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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Baptism and Newness of Life (Romans 6)

01/14 Baptism and Walking in Newness of Life (Romans 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180114_baptism-new-life.mp3

We had some baptisms last Sunday, and we have a baptism today. I thought it might be helpful today to look at one of the key passages on baptism, Romans 6, to see what baptism is about, and really, this is much bigger than baptism, to see what our new life in Christ is all about, what we are to be all about.

The Strange Symbol of Baptism

If you think about baptism for a minute, it’s a weird thing. We don’t even have an English word for it; we’ve borrowed ‘baptizo’ from the Greek. It’s really a foreign thing. We have this giant bathtub in a public place (or sometimes we us a lake) where someone else bathes you in front of a bunch of other people. I can bathe myself, thank you. And I can do a better job of it too. And bathing is meant to be private. But the point is not really to get clean. Of course, we keep our clothes on, because we want it to be modest. And that’s another strange thing about it; we wear clothes to get dunked in water. If I’m going swimming, I wear a swimsuit, not my everyday clothes. And when we’re swimming together, the goal is usually not to get dunked by someone else. I don’t like it when someone pushes me under the water. But in baptism, we voluntarily let someone else dunk us.

When I was serving as a youth pastor back in Washington, our church was doing baptisms out at a beach. The pastor was out in the water, and I was on the rocky beach with my clothes on, carrying the video camera in its case, and I think a diaper bag in the other. One of the other leadership guys came up behind me and bearhugged me and picked me up and started walking toward the water. He’s a bit bigger than me. I thought he was just joking around, but I let the bags drop on the beach just in case. By the time he had me out a little more than knee deep, somehow I was able to get my leg behind his, and to both our suprise, I ended up baptizing him. It was a total immersion. The only thing that didn’t survive the incident was my cell phone.

Baptism Symbolism

Baptism is primarily a symbol; it’s an acted out picture. It is a picture of bathing or cleansing, but not dirt from the body, as 1 Peter 3:21 says, but a clean conscience before God. When we trust Jesus and his finished work for us on the cross, our sins are washed away. Baptism is an acted out picture of what happened when we believed in Jesus.

Baptism is not something we do, someone else does it to us. The one being baptized is passive. They receive baptism. They are really at the mercy of someone else. That is part of the picture too; we ‘were dead in our trespasses and sins,’ (Eph.2:1)

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him…

Titus 3:5 tells us ‘he saved us.’ Salvation is not something we do, it is something God does. He saves us.

When someone gets baptized, literally dunked in water, they come out looking different. There’s a change. If you had your hair all done up, it is going to look different coming up out of the water. Your clothes will be all wet. When Jesus comes in to a person’s life, there’s a change. It may not be as visible, but he begins to change us from the inside. And it will become visible to those around us. Baptism is a picture of that.

Romans 6

Let’s look at the text. In Romans 5 Paul is arguing that God gives those who depend on Jesus a gift they didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Jesus earned the gift, and he gives it to us freely. Adam by his disobedience earned death, and he passed that on to us. Jesus by his obedience earned justification (the verdict of ‘not guilty’) and life, and he gives that as a gift to all those who believe or trust him. The greater our sin, the more it shows off how great his grace is to cover all that sin.

In chapter 6 Paul sees a logical conclusion from this coming; ‘So if all my sin shows off the power of God’s amazing grace, then I should keep on sinning so that God’s grace is put on display even more, right?’

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

Pau’s answer is strong and decisive. Their premise is sound; but the conclusion does not follow.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Where sin increased, grace abounded (5:20). But it does not follow that we should increase our sinning so that grace will abound all the more. That kind of thinking overlooks the fact that if we are truly in Christ, we have died to sin. Dead people don’t do the things they used to do. Dead people don’t feel the way they used to feel, they don’t desire what they used to desire, they don’t think the way they used to think. Dead people are, well, dead. Dead people don’t get up in the morning and get dressed and brush their teeth and enjoy a cup of coffee and drive to work. Dead people stop doing what they have always done. That life is over. That’s what dead means. Paul describes us as dead and says ‘how can we?’ How can we still live in sin? ‘How can we continue in sin?’

Not Sinless Perfection

Understand he is not saying that Christians never sin. 1 John, talking to Christians, says

1 John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Walking in darkness while claiming to have a relationship with the one who is light is inconsistent. But then he goes on to say:

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. …10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

He goes on to say:

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

We are not to walk in darkness. We are to put to death the deeds of the darkness. We are not to make peace with the sin in our lives. But neither are we to pretend that we don’t sin. James tells us

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways…

By saying that we died to sin, Paul is not saying that followers of Jesus never sin again. He is saying that it is inconsistent for us to live in sin, to continue in sin, to make peace with our sin and walk in it as a lifestyle.

Thinking and Acting

Paul goes on to give us the doctrinal foundation we are to stand on. There is biblical teaching we ought to know, and it ought to impact the way we live. As followers of Jesus we are to be taught. When Jesus told his disciples to make disciples, he said they were to baptize them and teach ”them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt.28:20). There is truth we ought to know. We need to be learning, listening, reading, thinking, studying. But the goal is not just facts to fill our head. The goal is a renewed mind; new patterns of thinking that begin to shape new patterns of action. We can attempt to fight the battle against sin with our own willpower, and we will fail. Or worse yet, we will have a measure of success and become proud of ourselves. That is not God’s way. We are to be armed with truth and the word of God.

An example: The bully on the playground bulllies because it makes him feel powerful and in control. It makes him feel strong and superior to others. It makes him feel good about himself. His patterns of behavior are shaped by his beliefs. He must bully to continue to feel good about himself. His actions may make him feel good, but it is at the expense of others, and it doesn’t last. The bully might demand respect, but he never experiences love.

Jesus teaches us that true greatness is using our strength and resources to love and serve others for their good. If the bully learns that there is a deeper and richer and lasting satisfaction in selflessly serving for the good of others, if he begins to experience the joy of selflessness; not serving to feed his own ego and make himself feel better (this is subtle and dangerous), but ultimately serving to please God, really and truly loving God and loving others, this new truth will begin to shape new actions.

Paul says there is truth you must know that will begin to shape who you are.

United with Christ in Death

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul is pointing to the picture of baptism and the truth it displays. The word ‘baptize’ means ‘to immerse in, to plunge or dunk.’ When you are immersed in water, you are connected with the water. You are surrounded by and covered with the water. Water is a good conductor of electricity. If things aren’t wired properly and a microphone is dropped in the water, the electricity will pass through the water and through you if you are in the water. By believing in Jesus, we are immersed into Jesus, we become connected with Jesus, covered by Jesus, surrounded by Jesus. When we are dunked in water, we get wet. When we are plunged into Jesus by faith, we get Jesus all over. We are united with Jesus. There is a real connection with Jesus. And part of that connection is a connection with his death and resurrection. Because he died, and we are united with him, ‘we were buried with him by baptism into death. Because he didn’t stay dead, and we are connected to him, ‘just as Christ was raised from the dead, …we too might walk in newness of life.’

He goes on to point to this unity:

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Here he gets explicit. We were crucifed. Crucified with Christ. Jesus died a real death. A shameful death. He didn’t die of natural causes; he was executed publicly as a criminal. They buried him because he was dead. The soldiers made certain of that. We are united with him in death; our old self was crucified with him. The guilty sinful you was executed. If the old you was executed as a criminal, then it is dead. Buried. Gone. ‘Brought to nothing.’ Powerless. And if the sinful you is dead, then you are set free from sin.

You see how this works? The wages of sin is death, and God’s law requires your death. If you have really been united with Christ in his death, crucified with Christ, if the sinful you has been executed, then that legal demand has been satisfied. The greatest penalty a human court can issue is the death penalty. Someone sentenced to 30 years who dies two years into his sentence is not forced to serve the remaining 28. He is released. The law has been satisfied. The word in verse 7 translated ‘set free’ is really the word ‘justified’. He is released from his sins’ legal demands. The penalty has been paid.

United with Christ in Life

Romans 6:8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

This connection with Jesus is not limited to his death, but it extends to his resurrection. Our old self is dead. The penalty has been paid. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose! He will never die again. Death has no claim on him. He died to sin, and in him we died. He lives to God, and in him we live. We no longer live to sin, we are dead to that. We live to God, to please God, to enjoy God, to be in the presence of God.

Here he brings us back around to his original question. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Truth That Shapes Us

This is the truth you must know. Baptism is a picture of this. Believing in Jesus connects us with Jesus, immerses us into Jesus. His death becomes our death. We enter in to his resurrection life.

This is the truth we must know, and it must shape who we are.

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Truth, teaching, new patterns of thinking and believing lead to new patterns of living. This is what is true of you in Jesus. Consider it so! When temptation comes, I don’t feel very dead to sin. I actually feel quite alive to it! I think I could get a great deal of satisfaction out of that. This is when I need to preach the gospel to myself. Rodney, you’re dead to that! Jesus died for that, and you died with him. Picture the granite with my name chiseled into it. Picture the dirt, hear the flies buzzing, smell the stench. Dead, buried, rotting, decayed, I am dead to that! I can get no pleasure out of that. That guy that used to enjoy that was executed, nailed to a cross!

Truth requires a response from me. I am alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin’s power is broken. I am under no obligation to be controlled by its desires. My body is a tool. My hands, my eyes, my mouth, a tool. I can do great harm with my words. I can allow my eyes to lead me into sin. But that is not what I was made for. I am dead to that. I am alive to God. My body is a tool to glorify God., to enjoy God. I am united with Christ; I am alive to God. I can enjoy intimacy with God. I can walk in the light, sins forgiven, in the presence of God. I can walk in a new kind of life, the abundant life. A resurrection kind of life.

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

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January 22, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:35-49; With What Kind of Body?

05/31 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 With What Kind of Body?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150531_1cor15_35-49.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

35 Ἀλλὰ ἐρεῖ τις· Πῶς ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροί, ποίῳ δὲ σώματι ἔρχονται; 36 ἄφρων, σὺ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ ζῳοποιεῖται ἐὰν μὴ ἀποθάνῃ· 37 καὶ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ τὸ σῶμα τὸ γενησόμενον σπείρεις ἀλλὰ γυμνὸν κόκκον εἰ τύχοι σίτου ἤ τινος τῶν λοιπῶν· 38 ὁ δὲ θεὸς δίδωσιν αὐτῷ σῶμα καθὼς ἠθέλησεν, καὶ ἑκάστῳ τῶν σπερμάτων ἴδιον σῶμα. 39 οὐ πᾶσα σὰρξ ἡ αὐτὴ σάρξ, ἀλλὰ ἄλλη μὲν ἀνθρώπων, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ κτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ πτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ ἰχθύων. 40 καὶ σώματα ἐπουράνια, καὶ σώματα ἐπίγεια· ἀλλὰ ἑτέρα μὲν ἡ τῶν ἐπουρανίων δόξα, ἑτέρα δὲ ἡ τῶν ἐπιγείων. 41 ἄλλη δόξα ἡλίου, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα σελήνης, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα ἀστέρων, ἀστὴρ γὰρ ἀστέρος διαφέρει ἐν δόξῃ. 42 Οὕτως καὶ ἡ ἀνάστασις τῶν νεκρῶν. σπείρεται ἐν φθορᾷ, ἐγείρεται ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ· 43 σπείρεται ἐν ἀτιμίᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δόξῃ· σπείρεται ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δυνάμει· 44 σπείρεται σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἐγείρεται σῶμα πνευματικόν. Εἰ ἔστιν σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἔστιν καὶ πνευματικόν. 45 οὕτως καὶ γέγραπται· Ἐγένετο ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος Ἀδὰμ εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν· ὁ ἔσχατος Ἀδὰμ εἰς πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν. 46 ἀλλ’ οὐ πρῶτον τὸ πνευματικὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ ψυχικόν, ἔπειτα τὸ πνευματικόν. 47 ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος ἐκ γῆς χοϊκός, ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. 48 οἷος ὁ χοϊκός, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ χοϊκοί, καὶ οἷος ὁ ἐπουράνιος, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ ἐπουράνιοι· 49 καὶ καθὼς ἐφορέσαμεν τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ χοϊκοῦ, φορέσομεν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἐπουρανίου.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Paul is defending the resurrection. He asks the question:

1 Corinthians 15:12 …how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

And this chapter is a careful and logical defense of the resurrection. In verses 1-7, he demonstrates that the resurrection is an essential part of the gospel message. In verses 8-11, he holds up himself up as a life radically transformed by God’s resurrecting grace. In verses 12-19 he lays out devastating consequences on believers if the resurrection were not historical. In verses 20-28, he parallels Christ with Adam; where Adam brought death, Christ brings life. In verse 2932 he points to the incoherence of baptism and suffering in Christian service if there is no resurrection. In verses 32-34, he warns of the moral dangers of unbelief in the resurrection.

In verses 35-49, he answers the naturalistic objection to the possibility of the resurrection. In verses 50-53 he argues for the necessity of resurrection for participation in the kingdom of God, in verses 54-57, the prophetic necessity of the resurrection, and in 58, the meaningfulness of the Christian life because of the resurrection. This chapter is all about the resurrection. And in this section, Paul gives us beautiful insights into what the resurrection will be like.

Foolish Questions or Foolish People?

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person!

You may have heard that there are no stupid questions. That may be true, but the person who ask the questions may be a fool. In verse 35, Paul frames two questions, and his response to those questions is ‘Fool!’ You fool! The questions are not foolish, and Paul will answer them. But the motive behind the questions betrays the heart of a fool. The questions are asked not in order to find an answer, not to gain wisdom, but to prove a point. They are asked to make Paul’s belief in the resurrection look foolish. These are those who say there is no resurrection of the dead. They ask ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ Are disintegrated, decomposed, rotting corpses really going to come back to life? Is grandma, who is pushing up daisies, really going to one day reclaim her molecules from the person who ate the cow that ate the daisies? The questions are intended to make the belief in the resurrection look absurd, and to ridicule anyone who holds to this belief. But Paul is not intimidated. These people are like the people in Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, ‘The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.”’ So Paul says it as it is ‘You fool!’ Your questions stem from an unbelief in God. In the previous verses, Paul pointed to the disastrous moral consequences of unbelief in the resurrection, and the root of this unbelief, that ‘some have no knowledge of God.’ If God is God, if God is omnipotent and sovereign, if God is a God who keeps his promises, then the resurrection will be no trouble for him at all. Paul’s response is similar to Jesus’ response to the Sadducees who asked him a similar question to demonstrate the irrationality of the resurrection;

Mark 12:24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?

In answer to these questions, Paul points them back to God, the sovereign God who does all that he pleases, who accomplishes all that he desires.

Psalm 135:5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

In this section, Paul brings us back to Genesis, to the first chapters of the creation narrative. He quotes Genesis 2:7 in verse 45, but the creation narrative is the background of everything he says.

Consider Seeds

He starts with seeds. (Day 3)

Genesis 1:11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

This is similar to what Jesus said in John 12 about his own death and resurrection, and that of his followers:

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Seeds are not meant to sit on a shelf. They are meant to go into the ground. God made the earth to ‘sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.’ If you had never seen a mighty Midwest oak tree, solid and strong, giving shade, what would you think of an acorn? Could you guess what might come up if you put it in the ground? Or if you happened upon a dry brown whirligig – those little helicopters, would you ever imagine the beautiful maple in its autumn blaze of orange? What about a wrinkly hard pit with a bitter nut inside? If you had never tasted a sweet juicy luscious peach, could you imagine it if someone described it to you? I have a box of garden seeds in my basement. Some of the packets were open and they spilled. There are some flat white discs of various sizes, tiny black specs, various sizes of teardrop shapes, small round spheres in different shades from brown to tan. If I dumped them all out on the table, how well do you think you would do describing the kind of plant and fruit that would come from each of them? Lettuce, spinach, broccoli, tomato, cucumber, pumpkins, squashes, hot peppers of all different shapes and colors. What if you had never planted a garden? If I put in front of you a flat oblong black seed and asked you to draw me a picture of what you think would come up if you put it in the ground, would you ever imagine a wild green vine with large lobed leaves and large green striped fruit with bright pink watery insides? It’s just a hard black thing. [Fig tree seed illustration]

Sovereign Grace

1 Corinthians 15:36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

Notice Paul’s focus here. His focus is on God who chooses and God who gives. God gives the kind of body to each seed that he has chosen. From creation he ordained peach pits to grow peach trees with peaches, watermelon seeds to sprout vines with watermelons, carrot seeds to grow carrots, fig seeds to grow enormous fig trees with sugary sweet fruit. God gives each a body as he has chosen. There are infinite varieties of shapes and sizes and colors and flavors of plants and flowers and fruits. What a seed will become is unimaginable when looking only at the seed. God gives each a body as he has chosen. He is infinitely creative and wise and good. God is the giver. The resurrection is part of the good news. The good news is a message of grace, a generous God who gives to sinners what we don’t deserve, what we couldn’t earn, what he freely gives. In verses 8-10 Paul held himself up as a trophy of God’s transforming resurrecting grace ‘By the grace of God I am what I am’. God is the giver in creation. God is the giver in resurrection.

Consider Flesh

Paul still has in mind the creation account in Genesis.

On the Fifth Day:

Genesis 1:20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. …

On the Sixth Day:

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.

Paul is looking at the variety of kinds of flesh, each suited for its own environment, fish to live in the sea, birds to live in the air, animals to live on the land, and man to rule over them all. The amazing diversity and variety we see in the animal kingdom is ample evidence that God is more than capable of designing a body suitable for any kind of environment, from deep sea creatures to salt water to fresh, birds with structures capable of soaring and migrating, land animals suited for jungle and tropical and desert and polar climates. If God in his infinite creativity can imagine bodies suitable for survival in such diverse environments, surely he can design a body suitable for life in the resurrection.

Consider the Glory of the Heavens

Paul moves back to day four of creation

Genesis 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

He draws a contrast between the heavenly and the earthly. Where God in his all wise creativity can make bodies suitable for land, sea, and air, all different earthly environments, he can also design bodies designed for the heavens or what we would call outer space. Even here we see evidence of variety and creativity. Sun, moon, stars, planets, variety in brightness and size and color and intensity, each designed for its own environment.

Of the Soul / Of the Spirit

Paul has drawn from days 3, 6, 5 and 4 of creation, looking at botany, biology and astronomy to demonstrate that whatever the environment, God has proven himself more than capable of providing a body suitable for that environment.

He now picks up his illustration from seeds and draws some conclusions. There is continuity with what is sown, but there is also radical discontinuity. The pear seed will not grow tangerines or turnips. The pear seed will grow a pear tree. There is an organic unity between the seed sown and the plant that erupts from the ground. But the appearance and characteristics of the naked seed are nothing at all like the tree that grows from it, or the fruit it produces.

1 Corinthians 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. …

There is continuity between what is sown and what is raised. But there is also radical transformation. The contrasts are laid out here. Our present human bodies are subject to decay, they are subject to shame and dishonor, they are weak, and they are natural or soulish. The resurrection will change all that. What was once subject to decomposition will be incorruptible. What was once subject to shame will be clothed in glory. What was once impotent will be characterized by resurrection power. What was soulish or natural will be spiritual.

What does Paul mean by this last contrast between natural and spiritual? What is a spiritual body? We might think a spiritual body to be an oxymoron, a logical contradiction like immaterial material. A body is the physical manifestation of something. Paul has been talking about different kinds of bodies – stars, fish, birds, plants, beasts, humans. When we hear ‘spiritual’ we might equate that with invisible or immaterial or non-physical, but that is not the case. A spiritual body is not a body made up of spirit any more than a soulish body is a body made up of soul. If we contrast a steel ship with a wooden ship, we are talking about what the ship is made of, but if we talk about a steam ship in contrast to a sailing ship, we are contrasting not what they are made of, but what they are powered or energized by. The natural body is the body that is energized by the soul or natural life, or we might say the psyche, but the spiritual body is the body energized by the spirit. Paul made this distinction back in chapter 2.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

There, as here, the natural person is the person controlled by the soul, the psyche, or natural life. The spiritual person is the person controlled, empowered and enlightened by the Spirit of God.

This comes again from Genesis.

Genesis 2:7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

The breath of life made man a living soul or psyche, a living being with natural life. Paul again picks up his contrast between the first Adam and the last Adam.

1 Corinthians 15:44 …If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

But where Adam was given life, Christ became the life-giver. Where Adam was given natural life, Christ gives spiritual life. He gives the Spirit to all who believe in him.

1 Corinthians 15:46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.

There is a clear sequence. The natural life comes first. The bare seed must go into the ground and die before it bursts forth in resurrection life. We are not spiritual beings first. We begin as natural beings. We become spiritual beings, beings empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Paul now returns to the heaven/earth contrast that he brought up in verse 40.

1 Corinthians 15:47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Jesus said:

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

John contrasted himself with Jesus:

John 3:31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

Jesus came down from heaven, from his Father. Adam was made of dust. We come from dust. We are perishable, shameful, weak, and natural, controlled by the natural life. We have borne the image of the man of dust. Again Paul has Genesis in mind. Genesis 5 tells us that ‘Adam …fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image’. But if we transfer our allegiance to Christ, we are given new spiritual life, we belong to Christ and we will bear his image. Where the first man brought death, the second man brings life. He is imperishable, glorious, powerful, governed by the Spirit.

Because God is God, the resurrection is certain. We will be transformed, we will be raised incorruptible, clothed in glory and power, with the fruit of the Spirit in full bloom. I’ve heard people ask about the resurrection – how old will we be? If we have any disabilities or imperfections, will they be fixed? I think these are the wrong kind of questions. We will be like a bare seed that bursts up out of the ground in a glorious blossom. I will still be me, unique, different from anyone else, identifiable. But I will transformed. Romans 8 tells us that we are ‘predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son’

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We were created to bear the image of the invisible God. On that day we will bear the image of Jesus. We shall be like him.

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

May 31, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:23-28; God All In All

05/03 1 Corinthians 15:23-28 God All In All; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150503_1cor15_23-28.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

20 Νυνὶ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων. 21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δι’ ἀνθρώπου θάνατος, καὶ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν· 22 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν, οὕτως καὶ ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται. 23 ἕκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι· ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός, ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ· 24 εἶτα τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδιδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, ὅταν καταργήσῃ πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν, 25 δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν ἄχρι οὗ θῇ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. 26 ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος, 27 πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. 28 ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. 23 ἕκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι· ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός, ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ· 24 εἶτα τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδιδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, ὅταν καταργήσῃ πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν, 25 δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν ἄχρι οὗ θῇ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. 26 ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος, 27 πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. 28 ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Today we look at the ultimate meaning and purpose of everything. We see the broad sweep of salvation history leading in the end to every knee bowing in submission to the absolute sovereignty of the one God who really is.

We are examining the issue of resurrection. If Christ was not raised from the dead, then the gospel message is empty and believing in it is worthless, those who proclaim it are false witnesses and frauds, there is no escape from the punishment your sins deserve, and those who have died trusting in Jesus are forever lost. If it turns out that there is no resurrection, we will have wasted our lives. If in the end we are found to have believed a lie, we are of all people to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised, and he is the firstfruits of resurrection; because he was really bodily physically raised, we have certainty that we too will one day be raised. His resurrection is the promise of more to come. And in the same way that he was raised, bodily, physically, so we too will be raised.

Because it was a man who brought death, a man must also undo death. Just as Adam was the head of the old creation, and brought death to all those who followed him, so Jesus is head of the new creation, making alive all those who follow after him.

By Rank

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Jews believed in resurrection. The saints would be resurrected on the last day. Martha affirmed this belief when Jesus told her that her brother would rise again.

John 11:24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

But what was unusual and unexpected about Jesus’ resurrection was that one man was raised alone. Jesus was not part of this last day resurrection of the saints. Jesus was the firstfruits. There is a sequence to the all who are made alive in Christ. Each in his own order. This word order has a military background. It is the term for a band of soldiers, a class. This would be startling to the Corinthians, who were caught up in status and advancement, and many of whom thought of themselves as better than others. Paul says there are only two ranks. Two classes. Christ and those who belong to Christ. Christ alone is the firstfruits. Jesus is in a class by himself. No one shares his glory. Jesus alone is the firstfruits.

Then. There is a clear sequence in these verses. Christ is the firstfruits, then, after an unspecified amount of time, those who are Christ’s in his coming. This refers to all the saints. There are those who belong to Jesus and those who don’t. There are those, according to 1:18, who are being saved and those who are perishing. Jesus redeemed ‘…for himself a people for his own possession’ (Titus 2:14; cf. 1Pet.2:9)

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Those who belong to Christ, literally, those who are of Christ, will be made alive at his coming.

Parousia [παρουσίᾳ]

This word coming, or parousia, refers to the official visit as of an emperor to his colony, or of the appearance of a deity to his people. Jesus ascended into heaven in the sight of his followers.

Acts 1:10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Jesus is coming! He will make his royal appearance and all the dead in Christ shall rise (1Thes.4:16). We are to live

Titus 2:13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

At his coming those who belong to Christ will be made alive.

The End [τὸ τέλος]

Then comes the end – this is the broad sweep of the big picture – the end toward which everything is moving, the completion, the goal, the purpose, the aim.

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

The goal toward which all of history is moving is the consummation of the kingdom of God under God’s sovereign rule. Here we have Jesus delivering the kingdom to his Father. Jesus is not the Father; Jesus is not the same person as the Father. Jesus is a distinct person who enjoys a relationship with his Father; he prays to his Father, he submits to his Father, he does the will of his Father. Yet we are told that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Col.1:15). Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God, and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb.1:3). When one of his disciples asked Jesus to show them 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’?

Jesus said “I and the Father are one” (Jn.10:30). Jesus said the first and greatest command is “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mk.12:29). The Bible teaches that Jesus is not the Father or the Spirit, but Jesus is God and the Father is God and the Spirit is God, and there is only one true God. Three distinct persons, one essence or nature. When we read this passage in this light, it is more clear. This passage is full of personal pronouns. Let me attempt to clarify these by reading either Jesus or the Father in place of he and his:

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when he [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he [Jesus] must reign until he [Father?] has put all his [Father?] enemies under his [Jesus] feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God [Father] has put all things in subjection under his [Jesus] feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he [Father] is excepted who put all things in subjection under him [Jesus]. 28 When all things are subjected to him [Jesus], then the Son himself will also be subjected to him [Father] who put all things in subjection under him [Jesus], that God [Triune] may be all in all.

The Son will hand over the kingdom to his Father after every enemy is put under his feet. These verses make reference to some Old Testament passages.

Psalms 110:1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

And

Psalm 8:4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

From these passages it appears that God will subject all things to a son of man who is also called Lord. The background of these passages comes from the creation of man in Genesis 1.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Man was designed to show forth the greatness of the invisible God, to exercise dominion over all creation, while remaining all the while in intimate relationship with and perfect submission to the Creator. Man failed. Adam rebelled. Man stepped out from under God’s good authority and attempted to rule independent of God. Death entered into God’s good creation. Everything went terribly wrong. This world is now broken. But where our first representative failed, our final representative fulfilled his role perfectly. Jesus, our new representative, must undo what Adam did. Jesus must bring all of creation back into perfect submission to the Creator. He must crush the rebellion and restore order. All competing rule and authority and power must be neutralized. All his enemies must be put under his feet.

Daniel pointed us to this ultimate restoration of all things under the ideal man using similar language.

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

…27 And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’

The way Jesus referred to himself most often was by this phrase ‘the Son of Man’. Jesus is the one who would be given dominion by the Ancient of Days. When Jesus was questioned by the high priest,

Mark 14:62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus was the one who would be given authority by his Father. As the representative man, he would obey where Adam disobeyed. Where Adam rebelled, he would put down the rebellion. Where Adam made himself an enemy of God, Jesus would bring all enemies in to submission. Where Adam brought death, Jesus would destroy death. Jesus conquered death by dying. Death could not hold him. He was raised from the dead, and he told his disciples ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (Mt.28:18). Jesus is now seated at the right hand of his Father.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

(cf. Mt. 26:64; Mk. 14:62; Lk. 22:69; Acts 2:33; 5:31; 7:55; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22)

Until

Psalm 110 said ‘sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Our text says

1 Corinthians 15:25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

This text spells out what the until means. Jesus, as the representative man, in the place of Adam, must reign until he had put all his enemies under his feet. He must exercise his God given dominion over all creation in the way that Adam was meant to, in perfect submission to his Father.

Death the Last Enemy

But there is one enemy still on the loose.

1 Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”

This gives the logical necessity of resurrection. If death remains, it would appear to be more powerful than God. If resurrection was merely spiritual but left our physical bodies in the ground to decay, then death would seem to win. Death was brought into this world by Adam’s sin. If death continues to hold its victims, then the primary consequence of sin has no remedy. Death is an enemy, and it must be destroyed. Until death is finally abolished and all who are in Christ are made alive, a critical part of our salvation is still future. It is absolutely certain, as Christ the firstfruits conquered death, but it is yet to come. Jesus, the perfect man, will undo the death that Adam instituted by making us alive at his coming.

The Exception to All

But this train of thought is open to a misunderstanding that must be clarified. When the Scripture teaches that the Father will put all things in subjection to Jesus, does it mean that even the Father will be subject to Jesus in his role as the representative man?

1 Corinthians 15:27 … But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Because the Father is the one who is placing all things under the feet of the Son, clearly the Father is not among the hostile authorities who are subjected to Jesus. With all the emphasis on Jesus as the one who rules and reigns, there may be a tendency among followers of Jesus to view him as if he were in competition with and even superior to the Father, as if he were a separate god. Many people mistakenly see in the Old Testament an angry, wrathful, vengeful god, and in the New Testament a kind and compassionate, caring and cuddly Jesus. They see Jesus as opposed to the Father, and ultimately victorious over the will of the Father by placing himself in between the angry Father and sinful people. Paul makes it clear that this is not how we should view Jesus’ relationship to the Father. Jesus was sent by his Father, and Jesus willingly came. He lived in perfect obedience to the will of his Father. It is the Father who is putting all things in subjection under Jesus. And it is Jesus, having fulfilled his role as the second Adam, the representative man, when he has undone all the damage that the first Adam brought about, who gladly delivers the kingdom to his Father. The Father, Son and Spirit are in perfect harmony as their unique roles together bring about the restoration of all things. When the last enemy is destroyed, when Jesus as the ideal man enjoys the dominion we were created for, then he will demonstrate his perfect submission and deliver the kingdom to his Father.

This was characteristic of Jesus’ whole life and ministry. He said

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 8:29 … I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

And we see this perfect submission of Christ to the Father throughout. Paul said in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:22 …all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

And dealing with the equal but different roles of man and woman in marriage in chapter 11, he says:

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

The Son is ultimately under the authority of the Father not so that the Father may be all in all, but that God, the triune God may be all in all. This is the goal of all things. Paul exhorted the Corinthians in chapter 6,

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

And again in chapter 10

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

The ultimate goal of all things is for all things to be restored to their proper submission to the benevolent authority of a good God. All those who persist in hostility and rebellion toward God will be crushed. All those who gladly join Christ in submission to his good rule will be given life, abundant life. We were created to enjoy God for who he is so that he might be glorified as he deserves.

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

May 4, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:12-19; Objective Truth

04/19 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Objective Truth; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150419_1cor15_12-19.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

12 Εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς κηρύσσεται ὅτι ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται, πῶς λέγουσιν ἐν ὑμῖν τινες ὅτι ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν; 13 εἰ δὲ ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 14 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, κενὸν ἄρα τὸ κήρυγμα ἡμῶν, κενὴ καὶ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, 15 εὑρισκόμεθα δὲ καὶ ψευδομάρτυρες τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι ἐμαρτυρήσαμεν κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι ἤγειρεν τὸν Χριστόν, ὃν οὐκ ἤγειρεν εἴπερ ἄρα νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται. 16 εἰ γὰρ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 17 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, ματαία ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, ἔτι ἐστὲ ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν. 18 ἄρα καὶ οἱ κοιμηθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ ἀπώλοντο. 19 εἰ ἐν τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ ἐν Χριστῷ ἠλπικότες ἐσμὲν μόνον, ἐλεεινότεροι πάντων ἀνθρώπων ἐσμέν.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I have recently talked to two different people who said very nearly the same thing. What they said went something like this. It doesn’t really matter what you believe or what faith you belong to, as long as you believe it and live by it and you are a better person for it. If everybody would really live and truly follow what they believe, we all would be better for it, and the world would be a better place. It doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as whatever you believe makes you a better person.

This is appealing, this sounds inclusive, and there is even an element of truth to it. If the common denominator of all belief systems were love and being nice, that would make for a much more pleasant and peaceful coexistence on the planet. A major problem with this way of thinking is that this is simply not true. Many belief systems are openly hostile and hateful toward others who do not embrace their teachings. But even if it were true, this is a view that is limited to this life only. If life on this planet is all there is, and whatever you believe helps you to be a better world citizen, then this makes some sense. But if there is a God, and if there is existence beyond death, then it matters a great deal if what you believe is right or wrong, true or false. What if God has a dearly loved Son, whom he sent to die in my place for my sins, and he raised him from the dead as proof that he was who he claimed to be and accomplished what he set out to do, and what if I live a life that is good and I treat others with kindness, but give no regard to God or his Son? It matters not only that what I believe makes me a better person, but that what I believe is true. Really, objectively true.

This is what Paul deals with in our text today. He has built the historical case for the gospel – the good news that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was really and truly dead, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he was really and truly alive, as attested to by many trustworthy eye-witnesses. These are the historical facts with theological meaning. Paul has given us himself as an example of a life radically transformed by the power of God’s resurrecting grace. And now he gives us some logic. He challenges us to use our brains. He reasons with us. He invites us to think clearly and carefully. Ideas have consequences. Some truth claims lead us to conclusions that are contrary to the evidence, so they must not be true. In verse 12, Paul states the problem. In verses 13-15 and in verses 16-18 he lays out two parallel lines of logical reasoning demonstrating by the necessary conclusions that their belief in verse 12 must be false. Then in verse 19, he gives a concluding logical argument.

Problem Stated

1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul has just declared the united preaching of all the apostolic witnesses of the resurrection. So we preached and so you believed. All the eye-witness agree and proclaim Christ as raised from the dead. That is the gospel message that was preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to it, unless you believed in vain. Some in Corinth were questioning the resurrection. It appears they were not specifically doubting the resurrection of Jesus, but rather questioning any kind of physical resurrection at all. Some were saying ‘the dead are not raised’ and ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ What happens when a person dies? We know physiologically, that the body decays, decomposes, is eaten by worms, and returns to dust. But is that all? We know that the Sadducees believed that there is no resurrection, and they came to Jesus with their own logical argument to try to prove the absurdity of the idea of resurrection (Mt.22:23; Mk.12:18; Lk.20:27). There was much in Greek and Roman thought that also doubted the idea of a resurrection. When Paul proclaimed the good news of the resurrection in the Areopagus at Athens, some mocked, but others were curious (Acts17:32). It seems some at Corinth had begun to question and doubt that resurrection was possible. Their issue was not what happens to your soul or spirit or consciousness after you die; their question had to do with what happens to your body. What happens to your person, to all of you? Does your decomposing rotting worm eaten flesh actually come back to life? That sounds impossible, that sounds creepy and gross. Paul challenges the logic of their thinking. If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, then how can you say there is no resurrection of the dead? You can’t have one without the other. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. Christ was one individual who died. If none of the dead are ever raised, then it follows that Christ was not raised, and Paul will now point out the tragic consequences of this idea.

Round One

1 Corinthians 15:13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Paul starts with their premise, that he will restate in verse 16, that ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ If this premise is absolutely true, then it follows that not even Christ has been raised. This leads to three unacceptable consequences.

Consequence one: our preaching is in vain. In verses 8-11, Paul used himself as an example of God’s resurrecting grace at work in someone who was once vehemently opposed to the gospel. If Christ has not been raised, all my missionary labors, all my hardships, all my pain and heartache and sacrifice, all the abuse and persecution I have suffered has been for nothing. It is empty, fruitless, worthless. There was no point. And not only Paul. Stephen had been stoned to death. James had been beheaded. All the preaching of all the eye-witness was empty, vain, useless, for nothing. A complete waste of time and energy and resources. Because if Christ has not been raised then there is no good news to bring, which leads to the second tragic consequence.

Consequence two: your faith is in vain. Paul had cautioned in verse 2 that they not believe in a way that is empty, fruitless, worthless, pointless. He encourages them to receive the gospel, to stand firm in the gospel, to hold fast to the gospel, to be transformed by the gospel. He will encourage them in verse 58 that their labor is not in vain in the Lord. But if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then all their believing, all their standing firm, all their holding fast is in vain. It accomplishes nothing. It is worthless, futile, empty. If Christ is not raised, your belief gets you nothing. Nothing. Zero.

Consequence three: We are shown to be false witnesses.

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, …15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Not only did we who proclaimed the gospel of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus waste our time and accomplish nothing, but worse, we misrepresented God, we bore false testimony about God. We broke the ninth commandment, and probably also the third, to not take the name of the Lord in vain. We bore witness that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead. If it is true, as you say that the dead are not raised, then God did not raise Christ from the dead, and we all, Peter and the twelve, the five hundred, James the Lord’s brother, and all the apostles together are demonstrated to be false witnesses. This is a grave accusation. They apparently did not think through the consequences of their assertions very carefully. Paul challenges them to think.

Round Two

1 Corinthians 15:16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

Paul again revisits their premise, that ‘the dead are not raised,’ and again points them to the necessary logical conclusion that if that is true, not even Christ has been raised, and points them to three more devastating consequences of their truth claim.

Consequence one: Your faith is futile. He is picking up the middle of his first three consequences and fleshing it out. Their believing in vain was sandwiched between the vain preaching and false testimony of the eye-witnesses. Here he uses a synonym to the word ‘vain’ that he used there in verse 14. Worthless, empty, devoid of truth, bringing no results. Your belief in the gospel is futile.

Consequence two: you are still in your sins. This gets to the root of the gospel and the reason for the vain futility of their faith if the resurrection didn’t happen. The good news proclaims that Christ died for our sins. If Jesus claimed to die for our sins, and then he stayed dead, his claim is empty. He didn’t accomplish what he set out to do. Romans 1 tells us that the resurrection validated that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

Romans 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, (cf. Acts 17:31)

And Romans 4 tells us:

Romans 4:25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

If Jesus stayed dead, then he was a fraud and his death accomplished nothing for us. This highlights the absolute centrality and necessity of Jesus. If Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be, as evidenced by the resurrection, then you are still in your sins. There is no other way for sins to be dealt with. Jesus claimed to be the way; the only way to God (Jn. 14:6). If Jesus’ sacrifice was not accepted by the Father, there is no way to be delivered from our sins. We are finally and forever lost. Our salvation, our justification, our forgiveness is contingent on the resurrection.

Consequence three: those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. To fall asleep is a gentle euphemism for the death of a believer. To die is merely to fall asleep, with the confidence that you will wake refreshed. But if the dead are not raised, and the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then those who put their confidence in Christ, those who were depending on Jesus, holding fast to the gospel, they have perished. He is not saying that they simply died and ceased to exist. That is not how Paul uses the word ‘perish’. In chapter 1:18-19, he uses this word to contrast those who are being saved with those who are perishing, who are being completely destroyed, whom God is opposing, shaming, bringing to nothing. God’s justice demands that if our sins are not paid for by another, we will pay for them through eternity.

Conclusion

Paul now brings this part of his argument to a conclusion. If the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised. If Christ is not raised, the gospel is false, preaching is worthless, believing the gospel will profit nothing, you are still in your sins. All we have left then is whatever benefit we have in this life.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

What if it’s not true? What if there is no resurrection? What if the gospel we believed turns out to be a lie? At least we were sincere and it gave us hope and we were better citizens, right? It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere and it makes you a better person, right? Paul’s answer is No! If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. Pathetic. Miserable. Pitiable. How can Paul say this? Isn’t the Christian lifestyle better, even if it is not true? Doesn’t it make you a better person, a better citizen?

Paul does say in 1 Timothy 4:8 that

1 Timothy 4:8 godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come

He exhorts us to be good fathers, husbands, citizens, good employees and employers. But if what we believe is not true, we are pitiable, miserable. Why?

As followers of Jesus, we are to be good citizens and live in submission to the authorities, but we are citizens of a different country and submit first to a higher authority. We are to be good husbands and parents, but we are to be devoted to our first love that takes precedence over all earthly loves. We are to serve our employers well, but all our service answers ultimately to the supreme Master.

Look at Paul, for example. It seems that in almost every city Paul visited a riot broke out. The authorities had to work overtime to try to keep the peace. He often required a military escort and protection. He moved around a lot, sometimes picking up jobs, sometimes taking donations to cover his expenses. He spent a lot of time in prison. Whenever he opened his mouth he was offending someone. Sometimes what he said hurt local businesses and they ran him out of town. He got himself beat up and almost killed on multiple occasions. He was successful in persuading many people to leave their long held religious beliefs and follow his teaching. He stirred things up so much that people were taking vows to assassinate him. Paul the model citizen!

Paul was passionate about one thing; making Jesus known. If the resurrection was not an historical reality, Paul wasted his life. We should feel sorry for him.

What about you? What about me? Do we live this life in such a way that if the resurrection were not true, if Jesus were not who he claimed to be, our lives would be viewed as a colossal waste? Have you sacrificed? Have you suffered for the sake of Christ? Is it true of you that if you have hope in Christ in this life only, you would be of all people most to be pitied? Or is your best life now? Is life comfortable and safe and happy and not too much is risked for the gospel? Do people view you as a good person, a respectable citizen, a responsible neighbor, or do they see a life so transformed by God’s resurrecting grace, so centered on Jesus, that there is tangible evidence that Jesus is really alive today?

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

April 19, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:8-11; Resurrecting Grace

04/12 1 Corinthians 15:8-11 Resurrecting Grace; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150412_1cor15_8-11.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

8 ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί. 9 ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι ὁ ἐλάχιστος τῶν ἀποστόλων, ὃς οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς καλεῖσθαι ἀπόστολος, διότι ἐδίωξα τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ· 10 χάριτι δὲ θεοῦ εἰμι ὅ εἰμι, καὶ ἡ χάρις αὐτοῦ ἡ εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ κενὴ ἐγενήθη, ἀλλὰ περισσότερον αὐτῶν πάντων ἐκοπίασα, οὐκ ἐγὼ δὲ ἀλλὰ ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ σὺν ἐμοί. 11 εἴτε οὖν ἐγὼ εἴτε ἐκεῖνοι, οὕτως κηρύσσομεν καὶ οὕτως ἐπιστεύσατε.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Paul has made known the gospel, the good news message of Christ crucified for sinners and risen triumphant. This is the powerful resurrection message that transforms sinners into saints, brings life out of death, and makes people new creations in Christ. Paul holds himself out as a caricature, an exaggerated example of the gospel at work in an extreme case. His emphasis is on grace (he uses the word 3 times in verse 10) – God’s startling, unexpected, irrational grace extended toward unworthy recipients at inopportune times. Grace is that which is freely given, lavishly poured out, extravagantly supplied, and it is completely unearned, totally undeserved, absolutely unmerited. The polar opposite of grace is wages, that which I earn, that which I deserve, that which is owed to me. The gospel is all about grace.

Paul could have held up any of the apostles as exhibits of God’s grace. Peter, James, and John, common fishermen, called into the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. Matthew, a despised tax collector, chosen to follow Jesus. Simon, a violent Zealot eager to overthrow Rome with force, called now to lay down his own life in love as part of a different kind of rebellion. He could have pointed to James, one of the Lord’s earthly brothers, who did not believe in Jesus until after the crucifixion, yet the risen Lord appeared to him, and by grace, he became a leader in the Jerusalem church. Each one is a trophy of grace, evidence of God pouring out favor on those who didn’t earn it, transforming broken people and using unlikely instruments to accomplish his good purposes.

Saul

But Paul holds himself up as the extreme example of God’s resurrecting grace at work. He says:

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Paul was called by God to be an apostle. But Paul considers himself least of all the apostles. He considers himself unworthy to be numbered among the apostles. And that is the definition of grace; a good gift extended to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Grace and unworthy go together. They must be kept together. God doesn’t give grace to those who think they deserve it. But if we could rank unworthiness on a scale, Paul was at the extreme end of unworthy. Paul was formerly called Saul, and he was present when Stephen preached the good news about Jesus, and, we are told:

Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Saul took pleasure in the execution of this godly man. Saul was ravaging the church. The persecution became so severe that the believers fled Jerusalem and scattered into the surrounding areas. But Saul was not content to drive them out of Jerusalem. He intended single-handed to extinguish this faith in Jesus from the earth.

Acts 9:1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Saul was seething with rage and malice toward the followers of Jesus. His was not just a passive feeling of hostility; he was actively creating opportunities to carry out evil against Jesus’ disciples. He obtained authority to pursue the scattered believers into the surrounding regions, even past the borders of Israel, far north, about 135 miles, to Damascus in Syria.

When he was interrupted on his way to Damascus, Jesus asked him “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

Paul describes himself in 1 Timothy as formerly a ‘blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent”

1 Timothy 1:14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

He refers to himself as the chief or foremost or most prominent of all sinners, the worst of the worst, completely unworthy of any kindness from God. Given the opportunity, it seems, Saul would have gladly taken the crown of thorns from the soldier’s hands and beat it into Jesus’ skull himself, spitting in his face.

An Abortion [εκτρωματι]

Paul describes his conversion on the Damascus road this way:

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

The word translated ‘to one untimely born’ could more literally be translated a miscarriage or an aborted fetus. This word is used in Numbers 12:12, Job 3:16 and Ecclesiastes 6:3 of a stillborn child.

We see this imagery in Ezekiel 16, addressed to Jerusalem, vividly describing the unworthiness of God’s chosen people.

Ezekiel 16:4 And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. 6 “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’

I don’t think there is a more startling or graphic picture of helplessness and hopelessness than this. This is Paul’s view of himself. When Jesus appeared to him, he compares himself to a discarded abortion, wallowing in his own blood. God called him when he was helpless and hopeless, hostile toward God, dead in his trespasses and sins.

Our Condition

I think Paul means for us to recoil at the thought, to be amazed by God’s grace, and then to identify with him. What a grotesque image, an aborted fetus, rejected, discarded, wallowing in its blood. Helpless, far beyond all hope. A blasphemer, persecutor, insolent opponent, breathing threats and murder against the disciples, ravaging the church. Why? Why extend grace to this one? What amazing grace that saved a wretch like …Saul. This is the way Paul describes his own condition, but this is also the way he describes our condition. We need to see ourselves in this light. He says in Colossians:

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

He says in Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

This is free, sovereign, undeserved, resurrecting grace. This is immeasurable riches of grace. We, we who were dead were made alive with him. I was utterly helpless, beyond all hope, hostile toward God, entirely self-focused. When he saw me wallowing in my blood he said ‘live!’ I was dead in my trespasses, and he said ‘Live!’ He spoke life into me, he made me alive, he raised me up, he seated me with his beloved Son. He demonstrated immeasurable riches of grace to an utterly unworthy sinner.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

He caused us to be born again. He poured out unmerited resurrecting grace on a wretch like me.

Grace, Grace, Grace

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am,

God’s unmerited grace came to Saul and said ‘Live!’ and Saul, although last of all the apostles, least of all the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, by God’s irrational grace, he is made eyewitness to the resurrected Lord, apostle to the Gentiles. Anything good he is, he is by God’s grace. He is alive because of grace. He was confronted with his own sinfulness by grace. He turned to Jesus by grace. He became a follower by grace. He was appointed to serve by grace.

Ephesians 3:7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

This was all of grace. Paul acknowledges his entire and absolute dependence on God’s grace. Nothing was earned. Nothing deserved. All was freely given to him by grace.

Grace Works

Paul goes on to say that, although he did nothing to work for that grace, that grace was hard at work in him.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them,

God’s grace was not in vain. It was not empty, fruitless, or without effect. God’s grace produced results. It produced fruit. Unlike Jerusalem in Ezekiel 16, where God’s grace brought life, and cared for an nurtured, and made her his own, provided for her needs, but she became unfaithful to him. In Paul, God’s grace was effective. He worked harder than any of them. Paul is comparing himself to the other apostles. I think he is saying, ‘I worked harder than all twelve of them put together.’ And what we see in the record of Acts bears this out. Paul proclaimed Jesus in Damascus, Jerusalem, Tarsus, Caesarea, Syrian Antioch, Seleucia, Cyprus, Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Attalia, Troas, Neapolis, Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Cenchrea, Ephesus, Assos, Mitylene, Trogyllium, Miletus, Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Antipatris, Sidon, Myra, Fair Havens, Malta, Syracuse, Rhegium, Puteoli, Appian Way, Nicopolis, and Rome. 2 years after writing 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, stating:

Romans 15:15 …because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles … 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, … 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 brought the gospel to the provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia, and by 57 AD he considered the evangelization of the Agean lands complete. His ambition was to visit Rome briefly and then to travel on to Spain!

In 2 Corinthians Paul catalogs the hardships he faced in service to Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul could rightly boast ‘I worked harder than them all,’ but he is quick to clarify:

1 Corinthians 15:10…though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Everything I accomplished for the cause of Christ was not me. It was God’s grace. God’s grace accomplished it all through me. Paul gives all credit to God for every accomplishment.

Romans 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me

This is the way he talked in the book of Acts.

Acts 15:12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

Acts 21:19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

Notice, it is all the things God has done. Christ has accomplished. He had already told the Corinthians:

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

God, by his grace, accomplishes his good purposes through us. Paul teaches the Philippians:

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

God is at work in you. You are his workmanship. He works in you to will. If you want to do great things for God, God worked that desire in you. If you have an unstoppable passion to preach the gospel from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, and then in Rome and on to Spain, that is grace. God worked that desire in you. If you carry it out, that is God’s grace, God working in you to work for his good pleasure.

This is how Paul describes his ministry in Colossians:

Colossians 1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Paul labors, he agonizes, he is wearied from the work, but it is God’s energy that is energizing him in power. God’s grace is at work in him.

Peter says it this way:

1 Peter 4:11 …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus said it this way:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How do you let your light shine? Where did you get the light? It was a gift! How do you do good works? God’s grace is working in you! Then God gets the glory for your good works, because God’s grace has become effective in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

All of Grace

It is by unmerited grace that I am forgiven, purchased, redeemed, made clean and set apart for his use. It is by undeserved grace that I am given grace gifts with which to serve others. It is God’s powerful resurrecting grace that is at work in me that supplies both the desire and the energy to use those gifts in service to others for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

So we preached so you believed. This gracious message, that Christ died for our sins, and that he was really and truly dead; that he was raised from the dead and he is really and truly alive, this undeserved gift to unworthy recipients, this transforming message that is at work in me healing my deepest hurts and mending what is broken in me, making me useful for the glory of God in the earth, this is the unanimous voice of apostolic witness on content of gospel. It really doesn’t matter who preached it, Paul or Peter or James or Matthew or Thomas, we all preach one message, that Christ died for our sins according to scriptures and that he was raised. This is what we preached, and this is what you believed. This is what you are trusting in, clinging to, being transformed by. This is a message of resurrecting grace.

Have you believed? Do you see yourself as utterly helpless and hopeless, dead in your trespasses and sins? Do you believe that God took action when you were unworthy and could contribute nothing? That God provided everything necessary in Christ for you? That he gives it freely to you as a gift? That he takes you to be his by grace, and that he enables you by his grace to be pleasing to him? Is his resurrecting grace at work in you?

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

April 12, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John 11-12; Resurrection Belief

04/20/14 Resurrection Sunday Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140420_resurrection-belief.mp3

Resurrection Sunday

Today is Resurrection Sunday, the day we celebrate our Lord and King triumphing over death. Experiencing deep emotional distress, betrayal by a friend, run through multiple courts that made a mockery of justice, having been whipped, beaten, mocked, spit at, nailed to a cross, a spear thrust into his heart to verify he was dead, taken down, quickly embalmed, and placed in a tomb. And those are merely the physical things he endured. The scriptures tell us that he died ‘for our sins’. He endured the wrath of God toward every sin I have ever committed. And after all that, Jesus didn’t stay dead! Some of his followers showed up after the Sabbath was over, on the morning of the first day of the week, and found the stone had been removed from the entrance to the tomb, and the body was missing. Jesus began to appear to his followers, and over the next 40 days, he presented himself alive, walked, talked, cooked, ate, and taught his disciples, sometimes with one or two, sometimes with the 11 disciples, sometimes in large groups, even appearing to more than 500 at once. At the end of the 40 days, he went out with his disciples to Bethany, commissioned them to make disciples of all nations, and then ascended into the sky while they were all watching and disappeared from sight. This is amazing!

What do you think of this story? Different people respond differently to news like this. There are several possible responses to a supernatural event like this.

Aurora, Texas

Let me tell you another story. Early morning April 17, 1897 something crash landed near the north Texas town of Aurora. A newspaper described a mysterious cigar shaped airship that ran into a windmill, spreading debris across several acres. Among the wreckage, there was a small humanoid body discovered, which an eye-witness described as “not an inhabitant of this world.” That body was buried at the local cemetery in Aurora. Is there an alien buried in Aurora, Texas? Is it a hoax? What do you think of this story? I tell that story, not because I think there is any truth to it, or any similarity between it and the resurrection of our Lord, but only to demonstrate that there are several different responses we can have to unbelievable supernatural news.

Resurrection of Lazarus

Turn with me in your bibles to John chapter 11. I want to look at the resurrection of Lazarus, and some of the different responses people had to that supernatural manifestation of Jesus’ divine power. I think as we look at this, each of us will be able to identify what our response is to Jesus’ resurrection. What you think really happened in Aurora, Texas in 1897 doesn’t make much difference at all in your life today. What you believe about the resurrection of Jesus makes all the difference, and the way you live life will be radically different depending on what your response is to this amazing news.

In John 11, we read that Jesus purposely waited two days after he had received news that Lazarus was ill, then he told his disciples that Lazarus had died and that he intended to go raise him from the dead so that his disciples would believe. When Jesus arrives near Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days. Jesus talks with Lazarus’ sister Martha outside the village, and then sends her to get Mary. There was a group of Jews who were there mourning the death of Lazarus. They followed Mary and Jesus to the tomb, and Jesus ordered that the stone be removed from the opening of the tomb. Jesus prayed to his Father out loud for the benefit of the people that were present. Then he commanded Lazarus to come out. Lazarus, who had been dead four days, came out of the tomb, bound hand and foot with the linen burial strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Then Jesus ordered the bystanders to set him free from the burial cloths. That would have been an amazing event to witness!

John 11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Here we see some of the responses to the supernatural. Many of the eye-witnesses believed in Jesus. They saw what Jesus did. They drew conclusions based on the evidence they had seen, and they believed him to be the life-giver, the Messiah.

Predisposed to Disbelieve

But some went and told on him to the religious leaders. They gave their eye-witness accounts to the chief priests and the Pharisees. The religious leaders had a problem. There was no denying the evidence. Jesus had done many supernatural signs, identifying himself as the King who comes in the name of the Lord. They were worried that if they let him go on doing miraculous signs, everyone would believe in him. We begin to see another response to resurrection. These religious leaders were predisposed to disbelieve. They were so hardened in their own opinion that they refused to consider the possibility that they were wrong. Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is already made up. They were presented with the evidence, but the implication of that evidence was a threat to them. They had a place and a people. They had power, authority, control. Because so many were believing in Jesus, they were in danger of losing their privileges and their position. These men were not interested in the truth. They knew the evidence. But they personally had a lot to lose, and they considered what they would lose as more important than the truth.

Verse 53 gives their shocking conclusion:

John 11:53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

They are so threatened, that they want to discount and demolish and destroy the evidence. The evidence poses a threat to them that they must dispose of the evidence. Jesus must be stopped. He must be killed.

Let’s keep reading.

John 11:57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.

This was quite the dinner party. Both Jesus, the miracle worker who raised his friend from the dead, and Lazarus, the one who had been in the tomb four days, who is now alive, were having dinner together. Then down in verse 9:

John 12:9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

There were pharisees who actually wanted to take Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, and put him to death. Lazarus was incontestable evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be, but rather than reconsider their conclusions in light of the evidence, they simply wanted to do away with the evidence. These religious leaders were willing to bear false witness and even commit murder, in order to get rid of the evidence. If your leaders are willing to break the commandments in order to protect their position, it is time to stop following those wicked men.

John 12:17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

This tells us that the Palm Sunday crowd that welcomed Jesus as ‘the King of Israel, who comes in the name of the Lord’ came because they had heard about the resurrection of Lazarus. The crowd that had witnessed that supernatural event had continued to testify to the truth of the identity of Jesus, and they were gaining momentum.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Many say that if they are only presented with enough evidence, they will be convinced. But that is simply not true. Some are so content with their pride power, privilege and position that there is no evidence that would persuade them, in fact they will seek to destroy the evidence. Jesus told a story about a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. Both died, Lazarus was carried to the side of Abraham, and the rich man to a place of torment, where he was in anguish in the flame. When he could get no relief, he asked for Lazarus to be sent back to warn his brothers, so that they would not also end up in the place of torment.

Luke 16:29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

The rich man believes that if his brothers just have enough evidence, supernatural evidence, then they will believe. He is wrong. Abraham points them back to Moses and the Prophets, back to the written word of God, the Old Testament Scriptures. That is enough. Supernatural experiences do not save. This is a heart problem. Some of you today might be in this position, your heart is hardened to the possibility that the Bible is true and Jesus is who he claimed to be. Some of you might be so comfortable and content with what you believe about God that even if what you believe is contradicted by all the evidence and the clear teaching of the word of God, you will stay where you are because you feel threatened, you feel you have too much to lose. It’s hard to be wrong. It’s harder to admit you were wrong. Some people are so proud that they will go to hell before they admit they were wrong. Even if Jesus really is who he claims to be, and all the evidence points in that direction, some will refuse to believe.

Curious Onlookers

What can we say about those who saw Lazarus raised from the dead and did not believe, but instead went and reported to the religious leaders what had happened? They believed, in a sense. They saw what they saw. The dead man came out of the tomb. They may have even helped to unwrap him. They believed that the event happened. But they did not believe what that supernatural event meant. They did not believe in Jesus. They didn’t follow Jesus. They went and reported what they had seen. They were curious onlookers. They were fascinated, amazed, excited, they didn’t want to miss out on anything, They came to see. There were some who came to the dinner, who were not so interested in Jesus as they were in seeing the man who was in the tomb four days and now was alive. They were intrigued.

Did you ever notice, driving along the freeway, traffic slows to a crawl for what seems hours, and you finally get to the accident scene, and there is a crunched car and a few emergency vehicles with lights flashing, they are not even on your side of the freeway, and there are no lanes blocked? Why is it that everyone slows down when passing an accident scene? They don’t intend to stop and get out and help, they just want to see, they want to know what’s going on. They might want to snap a picture and post it on facebook to tell their friends how long they sat in traffic. They don’t really care about the people involved, and wouldn’t think of inconveniencing themselves to get involved. They just want to be in the know. And they want to have the information to pass on to others.

Do you think these people who told the chief priests and Pharisees what Jesus had done intended to play a part in getting him killed? Do you think they cared? They believed that the event really happened. But they went on with life as if it was just one more wreck on the side of the road that they got to see.

Some of you today might believe that Jesus was really crucified, and that he really rose from the dead, but that information doesn’t change the way you live. Friends, Jesus is alive, and one day you will stand before him and answer to him. If you knew that I died for you and rose from the dead, why didn’t you follow me?

The Fact of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact. There was a man named Jesus, who lived in Nazareth, who was executed by Rome on a cross, who was buried in a tomb, that tomb was secured by a Roman guard, and the body went missing. His enemies could not produce the body. Literally hundreds of eye witnesses claimed to see the risen Lord with their own eyes over the next 40 days, many in groups. Many of them were skeptical and had to be convinced. They witnessed him eating and drinking, some even having the opportunity to touch his physical body and physically authenticate the wounds from crucifixion. A large group saw his body ascend into the sky and disappear. Many of his followers suffered execution because they continued to testify to the identity and resurrection of Jesus.

The only viable explanation of the evidence is that Jesus really did supernaturally rise from the dead. If that is true, then we must look carefully at who Jesus claimed to be and what he taught. Jesus claimed to be the way, the truth, the life, the only way to the Father. He claimed to be one with his Father. He calls us to come to him and to follow him. We must take seriously what he said. The only religious leader who claimed to be God and then rose from the dead deserves not just to be talked about. He deserves to be followed.

Skeptics

I imagine that very few of those who were present when Lazarus was raised from the dead doubted that the event really happened. But I imagine that many who weren’t there but heard their story were very skeptical. That may be why they showed up at dinner in Bethany. There is nothing wrong with being skeptical. Most of the disciples were skeptics about Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples didn’t believe the women who first went to the tomb when they claimed to have seen Jesus (Lk.24:11). Peter went back to fishing (Jn.21:3). Thomas refused to believe unless he could touch the evidence with his own hands (Jn.20:25). Jesus gladly presented him with the evidence he desired. Thomas is not rebuked for being a skeptic. But after presenting him with evidence, he does tell him to stop doubting and believe.

Some of you today might be skeptics. To you I want to say ‘welcome!’ Ask questions. Investigate. Scrutinize the evidence. Passionately pursue the truth. But make sure that you are willing to follow the truth, whatever it costs.

Some Believed

Some who saw the supernatural sign, or heard about it, listened to Jesus and believed in him. They became his followers. Some gave up their business, their livelihood, their families to follow Jesus. Some gave up everything. Many of them suffered horrific deaths that they could have escaped if only they would renounce Jesus as a fraud. Jesus’ followers experienced and taught that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead was at work in his followers. That same resurrection power began to clothe the timid with boldness, it transformed fishermen, tax collectors and zealots into heralds of the truth, transformed sinners into forgiven warriors willing to lay down their lives for the sake of their Master, willing to let go of everything and go to the ends of the earth to make him known.

So I ask you again, where do you see yourself? Are you so set in what you believe that you are not even interested in what is true? Are you a curious onlooker, intrigued by the supernatural, even believing that Jesus is who he claimed to be, but it makes no difference in your life? Are you skeptical, but you really want to know the truth? Or are you convinced that Jesus is God in the flesh come to die for your sins, you have come to him to be forgiven of all your sins, and you are willing to follow him wherever he leads?

It is my prayer that wherever you are, God would so work in your heart that you would become a believer, a follower of Jesus and experience his resurrection power transforming you. Experience life!

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

April 20, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Romans 6; Resurrection Power

03/31/13 Romans 6; Resurrection Power Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130331_resurrection-power.mp3

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything! The same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us today. Romans 6:4 tells us that ‘Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father’, and the rest of Romans 6 tells us that the resurrection of Jesus has implications for us today in how we live our lives. Listen to Romans 6:4-5

Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The resurrection of Jesus is where we as followers of Jesus find the power to live our lives. Let’s look at this passage, at the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, and at what this means for us today.

Raised by the Glory of the Father

Romans 6:4 says that Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. This is a unique expression, probably not what we would expect. We might expect him to say that Jesus was raised by the power of the Father, but what does it mean to say that Jesus was raised by or through the glory of the Father? The glory of God is the outward manifestation of the splendor and power and greatness of God that causes us to be in awe and wonder. Romans is all about God’s glory.

Romans begins by condemning us, who suppress the truth about God, his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature (1:18-20). We did not honor God as God or give him thanks, but instead exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images (1:21-23). We were meant to reflect the glory of God, to bear his image, to put on display his invisible attributes, in the way that Jesus described:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

But we all fail to do this properly.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Abraham, who did not work but trusted in a God who justifies the ungodly (4:5), is held up as an example of faith that brings glory to God.

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

In Romans 8, we look forward to being restored to the glory for which we were created, the glory of properly reflecting God’s image in such a way that he gets all the glory (Rom.8:17-30).

In Romans 11, Paul interjects this doxology:

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

In Romans 15, he points to practical ways to live life to bring glory to God (Rom.15:5-9), and he closes the book with this doxology:

Romans 16:27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

We were created to reflect God’s glory. In our self-seeking, we failed to glorify God with our lives. Jesus came to defend the honor of his Father and restore us to our proper place in his creation, to bring glory to God. Jesus took our sins, paid the ultimate price to demonstrate the greatness of God and the magnitude of our dishonor toward God, and was raised by the glory of his Father so that we too might walk in newness of life.

Where we are in Romans

In order to understand this passage properly, we need to locate it in the argument of the book of Romans. Paul has demonstrated in chapters 1 and 2 that although we were designed to reflect God’s glory through our righteous lives, we have miserably failed to represent him well. Both Jews and non-Jews have failed to live up to the standard they had been given. Jews believed that they could bring glory to God by keeping the law. But history proved this was impossible.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

In the middle of chapter 3, we are introduced to a different kind of righteousness, a righteousness not our own,

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

This is a righteousness that comes to sinners as a free gift from God based on the price paid in full by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.

Chapter 4 shows that this gift of God’s own righteousness to all who believe is not contrary to, but connected with the Old Testament examples of Abraham and David.

Chapter 5 revels in the fact that the peace we have with God through this gift of God’s righteousness counted to sinners who believe is so unshakeable that no trial, no sin, not even death can now separate us from God. Chapter 5 concludes by pointing to the fact that the law was brought in to demonstrate our sinfulness by increasing our trespasses, and this dark soil of our sinfulness was the very place where God’s free grace could thrive.

Romans 6

So the question we find at the beginning of chapter 6 flows out of this truth.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

If the grace of God is magnified by the black backdrop of my sin, then I should increase my sinning to the glory of God, right? Paul’s answer to this is the strongest possible negative.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

It is important to see what Paul does not say. This would be the perfect opportunity for the apostle to set us straight on our misunderstanding of God’s free grace, and say ‘no, no, no, God’s grace only comes in to play when you are really trying your hardest to be good. God’s grace is not really free; it only comes to those who are doing everything they can do.’ But he doesn’t say that. If after reading Romans 1-5, we are seriously tempted to ask this very question that Paul anticipates, that is evidence that we are on the right track; we are understanding him and grace properly. God’s grace really is free, and it really does thrive in the sick soil of human sin.

Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

But for us to purpose to continue in sin in order to magnify the glory of God’s grace would actually detract from the transforming power of God’s grace. That is the truth he takes us to in Romans 6.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The fact that Paul points us to is that we who are believing in Jesus and receiving the free gift of his righteousness are not only forgiven of all our sins and declared righteous before God (that is what he has taught so far in Romans) but also that the power of God’s free grace in our lives means that we have died to sin. When we believe, we are united with Christ, and that extends to his death and resurrection. Baptism is what Christians do to show that they are trusting in Jesus, following Jesus, obeying Jesus. Water baptism is a picture of what has happened to us spiritually. We are baptized into Christ Jesus, or immersed into Christ Jesus. We become connected with Jesus, united with Jesus, saturated with Jesus. We are united with him in his death, and we have the hope that one day we will be united with him in a resurrection like his. What this means for us right now is that we have died to sin, so we cannot be at home with it. We were buried with him in order that we too might walk in newness of life. This is the life Jesus pointed to when he said:

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

Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Since we have died to sin, and since we will be raised with Christ, we can today live a different kind of life, because God’s grace triumphs over our sin. He continues in verse 6:

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

God’s grace has broken the power of sin in my life. The mass of my sin is brought to nothing. I am no longer enslaved to sin. I have been set free from sin. Sin’s ultimate power is death, and Jesus conquered death by dying and being raised from the dead. The power of sin and the power of death have been crushed by Christ on the cross. Because I am united with Christ, the me I used to be is crucified and gone. If we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. We look forward to the day when we will be raised from the dead and live with him for eternity. His death killed our sin. His resurrection promises our resurrection. This truth breaks the power of sin in our lives.

Imperative follows Indicative

His question was ‘should we continue in sin’, and his answer was an emphatic no, and he gave solid theological reasons; our union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.

So far this is all theological truth. Paul is telling us what has happened to us when we believed in Jesus. He hasn’t told us to do anything yet. That comes next. But it is essential to see that everywhere in the Bible our action is the fruit of theological truth. The imperative always flows out of the indicative. The Bible lays out the indicative, the facts, the truth of who we are in Christ, of what Jesus has done for us, and then, in response to that we are given the imperatives, the commands, how we are to live our lives. We see this throughout the New Testament; for example, in Ephesians we are given three whole chapters of who we are in Christ before we are told to do anything. Then we get three chapters of what that truth should look like in action. Even in the 10 commandments, the imperative follows the indicative; he starts this way:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

All Christian action is rooted in and flows out of the theological truth of what God has done for us. Here is our action that flows out of the truth of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and our being united to him by faith.

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

First, we are commanded to believe the theological truth. I don’t feel very dead to sin. Most days, I feel that sin still has a lot of power over me. But that is not the gospel truth. The good news is that Jesus died for me, and the sinful me died with Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead and because I am united with him by faith, I too will certainly be resurrected to be with him forever. First, I must believe the truth God tells me, that in Christ I am dead to sin and alive to God. Because this is true, I can rebel against sin. I can reject its authority in my body. I can refuse to obey sin’s passions. I can refuse to offer my body parts, my eyes, my ears, my hands, my mind, my heart as tools to do evil; instead I can take this body that has been given new life as a free gift from God, and present my body back to God and the parts of my body as tools to do what is right. I can do this because of my unity with Christ in his death and resurrection. I am no longer under the power and authority of sin. I am no longer under the power and authority of the law, which increases sin and presents everyone guilty before God. I am under the reign of God’s free grace, and this is what it looks like to be ruled by God’s free gift of grace. Those who are under the reign of grace take up the gospel and the power of the resurrection and do battle with sin.

If

As we close, I want to draw your attention back to a very important little word that shows up in verse 5 and in verse 8. That word is ‘if’.

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. …8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

This ‘if’ is crucial. ‘If’ asks a question. Is this true of you? If you have not been united with Jesus in his death, you will not be united with him in resurrection. If you have not died with Christ, you have no reason to believe that you will ever live with him. You only have a fearful expectation of the judgment and wrath of Almighty God against your sin. How are we connected with Christ, united with Christ in his death and resurrection? We only need to look back through Romans to see:

Romans 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

We receive the gift of God’s grace by faith.

Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

We stop working and believe.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

We obtain access into grace by faith. We receive. Believe. Depend. Trust. What evidence can we expect to see as we live resurrection lives standing in the grace of God and rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God? We will be:

Philippians 1:11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

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

March 31, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment