PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniels Gift of Understanding Visions and Dreams

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

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

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

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

The Reminder of God’s Character

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

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

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

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

God’s Gifts and Dependence on God in Prayer

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

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

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

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

God’s Gifts and the Necessity of Community

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

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

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

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

Seeking Mercy from the God of Heaven

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

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

Specificity in Prayer

Notice also the specificity of their prayer.

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

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

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

God Answers Prayer

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

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

The Necessity of Praise

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

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

First, Daniel worships.

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

20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

to whom belong wisdom and might.

21 He changes times and seasons;

he removes kings and sets up kings;

he gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding;

22 he reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with him.

23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Person Worship

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

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

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

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 12:13-18; Parental Provision

03/07_2 Corinthians 12:13-18; Parental Provision; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210307_2cor12_13-18.mp3

Paul is pouring out his heart to this troubled church. They have put him on the defensive by giving a willing ear to false apostles preaching another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel (11:4). He has indulged in foolish boasting, to make a mock parody of the things that were celebrated by them, power, prestige, popularity, supernatural signs and wonders. Paul points to his perseverance under suffering for the sake of Jesus and in the advance of the gospel as the genuine marks of a true apostle.

2 Corinthians 12:11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.

I am not inferior, but I am nothing. I ought to have been commended by you. You experienced firsthand my authenticity. You saw my sufferings. Your hearts were transformed by the gospel I brought to you. I’ve endured with great patience. You ought to have known better, but I’ve put up with you.

Not a Burden

Then he says:

2 Corinthians 12:13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

In what way did I denigrate you, treat you worse than all the rest of the churches? This one way; I did not overburden you.

He is picking up the issue that he dealt with back in chapter 11, his refusal of support from the Corinthian church. They were offended because he refused their money. There he said he robbed other financially poorer churches in order to serve them. He asked if he committed a sin by humbling himself by preaching God’s gospel freely as a gift. Here he asks them to extend grace to this injustice!

This was evidently a sore issue for them, as he brings it up now a second time. The Corinthians believed that nothing worth anything is free, and the more they paid, the more status and prestige they earned. If they could hire the best teacher at top dollar, they had bragging rights over others, and that teacher became obliged exclusively to the family who hired him. Paul refused to fall in line with this culture, withholding the gospel from the poor, selling out to the wealthy, becoming obligated to cater to their every whim. Rather, remaining ‘free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them’ (1Cor.9:19). He refused to cater to their culture, because their culture was an affront to the gospel itself, which is the greatest gift that comes at infinite cost to the giver, but is freely given to those who don’t deserve it. Any attempt to earn it or pay for it is an affront to God’s grace.

Ironically, even this commitment to decline pay for the free advance of the gospel was used against him. The false teachers’ spin was that he refused pay because he knew his teaching was sub-standard and worthless. They obviously were much better teachers; look how much they charge! Paul himself taught (1Tim5:18) that the worker is worthy of his hire, so Paul must know he is not genuine because he declines payment. They overlooked the fact that although it was a legitimate right of an apostle to be supported by those he served (1Cor.9), it was not required of an apostle to make use of that right; Paul was willing to ‘not make use of that right, so as not to put an obstacle in the way of the gospel’ (1Cor.9:12).

Paul sarcastically asks them to forgive him the injustice of not charging them for his services.

Seeking Relationship

2 Corinthians 12:13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong! 14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. …

Paul is writing from Macedonia, having just reconnected with Titus who gave him an update on the situation in Corinth. Paul is sending Titus back to them with this letter just ahead of his own visit to them, to give them a chance to prepare themselves for his visit. He re-affirms his commitment to his policy of refusing their support. He said back in chapter 11

2 Corinthians 11:9 …I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

He will not be a burden to them. Here he gives this reason; ‘I seek not what is yours but you.’ He is determined by his actions to demonstrate to them that he is not after their money. He is after much more than that, he is after all of them. He is seeking a restored relationship with them. He is not interested in taking anything from them. This ought to highlight the contrast with the false apostles who were all too eager to take what is theirs. They don’t really care about you; they are taking advantage of you for their own gain. Paul is seeking them, what is best for them, even if that is difficult and painful, even if it means he has to confront them and risk offending them. I seek not what is yours but you.

Saving, Spending, and Being Spent

2 Corinthians 12:14 …For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

Paul continues to talk in monetary terms, but he is talking about much more than money. He is seeking a restored relationship, and so he reminds them of their relationship. Back in 1 Corinthians 4 he said:

1 Corinthians 4:15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Here he reminds them of his relationship to them as a parent to a child through the gospel. The reason I haven’t been sponging off of you for my daily sustenance is that as your parent in the gospel, I ought to be treasuring up for your future. He’s clearly moved beyond talking about money here. There will be a time when he’s not around any more, and he ought to be preparing them to be spiritually self-sufficient without him. By saving up, he is talking about pouring into them, investing in them for a stable future when he’s gone.

He will most gladly spend and be spent for them. He will pay his own way if that is what it takes to make sure they really get the gospel of grace. But again, his language moves beyond literal spending of money. He is also willing to be spent, to pour out his energy and even his life for their good. He is interested in their eternal souls. He is looking beyond earthly provision and an earthly inheritance to a heavenly one.

He said something similar to the church in Philippi:

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

He is willing to be broken and poured out for their faith; to be entirely spent for their souls. Notice in both of these verses he is aware that ministry may cost him literally everything. He is willing to lay down his life for the believers (1Jn.3:16).

Hedonistic Spending

And in both of these passages notice the attitude that accompanies his sacrifice. He is glad; he rejoices. He is willing to spend and be spent, and he is most glad to do it. In verse 9 he said he will boast most gladly in his weaknesses. It is sweet to him. The word he uses is ἥδιστα; this is the root from which we get our word hedonism; to spend and be spent for their souls is not grudging toil; it is his greatest pleasure.

You parents understand this. Sacrificing for your children is no sacrifice; whatever the cost it brings you pleasure to provide for their needs and do them good. Paul is glad to pour out his very life for their faith, for their souls.

Love Lacking

He asks them this probing question: if I love you more, am I to be loved less? The translation loses some of the emphasis of the original. If I love you super-abundantly, am I to be loved less?

This word ‘superabundant’ occurs only 13 times in the New Testament, and over half of those in this letter. In 2:4 he speaks of his desire to communicate the super-abundant love that he has for them. In 7:13 he rejoiced super-abundantly at the joy of Titus toward them, because (7:15) Titus’ affections super-abounded toward them. And here again he uses this word to emphasize the extent of his love toward them. He loves them super-abundantly.

If as a parent he loves them beyond measure, and that expresses itself in not taking from them but rather spending and being spent for them, ought he be loved the less in response? In their culture it was a child’s duty to show gratitude, honor and love to his parents. He had fulfilled his duty; they had shamefully failed to show him the appropriate love in response. They wanted to obligate Paul to themselves by supporting him, but he is the parent, and they are indebted to him.

He had already addressed their lack of love for him back in chapter 6:

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

And again in chapter 7:

2 Corinthians 7:2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

And here he confronts their lack of reciprocal love head on. In the midst of correction and confrontation, he has affirmed his love for them repeatedly. If he loves them super-abundantly, ought they love him less?

Parental Betrothal

Remember, Paul has made it clear that he is not a jilted lover, wishing to win back their affection for himself. He is a parent, and he has betrothed the church as a virgin bride to her husband Christ (11:2-3). He is jealously guarding her affections to keep her from being turned away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Paul plays the role of the father of the bride; “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn.3:29-30). Like John, Paul is content to be spent, poured out, to be nothing, if only he can have the joy of presenting her a pure bride to her husband.

Paul the Crafty Deceiver

Verses 16-18 address another accusation that was being leveled at Paul in Corinth.

2 Corinthians 12:16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty [πανοῦργος], you say, and got the better of you by deceit.

Not only are they offended that he won’t take their money, but they are also suspicious that he actually is taking their money. The spin here is that Paul is using the guise of a collection for the saints in Jerusalem to actually steal their money. It seems that, like Judas, who cared not for the poor, but was a thief and helped himself to what was put into the moneybag (Jn.12:6), the false apostles were eyeing the money that the Corinthians were setting aside for the poor, and wanted to get their hands on it. If they could convince the Corinthians that Paul’s collection was a scam, they could get access to more of that cash. So using cunning and deceit, they accused Paul of what they themselves were guilty of; cunning and deceit.

Paul expressed his fear in chapter 11, that the Corinthians were being led astray from Christ by satanic cunning. In chapter 4, he stated plainly ‘we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning’. Now he answers the charge dripping with sarcasm; ‘I was cunning and took you by deceit’.

His defense? He had been careful to be above reproach in all financial dealings. He outlined his policy of accountability in chapter 8, where he let them know that the other churches had appointed a brother to accompany Paul and oversee that their funds were handled properly. At the end of 1 Corinthians, he had invited the Corinthians to send someone themselves to do the same, and Paul was willing to step away and let them do it without him.

Here he asks:

2 Corinthians 12:17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

These accusations are absurd, and they know it. Paul and all those he sent to them have been above reproach.

Walk in the Spirit

He asks ‘did we not walk in the same spirit?’ The false apostles were encouraging them to receive a different spirit. Paul writes the Galatians and the Romans to walk in the Spirit, not according to the flesh. Paul and Titus walked in the same footsteps, controlled by the same Holy Spirit. This is in direct contrast with the false apostles, who walk in and promote a different spirit. Paul and his co-workers walked in gospel unity.

Paul responds to their accusations with dripping sarcasm, but even this it is saturated with his own tender affections for them and his self-sacrificial pursuit of their good. He is willing to spend and be spent, it brings him joy to lay down his rights to serve them.

How is your heart toward those who question your integrity, who doubt your intentions, who undervalue your relationship? Can you find joy in spending and being spent for others? Are you willing to walk in the Spirit, to display the gospel with your life, that although there is infinite cost to the giver, it is freely extended to those who don’t deserve it?

***

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

March 12, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait

01/03 Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210103_jesus-while-we-wait.mp3

We have been looking this Advent season at what Jesus said about his coming, and about his coming again. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus came to seek and to save us, those who were lost, gone astray, sick, sinners. He came to fix and restore and heal what is broken. Being fully and eternally God, equal with his Father, he came. He stooped down. He humbled himself. He became human. He became one of us to die for our sins, to bear our shame, and to give us new life. He came to rescue us, to set us free.

And he is coming back. He will return for us, as the groom for his bride, to take us to be with him forever. He went to prepare a place for us. His prayer to his Father for us was that we would be with him.

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

How To Wait

Jesus is coming back for us! We await his return. But how should we wait? What ought we do as we wait?

Last time we saw from Matthew 24 and 25 that we are to be on guard so as not to be led astray (Mt.24:4). We are not to be alarmed, even though the world seems to be falling apart (Mt.24:6). Even if we are persecuted, hated, put to death, we are to persevere, to remain faithful to Jesus, to endure to the end (Mt.24:13). We are to proclaim the gospel to everyone everywhere (Mt.24:14). We are to to stay awake, to be ready, to be faithful with what Jesus has entrusted us with and to discharge our task (Mt.24:42, 44-46; 25:10, 21). We are to show our love for the Lord by loving our brothers and sisters, caring practically for their needs (Mt.25:31-40).

This is a tall order. Be on guard, be watchful, stay awake, be ready. Proclaim the good news to everyone everywhere. Be faithful to use the gifts he has given you and do what he has called you to do. Through love serve one another. Be faithful, endure even to death. How? How can I do all that? I don’t think I’m alert enough, smart enough, strong enough, determined enough. I don’t know, if it comes to it, if I would be willing to lay down my life for him. Is this even possible, what he expects of us?

John 14; Jesus is the Way

We started in John 14, where Jesus said that he was going to prepare a place for us to be with him, and promised that he would come again to take us to be with him forever. Let’s go back to John 14 for help.

At the end of John 13 is where Peter brashly says that he is willing to lay down his life for Jesus, and Jesus tells him that he’s going to fail, he’s going to deny him three times before morning.

And then Jesus says:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

Don’t let your heart be troubled. You’re going to fail, but don’t let that agitate your heart. Instead believe, trust, depend, rely on God, rely also on me. You can’t do this. You don’t have the strength. You must depend on God, lean in to God, allow God to work these things in you.

Jesus desires us to be with him. He goes to prepare a place for us. And he is coming back to take us to himself. And we know the way.

Thomas was confused at this point. Not knowing where Jesus is going, how could he possibly know the way? Jesus responds:

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

Jesus is the goal, and Jesus is the way. Our end goal is to be with Jesus, and we get there only through Jesus. We must believe in Jesus, trust him, rely on him, depend on him, let him carry us. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. And Jesus is our life. We live this life by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. We live and walk in utter dependence on him. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; Believe also in me.

Knowing God

Jesus goes on to say:

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

This time it is Philip who doesn’t understand. He wants to see the Father.

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Jesus is to be trusted in as well as the Father, because Jesus is inextricably related to his Father. He is one with his Father; he is in the Father and the Father is in him. He shares the same nature, the same essence or being as his Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. At the beginning of his gospel, John said:

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus made his Father known. Jesus made his Father knowable. Jesus is the only way to his Father. Through Jesus, we can enter into relationship with God. As Jesus prayed in John 17,

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

Eternal life is knowing God. Eternal life consists in relationship with the Father and the Son. We were made for intimacy with God, but ‘our sins made a separation between us and God’ (Is.59:2). Jesus came to take away our sins and reconcile us to God (Rom.5:10).

One day when we see him, ‘we will know him fully, we will see face to face. Now we see dimly. Now we know in part’ (1Cor.13:12). But we do now see, albeit dimly. We do now know, albeit in part. We get a glimpse, a taste now of the eternal reality we are meant to enjoy.

Abide and Bear Fruit

In John 15, Jesus uses the metaphor of branches on a vine to describe his relationship with his disciples. Jesus is the vine, we branches. We are meant to bear fruit.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

Abide. Jesus says ‘Abide in me. Apart from me you can do nothing.’ Nothing. No fruit apart from abiding in Jesus. We must abide; remain in Jesus, stay connected to Jesus, draw life and strength and sustenance from Jesus. If we disconnect from Jesus, we wither. Abide in Jesus and Jesus promises to abide in you, and you will bear much fruit. Abide.

Abide in his love. He loves you. If you ever doubt that, just look to the cross, where he demonstrated decisively his love for you. What does it mean to abide in his love? The waterfall of his love is ever overflowing, pouring down, never ceasing. Many people work hard to put up an umbrella, to build themselves a shelter to block the flow of his love. Many step out of the flow and walk away from his love. Abide. Remain under the waterfall of his love, immerse yourself in his love for you.

The Word

How do we abide in his love? He tells us in verse 10.

John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

We abide by obedience. We do what he says. We keep his commandments. We listen to him. We listen. And our listening is rooted in relationship. We want to hear him. We want to know what he wants because we want to do what pleases him.

This is not earning by obedience. Notice his love comes first. ‘I have loved you.’ Now abide in my love. The love is already there. The love is not produced by the obedience; rather obedience is produced by his love.

Jesus draws the comparison with the Father’s love for his only Son. Jesus didn’t earn the Father’s love; he was already eternally loved. He obeyed his Father because he was loved. Obedience is a by-product of being loved. Because we are loved, we want to do what pleases him, so we listen to his words. This is abiding in loving relationship.

Jesus said back in verse 3:

John 15:3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

We have been washed clean by his word. So we abide in him, and he in us. He says in verse 7:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We abide in him and his words abide in us. We want to know what he says, so we listen. We cling to his words. We rehearse, we re-read, we memorize. We let his words abide in us.

We tend to be unjustly jealous. The grass is always greener. We say that we only have his word written. We wish we had been there to hear him speak audibly, to hear his voice. Rather we should be amazed and grateful that we have his completed word written. So many believers throughout history have only had bits, pieces, sayings. Many lived while it was being given, before it was written. Many had limited access to only parts of it. We have his word quite literally from beginning to end. Those who heard it audibly would have to trust their memory; we can go back to the very words over and over again to check and listen and read and study. We are truly blessed!

Full Joy

Look at verse 11. Do you see the connection between his word and our joy?

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

He spoke, he gave us his words to fill up our joy. His commands are not burdensome. Quite the reverse, through them he gives us rest for our souls (Mt.11:28-30). He came to give us life abundantly (Jn.10:10). Jesus is eager for us to find true joy, lasting joy in him.

Love One Another

His command?

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Pass his love along. Love others with his love. Abide in his love for you, and then love one another.

Friends

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Friends. Jesus calls us his friends. Intimacy. Relationship.

John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus invites us in to his confidence. He invites us in as friends. Because he has given us his word, the word of his Father.

Ask and Receive

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

You are meant to bear fruit, so ask. Ask the Father in the name of Jesus he would cause you to bear much fruit for his glory. Back in verse 7 he said:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

And in chapter 14:

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

And again in John 16, he says:

John 16:23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus is eager that we talk to him, that we pray, that we ask. He wants to fill up our joy as we bear fruit for him in answer to our prayers.

The Spirit in You

There is one other thread that runs through this passage that we must pay attention to. Back in 14:16, he said:

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.

Jesus will ask his Father to give us his Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit will be in us. Not only are we to abide in Jesus and he will abide in us, and his word will abide in us, but also his Spirit will abide in us. In 14:26 he says:

John 14:26 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.

The Spirit will remind us of Jesus’ words. He will point us back to the word.

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.

Again in John 16, Jesus says:

John 16:7 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.

John 16:13 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.

The Spirit delivers the word of God. The Spirit seeks the glory of Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit living in us to open his word to us and enable us to obey. We need the Spirit to empower us to bear much fruit to the glory of God.

Conclusion

Jesus is coming back for us. We are to be ready, anticipating his return. How are we to wait? Let not your hearts be troubled, but rather trust in him. He is coming back to take us to himself, to be with him. Relationship is the goal. If we abide in him, draw strength and sustenance from him, from his love, we will bear much fruit for his glory. We abide in him by his word abiding in us. We ask him to glorify himself through us. We depend on the presence and power of his Holy Spirit living inside. Abide and pray. Trust, depend on his Spirit. Press in to know him better!

***

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

January 4, 2021 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; Coming Again!

12/27 Jesus in His Own Words; Coming Again/Coming Back; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201227_jesus-coming-again.mp3

We’ve been looking this Christmas season at Jesus in his own words; what he said about himself, about his coming.

We looked at why he came. Jesus said that he came for sinners (Mk.2:17). He came to seek and to save the lost (Lk.19:10). He came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk.10:45). He came to lay down his life for his sheep (Jn.10:10-11). Jesus came because we had gone astray. He came because we were that bad; to pursue us and rescue us, to forgive our sins. He came to pay our price.

Jesus came. But Jesus claimed to have come differently from anyone else. He claimed to have come from above, to have been sent by his Father, who he claimed is the God we worship. He claimed to have existed from before creation, sharing his Father’s glory. Jesus claimed to be the I AM. Jesus who created all things humbled himself and became human in order to rescue us, to save us from our sins by taking our punishment on the cross.

Advent – Coming

Christmas is all about Jesus, his coming. Traditionally, this season is called Advent, from the Latin adventus which means coming. Jesus came. We celebrate his coming at advent. But Jesus also said that he is coming again; that he is coming back for us. Advent looks back to the coming of Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem. But Advent also looks forward with anticipation to the promise of his coming.

Jesus talked a lot about his coming. Today we will look at a few of the things Jesus said about his coming.

I Will Come Again and Take You to Myself; John 14, 17

At the last Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus told them that he was going away. Jesus said ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” (Jn.13:33, 36). At first, Peter didn’t understand. But he was beginning to realize that Jesus was talking about his death, so he said he was willing to follow Jesus anywhere, even to lay down his life for him.

The disciples were grieving because Jesus said he was going away. They didn’t want him to leave. He said:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that 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.

You cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. Jesus promises that he will come again for us, to take us to be with him.

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

In fact, in John 17, Jesus’ prayer to his Father, he says:

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

Jesus is praying for the unity of his followers,

John 17:21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

And he is praying not only for his original disciples, but he explicitly mentions us, you and me, today.

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us to be with him forever. He will come again to take us to himself. We have his word on it.

This could be the word Paul has in mind when he writes to encourage the Thessalonians and correct their misunderstandings:

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

The Lord himself is coming back for us. He went to prepare a place for us. Dead or alive at his coming, we will be raised to meet him in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Jesus is coming again!

Matthew 24; Don’t be Alarmed; Don’t be Led Astray

In Matthew 24, Jesus predicted that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed,(as it was in 70 AD). His disciples asked “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Mt.24:3).

Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.

He warned that false christs would come to lead many astray. There would be wars and rumors of wars. Wars between nations and kingdoms, famines and earthquakes. Jesus said:

Matthew 24:6 …See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.

He told his followers that they would be hated and persecuted, even executed. Did you know that this year around 3,000 of our brothers and sisters were killed because of their faith in Jesus? That’s at least 8 every day [OpenDoors WWL2020].

Jesus said many would fall away and betray one another. False prophets would lead many astray. Lawlessness will increase, and the love of many will grow cold.

Matthew 24:13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Jesus said:

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

According to the Joshua Project, there are 7,413 people groups unreached with the gospel; that’s 3.23 billion people, 41.6% of the world’s population. Friends, we have a lot of work left to do.

Jesus said the false christs and false prophets would perform great signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. He warned not to believe it if they claim to have found the Christ.

Matthew 24:27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Jesus said:

Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

This teaching was no doubt the basis for Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 2:

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

Jesus is coming back for us. Don’t be shaken in mind. Don’t be alarmed. Don’t be deceived. It hasn’t happened yet. You haven’t missed it.

Stay Awake, Be Ready, Watch

Jesus encouraged us to be aware of the signs that indicate his coming is near, but he warned that no one but the Father knows the day or the hour (Mt.24:33-36).

Matthew 24:42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

He said:

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

Jesus uses the illustration of servants left in charge of their master’s household, and he gives us this encouragement:

Matthew 24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.

In Matthew 25, Jesus uses the illustration of young women awaiting the bridegroom, some who were prepared, and some who were not.

Matthew 25:5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’

Matthew 25:10 …the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Jesus compared it to a master leaving for a journey, and entrusting to his servants his property. They were expected to invest wisely and multiply their master’s property.

Matthew 25:19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

To those that invested and multiplied their master’s resources,

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

But the one who perceived the master to be hard and unjust, he said ‘you wicked and slothful servant!’

Matthew 25:27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. …30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Stay awake! Be ready! Be faithful, be busy serving others. Invest wisely what he has entrusted to your care.

As You Did It to One of the Least of These My Brothers

Jesus says of his coming in Matthew 25:31

Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Love for the brothers is evidence of love for the Lord. The gospel reminds us that the righteous aren’t righteous because they do good; they do good because they have been made righteous through the finished work of Christ. The righteous are not even aware of their own good deeds, because they naturally flow out of a transformed heart. The works are evidence of an inward change. Come, you who are blessed by my Father. The kingdom was prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Seek his Kingdom and He will Serve You

In Luke 12, Jesus tells us not to be anxious or worried, but instead to seek the kingdom of God. Then he says:

Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

And he gives us this startling encouragement.

Luke 12:35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.

Be ready, be watching, be waiting, be awake, be anticipating his coming. Be ready to serve. And when the Master comes, he turns the tables. He will give you a place at his table, and he will serve you. Because the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mk.10:45). We are to be waiting, be alert, to anticipate his coming and be ready to serve, but it is ultimately he who serves us, not we who serve him.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. This is our King! Our king who humbled himself and became obedient even to death, even death on a cross. Our King is preparing a place for us to be with him. He promised that he is coming back for us. This is our king. Our King is coming! Come quickly Lord Jesus!

***

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

December 31, 2020 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 10:12-18; Leadership and the Lord’s Approval

10/04_2 Corinthians 10:12-18; Leadership and the Lord’s Approval; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201004_2cor10_12-18.mp3

Who won the debate? By what standard? Who had better arguments? Who had greater eloquence? Who made a better show? Who listened well and followed the rules of etiquette? Who showed greater kindness to his opponent? By what standard do you judge? (I didn’t watch it.)

2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

You’ve seen kids on the playground who are told to line up smallest to tallest. They stand back to back to measure themselves against each other and stretch to their full height and re-order themselves and argue about who is taller and who was standing on tippie-toes and who has shoes that give an unfair advantage. Someone establishes themselves as judge to evaluate, but then they have to be evaluated by others to find their place in the line. That is the kind of thing that is going on in this passage, and Paul calls it foolishness. He says ‘I wouldn’t dare to even play your silly game.’

Let me give you a rough literal translation; it’s not good English, but it brings out some of the repetition and verbal links that are there in the original.

12. For we don’t dare judge in or judge with those who commend themselves; but those who by themselves with themselves measure and judge themselves with themselves do not understand.

13. But we will not boast to that without measure; but according to the measure of the rule which God measured to us; which measure extended even as far as you.

14. For not as not extending to you do we hyper-extend ourselves, for even as far as you we arrived before in the gospel of Christ –

15. Not into that without measure do we boast in another’s toils; but we hold hope by the growth of your faith, by you to be magnified according to our rule to super-abound 16. into the still farther parts beyond you to evangelize; not to boast in another rule to that which is prepared;

17. but the one who boasts must boast in the Lord

18. for not the one who commends himself is that one approved, but whom the Lord commends.

Paul is under attack. His authority and credibility in the church in Corinth is being undermined by those he later calls

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

Paul is not ashamed to boast excessively of his authority, which he received from the Lord for building up the church (2Cor.10:8). He calls them sarcastically ‘super-apostles’ who are preaching a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel (2Cor.11:4).

Paul and Delegating Leadership

Paul has no problem turning over the local leadership of a church to another. He left Titus in Crete

Titus 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—

Paul was eager to establish others, men of character, in leadership. But, along with personal integrity,

Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

He must hold firm the trustworthy word as taught. There are deceivers who must be rebuked and silenced.

According to Philippians 1, Paul can rejoice even over the preaching of those with impure motives, when they are preaching Christ.

Paul has no problem with someone like Apollos coming in behind him to follow up his ministry and serve in the churches he planted.

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, …

The Corinthians tried to pit Paul against Apollos. Paul says no, we are on the same team. We are one. We are fulfilling different roles that God has given to each of us.

False Apostles and Usurped Authority

So what is different between Apollos or the elders appointed by Titus and these ‘super-apostles’?

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The false apostles are seeking to dig up the foundation of Jesus and under their authority transplant the church on to a different foundation of a different Jesus and a different gospel. This is what Paul is up against in this passage.

Subjective Comparison

Paul’s sarcasm is biting, and this passage drips with irony.

2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

The false apostles are commending themselves. Back in chapter 3, we see that apparently they were coming in with letters of recommendation, seeking to establish their own authority. Paul says ‘you are our letter of recommendation.’ In Chapter 4, Paul says that he does not tamper with God’s word, but commends himself to all by the open statement of the truth. In chapter 5 he says that he is not seeking to commend himself, but rather to give them an answer to use with those who boast merely in outward appearances. In chapter 6 Paul commends himself by cataloging his sufferings that demonstrate he is following in the footsteps of his Master.

The false apostles are commending themselves, by judging themselves with themselves. This is a danger today. We are a competitive culture. How successful is your ministry? How big is your church? Your bible study? How many have you led to Christ? How many followers do you have, how many views, how many hits, how many likes? Or in some circles, how much opposition do you have? How many are criticizing your ministry? Because if you’re being attacked, you must be doing something right (it couldn’t mean that you are just rude, or being a jerk).

How do you measure ministry success? This is a case of the seven dwarves bickering over who is the tallest. Snow White smiles and stoops down to pat them on the head. At Babel (Gen.11) mankind came together to make a name for themselves and a tower to compete with heaven. The Lord came down to get a better look at the puny little tower they had built.

We like to look sideways to see how we are doing. Am I keeping up? Am I doing better than the other guy? If I am ahead, I can ease up and relax a little. If I am behind I need to push hard to catch up. How are you doing? ‘Well, I’m faster than him, but I’m way behind her.’ Paul says ‘when you measure yourselves by one another and compare yourselves with one another, you are without understanding.’ You lack spiritual insight. You don’t have an external standard, an absolute standard.

The Standard and Measure

2 Corinthians 10:13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.

What is the standard? ‘We will not boast without measure; but according to the measure of the rule which God measured to us; which measure extended even as far as you. For not as not extending to you do we hyper-extend ourselves, for even as far as you we arrived before in the gospel of Christ.’ What is the measure of the rule that God measured to Paul? What is the limit of the area of influence that God assigned to Paul and his co-workers?

Acts 9:15 …“…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Paul is to bear the name of Jesus everywhere he goes. And, by the way, his ministry will be accompanied by suffering. In his letter to the Romans (a church he hadn’t yet visited and didn’t establish)

Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, …5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

Paul is set apart for the gospel of God. In Romans 11 and in Galatians he claims to be an apostle to the Gentiles, but that does not seem to be the primary thing he has in mind here. What he says here is that he was ‘the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.’ The standard is the gospel. It was by his open statement of the truth that he commended himself. He proclaimed Christ and him crucified. He preached the cross.

The false apostles are seeking to build themselves up by attacking Paul’s character and undermining his authority. His defense? On his second missionary journey in Acts 18, he made it all the way to Corinth. He spent 18 months preaching Jesus, and a church was birthed. They exist as a church because he brought the gospel to them, because the message of Christ crucified had life transforming power. He says ‘you are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts’

Hopes for Evangelism Beyond

And here he wants them to know that he is looking beyond them. It’s not all about them. The mission is bigger than them. But they are part of it.

2 Corinthians 10:15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you [by you] may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence.

The Corinthians are Paul’s labor. And they have been a painful labor to him. But his hope is as their faith grows, they will be instrumental in expanding the mission beyond them. A short time later, in the letter to the Romans, writing from Corinth he says

Romans 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” 22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Paul is eager to preach to those who have never heard. He hopes that when the faith of the Corinthians grows, they will be a launching pad to send him out to Rome, and then on to Spain. This is Paul’s heart. Do you know that there are still today places and peoples who have never heard the good news, who have never heard the name of Jesus?

Boasting in Knowing the Lord

Paul doesn’t commend himself by comparing himself with others. He measures himself by the objective standard of the gospel that he was called to proclaim. He doesn’t boast in someone else’s labors; he boasts in the work prepared for him by God. He boasts only in what God has accomplished through him, so his boasting is ultimately boasting in the Lord.

2 Corinthians 10:17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Paul paraphrases Jeremiah 9:24

Jeremiah 9:24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Boast only in the Lord. This is an echo back to verse 12, where Paul accuses the false teachers who compare themselves with one another of being without understanding. The understanding they lack is understanding and knowing the Lord. They were boasting in outward metrics and measurables. They were hyper-extending themselves and boasting about the labors of another as if it were their own.

Paul says it comes down to this. Accomplishments are great, and he hopes to be used by God to reach more and more people with the good news, but what really matters is boasting in the Lord, knowing the Lord, having real understanding, a real relationship with Jesus.

2 Corinthians 10:18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Self-commendation doesn’t mean anything. The commendation of others doesn’t mean anything. What you think of yourself doesn’t matter. What others think of you or your ministry doesn’t really matter. It is what Jesus thinks of you that matters.

The false apostles are in danger of hearing these fateful words from the Lord:

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

Paul knows it is only what Jesus thinks of him that matters, and he looks forward to hearing these words:

Matthew 25:21 …‘Well done, good and faithful servant. … Enter into the joy of your master.’

Paul didn’t lose heart, he didn’t despair even when everything seemed to be falling apart, because he was looking not to the things that are seen, but to the unseen eternal realities (2Cor.4:16,18). He had his eyes fixed on Jesus, and the only approval he was seeking was the approval of Jesus.

***

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

October 8, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Marriage Covenant

07/05 Marriage Covenant– Building Blocks of Society; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200705_marriage.mp3

Our society is broken. Our culture is not what it ought to be. And this is an opportunity for us as the people of God to let our lights shine brightly. As we follow the Lord Jesus we are to let our light shine in such a way that the world may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. We looked last time at the issue of fathers; that God is our Father and he loves to reward those who seek above all to please him. God is a Father who loves us as we are, but he is not satisfied to leave us as we are; he will apply loving discipline to shape us into who we ought to be, to form in us Christlike character. We as earthly fathers are called to pattern our parenting in the home after our Father in heaven. We are to be eager to reward our children when they seek to please us, and we are to apply loving discipline when appropriate, to teach our children to respect the authority established by God. This is an area where we can shine in a culture that has lost all respect for authority.
Marriage and Divorce

Today I want to take a step back from this and look at a relationship that is even more foundational to all society, and that is the marriage relationship. I want to see what Jesus has to say about marriage, and to look at what it points to. We are going to start out in Mark 10.

Mark 10:2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”

The Pharisees are referring to a law in Deuteronomy 24. Deuteronomy 24 says that when a man takes a wife and then divorces her, if she remarries and the second husband dies or divorces her, the first husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again as his wife. This is not authorizing divorce, any more than the laws regulating polygamy are authorizing polygamy. The laws were regulating a common practice for the protection of women. The Pharisees were taking this as the law’s stamp of approval on what they wanted to do.

The reason Deuteronomy gives is ‘if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her’ (Deut.24:1). Matthew 19:3 records their question ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ Two school of rabbis disputed what this meant. Shammai interpreted ‘some indecency’ to mean that divorce was only allowed for a sexual immorality; Hillel allowed divorce for any reason whatever; any act on her part which displeased him entitled him to give her a bill of divorce, even trivial offenses, such as burning a meal. It was, by the way, that more lenient and liberal school of Hillel that prevailed. [Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 90a; http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5238-divorce ]

Mark 10:5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

Did you know some of the laws in the Old Testament were given to regulate sinful behavior? That’s what Jesus is saying here. Divorce is not God’s ideal for marriage, but because of your hardness of heart, he regulated the practice to protect vulnerable people. Which means that now in the New Covenant, where believers in Jesus have the Holy Spirit of God living inside, that hardness of heart has been overcome. Jesus calls us to a higher standard. Jesus holds up the ideal of marriage.

Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

God designed marriage. God created mankind as male and female and he meant for them to leave and cleave. Hold fast. Notice, guys, the primary instruction is to us. The man is told to hold fast to his wife. Proverbs 18:22 says

Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.

If you are married you found your good thing. The one thing in all of God’s good creation that was not good was that the man was alone. We need help! Guys, if you find your good thing, hold fast to her. Now guys, I know I need to clarify. That doesn’t mean you put her in a headlock and physically restrain her.

The word ‘hold fast’ is literally ‘to glue’. We have some amazing glues. A good wood glue creates a bond that is much stronger than the wood itself. What that means is that once you glue two pieces of wood together, if you then force them apart, the wood will splinter and break but the bond will hold. You can tear it apart, but in doing so you destroy the wood. That’s an appropriate picture of marriage. Remember, Jesus says that the two become one flesh and it is God who joins them together. We have a lot of broken splintered people walking around because something that was never meant to come apart was forced apart and it left deep scars.

Lust and Porn

I want to come back to that, but first, look with me at something else Jesus says about marriage. In Matthew 5 he quotes the seventh commandment.

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

The marriage relationship is a covenant commitment. There is nothing more destructive to the marriage than unfaithfulness to the covenant commitment. What Jesus says here couldn’t be more relevant. There is probably nothing more damaging, more prevalent, and more readily accessible than internet porn. Jesus takes the seventh commandment to the heart level and says if you look with lust you have committed adultery in your heart. This is gnawing away at so many marriages. This is destroying so many people who are not yet married. This is poison for your soul. And Jesus tells us to take severe and radical steps to root it out.

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

You can’t entertain lust in your heart without the cancer spreading. ‘Is it really that big a deal? It’s not hurting anyone.’ That is a lie from the pit of hell, and according to Jesus it will send you there if you don’t get free from it. If you need help, ask. Get it out into the light.

How To Hold Fast

Mark 10:5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

We are to hold fast, but how? How are we to hold fast? Ephesians gives us some clear instructions

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5 starts with ‘therefore’. Live in such a way because. Because of what? We go back to Ephesians 4, and it also starts with therefore. Because of all that is true of you in Christ Jesus that was unpacked in the first three chapters, because you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing, because you have been chosen for holiness, predestined for adoption, redeemed by his blood, because you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, because the risen and exalted Christ has been given as head over all things to the church, because you have been made alive with Christ, saved by God’s rich mercy and great grace, created for good works, brought near by the blood of Christ, granted access to the Father through the Spirit, because you are strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, filled with all the fullness of God who is able to do far more abundantly than all that you ask or think according to the power at work with in you, because of all this, therefore, walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. …25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

That is what it means to cleave, to hold fast. Love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Pursue the purity, the splendor of your bride. Christ nourishes and cherishes the church. You nourish and cherish you wife. Love your wife as your own body. Love your wife as you love yourself.

‘But that’s hard!’ Yes it is. Do you think it was easy for Jesus to hang on that cross and bear in his sinless body all the punishment for your sins?

‘But you don’t know what she’s like!’ Yes I do, because I know what I’m like. ‘Filthy, vile and helpless we; spotless Lamb of God was he.’ I was dead in my trespasses and sins, following Satan, pursuing my own passions, by nature a child of wrath when God came after me.

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

‘But, I just don’t think I can.’ You are right. You can’t. I can’t. I need all three chapters in the front half of Ephesians to tell me who I am in Christ, to tell me who is living inside of me, and to tell me that it is not by my strength or my wisdom or my power or my love that I can do any of this. But if the resurrected Christ, who died on that cross for me is now living inside me, then I am empowered love with his love.

It’s not just about me and my happiness. Marriage is bigger than that. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church.

Are there any reasons where divorce is an option? There may be situations where that is appropriate, but recognize, that is the Pharisee’s question. Jesus holds up the original intent, the ideal, the way God meant it to be. We shouldn’t aim for the exception, we should work hard with all the grace of God that he supplies to us to to hold up that picture of Christ loving and pursuing and laying down his life for his church.

Our culture is broke and bankrupt. We have an opportunity to be different than the world, to show by our examples that there is a different way, a better way, we are to shine brightly in such a way that they see our marriages and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.

***

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

July 12, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus – Primary Allegiance (Matthew 10:24-39)

05/10 Obey Jesus: Primary Allegiance; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200510_primary-allegiance.mp3

We are looking at what it means to obey Jesus. Jesus instructed us to make disciples who make disciples who obey Jesus in everything. So What did Jesus command? We’ve been looking at some of the commands of Jesus, to know what he expects of us his followers, and to equip us to better disciple those who become his followers. He commands that we come to him and believe in him, that we believe what he says about himself, that he is the I AM come down from heaven to give life to the world. We are to find him in all of Scripture, because he said the whole of the Scriptures point to him. We are to meet with him there in his word. We are to abide in him, stay connected to him in relationship, pray to him and pray in his name so that we will bear much fruit and bring glory to God.

A Servant Not Above His Master (Matthew 10)

Today I want to look at what Jesus says about our primary allegiances. In Matthew 10 Jesus is preparing his followers for what it is going to be like for them in this world. He said:

Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

If we are following Jesus, we shouldn’t expect to be treated better than he was treated. If he was slandered and maligned, we should not be surprised if we experience the same.

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus talks to us about our fears. He knows our tendency to be afraid, and he reminds us who to fear. What anyone says about us falsely will be brought into the light, so we don’t have to lose sleep over it.

They may kill the body. Many of Jesus’ followers have been killed because of their faith in him. But he reminds us not to fear those who have the power to kill only the body but cannot touch our soul. He reminds us that God alone is to be feared. We possess an invincible hope, that even death cannot quench!

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

Two sparrows were sold for one small coin. Luke 12:6 has five sparrows sold for two of these coins; they were of so little worth that if you buy four you got one thrown in for free. And yet not one insignificant sparrow falls to the ground apart from the sovereign will of their omnipotent Creator. He has numbered the hairs on your head, and he has numbered your days on this earth. You are of more value than many sparrows. So fear not.

Primary Allegiance

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

Our allegiance to Jesus matters. To be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge him before people is to say that what they think is more important, more weighty than what God thinks. It is evidence that we don’t really believe in him. Jesus continues:

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

Jesus is the great divide [this is fulfillment of prophecy from Micah 7:5-6]. Jesus polarizes people. You are either with him or against him. He tolerates no lukewarm opinions about himself. Jesus divides.

I know some of you know personally the cost of following Jesus, and have experienced exactly what Jesus says here.

Jesus says:

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

For Jesus to say that we are to love him above father and mother is to affirm the value of those relationships; family love and natural allegiance run deep. But he is to take precedence over even the highest of natural affections, the deepest of natural allegiances.

This is strong language. Jesus demands that we love him more than father, mother, son or daughter, more than our own skin. He picks our closest ties, our deepest allegiances and demands that we are committed to him above all.

It is worth noting here that this demand would be audacious and unthinkable if Jesus were not God. To demand our unqualified allegiance is a clear claim to be the only one worthy of that kind of allegiance. Jesus is demanding that our love for God (and thus for him because he is God) must supersede every other affection and devotion

Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves his own skin more than me is not worthy of me.

Not worthy of me; not worthy not in the sense of not having earned or achieved the right, but rather not fit, not equal to the task. Those who are not willing to put God above all other loves are not willing to be Jesus’ disciples. They are not believing that the Lord is worthy of our highest love, not believing that in order to love others rightly, they must be loved in their proper place under God; the Lord must be loved first and above all.

In Luke 14, he says:

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is not justifying hatred toward family members. But some of our actions and decisions may be perceived that way, because of our overriding allegiance to him. When we put Jesus first, everyone else comes in second, and nobody likes to be second. This is not dislike or disdain, but a supreme loyalty.

What This Does Not Look Like

Jesus affirms that we ought to honor father and mother. He even rebuked the Pharisees who created a legal loophole so that children could get out of the responsibility of taking care of their parents. What they were doing, it seems was taking the resources that they should have used to support their parents, and declaring them as dedicated to God, to be given to the Lord at some future date. This was a hypocritical way to say they were putting God first, while really they were avoiding responsibility to their parents and keeping it all for themselves. Jesus

Matthew 15:3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (cf. Mk.7:9-13)

Jesus affirms that it is commanded by God to honor father and mother, but we must honor them under the Lord. Our loyalty must be to Jesus above all.

Government Submission

We can extend this to civil authorities, to states and empires. Peter tells us we are to

1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Timothy tells us that we are to pray for those who are in authority over us;

1 Timothy 2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

And keep in mind that the context of these letters would have been the evil emperor Nero who was no friend of the cause of Christ.

Jesus answered a question about paying taxes:

Matthew 22:21 …Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Their coins had the image of the emperor on them. We bear God’s image. We are to give the government its due, but we must give God that which bears his image.

But when it comes to it, when the two are in conflict, our allegiance is to Jesus above all earthly allegiances. When the Jewish leaders rebuked the disciples

Acts 5:28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

We are to pray for our leaders and be subject to our earthly governments as far as possible, but when the demands of these two collide, we must submit to the higher authority. We must obey God rather than men.

Gospel Community

In Mark 10, when Jesus pointed to the difficulty people have with following him, with giving him their undivided allegiance,

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Jesus demands that we put him higher than every other love. Although the cost of following Jesus may be great, the reward will be far greater. Because Jesus demands our highest allegiance, this will mean that we seek to honor him above all. For some, this may actually mean walking away from a close relationship with an unbeliever, although in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul clarifies that it will be the unbeliever who wants out; so far as it depends on us we are to seek to live peaceably will all (Rom.12:18). But according to Jesus, whoever leaves family for the sake of Jesus and the gospel will receive a hundredfold now in this life, brothers and sisters and mothers and children. What does he mean by this? Although in some cases blood relatives may want nothing to do with a believer, as believers we are adopted into the family of God. Although these relationships man never replace a lost relationship, we become part of a much larger family with a depth of unity through our common allegiance to Jesus. We become family. It is a beautiful thing to meet a believer from another place, maybe another country and a different culture, and discover that depth of connection we have in Jesus.

Invited In

In Mark 3, there was such a crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. The religious leaders were saying he was possessed by a demon, and his family came to get him, thinking he was out of his mind.

Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus is not negating the importance of family. But he is inviting us in to his own family. My disciples, those who obey me, those who do the will of God, you are my mother and sister and brother. That’s the depth, that’s the intimacy, that’s the loyalty Jesus invites us in to. He takes the closest relationships we experience and says that is the kind of relationship I want with you.

What about you? Jesus invites you in. He wants that kind of depth, that kind of closeness with you. He is inviting you in. But he wants you to count the cost. It is costly to follow Jesus. He demands your highest devotion, your undivided loyalty, your absolute allegiance. He requires that you take him for who he is, to acknowledge him as God, with absolute rights over you. He commands that you devote yourself to him above every other affection. Will you take up your cross and follow him and not look back? Will you follow him wherever he leads? Will you obey everything he commands? Will you be his disciple?

***

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

May 11, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Body – Romans 12

01/19 Vision – individuals experiencing the gospel together in community (Romans 12); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200119_church-body.mp3

We’ve been looking at vision, God’s vision for the church, what it means to be a healthy church, and how we can grow more and more into what we were meant to be.

So far, we’ve seen from Matthew 16 that the church is Jesus’ church, a gathering of Jesus followers built on the identity of Jesus and the offense of the cross, united into one body by the Holy Spirit through the new birth. If each local church is composed of individual believers, then a healthy local church is made up of healthy believers. We’ve seen from Colossians 3 that followers of Jesus live by faith, we are to keep our thoughts fixed on God and his glory, we are to live in love and forgive as we have been forgiven; we are to be those whose lives are saturated with the word of God and with prayer.

We are going to spend our time today primarily in Romans 12. Our focus will be the church as the body of Christ. The church is made up of individual believers, and as individuals, we each bring something to the table, something to the body. We are individuals transformed by the good news, but we are meant to experience the gospel in community.

Established on a Gospel Foundation

Let’s just dive right in and look together at Romans 12.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,

It is essential to stop right here and pay attention to the ‘therefore’. That’s a connecting word, and it reminds us that we are jumping in at the end of a letter. ‘Therefore’ tells us that everything that is said here in chapter 12 is built on the foundation of what was said in the first 11 chapters. God is righteous. We are all sinners, and being unrighteous, we all deserve the just wrath of a holy God. But that same God of holiness and justice is also a God of compassion and love, and he sent his only Son to be the propitiation, the wrath-absorbing sin-bearing substitute for us. In this way God can uphold his own righteous integrity and fully punish sin, while at the same time declaring guilty sinners righteous, justified, as if they had never sinned, credited with Jesus’ own perfect righteousness.

This gift of God’s own righteousness comes to all who believe, who simply take him at his word, trust him implicitly, cast themselves completely on his mercy, entrust themselves to his care. (Rom.3:23-25

Service is Worship

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Our response to God’s astounding mercy ought to be worship. Remember, Christians sing! Singing is one of many forms of worship.

This verse points us to another act of worship. Present your bodies as a living sacrifice. A sacrificial animal was an animal that belonged to the worshiper, a flawless animal, a valuable animal, one of his best, and he would give it to God. Ownership was transferred to God. The animal was no longer his own to do with as he willed; it belonged to God. Some sacrifices went entirely up in smoke, as a fragrant aroma pleasing to the Lord. Some sacrifices were eaten, both by the priests and the worshipers, a feast enjoyed in God’s presence. You no longer belong to yourself. You were bought with a price (1Cor.6:19-20; 7:23).

Notice, the ‘you’ is plural; you all. ‘Bodies’ is plural. Each of you individually are to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. In joyful response to God’s stunning mercy and grace, I gladly surrender rights over my body to the Lord. This is worship. And although the ‘you’ is plural and ‘bodies’ is plural, the ‘sacrifice’ is singular and the ‘worship’ is singular. As one body we each offer our bodies as a singular act of worship to the Lord.

Service is worship. What we do with our bodies on Sunday is worship. The teachers who teach our children’s church and serve in the nursery are worshiping. Those who volunteered to come yesterday to clean the church, that was an act of worship. What we do Monday through Saturday is meant to be an act of worship. Going to work and earning an honest living so that you can provide for your needs and the needs of those who depend on you, so that you can give generously to God, that is worship. Raising your children to love and fear and follow Jesus, that is worship. Preparing a meal for your own family, or for someone in need, that is worship. Calling someone or getting together to encourage or to pray or to simply spend time with, that is worship.

Mental Metamorphosis

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Colossians 3 told us to ‘seek the things that are above’ (v.1); to ‘set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (v.2). To ‘let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (v.16). We need a complete metamorphosis in our thinking. We need to be entirely renewed in how we evaluate and process and plan. It feels natural to follow the world’s patterns, to define success by the world’s standards, but our aim is no longer to please people. We are to seek to do the will of God, to do what is good in his estimation, to be acceptable to him, to please him in all things. As followers of Jesus we think in new categories, we set our minds on things above.

Humility

Here’s a monumental metamorphosis in our thinking.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

From the playground at recess to the job market, we are taught to make much of ourselves, to inflate our abilities, to show ourselves bigger than we are. We make ourselves out to be larger than life, and then we have trouble sleeping because we are concerned someone might find us out.

But this is deeper. This verse is saying that we are inclined to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. We actually believe that we are better than we are. We think that we are OK. We think that we are better than others, that we don’t sin as much as others, that in some way by our own efforts we can please God. We don’t like to think, and it is contrary to how the world teaches us to think, that we are not enough. That we are fundamentally flawed, in desperate need of help, in desperate need of the gospel. I am a sinner, I deserve death, and my only hope is in the rescue that only comes through Jesus. We are to think about ourselves with sober judgment. This requires grace, supernatural grace, God’s grace.

The Body

Romans 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

I am not enough. I am part of something bigger than myself. As a follower of Jesus, I am a part of a body of believers. We are inextricably connected to one another in Jesus, and we need each other. Paul uses the human body as an illustration. If you understand anything about how the body works, you know the respiratory system is inextricably linked to the circulatory system. The lungs bring in a fresh supply of oxygen to the blood stream. The heart pumps the oxygenated blood around to the various parts of the body to keep the organs and tissues healthy. By the way, the heart is a muscle that needs oxygen that the lungs supply, and the lungs only work when the chest muscles are supplied with blood from the heart so they can expand to take a breath. They are inextricably interdependent. Neither works without the other.

We tend to downplay our own importance to the body. I’m not really that important. If I don’t show up, nobody will even miss me. Paul wrote earlier to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 12:14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

Eyes and hands are essential. But feet and ears, well they look kind of funny and often stink. We can probably get by without them. Or can we? I sometimes hear people say ‘Well, I don’t really fit in, I’m different, I don’t feel like I belong.’ It’s precisely because you are different that we need you. No one else does what you do. You bring something unique to the table.

There can also be a frustration on the other side, where a person is gifted and passionate about something, and is frustrated that everyone else doesn’t share that same passion.

1 Corinthians 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

You have probably been wondering why we are sitting in a circle today. That was not my idea; it was suggested to me by one of you as a visual illustration of the body. Jesus is at the center, he is the head. He brings us together. We gather around him. And we are all sinners, hurting, broken, daily in need of the gospel, of God’s amazing grace. Daily we need forgiveness, and we need to forgive one another. There is not those who serve and those who come to be served. There are not some who are essential and some who are expendable. Every body part is unique, perfectly designed for its own distinct role, and no other part can take its place. None of us on our own is enough. We are meant to function together, to complement one another. We are all part of something bigger than ourselves.

Gifts That Differ

Romans 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Every believer in Jesus has experienced God’s grace. We each have been given a gift we didn’t earn and don’t deserve. We have been uniquely equipped to serve others. As an act of worship, we are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, to use as he sees fit. We have each been given gifts, and we are to use them through love to serve one another.

Notice all the attitude words? Zeal, cheerfulness, genuine love, abhorring evil, brotherly affection, not slothful but fervent. Our attitudes matter. Grudging half-hearted ‘I guess I’ll do it because no one else will’ service is not pleasing to the Lord. You see, when you discover who God made you to be, there is passion and joy in being who you were created to be and doing what you were designed for. There is satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment. And we need each other to help each other discover those unique gifts and passions.

…But Not Yet

I find it interesting where he goes next.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

He talks here about tribulation, difficult circumstances; and about persecution, opposition from people. And I asked, is he switching subjects here, moving from life within the body out to life in the world? As followers of Jesus we expect persecution from the world. He definitely moves out to talk about that in chapter 13. And that is at least included in what he says here. But these instructions come in the context of body life and all mixed in with ‘one another’ language. We find joy now in service, but we rejoice in hope. Hope is something that is anticipated but hasn’t been fully realized yet. There is joy in service in the body now, but it is not yet as it is meant to be. There is also tribulation, and even persecution. We live in a community of redeemed sinners undergoing sanctification. And even redeemed sinners sin against one another. That is why we are commanded to forgive one another. Don’t be surprised by opposition, even when it comes from within the body, even when it comes against you using your God given gifts. Live in harmony with one another. That means you don’t all have to sing the same note, but that you do work together and complement one another. There will be times when well meaning fellow believers will seem to be working against you, criticizing your best efforts, frustrating your gifts. Be patient in tribulation. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Live in harmony with one another. If possible, live peaceably with all.

In chapter 15 he has more to say about body life and bearing with one another in love, and so today we will close with his prayer from 15:5-7.

Romans 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Lord, make it so, here, in this body, your church, today!

***

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

January 20, 2020 Posted by | church, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Sanctuary, Separation, Adoption

05/12_2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Sanctuary, Separation, Adoption; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190512_2cor6_16-18.mp3

Paul in chapter 6 is addressing the Corinthians head on in their lack of affections for him, and ultimately for the Lord. In chapter 5 he implored them on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God (5:20). In chapter 6 he appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain (6:1).

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

He continues by directly addressing the problem; they were constricted in their affections because of their partnership with false teachers, who at root are unbelievers. They are to sever their connection with these unbelievers.

Then he asks five rhetorical questions, the obvious answer to each being an emphatic ‘nothing!’

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

And then he makes this bold assertion at the end of verse 16:

…For we are the temple of the living God;

We are counted righteous in Christ. We are the children of light. We are new creation in Christ. We are believers, trusting in Jesus; dependent on Jesus. We are the temple of the living God.

This is not the first time the Corinthians have heard this stunning affirmation. Back in 1 Corinthians 3 he said:

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. …16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

This is stunning language. You are God’s temple. God’s Spirit dwells in you! It is even more staggering when you understand that there are two different Greek words for ‘temple’ in the New Testament. The more common word [ἱερόν] is the word that is used when we read that Jesus overturned tables, healed, and taught in the temple. ἱερόν refers to the whole temple grounds, including the courtyard. But this word [ναὸς] is more specific; it is the word for the sanctuary itself. This is the word where Zechariah was confronted by the angel while offering incense in the temple, where the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom, when Jesus, referring to his own body, said:

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

You are the temple sanctuary! Where none but set apart and properly purified priests could enter; you are now the temple sanctuary.

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul said

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? …19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul uses the temple imagery to argue against divisions in the church; in 1 Corinthians 6, he urges personal moral purity, because God dwells in each believer individually. Here in 2 Corinthians 6 Paul points to the church as the end-times fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, an identity which demands holiness.

For: Identity Transforms Association

Paul says ‘for,’ because. Separation is demanded because of what we are. This is the foundation for not being unequally yoked. Notice, the foundation for what we do is who we are in Christ. It is not the other way around; we do not become the temple because we live holy lives. We live separated lives because we are the temple.

We are the temple of the living God. This is no false God of the pagans; this is the living God of the Bible! He is the one who has never not existed. He is the author and origin of all life, the life giver, the living one.

Notice also, Paul says ‘we.’ He places himself alongside us, his readers, and says ‘we’. This is not ‘I’ have it all figured out and ‘you’ need to get your act together. Paul and the believers in Corinth are together, they are on the same side of the equation. They are fundamentally the same. They are righteousness, they are light, they are in Christ. They are believers – those who are trusting in the finished work of Jesus. Paul is pursuing reconciliation, both reconciliation of the Corinthians to God, and to himself as apostle. They need to live out the truth of the gospel; they are one in Christ. They together are the temple of God. They need to act like it!

As God Said: Leviticus 26 and Ezekiel 37

Paul stitches together a patchwork of Old Testament promises to paint a composite of who we are, intermixed with the appropriate response of separation.

2 Corinthians 6:16 …For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

This is a mashup of verses from as diverse places as Leviticus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, 2 Samuel together with some other Scriptural echoes. Some are exact quotations from the Greek Old Testament, some are paraphrases, reworded to fit the context here.

Indwelling and Covenant Identity

2 Corinthians 6:16 …“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This is an overlay of Leviticus 26:11-12 with Ezekiel 37:27. Rather than following the Greek translation, it seems Paul made his own translation of the Hebrew. Literally, we could translate Paul’s Greek as ‘I will indwell in them’. He is emphatic, duplicating the prefix ‘in’ with the preposition ‘in’.

God says ‘I will indwell in them, and walk among them.’ This echoes Eden where God walked with man in the garden, but so much better! The Lord told his disciples that the Holy Spirit is with you and will be in you. He walks with us, among us, but he lives in us! He will never leave us! Stop for a moment and just let this soak in. We, you and I, the church, we are the temple of the living God.

‘I will be their God and they shall be my people.’ This is the language of the covenant. God redeemed his people out of Egypt to be in relationship with him. He literally would pitch his tent in the middle of their camp and live with them. He entered into covenant relationship with them. He would be to them their God, and he would take them to be his people.

Leviticus 26 begins by reiterating the prohibition against idolatry and promises blessings on those who walk in his ways. God says

Leviticus 26:11 I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

In a passage where he commands that they be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, he quotes a passage which reminds them that God has shattered their yoke of slavery.

Ezekiel 37 comes in the context of the new covenant promises of Ezekiel 36 where God says:

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 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. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Ezekiel 37 is the vision of the valley of dry bones, where God’s Spirit is able to give life to the dead and make their dry bones live. The second half of Ezekiel 37 points to the re-uniting of the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah under one King. God will cleanse them of their idolatry (v.23), and

Ezekiel 37:26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

Paul takes this text from Leviticus 26, immediately after leaving Egypt, promising blessing to those who walk in his ways, and stitches it together with Ezekiel 37, written from the despair of Babylonian captivity after centuries of disobedience, but pointing to a future hope of God again dwelling with his people. Paul addresses the Gentile church in Corinth and uses these texts to support his assertion ‘we are the temple of the living God.’

Therefore: Response of Separation; Isaiah 52

2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,

Paul adds an introductory ‘therefore’ to Isaiah 52:11. This added ‘therefore’ is critical to understanding what Paul is doing here.

Notice, everything in the quotations in verse 16 consists of promises of what God will do.

2 Corinthians 6:16 …For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This is extremely one-sided. God indwells in us. God walks among us. God will be our God and take us to be his people. This is all God. That’s where Paul starts. Then he connects it to an exhortation to us with ‘therefore.’ Because this is true. Because you are already the temple of the living God. Because God has made his dwelling in you, because God walks among you, because God is your God and has taken you as his own people, because all this is already true, therefore. There is an appropriate response on our side. We must respond to what God has done. God is the initiator. We are always only the responders. Because of what God has done, therefore, we must reciprocate.

Isaiah 52 looks forward to the exiles at the end of the Babylonian captivity. God demonstrates that he is present, he reigns, he returns, he has comforted, he has redeemed, he alone saves. He says in verse 2 ‘loose the bonds of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion’; This is God who sets his people free from an oppressive yoke of bondage.

Isaiah 52:11 Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD.

In this context it is clear that this is not a pride thing, as if we are above others, better than others. God’s people were in captivity to a foreign nation because of their sin, their idolatry, their disobedience. It is in spite of their rebellion, in order to display the glory of his own glorious name, that he saves, at great personal cost to himself (see Isaiah 52-53).

We also see that this is not a burdensome command, as if we reluctantly have to deny ourselves and part with our treasured pleasures. Think of a slave finally freed from oppressive bondage. They are eager to take a bath, to wash away any residue of their slavery and be finally rid of it all. This is the absurdity of Lot and his wife; they are being rescued from a wicked place and from the Lord’s judgment, and they don’t really want to leave.

Adopted by the Almighty; Ezekiel 20; 2 Samuel 7 and Isaiah 43

Paul goes on,

2 Corinthians 6:17 …then I will welcome you,

This phrase seems to be lifted from Ezekiel 20:34

Ezekiel 20:34 I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out.

Gather in the Greek is this word welcome; literally ‘receive into’. This too comes from a context of God’s people rescued from their enemies, brought in, brought home.

2 Corinthians 6:18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

This is simply stunning! Paul takes the Eden and temple metaphor, that God walks with us and dwells in us, and turns it to a family metaphor; adoption. We are welcomed, not only as created beings, not only as servants, but as loved children.

This comes from 2 Samuel 7, where David desires to build God a permanent house in Jerusalem, and God reverses this and promises that he will build David a house.

2 Samuel 7:11 …Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.

This points beyond Solomon to David’s greater Son, whose throne will be established forever, who is indeed the Son of God. Because we are in Christ, we are sons of God through faith (Gal.3:26). Paul changes this to plural and even adds daughters, likely an echo of Isaiah 43:6 where both sons and daughters appear together.

His closing phrase, the third different way he states that this is what God said, likely comes from the context of 2 Samuel 7:8

2 Corinthians 6:18 …says the Lord Almighty.”

This is the typical LXX translation of ‘the Lord of hosts’ or ‘Lord of armies’; YHWH Tsabaoth’ (Rom.9:28, Jam.5:4)

Conclusion

This is a staggering passage. Paul calls us, Gentiles, the church ‘the temple of the living God.’ And he backs this up with God’s word; God’s promises to ‘indwell in us’ to walk among us, to be our God and take us in covenant relationship to be his people.

Because of these staggering promises he exhorts us to throw off the yoke and walk in freedom; go out from their midst, be separate from them, touch no unclean thing.

And he sandwiches this exhortation with more astounding promises; And I will welcome you, I will be a Father to you, You shall be sons and daughters to me.

Stand in awe of God’s promises. Look at who you are, who he has called you to be. And be who you are. Live free. Don’t be entangled again in a yoke of bondage.

***

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

May 13, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Unequal Yoke

05/05_2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Unequal Yokes Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190505_2cor6_14-16.mp3

Paul addresses the Corinthians personally, inviting them to open up to him. He has been open with them, he has not withheld any good, his heart is wide open to them, but their affections have narrowed toward him. He addresses the issue head on in verse 14. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Then he gives five shocking illustrations of incompatibility to wake them up to the seriousness of the issue.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

In order to understand this passage rightly, we need to ask what he means by being unequally yoked, and who are the unbelievers he is warning against being unequally yoked together with.

Differently Yoked

What does it mean to be yoked? This is a farming metaphor. A yoke is a device that connects two animals together for the purpose of pulling a load or doing work. Deuteronomy 22:10 says:

Deuteronomy 22:10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.

An ox and a donkey are going to pull differently. They are different sizes, they have different abilities, different strength. We might ask, who would think this is a good idea? And any inexperienced farmer who tried it would quickly see that this is not going to be effective; they are not going to pull evenly, at the same rate, or in the same direction. One will tire before the other; they are simply not going to get much done. If mismatching animals in a yoke for labor is so evidently a bad idea, we might ask ‘why was this law even written?’

In 1 Corinthians 9:9, Paul quoted a verse just a few chapters later, Deuteronomy 25:4. It is interesting to see how he understood it.

1 Corinthians 9:9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

…14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul looks at the Old Testament text and says this is ultimately not about animals. God is setting a pattern, and it is for us, for our benefit. He takes a rule about agriculture and applies it to the preaching of the gospel.

It seems that is what he is doing here in 2 Corinthians 6:14. The rule about mismatching animals was to teach a principle about people and gospel ministry. The verses around Deuteronomy 22:10 prohibit planting with two different kinds of seed, and wearing clothing made of two different kinds of fabric. The point is that there are things that are not meant to go together.

Leviticus 19:19 forbids crossbreeding of animals that are of a different kind, and the Greek translation uses this word ‘unequally yoked’ to describe animals that are of different kinds; animals that would be unequally yoked. And this verse in Leviticus follows immediately after the one verse from Leviticus that you know; ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Five Rhetorical Questions

Paul pleads with the Corinthians to open their affections to him, and he commands that they cut off all inappropriate affections that were constricting their relationship. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. And he gives 5 rhetorical questions to drive his point home.

2 Corinthians 6:14 ,,,For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

15 What accord has Christ with Belial?

Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

Righteousness doesn’t partake or participate in lawlessness. According to 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Christ to be sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. The Corinthians, despite outward appearances, have been counted righteous in Christ. For one who has been clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ to take part in lawlessness is utterly incongruous.

Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Light and darkness don’t mix. When God created light, he separated the light from the darkness. Darkness is the absence of light. When light enters, it drives out darkness. Light and darkness don’t have communion, fellowship, intercourse; they don’t have anything in common. If anyone is in Christ, new creation! (2Cor.5:17)

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.

Jesus said:

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.”

And Jesus commissioned Paul to:

Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God…

We were called, according to Peter “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pet.2:9).

What accord has Christ with Belial?

Belial or Beliar was a word that had roots in the word ‘worthlessness’ or nothingness; it came to be used to refer to Satan. What accord, literally what symphony? Will they make music together? Do they harmonize together with one voice?

Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

Believers and unbelievers, the two categories that divide humanity; those who depend only and completely on Jesus or those who are trusting in anything else; those who are being saved and those who are perishing (1Cor.1:18,21); those whose minds have been blinded by Satan and those to whom it has been given to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2Cor. 4:3-6).

What portion, what share, what common inheritance does the one who is being saved have with the one who is perishing? We have been given an inheritance incorruptible, we are made co-heirs with Christ through faith, we have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

We see an illustration of the incompatibility of the temple of God with idols when the Philistines captured the ark of God and put it in their pagan temple next to their idol.

1 Samuel 5:4 But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him.

When the evil king Manasseh built altars in the house of the Lord and set up idols in the very courts of the living God, we are told:

2 Kings 21:9 …Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel.

In Ezekiel 8, the Lord gives Ezekiel a vision of idolatry and false worship in the temple, and the Lord says

Ezekiel 8:6 And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? …

God’s wrath was poured out, and the glory of the Lord departed from the temple. The Lord will not share his temple with idols. There can be no agreement, no pact or relationship based on mutual consent.

In response to Jesus’ rejection by Israel, he said

Matthew 23:38 See, your house is left to you desolate.

What partnership, what fellowship, what harmonization, what common inheritance, what agreement can there be? He answers his own rhetorical questions with the profound affirmation “for we are the temple of the living God,” a topic I want to take more time to look at next week. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

Avoiding False Application; Gospel Engagement and Gospel Separation;

So who are the unbelievers we are not to be yoked with? This passage is forceful, but how do we apply it? Maybe more importantly, how do we avoid mis-applying it? In my experience, this was the go-to verse for arguing against marrying or even dating unbelievers. While I believe that is wise and biblical counsel, I don’t think that is the primary point of these verses. If that were the main point, when we get to the next verse which reads ‘Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord’ we might wrongly conclude that any believer who is in a marriage with an unbeliever should immediately leave; a conclusion that is both wrong and unbiblical. Others have used this verse to say that we should never enter into a business partnership with an unbeliever. Some use it to say we should only shop at Christian owned businesses, that we should only have Christian friends, that we should create a Christian ghetto.

2 Corinthians comes after 1 Corinthians, and Paul would be right to assume that the Corinthians would hear what he is saying here in the context of what he has already said. Let me distill for you quickly some of what he said in 1 Corinthians about what our interaction with unbelievers should look like.

In 1 Corinthians 6 he said that we should not bring our grievances with a brother before unbelievers to have them settle our disputes. It would be better to suffer wrong.

In 1 Corinthians 7 he said that a believer who is married to an unbeliever should not seek divorce. Peter adds that the believer should demonstrate humility, purity and respect, so that ‘they may be won without a word by [your] conduct’ (1Pet.3:1-2). In 1 Corinthians 7:39 Paul says that those who are not currently married are free to marry ‘only in the Lord.’

In 1 Corinthians 10 he is clear that we are not to desire evil (10:6). Do not be idolaters (10:7). We must not indulge in sexual immorality (10:8, cf. 6:18). Do not grumble (10:10). Flee from idolatry (10:14). Do not enter in to fellowship with demons (10:20-21).

But in regard to what is sold in the market, he says do eat whatever is sold there with thanksgiving (10:25). He says do go to dinner with unbelievers (10:27). Give no offense to Jews or Greeks or to the Church; seek the advantage of others that they may be saved (10:32-33).

In 1 Corinthians 14, in regard to the worship of the church, he says do welcome unbelievers into the the gathered worship of the church with the hope that they would be convicted, would turn and enter in to true worship (14:22-25).

In 1 Corinthians 5, he corrected misunderstandings of something he had written previously, and this would also serve to clarify what he now writes.

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

We are to interact with sexually immoral people, greedy people, swindlers, and idolaters. We are to eat with them, to love and serve them, to make friends with them. We are to seek their good, ultimately their greatest good in salvation.

The ones we are not to associate with are those who claim to be believers, but who persistently and unrepentantly embrace a lifestyle that contradicts the gospel. The greatest danger to the church does not come from outside the church but from within. Here Paul clearly calls those ‘unbelievers’ who although they may belong to the church, they don’t embrace a life shaped by the gospel.

He has spent the bulk of chapters 1-6 painting a picture of what genuine gospel ministry looks and smells like; that gospel ministry must conform to the gospel; that those who preach the cross must embrace a lifestyle of selfless sacrificial service and even suffering for the good of others. He mentioned those who peddle God’s word (2:17), those who practice disgraceful underhanded ways, who practice cunning and tamper with God’s word (4:2); those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart (5:12), those who have received God’s grace in a vain or worthless manner (6:1). In chapter 11, he expresses his concern that they are being deceived and led astray by those who proclaim another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel (3-4). He calls them ‘super-apostles’ (5), ‘false apostles, deceitful workmen, servants of Satan’ (2Cor.11:13-15).

Here by implication he calls them lawlessness, darkness, Belial, unbelievers, idols.

Do not be unequally yoked in service together with unbelievers; cut off your partnership with false teachers; withdraw from those spiritually toxic relationships.

Open wide your affections to us. He said in 6:1 that ‘we are working together with God.’ We are not ‘sufficient in ourselves to claim to anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers’ (3:5-6). ‘We have this ministry by the mercy of God’ (4:1). ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us’ (4:7). ‘All this is from God who… gave us the ministry of reconciliation’ and entrusted to us ‘the message of reconciliation’ (5:18-19).

Jesus said

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This is utterly amazing! That the God of the universe would stoop down to become human, to die in our place, and now to invite us to be yoked together with him, ministering alongside him in selfless sacrificial service!

***

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

May 6, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment