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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work

02/10_2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190210_2cor5_18-21.mp3

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Intro: Regeneration, Justification, Reconciliation

This passage is about reconciliation. Reconciliation is a key biblical concept. In fact this section at the end of 2 Corinthians 5 is rich in the massive bedrock truths of the gospel.

Verse 17, which we looked at last week, points to the new creation, which includes us being part of that new creation through regeneration or new birth.

Verses 14, 19, and 21 point us to substitution; that Christ died for us, in our place, and in him we died, so that he no longer counts our trespasses against us; instead he credits us with his own perfect righteousness. We looked at verse 14 three weeks ago, and I hope to spend more time savoring the truths of verse 21 together next week.

Verses 18-20 is one of the key passages in the bible on reconciliation, and that’s what I hope to unpack and celebrate together today. All these foundation truths are interwoven together in this rich passage.

2 Corinthians 5:17 new creation/new birth/regeneration

2 Corinthians 5:14, 19, 21 justification/substitution/imputation

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 reconciliation

All This is From God

Verse 18 begins ‘now all this is from (lit. out of) God. So we should ask ‘All what?’ This points us back to the previous verses.

2 Corinthians 5:14 …the love of Christ … that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. …17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, …new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God. God’s love, that one died for all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Rom.5:8). Substitution, justification, all this is rooted in God’s love, put on display in Christ. Christ died for us, his death was our death; we died in him. All this is from God.

Now those who are in Christ are instances of new creation. The new creation has broken into this old one. We have become part of the “…new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2Pet.3:13). The new birth, regeneration, new creation is all of God. God is the creator, the grand architect. ‘…God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give …light’ (2Cor.4:6).

All this is from God. All this originates in God. All this has its source in God. This is God’s action, God’s activity. God is the one who sent his only Son to take my name and die my death. God is the one who unites me to Christ. God is the one who justifies me, who puts my sin on his Son, who considers the old me to have died with Christ as the wages of my sin. God is the one who creates me new in Christ, who regenerates me, who ‘has caused us to be born again’ (1Pet.1:3). God is the one who brings about substitution, justification, new creation, reconciliation. All this is from God. Paul wants us to know that all this is God’s work, and God’s alone.

Reconciliation is Personal

God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. Reconciliation is a relationship term. Reconciliation assumes the personality of God. It tells us first of all that God is a personal being; he can know and be known; he can enter into relationships, and he desires a relationship with us.

Reconciliation Overcomes Hostility

Reconciliation also assumes that something is wrong in the relationship. The need to be reconciled assumes enemy status; reconciling means changing hostility or animosity or enmity into friendship. In the beginning, God created all things very good, and he walked with man in the garden, enjoying fellowship. But sin destroyed that relationship; we destroyed God’s good created order. We refused to submit to his benevolent rule and took the authority to ourselves. We questioned his character, dishonored his good name, and transgressed his good command. We committed high treason, bringing death and the curse into his good creation. And so we had to be put out of his good presence. No more walks with God in the cool of the day. We deserved to die. We became children of wrath, allied with the serpent. We became God’s enemies. And God became our enemy.

Colossians 1 describes our relationship:

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

Alienated. There was that in us that estranged us from God; that severed our relationship with him, as Isaiah describes our situation:

Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

James puts it in even more intimate relational terms; he says we violated our covenant relationship; we slept around.

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

To align ourselves with this world system is to become God’s enemy.

Ephesians 2 puts it more in terms of our ejection from God’s presence:

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, … 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Reconciliation Overcomes Inability

Separated from Christ… alienated… strangers… having no hope and without God in the world. This is the kind of situation that requires reconciliation. But it also describes our powerlessness to remedy the relationship. We had no hope. We couldn’t fix the damage we had created. A simple ‘sorry’ wouldn’t do. Reparations had to be paid, but the wages of sin is death, and if death is defined as separation from God, then that doesn’t leave us any options for reconciling ourselves to God.

There was nothing we could do to effect reconciliation, to actually make it right, to fix the relationship. Only once is this word ‘reconcile’ used in the New Testament to describe something between people, in 1 Corinthians 7, where a wife who separates from her husband is told to remain single or be reconciled to her husband. Every time this word is used in the context of our relationship to God, it is God who is active, bringing about the reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself

God through Christ reconciled us to himself. All this is from God. Reconciliation is rooted in God’s desire to be reconciled to us, his creation. Reconciliation comes about through the finished work of Christ.

Reconciliation is Built on Justification

Romans 5 in many ways overlaps with our passage in 2 Corinthians. Romans 5:6-10 describes us as weak, ungodly, still sinners, enemies. We were God’s enemies.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Paul in Romans 5 describes the work God performed to accomplish our reconciliation as our being ‘justified by his blood’ and ‘saved by him from God’s wrath’. We transgressed, we slept around, and God is justly angry, his wrath is hot. Justification is the verdict of not guilty. Justification is more than forgiveness. Forgiveness says that the judge finds you guilty but he shows mercy. He releases you from the debt. You are a condemned criminal, and an unpunished criminal. You have been released from your debt. Justification goes further. Justification tries you in court, and there is no evidence to convict you. Your name is cleared. You walk free, not as a forgiven criminal, but as righteous. This can only happen because of the great exchange. Christ stepped forward and took my name. He took my guilt, my punishment. He died in my place. And the guilty me died with him. Now I bear his name, a perfect name. I stand spotless, clean, justified before him, tried and found innocent; fully cleared.

Reconciliation is built on justification and substitution. The adulterous me was executed. That is what we saw in 2 Corinthians 5:14; that because Jesus died in my place, I am considered dead. This is what we see in 2 Corinthians 5:21;

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

There is so much more to say about that one verse (and I plan to spend more time on it next week), but for now notice that it is the foundation of our reconciliation. It is what God did to reconcile us to himself. It is what God did to remedy our sin problem. He put our sin on Christ, and he puts Christ’s righteousness on us.

Reconciliation Requires Imputation

In verse 19 he puts it this way; God was ‘not counting their trespasses against them.’ The word ‘count’ is an accounting term; to reckon, count, consider, or credit, to impute; its a balancing the books term. Paul uses it this way in Romans 4.

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.

How does your employer expense payroll? Does he take a tax deduction for your wages, saying it was a charitable donation? No, that would get him in trouble with the IRS. You worked, and he owes you your wages. They have to be counted as wages, not as a gift.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

God credits or accounts righteousness to the one who was not righteous as a gift, received by faith. A righteousness that wasn’t earned can’t be counted as wages. It has to be counted as a generous gift. He goes on:

Romans 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

This connects back to 2 Corinthians 5:19

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was …not counting their trespasses against them,

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. But our trespasses do stand against us. They show up on our record. How can God not count our trespasses against us? This is where verse 21 comes in; God reckoned or imputed, credited our sins to Christ’s account.

The transfer of my sins to Christ’s account and the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to my account is what makes it possible for me to be reconciled to God. As Romans 5 puts it ‘being enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; through him we have now received reconciliation.’ We receive reconciliation as a gift, bought for us by the death of God’s only Son. ‘Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Rom.5:1). Our reconciliation, our peace with God is rooted in justification, God’s crediting or imputing a righteousness to us that was not ours.

Active and Passive Reconciliation

And notice that this reconciliation is presented to us as a completed action. It came from God, he accomplished it through Christ, he reconciled us to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

God through Christ completed the work of reconciliation at the cross.

God is still active in reconciling the world to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

This can’t mean a universal salvation as some attempt to read it. Reconciling the world cannot mean every individual is reconciled whether they like it or not; that makes nonsense of the text. Paul refers to ‘the reconciliation of the world’ in Romans 11:15 in response to the rejection of Israel, meaning that the gospel is now going global, not just among the Jews. It is only those who are in Christ, Jew or Gentile, only those who believe against whom the Lord does not count their trespasses. This is why the word, the message of reconciliation was entrusted to the apostles.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

This is a word for the world! God has done the work of reconciliation. All this is from God. It is all of grace. God is active in reconciling. We are commanded here not to reconcile, but to be reconciled; we are passive – receiving by faith God’s reconciling work. Or in the language of Romans 5:11 ‘through Christ we have received reconciliation.’ ‘Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’ Are you? Are you enjoying relationship with this personal God? Have you received by faith his finished reconciling work? Are you blessed, because the Lord no longer counts your sins against you? If you will only acknowledge your need, cry out to him in simple trust, he will reconcile you to himself; and you too will be entrusted with the message of reconciliation for the world! ‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’

***

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

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February 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Darkness Before The Light

12/09 The Darkness Before the Light; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181209_darkness-before-light.mp3

<<Griswold Christmas Lights (23 sec short clean version)>>

Christmas lights. Why are Christmas lights a thing? Why is there a whole aisle of just Christmas lights? We put them on our houses, on our trees, around our windows and doorways, all down main street, little twinkly Christmas lights everywhere. Why?

Here’s some verses in Luke that help us understand why. Zechariah prophesied over his son John:

Luke 1:76-79 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.”

Matthew, in chapter 4, quotes the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-2.

Matthew 4:15-16 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

We are enamored by lights shining in the darkness, at least in part because it is an echo in our souls of our hope for a light to overcome the darkness. When you see all those twinkly lights this time of year, remember that there is a longing in every human soul for a light that will overcome our darkness.

Jesus came to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region of the shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.

Deep Darkness in the World

This longing goes all the way back to the beginning

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

There’s this theme of darkness and light throughout the bible. God overcame the darkness at creation by his Spirit, by his Word. The light, he said, was good.

Already by chapter 3, man sinned and went his own way, and he hid from the light of God’s presence in the shadows of the garden.

Ever since, there has been this tension between the light and the darkness.

Darkness Linked with Death

Did you notice in those verses in Matthew and Luke that ‘darkness’ is synonymous with ‘the shadow of death’?

Luke 1:79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Matthew 4:16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

The wages of sin is death. Because we are sinners, death looms over our entire lives. We live under the shadow of death. You never know. None of us know how long we have. We often distract ourselves from this reality – until some crisis or event crashes in and shatters our delusion, snapping us back to the reality that we are mortal. We are finite. Every moment, every breath is a gift. We live under a dark cloud. We dwell in a land of deep darkness. We sit in the shadow of death. Hence this longing in every heart for the light, to be out from the shadow, to see light overcome the darkness.

Blind To The Darkness

But before the light can be appreciated, welcomed, received, the darkness must be felt. This was the problem of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and it remains a problem for many in our day.

We live in denial. We refuse to believe that it’s really all that bad. We refuses to see the darkness.

We might agree and say ‘Yeah, it’s a really dark place out there. There’s really bad people doing horrible things and they need Jesus.’ If that’s what your find yourself saying, be careful, you might completely miss the meaning of Christmas. You might completely miss it and miss out. You see, Jesus came to be the light in a dark place. He entered in to the darkness. If you are saying ‘those people over there really need the light of Jesus’ you are putting yourself into a different category. ‘What they are doing over there, that’s really dark. But not me. I’m not in the dark. I can see just fine.’ Be careful, you are saying ‘I don’t need Jesus.’

Jesus was not very kind to hypocrites and finger pointers. He had sharp words for those who looked down on others and thought too highly of themselves.

John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

The worst kind of blindness is when you think you can see and refuse the gift of sight that is offered to you. Jesus came to offer sight to the blind, but those that deny that they are blind refuse to receive his healing.

You see, it’s not just dark out there. It’s dark in here. It’s dark inside, in me. My heart is the problem. My heart is dark. I need Jesus.

Reaction to Light; Rejection and Hatred

We don’t often notice just how dark it is until the light gets turned on. Our eyes adjust. We get used to the dark. We get comfortable in the dark. You’ve been in a room that slowly gets darker and darker and you don’t notice it, until someone walks in and flips a light switch and bam! Blazing light! What’s your reaction? Turn it off! Turn it off! It hurts! I was comfortable in the dark.

We all have this deep longing in our hearts for light to overcome the darkness, and Jesus is the light of the world, but there is always a reaction when the light gets turned on.

We looked last time at John 1, where Jesus the eternal Word, who was with God in the beginning and who was God, became human and entered our world. We are told of Jesus in verse 4:

John 1:4 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. …7 [John] came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

You see, Jesus coming into the world as light says something about the world. It says something offensive about me. Jesus the light coming into the world says that the world is a dark place. And it is a dark place because it is made up of sinners dwelling in deep darkness. The world is a dark place because my heart is dark. This is offensive. I don’t like to be told that my heart is wicked. That my heart is deceitful. I don’t like to be told that I’m blind, that I’m living in utter darkness. That’s offensive.

We looked last time at John 3:16, where God gave us his only Son. John 3:19 says

John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

We are not just in the dark. We love the dark. We have this love affair with darkness. We are ashamed and afraid and we don’t want to be exposed, so we hide in the shadows. We don’t want anyone to see what we are really like. We know we don’t measure up.

Do you see what this is saying? The light has come into the world; Jesus has come into the world. And we love the darkness and hate the light. We hate Jesus. ‘Whoa! That sounds harsh. I don’t know if I would say it like that.’ Jesus says it exactly like that. ‘I wouldn’t say I hate Jesus; I respect him as a great man, a great teacher, a prophet.’ You can’t say that. As C.S. Lewis said, ‘he has not left that option open to us.’ He claimed to be God. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic …or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. …you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” [Mere Christianity]. Jesus divides. You are either for him or against him. You either hate him or you fall at his feet and worship him. You can claim to respect him as a great man, but that’s not being intellectually honest. If you believe in him, you must receive him completely, as he is, everything he says. And that includes some really painful things to swallow. Receiving him as the light of the world means confessing that my heart is dark, wicked, desperately wicked.

Jesus The Exclusive Light of the World

Notice, Jesus says the light has come into the world, the true light.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

Jesus does not claim to be a light in the world, one among many. He is the light – the only true light of the world. Jesus is exclusive. You follow Jesus or you are in darkness.

Jesus Only; Not Jesus Plus

In Matthew 17, some of Jesus’ disciples got a glimpse of his glory.

Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail th’ incarnate deity, pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel.” [Hark! the Herald Angels Sing -C.Wesley]. For a moment, as it were, the curtains were drawn back and the pre-incarnate glory of the Son of God blazed out. The light of the world was so bright in that moment, they couldn’t look at his face.

Matthew 17:3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Moses, the one to whom the Law was given, the author of the Torah, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets were there speaking with Jesus. Peter thinks this is great. Three of his heroes; Moses, Jesus, Elijah. We should just camp out, get autographs, bask in the glory. Peter wanted to honor these three, enshrine these three. But the Father would have none of it. He thundered from heaven interrupting Peter before he could finish his thought, putting him on his face.

Matthew 17:5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

What was the message that came through crystal clear to the disciples as their faces were pressed against the dirt? God does not share his glory. Jesus is the only Son of the Father. He is not one among the prophets, givers of God’s word; he is the Word. He alone is to be honored. He alone is to be listened to. He alone is the light of the world. The Law and the Prophets, the entire Old Testament, Jesus said, was pointing to him. It is all about him. Jesus did not come to abolish the law or the prophets; he came to fulfill it. All the scriptures find their answer in Jesus. It is not Jesus plus the law, Jesus plus the prophets; It is Jesus only. We do not enshrine three lights, three great teachers; Moses, Elijah and Jesus. Moses and Elijah were anticipating Jesus, pointing to Jesus. Jesus is the only, the unique Son of the Father. Jesus is the light.

He took our Darkness and Night

We all have this deep longing for a light to overcome the darkness. At Jesus’ last supper, when Satan had entered in to the betrayer, when Judas left, John tells us “And it was night” (Jn.13:30). This is more than just a description of what time it was. Jesus had said in John 9

John 9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

I am the light of the world. But night is coming. Judas went out. And it was night. Later, in the garden, when Judas kissed Jesus to identify him to the authorities,

Luke 22:52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

This is your hour, and the power of darkness. Jesus could have blinded the crowd with a blaze of transfiguration glory, but instead, he allowed himself to be seized, led away, ultimately to be crucified.

Luke 23:44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Jesus, the light of the world, endured darkness for me. Matthew tells us:

Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus took my darkness, he fell under the shadow of death, he was made to be sin (2Cor.5:21); He bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24). The light of the world conquered the darkness by being extinguished by it. He was swallowed up by the darkness, and in doing so, he swallowed up death forever!

The Necessity of The New Birth to See

The light of the world came, but he was not received. He was hated.

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 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.

How is it that we receive him? How is it that we see him for who he is? We are blind to our own darkness and need of him. Those who receive him are those who were born of God by the will of God. God caused us to be born again (1 Peter 1:3).

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

We sinned. We hid from the light of God’s presence in the darkness. God overcomes the darkness in our hearts by his Spirit, by his Word.

Acts 26:27 …I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

God’s word and his Spirit opens blind eyes.

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Maybe you see, maybe for the first time, that you are in the dark, and the only light is Jesus. May God open your eyes to the truth of who he is. May God by his Spirit and through his word shine in your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Receive him today. Believe in his name.

December 13, 2018 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 14:1-32; Cleansed!

09/04 Leviticus 14:1-32; Cleansed!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160904_leviticus-14_1-32.mp3

Completely Leprous and Clean (13:12-13)

Last week we looked at Leviticus 13, a chapter that describes in gross detail different kinds of skin disease, and how to identify if it is the kind of disease that makes one unclean and cuts one off from the community. Common characteristics of skin conditions that were considered unclean were those that appeared to be deeper than the skin, symptoms of a deeper problem, and those that spread, that didn’t go away or continued to get worse over time. One curious case that we didn’t look at in detail is in Leviticus 13:12-13.

Leviticus 13:12 And if the leprous disease breaks out in the skin, so that the leprous disease covers all the skin of the diseased person from head to foot, so far as the priest can see, 13 then the priest shall look, and if the leprous disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; it has all turned white, and he is clean.

How is it that when the disease breaks out and covers every inch of his flesh, he is clean? Isn’t that a clear case of ‘unclean’? Is that a typo? If a person cannot point to even one patch of healthy skin, that would seem to make him wholly unclean, but rather the verdict is ‘clean’ and he is welcomed into the community and into the sanctuary. This seems “a complete paradox to all save those who understand God’s mode of dealing with sinners” [CHM p.363]. C.H.Spurgeon said:

How many there are, who, as they come up here, are ready to confess that they have done many things which are wrong, but they say, “though we have done much which we cannot justify, yet there have been many good actions which might almost counterbalance the sin. Have we not been charitable to the poor, have we not sought to instruct the ignorant, to help those that are out of the way? We have some sins, we do confess, but there is much at the bottom which is still right and good and we therefore hope that we shall be delivered.”

“I do not know,” said Martin Luther, “when men will ever believe that text in which it is written Christ died for our sins. They will think that Christ died for our righteousness, whereas He died for our sins. Christ had no eye to our goodness when He came to save us, but to our badness.” A physician, when he comes to my house, has not an eye to my present health. He does not come there because I am healthy, but because I am sick and the more sick I am, the more call for the physician’s skill and the more argument does my sickness yield why he should exercise all his craft and use his best medicines on my behalf. Your only plea with Christ is your guilt. Use it, Sinner, use it as David did when he said, “Lord have mercy upon my iniquity, for it is great!” If he had said “Have mercy upon my iniquity, for it is little,” he would have been a legalist and would have missed his mark. But when he said, “Have mercy, for it is great!” he understood the Gospel riddle—that strange paradox at which Pharisees always kick and which worldlings always hate—the glorious fact that Jesus Christ came into the world “not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” [C.H.Spurgeon, The Cleansing of the Leper, no.353, Dec. 30, 1860]

Andrew Bonar writes “Is it not when a soul is fully sensible of entire corruption, …that salvation is nearest? A complete Saviour for a complete sinner?” [Bonar, p.234].

Consequences of Leprous Skin Diseases

Remember, the consequences of being pronounced unclean.

Leviticus 13:45 “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

And remember, there was little hope for the one pronounced unclean. The procedure for making that declaration was not hasty or subjective, but when it happened, it was devastating. Separation from family, from friends, from society, from the worshiping community. It was a living death. That makes it so surprising when we get to chapter 14

Leviticus 14:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, 3 and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person,

Leviticus 14 gives instructions for the day of his cleansing, when he is healed. Wait, what? We skipped a chapter. How did the leper get healed? What did he do? What treatments did he undergo? What medication did he take? Last chapter he is kicked out of the community, forced to live alone, to wear the label and declare himself unclean to anyone who would come near. Now he is healed. Did I miss something? If you are the one being declared unclean, don’t you want to know what you have to do to get healed? Don’t tell me what kind of ceremony I go through after I get healed, I want to know how I get healed. Leviticus has no cure. Leviticus identifies the problem. There is in fact nothing proscribed for the leprous person to do. The only thing a leper can accomplish on his own is making everything he touches unclean. In this passage describing the ceremony for pronouncing the leper clean, he is not the doer. Things are being done to and for him. He shall be brought to the priest. The priest shall go out of the camp. Notice, the diseased person has been excluded from the community, and is not permitted to seek out the priest himself. He is not permitted to enter the camp. The priest must go out to him. Remember, we are Christians, looking for glimpses of Jesus in Leviticus, because it is all about Jesus! Jesus our great High Priest does not remain in glory waiting for us to make our way to him. He comes to us when we are outsiders.

The Ceremony

Leviticus 14:4 the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. 5 And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. 6 He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field.

This is one of the most elaborate rituals in the Old Testament. It has some similarities to Numbers 19, where we find rituals for cleansing those who have come in contact with a grave or a dead body. That ceremony also uses cedarwood, scarlet yarn, hyssop, and living water. This connection to another ritual that purifies from contact with death makes sense, because the diseased person who is declared unclean is living in a state of separation as if he were dead. Why these things?

Possibly cedarwood because it is durable and long lasting. King Solomon “spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall” (1 Ki.4:33) as a way to refer inclusively to all plants from the greatest to the least.

A scarlet cord marked out Rahab and her house for deliverance in the destruction of Jericho. Scarlet yarn was used extensively in the construction of the tabernacle, and the uniforms for the priests, so it would be a connection with the sanctuary.

Hyssop was a plant used in the Passover to paint blood on the doorposts of the Hebrew homes. It was used in the covenant making ceremony at the foot of Mt. Sinai to sprinkle the people with blood (Ex.24; cf. Heb.9:19). In David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51 he prays:

Psalms 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Hyssop was used as a sponge to extend the sour wine to Jesus on the cross (Jn.19:29).

Fresh water, literally living water was water that had not been stagnant. Jesus referred to himself as the source of living water (Jn.4:10-11, 7:38).

The earthenware vessel, or clay pot was an ordinary container, basically made out of dirt. 2 Corinthians 4:7 speaks of holding a treasure in jars of clay as a way to describe the dust to dust frailty of our human existence.

I find this ceremony a bit funny. It reminds me a bit of some of the things my brother did to me when I was younger. “hey Rodney, hold these two wires… Stand right here on this X and pull this string… Hold this while I light the fuse”. Something tells me this is not going to end well. So you take these two live birds, and some red string, and a piece of wood, and a plant, and a bucked of water. And you kill one of the birds over the bucket and don’t forget to hold on to the live bird. Have you ever killed a bird? That’s messy! But don’t let go of the live bird. Now dip all the stuff in the bloody water. Yes, the live bird too. It’ll be fine. Now use the plant to sprinkle blood all over the guy, but keep holding on to the live bird that you dipped in the blood. Now take the live bird, make sure it’s really wet and bloody and let it go…

But even in this strange ritual we can see a picture of Jesus. Living water in a clay pot. Two birds; one clearly representing death, the other possibly picturing resurrection? Blood applied to a diseased person to declare him whole. Remember, all this is done to for the leper, and to the leper. He is not doing anything. He is passive. At the end of this he is pronounced clean.

Washing and Shaving

After he is declared clean, the person being cleansed becomes more involved in the ceremony. Up to this point he could do nothing. Now that he is declared clean he becomes an active participant in the ceremony.

Leviticus 14:8 And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. 9 And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.

There is a seven day process that includes laundry, shaving and bathing, and returning to the camp, but not going home yet. Shaving is often a sign of mourning or humiliation. Have you ever seen someone who shaved – all their hair – even their eyebrows? This would be especially shocking in a culture that is not to trim the corners of your beard. A man who shaved his beard and every bit of hair off his body would look a little like a newborn baby. Could this be a picture of new life after death, a new birth of sorts? Jesus said ‘you must be born again.’

The Eighth Day

Leviticus 14:10 “And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil. 11 And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the LORD, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 12 And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. 13 And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.

The eighth day is a day is a day of new beginnings. The former leper is now welcomed back in the camp, but not yet into his own home. First he must come before the Lord. The former leper who was excluded from the community is now brought in before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. The first sacrifice is a guilt offering, which we learned from Leviticus 5 makes restitution for an unintentional sin against the holy things of the Lord. We were created to bear the image of God and declare his glory, but the leprous skin disease has distorted the image of God in him. He must offer first a guilt offering. But this guilt offering is unique.

Leviticus 14:14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 15 Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand 16 and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the LORD. 17 And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. 18 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed.

This is similar to the ordination offering for the priests, from which some of the blood was applied to different body parts to cleanse their ears from listening to lies and slander, to cleanse their hands from doing wrong, to cleanse their feet from walking away from the Lord. The former leper was then anointed with oil on these same body parts, to set apart his ears to hear the words of the Lord, to do what he commands, to walk in his ways. He was anointed with the oil of gladness, free again to enjoy God’s presence.

Leviticus 14:18 …Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD. 19 The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. 20 And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.

These are the regular offerings made in the tabernacle or temple. The final 12 verses repeat the eighth day ritual for a leper who cannot afford three lambs. He can substitute pigeons or doves for two of the lambs, but the guilt offering must still be a lamb. The former leper is now fully welcomed back into fellowship with God and with other members of the community. He now no longer carries the stigma of unclean. Atonement has been made and he is clean.

Jesus and Leprosy

Jesus’ interaction with a leper is recorded in Matthew 8, Mark 1 and Luke 5.

Luke 5:12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (cf. Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45)

Remember, the priests had the responsibility to inspect and determine if a person was clean or unclean. They had no power to heal. This leper, full of leprosy, knowing his desperate need, entered a city to find Jesus. He recognized in Jesus something more than the priests. Jesus could heal. Jesus touched this diseased man, and with a word he immediately healed him. A man full of leprosy was transformed instantly. And then Jesus commands him to go get Leviticus 14 done. Go show yourself to the priests make the offering for your cleansing as a proof to them. As a witness, as a testimony to the unbelieving priests. I can just imagine a priest coming back from this encounter. ‘Where have you been, and what happened to you?’ He’s completely splattered in blood, and has a bit of a stunned look on his face. ‘You know that Leviticus 14 thing? Oh, you mean with the birds and the string and the wood and the water? Yeah… Wait, that’s for cleansing a leper… Yeah…’ They may have never used Leviticus 14 before. What is this a testimony of? When John sent disciples to ask Jesus ‘are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’

Luke 7:22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Cleansing of lepers was a sign that God had come down and the messianic age was unfolding. The system that could merely identify problems without offering any cure was coming to an end. The one who could get to the root of the problem and heal was now on the scene. Jesus is both all-powerful and full of compassion. He is both able and willing to heal. If you will come to Jesus acknowledging that ‘in me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing’ (Romans 7:18)

If you will repent of your dead works and believe in Jesus (Heb.6:1), if you will fall on your face and beg him ‘Lord, only you can make me clean’, Jesus will stretch out his hand and touch you right where you are, as you are, in all your filth and uncleanness, and even today, based on his finished work, he will say ‘I will, be clean’.

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

September 6, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communion With the Spirit

11/15 Communion With The Spirit ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151115_communion-with-spirit.mp3

We are looking at the primary thing that sets Christianity apart from all other religions, and that is who God is. God in the Bible reveals himself as Father, Son and Spirit, three distinct someones; yet the Bible is just as clear that there is only one true God who eternally exists. Christians have coined the word ‘trinity’ or ‘tri-unity’ to summarize this biblical teaching.

1 John 1:3 tells us:

1 John 1:3 …and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

And the benediction of 2 Corinthians 13 prays that:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

We have looked at our fellowship with the person of the Father, the person of Jesus the Son, and today we will be looking at our particular communion or fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit, why is he called that, and what is our unique relationship with him?

Again, this will be a broad overview. Entire volumes have been written on this subject, so think of this as a kind of primer to stimulate you to do your own study as you enjoy your relationship with this third person of the triune God.

The Holy Spirit

Why is the third person of the triune God called the Holy Spirit? First, we must say that the name ‘Spirit’ does not refer to his essence. The Spirit is not spirit in contrast to the Father and Son, who are material beings. No, the Bible teaches that God in his essence is spiritual, he is not physical, not subject to the limitations and confines of matter. The name ‘Spirit’ applied to the third person refers not to his essence (because all three share the same spiritual essence), but to his relation to the Father and the Son. The word ‘Spirit’ comes from the term ‘spirare’ to breathe; we recognize the root in the words ‘aspirate’ or ‘respiration’. The Old Testament Hebrew word Ruach means breath or wind. The New Testament Greek word for Spirit is Pneuma, which also means breath or wind. Jesus symbolized this when in John 20 he breathed on his disciples and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’

John 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Just as we say that the Son is begotten or eternally generated by the Father, so the Spirit is eternally spirated or breathed out or proceeds from the Father and the Son. More on this later.

In a similar way, the Spirit is called Holy, not because he is holy and the Father and the Son are not (because God in his essence is perfectly holy), but the Spirit is called Holy because his person is particularly responsible for producing holiness in us. Again, more on that later.

A Distinct Divine Person

In the Bible, the Spirit is called the Spirit of God (Gen.1:2; Mt.3:16), the Spirit of the Father (Mt.10:20), the Spirit of Christ (Rom.8:9, Gal.4:6; Phil.1:19), and the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7). Why do we believe that he is his own distinct person and not merely the spirit of another person?

There are several passages where the Holy Spirit is listed alongside the Father and the Son in a way that would be awkward and misleading if they were not three distinct but equal persons. We already looked at the benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14, which lists the Lord Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. Look also at the baptismal formula Jesus gives us in Matthew 28.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

This is one singular name, yet it is the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We can illustrate how significant this is by trying to insert something else in the place of one of the three. ‘Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the archangel Michael and of the Holy Spirit’, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach. Or ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the force or the power of God’. No, an angel or an impersonal force would be entirely out of place in this threefold name. The Holy Spirit is just as personally distinct and fully divine as are the Father and the Son. We see the same think at Jesus’ baptism, where the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, and a voice came from heaven addressing Jesus as ‘my beloved Son’.

Luke 3:21 …when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

In Luke 4, we see Jesus full of the Holy Spirit, and in verse 14

Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee..

If the Spirit is merely the impersonal power of God, this statement is redundant. He is not saying that Jesus returned in the power of the power.

When Ananias and Sapphira lied to the apostles about their giving, Peter confronted them.

Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit … 4 …You have not lied to man but to God.” …9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? …

The Holy Spirit is a person who can be lied to, and to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God. The Holy Spirit is God. Throughout the book of Acts we see the Spirit active in the daily life of the believers. In Acts 13,

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

…4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

The Holy Spirit responds to the worship of the Lord, and gives direction. He speaks, and he refers to himself as ‘me’ and ‘I’. He calls. He sends. He is a person.

John 14-16; The Spirit Sent

When we look at what Jesus says in John 14-16, we begin to see his relationship with the Holy Spirit.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Here we see Jesus asking his Father to send the Helper, the Comforter or Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls him another Helper. Jesus is about to leave his disciples. But he promises another Comforter, another of the same kind as himself. Jesus tells his followers that they know the Holy Spirit because he dwells with them. He will dwell in them.

John 14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Jesus has taught his followers the words his Father gave him to teach. The Father sent Jesus, and the Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name. The Spirit will bring Jesus’ words to remembrance. And the Holy Spirit will teach you all things. As Jesus was a teacher, so the Spirit will be a teacher.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

When we get to chapter 15, we see something different. Where in chapter 14, Jesus asked his Father to send the Spirit, Here in chapter 15 Jesus says ‘I will send the Spirit to you from the Father’. The Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Spirit is sent by both Jesus and his Father. The Spirit is here called the Spirit of truth, and he will testify or bear witness about Jesus.

In John 16 Jesus says:

John 16:5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Jesus again claims that he will send the Spirit to his followers. But they are filled with sorrow because Jesus is leaving them. Most followers of Jesus would trade anything to have the physical presence of their Lord Jesus with them. But Jesus says ‘it is to your advantage that I go away’. It is better, it is more profitable, it is preferable that Jesus go away. It is to your advantage. How can this be? The way Jesus would go away is to die on the cross as a substitute for our sins. As a result of his finished work for us, he would send the Spirit into his followers, not just to be with them, but to be in them. It was prophesied of Jesus that he would baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit (Jn.1:33). Listen to how Jesus describes the work of the Spirit.

John 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

The Spirit will convict the world. Jesus taught the multitudes, but very few believed in him. There will be an inward work of the Spirit that far surpasses even the preaching of Jesus himself. In the book of Acts, after the Spirit had come, Peter preached to the crowds, and ‘they were cut to the heart’ (Acts 2:37). They responded ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ and about three thousand received his word and were added to the church.

Jesus goes on:

John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit will guide the apostles into all the truth. Just as Jesus claimed to speak not on his own authority, but only what the Father told him to speak, so he says the Spirit will not speak on his own authority, but only what he hears. He will declare things that are to come. He will glorify Jesus, by taking what belongs to Jesus and declaring it to you.

So we learn from John 14-16 that the Spirit is a Comforter or Advocate, he will dwell in believers forever. He is the Spirit of truth, who will teach us all things, remind us of what Jesus taught, and guide us into truth. He will bring inward conviction to the world. He will bear witness to Jesus and glorify Jesus.

Communion With the Spirit

What else does the bible tell us about our particular relationship with the Holy Spirit?

We are invited to ask for the Holy Spirit.

Luke 11:13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The Spirit is given to us freely.

John 3:34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

The Spirit is poured out on us richly.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

The Spirit sanctifies or sets us apart to belong to God.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

1 Peter 1:1 …elect … 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

The Spirit gives life

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” … 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

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

2 Corinthians 3:6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The Spirit seals every believer in Jesus as his own.

2 Corinthians 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Spirit communicates God’s love to us

Romans 5:5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8 is packed with precious truth about the Spirit. The Spirit brings life and freedom.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

Believers walk according to the Spirit, live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit, and life in the Spirit brings about life and peace.

The Spirit dwells in every believer.

Romans 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

By the Spirit we are able to put to death the deeds of the body.

Romans 8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

We are led by the Spirit.

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

We have received the Spirit of adoption as sons. The Spirit bears witness that we are children of God. God’s glory is about to be revealed in us!

Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We have the firstfruits of the Spirit. We have a deep inward longing for the consummation of our adoption, when our bodies are redeemed.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

The Spirit helps us to pray. The Spirit himself prays for us.

The Spirit illumines God’s truth to us.

1 Corinthians 2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

The Spirit gives gifts to the church.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

The Spirit produces fruit in our lives and makes us holy.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Resisting, Quenching and Grieving

Although as believers the Holy Spirit will never leave us, there are some clear warnings against thwarting his work in our lives. Acts 7 is actually addressed to unbelievers.

Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Unbelievers resist the Holy Spirit by not taking to heart the Spirit breathed words of Scripture.

1 Thessalonians is addressed to believers.

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

We can quench the Spirit by despising his truth. With that there is a warning to test the spirits to see if they are from God.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30 comes in the context of corrupting talk and bitterness among believers. These things grieve the Holy Spirit.

Worshiping the Spirit

Should we direct our worship toward the Holy Spirit? Is it appropriate to pray to the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is fully God, and therefore worthy of our worship and adoration. He is no less God than the Father or the Son, and no less worthy of honor and praise. We ought to recognize his unique work in us and thank him for it. We should take to heart warning from Jesus that we not blaspheme or speak against the Holy Spirit (Mt.12:31-32). This would imply that we are to honor the Holy Spirit just as we honor Christ. However, we should also take caution from the fact that nowhere in Scripture do we see worship clearly directed toward the Spirit. This is likely because the role of the Spirit is to bring us to Christ and to glorify Christ.

Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

We worship by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God sets us apart and makes us new and regenerates us and awakens in us a heart to worship God. We most honor the Spirit by responding to his conviction, by believing in Jesus, by putting to death the deeds of the flesh and walking with him in the freedom of righteousness that Jesus has purchased for us, by following his desire to draw attention to Jesus and glorify Jesus.

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

November 15, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:1-3; Belief and the Spirit

08/24 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 Belief and the Spirit Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140824_1cor12_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

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

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

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

Now Concerning

In chapter 12, Paul signals with the words ‘now concerning’, that he is moving on to address another topic that the Corinthians had asked him about in a letter. Back in chapter 7, he said:

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

There he addressed abstinence, celibacy, and marriage; in 7:25 he said ‘now concerning virgins’; in 8:1 ‘now concerning things offered to idols’; here in 12:1 ‘now concerning the spirituals’; in16:1 ‘now concerning the collection for the saints’; and in 16:12 ‘now concerning Apollos’. These are issues about which the church had written asking specific questions, to which the Apostle responds. Paul moves back and forth in this letter between issues that they had raised by the Corinthians in their letter to him, and reports which had come to him from others. We do not know exactly what the questions were, but we have the benefit of Apostolic teaching on the issues.

The Spiritual Ones

To understand what the question was, we have to look at what Paul wrote to answer their question. He introduces this section with a somewhat ambiguous phrase ‘now concerning the spirituals’ [τῶν πνευματικῶν]. This adjective built on the noun [πνεῦμα] ‘spirit’ could mean ‘the spiritual things’ or it could mean ‘the spiritual people’. And in the context it is used both ways. In verse 4 he mentions [χαρισμάτων], the usual word for spiritual gifts, literally ‘grace-gifts’, built on the word [χάρις] ‘grace’. In verse 3 he refers twice to what is spoken ‘in the Spirit’. In verse 7 he talks about the various manifestations of the Spirit that are given. In 14:1, he exhorts them to be zealous for the [πνευματικά], especially to prophesy. So ‘the spiritual things’ or manifestations of the Holy Spirit, grace-gifts, fits the context. But in 14:37, where he is concluding this section on [πνευματικῶν], he refers to anyone who thinks he is spiritual, clearly referring to a spiritual person. Back at the end of chapter 2 he contrasts the natural person with the spiritual person, and in 3:1, he laments that he cannot address the Corinthians as spiritual, but as fleshly, mere infants in Christ.

We know that pride and self-seeking were major issues in Corinth, a desire to impress others and be thought well of, to seek to advance one’s own status and standing in the community. There were divisions between rich and poor, wise and foolish, strong and weak, There was a severe vacuum of love, a lack of care and concern for the good of the other that repeatedly surfaces in Paul’s instructions to this church.

In these chapters, Paul addresses the diversity of the gifts given by the one Spirit, the mutual need of the different members for one another, the worthlessness of all the gifts without love, the essential purpose of the gifts to build up the church, and the priority of gifts that build up the church over gifts that build up the individual.

So we could re-create the Corinthian questions something like this: What is the measure of true spirituality? Some thought they were spiritual because they manifested more obviously supernatural gifts like speaking in tongues. They may have looked down on those who did not have such outwardly supernatural gifts as if they had not attained the same height of spirituality. Those without the showy gifts began to feel second rate and useless, unimportant appendages who did not have anything to offer, who simply didn’t belong. Those who didn’t possess these showy gifts may have even questioned the validity of those supposedly supernatural manifestations of the Spirit that were flaunted by some in their congregation. What about those so-called gifts? How are they to be used? Who are the truly spiritual ones?

Outline and Structure

Paul speaks to these issues with skill and pastoral wisdom. He addresses them as brothers, a term of affection, and he lays some theological groundwork before he confronts the abuses and improprieties in the way they treat one another. This is very similar to how he addressed the issue of idolatry back in chapters 8-10. He began in chapter 8 by clarifying the underlying theology that was foundational to the issue. Then in what seems at first glance to be a digression to another topic in chapter 9, he illustrates the principle of foregoing ones own rights out of service to others for their good. Then in chapter 10, he comes back to the issue with some very clear and direct commands that he expects them to understand and obey.

Here in chapters 12-14, Paul’s tactic is similar. In chapter 12, he lays some theological groundwork for the issue. In chapter 13, the love chapter, which many see as an out of place insertion in the middle of a discussion on spiritual gifts, he holds up the fruit of the Spirit as more essential to the Christian life than any particular manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. Then in chapter 14, he comes back to the issue of spiritual gifts with some very direct commands on how we should conduct ourselves and treat one another relating to spiritual gifts in the church of God.

Let’s look at this introductory section together:

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Paul appeals to their desire for knowledge. He does not want them to be uninformed. He says ‘I want you to understand’. And he refers to their previous life of ignorance in idolatry. You recall, when you were pagans, before you heard the gospel and believed, you were led astray to unspeaking idols.

Idolatry

Idolatry was a significant part of life before Christ, and continued to be a struggle in first century Corinth, as is evidenced by chapters 8-10. Idolatry is centering one’s life around anything or anyone other than God. Sports or leisure or power or status or wealth or things or recreation or relationships, anything other than God that becomes the focal point of life is an idol. And idols cannot deliver on what they promise. Money cannot buy happiness. Things break. Experiences leave us longing for more. Relationships cannot bear up under the weight of expectations and ultimately disappoint.

The prophets of the Old Testament have much to say about the idiocy of idolatry.

Habakkuk 2:18 “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! 19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise!Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it 20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

The foolishness of idolatry is glaring. Our Creator God invites us to find our satisfaction in him alone, and we turn from him and go searching for pleasure under every rock and tree and hole in the ground. Romans describes the rebellious sinful idolatry of all humankind this way:

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 creeping things.

We all tend toward idolatry in our hearts. Our desires lead us astray. We trade in the glory of knowing the immortal God for fleeting glimpses of his reflection in his creation.

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; …

However we were led, we were all led astray.

Jesus is Lord

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, in relation to your question of what is spiritual, I do not want you to be uninformed; I want you to understand. No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed”. Jesus spoke of the Spirit’s coming in John 15 and 16.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 16:14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit of God will always bear witness about Jesus and bring glory to Jesus. No one who is spiritual would ever speak evil about Jesus. This would be unthinkable for any follower of Jesus to say.

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.

No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Notice that the apostle uses the language of inability. No one is able, no one can.

When Peter made his confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said:

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you. The confession of the identity of Jesus as God is not of human origin. The recognition of Jesus for who he is is a supernatural revelation from the Father through his Holy Spirit.

This was clearly Paul’s own experience, as he was ‘still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’ (Acts 9:1) when Jesus interrupted him on the road to Damascus.

Paul pointed this direction earlier in this letter when he:

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. …4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

He goes on to say that the rulers of this age did not understand the gospel,

1 Corinthians 2:8 … for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

The good news of what God has prepared for those who love him, the gospel of the crucifixion of the Lord of glory for us and for our salvation, these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

We have received the Spirit of God so that we might understand the God’s gracious good news. Without God’s Spirit we could not understand the gospel. This is what he goes on to say in the next verses.

1 Corinthians 2:13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

The natural person, the person who has not experienced the work of the Holy Spirit supernaturally revealing that Jesus Christ crucified is good news for us, this person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. He rejects the gospel because it is foolishness to him. He thinks it stupid. He is not able to understand the gospel, because the good news is spiritually discerned. The spiritual person who understands is only spiritual because the Holy Spirit is at work in him revealing Christ and the beauty of the gospel to him.

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul points to the blindness of unbelievers.

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

They are blind and cannot see the light of the good news of the glory of Christ. Only a sovereign omnipotent God can overcome this spiritual blindness and create light in the midst of darkness.

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

God is the one who gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He shines in our hearts and opens our blind eyes so that we can see the truth and beauty of the gospel.

Paul says here in 1 Corinthians 12 that:

12:3 …no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Of course this does not mean that no unbeliever can mouth those words. Mockers can mouth the words. Hypocrites can mouth the words. Pretenders can mouth the words ‘Jesus is Lord’. Jesus himself warned of this.

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

It is possible to call Jesus Lord out of a heart of unbelief in him, seeking to do things for him to earn his favor, refusing to depend on him alone for what he has done for us. Amazingly, in this passage, those who were not known by Jesus are not only calling Jesus Lord, but they are manifesting some of the same spiritual gifts that the Corinthians thought marked them out as spiritual. Even these apparently spiritual acts could be bad fruit from an unbelieving root.

It is not merely vocalizing the syllables, as if they were some kind of magical incantation, that has any effect. Romans 10:9 says:

Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

This confession that Jesus is Lord is evidence of a Spirit wrought transformation of my hard heart. When I say ‘Jesus is Lord’, I am owning him as the one to whom I pledge my allegiance, the one to whom I owe all my devotion, the one to whom I will ultimately answer. He is the one under whose authority I now gladly bow. He is my Lord, he is my King, my only Master, and I would have it no other way. I have been given new affections, new desires, desires to obey and submit to Jesus, affections for Jesus, longings to please him, hunger to worship him, eagerness to gather with his people, to walk with him, to know him. I cannot genuinely celebrate the Lordship of Jesus without the transforming life creating work of the Spirit. Belief, the basic confession of Jesus as Lord, is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work in my heart.

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion:

Do you see what Paul has done here? The Corinthians are asking about grace-gifts and wanting to know who are the truly spiritual ones. He has leveled the playing field. There are no more spiritual or less spiritual believers. Every believer is spiritual, because belief is the work of the Holy Spirit. No spiritually blind spiritually dead person can truly say ‘Jesus is Lord’. The Holy Spirit creates life in a dead heart and opens blind eyes so that a sinner can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and believe in him. This saving faith, believing in Jesus as Lord, is evidence of Holy Spirit transformation, evidence of true spirituality.

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

August 24, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Natural Inability and Spirit Transformation

05/05 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 Natural Inability and Spirit Transformation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130505_1cor2_14-16.mp

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

14 Ψυχικὸς δὲ ἄνθρωπος οὐ δέχεται τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ θεοῦ, μωρία γὰρ αὐτῷ ἐστίν, καὶ οὐ δύναται γνῶναι, ὅτι πνευματικῶς ἀνακρίνεται· 15 ὁ δὲ πνευματικὸς ἀνακρίνει τὰ πάντα, αὐτὸς δὲ ὑπ’ οὐδενὸς ἀνακρίνεται. 16 τίς γὰρ ἔγνω νοῦν κυρίου, ὃς συμβιβάσει αὐτόν; ἡμεῖς δὲ νοῦν Χριστοῦ ἔχομεν.

1Cor 2 [ESV2011]

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

We will focus our attention on verses 14-16. An overview of Paul’s flow of logic will help us see where we are in this passage

1:10-13 The Corinthians are dividing and quarreling, boasting in seemingly wise and popular human leaders; this is not in line with the gospel

1:13-17 The gospel is the message of the cross, of Christ crucified

1:18 This message divides all mankind absolutely into only two categories; us who are being saved and those who are perishing.

1:19-25 God has destroyed the wisdom of the wise; The wise, powerful, noble of this age have rejected the gospel as foolishness

1:26-31 God chose to save those who are foolish, weak, low, despised, the nothings so that no one would boast in his presence

2:1-5 The messenger fit the message, coming in weakness, fear, and much trembling with the simple message of Christ crucified to allow for a demonstration of the power of the Spirit

2:6-9 The cross is God’s hidden wisdom, and the rulers of this age didn’t understand it

2:10 God has revealed the hidden wisdom of the cross to us through the Spirit.

2:11-13 Only God’s Spirit can comprehend and communicate God’s hidden thoughts

2:14-16 The person without the Spirit is both unwilling and unable to receive the gospel; the person who has received God’s Spirit is enabled to understand the gospel and be transformed by it.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Natural / Spiritual

The natural person is here contrasted with the spiritual person. The natural person (literally the soulish person; ψυχικός) is the person without the Spirit of God. The spiritual person is the person who has the Spirit of God. Throughout this passage Paul has dismantled the categories of the Corinthians, who wanted to be exalted, to be thought wise, sophisticated, popular. Paul appealed to them “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… that there be no divisions among you” (1:10). He made it clear that the cross of our Lord Jesus divides all people into two categories; those who are perishing and us who are being saved. On the one side are the wise, the scribe, the debater of this age, the powerful, the noble, the rulers of this age who are being brought to nothing, whom he here categorizes as ‘natural’ or ‘soulish’. On the other side, there are those who believe, those who are called, the foolish, the weak, the low and despised in the world, the nothings, those to whom the message of Christ crucified is God’s power, those who are mature or perfect or complete in Christ, those who love him, those to whom God has revealed the wisdom of the gospel through his Spirit, those who have received the Spirit, whom he categorizes as ‘spiritual’ (πνευματικῶς).

We often use this term spiritual to refer to those who have achieved a higher level of spirituality, or those who are self-righteous and holier-than-thou. This idea of a spiritual elite who have advanced beyond the ordinary Christian flies in the face of everything Paul has said so far. Paul does not use the term this way. There are only two categories, those who have received God’s Spirit, and those who have not. So the ‘spiritual’ in this passage refers to all believers; those who have received God’s Spirit, as opposed to the ‘natural person’ those who do not have God’s Spirit.

The Natural Person Not Willing to Accept (2:14a)

Paul tells us that the natural person, the person without the Spirit of God, does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. The things of the Spirit of God, in the context are the things freely given us by God (2:12); the things God has revealed to us through the Spirit (2:10); what God has prepared for those who love him (2:9); the secret and hidden wisdom of God (2:7); the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified (2:2). This is the only message Paul preached. Christ crucified was scandalous, offensive and foolish to Jews and Greeks, but to the called, to those who believe, this same message of the cross became the power and wisdom of God. This is the message that the natural person does not accept. They will not accept it. And Paul gives us the reason the natural man does not accept the message of the cross; ‘for’, or because, they are foolishness to him. This is what he has been saying all along. “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1:18). To the person without God’s Spirit, the cross makes no sense, and who believes something that makes no sense? Only a fool believes something that is silly or absurd, so the natural person not only refuses to believe, but concludes that those who do believe are fools. Paul will address this conclusion in a moment.

The Natural Person Not Able to Understand (2:14b)

But first he goes on. He adds ‘and he is not able to understand’. The person without the Spirit of God is not able to understand the gospel. This flows logically out of what he said back in verse 12; “We have received …the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God”. Without God’s Spirit we are unable to understand the cross. Many people react against this, because it doesn’t sound fair to us. If a person is not able to believe the gospel and so they are perishing, (which is what this text says) then how can God hold them accountable for something that is outside their ability? That seems unreasonable. It will help if we can see that there are different kinds of inability. There is what we could call neutral inability, and what we could call guilty inability. An illustration might help us understand. I am not able to fly. I cannot fly because I was not designed to be able to fly. I don’t have wings. If God demanded that I fly, which is contrary to the way he designed me, then this would be unreasonable. It is not my fault that I don’t have wings. Now let me describe a different kind of inability, guilty inability. A drunk driver was unable to keep his car under control. He swerved into an oncoming vehicle and killed everyone in that car. He was incapable of keeping his car under control, (that is why he should not have been behind the wheel); his inability was entirely his own fault, and we would all agree that he should be held accountable for his inability. That is guilty inability. This is the kind of inability that the bible declares that all of us have. We ‘by our unrighteousness suppress the truth… we did not honor God as God or give thanks to him, but became futile in our thinking and and our foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, we became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images… we exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator… we did not see fit to acknowledge God’ (Rom.1:18-28). We, ‘who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds’ (Col.1:21). We ‘were dead (totally incapable of responding to the gospel) in our trespasses and sins, in which we once walked’ (Eph.2:1-2). We, who were created to worship God, became drunk with our own self-centeredness. We were given wings, we were designed to know God and enjoy fellowship with God, but we bent those wings to an evil purpose, and we are guilty for our resulting inability to fly. The natural person is not able to understand the good news, because it is spiritually appraised. Only when we receive the Spirit of God can we perceive the cross as God’s power and God’s wisdom for our salvation.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

The Spiritual One Judges All (2:15)

The spiritual person, one who has received the Spirit of God, judges all things, but he is himself to be judged by no one. The same word that is translated ‘judge’ twice in verse 15 is translated ‘discern’ at the end of verse 14. This word shows up in Luke and Acts in the context of a trial to examine the evidence. It means to scrutinize, investigate, interrogate, to examine with a view to either approve or condemn. The things of the Spirit are spiritually judged; the person with the Spirit judges all, but is himself judged by none. The person without the Spirit is not equipped to rightly evaluate the gospel. The person with the Spirit is able to rightly evaluate all. Paul, someone who has the Spirit, condemns the rulers of this age for their guilty ignorance and unbelief. But when someone who does not have the Spirit concludes that a believer in Jesus is a fool, his evaluation is not valid, because he is not qualified to pass judgment on spiritual issues.

This verse has often been ripped out of context and abused to mean something it was never intended to mean. Spiritually arrogant people who think they have attained to greater spirituality than the rest of us quote this verse to show that the spiritual insight they have attained is revealed to them by the Spirit and we don’t understand it because we are not spiritual enough. If you agree with them, they consider you ‘spiritual’; if you disagree, you are not. If you try to evaluate or critique their insight, they might appeal to verse 15 and claim that they are exempt from being judged by anyone. From what we have seen so far, it is clear that this is a gross distortion of what this passage was intended to mean.

In many places we are encouraged to humble ourselves, to submit to one another, in love to gently rebuke one another and hold one another accountable, to test every truth claim and reject anything that does not align with scripture, to contend earnestly for the gospel, to be teachable, to receive correction and learn from it. Often we will even find ourselves rebuked and challenged and convicted by unbelievers.

Isaiah 40:13 (2:16a)

Paul supports his assertions that the person without the Spirit will not receive and can not understand the gospel with a quotation from Isaiah 40:13.

1 Corinthians 2:16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

Only the Spirit searches the depths of God; only the Spirit of God comprehends the thoughts of God. Isaiah 40 is a passage that declares the incomparable unfathomable greatness of our God.

Isaiah 40:13 Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel? 14 Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?

The assumed answer to all the rhetorical questions in Isaiah 40 is ‘no one’. No one is like God. No one compares to him. His understanding in unsearchable. That makes Paul’s concluding statement in 1 Corinthians all the more shocking. He answers Isaiah’s rhetorical question this way:

1 Corinthians 2:16 Who has understood the mind of the Lord…? …But we have the mind of Christ.

The Mind of Christ (2:16b)

Who has understood the mind of the Lord? The Spirit searches the depths of God. We have received the Spirit that we might understand the things freely given us by God. We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God. We preach Christ crucified. We have the mind of Christ. All believers who are indwelt with the Spirit of God have the mind of Christ. This is not a privilege for the elite few. This is the common possession of all believers. What is the mind of Christ? Philippians 2 spells it out.

Philippians 2:2 …being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

We who are indwelt with the Spirit of God have the mind of Christ. What is the mind of Christ? It is not divisive privileged elite secret wisdom. It is not merely an understanding of the cross. It is being shaped by the cross. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. God from all eternity emptied himself, humiliated himself, became man, was executed as a common criminal, putting our interests above his own, demonstrated the epitome of love, totally devoid of selfish ambition or conceit.

If we have the Spirit of God, if we have understood the mind of the Lord, if we have the mind of Christ, then we will be characterized by a deep sense of humility. We will live in humble prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God. Selfish ambition, pride, conceit must die. Self-centeredness must die. We will be others centered, characterized by a humble willingness to lay our own ambitions down for the good of others. We will be characterized by love; a rugged relentless self-sacrificial pursuit of the good of others. We will live for others, and we will lay down our lives for others. Our lives, our hearts, our attitudes, our actions will begin to be shaped by the cross. We have the mind of Christ!

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

May 5, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resurrection Sunday – Colossians – Raised With Him

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110424_resurrection-sunday.mp3 

04/24 Resurrection Sunday

Today is Resurrection Sunday. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Anticipating his death, Jesus said:

John 12:23 … “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Fruit of the Resurrection

Jesus’ death bears much fruit. Jesus died alone, forsaken by his Father, with the weight of the sins of the world on his shoulders. But Jesus did not stay dead. He sprang back to life, and like his illustration of the seed, his life that bursts up out of the grave is not alone. He bears much fruit. Jesus death and resurrection has massive implications for us.

Today I want to look at some of the fruit of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us today. We will spend most of our time in the New Testament letter to the Colossians. In it, Paul says:

Colossians 1:18 [Jesus is]…the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

Colossians 2:12 …you were also raised with [Christ] through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead …God made alive together with him,

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ

And he draws practical implications of Christ’s death and resurrection and ours. I want to spend some time this resurrection morning examining the implications of the resurrection for us today

Jesus the Firstborn from the dead

In this passage in Colossians, Paul gives Jesus the title ‘The Firstborn from the Dead.” He receives this title also in Revelation 1:5. What does this mean? Jesus was not the first person ever resurrected; Elijah raised the son of the widow of Zarepha (1Ki.17:22); Elisha raised a Shunammite woman’s son (2Ki.4:35); Jesus interrupted several funerals; he raised the widow of Nain’s only son (Lk7:14); Jairus’ daughter (Mk.5:41; Lk.8:54); and his dear friend Lazarus (Jn.11:43). At Jesus’ crucifixion, Matthew tells us:

Matthew 27:52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Jesus was not the first in time to rise from the dead. So what does it mean to say that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead? It will help to understand what is meant by the word ‘firstborn’. The position of the firstborn was that of priority and privilege. Several times in the Old Testament, we see the rights and privileges of the firstborn going to a son who was not physically born first, or even to an adopted son who was not physically born into those rights. ‘Firstborn’ implies priority and sovereignty (Wuest, p.183). Jesus has first place among those who rise from the dead. Jesus has authority over all who rise from the dead.

The Preeminence of Jesus

This whole passage is pointing to Jesus as the one who holds first place in everything. Back in verse 15, this same word ‘firstborn’ is used, where it describes Jesus, who is the very image of the invisible God, who possesses sovereign authority and priority over all creation. Verse 16 gives the ground of his sovereign rights in that he is the creator – everything was created by him and for him – everything that exists in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible, including every authority that exists – they exist because he caused them to exist, and they exist to serve him. Jesus is the firstborn in sovereignty. Verse 17 continues by showing that he is the firstborn in priority – he is before all things. Jesus is eternal. He holds everything together. Hebrews describes Jesus as the one who ‘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’ (1:3). Verse 18 points to Jesus as the head or authority over the church. Jesus is the beginning, the active cause, the architect, he has first place. He has sovereign priority over all who come out of death. He holds first place in everything. His rule and authority is comprehensive. He reigns supreme over everything created and over everything re-created. He is the creator and the regenerator. He is the cause of creation, and he is the cause of the new creation. He gave life to all things, and he gives new life to the dead. In everything Jesus is preeminent. Everything really is all about Jesus!

Verse 19 continues the thought in describing how he gave new life to his body the church. In Jesus, God’s fullness was pleased to dwell, and the blood of his cross made peace and reconciled all things to his Father. Jesus, fully God and fully man, offered an infinite and perfect sacrifice, fully satisfying justice and making peace between God and sinful man.

Diagnosing our Condition

Verse 21 goes on to describe us, for whom the blood of Christ was necessary to purchase peace. It says we were alienated or estranged, we had severed our fellowship with God. It says we were hostile, hateful, or opposed to God in our mind. We were not on God’s side, and we didn’t want to be. Our wills were bent against God. Broken fellowship and determined opposition to God find expression in works that are evil. Down in chapter 2 verse 13, he expands on our condition that made the death of Christ necessary. He says we were dead. We were dead in trespasses – deviations from the right path. Our flesh was uncircumcised, which means that the things that displease God had not yet been cut away and destroyed. Verse 14 tells us that there was a record of debt that stood against us, and attached to that debt were legal demands. We had violated God’s honor and were under the hopeless legal obligation to repay the debt.

Now isn’t this a bit over the top, the way he describes our condition? Isn’t he exaggerating, or maybe describing a worst case scenario? Surely it would not be a fair description of most of us to say that we were hostile to God in our minds and bent on doing evil. But in raising the question we demonstrate the truth of it. I am saying that my estimation of my condition is more accurate than God’s. I am saying that my failure to honor God and give him thanks as he deserves is really not that big a deal. In saying that, I undermine the worth of God and exalt my own opinion. My failure to love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength is an understandable failure to meet an unrealistic demand that is too high and too hard and surely I shouldn’t be held to it. After all, nobody does that perfectly, and I probably do it better than a lot of people. So I compare myself with others and am self-righteous in my own eyes and disagree with God’s assessment of my condition. God says I am dead.

Only the dead get resurrected

Friends, we need to embrace God’s diagnosis of our condition. We need to see that as part of the good news. Here’s why God saying I am dead in my sins is good news. Only the dead get resurrected! You don’t start CPR on someone who has a pulse and is still breathing. They don’t bring out the paddles to shock your heart until you’ve flatlined. This is a passage about resurrection and the cure for our condition. If we disagree with the Great Physician over his diagnosis, we won’t want to undergo his prescribed cure. Listen to the passage:

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Yes, we stand condemned under God’s righteous law with the record of debt that stands against us. And that record of our debt Jesus carried to the cross and he paid our debt in full. Our debt was nailed to his cross! God forgave all our trespasses. Yes, we were dead, and God made us alive together with Christ! Yes, we were hostile toward God and he made peace by the blood of his cross. Yes, our actions were evil because our wills were bent against God, and he has now reconciled us to God in his body of flesh by his death. The good news is only good to those who own God’s diagnosis of their problem. Only the dead get resurrected.

Two Kinds of Dead

Here we need to note that there are two different kinds of dead that this passage talks about. Verse 13 talks about being spiritually dead, dead in sins, being under condemnation, being guilty, and being forgiven and made alive as a result of the finished work of Christ on the cross, where God’s legal demands were satisfied, our debt was canceled, and we were given spiritual life. This is fits the biblical teaching of justification – being exonerated of guilt, and regeneration or new birth.

If we move back to verses 11-12, we see a different kind of dead and a different kind of resurrection.

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

In these verses, the death is a putting off, a circumcision of the body of the flesh, a burial with him in baptism, and a resurrection in the powerful working of God. Here, death is a process. This is mortification, putting to death the flesh, or sanctification, the process of being made holy. Paul goes into more detail on this subject in Romans. This is how Paul argues in Romans 6 against those who have been justified by faith continuing to embrace sin as a legitimate lifestyle.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Jesus died as a substitute, bearing our penalty and purchasing our forgiveness. We were spiritually dead and have been given life. That is justification and regeneration. We are now addressing what that new life should look like, and that is based on the other kind of death – not only did Jesus die for us, but we died with him. Our old self, our old way of life was crucified with Christ. That is the basis for our practical day to day battle with and victory over sin. He continues:

Romans 6:7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Hear the continuing action words: you must consider yourselves dead to sin; let not sin reign in your mortal bodies; do not present your members to sin. Those are fighting words. The basis for this fight is my death and resurrection with Christ. The power to live the Christian life is resurrection power. ‘Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom.6:4)

When Paul prays for the saints in Ephesus, he asks:

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

Part of our blood bought inheritance is the ‘immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.’ The power to ‘walk in newness of life’ comes because:

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

The resurrected life is the crucified life. In Colossians chapter 3, we are given details of what the resurrected life should look like, and practical instruction on how to live it.

3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The assumption is that those who claim to be believers have not only been justified and regenerated or born again, that the death and resurrection of Jesus have been applied to us, but also that we have been crucified with Christ and have been raised to a new kind of life.

That new life is described by what it should and shouldn’t look like. It shouldn’t look like sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. It shouldn’t look like anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying.

It should look like compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other as we have been forgiven. It should look like love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. It should look like the peace of Christ ruling in your hearts. It should be characterized by thankfulness, by joyful gratitude, all for the glory of our Lord Jesus.

What are the practical instructions on how to live the resurrection life? Seek the things that are above; set your mind on things that are above. Put to death what is earthly in you. Put them all away. Put off the old self with its practices. Put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Put on the fruits of the Spirit. Put on love. With a conscious choice, by an act of the will, based on the crucifixion and empowered with resurrection power, put off and put on. Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus with overwhelming thankfulness to him who loved you and died for you.

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

April 24, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 7:1-7; See, I Have Made You God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101010_exodus07_1-7.mp3

10/10 Exodus 7:1-7 God to Pharaoh

Introduction

We are at the climax of the exodus story. God is about to unleash his mighty acts of judgment against the gods of Egypt. And just before this most intense action sequence unfolds, we have a genealogy outlining who Aaron was, where he came from, and where his descendants were going. He was from the tribe of Levi, the tribe who would serve as priests of God, and his grandson Phinehas would be zealous for the honor of the Lord and take action when others were standing idly by.

6:26 These are the Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said: “Bring out the people of Israel from the land of Egypt by their hosts.” 27 It was they who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing out the people of Israel from Egypt, this Moses and this Aaron. 28 On the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, 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?”

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.

See I have made you God to Pharaoh

Moses is sniveling again, questioning God, complaining that the plan won’t work, that he is inadequate for the task. So far he’s been a failure. God’s own people won’t even listen to him. Pharaoh will have no reason to pay any attention to what he says. Moses confesses that he is morally unqualified to speak God’s words. This is when God announces: ‘look, I have made you God to Pharaoh’. This is an amazing declaration. You have asked ‘who am I that I should go?’ You feel inadequate and incompetent and unqualified? God says ‘I will grant you to be God to Pharaoh’. Our translators have softened this by inserting the word ‘like’. But there is no ‘like’ or ‘as’ in the original. Our translators are afraid we might run with a passage like this and use it to argue that men can become gods.

Only One God

The bible is clear as can be that there is only one God, one uncreated Creator, independent and sovereign over all that is.

Deuteronomy 4:35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. …39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Isaiah 45:18 For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Isaiah 45:21 …And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. 22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

Isaiah 46:9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Ephesians 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

These are just a few of the very clear statements in scripture plainly stating that there is only one God. The bible is monotheistic from cover to cover. There is and can be only one supreme being. Then what do we do with a passage like this, where God says ‘I will make you God to Pharaoh’? Certainly we can’t make the leap to say that Moses suddenly became an eternal sinless independent supreme being. That is nonsense. To understand this passage correctly we need to put it in the context of the whole bible. We need to look backward and forward.

God’s Purpose in Creation

We need to look all the way back to God’s purpose in creation.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Man is unique in creation. Of no other created being is it said that they were created in his image and likeness. We were created to be a reflection of the invisible God, to put the unseen creator on display to his creation. Man was created in the God-like image of ruling – having dominion over every other created thing. We are designed to display God’s character and nature to the rest of creation.

Psalm 8: 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

This is the reason given for the severe consequence for killing a man as opposed to killing a plant or an animal or a bird or a fish.

Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

Murder (and James 3:9 says even slander) defaces God’s image. We have been crowned with glory and honor and given dominion. And from the garden on we have done a stupendous job of botching our purpose as image-bearers. Rather than being content with reflecting God to others, we wanted to be out from under the sovereign thumb of our Creator and be the master of our own destiny. We wanted to be autonomous like God. We wanted to create our own reality and take up the right to decide for ourselves what was good and what was evil, rather than submitting to God’s right to rule and reflecting his good and wise and loving care for his creation.

We look back to God’s purpose in creating us as image-bearers of his character and nature, ruling everything entrusted to us with wisdom and love and care, and we see how we have distorted this image by our rebellion against him.

Man’s Purpose Fulfilled in Jesus

Now we need to look forward to Jesus, to see how our purpose is perfectly fulfilled and ultimately restored in the one God-man.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …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. 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.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

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

Hebrews 1:2 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,

Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, has put the nature and character of his own essence as God on display in a visible tangible way that is the crowning pinnacle of God’s revelation to us.

Jesus Restores Image-bearing role to Fallen Humanity

But not only did Jesus perfectly fulfill the role of man as image-bearer of God, but he restores that role to fallen humanity.

1 Corinthians 15:49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Colossians 3:10 …put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

In Jesus we become a new creation and are restored to our original image-bearing purpose.

How does this all relate to Moses? God said “see, I have made you God to Pharaoh”. God has placed Moses in a role as his image-bearer to this pagan king. Moses is to represent God to Pharaoh. Indeed, Moses is the voice of God to Pharaoh. Moses speaks with the authority of God. Moses will bring God’s mighty acts of judgment crashing down on Pharaoh’s head, and through this interaction, Pharaoh will get a taste of what God is like. Ironically, Pharaoh believed himself to be the incarnation of some of the most powerful gods of Egypt. Moses, the shepherd from the wilderness, and leader of the slave-people, armed with nothing but his shepherd’s staff, would beat the Pharaoh at his own game. The humble shepherd shows himself a more powerful god than the most powerful monarch in the world.

In this way, Moses foreshadowed Jesus, the true God-man, who faithfully represented God to man. Moses also foreshadows our role as Christians, restored by Jesus’ work on the cross to our created role as image-bearers of God. We are to put God on display to those around us.

Our Image-bearing Role

Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 5:17 to see this role spelled out for the believer:

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

We all are new creations in Christ. God has restored in us the creation mandate to be his representatives to the watching world. God has reconciled us to himself through the cross of Christ, and has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. We have been commissioned as ambassadors for Christ. You and I are to be God to the world around us. We are to be living reflections of God’s holy character and nature. We are to speak with God’s absolute authority. We are to warn of the dangers of neglecting God’s grace. We are to remove any obstacles out of the way and by our own character put the glory of God on display.

The exodus was a lesson to Moses that he could not accomplish anything in his own strength. God did not expect him to accomplish anything. God is the main actor – God will harden Pharaoh’s heart. God will multiply his signs and wonders. God will lay his hand on Egypt and bring his people out by great acts of judgment. God will stretch out his hand against Egypt. What God required of Moses was simply to ‘speak all that I command you’.

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.

You shall speak all that I command you. Moses and Aaron did so. They did just as the LORD commanded them. Simple trust. Simple obedience. It was God’s promise that through this the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD. This is what Jesus demanded of his followers. Do not act in your own strength. Wait for the promise of the Father.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The Apostle John sums up our role as ambassadors this way:

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By our love, and we love because he first loved us, we put the unseen God of love on display. God is making his appeal through us to the world – be reconciled to God.

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

October 10, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2Peter1:4; Precious and Very Great Promises

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20091011_2peter1_4.mp3

10/11 2Peter 1:4 Precious and Very Great Promises

2Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Intro

Peter is writing to strengthen believers in churches who are in danger of being led astray by false teachers. He writes to ground us in the truth of the gospel, to ‘stir us up by way of reminder’ [1:13]. ‘Knowing this beforehand, we are to take care that we are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose our own stability’ [3:17]. Peter knows if we are to stand our ground, we must ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’ [3:18]. So he begins his letter pointing us to the riches of God’s grace toward us and the truth of who Jesus is. He draws our attention to the great value of our faith – our faith was not our great accomplishment, it was allotted to us by God. And he points us to the source of our faith – it comes to us through the righteousness of God. God’s love for what is right is expressed not only in the just condemnation of unrepentant sinners, but overflows in the gracious justifying of sinners on the basis of our trust in the finished work of Jesus for us. Peter describes Jesus as both our God and our Savior. Peter prays that God’s grace and the resulting peace would be multiplied to us by means of our relationship with the Father and with Jesus. Jesus, in a supreme act of heavenly generosity, freely gave us everything – everything – everything that connects us to eternal life; a life of holiness, because we cannot enjoy the presence of a holy God without ourselves becoming godly. Peter tells that every necessary resource and ability has been freely given to us by the one who called us to this eternal life of holiness. Nothing short of his divine power is at work for us securing our eternal salvation. This gracious divine power comes through the knowledge of him who called us. John speaks of the transforming power of knowing Jesus when he says, ‘when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is’ [1Jn.3:2]. It is the excellence and glory of Jesus that is inviting and breathtaking and compelling.

Peter goes on in verse 4 to tell us that it is through the excellence of Jesus that we are freely given promises – great and precious promises – promises that bring us participation in the divine nature and escape from the corruption of this world.

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

The first words of this verse express the means by which we receive the promises. The promises come to us through ‘his own glory and excellence’. It is the manifestation of Jesus’ divine nature and his inner moral beauty that secure for us the promises.

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

The promises are not presented as a reward for good behavior. The promises are bestowed as a royal gift. This word only appears three times in the New Testament. This is a royal act of lavish generosity that staggers the imagination. In verse 3, his divine power has freely given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness. Now on top of that, he has freely given the promises to us.

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Peter again uses a word unique in the New Testament for ‘promises’, a word that occurs only here and at the end of this letter in 3:13, where it refers to the end times promise of a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

These are no ordinary promises. They are ‘precious’ and ‘very great’ promises. The word ‘precious’ carries the idea of value, worth, or honor. In 1 Peter 1:7, he called our genuine faith ‘more precious than gold’ and in 2 Peter 1:1 he calls our faith equally precious or honorable to that of the apostles. In 1 Peter 1:19, he refers to the blood of Christ that ransoms us as ‘precious’, and here he refers to the promises as ‘precious’ or valuable. Not only are the promises valuable, but they are ‘very great’. Peter is stacking adjectives to communicate to us the magnificence of his subject. He uses grand language to relay to us the grand nature of the promises that have been regally furnished for us.

What promises would Peter have in mind? Possibly the promises of the new covenant that Jesus referenced when he said ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood’ [Lk.22:20; 1Cor.11:25]; promises like:

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,… 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

He could have had in mind promises of Jesus like:

John 3:15 …whoever believes in him may have eternal life

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 5:24 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.

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

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

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

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

John 8:31 …If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.

John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…. 10 I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 11:25 …I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

John 14:2 …I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth…

John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you… 19 Because I live, you also will live.

John 16:22 …I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Precious promises! Very great promises! Promises worth memorizing and meditating on. But Peter’s focus is not on the promises themselves. He expects that the mere mention of promises will bring to mind some of these valuable and immeasurably great promises. Peter’s focus is on what the promises accomplish for us:

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Peter’s focus is on the goal of the promises, the benefits gained through the promises. And he states that through the promises we may become partakers in the divine nature. In Greek thought, there was much discussion about the divine nature. The philosophers would say that there is a divine spark within us all that simply needs to be recognized. Or it is locked inside each of us and just needs to be let out. Or we can attain to the divine nature and immortality by great effort. Peter says no, we are not innately divine, but we become partakers of the divine nature through the promises freely given to us in Christ. The word is to partner, participate or share, to fellowship or have in common. Peter is not blurring the distinction between the uncreated creator and his creatures; he is not embracing pantheism suggesting that we are absorbed into the divine or polytheism saying that we become little gods. He is using the vocabulary of the philosophers to describe what he described in his first letter as being ‘born again… of imperishable seed’ [1:23]. John in his gospel says that Jesus gave the right to become children of God, to those who were born…of God [Jn1:12-13]. Paul tells us to ‘put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness [Eph.4:24]. Through the new birth, we are returned to a condition where we can more accurately bear the image of God that we were created to display, an image that was badly marred at the fall by rebellion and sin. By his divine power we are enabled to be godly, to exhibit holiness and purity and goodness and love.

That’s the positive result of the promises – we become participants in the divine nature. The negative is expressed by the next phrase:

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

The world is morally bankrupt. Greek philosophers concluded that it is because the world is material and the material is evil. To escape from corruption is to transcend the material. Peter’s view is different. He says the world is messed up because we’re a bunch of selfish sinners. God created the material universe and said it was good – very good. We, by our rebellious self will did a very good job of messing things up. Paul says it this way:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

It is this moral and spiritual decay that is at the root of the external physical and societal decay. “It is a degenerative power that pervades all of unredeemed life and exercises a tyranny from which human effort knows no effective escape” [Hiebert, p.49]. And it is this that we have escaped through the precious and very great promises of the gospel. Through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord we receive unmerited grace. We have obtained a faith of equal standing, we have been freely given all things that pertain to life and godliness, and we have been granted very great and valuable promises. We were called out of darkness and into his marvelous light so that we would proclaim the excellencies of him who called us [1Pet.2:9].

Three things are at work in us who believe; the promises, the power and the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In verse three it is ‘his divine power’ that gives us everything we need. That comes ‘through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence’. And it is by his own personal excellence that he gives us the very great and precious promises. The person of Christ attracts us, his divine power enables us to respond, and his promises secure for us participation in his divine nature.

How do we respond to all of this?

1. We must seek to know Jesus better. Peter says that the promises come to us through his own glory and excellence. I want to indulge myself in an exploration of the excellence of his character and the glory of his nature.

2. We must get to know his promises. Life transforming power comes through the promises, so I want to know what these promises are and bank on them day by day, cash them in and use them in my battle with my own corruption and sinful desire.

3. We must never turn it around. Peter lays for us the theological foundation for godly living in the gracious gift of our God. He goes on in the subsequent verses to describe what that life looks like. I never want to be guilty of turning the bible on its head and using it as a list of moral commands to keep in order to gain favor with God and merit eternal life. Rather, the power for a godly life comes as a gift through knowledge of Jesus – his finished work on the cross – and from the divine promises that are freely given to me.

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

October 11, 2009 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church’s Origin and Destiny

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090111_the_church_2.mp3

1/11 The Church; Spoken into Existence by the Creative Word of Jesus; Our Origin and Destiny

We are taking a few weeks at the beginning of the year to think through together what the church is and what it should be, and I hope we can examine ourselves and make any adjustments necessary to be who we were called to be, to strengthen the areas where we are weak, and to be encouraged and emboldened to be who we are together in Christ.

Last week we looked at the identity of the church. The word ‘church’ literally means ‘the called out ones’ and we are talking particularly about Jesus’ called out ones; the assembly of Jesus. We looked at Matthew 16:18 and said that ‘the church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth.’ Jesus asked his disciples who people thought he was, who his followers thought he was, and in response to the right answer, he went on to tell them about his coming death. The person and work of Jesus the Christ, infinite Son of God and Redeemer, crucified for sinners, died, buried, and raised again, is foundational to the church. Jesus, who he is and what he has accomplished for us is the rock on which the church is built.

We become members of this community by our new birth. God does a creative work in our hearts and makes us a new creation. Jesus told Peter that his confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God was not a natural response to the information he had available to him. It was a supernatural work of the Father in his life. Peter tells us that God the Father…

1 Peter 1:3 … According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again …

1 Peter 1:23 …you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

So we are a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus as the infinite Son of God and Savior, and united by our being birthed into his family.

Today I would like to look at the origin and destiny of the church. Where did the church come from and where is she going? Here’s my answer, and it has two parts: the church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and she will overcome. Look with me again at what Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus said he will build his church. Let’s review quickly who Jesus is: We’ll start in Colossians 1 He is God’s…

Colossians 1:13 …beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities––all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Did you get it? Jesus, beloved Son of the Father, is the image of the invisible God, creator of all things in heaven and on earth; visible and invisible, and all things were created for his good pleasure. Jesus existed eternally, and it is Jesus that sustains all things. Jesus is first place – preeminent in all things. He is first in time; he existed before anything else. He is first in authority; all thrones and dominions and rulers and authorities ultimately bow to him and do his bidding. He is first in importance; he is the Father’s beloved Son and all things were created for him.

Or consider John 1:

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. …10 …the world was made through him… 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus was in the beginning with God. Jesus is God. Jesus is the Word that spoke everything into existence. Look at Hebrews 1:

Hebrews 1:2…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.  …8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, …10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

Jesus created the world and upholds the universe by the word of his power. Jesus is God on the throne forever and ever. Jesus is consistent – he never changes and he will have no end. Check out Mark 4

Mark 4:39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

When Jesus speaks to his creation, all creation obeys his voice.

Jesus is the creator and sustainer of all things, and it is this Jesus that said:

Matthew 16:18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

That, my friends, is a statement of sovereign purpose. The Lord of all the universe has made a declaration of purpose. When Jesus says ‘I will…’ there is no power in heaven or on earth or under the earth that can stop him. Jesus did not say that he would try to build his church. In the beginning, Jesus said ‘let there be light’ and there was light. When Jesus said ‘Lazarus, come forth’ the man who had been in the grave for four days came out of the tomb. When Jesus said ‘I will build my church’, that was an omnipotent creative word that will be done.

That leads naturally to the next point – Jesus’ church will overcome. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. The sovereign power of the omnipotent Creator will triumph and his purpose will stand.

Now this requires some clarification What does it mean for the church to overcome? The church I was raised in recently closed its doors and sold their building. I’ve seen beautiful historic church buildings turned into museums or thrift stores or bicycle shops. Some churches that were once thriving are now merely a monument. Does this mean the word of Christ has failed? How do we understand this in light of what Jesus said? Let’s go to the book of Revelation for help. John is given a vision from God and is told to write what he sees in a book and send it to seven churches in Asia Minor. Listen to what God says to one of these churches:

Revelation 2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: …4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Because the church in the city of Ephesus had left its love for God and for other believers, Jesus is threatening to unplug this church as a light in the world. I think that highlights an important distinction for us that is helpful in our definition of the church. There is the church local and the church universal; or the church visible and the church invisible. There is our local group of believers that gather here in this building, and there is the church of Jesus Christ that consists of every born again follower of Jesus throughout history and around the globe. When Jesus said that he will build his church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, he didn’t have in mind any specific building or geographic location or social/political organization. Peter tells us that:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Paul says it this way:

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.

We tend to think of the church as a man made building, organization or institution. It is not. It is an organism, made up of believers in Jesus Christ. This is a sobering thought. There are many who attend a church service in a church building that are not part of Jesus’ church. There are people who go by the name of ‘Christian’ who do not know the Christ of the Bible and who have not experienced the new birth, and on that fateful day, Jesus will tell them:

Matthew 7:23 … ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So my first exhortation to you today is be sure you are part of Jesus’ church. Be sure you know Jesus and are being transformed by Jesus. Be sure you have become part of God’s family through the new birth.

Earlier in the chapter, Paul tells us how this happens:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved–– 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

God in his rich mercy, made us alive by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Let’s come back to Matthew 16 and see what we can learn about our role as the church. The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus says:

Matthew 16:18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The gates of hell will not prevail against it. Literally, it is the gates of hades -the abode of the dead. I want you to picture a walled fortress. Imagine an army attacking the city. They come against the weakest point in the city – the gates. If the gates are strong, the fortress is safe. If the gates can be penetrated, the city can be taken. Now think about what Jesus said about his church. What posture is the church taking in the war? If the church is not a building but a living organism, and if the gates that are described are not the gates of the church but the gates of hades, then the church is on the offensive storming the very gates of hell! I think too often we get the image reversed, as if Jesus said ‘I will build my fortress, and hell will not prevail against its gates’. Come hide inside the fortress and you will be safe. The church on the defensive is not the posture of the church of Jesus! The church of Jesus is to be on the offensive proving his promise true! A few chapters later, after his resurrection, Jesus came to his disciples and said:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Go, storm the gates of hell. Proclaim the gospel. Make disciples. I will be with you, Jesus said.

But how can we be sure that the gates will not be too strong for us? How do we know that we will overcome? Jesus said:

Revelation 1:17…“Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Jesus died, and he unlocked the gates from the inside! Jesus, our mighty conqueror, has gone before us, won the victory, unlocked the gates, and invites us to the plunder. Jesus now holds the keys of Death and of Hades. That gate can no longer be made secure by the enemy. And Jesus goes on to say

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, …

Peter, on the day of Pentecost, proclaimed the forgiveness of sins in Jesus, and unlocked the door of heaven to three thousand Jews. (Acts 2:38-41)

Later, in Acts chapter 10, Peter went to a Gentile’s house and taught about the death and resurrection of Jesus and proclaimed the good news:

Acts 10:43 ..that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

And the door was unlocked to the Gentile nations. This was not unique to Peter.

When Paul and Barnabas returned from their first missionary journey

Acts 14:27 … they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

God has given you authority to open the door of faith through the proclamation of the apostolic word:

1 Corinthians 15:3 … that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and she will overcome. Be sure that you are a part of his church by the new birth, and be aggressive to take ground from the enemy, for the victory has already been won. Proclaim the good news and be confident that Jesus will build his church!

January 11, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment