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Advent; Jesus is Greater! Greater Prophet

12/03 Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater Prophet ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171203_advent-greater-prophet.mp3

I’ve been meditating on this passage in 2 Corinthians that we have been studying,

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

But God is faithful, that the word [Logos] of us to you is not yes and no for the of God Son Jesus Christ who in you through us was proclaimed …has not come to be Yes and No, but Yes in him has come to be, for as many as God’s promises, in him is the Yes; now therefore through him the Amen to God for glory through us

The YES to all the promises of God is Jesus! The YES in him has come to be! God’s YES has come into existence in Jesus, and as we see and experience God’s yes, we are invited to speak the Amen with one voice to the glory of God.

For this Advent season, I want to look at some of the promises of God that have their substance or being in Jesus. I want to take a step back and look at some of the sweeping themes of the Old Testament that point us to the coming of Jesus, and how Jesus is the end and goal of all these promises. Jesus is the greater Prophet; Jesus is the greater Priest and the greater Tabernacle and the greater Sacrifice; Jesus is the greater King; Jesus is the greater Man; Jesus is the greater Israel who mediates a greater covenant. Jesus is greater! The YES in him has come to be! As many as are the promises of God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the YES! And as we fix our eyes on Jesus, may we respond with the AMEN of worship to our great God to his glory!

What is a Prophet?

Jesus is the greater Prophet. What is a prophet? A prophet is one who faithfully brings God’s word to his people. In Exodus 7 we get a picture of what a prophet is. This is after Moses complains to God that he is not a very good speaker, and God allows his brother Aaron to speak for him.

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.

A prophet is the mouthpiece of God, the voice of God, one who speaks to people on behalf of God.

Anybody can claim to be speaking for God. Many people have. There are many places in God’s word where God’s people are warned to guard against false prophets. Deuteronomy 13 warns of prophets who perform supernatural signs or wonders that seem to authenticate their words, but they teach people to follow other gods, we are not to listen. God is testing us to see if we truly love God with all our heart and all our soul.

Deuteronomy 18 encourages the people to test the truthfulness of a prophet by checking to see if what he says comes to pass, because God’s word always happens.

Jesus Greater than Moses

This test of the truthfulness of a prophet comes at the end of a section where Moses is pointing the people to a coming greater prophet.

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. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

He is referring back to Mount Sinai in Exodus 20;

Exodus 20:18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (cf. Deuteronomy 5)

The people said:

Deuteronomy 5:25 Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? 27Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’

God affirms;

Deuteronomy 18:17 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.

The people were right. To enter the presence of a holy God is to die. They needed a mediator, someone who would intercede, who could keep them safe, someone who could bring them safely in. Because of this prophecy, the people were expecting a greater prophet to arise like Moses. When John arrived on the scene calling the nation to repent and baptizing, the religious leaders asked ‘Are you The Prophet?’ (Jn.1:21, 25). They wanted to know if John was this greater than Moses prophet promised by God.

John 1:15 John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”

John pointed away from himself to Jesus. Peter in Acts 3 and Stephen in Acts 7 both connect this prophecy to Jesus.

Even greater than the testimony of John and the Apostles, is the testimony of the Father himself. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up on the mountain, and was transfigured before them, and Moses and Elijah, greatest of the Old Testament prophets appeared talking with him, Peter wanted to honor these three by making them booths to stay in; but while he was speaking the Father himself interrupted and said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Mt.17:5; cf. Mk.9:7; Lk.9:35).

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—

‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him.’ When the disciples lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. According to the Father, Jesus supersedes Moses and Elijah. Jesus is the prophet we are to listen to.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was glowing because he had met with God, but that glory faded. When Jesus was on the mountain, a slight glimmer of who he really is shone through, a glimpse of the glory that Moses met with when he was on the mountain.

Jesus says in John 5:

John 5:45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.

Jesus Authoritatively Declares God’s Word

Jesus is the promised greater prophet who speaks authoritatively on behalf of God. We see this throughout Jesus’ ministry.

John 12:49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

John 15:15 …but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus spoke the very words his Father gave him to speak. He spoke with his Father’s authority.

Mark 1:27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Jesus spoke with authority, and he did many signs and wonders to authenticate his words. But remember from Deuteronomy, signs and wonders alone are not enough to validate a ministry.

Jesus passes both tests of a prophet from Deuteronomy. Both in his life and in his teaching, he affirms the great commandment, that

Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

And everything Jesus said came to pass.

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

But Jesus’ predictions were not the fortune cookie generalities; ‘there’s something big just over the horizon.’ Jesus,

Luke 18:31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

What an astounding thing to say! What specific detail! Jesus saw clearly and proclaimed exactly what would happen. And it happened exactly as he said. Jesus said:

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (cf. Mk.13:31; Lk.21:33)

Jesus is the greater Prophet who faithfully brings God’s word to his people.

Jesus Is God’s Word

Jesus came to be the greater Prophet. We see this not only in what Jesus spoke, but in who he is. Jesus not only spoke God’s word, but he is the Word. John’s gospel begins with a very different kind of genealogy than the other gospels.

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

…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus claims to be the pre-existent Word, who was with God and who is in his very essence God. He is the creative Word that spoke everything into existence in Genesis 1. He is the Word that said ‘let light be!’ He is the one who breathed into man the breath of life. He is life. He is light. He is God. He shares the glory of his Father. And he came. He became flesh. He became human. The Creator became part of his creation! Oh the wonder of Christmas!

Our family likes to watch some of the holiday classics about flying sleighs and magic trains and why we shouldn’t be a Grinch or a Scrooge and the power of generosity and believing. Friends, truth is stranger than fiction! This is so much more wondrous, so much more awe inspiring; that God himself, the eternal Word became flesh, and was born! Born to set his people free. Born to die that we might live. Jesus, the prophetic Word become flesh to dwell among us.

Jesus is the Fulfillment of all the Prophets

Jesus is that Prophet, greater than Moses. The book of Hebrews begins this way:

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. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

God spoke through the Prophets. But now he has spoken once for all in his Son, the Creator, the radiance of his glory. God’s prophetic communication all culminates in Jesus. Later in Hebrews 3, Jesus is contrasted as greater than Moses, as the builder of a house is greater than the house; as a son in the house is greater than a servant. Jesus is the final Word of God, the Prophet greater than Moses.

Jesus faithfully brings God’s word to his people. Jesus is the divine Word made flesh, come to be God’s Word to us. And as we look back over all the Scriptures, they become God’s ‘Yes’ to us in Jesus.

Peter writes of the value of the believer’s faith in Jesus that brings glory to God.

1 Peter 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

He goes on to connect this salvation through faith in Jesus to all the Scriptures.

1 Peter 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Notice the word of the prophets was initiated by the Spirit of Christ in them, and the content of their word was ‘the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.’ It’s all about Jesus! The prophets wrote by the Spirit, beyond their own understanding, and searched and inquired carefully into their own writings. They had an idea that their writings would find fulfillment in a single person or time. They were pointing to Jesus; God come in the flesh to suffer and be crucified for us, to be buried and to rise from the dead for us. They were pointing to the grace that is ours in the gospel that has been proclaimed to us! The promised one, the Christ, God come in the flesh, came to suffer. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and he appeared to many. All the Scriptures point together to this message of good news that eternal life in relationship with God is a free gift of God’s grace, purchased for us by the sufferings of the Messiah.

Yes and Amen!

1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Do you have this inexpressible joy in Jesus today? Does the gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ stir your heart to worship, to bow, to adore? Are you experiencing the gospel today? Are you enjoying the gospel today? Are you enjoying Jesus?

1 Peter 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Savor the treasure you have in Jesus. May God’s Yes to all his promises to us in Jesus overflow in a hearty Amen to God for his glory through us! enjoy his promises and respond together with the Amen in worship. God’s promises are meant to be experienced and enjoyed. The goal of the promises is to resound to the glory of God. As we enjoy together in Jesus the yes to all God’s promises, we respond back to God with the Amen of worship that brings glory to him. This is astounding! That because we are in Christ, because in Christ we enjoy God’s promises, we now have the capacity to glorify God together!

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

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December 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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 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

Exodus 7:1-13; An Evil and Adulterous Generation

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101017_exodus07_1-13.mp3

10/17 Exodus 7:1-13 an evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign

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. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” 6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

Introduction/Review: God declares what he will do

Moses is God’s ambassador to Pharaoh. Moses complains that since even God’s chosen people have rejected God’s message to them, how will Pharaoh, arch-enemy of God and his people, possibly respond favorably? God declares to Moses ‘look, I have made you God to Pharaoh’. Being God to Pharaoh meant simply being a faithful messenger, obedient to God’s command and faithfully saying and doing what God told him to do and say. In this case, God clearly laid out exactly what he wanted Moses and Aaron to say and do, and he even told them what the result would be.

But most importantly, God declared what he would do. Moses, as God’s chosen messenger, felt the burden of the responsibility weighing on his shoulders. These are sweet words of comfort from the Almighty. Moses, the Exodus is my doing. Egypt is the stage on which I will display my glory in a way that all may see. God says ‘you speak all that I command you, and this is what I will do:’

7:3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”

These are the things God declares that he himself will do:

+I will harden Pharaoh’s heart

+I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt

+I will lay my hand on Egypt

+I will bring my armies, my people out by great acts of judgment

+I will cause the Egyptians to know that I am YHWH

God will escalate the engagement in Egypt to demonstrate to all involved that he alone is God. And he tells Moses and Aaron exactly what to expect. You will speak to the Pharaoh. I will harden his heart. I will multiply my signs and wonders. The Pharaoh will not listen to you. But I will be successful in bringing my people out by great acts of judgment. All this will result in the Egyptians acknowledging that I am YHWH.

The request for a sign: wicked and adulterous

God is preparing his servants for what they will encounter. God knows how every detail of this story will unfold. Throughout this story, we see God fully in control, initiating the action, and the Pharaoh responding. Even in the prayers of the people, as they cried out for deliverance from their cruel oppression, God responded by bringing out of exile his servant, whom he had been preparing for the last forty years – teaching him humility and preparing him to shepherd his people in the desert. His servant, whom eighty years earlier he had protected from the death sentence of the Pharaoh by the hand of some disobedient midwives who feared God more than the Pharaoh, and by the hand of a creatively obedient mother, who cast her son into the Nile in a little ark, and then by the hand of the Pharaoh’s own daughter, who raised Moses as her own son.

So God prepares Moses and Aaron for what awaits them in the courts of the king of Egypt. The Pharaoh will not take God by surprise. God is the one who knows exactly how events will unfold. Pharaoh will be seen to be the one scrambling to respond to God’s action.

7:8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’”

God gives his servants instructions for how to respond to the future demands of the Pharaoh. He will require you to prove yourselves. What authority do you have to march into my presence and demand the release of my slaves? This is a request for a show of power to authenticate the claims they were making. They claim to represent YHWH, the God of Israel. If their claim is true, they should be able to perform some miraculous act to authenticate their claim. This is the same kind of request that the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees made of Jesus. He was making claims that he was God in the flesh. In Matthew 12:38-39 (also Luke 11:16,29), Jesus was answering the controversy with the religious leaders over where his power came from. He had cast demons out of a blind and mute man and healed him. The Pharisees were accusing him of working miracles by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Jesus confronted their hypocrisy and called them a brood of vipers. On another occasion, shortly after the feeding of the multitudes, the religious leaders again demanded a sign (Matt.16:1-4; Mark 8:11-12). Jesus said it was ‘an evil and adulterous generation’ that ‘seeks for a sign’. Not that it is wrong to examine the evidence, but both of these statements came on the heels of irrefutable evidence that Jesus is who he claimed to be. In the one case, the religious leaders refused to believe that Jesus could be who he claimed to be, so they sought a different explanation as the source of his supernatural powers. What Jesus had done was undeniably supernatural, and the only two possible explanations were God or the Devil. Since they had rejected the possibility that he was indeed God in the flesh, they concluded that he must be empowered by Satan. In the other instance, their demand came on the heels of the feeding of the multitudes in the desert. The text there tells us that they asked for a sign to test him – this is the same word that is used to describe the temptation of Christ by the devil in the wilderness. They were not seekers looking for what was true. Their minds were already made up and they were attempting by any means possible to trip him up and distract him from his real mission.

The Sign of the Serpent

But for Moses and Aaron, God preempted the request of the king of Egypt for a sign by instructing Moses and Aaron to perform the sign of the staff turned into a serpent. This was not a random choice of animals. God could have turned Aaron’s staff into a kangaroo or a platypus. The serpent was the power symbol of ancient Egypt, as can be seen on the headdress of the Pharaoh. The exiled shepherd with his staff, the representative of the oppressed slave people, comes into the presence of the most powerful monarch of the world and when asked for his credentials, his staff turns into the prime power symbol of Egypt, a serpent. This is the third time this particular miracle is performed. First, in the burning bush encounter (4:3), God commanded Moses to throw down his staff and he ran from it. Then Moses and Aaron performed this for the elders of Israel and they believed and worshiped. Now, in the courts of Pharaoh, Aaron is told to throw down his staff and it becomes a serpent. But the word here translated ‘serpent’ is different than the word translated ‘serpent’ in chapter 4. The word in chapter 4 is the word commonly used for a snake. This word we have here is often translated ‘dragon’ or ‘great sea creature’ (Gen.1:21). This word is used to describe leviathan in Isaiah 27:1. It is possible that the author is using different words just to vary the style and avoid repetition, but it appears that this may be an entirely different creature. Remember how afraid Moses was when he threw down his staff and it became a snake? He was probably just getting over these fears. Imagine this time in the presence of Pharaoh he throws down his staff expecting a snake and instead it turns in to a great sea creature or dragon. Some scholars conjecture that this could be a monstrous snake or even a crocodile. Whatever it was, it was surely an impressive demonstration of supernatural power, and an affront to the power of Pharaoh.

10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

The working of the wise men and the superiority of God; lying signs that lead astray I

This is amazing! Pharaoh has requested a supernatural sign of the credentials of Moses and Aaron, and they have produced in magnificent style. We have a monstrous reptile writhing about in the courts of Pharaoh and he calls for his magicians. They all by their secret arts turn their staffs into monstrous creatures. Now we have the whole room writhing with giant sea-serpents. Don’t miss the humor of this situation! I would think that this would have unnerved the Pharaoh. I wonder what the room looked like after this show! I could imagine the Pharaoh, seeing all this take place and his room filled with great creatures, tries to regain his composure and say to his magicians ‘Uh, thanks, that’s great. Now can you please make them all go away?’ But about that time, Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

What are we to think of this? Is this some kind of parlor trick, where the magicians use slight of hand and illusions to deceive? Did they compress a nerve in the neck of the snake, making it become rigid, and then release it and it became active again? There is no indication in the text that what they did was any less real or supernatural than what Moses and Aaron did. God prepared Moses and Aaron for Pharaoh’s demand for a sign, but were they prepared to see the sorcerers of Egypt duplicate their miraculous sign? In Deuteronomy 13:1-2, God warns his people of false prophets that will bring lying signs or wonders (same word) and lead the people to follow other Gods.

Deuteronomy 13:1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

The warning is that even if the sign happens we are to evaluate on other criteria. We are not to blindly follow someone just because a supernatural sign took place. We are called to evaluate the message in light of scripture; specifically in light of the character and nature of God. Jesus warned:

Matthew 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (cf. Mark 13:22)

The apostle John says:

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

We are not to insist on or put our trust in any supernatural event or experience. God is God and he can do whatever he pleases. But there are also the spiritual forces of evil at work in the heavenly places. We are not to be dependent on the supernatural authentication, but on the very words of God himself.

The blindness of Pharaoh

The magicians of Pharaoh had a tangible reminder of the power of God – they left empty-handed. They didn’t get their staffs back. Aaron left with staff in hand. It is interesting that it doesn’t say ‘Aaron’s dragon swallowed up their dragons.’ Instead it says that Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. The simple shepherd’s staff swallowed up the magicians’ staffs. This word ‘swallow’ is only used two places in Exodus; here and in 15:12

15:12 You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them.

…celebrating how the armies of Egypt were swallowed by the sea. This sign to Pharaoh is a foretaste of what is to come. Although the power of the Pharaoh and his sorcerers is real, it is no match for the power of YHWH. The power of God’s enemies will be swallowed up by a much greater power.

What I think is the most startling thing in this story is not the great serpents fighting in the courts of Pharaoh, but the response of Pharaoh himself.

13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

What is staggering in this narrative is the foolishness of Pharaoh. How could he not get the message? All his magicians were stripped of their magician’s staffs by the staff of the simple shepherd from the wilderness. But rather than recognize the implications of the event, he selectively chooses the one thing that helps his case and ignores the rest. His magicians were able to duplicate the sign, so he need not heed the warning. This reminds me of the foolishness described in Romans 1:

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

How foolish! And yet how often do we ignore the clear commands of God and only see what we want to see?

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

October 17, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, 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

Exodus 4:27-31; Providence, Belief, Worship

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100905_exodus04_27-31.mp3
9/5 Exodus 4:27-31 Providence, Belief and Worship

Introduction:

Exodus is about God. God is at work among his people. He is blessing his people and preserving them in the midst of hardship. God is stirring his people to disregard the evil commands of a wicked ruler and do what is right. God is thwarting the plans of the most powerful dictator on the planet by means of things we would consider weak and helpless. He is hearing the cries for help from his people, and he is taking note of their desperate circumstances. He knows their pain and has come down to take action. He is making good on promises he had made many centuries earlier. He invades the solitude of his chosen instrument, introduces himself in his holiness, and defeats his excuses one by one. He is preparing his deliverer and unveils his plan to win the hearts of his people and execute judgment on his enemies. Now we are at the point of action. It’s go time!

4:19 And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand. 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.’” 24 At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. 27 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

The Providence of God

What are the odds that Moses and his brother Aaron converge on the same spot on Mount Sinai at this particular time? Remember, Moses only spent his youngest years with his Hebrew family. He was raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter in the courts of Egypt. Moses has now been exiled from Egypt for 40 years because he stood up to defend his people. He is now an 80 year old man. He was tending sheep on the back side of the desert when God intruded into his quiet retirement. At Sinai God gave him his assignment – that he would be the instrument God would use to deliver his people from Egypt. So he took Jethro’s flocks back to Midian, sought his father-in-law’s permission to leave, packed up his family and set out. Then God confronted them at the lodging place as he demanded obedience and holiness from his servant.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, the LORD says to Aaron “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” If you think about it for a moment, that sounds absolutely crazy. When Moses left Egypt, he sat down by a well. That was where people met. Everybody has to have water, so a well is a good spot to meet other people. If you’re going to connect with someone, you choose a commonly understood landmark. You don’t choose the wilderness. ‘Can you meet me in the wilderness tomorrow? I’ll be just past the twelfth bend in the road, over the hill, a little to the south; I’ll be standing by the sage brush.’ That would be almost as bad as trying to find your wife in Wal-Mart! Could you imagine a conversation between Moses and Aaron? – ‘service is kind of sketchy out here, but I’ll text you my GPS coordinates in a minute.’ The fact that they connected at all is amazing evidence of God’s providential hand at work in every detail of their lives.

I wonder when it was that God told Aaron to go to the wilderness to meet Moses. Do you think it was before or after Moses complained that he couldn’t speak well and didn’t want to go? Back in verse 14:

4:14 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”

What an encouragement this would be to our reluctant leader. This is a brother he had probably not seen in 40 years, now coming out to meet him in the wilderness. What confirmation that this really is God working. God, who controls all things, is able to orchestrate the reunion of these two brothers on the mountain where God had met with Moses. They have a joyful reunion and Moses downloads to his brother all the words God has spoken and shows him the signs God has given him. We don’t know how much Aaron knew about what was happening. God simply told him ‘Go into the wilderness to meet Moses’. Moses was the one to tell his brother that God was sending him to set the Israelites free to worship God on this mountain. Moses was the one to relay to Aaron that he had whined and complained so much to God about his own inadequacies that God granted him Aaron to be his mouthpiece. I wonder how Aaron took that news?

Faithful messengers

So Moses and Aaron went. They went to Egypt to gather the elders of Israel just as God had instructed them. It says ‘Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses’. They didn’t leave anything out. They didn’t add anything to the message. They were faithful messengers. That’s what a faithful messenger does. He speaks all the words the LORD puts in his mouth, and doesn’t go beyond the words the LORD gives him. Even Balaam, a corrupt prophet, understood what the role of a prophet was.

Numbers 24:13 ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak’

Moses and Aaron were faithful to proclaim the message God had given them. God had spoken to Moses from the burning bush and said:

3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”’ 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 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.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and 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.’

Moses’ response to this was:

4:1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.”’

Now he is finally in the situation faithfully proclaiming the word of the Lord to the people and look what happens.

31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

Pay close attention to this! It says the people believed when they heard. God sent Moses to proclaim a message. His message. Moses and Aaron declared all the words of the Lord to the people and the people believed when they heard.

Romans 10: 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? …17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Moses’ concern was ‘the people will not believe me or listen to my voice’. Moses was all worried that they would not accept the messenger. But it’s not about the messenger! It’s not about how eloquent or how animated or how plain or how polished or how trendy or how not-traditional and out-of-the-box the messenger is. It’s not about the messenger! Moses, they don’t have to believe you. They don’t have to listen to your voice. Moses, I want them to hear my voice. You faithfully proclaim what I tell you to say and the people will hear my voice. What the people heard was that the LORD had visited the people and the LORD had seen their affliction. The message was about the LORD and the messenger was simply the middle man bringing the word of the LORD to the people of God so that his people could be in the presence of their LORD.

The Goal – Worship

And that is the end goal. That is the end goal of the exodus. To reveal to the people the nearness of God and to lead them into worship, glad service of the Lord.

Exodus 3:12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Exodus 4:23 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.”’

The first two of the ten commandments are commandments about worship.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The majority of the book of Exodus details what worship will look like for the Israelites. Worship is what Exodus is about. Moses faithfully brings God’s word to God’s people, and they hear and believe and they respond with worship. They bowed their heads and worshiped.

Worship is the end goal of the gospel. That we, the blood-bought multitude, can feel and say and sing and live the surpassing worth and excellency of the King of kings. This is truly what it is all about! This is what our salvation is all about. Our salvation is not primarily a salvation from something. Yes, God rescues us from an eternity separated from him, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. But salvation is not a ‘get out of hell free card’ that we can stick in our back pocket and sit on as we go about the rest of our lives. We are saved to something and for someone. ‘We were ransomed’ Peter says (1Pet.1:18-19) ‘from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot’ so we should ‘conduct ourselves with fear (v.17)’ – awe over the depth of the price that was paid. We are ransomed – purchased – bought – out of futility and into a life with purpose – one purpose – to fear God. To live in awe of who he is and what he’s done. We are ransomed, redeemed, and under new ownership so that we can worship.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Your body is now a worship center for the living God. Our central purpose is worship – to glorify God with our bodies. To bring him honor. Jesus said:

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. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. …40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

We must honor Jesus just as we honor the Father. Eternal life comes only to those who worship Jesus. This is what heaven is. Heaven is all about God. It is all about worship. Jesus said:

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

Here are some snapshots straight out of heaven, and they are snapshots of worship.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Then, at the end of Revelation, in the new Jerusalem, in the new heavens and the new earth:

Revelation 22:3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Hear God’s word faithfully proclaimed. Believe. Embrace him as king. Do what you were made to do – with your lips, with your thoughts, with your emotions, with you life – worship!

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

September 5, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Peter 2:10-16; Arrogance, Lust and Greed

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100207_2peter2_10-16.mp3

02/07 2 Peter 2:10-16 Arrogance, Lust, and Greed

Peter is warning us of the dangers of false teachers:

2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Peter continues by giving three examples of God’s just judgment in the past to give us certainty of his coming judgment on evildoers in the future. He mentions angels who sinned, the ancient world that he destroyed with a flood, keeping Noah and his family alive, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that were destroyed with fire from God, but rescuing righteous Lot. Then he concludes:

9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

In the following section of the passage, Peter lays it on heavy with the false teachers. He reveals their true character and destiny as a warning for us to not be tripped up with their lies. Peter’s goal, as he states at the end of this short letter is:

2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Peter wants us to have stability that comes from good doctrine, good doctrine that will bear good fruit in our lives. Peter calls us to:

2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

He wants us to demonstrate that we are the elect and called of God by embracing and walking in the new life that Jesus has effected in us.

Peter tells us what he intends to do with this letter:

2 Peter 1:12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder,

Peter considers us established in the truth. Yet he feels it is critical to stir us up with a reminder so that will be kept from straying.

In chapter 2 verse 1-3, Peter tells us that the three major issues with the false teachers were their arrogant disrespect of authority, their insatiable lust and their voracious greed. Now, in verses 10-13 he addresses their arrogance against authority, in verses 13-14 he confronts their out of control sexual appetites, and in verses 14-16 he rebukes their merciless greed. Let’s look at the passage at hand.

10 …Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

The main message of this passage is clear and hard-hitting. But there are some details in his language that are unclear. First, who or what are the glories that the false teachers blaspheme? Are they good angels, fallen angels, or the glories of Christ at his second coming? Next, who do angels not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against? Does ‘them’ refer to the fallen angels, or the false teachers? The language is ambiguous and can be understood in different ways. Here are some possibilities:

* ‘these false teachers are not afraid to slander good angels, who were involved in giving the law to Moses, and were commonly understood to be involved in the final judgment, saying things like ‘they don’t exist’ or ‘they have no right or power to judge us’; even though these good angels do not slanderously accuse them – the false teachers – before God. (doxas = angels; Heb.9:5; Rev.18:1)

* ‘these false teachers are not afraid to slander fallen angels, saying things like ‘we’re not under their power’, ‘we won’t share their condemnation’ or even ‘they don’t exist’; whereas good angels do not slanderously accuse the fallen angels, even though they would have the right and power to do so.

Jude, in his parallel passage, uses a very similar phrase – blaspheme the glorious ones, but he elaborates on the second part; what the angels do not do:

Jude 8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

So if Peter and Jude are making the same point, then Peter is saying that the good angels do not presume to bring a slanderous accusation about fallen angels before the Lord, but instead leave it to the justice of God.

* ‘these false teachers are not afraid to blaspheme the glories of God, particularly the glories of Christ and his immanent return, but the angels, who have much greater strength and might, do not slander the false teachers who deserve it.

The way Peter uses the word ‘glory’ points us toward this understanding of ‘glories’. In 1 Peter 1:11, we are reminded of the Old Testament prophets who predicted the sufferings of Christ and his subsequent glories. In 2 Peter 1:3, we are called to his own glory and excellence. In 1:17 Jesus received glory and honor from God the Father. In 3:18 glory is ascribed to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In chapter 3, the false teachers mock the promise of the second coming. So it could be that the false teachers even slander the glories of Jesus himself and his second coming,

However we understand the details of the text, the main point is clear. The false teachers are incredibly arrogant and presumptuous to slander without fear things that are bigger and stronger than them, things they don’t even understand. They criticize without examining themselves. They have stepped out of place and refuse to submit to proper authority.

Peter compares them to wild animals that are a menace and must be put down.

12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.

What a graphic picture of our sin nature allowed to run its course. They have become a danger to themselves and all those around them, they cannot respond to rational thought, they must do what they are driven to do, and the only way to stop them in their destructive course is to cage them and destroy them. And Peter wants to make it clear, that destruction is coming for them. These false teachers will be destroyed; they will suffer wrong as payment for the wrongs they have done. They will reap what they have sown and get what they have coming to them.

Next he points to their insatiable lust:

13 …They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls.

Pleasure and feasting are not in themselves bad or sinful.

Isaiah 55:2 … Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

There is a time and a place for pleasure and feasting and celebration. We, of all people, have something genuine to celebrate. But whenever pursuit of pleasure controls everything else, it has become an idol. When pleasure is made god, it is deceitful pleasure, because it promises but can never satisfy. Peter describes these false teachers who feast with the church ‘blots and blemishes’. They are a defiling leprosy in the body. Peter exhorts us to diligence in avoiding spots and blemishes:

2 Peter 3:14 … be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

In 1 Peter 1:18-19, we are told that the Passover Lamb who bought us was without spot or blemish.

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed … not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

There is a word play in this verse. When Peter says ‘reveling in their deceptions’, the word translated deceptions sounds like the word for the love feast where the believers would celebrate the Lord’s supper. Peter is saying that the agape meal has become a deceptive pleasure because of these blots and blemishes

Verse 14 literally reads ‘having eyes full of an adulteress.’ Everyone they look at is envisioned as a potential sex partner. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

He says they are ‘insatiable for sin’. Proverbs tells us:

Proverbs 27:20 Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man.

He says ‘they entice unsteady souls’. They are not satisfied by indulging their own flesh unless they can drag others down with them in their shameful practices. This is Peter’s exhortation to us. Do not be one who is an unsteady soul.

2 Peter 3:17 … take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…

Send your roots down deep in the knowledge of Jesus. Anchor your life on the rock solid truth of Jesus Christ crucified to set sinners free from sin so that with his resurrection power we can live lives of righteousness.

These false teachers are not unsteady. They come to prey on those who are weak in the church. Peter goes on to describe them: ‘they have hearts trained in greed’. They go to the gym and exercise their hearts and train to take advantage of the weak for their own gain. Accursed children! Because of the road they have chosen, they are under God’s curse. Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They are not lost, accidentally off the path through no fault of their own. It is not that they did not know the right way. They knew it and they forsook it. They abandoned the truth and embraced a lie. They intentionally left the path and went astray.

Now Peter points us to an Old Testament illustration. Peter says a few words about Balaam, and he expects his readers to know the story. Do you know the story? In a day where none but the very rich would have a copy of the scriptures in their homes, Peter expected them to know this story. The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22-24. The Israelites have left Egypt and have been wandering in the desert for 40 years while the rebellious generation that rejected God’s promises dies off. They are now on the march toward the promised land, and God is giving them victory. They defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan.

Numbers 22:1 Then the people of Israel set out and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho. 2 And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 And Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. 4 And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.” So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, 5 sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the people of Amaw, to call him, saying, “Behold, a people has come out of Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me. 6 Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”

So Balak king of Moab and the Midianites sent his messengers to Balaam to hire him to perform divination and curse the Israelites. God forbade Balaam to go with them, so he refused. Balak sent a larger group of more important messengers:

16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: ‘Let nothing hinder you from coming to me, 17 for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come, curse this people for me.”’ 18 But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God to do less or more.

God gives him permission this second time to go, but strictly charges him to do nothing but what God tells him.

21 So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. 22 But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So he struck her again. 26 Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.” 31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. 32 And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.”

God’s anger was kindled because Balaam’s way was perverse. God permitted Balaam to go and meet Balak, and they made sacrifices in order to curse Israel, but God caused Balaam to bless them instead. Balak took him to another location and offered sacrifices and again God caused Balaam to bless Israel. This happened a third time,

24:10 And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times. 11 Therefore now flee to your own place. I said, ‘I will certainly honor you,’ but the LORD has held you back from honor.” 12 And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, 13 ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own will.

Balaam then blesses Israel a final time and returns home. It all sounds good, but there is something going on under the surface. Balaam is after the silver and gold in Balak’s house. The very next chapter says

Numbers 25:1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

We don’t find out what was really going on until later on in Numbers. In Numbers 31, Balaam is killed in battle along with the Midianites, and the women are taken captive.

Numbers 31:15 Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? 16 Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD.

So Balaam got his money – since God wouldn’t allow him to curse the people of Israel, he gave the Midianites some advice. If you can lure the Israelites into sexual sin and idolatry, God will punish them.

Peter says:

15 …They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness

Balaam, this influential prophet, had less insight into what God was doing than his animal did. Balaam was blinded to reality by his greed. Balaam acted irrationally, insanely. Even a supernatural event didn’t deter him from recklessly pursuing his own lust. He traded in the true satisfaction that comes from intimacy with God for a king’s gold and silver, and he didn’t even live to enjoy it.

Know this. Know this beforehand. Let us all be established in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us learn to value what is truly valuable so that we don’t forsake the way of truth for a cheap imitation, so that we are not carried away to judgment with those who embrace the devil’s lies.

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him … 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. … 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

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1 Thessalonians 3:11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

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2 Thessalonians 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

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2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

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1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

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

February 7, 2010 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Peter 1:19-21; Pay Attention to the Prophetic Word

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20091115_2peter1_19-21.mp3

11/15 2 Peter 1:19-21 Pay Attention to the Prophetic Word

12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter is writing into a situation where false teachers were denying the future literal coming of Jesus as judge and king to rule and reign. They were advocating a disregard of moral restraint because this talk of a king coming on a white horse with a sword is mere fairy tale, and we are much to sophisticated to believe that sort of thing. They would reject as myth things like 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, where Paul says:

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.

That’s just the sort of thing that someone would make up to scare you into listening to them and doing what they tell you to do.

Peter is arguing that a life lived in earnest pursuit of holiness really does matter; and it should be motivated by the expectation of the return of Jesus and the hope of entrance into his eternal kingdom. His first line of argument went like this: ‘No, Jesus really is coming again as judge and king, we can say this with confidence because we were eyewitnesses of the transfiguration; where God the Father installed Jesus as that coming messianic King who will rule and judge the nations. We were at his coronation ceremony. We were there for his inauguration. God himself sealed it with his own words.’

In verses 19-21, Peter lays out his second line of reasoning why we know for sure that Jesus really is coming back and living a life of godliness really does matter. We have the prophetic word – the Old Testament – that all points to Jesus the coming King, and that word is ratified by the installation of Jesus as king on the mount of transfiguration. Peter says that we do well to pay attention to it – it is a lamp to light our way until Jesus comes back. We must pay close heed because the word is not the product of human invention but rather it is divine communication. Peter points us here to our bibles. He wants us to keep our noses in them and to base our lives on them. He gives us great insight into the origin and intention of our bibles. Let’s look at what he has to say.

19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The prophetic word; We have clarification on what this phrase means in verse 20, where the ‘prophetic word’ is referred to as ‘prophecy of Scripture’ or ‘prophetic writing’. For Jesus, ‘It is written’ was decisive in any argument. In Judaism, all of Scripture was considered prophetic. The singular refers to all Old Testament writings as a unity pointing to the coming Messiah.

More sure; The NASB has “So we have the prophetic word made more sure” and the NIV has “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain”; The ESV has “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word”. There is a subtle difference in the understanding of the original phrase that is represented by the different translations. What is clear is that the prophetic word is absolutely sure. The question is; does the transfiguration make the prophetic word more certain, or is the prophetic word said to be more certain than even the eyewitness accounts of the transfiguration? If you have a healthy respect for the scriptures you might opt for the second choice and ask ‘how can the scriptures be made more sure by any experience? – they are absolutely sure in themselves’. And I think Peter would agree, but his grammar points to the idea that the prophetic word is made more certain or confirmed by the transfiguration event. Not that scripture cannot stand without external testimony; it can. The scriptures are trustworthy because of what they are and who they come from, as Peter will make explicit in the next verses. But here he is saying that they are demonstrated trustworthy in that we actually saw the fulfillment of the prophecies unfold before our eyes. This is not the first time Peter has used this word ‘made more sure’. In verse 10, he tells us to “be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure” – and in that context it raises some of the same questions.. We cannot change what was done in the hidden councils of God before time began, but we can validate that decision and demonstrate that we are elect by doing what elect people do (and that starts by embracing Jesus). Just as my life demonstrates what (or whose) I am, the unfolding of prophetic events does not make the bible more trustworthy, but it demonstrates and puts on display what it inherently is.

19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

And here Peter gets to his main instruction for us. Pay attention! Pay attention to the prophetic word! Pay attention to your bibles! There is a note of encouragement here – you do well to pay attention – so keep it up! Don’t waylaid by false teachers who would turn you aside from studying and believing and obeying your bibles.

Peter compares the word of God to a lamp shining in a dark place. The word is compared to a light in Psalms and Proverbs:

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Proverbs 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,

If you’ve ever been in a really dark place you understand the importance of a reliable light. There was a system of caves a few blocks from our college campus that I and some of my friends enjoyed exploring. I got to be relatively familiar with the small winding passageways. There was a tight entrance that opened into a large room with the ceiling covered in bats. Then there was a low crawl-way that led to another large room with many small tunnels leading in different directions. Once past the crawl-way there was no natural light that filtered in. Turn off your flashlight and there was absolute darkness. We would inch along on our bellies through these tight tunnels. On one expedition, we took some novice classmates in to explore, and half our little group lost interest and decided to turn around and head out while I and a friend wanted to continue. After the novices were out of earshot, I suggested that we hurry and take a turn in the tunnel we were in which I knew led back to the first room, where we would wait in the dark to terrify our novice friends. But in the rush to beat them out, we missed the critical turn and several hours later realized our little joke was on us. We had brought extra lights, but it was still sobering to see our flashlight beams dim as the batteries wore down. I enjoy the challenge of exploration, but the thought of trying to find our way groping in the pitch blackness was somehow not appealing. Our lights held up and we were able to eventually find our way out. But once we climbed out in broad daylight, our trusty lights that had served us so well in the winding little passageways were now completely irrelevant. Their weak beams were drowned out in the overwhelming light of the sun.

Peter tells us ‘pay attention to the prophetic word – it is a lamp shining in a dark place. But Peter has the end firmly in view. He uses that hope-filled word ‘until‘. As Isaiah predicted:

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. (c.f. Matthew 4:16)

We dwell in a land of deep darkness. The word of God lights our path. But one glorious day, the light will dawn.

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

Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Revelation 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

But until – until that day when we look up from our bibles to see Jesus face to face. Until then ‘your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Ps.119:105); I find my delight in your commandments, which I love (Ps.119:47); Every word of God proves true (Prov.30:5); All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable (2Tim.3:16); whatever was written in former times was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom.15:4). Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture (1Tim.4:13).

19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter wants us to know something that is of critical importance. In a day when false teachers are undermining the word of God, it is essential that we understand the nature of the Scriptures. It is somewhat ironic to me that in a verse that says ‘no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation, there is a great variety of interpretation as to what exactly Peter meant by the words he chose. The two main views are represented in these different translations:

20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, (NKJV)

20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. (NIV)

The King James Version represents the standard Roman Catholic interpretation, and the NIV represents the standard Protestant understanding. The Catholic church would say that this verse refers to the interpretation by Christians of the written word. The scriptures are not to be put into the hands of the common people, because they are not authorized to interpret them correctly. The scriptures must be interpreted by the Church, not private individuals.

The historic Protestant response was to say that this verse has nothing to do with modern day biblical interpretation; what this verse is talking about is the process of writing the Scriptures; the prophet’s interpretation of historical events or his dreams or visions was not his own invention.

Some modern day Evangelicals (Schreiner, Piper) have taken the first interpretation that this refers to present day biblical interpretation and taken this to mean not that the scriptures can only be handled correctly by the Pope, but that the scriptures are not open to any personal whim of interpretation. You can’t make a verse mean whatever you want it to mean. It has a definite meaning intended by its Author.

Although there is not a shred of evidence in these verses to point to the church as the official interpreter of Scripture, both of the evangelical views have been defended by good men. And both represent a correct understanding of Scripture. The bible did not originate by the prophet’s own invention, and the bible does not leave its meaning open to every reader to be manipulated into whatever shape they fancy. Words mean things and there is one right and many wrong interpretations. But in the flow of this passage, the focus is on the origin and authenticity of the prophetic word, not on its current interpretation. When the prophets spoke of the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, they were not throwing around their own opinions of what their visions and dreams meant. He goes on to explain:

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Genuine prophecy was never borne along by the human will. This is where false prophecies came from:

Jeremiah 23: 16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.”’ …26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal?

Notice there is a moral (or immoral)aspect to prophecy – they say ‘it will be well with you’ to those who despise the word of the Lord. This is exactly what the false teachers were doing in Peter’s day, and this is why Peter highlighted the moral responsibility of genuine believers.

No prophecy was carried along by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. This is why you do well to pay careful attention to the prophetic word – because it has its origin in God. Yes, men spoke – there was a human element to the prophetic word. Moses and Jeremiah and Isaiah and Daniel and David were all unique individuals with distinct personalities and styles that come through in their respective writings, but they spoke from God. And they spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The word ‘carried along’ is also used in Acts of a ship being driven by the wind:

Acts 27: 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. … 17 …Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along.

This is also the word used in verses 17-18 of the voice carried or borne from heaven to bestow honor and glory on the Son.

17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was carried to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice carried from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever carried out by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit blows men along to speak from God in such a way that the author of Hebrews can quote Psalm 95 and say:

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice,

And then again quoting the same passage, he can say:

Hebrews 4:7 again he [God] appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

So the mighty coming of the Lord Jesus Christ was attested by the voice of God the Father himself when he installed Jesus as King on his holy mountain; and his powerful coming is attested by all of Scripture which originated in God as he impelled men to write by his Holy Spirit. So pay attention! Jesus is coming back! Pay attention to the prophetic word! Pay attention so that there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (1:11). Pay attention when the prophetic word commands that you make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. You will do well to pay attention to God’s word which is a lamp shining in a very dark place. Pay attention, because the day is ready to break!

November 15, 2009 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12; the Church made up of Individuals

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090125_the_church_4.mp3

1/25 The Church; Made up of Individuals with Spiritual Gifts

We’ve been talking about the church. We’ve been focusing on the big massive truths about the church. We saw that the church is a community of people called out from the world by the Lord Jesus Christ, founded on his identity, and united by the new birth. We saw that the church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of Jesus and she will overcome. We took a look at what characterized the early church; they were filled with awe at the awesome works of God, they were filled with joy and generosity and praise, and they devoted themselves to studying and hearing God’s word, to intimate community life, to worship and remembering Jesus’ finished work, and to seeking God in intimate conversation with him.

Today I want to ask the question ‘so what’s my part?’ Paul says:

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

So if we are Christ’s body, the church, and the church is made up of individual members, then what is my specific role and function in the group? As an individual member, what part do I play? What do I contribute? We are going to look at spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.

There’s a lot of confusion in the air on the topic of spiritual gifts. In some churches there is an overemphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, especially a few particular gifts. In other churches, there resistance and fear to even talk about the gifts. Paul tells us that he doesn’t want us to be ignorant or uninformed about the gifts. We can’t afford to go through life not knowing what God has uniquely shaped us to do.

We went on vacation one year to visit family for Christmas, so we were out of town for my work Christmas party. A few days after I had returned to work, they were cleaning up the holiday decorations and a co-worker came to by cubicle and said ‘hey, did you ever pick up your gift?’ What do you think my response was? ‘Eh. Whatever. Can’t you see I’ve got work to catch up on? I don’t have time for a gift.’ How many think that’s how I responded? How would you respond? ‘Gift? Gift! What is it? Where is it? I want it….now!’ How many of you know that it is more blessed to give than to receive? How many know that it is still pretty blessed to receive?

The word translated ‘spiritual gifts’ in our bible is just one word in the original; ‘pneumatikon’ [pneumatikwn], which simply means ‘of the spirit’ or ‘of the air’. You have pneumatic tires on your car. We had a pneumatic shop where I worked. Pneumatic simply means ‘of or relating to air; powered by air’. We built elaborate control systems that would operate by air power. We had a giant air compressor in a shed outside the building, and air lines piped in and run all over the ceiling, with air drops for connecting pneumatic equipment. We had pneumatic drills and pneumatic wrenches and pneumatic screwdrivers and pneumatic presses and pneumatic nail guns. Each tool had its specific function, but they all ran on air. When they were not connected to the air lines they were useless. When they were connected to the air source, they had great potential to get a lot of work done efficiently and effectively. They also had the potential to do a lot of damage if they were misused. The air press would neatly and efficiently press a part into place, but it also had the potential to permanently disfigure your finger if you misused it. The air nailer would effortlessly and precisely pound a nail into a 2×4, but it would just as effortlessly put that nail through your foot if you weren’t careful, as one of my co-workers found out. The things that are of or pertaining to the ‘Pneuma’; the Spirit are powerful tools for good, but they can also be used inappropriately and result in harm.

That’s one of the main reasons that Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church. This church was misusing the gifts of the Spirit to their own harm. They were selfish and boastful and proud and Paul wrote to correct their problems and put them back on the right track. So Paul tells them up front ‘I do not want you to be uninformed concerning spiritual gifts.’ There are things you need to know about the gifts of the Spirit. Not just that there are gifts and which ones you have, but how to use them in a way that builds up the body and brings honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at what he says in v.2:

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.

Notice he’s talking about being under the influence or control of another. The word he uses of being ‘led astray’ was the word commonly used of leading a condemned person away for execution. That’s the picture we have of our life before Christ – being led to worship worthless things by demonic powers. Paul is concerned not with the fact that what you say was supernaturally induced but where it came from. The spiritual source is revealed by the content of what you say. God’s Holy Spirit would never induce you to say something against Jesus. On the flip side, here’s a true gift of the Spirit of God: acknowledging that Jesus is your King! As Jesus told Peter ‘flesh and blood has not revealed this to you’; surrendering to Jesus as Lord and King is a supernatural work of the Spirit of God in your life.

He goes on to talk about the unity of the body in the diversity of the gifts:

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.

Gifts ‘charismaton’ [carismatwn] is from the root ‘charis’ [cariv] grace or free gift; there are varieties of gifts, there are varieties of service, there are varieties of activities; but the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God gives and empowers. Notice the triune God here? God is one; but God gives a unique manifestation of the Spirit to each individual. Pay careful attention to the last phrase: ‘for the common good’. That is key to the discussion of spiritual gifts. Your gifts are not for you. Your gifts are for others. My gifts are for your benefit. Selfishness and pride are contrary to the purpose of the gifts. You can’t hoard the gifts you have been given and you can’t boast about the gifts you have – they are gifts given freely by God as he chooses. The gifts are for the common good.

Let’s look quickly at some of the gifts. Understand there is no comprehensive list of gifts given in the bible. We’ll look at a few passages that list some of the gifts – but the point is not to exhaustively list them but to give us an idea of what kinds of gifts and abilities God has given to his church to use for the common good. And remember, don’t just go down the list checking off ‘that’s not my gift, that’s not my gift, does not apply…’ The gifts are for the common good, so although no one has all the gifts, we all benefit from the gifts of those around us, so an awareness and appreciation of those gifts in others will be beneficial to you as an individual and to us as the church. [I am indebted to pastor James MacDonald for the definitions of the gifts.] Buckle your seat belts, here we go.

8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,

Wisdom is the spiritual ability to understand God’s perspective on life situations and to share those insights in a simple understanding way; it is a capacity to relate the truth of scripture to real life situations.

and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

Knowledge is the spiritual ability to know things that were not learned through normal channels.

9 to another faith by the same Spirit,

Faith is the spiritual ability to trust God for what cannot be seen and to act on God’s promises. Faith is confidence in God. All believers have faith in God, but the gift of faith is an extraordinary ability to believe God for the impossible.

to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

Healing is the spiritual ability to be God’s channel to restore health. This is similar to the gift of faith, but specific to healing. I don’t believe this is limited to physical healing, but can include emotional and spiritual healing as well.

10 to another the working of miracles,

Miracles is the spiritual ability to receive and display exceptional interventions of God’s power in ways that bring him glory. By definition miracles are not frequent and typical but unusual and exceptional. Miracles are things that are not explainable by natural causes.

to another prophecy,

Prophecy is the spiritual ability to publicly communicate God’s word in an inspirational way that convinces unbelievers and challenges and comforts people. It is the ability to persuasively declare God’s word in a way that makes the truth come alive and people sense God himself is speaking. The gift of prophecy speaks God’s word with authority, bringing conviction of sin and awareness of its consequences. The gift of prophecy is not the same as the office of prophet. There are people today with the gift of prophecy, but we do not call them prophets.

to another the ability to distinguish between spirits,

Distinguishing spirits or discernment is the spiritual ability to distinguish right from wrong and to separate truth from error. It is the ability to discern motives and agendas. A word of caution is in order here. There are many so called discernment ministries that are hyper critical and find something wrong with every ministry and demonstrate no love or grace. The gift of discernment used in the flesh is a destructive and dangerous thing.

to another various kinds of tongues,

Tongues is the spiritual ability to speak a message from the Lord or to the Lord through divinely anointed utterances which are languages

unrecognized by speakers and hearers. Like all the gifts, the purpose of tongues is for the edification of the church. The whole point of this section is that tongues is a gift, but it is not the most important gift and it should not attract all the attention in the church. We have two main parameters that will keep us balanced in our thinking about tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:30 tells us that not all believers speak in tongues. It is a gift given to some but not all in the church. 1 Corinthians 14:49 makes it very clear that we are not to forbid speaking in tongues. If we stay between these two boundaries, we can maintain a biblical balance.

to another the interpretation of tongues.

Interpretation of tongues is the spiritual ability to make known to the church the message or interpretation of the one who spoke in tongues. It is in combination with the interpretation that tongues edifies believers. That is why Paul demanded:

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.

Lets jump down to verse 27 where he adds some other gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles,

Apostles. The bible is clear that the office of apostle is closed.

Ephesians 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

The foundational offices of apostle and prophet are not repeated, however there are people today with apostolic gifting. This is the spiritual ability to start new churches and ministries and oversee their development; these are ministry entrepreneurs with a boldness to take the gospel to uncharted territories.

second prophets, third teachers,

Teachers have the spiritual ability to educate God’s people by clearly explaining and applying the bible in a way that causes others to learn. It is the ability to equip and train people for ministry.

then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping,

Helping is the spiritual ability to recognize unmet needs in the church family and take initiative to provide practical assistance to others quickly, cheerfully, and without need for recognition. Thank God for those with the gift of helping.

administrating

Administration is the spiritual ability to ascertain the gifts of others and recruit them for ministry. They organize and manage resources for effective ministry. Administrators have the ability to coordinate many details and execute the plans of leadership.

and various kinds of tongues.

We already talked about tongues. Let’s turn over to Ephesians 4 to see some more.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. … 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists,

Evangelist is the spiritual ability to effectively communicate the good news of Jesus Christ to unbelievers; the ability to sense opportunities to share Christ and lead people to respond in faith. Understand, we are all commanded to do evangelism;

2 Timothy 4:5 As for you, …do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

But some are specially gifted and evangelism comes naturally.

the pastors

Pastoring is the spiritual ability to care for the needs of a group of believers and equip them for ministry; ability to nurture people in spiritual growth and assume responsibility for their welfare.

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

Notice again the emphasis on mutual edification. Let’s turn over to Romans 12 to see some more.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving;

Service is the spiritual ability to recognize unmet needs in the church family and to invest personal resources to meet that need. A person with the gift of service delights to do get the job done.

the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation;

Exhortation or encouragement is the spiritual ability to motivate God’s people to apply and act on biblical principles especially when they are discouraged or wavering in their faith; ability to bring out the best in others and challenge them to develop their full potential.

the one who contributes, in generosity;

Giving is the spiritual ability to generously contribute money and other resources so that the body of Christ might be strengthened and expanded; this person experiences tremendous freedom and joy when they give – they are open handed and open hearted with singleness of purpose.

the one who leads, with zeal;

Leading is the spiritual ability to communicate a compelling vision in a way that produces followers.

the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Mercy is the spiritual ability to recognize people who are hurting and take action to relieve their suffering. This person is extremely compassionate and gladly carries the burdens of others without feeling inconvenienced.

This was a fast overview of some of the gifts that God has blessed the church with. You might be asking ‘how do I know what gifts I have been given? You can get online and find spiritual gift inventories and questionnaires that will help you identify your gifts, but here’s the best way to really find out. Get involved! Show up. Be part of the body. Get involved in each other’s lives. Step out of your comfort zone. Be stretched and try new things. When you do, there will be three main indicators that tell you you’ve found your place: you will be satisfied; God will be glorified, and people will be edified.

If you have gifts that you are not aware of, or are hiding, we all are suffering. We simply can’t afford to go through life together not knowing what God has uniquely shaped us to do.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

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

January 25, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment