advantages of prophecy over tongues. We have taken our definition of tongues and prophecy from the beginning of this chapter. Tongues, Paul says in verse 2, is speaking mysteries in the Spirit, and no one but God understands. In verses 14-16, we see that tongues can take the form of praying, singing praise, or giving thanks. Prophecy, on the other hand, as defined in verse 3, is speaking intelligibly to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

Overview

Paul has argued that the one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues because prophecy builds up the church while tongues builds only the self. He has asked the question “how will I benefit you” and said that there is much greater benefit to others in bringing revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching than in speaking in unknown languages. He illustrated the unintelligibility of tongues and demonstrated its failure to communicate but rather to produce irritation and alienation inside the family of faith. He points to the advantage of engaging one’s own mind in worship of God, and says “I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others than a myriad of words in a tongue”. He indicates that eagerness to speak in uninterpreted tongues as a sign of immaturity. Then he points to foreign tongues in the Old Testament as a sign of God’s judgment and rejection of his unbelieving people. He highlights the evangelistic advantages of prophecy over tongues toward visitors and unbelievers in the worship gathering of the church.

Now in the last section of this chapter, he reiterates the underlying principles he has taught and lays down some very specific clear practical apostolic instruction for the church.

Silence and Speaking

What is verbalized in the context of the church gathering is the focus of this chapter. The verb ‘to speak’ [λαλέω] occurs 24 times in this chapter alone. Paul has argued for the advantages of speaking prophecy over speaking in unknown tongues. But this passage is punctuated by silence. There are times when the best thing to build up the body is to refrain from speaking. There are three categories of people discussed in these verses, and each of them are told to be silent at different times for the common good. In verse 28, the tongues speakers are told to be silent. In verse 30 the prophets are told when to be silent. In verse 34 the women or wives are told to be silent.

Coming Together as the Church

What Paul says here is in the context of the gathering of the local church. See it in verse 26? ‘When you come together’. It is good to remind ourselves that the church is not a location that we attend but a people who gathers. Even the word translated ‘church’ [ἐκκλησία] means a called out people, those who have been called out to assemble. This word ‘come together’ [συνέρχομαι] is used here twice and five times in chapter 11 addressing issues when the church gathers to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Building Up

The goal for coming together is to build one another up. Paul said in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

In chapter 8 he said:

1 Corinthians 8:1 …This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.

And in chapter 10,

1 Corinthians 10:23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Here in chapter 14, he says:

1 Corinthians 14:3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 …unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

12 …strive to excel in building up the church.

17 …but the other person is not being built up.

Here he reminds them of the underlying motivation for gathering:

1 Corinthians 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

Each one bringing his gifts to the gathering could be a good or a bad thing. If as a gifted musician I bring a hymn or song I have prepared, and my desire is that everyone is amazed at how talented I am, then my goal is to puff myself up in the eyes of the church. Instead I should come with my song in order to encourage and comfort and strengthen others, to serve them, to deepen their affections for Christ. If as a gifted teacher I bring a teaching I have prepared, and my desire is to impress everyone with my superior insight and eloquence and wisdom and wit, then my goal is to puff myself up in the eyes of the congregation. Instead I ought to bring my teaching with a humble desire to encourage and comfort and strengthen others, to build them up in the most holy faith. Everything that we do is to be done with the clear intent to build others up. Paul is crystal clear; ‘let all things be done for building up.’

Restrictions for Tongues

Paul now gives very specific rules for the vocalization of tongues in the gathering of the local church.

1 Corinthians 14:27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.

He starts this requirement out with ‘if’; ‘if any speak in a tongue’. This may not happen at all. But if it does, there are to be only two, or at the most three. There is never to be someone talking when someone else is talking. Each in turn. Love is not rude, and to talk when someone else is talking is rude. Tongues are never to be uttered without interpretation or explanation. Uninterpreted tongues do not build others up, rather they build walls of alienation. We are not told how the tongues speaker is to know that there will be someone to explain (unless he himself is able to put it into intelligible speech), but before speaking, the tongues speaker is to be certain that his speech will be explained so that others can be built up. Otherwise he is to keep silent in the gathering. The tongues speaker is not at the mercy of his gift. This is not uncontrollable spiritual urges. Paul assumes the speaker has the ability and the good judgment to refrain from speaking if the specific conditions are not met. The tongues speaker can speak to himself and to God. He does not have to have the floor and be heard. He can refrain from exercising his gift for the common good.

Restrictions for Prophecy

Next, Paul gives specific restrictions for prophecy in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,

Paul limits prophecy to two or three as well, but he leaves out the ‘if’ and ‘at most’. Where tongues require interpretation, prophecy requires discernment. The others are to weigh what is said. This applies even to the teaching of the Apostle himself. In Acts 17 the Bereans are commended as

Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

They were listening to Paul’s teaching with eagerness, but they were checking what he said with their Scriptures to be sure it was true. Paul invites the Corinthians to do the same.

1 Corinthians 10:15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. (cf. 11:13)

The Thessalonians are told:

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

Prophecies are to be weighed. If something is revealed to another who is not speaking, the first is to be silent and give room for another to speak. While one with tongues are to keep silent unless they know the tongue will be interpreted, prophecy is to be spoken unless another has something to say. No one is to monopolize the time or refuse to allow what they have said to be tested. Like tongues, prophecies are to be given one at a time, so no one is speaking over anyone else. This would assume that the one seated would also wait for the first to conclude before interjecting. The goal of edification is again kept in view; so that all may learn and all may be encouraged.

This is possible because of the nature of Christian prophecy. The spirits of prophets are in submission to the prophets. Prophecy, like tongues, is controllable. This is not some ecstatic trance like state where the speaker is overcome by a power that compels him to speak. This may happen in some pagan religions, but that has nothing to do with Christian prophecy or tongues. The speaker is in complete control and able to use wisdom in how and when to speak, and is fully capable of refraining from speaking altogether. There is appropriate obedience and submission of the human spirit to the mind.

This is rooted in the nature of God. We worship the way we worship because God is the way God is. What we do, how we conduct ourselves, should be a reflection of the character of God. God is not a God of chaos, confusion, instability, disorder. Our God is a God who speaks order into the chaos and makes distinctions. God separates light from darkness, separates water from sky and land, separates day from night, distinguishes that everything bears fruit according to its own kind. God is a God of peace, harmony, concord. This is the case in all the churches of the saints.

Restrictions for Wives

1 Corinthians 14:34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

This is a challenging subject, and it probably deserves its own sermon. But I believe it will help us understand it if we keep it in its proper context. Women or wives are not singled out; everyone is to keep silent in the assembly at the appropriate times. Tongues speakers and prophets are to keep silent when it serves to keep proper order and promote building others up. The spirits of the prophets are to be in submission to the prophets. That is the same word here used for the submission of the woman.

To make sure we get the whole picture, we need to recall what Paul said back in chapter 11 concerning the issue of women covering or uncovering their heads in the church meeting.

1 Corinthians 11:5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.

…13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?

In chapter 11, Paul has a wife praying or prophesying in the church meeting. He is merely concerned that she do it in a way that will not bring shame to God or to her husband. The issue is what is proper and what is shameful, what brings honor and what brings dishonor.

It is unlikely that Paul pictures a wife praying or prophesying in the congregation with her head covered in chapter 11, then in chapter 14 makes a blanket statement mandating that all women keep silent whenever the church is gathered. The main issue is the issue of submission, being under proper authority, which is taught throughout the New Testament in reference to the creation order. Paul affirms this in 1 Timothy, where he says:

1 Timothy 2:11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

The Law doesn’t say that women must be silent in the assembly; the law teaches that they are to be in proper submission; just like everyone else. Children are to be in submission to their parents, employees are to be in submission to their employers, men are to be in submission to God, Christ is in perfect submission to the Father, and wives are to be in submission to their own husbands. Our tongues are to be in submission to our minds and good judgment. The reason given for the silence of women or wives is that it is shameful for a woman to speak in the assembly. Ciampa and Rosner cite some ancient sources that shed light on the culture of the day.

Writing in the first century, “Plutarch tells us of a woman who accidentally exposed her arm when putting on her cloak: “Somebody exclaimed, ‘A lovely arm.’ ‘But not for the public,’ said she. Not only the arm of the virtuous woman, but her speech as well, ought to be not for the public, and she ought to be modest and guarded about saying anything in the hearing of outsiders, since it is an exposure of herself; for in her talk can be seen her feelings, character, and disposition.… For a woman ought to do her talking either to her husband or through her husband…” [Plutarch, Advice to Bride and Groom, 142 C-D, cited in PNTC, p726]

They also cite the words of Cato (c.195 BC) recorded in Livy’s History of Rome: “Indeed, I blushed when, a short while ago, I walked through the midst of a band of women. Had not respect for the dignity and modesty of certain ones (not them all!) restrained me (so they would not be seen being scolded by a consul), I should have said, ‘What kind of behaviour is this? Running around in public, blocking streets, and speaking to other women’s husbands! Could you not have asked your own husbands the same thing at home? Are you more charming in public with others’ husbands than at home with your own?” [Livy, History of Rome, 34.1, cited in PNTC p.726]

Against this cultural backdrop, Paul’s words make perfect sense.

1 Corinthians 14:34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

It would be considered indecent and disgraceful, and bring reproach on the name of Christ, for a woman in that culture to ask questions of another man in public. While not prohibiting them from praying or prophesying in a way that is culturally appropriate, Paul requires women to show appropriate honor and submission to their husbands, and to God.

Concluding Rebuke

Paul concludes with a rebuke to any who may feel they are exempt from correction or that Paul is out of touch with what he says.

1 Corinthians 14:36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Did God’s word come from you or go only to you? Do you have the arrogance to claim that you are the beginning and then end? Or are you a small part of a bigger story, a small dot on the time-line of God’s history, having inherited a rich heritage from others, with the mission to pass on what you have received to others? The Corinthians were proud, puffed up, and they thought they were spiritual. Paul challenges their claims. If you think you have a prophetic gift or spiritual insight, you ought to at least be able to recognize that the apostolic writings are a command of the Lord. Paul speaks for Jesus, Jesus is speaking through Paul. What Paul writes is not helpful suggestions. It carries the weight of the authority of the Lord Jesus himself. So to disregard this is to be disregarded. To not know this is to give evidence that you are not known by the Lord; ‘depart from me, I never knew you’. This is serious. But Paul believes better about them. He calls them brothers. And he gives one final exhortation on the subject of worship; earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. This is the third time Paul has exhorted them to earnestly desire the best gifts, the most useful to others gifts – especially to prophesy. But to keep them from overreacting to his teaching on the issue, he makes it clear that tongues are to be carefully regulated, but not entirely forbidden. ‘Do not forbid speaking in tongues.’ All things in the worship of the church must be done decently, with propriety, with good form, and in order, with proper arrangement and sequence, so that we reflect in all things the character of our great God.

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

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March 15, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1 Corinthians 14:1-19; How Will I Benefit You?

03/01 1 Corinthians 13:1-19 How Will I Benefit You?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150301_1cor14_1-19.mp3

1 Corinthians 14 [SBLGNT]

1 Διώκετε τὴν ἀγάπην, ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ πνευματικά, μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε. 2 ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ ἀλλὰ θεῷ, οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀκούει, πνεύματι δὲ λαλεῖ μυστήρια· 3 ὁ δὲ προφητεύων ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ οἰκοδομὴν καὶ παράκλησιν καὶ παραμυθίαν. 4 ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ ἑαυτὸν οἰκοδομεῖ· ὁ δὲ προφητεύων ἐκκλησίαν οἰκοδομεῖ. 5 θέλω δὲ πάντας ὑμᾶς λαλεῖν γλώσσαις, μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε· μείζων δὲ ὁ προφητεύων ἢ ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσαις, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ διερμηνεύῃ, ἵνα ἡ ἐκκλησία οἰκοδομὴν λάβῃ. 6 Νῦν δέ, ἀδελφοί, ἐὰν ἔλθω πρὸς ὑμᾶς γλώσσαις λαλῶν, τί ὑμᾶς ὠφελήσω, ἐὰν μὴ ὑμῖν λαλήσω ἢ ἐν ἀποκαλύψει ἢ ἐν γνώσει ἢ ἐν προφητείᾳ ἢ ἐν διδαχῇ; 7 ὅμως τὰ ἄψυχα φωνὴν διδόντα, εἴτε αὐλὸς εἴτε κιθάρα, ἐὰν διαστολὴν τοῖς φθόγγοις μὴ δῷ, πῶς γνωσθήσεται τὸ αὐλούμενον ἢ τὸ κιθαριζόμενον; 8 καὶ γὰρ ἐὰν ἄδηλον φωνὴν σάλπιγξ δῷ, τίς παρασκευάσεται εἰς πόλεμον; 9 οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς διὰ τῆς γλώσσης ἐὰν μὴ εὔσημον λόγον δῶτε, πῶς γνωσθήσεται τὸ λαλούμενον; ἔσεσθε γὰρ εἰς ἀέρα λαλοῦντες. 10 τοσαῦτα εἰ τύχοι γένη φωνῶν εἰσιν ἐν κόσμῳ, καὶ οὐδὲν ἄφωνον· 11 ἐὰν οὖν μὴ εἰδῶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς φωνῆς, ἔσομαι τῷ λαλοῦντι βάρβαρος καὶ ὁ λαλῶν ἐν ἐμοὶ βάρβαρος. 12 οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς, ἐπεὶ ζηλωταί ἐστε πνευμάτων, πρὸς τὴν οἰκοδομὴν τῆς ἐκκλησίας ζητεῖτε ἵνα περισσεύητε. 13 Διὸ ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ προσευχέσθω ἵνα διερμηνεύῃ. 14 ἐὰν γὰρ προσεύχωμαι γλώσσῃ, τὸ πνεῦμά μου προσεύχεται, ὁ δὲ νοῦς μου ἄκαρπός ἐστιν. 15 τί οὖν ἐστιν; προσεύξομαι τῷ πνεύματι, προσεύξομαι δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ· ψαλῶ τῷ πνεύματι, ψαλῶ δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ· 16 ἐπεὶ ἐὰν εὐλογῇς πνεύματι, ὁ ἀναπληρῶν τὸν τόπον τοῦ ἰδιώτου πῶς ἐρεῖ τὸ Ἀμήν ἐπὶ τῇ σῇ εὐχαριστίᾳ; ἐπειδὴ τί λέγεις οὐκ οἶδεν· 17 σὺ μὲν γὰρ καλῶς εὐχαριστεῖς, ἀλλ’ ὁ ἕτερος οὐκ οἰκοδομεῖται. 18 εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ, πάντων ὑμῶν μᾶλλον γλώσσαις λαλῶ· 19 ἀλλὰ ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ θέλω πέντε λόγους τῷ νοΐ μου λαλῆσαι, ἵνα καὶ ἄλλους κατηχήσω, ἢ μυρίους λόγους ἐν γλώσσῃ.

Pursue Love

Chapters 8-14 of 1 Corinthians deal with worship issues. What does it mean to worship the one true God? What does undivided devotion to the one true God look like in a culture permeated by idolatry? What is appropriate attire for the worship of the church? What should the regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper look like? What about spiritual gifts?

Chapters 12-14 deal with the issue of spiritual gifts. It seems there were questions in Corinth about who was more spiritual than whom and what gifts were necessary evidence of the Spirit in the believer. Chapter 12 lays out the broad teaching on the gifts. Paul starts the discussion by pointing to the fact that every genuine believer in Jesus has the Holy Spirit, and is therefore ‘spiritual’. Then he points to the diversity of the gifts all given by one triune God. He highlights the fact that the gifts are given “for the common good” (12:7). He uses the metaphor of the body, one organic whole made up of very unique and diverse parts or members, all interdependent and necessary. He reminds us of the fact that God sovereignly apportioned the gifts as he willed, and some of the gifts are greater in importance than others. He makes it clear that no one possesses all the gifts, then he tells us at the end of chapter 12:

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

We are commanded to be zealous for higher gifts. But the superabundant way is love. Without love the gifts are empty, worthless, even irritating. Even the most self-sacrificial act accomplishes nothing when disconnected from the God who is love. The gifts are temporary, given for the good of the church in this age, but love will never end. Love is the more excellent way.

Now, in chapter 14, Paul comes back to a specific discussion of two particular gifts of the Spirit, and gives some clear practical instruction for life in the church body. He says:

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

He tells us to go after love. Love is being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, who perfectly demonstrated love to us. This is a command. We are ‘to press on, to run after swiftly in order to reach the goal’, we are’to seek after eagerly, to earnestly endeavor to acquire’ (Thayer) love. Love is to be our aim in everything. Love is to permeate everything. Yet this does not mean that we turn away from or neglect the gifts of the Spirit. Instead we are to be zealous for the spiritual gifts so that we can use them in love for the common good. This command is picked up and repeated from the end of chapter 12; earnestly desire spiritual gifts. God’s gifts are good, and are to be desired, to be sought after by God’s people.

Prophecy over Tongues

Paul holds up prophecy over tongues as the gift we are to pursue. I want to invite us to set aside any preconceived ideas of what prophecy and tongues mean, and allow the passage itself to define for us what these two gifts given by the Holy Spirit to the believers for the common good are.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Paul is contrasting these two gifts of communication. The one who speaks in a tongue, Paul says, speaks not to men but to God. He utters mysteries in the Spirit. No one understands him. This appears to be very different from what happened in Acts 2, where the Spirit worked,

Acts 2:6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.

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

Here in 1 Corinthians, no one understands, but he speaks to God. He utters mysteries in the Spirit. This is contrasted to prophecy, which is directed toward people. It is understood, and the goal is ‘for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation’. Wipe away any preconceived notion of what the gift of prophecy is and put this in its place. The gift of prophecy is speaking to people in order to build them up. Paul said back in chapter 8;

1 Corinthians 8:1…This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.

In chapter 3, he talked about laying a foundation as a skilled master builder. This is an architectural metaphor that paints a picture of construction, providing structure, strength, stability. This is manual labor that requires effort, skill, and patience. We are not in the business of building up buildings, we are called to build up people, to invest in them to provide structure, strength, stability. Prophecy also provides encouragement. This word means to call alongside, and it speaks of giving counsel, encouragement, caution. Prophecy provides consolation. This word is almost synonymous with the previous and means to comfort or console someone who is fainthearted or grieving. Prophecy is speaking to others in order to build them up, to encourage, to console.

Edification

The contrast with tongues in verse 4 is that the one who speaks in a tongue builds himself up, where the one who prophesies builds up the church. It is not wrong to build oneself up. We should be building ourselves up. Jude commands:

Jude 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

It is right and proper and good to seek to build yourself up. But that is not why we gather as the church. We gather to build up one another. I don’t come to church primarily for what I can get out of it, but how I can serve others. Love does not seek its own.

Paul has nothing bad to say about tongues. In fact, he says in verse 5 “I want you all to speak in tongues”. Speaking in tongues is a good gift of the Holy Spirit. He has already said, at the end of chapter 12, that not all speak in tongues. But, if it were possible, he wishes that all could speak in tongues and enjoy the benefit of uttering mysteries in the Spirit to God. He desires that we all speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. He says that the one who speaks prophecy for building up and encouragement and consolation is greater than he who speaks in a tongue, unless it be interpreted, so that the church receive upbuilding. The goal of assembling together is to build up the church.

How Will I Benefit You?

Paul uses himself as an example in verse 6. He conjectures; what if I come to visit you and do nothing but speak in tongues? It seems that some of the Corinthians may have been asking for that very thing. They may have wondered if he was as spiritual as they were, because they had likely never heard him speaking in tongues. He might be able to impress some with his advanced spirituality and elevate his status in their eyes, but that is not his goal. Listen to the question he asks. Underline it. Circle it. Write it on the inside cover of your bible. Make this your question whenever you interact with another person. Paul asks: “How will I benefit you?” It might do me good to speak in tongues, and it might lift me up in your eyes, but what profit will it have for you? Paul’s goal is to be useful to them. Imagine what the church would be like if every one of us had this as our driving passion whenever we gathered: “how will I benefit you?”

1 Corinthians 14:6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?

Intelligibility

All of these are speaking gifts. The difference between tongues and revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching is that they are intelligible while tongues are unintelligible. If he spoke in tongues, no one would understand him. He wants to benefit them, and he can only be of benefit to them if they can understand him. He advances some illustrations to demonstrate his point.

1 Corinthians 14:7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?

Musical instruments, wind instruments, stringed instruments, can communicate in profound ways if they are played skillfully. When someone plunks out the melody of a familiar hymn, it can awaken something in your soul and you might go about the rest of your day singing that tune. But if the notes are not clear it is just meaningless noise. This sound like what Paul said about tongues in chapter 13:

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

The bugle was a military tool used to communicate to the troops in battle. The Qumran War Scroll lists distinct signals for muster, alarm, ambush, pursuit, reassembly, enlistment, encampment, battle formation, funeral, retreat, and homecoming (PNTC p.681). If the bugle sound is not recognizable, the troops will not know how to respond and it will cause confusion.

1 Corinthians 14:9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air.

Paul applies these illustrations to tongues speaking. Tongues speaking is unintelligible. It fails to communicate. No one understands. It may be that God hears, but the others in the group are left wondering. You are speaking into the air. The Corinthians seemed to prize their sensational ability to speak in tongues. Paul re-frames their thinking about this, comparing it to an inexperienced bugler or musician who is just making obnoxious confusing noise.

1 Corinthians 14:10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.

Paul moves his argument ahead pointing to the variety of languages in the world. He is not saying that the one who speaks in tongues is not saying anything of value, but if he is saying it in a language that is not understood by his hearers, then communication is not happening. He uses the word ‘foreigner’ or ‘barbarian’ a name that comes from the unintelligibility of the speaker – all I hear is ‘bar-bar-bar’ or we might say ‘blah-blah-blah’. God confused the languages at babel to divide the people who were united against him. Here in the church, where different tribes and tongues should be coming together to worship the King, people are abusing their gift of tongues in a way that alienates others. Have you ever been in a foreign culture where everyone around you is speaking in a language you don’t understand? Does that make you feel welcome? At home? Why would those who have been united as brothers and sisters in Christ engage in a practice that makes each other feel like foreigners?

Love Seeks To Build Up

Paul now gives instructions to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 14:12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.

To be zealous for spiritual gifts is a good thing. He has commanded this in 12:31 and 14:1. Paul is simply trying to channel their zeal in a more healthy direction. Seek those things that build up the church. Seek those things that will benefit others. If you speak in a tongue, ask God to give you the ability to interpret that tongue into intelligible language so that you can use your gift to build up others. Spiritual gifts without love are noisy irritating things. Love seeks not its own. Love seeks the good of the other.

Paul again uses himself as an example.

1 Corinthians 14:14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.

Paul started this section saying that the one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God. Speaking to God can take the form of prayer, songs of praise, giving thanks. Someone who speaks in an unknown tongue is praying or singing or giving thanks with his spirit, but his mind does not understand what he is saying. Paul is eager to engage not only his spirit, but his mind also. Worship is to be both passionate and intelligent. Neither cold intellectualism nor contentless emotion is pleasing to God. We are to love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind. We are to think profoundly and feel deeply about Jesus. Notice Paul is not only thinking of himself. He is aware of the outsider. He is thinking of the seeker, the visitor. Sometimes our goal is to be lost in the experience of worship. But if we are so wrapped up in the experience that we become oblivious to the outsider and disregard his or her needs, then we are not acting in love. We can find application for this well beyond the issue of tongues. The apostle will have more to say about this in the coming verses.

1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Paul claims to be a tongues speaker extraordinaire. The Corinthians were fascinated with their ability to speak in unknown tongues, and it characterized their worship gatherings. But Paul claims to exceed them all. He is not speaking to them about something he does not understand. He has the gift, he wishes they all had it, and he thanks God for it. But just because he has the gift does not mean he will insist on finding an opportunity to exercise it publicly. It seems that this was a gift Paul restrained and used only privately. In the presence of others, he would rather speak five intelligible words so that they can be instructed than countless words in an unknown language. Paul’s goal was not to find expression for his gift, but to ask “how will I benefit you?” Paul was “not seeking my own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved” (10:33)

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

March 1, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Nothingness of Life Without Love

10/26 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 The Nothingness of Life Without Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141026_1cor13_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

12:31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

13:1 Ἐὰν ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρώπων λαλῶ καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, γέγονα χαλκὸς ἠχῶν ἢ κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον. 2 καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν, καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν ὥστε ὄρη μεθιστάναι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐθέν εἰμι. 3 καὶ ἐὰν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου, καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμά μου, ἵνα καυθήσομαι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι.

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We are in 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter. If you haven’t read it in your bible, you’ve probably seen it on the back of a wedding program or in a valentines day card or heard it read in a marriage ceremony. It is a soaring piece of poetry, beautiful and moving. It is one of the most widely know and best loved pieces of scripture that has been ripped from its context and plastered all over lover’s lane. I want to tell you something maybe you didn’t already know. 1 Corinthians 13 comes between chapters 12 and 14! It comes between those chapters much the same way as chapter 9 comes between 8 and 10. 1 Corinthians 13 has a context, and that context helps us to understand what its author intended it to mean. We can pull out some verses and post them on our facebook page with some little hearts and balloons and roses that sound all sweet and sentimental, but I submit to you that 1 Corinthians 13 is a wrecking ball that will level you and I if we are really listening. I am being wrecked as I study it, and I intend to share the experience with you, dearly loved ones. Understand, it is a necessary wrecking and leveling. It is a constructive and healthy leveling, the way a deserted lot with dangerously crumbling buildings all overgrown with weeds and crawling with varmints needs to be bulldozed and burned and excavated to prepare it for a useful structure.

The Corinthians, much like us, were self-focused. They were proud, they were self-seeking, They loved status, they wanted priority and position. They had asked Paul a question that he is responding to in these three chapters. Their question, as we reconstruct it from Paul’s answer to them went something like this: ‘What is the mark of true spirituality? What are the evidences of a truly spiritual person? Are there specific manifestations of the Spirit that mark one out as advanced above others?’ And behind these questions was the desire to be thought well of, to be known and acknowledged as spiritual, to have a reputation for advanced spirituality. Paul begins his answer in chapter 12 by telling us that the truly spiritual people are those who confess Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit is at work in every person who comes to genuine faith in Christ, so every believer is ‘spiritual’. He highlights the diversity of the workings of the Spirit, and the interconnected interdependence of every part of the body with every other part. He reverses their status seeking, ranking the most despised gifts as most essential to the building up of the body, and lists the more sensational gifts that they were focused on last. He exhorts us to earnestly desire the higher gifts. And then he says ‘I will show you a still more excellent way.’ Chapter 13 is the superabundantly excellent way, more essential than any of the gifts. Chapter 14 continues his exhortation to pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.

Tongues

In every list of gifts in this section, in 12:8-10, in 12:28, and in 12:29-30, tongues is listed last. In chapter 14 he illustrates the greater value of prophecy over tongues and carefully regulates the use of the gift of tongues in the meetings of the church. But here in chapter 13, this order is reversed and tongues comes first.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Paul is pointing to the utter worthlessness of all the gifts of the Spirit if the person exercising them lacks love. He lists several ‘if’ statements, possessing spiritual gifts taken to the extreme, each conditioned by the repeated phrase ‘but have not love’ and draws the conclusion of utter valuelessness. He starts with their favorite, tongues. The gift of tongues is the God given ability to speak praises to God in a language not known by the speaker and usually needing interpretation to be understood by the hearers. That is sensational and attention grabbing, and we see something like this attracting huge crowds in Acts 2. Speaking in the tongues of men could be more simply translated speaking in human languages. Speaking in tongues of angels, then, refers to angelic languages. In the context of this passage, it may be that Paul is referring to actual angelic languages, or it may be that he is simply using hyperbole, going beyond what any of the Corinthians would claim. You speak in all kinds of human languages, what if I spoke in exalted angelic languages (if there even is such a thing)? The point is that even the most amazing gift of languages imaginable is nothing without love. If I have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Imagine your toddler has gotten into the pots and pans in the kitchen and has discovered that by banging the lid down on the pan, he can make noise. Repeated noise. Continual noise. Ceaseless noise. Incessant noise. No rhythm, just loud banging over and over and over and over and over again. It was cute. At first. But then you are sitting at your computer trying to concentrate, and your little angel comes up right next to your ear and begins to bang and clang the pot lids together. Or imagine your sweet little 8 year old in the back seat at the beginning of a very long car ride asks you this question: ‘Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the universe?’ Even if you answer ‘No’, she still feels compelled to bless you with this sound. It is not the sound itself, but the duration. If you think that’s bad, imagine when you ask her to please stop, suddenly all her siblings join in making the same noise!

Paul says that if I have been given the most spectacular manifestation of the spiritual gift of tongues, but I do not have love, I am, literally I have become; I have turned into a chunk of clanging brass. I am reduced to nothing more than a painfully repetitive loud noise. This is a scathing indictment on the status seeking tongues speaking Corinthians. They want to impress their friends with their giftedness. Instead, Paul says, you have turned into clanging banging irritating chunks of noisy metal.

Prophecy, Knowledge, Faith

Next, he takes the gift that he is encouraging them to pursue, a gift that is useful in building up the church.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all the knowledge. Again, Paul is using hyperbole. He is imagining the greatest possible manifestation of the gift of prophecy. Paul has said in chapter 4 that the apostles have been entrusted with the mysteries of God. Mysteries in this context are things that were hidden in ages past and have now been revealed. The primary mystery, as he talked about in chapter 2, is the gospel, the good news that through the crucifixion of Jesus, God is extending his love to sinners.

He invites them to imagine that his prophetic gift is such that he understands all mysteries and possesses all knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. They prided themselves in their knowledge. Paul addressed their knowledge back in chapter 8.

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Already in chapter 8, he has held up love as superior to knowledge. Knowledge tends to puff self up. Love builds others up. He warns that by your so called knowledge, you destroy a brother for whom Christ died.

1 Corinthians 8:11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.

For the Corinthians, understanding all mysteries and all knowledge would make for a very impressive spiritual resume. He adds to this the gift of faith. The spiritual gift of faith is an extraordinary Spirit enabled capacity to depend on God to remove major obstacles to the gospel. Here he draws on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 17:20

Matthew 17:20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Jesus’ point is that it does not depend on the size of your faith. Even the tiniest grain of faith placed in the proper object can remove the biggest obstacles. Paul speaks larger than life and imagines that he has all faith. Again hyperbole; faith so as to relocate mountains.

If he has the gift of prophecy and understands all mysteries and all knowledge and if he has the gift of faith to the maximum imaginable extent, but he does not have love, he says ‘I am nothing’.

Mercy, Generosity, Helps

Now he takes up the mercy gifts, gifts like helps or relief, and generosity.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If I give away all that I have; the idea is turning every possession into morsels of food to nourish the hungry. This takes generosity to the extreme. Not stopping with every possession, but even surrendering up my very body takes it to the next level. There is a textual issue here, and you may have a footnote in your bible, whether the word is burned or boast. The difference is just two letters in the original. Either way it is a picture of the ultimate sacrifice, surrendering ones own body up for the good of others. Paul says, even if I have the gift of mercy, bringing relief to the poor and if I do that to the absolute maximum imaginable extent, laying down my own life for others, but have not love, I gain nothing.

There is a progression here. If I have not love, I become empty noise. If I have not love, I am nothing. If I have not love, I gain nothing. I become nothing, I am nothing, I gain nothing.

What Is Love?

This raises a question. How can one give all that they have and even surrender their own body without love? Isn’t that the definition of love? Isn’t biblical love self sacrifice for the good of the other? Jesus said in John 15

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

If we look around, we find examples of people sacrificing themselves for others. Movies are made in praise of these selfless acts. On the battlefield, in the hospital, in the streets, we see examples of people laying down their lives for others. And not all of these people claim to be followers of Jesus. What can we say about this? Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Does this mean that when we see self sacrificial love for others in someone who rejects Jesus as King and rescuer, we must conclude, in spite of their unbelief, that they must be OK? To a lesser degree, there are many selfless acts of generosity, mercy, care for the poor and needy carried out by good people all around us.

What Paul describes seems to be the greatest possible expression of love according to Jesus; laying down your life for others. But he indicates that it is possible to do these things and not have love. And he indicates the outcome; that it profits me nothing. How is it possible to do what we would consider loving acts and not have love?

It may be helpful to understand that in the Greek there are multiple words for love. In English our one word ‘love’ covers them all. There is storge, the affection of a parent for a child and a child for their parents; there is phileo, the love of friendship; there is eros, romantic love, what we might call ‘being in love’; and there is agape, something almost unique to the New Testament writers, and used to describe God’s love. We can easily see how the affection of a parent for a child or for another needy or helpless individual could express itself in the ultimate self-sacrifice. We can see how a robust friendship love could lead one to make the ultimate sacrifice for a friend, and we could see how impassioned lovers might make the ultimate expression of love to one another.

These generous self-sacrificial deeds of love are noble and admirable. They are a reflection of the image of God in his creation. But they are not saving acts. They profit nothing. They earn nothing.

Agape Love

What is it that distinguishes this God kind of love from other loves, without which we gain nothing? What is it that the unbeliever who takes a bullet for a friend does not have? I think we find help in the simple statement of 1 John 4:19.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

The love Paul and Jesus and John are talking about is a response that flows from divine love. We love because we have been loved by God.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

The love we are talking about is from God. It has its source in God who is love. It comes from the new birth. It is founded on a testimony that Jesus is the Son of God who came and paid the price for our sins. It is a love produced in us by the Holy Spirit. We see in Galatians 5 that this kind of love is a fruit of the Spirit.

If we look at the context of Jesus’ statement that the greatest love is laying down one’s life for a friend, we see where this kind of love comes from.

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

…8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

…11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

This fruit of love comes from abiding in Jesus. Abiding in his love for us. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. We are loved by God, not because there is something loveable in us, something in us that attracts his affection, but out of the overflow of his own satisfaction in loving and being perfectly loved. God is love. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves his Father, and the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. This complete and perfect trinitarian love, this perfect joy and delight in the beloved, spills over and finds joy in extending this love to others. This is a love that comes not out of need but out of overflowing fullness. God is love, and we love because he first loved us.

We love because

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…

We love because

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

We love because

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

We love because

1 John 4:10 …he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We love because

Galatians 2:20 …the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We love because

Ephesians 5:2 …Christ loved us and gave himself up for us….

We love because

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

When our love is a work of the Spirit in us, rooted in God’s grace to us in the cross, when our love is the overflow of satisfaction in being perfectly loved by God, when our joy and delight in God spills over and finds joy in extending this love with which we have been loved to others, this is the love that is the superabundant more excellent way. Without this love I have become nothing, I am nothing, and I gain nothing. This kind of love is evidence of true spirituality.

If you want to become more loving, the solution is not to make an effort to do more loving things, the solution is to fix your eyes on Jesus. Allow him to love you with his unquenchable love. Invite him to fill you to overflowing with his all-sufficient love. That love will inevitably spill over to those around you.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

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

October 26, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

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

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Apostles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 3:1 calls Jesus the apostle.

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

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

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

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

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

Second Prophets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zechariah prophesied over his son John:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what the prophet Joel predicted.

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

What was it that fulfilled the prophecy of Joel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third Teachers

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

Jesus was often addressed with the title ‘teacher’.

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

Jesus said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 12:7-11; To Each a Manifestation of the Spirit

09/07 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 To Each the Manifestation of the Spirit ;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140907_1cor12_7-11.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

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

4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα· 5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος· 6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. 7 ἑκάστῳ δὲ δίδοται ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον. 8 ᾧ μὲν γὰρ διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος δίδοται λόγος σοφίας, ἄλλῳ δὲ λόγος γνώσεως κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, 9 ἑτέρῳ πίστις ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι, ἄλλῳ χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων ἐν τῷ ἑνὶ πνεύματι, 10 ἄλλῳ ἐνεργήματα δυνάμεων, ἄλλῳ προφητεία, 1 ἄλλῳ διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, ἑτέρῳ γένη γλωσσῶν, 2 ἄλλῳ ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν· 11 πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἐνεργεῖ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, διαιροῦν ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ καθὼς βούλεται.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

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

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

We are dealing with a very controversial topic in this section of Scripture. Paul is answering a question about what it is that makes someone ‘spiritual’ and teaching about the distributions of various grace-gifts by the Holy Spirit. Paul lists gifts like healing, faith, miracles, tongues, interpretation, distinguishing of spirits, prophecies, and words of wisdom and knowledge. Some people believe that many if not all of these gifts have ceased and are no longer relevant or given in the church today. Others believe that they are fully in operation in the church, and that they personally possess one or more of these gifts. I am guessing that we have both positions represented here today. These issues were divisive in the church in Corinth, and they are divisive in many churches today. Much of this letter is written to confront the issues over which they were dividing, and to bring greater unity. Paul has some important things to say to us, if we are willing to listen.

Some of you may be clueless, this is the first you have ever heard that there are gifts that the Spirit gives to believers, wondering if you have any or where you can get some. Some of you may be curious, wondering which side I take on the issues. Some may be cautious, concerned that we are heading off the deep end and into craziness.

My goal is to submit myself to the text of Scripture, listening to what it says, believing it, and making an effort to adjust my life and practices accordingly. I want to keep the main thing the main thing, focusing on the clear things and admitting there are things that we just don’t know. I want to be honest about what is clear and about what is not so clear in the text, not overstating one side or the other. I want to be teachable, not with a head set in cement, thinking I know everything already, but eager to learn what God wants to teach us through his word. I hope you are eager to learn along with me.

In order to understand any passage of Scripture, we need to see it in its proper context. The context of 1 Corinthians is a church that is divided, and many of the issues they divided over centered around pride and self-seeking. They wanted to be thought well of, to seek status and to impress others. Paul tackles the issue of what makes one spiritual by starting with the basic biblical fact that no one believes in Jesus as Lord except the Holy Spirit has done a work in him first. Everyone who confesses Christ as Lord has been born of the Spirit, has God the Holy Spirit residing in him, and is therefore spiritual.

He then highlights the nature of the spiritual by pointing us to the character of the gifts as grace-gifts. They are unearned, undeserved freely given by a generous God. The gifts are sovereignly distributed by the one triune God. They are services, intended for the good of others, they are powerful workings energized by the power of almighty God.

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

We could summarize what has been said so far this way:

Every believer is spiritual / indwelt by God the Holy Spirit.

Every believer is given the manifestation of the Spirit.

Every grace-gift is undeserved; no credit to the one who receives it.

Every grace-gift is intended for the common good.

Paul now goes on to enumerate 9 various gifts, redundantly stating that they all come from one and the same Spirit. Grace-gifts are manifestations of the Spirit, given through the Spirit, according to the same Spirit, by the same Spirit, by the one Spirit. They are all empowered and apportioned by one and the same Spirit. Paul’s emphasis is on the divine Giver who gives gifts to each just as he chooses. He lists 9 gifts here, a sampling of gifts to make his point that whatever gifts believers have all came from one and the same Spirit. This is the main point, and we would do well not to lose sight of the main point as we look at some of the other details of this passage.

Lists of the Gifts

Paul lists 9 gifts here, and another 9 at the end of this chapter. 5 of the gifts are common to both lists, and the other 4 are unique to each list, so in the chapter he gives us 13 gifts in all. As we look around the New Testament at some other listings of the gifts, we realize that of the 13, only 2 show up in the other lists. Word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, powers healings, miracles, distinguishing of spirits, helping, administrating, tongues, and interpretation of tongues do not show up in any of the other lists. Other things, like evangelists, shepherds, exhortation, generosity, leading, and mercy are not mentioned in 1 Corinthians. This should caution us against thinking that we have an exhaustive list of all the gifts. The gifts listed are merely examples held up to make a point, not intended for us to create a comprehensive list and then administer tests to see who has which gifts. Whose list do we use? Which gifts do we include? Which gifts are describing the same thing using different terms? It is at least possible that there are some grace-gifts that are not mentioned in any of the biblical lists. There is nothing wrong with taking a test to help you understand what gifts you might have, but realize that the unique equipping God has gifted you with may not fit into the neat categories the maker of the test came up with. And don’t think that until you can list which gifts you possess, you are useless and have no purpose in the church. Every believer has been gifted exactly as God intended, and countless believers use their various gifts very effectively and regularly to strengthen the church without having a clue what gifts they have or even that they are using gifts at all. This is Paul’s point in inserting some seemingly ordinary non-exciting gifts like helps and administration in amongst the more obviously supernatural and dramatic gifts. These plain everyday activities that are essential to the healthy functioning of the church are no less supernatural and Holy Spirit empowered than the flashy attention grabbing manifestations of the Spirit.

What Are The Gifts?

Another challenge we face in studying the gifts is that we don’t know exactly what they are or how they were used. We can try to piece together the data we are given in the text to better understand what the gifts were, but the truth is we don’t know for sure. John Chrysostom, who lived AD 347-404 in his comments on this passage wrote:

This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity hath produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more? [Homilies on First Corinthians. Homily XXIX, 1]

Chrysostom lamented that this passage is obscure because the things it describes were no longer happening in the church. If one who lived within 300 years of the apostles was aware of his own ignorance in understanding the gifts, how can we who live some 2000 years later assume that we know what they mean? We can look at what modern day Christians practice and identify by these biblical names, but it is not certain that what some today call prophecy or tongues or healing is necessarily the same thing that Paul referred to when he used those words to describe gifts in the early church.

Structure of the Passage

What can we say about these gifts? First, we can see some structure to the list that he gives. There are two different Greek words that are all translated ‘to another’ in this passage. One tends to mean another of the same kind, and the other can mean another of a different kind. The first two are paired, the next 5 are connected, and the last two are paired. The utterance of wisdom is paired with the utterance of knowledge, both speaking gifts, and the final two, various kinds of languages and interpretation of languages, are also speaking gifts. The middle 5 are all lumped together, with faith as a more general gift that may find expression in some of the other gifts, and then the two pairs, healings and miracles, and prophecy and distinguishing of spirits.

Word of Wisdom

What is the grace-gift identified as the word of wisdom? We can guess, or we can look around at current practice, but I believe we will be better served to look in the text to find our answers. Both wisdom and knowledge were buzzwords in Corinth. The word ‘wisdom occurs 17 times in 1 Corinthians; 16 times in the first three chapters, and then once in this verse. Looking back to the first section of this book, we see that ‘words of eloquent wisdom’ were prized in Corinth, and Paul draws a contrast between the so-called wisdom of the world that God will destroy, and the true wisdom of God in the seemingly foolish message of the cross. The message of Christ crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1:23-24). In chapter 2, Paul claims to impart to them a secret and hidden wisdom of God, things God has revealed to us through his Spirit (2:7-10). He says:

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The things freely given us by God, the secret and hidden wisdom that we understand through the Spirit, is that the Lord of glory was crucified. The word of wisdom is to ‘know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (2:2). Paul claims to impart this wisdom of God in words taught by the Spirit, which fits perfectly with what he says here about the grace-gift/service/working of the Holy Spirit in the utterance or word of wisdom. When Paul says in chapter 15 “I would remind you of the gospel …that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared…”, he is exercising the grace-gift of an utterance of wisdom. We could say that the word of wisdom is the God-given ability to understand and communicate the good news of Christ crucified so that Christ is perceived as the power and wisdom of God among those who are called.

Word of Knowledge

What is the grace-gift called the word of knowledge? Paul begins this letter:

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

This seems to be an affirmation that they possessed this grace-gift of the word of knowledge. This word ‘knowledge’ shows up 5 times in chapter 8, and then 4 times in the chapters dealing with grace-gifts. In chapter 8, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Paul points to their so-called knowledge which puffs up, knowledge of theological truth which frees the one with that knowledge to eat at an idol’s temple, thus by that knowledge destroying a brother for whom Christ died (8:11), and contrasts it with the way we ought to know, which is in truth being known by God, loving God, and building others up in love. We could conclude that the grace-gift of the word of knowledge is the God given ability to properly understand theological truth and humbly apply it in a way that others are built up in their relationship with God and their love for God.

Faith

What is the gift of faith? We can see from the entire New Testament that faith is believing in, trusting in and depending on God’s promises. We are saved by God’s grace as a gift, and we are saved through faith or relying on God, which itself is a gift from God (Eph.2:8-9). But that cannot be what Paul means here, because here he is looking at a specific grace-gift that is given only to some believers. He has already said in verse 3 that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit”, which is looking at the gift of faith given to ever believer. Here he is talking about distributions of various gifts, services, or activities, different manifestations of the Spirit given to different believers. So what is this additional gift of faith that goes beyond saving faith? Chapter 13 gives us a clue.

1 Corinthians 13:2 …and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

This seems to be an extraordinary Spirit enabled capacity to depend on God to remove major obstacles to the gospel. When we look at this in the context of manifestations of the Spirit given to each for the common good, we can see that the unshakeable confidence in God of one individual can be an encouragement and support to the entire body, stimulating the group to move forward with boldness and confidence.

Gifts of Healings

What are gifts of healings? Both words are in the plural, indicating that there may be multiple grace-gifts for different kinds of healings. Clearly in much of Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of the apostles recorded in Acts, physical healing of diseases, and healing of those oppressed by demons were central. We also see Matthew 13:15, John 12:40, and Acts 28:27 all citing Isaiah 6:9-10, which says:

Isaiah 6:9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

This indicates that one aspect of healing is healing of unbelief, where blind eyes see, heavy ears hear, and dull hearts understand, turn and believe in Jesus. Peter says:

1 Peter 2:24 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.

This healing is comprehensive healing, spiritual and ultimately physical. There were occasions where Paul told a man crippled from birth to ‘stand upright on your feet’ and he was healed (Acts 14:10), there were occasions where handkerchiefs that had touched Paul were brought to the sick and ‘their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them’ (Acts 19:12); There was also occasion when Paul instructed Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Tim.5:23) and when Paul “left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus” (2 Tim.4:20). It seems clear that the gifts of healings did not ensure that everyone was always physically healed. So the gifts of healings may be diverse, including physical healings, healings from demonic oppression, healings from spiritual blindness, healings with a word, and healings through more natural means like medicines.

Workings of Powers

In workings of powers, both words are plural, again indicating that there may be varieties of powerful workings within this one classification of Spirit-gifting. The grammar of this phrase could be read as workings of powers in the sense of doing miraculous deeds, or it could be read as workings over powers in the sense of exercising authority over demonic powers. We could look to Ananias and Sapphira who fell dead at the apostles’ feet when they lied to the Holy Spirit, (Acts 5:1-11) or when Elymas the magician was seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith, and Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit rebuked him and he was struck blind (Acts 13:8-12)

Here in 1 Corinthians, where the people were seeking power and status, power primarily refers to the power of the gospel to save sinners. So workings of powers could include authority over hostile spiritual forces, workings of miracles, and a demonstration of the power of the gospel of Christ crucified to rescue sinners.

Prophecy and Discerning of Spirits

Prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues are the main subjects of the next chapters, so we will explore them more fully when we come to them, but for now we can say that prophecy is speaking something that God has brought to mind for the purpose of building up, encouraging or consoling others (14:3), and is to be subject to those with the gift of discerning the spirits. Paul says in 14:29, ‘let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said’. In 1 Thessalonians Paul instructs:

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

Various Languages and Interpretation of Languages

Again, there will be much more to say on the issue of tongues, but we can preliminarily define tongues as words of prayer or praise spoken to God, not always understood by the speaker, and requiring explanation to be understood by others. Paul defines it for us in 14:2

1 Corinthians 14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.

Empowered, Apportioned, Willed

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

Paul brings us back to the main point; there are various distributions of grace-gifts to different believers, but it is the same Spirit who powers them, and distributes them to individuals according to his own good purpose. There is a tendency to champion one gift above others, to claim a particular gift or type of gifts as evidence of advanced spirituality. Paul claims that every believer is energized by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to each individual exactly as he intends. They are given to us but not for us, they are given for his good purpose, and that purpose is for the common good. He does not grant gifts based on capability or performance, they are freely given, and they are given to whoever he wants to give them. We can claim no credit or status based on what we have been freely given, because grace is directly opposite to merit. We must rejoice in the unity of the one Spirit displayed in the diversity of gifts.

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

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

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

September 7, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 19:29-42; Palm Sunday

04/13/14 Palm Sunday Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140413_palm-sunday.mp3

Today is the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday. This is the day Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey, and the crowds welcomed him as their king, spreading their cloaks and branches on the road before him.

As we remember this, and what this event led up to, I want to look at what was in the minds and hearts of the people who were shouting out Hosanna, what was in the mind and heart of our Lord Jesus, and what he was looking forward to.

We will read Luke’s account of the event.

Luke 19:29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives— the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

Prophetic Backdrop

In order to understand what was in the minds and hearts of the people, we need to look back at some of the prophecies of the Old Testament, and to look at the political climate of the day. Jesus was intentionally fulfilling a very specific prophecy that day, and both Matthew and John point it out.

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Jesus set this up. This is a prophecy of the coming king who brings salvation to his people. Jesus, by his actions, is declaring himself to be the coming King.

The people were expecting a king to come. When David desired to build a house for the Lord, God made this promise to David:

2 Samuel 7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

There was a near fulfillment of this in David’s son Solomon, who did build the temple and Israel did enjoy peace under his reign. But Solomon’s rule (970BC) did not last forever. This prophecy was much bigger than Solomon, looking forward to David’s greater Son, the true Son of God.

A prophecy from Isaiah, written about 200 years later during the rule of wicked king Ahaz (735-727BC) expands on this promised seed of David who would reign forever. Isaiah writes:

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

It seems that this coming King would be more than a mere man. When Gabriel foretold the birth of Jesus to Mary, he said:

Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Jesus, Son of the Most High, is the one who would fulfill these prophesies. He is the one who will reign on David’s throne forever.

Psalm 118 says:

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. 27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!

These are some of the promises that the people of Israel were clinging to the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Hosanna is the Hebrew word from verse 25, translated ‘save us we pray’ or ‘save now’, that the people were shouting as Jesus rode in on the donkey. They quoted verse 26 when they cried out ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the LORD’ They were looking to Jesus to save them from the Romans. The were looking to him to bring peace and glory to the nation of Israel.

Political Climate

The Roman emperor Pompei conquered Jerusalem and entered the Holy of holies in 63 BC. From that time, Jerusalem was under Roman control. There was a group called the zealots, a faction of Jews lead by Judas of Galilee who bitterly opposed Roman rule and were eager to hasten the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies with the sword. Simon, one of Jesus’ disciples had been a zealot (Mt.10:4). The Jews were looking for a political king who would lead a revolt to overthrow the Roman oppression and usher in the golden messianic age.

At one point, after Jesus fed the multitudes with a few loaves of bread, which was another Messianic expectation, the people were about to take Jesus by force and make him their king (Jn.6:15). At that point Jesus withdrew to the mountain alone. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he avoided the public spotlight (Jn.7:3-10), saying that his ‘time had not yet come’. But on this one occasion, as he entered Jerusalem, he intentionally enters the public eye, accepting the worship and praises of the people, refusing to silence the multitudes, saying:

Luke 19:40 …“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Earlier, when his apostles acknowledged him as the promised Messiah, he warned them to tell no one. Bur now, for the first time in his life, Jesus allowed himself to be publicly recognized as the fulfillment of all the prophesies of the coming Davidic King, and this only days before his arrest and execution.

Jesus’ Purpose

What was going through the mind and heart of our Lord as the multitudes honored him as King? We may get a clue from what Jesus said as he approached the city:

Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

Jesus wept over the city. He who could see the future and see the hearts of men, recognized that even some of these who now welcomed him as king would in a few days be eager to hand him over to the Romans and would cry out for his crucifixion. He foresaw that this great city would be destroyed. Jesus understood the expectation of the people, but he knew that he had come for a different purpose, a much greater purpose.

The people looked to Jesus as their hope for peace. Jesus, the Prince of peace, did come to bring peace, but not the social-political peace they expected. Many of Jesus’ followers would be executed. Jerusalem would not be saved but destroyed. Jesus said this

Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Jesus did not come to bring peace in the sense that they were looking for. But he did bring peace. He brought a peace much richer and deeper and more lasting and satisfying than a mere end to war. The war Jesus came to end was the uprising of our rebellion against our Creator. The war he came to end is the just wrath and hostility we deserve from a righteous Judge whom we have disgraced. Jesus came to make peace with God.

The people looked to Jesus to set them free from the oppression of Rome. Jesus, the greater Moses, did come to set his people free, but not from slavery to any person or regime. Jesus came to set people free from lifelong slavery to sin. Jesus came to set his people truly free. Jesus came to take us out from under the crushing weight of our own guilt before the all-holy God.

The people looked to Jesus to take vengeance on their enemies. Jesus did come to crush the enemy, but that enemy was not a people group. Our true enemy is Satan, and Jesus came to crush his head.

The crowds looked to Jesus to provide for their needs, heal their sickness, and give them life. Jesus came to give life, but not just a long, happy ordinary life. He came to give them eternal life. Jesus came to heal sickness, but the sickness was a sick and twisted heart that ran after all the wrong things. Jesus came to feed the hungry, but not with a welfare program that would offer handouts to the poor, but to satisfy our deepest longings. Jesus came to nourish our souls – with himself.

Jesus came to accomplish much more than anyone who cried out ‘Hosanna’ ever would have imagined. They cried out ‘save now’, and he did come to do exactly that, but not at all in the ways they were looking for. Jesus, omnipotent God, had the power to overthrow Rome with a word. But Jesus knew what that would bring.

Back in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, he had read from the scroll of Isaiah

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus came to do all those things. Good news to the poor, freedom for captives, sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed, favor with God. But he stopped his reading in mid-sentence. If we look back to Isaiah 61, we find that the next phrase in that passage is “and the day of vengeance of our God.” Jesus stopped mid-sentence, because he had not come to bring that. Not yet. If he had come to be crowned as a victorious military leader and benevolent king, he would also usher in the wrath of God against sinners. Every sinner. And that would be everyone. No one is righteous before God, no, not one. Jesus, if he had come to bring the day of vengeance of God against humans, that would extend to all humans. To every individual. Because all have sinned and failed to give God the glory and thanks that he deserves.

Jesus came to save, but not in the way anyone expected. He came to be crowned, not with a crown of gold or rare jewels, but with a crown of thorns. He came, not to be bowed down to, but to bow himself down to receive the blows of the scourge. He came to be lifted up, not on a royal throne, but nailed to a cruel cross. Jesus ‘came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mk.14:10). He came to conquer sin by becoming sin for us. He came to conquer death by dying. Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, to be the sacrifice. For Jesus, the path to victory, real victory was the cross. Jesus, riding in to Jerusalem, knew exactly what he had come to do. He had come to reconcile man to God, ‘making peace by the blood of his cross’ (Col.1:20).

Future Fulfillment

Jesus rode in to the city on a donkey. The multitudes were laying their cloaks down as a carpet, waving palm branches in the air, rejoicing and praising God with a loud voice,

Luke 19:38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Jesus was looking at what he had come to do, and why he had come to do it. He was looking beyond that day, and that crowd, off into the future, to a future day and a future crowd. We read about this in the vision of Revelation.

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Jesus was looking past the shallow, superficial worship of the crowd, to a deeper, richer, genuine worship resonating from the blood bought souls of the redeemed. He was looking past the Jewish crowd to a multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. He was looking around at the self-centered sinners that day, and he was determined to transform them into saints characterized by his own self-sacrificial love. 

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

April 13, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resurrection and the Gospel; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120408_1corinthians15_1-8.mp3

04/08 Resurrection and the Gospel; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Today is Resurrection Sunday. We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is an essential part of the gospel message.

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. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

The gospel, or ‘good news’, is the good news message of salvation. Paul says we are being saved by it if we receive it, stand in it, and cling only to it. This is central. This is important. This is the focal point of the whole bible. Let’s look at this message.

Christ the Messiah

First, the good news message is a proclamation of good news about a person. The person is Christ. This is a message about Christ. But Christ is not a name, it’s a title. ‘Christ’ is a Greek word that means ‘anointed one’. It is a translation of the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’, the anointed one. What does it mean to be the anointed one?

In the Old Testament, anointing with oil was used as a way to set a person or thing apart for a particular role, office or use. Kings were anointed (1Sam.10:1), and priests were anointed (Ex.30:30). Even the tabernacle was anointed to set it apart as holy (Ex.40:9). The prophet Samuel was sent by the Lord to anoint Saul and then David to be king over Israel. God promised David an heir who would sit on his throne, who would rule forever (2Sam.7:12-17). Isaiah expands on this promise, explaining that this coming king will be Immanuel, God with us, born of a virgin (Is.7:14); that he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighy God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace, and he will rule on the throne of David forever (Is.9:6-7). The Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for this coming king who would free them from Roman oppression and restore Israel as a nation to her former glory. They were looking for a king, a political and military leader who would lead them in victory over their enemies and give them peace. That is what God’s anointed king would do. When Jesus provided food for the multitudes, they wanted to make him a king by force, but he avoided it (Jn.6:15). When Jesus asked his disciples privately who they believed him to be:

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

After Jesus commended Peter for having divine insight into his true identity,

Matthew 16:20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Christ Died

Then Jesus began to expand their view of what God’s Messiah must do.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

They had no category for this kind of Messiah. The Christ doesn’t hide his true identity; he comes with fanfare in glory. The Christ doesn’t suffer; he alleviates the suffering of his people. The Christ doesn’t die, he wins.

Matthew 16:22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

This is not what Peter or any of the other apostles had signed up for. They were his select men, appointed to rule with him when he ascended the throne and began to rule. They had already been jockeying among themselves for the chief positions. So Peter takes it upon himself to give campaign advice to his Lord. ‘Don’t talk like that Jesus! It’s bad for publicity.’ You see, Peter, and the rest of the apostles didn’t yet get it. They didn’t understand the full role of the coming Christ. This is probably a key reason why Judas defected. During the trial and after the crucifixion the disciples seem lost. This wasn’t part of the plan. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The Messiah wins. We thought it was Jesus. But now he’s dead.

What Jesus was beginning to teach his disciples, what they wouldn’t get until after his resurrection, was that there was another vein of prophecy that the Messiah must fulfill. True, the Christ would be the Conquering King who reigns forever, the divine Son who would sit on his Father’s throne. But the Christ must also be the suffering servant. Look back to Isaiah, chapters 52-53. In 52:7, we are pointed to the good news, good news of peace, of happiness, of salvation, good news of God reigning over his people. Messiah, the divine conquering king. In verse 13, he shall act wisely, he shall be high and lifted up, exalted. The Christ, ascending his throne. But as he goes on, we begin to wonder what kind of ‘lifted up’ this might be.

Isaiah 52:13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at you– his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind– 15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 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.

Christ Died For Our Sins

The shock of a disfigured Messiah, marred beyond human semblance, a sight so horrific that men hide their faces. A despised and rejected Messiah, a man of sorrows? Why? How? He goes on:

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

The Messiah, stricken, smitten by God, afflicted, wounded, crushed, chastised, scarred, oppressed, led to the slaughter, taken away in judgment, cut off out of the land of the living. Why? What has he done to deserve this? And the answer resounds ‘Nothing!’ He has borne our griefs, carried our sorrows, wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, chastised to bring us peace, scarred to bring us healing. It’s our fault. We like sheep have gone astray. We insist on rebelling against him and doing life our own way. But the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

You see, for the conquering King to bring in his reign of righteousness and everlasting peace, he must make peace between God and sinful man. The first thing he must conquer is not the Romans, but our hard, rebellious hearts. He must make us, sinners, righteous! He bears our iniquities. He is the final offering for sin. He satisfies the justice of a holy God, being crushed for our sins. He, the righteous one, made intercession for us, and makes us to be accounted righteous.

So the gospel message begins: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” Christ, the conquering King, the Divine Son of God, the One who will reign forever, died. He died, not of old age, not of natural causes, not for anything he had done, but ‘for our sins’; to pay the price our sins deserve. He substituted himself for us in order to make peace between God and us. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures. The Messiah came as suffering servant to fulfill the the prophecies. He came to give his own life a ransom for many. He came as the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent. He came to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.

That He Was Buried

The second point of the gospel message is ‘that he was buried.’ What is the significance of the Roman soldiers hastening the crucifixion by breaking the legs of their victims, but finding Jesus already dead and running him through with a spear? What is the significance of Joseph’s request to bury the body and Pilate’s demand to verify that he was indeed dead, the hurried wrapping in burial cloths and spices, the placing in a new tomb and rolling a huge stone to seal the entrance? What is the significance of the Jewish leaders’ fears that the disciples might steal the body and securing a guard of soldiers and an official edict to seal the tomb and verify that it was undisturbed? The significance of ‘that he was buried’ is to certify that he was indeed dead. The Christ was dead and buried.

That He Was Raised On The Third Day In Accordance With the Scriptures

The third point of the good news is that Jesus did not stay dead. He is alive! Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday morning! The significance of the resurrection is that Jesus accomplished what he set out to do. He was perfectly obedient to his Father. He took the cup of God’s wrath against us, and drank every dark drop. He carried our sins to the cross, paid for them in full, and cried out ‘it is finished’. Jesus voluntarily gave his life as a ransom for us. The Father was pleased with his sacrifice, and showed his approval by raising him from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus is also said to be ‘in accordance with the scriptures’. The passage we read in Isaiah 53 requires a resurrection. God promises, because of his obedience to death, to divide him a portion with the many.

The New Testament writers point to Psalm 16, a Psalm of David, that says ‘you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption’ (Ps.16:10), and they make the point that this was not fulfilled in David, because he died and stayed dead. It must be pointing to Jesus, David’s greater Son. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection – pointing to our future physical resurrection that will be like Jesus’ resurrection. Leviticus 23:10-11 describes the offering of firstfruits, which was to be presented on the day after the Sabbath; the Sunday after the Passover.

And That He Appeared

The final point in the proclamation of the gospel is that the resurrected Jesus appeared.

5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

The apostle here lays out the incontrovertible evidence of the authenticity of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus was no hallucination, no trick of the active imagination, no wishful thinking on the part of his disciples. Jesus appeared numerous times to different groups of people, many of whom were skeptical and certainly not expecting it. On one occasion the resurrected Jesus appeared to more than five hundred brothers, and Paul invites his original readers to go interview them to verify the claim.

In our culture, faith is often defined as believing something that has no evidence to back it up. We hear things like ‘it takes a lot of faith to believe that,’ indicating that the less evidence there is to support a claim, the more faith it takes to believe it, and the greatest amount of faith is required to believe something that is contradicted by the facts. This is not biblical faith, and God does not expect us to believe things for which there is no evidence. Biblical faith is placing trust or confidence in God and his word because he has proven himself trustworthy.

God is not opposed to giving us a foundation of solid evidence on which our faith can rest. In the Old Testament, God pointed to his ability to declare things that had not yet happened, so that when they happened, it would prove that he is who he claims to be. Consider the disciple Thomas. In God’s providence, he was not in the room when Jesus first presented himself alive to his disciples.

John 20:24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Thomas was a committed follower of Jesus. He believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the coming King. On one occasion, he declared his readiness to follow Jesus to the death if that was what he required (Jn.11:16). Thomas believed, but now the evidence was pointing in a different direction. Jesus was dead. This didn’t fit what he knew of the scriptures, so he must have been wrong about Jesus. He had been deceived. He had given three years of his life to following a lie. He would not be duped again. He demanded hard evidence. It would take more than a vision to convince him. He demanded proof that the one who was claiming to be Jesus resurrected was really the same Jesus he had known. He needed to know that this was not an identical twin or a look-alike. He wanted to see the unmistakable evidence of continuity that this was the same Jesus who had been nailed to a cross, who had a spear thrust into his side penetrating his heart.

John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus appears, and he does not rebuke Thomas for his lack of faith. He invites him to test the evidence for himself He does not condemn him for doubting, but he tells him that the time for doubting is over now that the evidence is here. Thomas, who up to this point was resolved in his skepticism, is persuaded by the evidence.

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Thomas believes. He believes that this crucified Messiah is indeed the Lord of the universe, God in the flesh. Thomas trusts him personally as his own Lord and God. Thomas is persuaded by the evidence, a converted skeptic. The statement of Jesus is often misunderstood as scolding Thomas for his demand for proof. In the context this cannot be. Jesus did not deride Thomas for being skeptical. He gladly offered himself as evidence. Jesus doesn’t say that it would have been better if Thomas had believed something he thought was not true. God never asks us to believe something that is not true. Thomas was called by Jesus to be a witness. Thomas, like the other Apostles, was called to bear witness to Jesus, to his life, death and resurrection. He saw, and he testified, so that we who have not seen, who could not be there, can read his eye-witness account and believe. Jesus was looking beyond Thomas to those skeptics today who would be persuaded by the historical evidence of Thomas’ testimony and believe. And he calls us blessed. This is the context of Thomas’ statement in John’s gospel.

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.

This is the good news message of salvation. That the Messiah died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was indeed dead and buried, that he was raised back to life by his Father as proof that he is who he claimed to be, and that this proof was documented by multiple eyewitnesses, including skeptics, so that we, today, reading the historical record, can be convinced to place our trust in the sin bearing work of God’s Messiah. 

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

April 8, 2012 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus Lord at Thy Birth; The Most Ego-Centric Person in the History of the World

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101226_jesus_lord_at_thy_birth.mp3

12/26 Jesus Lord at thy Birth – The Most Ego-centric Person in the History of the World

Today I want to look at Jesus, the most ego-centric person in the history of the world. There are a couple things that stimulated my thinking in this direction. A couple Saturdays ago, I was in my new study working on the Sunday message and I could hear our worship team practicing ‘Silent Night’. The phrase ‘Jesus, Lord at Thy Birth’ captured my attention. What an amazing statement! To claim that a newborn infant held authority over his parents, authority over the Roman king who issued the decree that drove his parents to find lodging in Bethlehem, authority over the angels that announced his birth; over the animals that shared his birthplace; authority over the stars that drew the attention of the magi from the east. This helpless infant wielded stars and kings and angels to do his bidding? ‘Jesus, Lord at thy birth’. This captured my attention. And I have been listening to an audiobook by John Stott called ‘Why I am a Christian’. Much of the outline for this message was stimulated by a section from his book that deals with the the staggering claims of Jesus.

So I’ve entitled this message ‘Jesus, Lord at they birth; the most ego-centric person in the history of the world’. The song declares that Jesus was Lord at his birth, but what does Jesus say about himself? I want to hear, not what the songs say about Jesus, but at what Jesus claimed for himself.

Inconspicuously conspicuous

As we look at the gospels, we find that Jesus was extraordinarily self-centered. If we pay attention to the words in red, we see ‘I, I, I, me, me, me, my, my, my. Have you ever noticed that before? That has never caught my attention. Most people who talk this way are nauseatingly annoying. How is it that Jesus talks this way, but he does it in such a way that I never even noticed it before? He is constantly talking about himself. Jesus believed he was truly one-of-a-kind and that everything is all about him, and that came through in all his teaching.

Listen to some of the things Jesus says. Listen as if you’ve never heard these words before. Hear it as if it were the snotty-nosed kid from down the street who was saying these things:

Matthew 11:29 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.

John 6:35 I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 8:12 … “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 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.”

John 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

John 10:7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:36 … I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

John 12:26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

John 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

John 13:13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

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

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.

John 18:37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world––to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Do you hear how incredibly arrogant and self-centered these statements are? I, I, I, me, me, me, my, my, my. He wants us to yoke up as if we were his oxen. He clams to be the solution to all hunger and to be able to quench all thirst. He says that everyone is in the dark unless they are following him. He claims to originate outside this world – to be God’s gift to mankind, God’s own son, and everyone will die in their sins if they don’t believe he is all that. He claims to be the entrance, the good shepherd, the living one who gives life. He expects us to serve him and follow him. He seems to think that everyone will be attracted to him. He expects to be considered rabbi and king. He thinks he is the definition of truth and life, and he thinks he has the right to exclude or allow access to the Father. He claims that we are totally incompetent apart from him. He claims to be specially loved by the Father, and he wants us to be with him so we can see how awesome he is. Jesus is directing all the attention to himself – it’s all about me.

This is even more startling when we hear how much emphasis Jesus placed on humility and how harsh he was toward the self-righteous and proud. Jesus claimed for himself a unique relationship to the scriptures, a unique relationship with God, and an unique relationship with the rest of the world.

Fulfillment:

The very first word recorded in the gospel of Mark as spoken by Jesus is “pepleromai”

Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Fulfilled. The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is here because I am the king and I am here. Jesus made the astounding claim that he was the fulfillment of all prophetic scripture. In the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus read from the Isaiah scroll:

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… he has anointed me… He sent me…” Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. I am the one. I am the one all scriptures point to.

Jesus healed an invalid on the sabbath – Saturday, and told him to pick up his mat and walk.

John 5:16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus said to the Jews who were accusing him:

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

Jesus was claiming that all their scriptures were pointing to him.

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

His favorite term for himself was ‘son of man’. He got this title from the prophecy in Daniel 7:13-14

Daniel 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed

This was a great title of honor and authority and power, and Jesus referred to himself over and over again as the ‘son of man’.. But Jesus also took himself to be the fulfillment of the prophecies in Isaiah of the suffering servant:

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. …12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

These two prophetic pictures – the son of man who rules forever, and the suffering servant who bears the sin of many – Jesus saw himself as the fulfillment of both.

Mark 8:31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Jesus saw himself as the ruling son of man and the sin bearing suffering servant. Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of the prophetic scriptures.

Luke 10:23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matthew 13:16-17)

He told his disciples that they were witnessing the fulfillment of the prophecies.

Intimacy with the Father

Jesus claimed to have a totally unique relationship with his Father. When he taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to address God as ‘our Father’, but when he addressed God himself, he claimed a special unique relationship that was exclusively his.

Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 11:27 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.

Jesus did not claim to be a son of the Father – he claimed to be the son of the Father.

John 3:35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.

The Jews recognized the staggering claim Jesus was making about his relationship with the Father.

John 5:18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

He claimed to have been entrusted with all judgment, and to be entitled to the same honor to which the Father was entitled.

John 5:22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 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.

In fact he went so far as to say:

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.”

When he prayed, he had the audacity to say:

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

Jesus claimed for himself an absolutely unique one-of-a-kind unprecedented relationship with the Father, and he claimed distinctive rights and privileges associated with that role.

Authority

Jesus claimed to have a role that was utterly distinct, that put him in a class by himself. Friends and enemies alike recognized that he spoke with authority. When he demanded that his disciples leave everything and follow him, he expected that they would obey. And they did! He claimed to be the good shepherd. He said he came to seek and to save that which was lost. The implication was that he was in a moral category by himself. He alone was not lost and did not need seeking and saving. He was not lost but everyone else was. And he had the ability to find and save lost sheep. He claimed to be the light of the world and everyone else was in darkness. He asserted that everyone was hungry and thirsty and he was the bread of life and living water. He said that he was the great physician and everyone else was sick. He said people were in bondage and he came to set them free. He even claimed to have authority to forgive sins.

Luke 7:48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”

Mark 2:5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus claimed to forgive sins. The people who heard him recognized his claim. All sin is primarily against God, so the only one with the authority to forgive sins was God. Jesus, in claiming to forgive was claiming to be the one who was sinned against. In fact, Jesus even claims that he will be the one who is the Judge on the last day.

John 5:22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, …25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Jesus claims to be the one who will settle your eternal destiny. That is a tall claim – to be the judge of all mankind. He claims to be the unique son of the Father, the fulfillment of the prophetic scriptures.

How is it then that we don’t hear his claims as obnoxious, boastful, arrogant?

Conclusion:

Jesus is both unapologetically self-centered and deeply and genuinely humble and selfless –he drove moneychangers out of his Father’s house, and he stooped down to wash the feet of his disciples. How could he point everyone to himself and yet say that he came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many? How can he make the audacious claim that he is God in the flesh and that he is gentle and lowly in heart? How can he claim to be love, which does not seek its own and continually draw all the attention to himself? How can this be? How can selfless love and total egocentric self-centeredness go together in one person?

The answer is simply this: that in love, which seeks the highest good of the person loved, he pointed all people to himself because he is absolutely the only way to the Father. He is loving in his self-centeredness because he is our highest good. Pride is rightly condemned as pride because it thinks more highly of self than what it ought to think. We are annoyed with arrogant people because they are puffed up and think the are bigger and better than they really are. Jesus does not strike us that way, because his claims are not exaggerated. They are true. And he does not use his position to lord it over anyone. He is benevolent. He uses his position and power to bless and to do good, to lift up the oppressed and bind up the broken hearted. He is all that he claims to be, and he is kind and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. He is full of grace and truth.

As he read about himself in the Isaiah scroll:

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus is God in the flesh, come to earth to bear in his body the penalty for our sins. Jesus is the fulfillment of the scriptures. Jesus has authority to judge and to forgive. If we want to be forgiven, we must come to Jesus. “Come to me” Jesus cries, and it is a proclamation of his self sacrificing love for us.

Jesus demands to know what you think of him. This is a personal invitation. Are you offended by him? Annoyed? Do you wish to admire him from a distance? Will you bow the knee to him as king?

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

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

December 26, 2010 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 5:1-19; Whose Word Will Stand?

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100912_exodus05_1-19.mp3

9/12 Exodus 5:1-19 Whose Word Will Stand?

Introduction:

God has declared over and over that he cares about his people.

-Exodus 2:23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.

-Exodus 3:7 Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

-Exodus 3:16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

God has sent Moses and his brother Aaron to declare the good news that God cares and has begun to take decisive action to deliver them from their oppression in Egypt so they can serve him. Moses is afraid that the people won’t listen to him or believe him, but they do listen and they do believe, just as God had promised, and they respond in worship. With the encouragement of this initial success, Moses and Aaron are now emboldened to bring God’s word to the Pharaoh.

Thus Says the LORD

God had given them the words he wanted them to say to the Pharaoh.

-Exodus 4:21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

-Exodus 3:18 … you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’

This is the first of over 400 times the phrase ‘Thus says the Lord’ is used in the bible. When God gave his prophet a message to deliver – usually a message of confrontation rebuking someone who is hostile to God – he was to introduce the message this way: ‘thus says the Lord’. But there are severe warnings about claiming to speak God’s words when God had not spoken

-Jeremiah 14:14 And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. 15 Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed.

-Ezekiel 22:28 And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD has not spoken. …31 Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord GOD.”

God takes his word very seriously. When he speaks, he demands that we listen, and if we will not listen, he says he will require it of us. Those who lie about speaking in his name when he had not spoken, he required the death penalty.

Deuteronomy 18:18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’– 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

This is a prophecy of the promised Messiah, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers”. This is the one who would fulfill perfectly the roles of prophet, priest and king. The crowning pinnacle of God’s self-revelation was his own Son, the word become flesh.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

So Moses is foreshadowing Jesus when he comes to set the captives free. Jesus read God’s words about himself:

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

God’s Demands

Moses declares the word of God boldly to the Pharaoh:

5:1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”’

YHWH, the God of Israel claims ownership on this people that you are oppressing. You are forcing them to serve you. YHWH says ‘they are mine. They are mine, and you must let them go. They are to hold a feast to me’. God is claiming the right of possession on his people.

This is worded differently than what God had said to Moses. God had said in 4:23 ‘let my son go that he may serve me’ or in 3:18 ‘that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God’. Here Moses says ‘let my people go that they may hold a feast to me’. The word here translated ‘hold a feast’ is a word that describes a feast, festival or pilgrimage. Worshiping or serving God, even sacrificing, is indeed a feast or festival – a celebration. If we picture the Old Testament sacrificial system as a heavy financial burden where animal after animal simply went up in smoke, I think we are mistaken. Certainly there were sin offerings and whole burnt offerings, and what was offered to the Lord was to be the best of the best – they were not to offer to the Lord that which cost them nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). But this was not all. Listen to how God describes the sacrifices he demands of his people:

Deuteronomy 12:6 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7 And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

… 11 then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD. 12 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you.

… 17 You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, 18 but you shall eat them before the LORD your God in the place that the LORD your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake.

… 26 But the holy things that are due from you, and your vow offerings, you shall take, and you shall go to the place that the LORD will choose, 27 and offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God. The blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, but the flesh you may eat.

This would be more of a worship celebration, a family bar-b-cue in the presence of the Lord. Moses was accurate in describing what God demanded of them as a ‘feast’. This contrasts starkly to the service required by the Pharaoh. In this chapter the Pharaoh acknowledges that it is ‘hard service’ and in this chapter he makes it even harder, even to the point of being impossible. But listen to what Jesus says:

Matthew 11:28 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.

God is planning rest for his people.

5:1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”’

Pharaoh would understand this language. Other people groups would claim to speak on behalf of their deity, and there is evidence that other groups would go on pilgrimage from Egypt to serve their gods.

All is well up to this point. Moses and Aaron have obeyed the Lord and gone to the elders of Israel, and they received the words of the Lord and responded with belief and worship. And now they have gone to Pharaoh and declared God’s words. But here comes the crushing blow.

2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

Pharaoh is not saying that he’s never heard of YHWH or that he doesn’t know anything about Israel’s God. What he is saying is that he has no reason to respect this God or listen to what he says. He says ‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice?’ Remember Moses’ question to God ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Ex.3:11) Moses is not unsure of his own identity. He is unconvinced of his qualifications and his ability to accomplish the task. The Pharaoh was certainly aware of Israel’s God YHWH, as he was aware of the many gods of the Egyptians and the gods of the surrounding nations. Simply as a matter of diplomacy he should at least acknowledge the God of his slave people. But instead he demonstrates a total disregard and lack of respect for the God of the Hebrews. He snubs their God and spits in his face. Pharaoh is saying ‘I am in charge here. I am the final authority. This so called God of Israel has no right to tell me what to do with my slaves. I do not believe in your God and I will not let Israel go.’

As shocking as these words are, they should not come as a surprise. God had laid out clearly what would happen ahead of time. God had already told Moses:

-Exodus 3:19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.

-Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.

Pharaoh’s proud harsh response should be an indication to Moses that God is already at work, doing exactly what he promised, hardening the Pharaoh’s unbelieving heart in order to set the stage for his mighty acts of deliverance. But it seems that Moses and Aaron are a bit taken aback by his defiant response. Their response is less authoritative, more reasoned, more tactful.

3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”

Their reasoning seems to be that if we are not allowed to go, the Lord may punish us for our disobedience and that would be a greater loss to Egypt’s labor force than the requested pilgrimage. The irony here is that the Lord is about to fall on Egypt with pestilence and sword because of their refusal to release his son Israel.

But their persuasive speech leaves the Pharaoh unmoved.

4 But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens.” 5 And Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!”

The Pharaoh now accuses Moses and Aaron of distracting his slaves from their hard labor. Pharaoh is still on his throne and he is still calling the shots in Egypt. He refers back to the problem addressed by his predecessor – the disproportionate growth of the Hebrew people – God has made them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the land, to the point where they are a threat to the national security. They are many and they must be kept in subjection. This Pharaoh is shrewd. He institutes a plan to demoralize Israel and discredit Moses.

Pharaoh’s Demands

6 The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, 7 “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.”

Cut straw was an essential ingredient for sun-dried bricks to dry properly and hold together. This was apparently provided ready to use at the job site. The new demand was that the straw would be withheld and the slaves would have to scrounge for whatever substitute they could find and still meet the same quota of finished product. Pharaoh’s accusation is that they are idle. That is why they are asking to be released to offer sacrifice to their God. Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh saying ‘thus says YHWH’. Pharaoh calls the words of YHWH spoken by Moses and Aaron ‘lying words’. Remember the serpent in the garden? He questioned Eve ‘Did God actually say…’ (Gen.3:1) and then flatly contradicted God’s words saying ‘you will not surely die’ (Gen.3:4). His tactics are the same today. He seeks to undermine the word of God and God’s messengers. This hope of rest and worship that Moses and Aaron are enticing the people with are false hopes. God has not really spoken to them. I will exercise my authority to demonstrate who is really in charge by exponentially increasing the workload and demanding the impossible.

10 So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11 Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.”’ 12 So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13 The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” 14 And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?”

Pharaoh here directly asserts himself against the God of the Hebrews. Moses and Aaron had come to him saying ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel. ‘Let my people go that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’ Pharaoh responds ‘Thus says Pharaoh’. Whose word will stand? Moses comes in the authority of YHWH saying ‘thus says the Lord’ and Pharaoh responds by a proclamation ‘Thus says Pharaoh’. God says that Israel is my people and they are to be released to serve me. Pharaoh says they are my slaves and I will intensify their service to me.

The Israelite foremen did their best to produce the same amount of bricks, but the demand imposed upon them was impossible. They were beaten publicly by the Egyptian taskmasters for not meeting the quota.

The Response of Israel

15 Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16 No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” 17 But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18 Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.” 19 The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.”

At the end of chapter 2, it says that the people ‘groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard… and God remembered… God saw… and God knew. Here the people of Israel cry out again, but this time to the Pharaoh. Three times in these verses the Israelite foremen refer to themselves as ‘your servants’. The question in this passage is whom will the people serve? Will they serve the Lord? Or is their allegiance to Pharaoh? But the Pharaoh will not hear. He does not care. He has no sympathy, no compassion. In contrast to God’s heart toward the people, his heart is hard. The foremen think there must be some miscommunication. The quota has remained the same but he necessary materials to meet that quota have been withheld. ‘The fault is in your own people’ the foremen say to the Pharaoh. But the Pharaoh affirms their worst fears. You heard correctly. You must produce the same quantity without the necessary materials. And the reason – your request to go sacrifice to the Lord indicates that you are lazy and have too much time on your hands.

Whose Word Will Stand?

Here we begin to see the irrationality of a man who has determined to fight against God. Withholding the necessary materials will inevitably lead to reduced quality in bricks – the building materials he is using to build his kingdom. Anything built with this sub-standard product will not last as long. So he is ultimately hurting himself by his irrational and impossible demands.

Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (cf. Psalm 53:1)

The Pharaoh has set himself against God.

Psalm 2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, …2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 2:5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 2:6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

It is God’s word that will stand in the end.

1 Peter 1:24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

God’s word is good news. Good news of freedom – freedom from oppressive bondage – freedom to joyfully serve the one true God. Feasting. Celebration. Worship. Relationship. Knowing God. Life and life abundantly. The good news of reconciliation for sinners to a holy God through the once-for-all perfect sacrifice of his own Son Jesus.

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

September 12, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Peter 3:1-7; Reminding the Beloved

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100221_2peter3_1-7.mp3

02/21 2 Peter 3:1-7 Reminding the Beloved

1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, …

Peter has taught us about the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The false teachers had denied the power and authority of Jesus, and in chapter 2, Peter has addressed their total disregard for God’s authority and power. Now in chapter 3 he moves to their disbelief in the future coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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,

3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Peter says this is the second letter he is writing. He writes because he cares. Peter refers to his readers as ‘beloved’; ‘agapetoi’ – those who are loved with a selfless, self-sacrificial love. Peter wants the best for his readers and is doing everything in his power to do them good and bless them. He uses this affectionate term ‘agapetoi’ four times in this chapter. He started the letter by addressing us as brothers, and now he calls us beloved… beloved… beloved… beloved. We tend to read 2 Peter, especially chapter 2 and think ‘this doesn’t sound very loving’ – he is talking about hell fire an brimstone and turning people to ashes, about chains of gloomy darkness and God’s preservation of evildoers for the final judgment, about drowning ungodly people in a global flood, he calls people blots and blemishes, he says they are nearsighted and blind, he compares them with ignorant beasts that are born to be caught and destroyed, he says even a donkey knew better than them. He uses the graphic picture of a dog lapping up its own vomit and a sow wallowing in her own filth, he says they have hearts trained in greed and they are insatiable for sin, that they are accursed children, and it would have been better for them if they had never heard the good news at all than to have heard it and end up where they will end up. To our modern ears trained in politically correct niceness, this may not sound very ‘loving’. We are not allowed to hold anyone to any sort of objective standard or to impose our personal beliefs on anyone else. You just don’t talk like this in polite society. Well, first of all, our society is anything but polite. Maybe at an extremely superficial level there is a facade of politeness, but our culture is depraved and self-destructive and headed straight for hell. But you can’t say that out loud. “You’re going to hell!”

Imagine yourself on a road trip for a family vacation. You’re planning to cross over the Glen Canyon Dam into Arizona. You and the family are doing some sightseeing, so you’re driving slower than you normally would, and as you round the bend to approach the bridge, you slam on your brakes and screech to a halt just inches from the jagged edge of the pavement. The dam has erupted and the bridge has collapsed into the torrent of water hundreds of feet below. And let’s just add for effect that a gas pipeline was severed and is dumping thousands of gallons of fuel into the flaming inferno of wreckage and destruction below. ‘Well kids, that’s enough sightseeing for today, lets turn around and go home.’ But as you drive away, you see another minivan approaching, obviously not sightseeing, probably late for a wedding or something, going much too fast, just about to round the final bend before what used to be the bridge. What do you do? Be polite. Stay in your lane. Smile and wave. Don’t they look nice? Their whole family is dressed up for the occasion. That would be negligent, sick and cruel. You do whatever you can to get their attention. Yell, scream, throw things. Use your car and drive them off the road. They may be upset with you or think your a bit eccentric. But if they are able to stop in time, they will thank you.

I’m not advocating that at work tomorrow you get in everyone’s face and start screaming “you’re all going to hell”. Peter is lovingly but forcefully and graphically warning us, telling us that this is where false teachers will end up, this is where immorality leads, and if you go that way, you will end up there too. So yes, Peter’s language is a bit harsh and abrasive, but it is out of love and concern and urgency to warn those who are in immanent danger. And he expresses that love now; ‘agapetoi’. Beloved, there is danger up ahead.

Peter tells us his purpose in writing: I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder. Peter is assuming that our minds are still sincere, authentic, uncorrupted, pure. And the best defense is a good offense. The best defense against false teaching and immoral living is a mind stirred up to remember the truth. In 1 Peter, he stirred us up to godly living in spite of the threat of persecution. In the first chapters of 2 Peter, he stirred us up to godly living in spite of the arrogant and immoral false teachers. Now in chapter 3, he is stirring us up to godly living in spite of the scoffers that mock the truth of God’s word.

Peter is not stirring us up with something new. He is stirring us up with something old. We often feel that we need the latest newest most cutting edge idea or teaching or truth to be able to really succeed in the Christian life. We need to attend the latest seminar or get the latest book or DVD or catch the latest trend so that we can have a good marriage and a healthy family and a growing church and successful evangelism. As a bible teacher, there’s a temptation to try to find some new insight or truth that has never been discovered before to keep people’s interest or attention. Good bible teaching is faithfully proclaiming the old truths, sometimes in new ways that engage the hearers, but always in dependence on God so that lives are transformed. Peter says ‘I don’t have anything new for you. I’m simply going to stir you up to purity by reminding you of what you already know. And the content comes directly from the bible. Peter points back to the Old Testament and ahead to the New when he says ‘that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles’. Remember the predictions of the holy prophets, prophets like Amos and Malachi and Zephaniah and Jeremiah who said things like:

Amos 9:10 All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’

Malachi 2:17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

Malachi 3:18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. 4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.

Zephaniah 1:12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good, nor will he do ill.’

Isaiah 5:18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes, 19 who say: “Let him be quick, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it!” 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

Jeremiah 5:11 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly treacherous to me, declares the LORD. 12 They have spoken falsely of the LORD and have said, ‘He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine. 13 The prophets will become wind; the word is not in them. Thus shall it be done to them!”’ 14 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts: “Because you have spoken this word, behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall consume them.

And we are to remember the commandment of our Lord and Savior through your apostles, the commandment that comes to us from Jesus through the apostolic testimony, things like:

Acts 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. …11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Matthew 24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Mark 13:33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. … 35 Therefore stay awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning– 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

2 Thessalonians 1:7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

The way Peter frames this makes it clear that we are not given guidelines or helpful hints on how to live life. This is commandment from our Lord and Savior. Jesus commands us and we must respond. Jesus authorized his apostles to speak on his behalf and with his authority. And they said ‘Repent and believe the gospel; endure to the end; stay awake!’

Remember, he says, knowing this of first importance. This is the same phrase Peter used in 1:20 to encourage us to pay attention to the prophetic word and the apostolic testimony because we know that the prophecies of Scripture are produced by the will of God as men directed by the Holy Spirit speak God’s words. The source of our knowing is again stated to be the prophetic word written by the holy prophets, and the apostolic testimony, which we now have collected in the New Testament documents. And the content of our knowing is the coming of scoffers who follow their own sinful desires. Peter does not want anyone to be surprised when someone questions the truth of God’s word or mocks salvation through Jesus Christ crucified and excuses their own sin. It should come as no surprise to us how the devil works. In 1 Peter it was persecution. The devil is a bully on the playground that wants us to think he can push us around and get us to do what he says through pain or fear. In the first chapters of 2 Peter, it is the false teaching of license. The devil will entice us to gratify our desires by saying that there will be no consequences and we will not be held accountable for our actions. If he can’t get us by bullying us, or seducing and deceiving us, he attempts to stir up our pride by insulting us.

He mocks and ridicules and scoffs. Rather than surprise us or discourage us, this should encourage us. If it was promised that in the last days scoffers will come scoffing, and now we see scoffers scoffing and following their own sinful desires, then we can be encouraged that we are very near the end. Note well, that their scoffing is not mere innocent joking around. Their agenda is moral (or immoral). If by mocking they can make the threat of future judgment look ridiculous and unlikely, they can more easily seduce others to join them in their pursuit of fleshly gratification. Peter gives us a summary of the kinds of things they were saying:

4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

Using this kind of a question is more contemptuous than simply stating that Jesus is not coming back. And the language they use is the language of a believer, not an outsider. Who the ‘his’ is is understood. His coming is Jesus’ coming. And they don’t say that the fathers died; they use the distinctively Christian expression ‘they fell asleep’. These mockers are mocking from the inside. They are posing as Christians, and that is what makes them particularly dangerous. They are questioning the promise of Jesus’ return. They imply that there is no reason to believe he is going to come back at all. Peter began by encouraging us that God has given us precious and very great promises (1:4), promises that motivate his followers to live according to his standards. These skeptics are calling God a liar.

They get this skepticism from the consistency of the natural world. The sun comes up every day. For as long as anyone can remember the sun has always come up. There is no reason for us to think that the sun will not come up tomorrow. There is regularity, consistency. The fact that our world is orderly and follows natural laws makes scientific investigation possible. Things in nature are predictable. If you throw a rock up in the air, it will come back down. There’s even a chance it will land on your head. If sometimes gravity worked and sometimes it didn’t we could make no sense of this world. The scoffers say

4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

‘The fathers’ is a typical way to refer to the patriarchs or Old Testament saints. God made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They all died not having received the promises. Hebrews 11 deals with that very issue. From the beginning of creation until now nothing has changed. God is not just. There is no punishment for the wicked, and there is no reward for the godly. Live for your pleasures because this idea of God’s future judgment is just a myth. God does not intervene in the world.

They at least give lip service to creation, but they ignore that the order we see in creation is a direct result of the Creator. Peter says:

5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Peter is stirring up our sincere minds by way of reminder. These false teachers deliberately overlook the facts. This is not excusable ignorance; this is willful ignorance. Facts that are not convenient to their purposes are intentionally ignored. Genesis describes the creation of God out of the watery chaos. On day two of creation, God separated the waters above the sky from the waters below the sky. On day three, God gathered the waters below the sky into seas and made dry land. Throughout the Genesis account we read “And God said… And it was so.” God formed the earth out of water and through water by his word.

Psalms 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses.

And God held the waters in their places until the time of the flood.

Proverbs 8:28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

And when he commanded the waters to flood the earth, it was so. It says in

Genesis 7:11 …on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. …23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens.

The Psalms again give us insight on the end of the flood.

Psalm 104:5 He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. 8 The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them. 9 You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.

It was God’s word that held the waters back, and it was God’s word that released them to flood the earth. The conclusion we should draw is that God will follow through on his promises of judgment. God’s word stored up the waters of judgment for the ancient world. Now by God’s word, the heavens and earth are being stored up for fire. God did destroy the earth once with water because of the sins of mankind. God promised that ‘never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth’ (Gen.9:11). God promises justice, but the final time will be with fire.

7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

If you are not right with God, you will be kindling for that fire. God, through his own Son Jesus Christ, has made a way for us to be forgiven, rescued, and reconciled to God. I plead with you, on the basis of the Cross of Christ, be reconciled to God! If you reject the forgiveness he freely offers, there is nothing left for you but the righteous wrath of God forever and ever and ever.

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

February 21, 2010 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment