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2 Corinthians 6:3-4; No Obstacle But The Cross

03/10_2 Corinthians 6:3-4; No Obstacle But The Cross Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190310_2cor6_3-4.mp3

Context

Paul has just laid out the riches of gospel truth; that we are reconciled to God through the finished work of Christ; that the sinless Christ was counted as a sinner when he took my sin, and now I am counted righteous because I am found in Christ. He has called the church in Corinth to respond rightly to this message; he begs them as God’s ambassador ‘be reconciled to God’ and he appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain; in a meaningless, worthless, empty way, in a way that does not save. He quotes from the suffering servant section of Isaiah (49:8) to impress them with the urgency of responding to his message now, while God’s grace is being extended.

Here in verses 3-10 he presents his résumé as God’s minister, Christ’s ambassador, God’s fellow-worker. This is a memorable, lyrical, eloquent passage, on par with 1 Corinthians 13, and just as worthy of memorization.

The content of this highly structured résumé will have to wait until next week, but we will look at his cover letter in verses 3-4 today.

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

First, a note about how this sentence fits with the context. The main verb is all the way back in verse 1, ‘we appeal.’ “We appeal to you not in vain to receive the grace of God.” This is modified by the participle that begins the sentence ‘working together’. Then after the quotation in verse 2, he modifies this verb with two more participles:

1. ——–working together with God

We appeal to you

3. ——–giving no obstacle

4. ——–commending ourselves

Paul’s appeal to the church is his working together with God; his appeal comes with both negative and positive force. Negative in verse 3, which could literally be translated ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’; and positive in verse 4, literally ‘but in all things commending ourselves.’

The Offense of the Cross

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle [προσκοπήν] in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

What does Paul mean when he says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’?

Let’s start by clarifying what he does not mean. Back in 1 Corinthians, he said

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block [σκάνδαλον] to Jews and folly to Gentiles,

Paul is fully aware that the word of the cross, the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is foolishness and a stumbling block, literally a scandal to many. When he says that ‘we put no obstacle in anyone’s way’ he does not mean that he ceases to preach the gospel for fear of tripping up or offending anyone. In Galatians 5:11 he refers to the ‘offense’ or ‘stumbling block’ or ‘scandal’ of the cross. He refuses to compromise or water down the simple gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and raised on the third day. That will be an obstacle to many; however to attempt to remove that obstacle empties the gospel of any power to save. To tell people that they have sinned and offended a holy God, and that the wages of sin is death is offensive. To say that your only hope is that God had to become human in order to take your sin and die in your place is hard to swallow, but it is the gospel. We must not, we dare not tamper with the gospel. Paul refused to tamper with the offense of the cross.

Removing Obstacles

So what does Paul mean, when he says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’? Paul did talk at length in 1 Corinthians 8-10 about Christian rights, Christian liberties, and avoiding unnecessary offenses or obstacles. In that section (and in Romans 14) he discusses what you should or shouldn’t eat, specifically concerning meat that may have been sacrificed to idols. His conclusion is: flee idolatry (1Cor.10:14), but eat whatever is sold to you or set before you without raising question of where it came from (1Cor.10:25-27).

1 Corinthians 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block [πρόσκομμα] to the weak.

1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble [σκανδαλίζει], I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble [σκανδαλίσω].

In chapter 9 he uses himself as an illustration of letting go of legitimate rights for the good of others. He has the right as a minister of the gospel to make his living by the gospel (1Cor.9:4,14).

1 Corinthians 9:12 …Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle [ἐγκοπή] in the way of the gospel of Christ.

This is the passage where he says “I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. …I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel” (1Cor.9:19,22-23). He removed any unnecessary obstacles to the gospel, any unnecessary offenses; he was always conscious of his surroundings and intentional about how he conducted himself. He was aware of contrasting cultures and careful not to unnecessarily offend.

His conclusion in 1 Corinthians 10:

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense [ἀπρόσκοπος] to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

When Offense is Fruitful

But it’s more complex than just seeking never to offend anyone. Many people attempt to live that way today and are utterly useless for Christ. Paul offended plenty of people; that got him beat up, run out of town, thrown in jail on multiple occasions. He said some really offensive things. His first time in Corinth, in Acts 18, he was testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus,

Acts 18:6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

That’s offensive! That’s the kind of thing that started riots in other cities. That’s not very culturally sensitive. But we learn from Romans 11:11-14 that his goal was “in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.” This was a fruitful offense; a gospel driven offense.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:12 that he refused to receive compensation from the Corinthians in order to avoid putting obstacles in the way of the gospel. But that was contrary to their culture and offensive to them. In their culture, the better the teacher, the higher the price, and the more you paid for your instruction, the more bragging rights you had. He took that away from them. He took a job and worked with his own hands in menial labor to support himself, which tripped them up. But he claimed that this was to avoid ‘putting an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.’ He was more concerned with the integrity of the gospel than he was in simply avoiding offense. If he accepted pay from them, it would send a message that the gospel was out of reach of the poor, that it was not all of grace, that it was only for those who could pay top dollar.

Another way he offended the Corinthians was in his manner of speech. Although fully capable of eloquence, as this passage so clearly demonstrates, he says “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Cor.2:2), and this was contrary to their expectations. Paul made a conscious decision when he came to Corinth to not fit the mold, to fly in the face of their culture and not use oratorical skill or eloquent words of wisdom, because if he did it would imply that the gospel was only for the wise, the literate, the well educated.

Here’s an illustration of this principle of ‘becoming all things to all people’ tragically misapplied. Paul records in Galatians 2 that Peter in Antioch ‘was eating with the Gentiles;’ but when a Jewish delegation came from James in Jerusalem, ‘he drew back and separated himself.’ Isn’t this a case of ‘To those outside the law I became as one outside the law’ and ‘To those under the law I became as one under the law’? Paul says No! ‘I opposed him to his face’; he ‘acted hypocritically’; his ‘conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel’. By withdrawing from eating with the Gentiles, he was saying that Christ had not successfully broken down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Greeks. He was actually contradicting the gospel.

This calls for discernment. How can I be culturally sensitive without compromising the gospel? What unnecessary obstacles do we put in the way of the gospel? How do I unnecessarily offend? Am I content with my own friend group, not open to others? Am I unwelcoming, unfriendly, sometimes irritable? Am I unwilling to get out of my comfort zone or risk being inconvenienced? These would be evidences of pride, selfishness, and would be potential obstacles to the gospel.

What are things in our church body that are stumbling blocks to the gospel? Our heart’s desire above all else should be to see God glorified as people come into a reconciled relationship with God through our Lord Jesus. And this reconciliation is from God. All this is from God. God alone can save. We cannot. But we can remove obstacles from the gospel. We can clear the way for the gospel to have full impact in someone’s life. What things are we doing – or not doing that are obstructing the gospel?

Purpose: A No Fault Ministry

Paul says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault [μωμηθῇ] may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

His purpose for avoiding unnecessary obstacles is ‘in order that no fault may be found with the ministry.’ This word for ‘finding fault’ shows up again in chapter 8, illustrating what he means here. There he is talking about the collection of money from the churches that he intends to bring to the poor saints in Jerusalem. He makes it clear that he will not be doing this alone; he will be taking others with, people known by them.

2 Corinthians 8:20 We take this course so that no one should blame [μωμήσηται] us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.

He seeks to be honorable, above reproach in the way he handles other people’s money. He wants accountability. He aims for integrity that is unassailable.

There are a hundred ways to discredit your ministry. Sadly, you have seen enough examples of this in the news, and you know the immense hindrance it is to the gospel.

Commending Ourselves

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

‘To no one in nothing giving an obstacle… but in all things commending ourselves.’ This commending his ministry is a thread woven through this letter. He said in 3:1 in exasperation ‘we are beginning to commend ourselves again!’ We’ve already been through the introductions; you know me. I spent 18 months with you, and then another visit and wrote at least two letters. You ought to know my character by now. You yourselves are evidence of my authenticity.

He says in chapter 4

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

The way we handle God’s word demonstrates our integrity. He says in chapter 5:

2 Corinthians 5:12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

You ought to be able to defend us to those who are attempting to undermine our character. This thread appears again in chapter 10, where he points out that some commend themselves by comparing themselves with others, but only those whom the Lord commends are approved (10:12,18). In chapter 12 he says that he ought to have been commended by them (12:11).

Ministers of God with Faultless Ministry

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

In all things we commend ourselves as servants, ministers of God. We remove unnecessary obstacles, so that no fault can be found with the ministry. Ministers of God with faultless ministry.

How does Paul commend himself? What is the content of his résumé? It may not be what you expect. This is his cover letter. Next week we will review his resume.

Takeaway

What can we take away from this? As followers of Jesus, each of us is a minister, called to serve others for their good.

-Is your ministry blameless or blameworthy?

-Does your character and conduct discredit your message or commend it to others?

-Are you holding fast to the offense of the cross, or are you willing to manipulate the message to make it seem less offensive?

-What stumbling blocks are you putting in front of others?

***

*Ask God to open your eyes to see the obstacles you place in front of others.

*Ask him to give you a tenacious grip on the gospel

*Ask him to create integrity of character that displays his grace

***

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

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

Leviticus 25:23-38; Jubilee – Redemption of the Land

04/02 Leviticus 25:23-38; Jubilee; Redemption of Land; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170402_leviticus-25_23-38.mp3

The chapter divides into three sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am YHWH your God.”

The first section of Leviticus 25 extends the calendar begun in chapter 23 and deals with the Sabbath year and the year of jubilee. Every seventh day, people and animals were to rest from their labors. There were certain holy times each year that were set apart for specific purposes, days in which no work was to be done, days of rest and worship. Every seventh year, the land was to keep a Sabbath rest. This was the Sabbath year. After seven weeks of years, after 49 years, the fiftieth year was a year of Jubilee. Liberty was proclaimed and a return to property and to families. Rest was required. God’s provision was promised. There was a warning not to wrong a neighbor. The focus of the first section is the cycle of work and rest, even rest for the land, and the promise of God’s provision.

The second section, verses 23-38, begins with God’s claim that the land belongs to him, and concludes with “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.” The focus of this section is land, its sale and redemption or release in the year of Jubilee.

Verses 39-55 address the situation where a person would sell himself to pay off a debt. In verse 42, God asserts his ownership over the people whom he brought out of the land of Egypt be his servants. This section concludes with “For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” The focus of the final section is God’s people, their sale, and their redemption or release in the year of Jubilee.

1-22 rest for land; Sabbath year and Jubilee

23-38 redemption or release of land

39-55 redemption or release of people

Our focus today will be the second section of this chapter.

God Owns the Land

God begins in verse 23 with his assertion of ownership over the land.

Leviticus 25:23 “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.

This sets the parameters for the discussion of land ownership and sale and release. This speaks to the rest for the land every seventh year and every fiftieth year. God’s people would be tempted to argue ‘but I can’t stop working the land for a whole year! How could we survive?’ When we are entrusted with something, especially if it is for a long time, we begin to feel like we own it. We have had access to it for so long that we begin to think of it as belonging to us. God reminds his people ‘the land is mine.’ The land does not belong to you. I can tell you what you can and can’t do with the land, because the land belongs to me.

Tenant farming was a typical arrangement in the ancient world. We see this under Joseph in Egypt. The severity of the famine forced the Egyptians to sell their land to the Pharaoh in order to survive.

Genesis 47:18 …“We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.” 20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. …23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. 24 And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” 25 And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.”

So all the land in Egypt was owned by the Pharaoh, but he allowed the people to live on it and work his land in exchange for 20 percent of the produce.

Several of Jesus’ parables used the illustration of stewardship; money or a vineyard was entrusted to someone’s care, and at some point the owner returned and expected his portion of the harvest or a return on his investment.

God reminds his people “the land is mine.” I’m allowing you to squat on my land, to live on it, to farm it, to use it. But don’t forget, it belongs to me. “You are strangers and sojourners with me.” In Leviticus we have heard a lot about the strangers and sojourners in the land. This typically refers to non-Israelites, foreigners. Here God reminds his people, Israel ‘you are aliens, strangers in a land not belonging to you. It is my land. I am the King, the great landlord. I set the terms of your occupation and your tenancy. As the landowner, he reserves the right to evict any tenants who refuse to follow his rules. He has done this before. In Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, where God lays out the code of conduct he requires of his people, he reminds them

Leviticus 20:22 “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. 24 But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples.

God is the landowner, and he is evicting the former tenants after excessively generous notification. But this is a warning to his own people. If they refuse to follow his rules, they too will be evicted. God’s people are always to keep in mind that they are sojourners and strangers living on God’s land.

As such, “the land shall not be sold in perpetuity.” God’s people living in God’s land are allowed to sub-lease the land to others. But no sales are final, because the land belongs to God. In the first section, introducing the year of Jubilee, God clarified that what is being sold is not the land itself, but the number of harvests until the year of Jubilee, when the land would return to the ones God allotted it to.

Redemption and the Kinsman Redeemer

Leviticus 25:24 And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land. 25 “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold.

Here we are introduced to the idea of redemption. This noun shows up 9 times in this chapter, twice in Ruth 4, twice in Jeremiah 32, and once in Ezekiel. Leviticus 25 is key to understanding what redemption means. The verb form shows up 10 times in this chapter, and 12 times in Leviticus 27, a handful of times scattered through the rest of the Pentateuch and the other historical books; 21 times in Ruth, twice in Job, 10 times in Psalms, once in Proverbs, 24 times in Isaiah (x24); and several other occurrences in the prophets. The noun is gullah (gheh-ool-law’), from the verb ga’al (gaw-al’), kinsman redeemer. The same verb is translated ‘avenger’ in the phrase ‘avenger of blood’ about 12 times in Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and 2 Samuel. As we learn from Leviticus and from Ruth, the kinsman redeemer was a near relative who had the ability to right what was wrong in the family. If a brother was in financial trouble, his nearest redeemer had the responsibility to keep the land in the family. In the next section we will see a brother who sells himself into slavery can be redeemed by his kinsman redeemer. In Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, the kinsman redeemer had the responsibility to defend the rights of his kin and avenge his murder. In the poetic and prophetic books, God is the kinsman redeemer of his people. This is the foundation for the concept of the redemption we have in Jesus in the New Testament.

Leviticus 25:26 If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, 27 let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. 28 But if he does not have sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.

The one who sells his own land may redeem it himself if he becomes financially able. This would be highly unlikely, apart from receiving an inheritance. The redemption price is to be a fair price, the price for which the land was sold, less the amount of harvests that have benefited the buyer after the sale. So if there was 30 years until the Jubilee, and the land could generate 1,000 a year, it would be sold for 30,000. If ten years into the contract, a kinsman redeemer came forward to redeem the land, he would pay 20,000, in effect refunding the value of the 20 remaining years. The buyer should have gotten his 10,000 out of the land in the first ten years of his lease.

If there is no one able to redeem the land, it must remain in the possession of the buyer until the Jubilee. In the year of Jubilee, the land reverts to the one God had entrusted it to.

Exceptions

There are some exceptions to these general rules of redemption and release covered in the rest of this section.

Leviticus 25:29 “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption. 30 If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. 31 But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee.

Houses in walled cities were an exception to the rule. The seller retained the right to redeem it for one year, after which it became the permanent possession of the buyer. Houses in unwalled villages were counted as land, and were subject to the same redemption and release in the Jubilee.

Then there is an exception to the exception.

Leviticus 25:32 As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess. 33 And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. 34 But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.

The Levites, remember, were not given any land inheritance, only cities scattered within the other tribes of Israel; cities of refuge. Dwellings given to the Levites in these cities could always be redeemed, and they would be released back to them in the Jubilee.

Hospitality to a Brother

Verses 35-38 conclude this section with an exhortation to take care of your brother, and a warning to fear God.

Leviticus 25:35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

Leviticus 19 told us to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love the stranger as yourself. But we may not feel that this extends to a near relative. We know them. They knew better. ‘I’m willing to help my neighbor, and the guy I don’t know, but my brother, well, he got himself into this mess. I warned him and he didn’t listen. He needs to learn his lesson. I’m not going to bail him out; he’ll just do it again.’ God says, don’t harden your heart to your relative. Treat him at least as well as you would treat a stranger. Take him in. Help him out. Help him get back on his feet. Show hospitality. Don’t enable him, but don’t take advantage of his vulnerable situation either. We see a similar warning to what we saw in the first section of this chapter.

Redemption is to be a blessing to those in need. Don’t turn the blessing into a curse. Don’t hold it over his head. Don’t take interest from him. Don’t capitalize on his misfortune. Genuinely seek to help him get back on his feet. Do for him what you would want him to do for you if it was you who fell on hard times. Do not take advantage of him, but fear God. You were slaves in Egypt. God brought you out and gave you the land. The land you possess is a gift from God. Give a gift to your brother in need.

Application

How do we apply a passage like this? We must remember, this was written to Israel after God rescued them from Egypt and was preparing them to enter Canaan. The land promises were a big deal. But we are not Israel, this is not Canaan, we don’t have Levites or walled cities, our property was not apportioned by God, and we don’t release property back to its original owner in the year of Jubilee.

Care for your Brothers

But we can draw some principles that do apply to us today. We are not under the kinsman redeemer laws, but it is right to look out for our relatives.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 John asks:

1 John 3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Acknowledged God’s Sovereignty

We may not be in the promised land, but we should recognize God’s absolute ownership and right over all that he has made. Psalm 24, quoted in 1 Corinthians 10, says:

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,

God is the Creator of all that is. He made it and he can do with it what he pleases. He retains the authority to make the rules and enforce them. Everything belongs to him and it exists to please him.

We need to be reminded that we have been entrusted with a stewardship, and that we will be called to account for what we have done with what we have been given. We are sojourners and strangers in a land that belongs to another.

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Look to the Redeemer

Most importantly, we understand from this passage a little more clearly what redemption is all about. It was the responsibility of a near relative to redeem the one in trouble. Jesus,

Philippians 2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus became related to us, became one of us, became human, so that he could be our Kinsman Redeemer. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

He had to be made like his brothers, so that he could redeem us as brothers. Isaiah even goes so far as to say:

Isaiah 54:5 For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.

Our Creator became our husband to redeem us. Jesus is our Redeemer, our near kinsman, the one who comes to our rescue when we are poor and desperate and beyond all hope. Jesus is our rescue when all other hope is lost.

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

April 4, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:30-11:1; Stand Firm or Surrender?

06/29 1 Corinthians 10:30-11:1 Stand Firm or Surrender?Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140629_1cor10_30-11_1.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 10-11 [SBLGNT]

10:30 εἰ ἐγὼ χάριτι μετέχω, τί βλασφημοῦμαι ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εὐχαριστῶ; 31 Εἴτε οὖν ἐσθίετε εἴτε πίνετε εἴτε τι ποιεῖτε, πάντα εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ ποιεῖτε. 32 ἀπρόσκοποι καὶ Ἰουδαίοις γίνεσθε καὶ Ἕλλησιν καὶ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, 33 καθὼς κἀγὼ πάντα πᾶσιν ἀρέσκω, μὴ ζητῶν τὸ ἐμαυτοῦ σύμφορον ἀλλὰ τὸ τῶν πολλῶν, ἵνα σωθῶσιν.

11:1 μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ.

1 Corinthians 10-11 [ESV2011]

10:23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 

We are a the end of 1 Corinthians 10, where Paul is concluding three chapters worth of teaching on idolatry. Chapters 8-10 lay out guidelines for the follower of Jesus in deciding what to eat or drink, especially relating to food sacrificed to idols.

Let me summarize his teaching. First his conclusion, the same as in chapter 6 dealing with sexual immorality: flee from idolatry (10:14). Just as the follower of Jesus is to have nothing to do with sexual immorality, so we are to have nothing at all to do with idolatry. Idolatry of any kind is dangerous and destructive, absolutely incompatible with the Christian life. Then his three guidelines: 1. Do not ever eat in a pagan temple (8:7-13, 10:7, 14-22). 2. Eat everything for sale in the market without asking any questions (10:25). 3. Eat everything served to you at an unbeliever’s house without asking any questions (10:27). But woven under and around and through these guidelines, is this basic principle for every follower of Jesus: do not seek your own, but that of the other (9:15-23, 10:24, 33). He gives some exceptions to the general rules, for instance, when someone informs you that the food being served by an unbelieving friend had been part of a pagan ceremony, then, for the sake of their conscience do not eat (10:28).

It can be very difficult to know how to apply biblical principles. When, for the sake of the truth of the gospel and for the freedom that Christ purchased with his own blood, do we stand firm in and insist on our freedoms? When, for the sake of the advance of the gospel and the good of others do we joyfully relinquish our rights? How do we decide when to stand firm and when to surrender? If we were able to watch someone live this out in real life, that would be priceless. Understanding the underlying principles is essential, but seeing those principles lived out and practically applied is extremely helpful. Paul is that for us. He offers himself to us as an example of what the Christian life should look like. He tells us in 11:1 (which should be the last verse of this section), “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

Negative Example: Unbelieving Israel

He gave us the negative example of Israel in the wilderness in 10:1-11.

1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

The Israelites desired evil. Their desires led them into sin, sins like idolatry, adultery, testing Christ, and even grumbling. Because that generation went astray in their heart, we are told they provoked God, he loathed them, and he destroyed them. Their corpses were strewn in the wilderness. That is a warning to us.

Our actions have consequences. Our actions flow out of our desires. Do not desire evil as they did. Do not follow the example of unbelieving Israel and their self-focused desires. Instead, allow God’s Spirit to so transform your desires that you become an imitator of Christ.

Positive Example: Paul

In contrast to the negative example of unbelieving Israel, Paul invites us to imitate him. Mimic me. Become an imitator of me as I am of Christ. Looking at the example of Paul will help us navigate through the complexities of life as a follower of Jesus.

Stand Fast in Liberty

So, what did Paul’s example look like? There is a time for the follower of Jesus to stand firm in his liberty and fight for his rights. In chapter 9, Paul adamantly defends the right of the one who preaches the gospel to make his living by the gospel. He makes his case from common sense, from logic, and from the Scriptures. But he defends this right in order to say that although it is a legitimate God given right, he is free not to make use of that right for the sake of the advance of the gospel, with the goal of removing obstacles to the gospel.

In chapter 10 he defends the right to eat whatever is sold in the market, to eat whatever is set before you at an unbelievers home, without asking any question on the ground of conscience, because “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (10:26). Everything belongs to God, every good thing comes from God, everything is a gift from God to be received with thanksgiving. He defends his liberty, asking “why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?” (10:29-30). In eating, in drinking, in everything we are to participate with thankfulness, we are to enjoy God’s good gifts and glorify the giver. There is a time to stand on our liberty and eat and drink to the glory of God. Galatians gives a clear example of Paul insisting on his rights for the glory of God.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. …21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

In Antioch, the issue was an issue of eating and drinking. Should Peter eat with non-Jews or not? Eating with Gentiles would be offensive to those of a Jewish background. For the sake of the Jews who did not understand the freedom that the gospel brings, for the sake of their consciences, should he voluntarily limit his liberties and withdraw? It seems Peter could take Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 10 and apply it to this situation.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Peter could argue, ‘I am seeking to give no offense to the Jews. I am not seeking my own advantage. I am trying to please everyone in everything I do.’ But these were not new believers with weak consciences. These were Pharisaic false teachers who secretly slipped in to spy out the liberty we have in Christ Jesus so that they could bring us back into slavery (Gal.2:4). The very good news of salvation by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus alone was at stake. Paul was willing to fight so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for everyone (Gal.2:5). Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with Gentiles, his choice to limit his liberty and not eat and drink was not in step with the gospel. His actions sent a message that contradicted the message of justification by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the law. Peter’s actions served to nullify the grace of God and undermine the work of the cross, pointing instead to the necessity of attaining righteousness through the works of the law. Paul says ‘bring out the bacon!’ We will eat and drink to the glory of Christ, who was crucified to set us free from the law! “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal.5:1). There is a time to stand on our liberty and partake with thankfulness and eat and drink to the glory of God.

Paul said ‘become imitators of me, as I am of Christ. We can look beyond Paul to the example of Jesus our King to see when to eat and drink to the glory of God. Jesus said:

Luke 7:33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Jesus our King ate and drank with thanksgiving in his heart to the Father. He was a friend to prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners.

Luke 5:30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus came to bring salvation to those who knew they needed it.

Luke 19:7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” …9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Sometimes seeking the advantage of the many that they might be saved means insisting on my rights, eating and drinking with, being a friend to those who have none, so that they might understand that the grace of God is extended to them.

As Paul affirms our freedom in Christ in Galatians, he cautions:

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do not use your liberty as an occasion for the flesh. Through love serve one another. Use your liberty for the good of your neighbor, that they might be saved.

Surrender Your Rights

There is a time, for the glory of Christ and the salvation of the lost, to stand firm in our freedom. There is a time, for the glory of God and the good of the many to surrender our rights. When is it that we joyfully choose not to eat for the good of our neighbor and the glory of Christ? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:

24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Back in 1 Corinthians 8 he warned:

1 Corinthians 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

It is never right to insist on my so-called rights and destroy a brother for whom Christ died. Some things we attempt to claim as rights are not rights at all. Participating in idolatry is never a legitimate right for a follower of Jesus.

In chapter 9, Paul addresses legitimate, God given rights. He uses his right to be supported by the churches he serves as an example.

1 Corinthians 9:12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

…15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.

In Corinth, where there was an abundance of scholars for hire, where the one who received pay was obligated to the one paying, where status was tied up in how much you were able to pay for the best teacher, Paul refused to make use of his right to be supported because it would put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. He preached the gospel free of charge. He says in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

The advance of the gospel for the glory of God was all important. To see more and more people, poor and rich alike, depend on Jesus alone for rescue and become worshipers of the one true God was the goal.

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

To win souls for Christ is the aim. Serve people to win people. Identify with Jews to win Jews. Identify with Gentiles to win Gentiles. Become weak to win weak. Become all things to all people to save some. Never compromise the gospel. Do everything you do for the sake of the gospel.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Confront Pharisees. Confront religious hypocrites. Confront false teachers who lead others astray, for the glory of God and for the good of many, that they might not be led astray, that they might believe the true gospel and be saved. Give no offense to the lost, Jew or Greek. Give no offense to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Do not, by insisting on your rights, trip others up. Seek to please everyone in everything. Seek the good, not the temporary fleeting pleasure, but the real lasting eternal pleasure of everyone. Seek their eternal advantage, that they might be saved.

We can follow the example of our Lord Jesus in this.

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Jesus was the ultimate example of not pleasing self, but instead passionately pursuing the eternal good of the other. He willingly became “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn.1:29).

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…

We are told in Philippians 2:

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

Jesus, God from all eternity, stooped down and took on the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men. He looked to the interests of others so much that he went to the cross for us.

Eat and drink and do whatever you do for the sake of the gospel, for the good of your neighbor that they might be saved. Eat and drink and do whatever you with thanksgiving in your heart, bringing glory to God. For the sake of the truth of the gospel and for the freedom that Christ purchased with his own blood, stand firm in and insist on your freedom. For the sake of the advance of the gospel and the eternal good of others, joyfully relinquish your rights.

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

June 29, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 9:15-18; Freedom and Compulsion

03/16 1 Corinthians 9:15-18 Freedom and Compulsion; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140316_1cor9_15-18.mp3

1 Corinthians 9 [SBLGNT]

15 Ἐγὼ δὲ οὐ κέχρημαι οὐδενὶ τούτων. οὐκ ἔγραψα δὲ ταῦτα ἵνα οὕτως γένηται ἐν ἐμοί, καλὸν γάρ μοι μᾶλλον ἀποθανεῖν ἤ — τὸ καύχημά μου οὐδεὶς κενώσει. 16 ἐὰν γὰρ εὐαγγελίζωμαι, οὐκ ἔστιν μοι καύχημα, ἀνάγκη γάρ μοι ἐπίκειται· οὐαὶ γάρ μοί ἐστιν ἐὰν μὴ εὐαγγελίσωμαι. 17 εἰ γὰρ ἑκὼν τοῦτο πράσσω, μισθὸν ἔχω· εἰ δὲ ἄκων, οἰκονομίαν πεπίστευμαι. 18 τίς οὖν μού ἐστιν ὁ μισθός; ἵνα εὐαγγελιζόμενος ἀδάπανον θήσω τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, εἰς τὸ μὴ καταχρήσασθαι τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ μου ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ.

1 Corinthians 9 [ESV2011]

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Paul is tackling the difficult issue of how to interact with the culture in which you live. The Corinthians lived in a culture characterized by idolatry. They had their line of biblical reasoning for why they had the right to eat meat sacrificed to idols in pagan temples. Paul gently leads them to think more carefully through the issues. In chapter 8 he warns that if, by this right of yours, you destroy a brother for whom Christ died, you sin against Christ. In chapter 9:1-14, he makes the case for his own legitimate rights as an illustration for them. He has the right to eat and drink, to have his needs met by those whom he serves. This right of support extends beyond himself to also pay the expenses of a believing wife. He has the right to refrain from working a second job to support himself and his family. A common-sense look at other occupations legitimizes the right to expect to be fairly compensated. The Old Testament affirms this right by precept and precedent. The inequality of being paid for services of eternal worth with perishable things demonstrates that this is a very conservative, very reasonable expectation. Jesus himself commanded ‘that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Not To Secure Provision

But Paul is not talking about his right to be supported so that he can demand proper payment or lobby for a raise. He brings up his own legitimate rights as an example of what it might look like to have a higher purpose in mind than one’s own rights. He is very clear in verse 15:

15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision.

The purpose of defending his rights is not so that he can lay claim to his rights. His purpose is to demonstrate that sometimes it is right to forfeit your rights for a higher purpose. He is not now writing so that these things would be done for him. He is passionate about this.

15 …For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.

We lose some of his passion in most of our English translations. This is a broken sentence, where he begins one thought, interrupts himself and moves in a different direction. We could translate ‘it is better for me to die than… my boast no one will make empty!’ He begins the though ‘I would rather die than…’ but he doesn’t complete it. Was he going to say something like ‘I would rather die than accept money from the likes of you’? That would be offensive, so he changes mid-sentence and exclaims that no one will make his boasting void.

Patronage in Corinth

It may be helpful to understand something of the culture of Corinth here. Corinth was a highly stratified culture with wealthy patrons and many in lower classes. Patrons could sponsor a slave, provide for his needs, give him an education, train him to serve in some function, and after some years of service grant him freedom. But this freedom was not without strings attached. The freedman was now obligated to his patron, to show respect and honor, to give gifts, and to continue to work for him on occasion. Status was all-important in Corinth, and some people would seek to become a slave of a wealthy patron in order to improve their social standing.

The scholar business was also big in Corinth. If you were wealthy, you could hire an instructor to teach you in philosophy. The more you paid, the better education you would get. The more you paid, the more bragging rights you would have with others about how much you were paying for the very best.

Into this social context, Paul comes to town doing manual labor and proclaiming the gospel free of charge to anyone who would listen, regardless of social standing. He refused to accept payment from anyone. This was downright offensive to those in the upper classes who assumed that nothing worth anything comes for free. For Paul to accept support from a wealthy patron would mean that he was also obligating himself to that patron.

Removing Obstacles

Back in verse 12 of this chapter, Paul said that he would endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. This word ‘obstacle’ was what a city would do if an enemy was advancing to attack. Go out and tear up the roads to your city so that the troops would have no easy access to attack. Paul felt that receiving support from the strangers he was proclaiming the gospel to could be a hindrance to that gospel, and so he chose to forgo his rights and endure anything. This did not mean that Paul never accepted support from anyone. He wrote to the church in Philippi thanking them for their generous gift. But he didn’t take money from the strangers he was seeking to win. He felt that would be an obstacle to the gospel. Paul has already described in chapter 4 what this meant for him.

1 Corinthians 4:11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul was willing to endure anything in order to advance the gospel. The message of the good news of a crucified Messiah was offensive enough. That I am so bad that I deserved death but someone died in my place, and that I am so infinitely bad that someone who is infinitely worthy had to pay my price as my substitute – that is offensive to my pride, because I want to be able to say that I’m not really that bad, and that I don’t really need outside help. Paul said in 1:23 ‘we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.’ The gospel that Jesus died for sinners is a scandalous message. So Paul endeavored to remove every other potential obstacle that might hinder the uncompromisable message of that gospel.

Paul’s Boast

Paul said that he would allow no one to deprive him of his boast. What is his boast, and how does this fit with the rest of what Paul teaches about boasting? In chapter 1, Paul pointed to how God chose foolish, weak, low, despised nothings in order to exclude any boasting from his presence (1:27-29), and he concluded with the Scripture “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1:31). In chapter 3, he points out that all Christian leaders are merely servants obeying the command of their Lord Jesus, and he concludes ‘so let no one boast in men’ (3:21). In chapter 4 he says

1 Corinthians 4:7 …What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

In Galatians 6, Paul makes this unequivocal statement:

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

We have nothing to boast in that we did not receive as a gift, and the only thing worthy of boasting in is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, where we receive the ultimate gift.

So what is Paul’s boast here in 1 Corinthians 9, and how does this fit with what he says about boasting?

Paul’s Necessity

In verses 16 and 17 he clarifies:

16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.

Paul literally gave his life to the preaching of the gospel. And yet he says that this gives him no ground for boasting because he is required to preach. And he exclaims ‘woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ Paul resonates here with the prophet Jeremiah. Paul, like Jeremiah, was set apart by God from before birth. Paul said:

Galatians 1:15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to [in] me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…

Jeremiah said:

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah was sent to proclaim the Lord’s judgment on his people for forsaking him and worshiping false gods. Jeremiah was told:

Jeremiah 1:17 But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.

And he was told that ‘they will fight against you’ (1:19). God told Jeremiah

Jeremiah 7:27 “So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.

Jeremiah (understandably) became frustrated with his task. After Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks by the priest in the house of the Lord, he complains to the Lord:

Jeremiah 20:7 O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. 9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Jeremiah was tired of being mocked and was ready to quit speaking for the Lord. But when he tried to quit, ‘there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot’. As much as Jeremiah wanted to quit, he was compelled to speak. He says ‘you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed’.

Paul was in a similar situation. Paul, on his way to Damascus to persecute the followers of Jesus, was confronted by the risen Lord Jesus, knocked to the ground, blinded, and told what to do.

Acts 26:14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul had no choice in this. He was confronted, commanded, and commissioned. Like Jeremiah, he was given a task.

Romans 1:14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Paul was under obligation. He says here, ‘

16 … necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.

Paul was under necessity. There was no reward for him in preaching the gospel, because it was not of his own will. He didn’t choose to preach the gospel; far from it. He was actively persecuting and seeking to destroy followers of Jesus. He was interrupted. He was involuntarily pressed into service. It was a stewardship, a responsibility entrusted to him. We might be able to say that some of the other apostles willingly left following John, left their nets and their father, left the tax booth and chose to follow Jesus. But not so Paul. He was under compulsion. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Jesus asked:

Luke 17:7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Jesus conquered his unwilling heart and gave Paul a new willing heart that was eager to serve him. But how could Paul demonstrate that he was now eagerly, passionately, voluntarily, willingly preaching the good news and not merely preaching under compulsion? How could he show that he was not merely doing what was his duty?

18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

What is my reward? What is my grounds for boasting? Paul did not make full use of his rights. Is Paul saying he is better than the other apostles and earning a greater reward? No! Later in this letter he will call himself the last and least of all the apostles, not worthy to be called an apostle except for the grace of God extended to him (15:8-10). Is Paul contradicting his statement in Galatians that he will not boast in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ? No! Paul’s reward, literally his wage, was to forfeit his wages and relinquish his rights by proclaiming the gospel freely. Paul considered it his payment to not receive pay for preaching. What he got out of it was the privilege of going beyond what was required. Paul had become a genuine Jesus-follower. Jesus said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus

Philippians 2:7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Paul’s boast, Paul’s glory, Paul’s rejoicing was in the cross. Because God’s grace had so transformed his heart, Paul was eager, like his Master, to surrender his rights for the sake of others. Paul considered it a privilege to live a cross-centered life, he considered it a reward to share in the sufferings of Christ.

Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

To share in his sufferings and to become like Jesus in his death is to gladly relinquish my rights for the eternal good of others. If by surrendering my rights, I can remove an obstacle that may hinder someone from believing in Jesus, then I have become a little bit like Jesus. This is no sacrifice. This is privilege. This is something to glory in, something to boast in, something to rejoice in, that Jesus has so changed my heart and my desires that I now love my enemies and will gladly give up my rights to remove obstacles so that they can know Jesus.

I am no longer my own. I have been bought with a price. I am under obligation to proclaim the good news. Good news that Jesus died for sinners so that we can be welcomed into the presence of an all-holy God. I cannot be silent about that good news. If I have the opportunity to surrender a God-given right in order to secure the eternal salvation of one for whom Christ died, I should exult in the high honor of following my Lord.

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

March 16, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 9:1-14; kNOw your Rights!

03/09 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 kNOw Your Rights!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140309_1cor9_1-14.mp3

1 Corinthians 9 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐλεύθερος; οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος; οὐχὶ Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἑόρακα; οὐ τὸ ἔργον μου ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ; 2 εἰ ἄλλοις οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος, ἀλλά γε ὑμῖν εἰμι, ἡ γὰρ σφραγίς μου τῆς ἀποστολῆς ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ. 3 Ἡ ἐμὴ ἀπολογία τοῖς ἐμὲ ἀνακρίνουσίν ἐστιν αὕτη. 4 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν; 5 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν, ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ Κηφᾶς; 6 ἢ μόνος ἐγὼ καὶ Βαρναβᾶς οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν μὴ ἐργάζεσθαι; 7 τίς στρατεύεται ἰδίοις ὀψωνίοις ποτέ; τίς φυτεύει ἀμπελῶνα καὶ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἐσθίει; τίς ποιμαίνει ποίμνην καὶ ἐκ τοῦ γάλακτος τῆς ποίμνης οὐκ ἐσθίει; 8 Μὴ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ταῦτα λαλῶ ἢ καὶ ὁ νόμος ταῦτα οὐ λέγει; 9 ἐν γὰρ τῷ Μωϋσέως νόμῳ γέγραπται· Οὐ κημώσεις βοῦν ἀλοῶντα. μὴ τῶν βοῶν μέλει τῷ θεῷ, 10 ἢ δι’ ἡμᾶς πάντως λέγει; δι’ ἡμᾶς γὰρ ἐγράφη, ὅτι ὀφείλει ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι ὁ ἀροτριῶν ἀροτριᾶν, καὶ ὁ ἀλοῶν ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι τοῦ μετέχειν. 11 εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν τὰ πνευματικὰ ἐσπείραμεν, μέγα εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῶν τὰ σαρκικὰ θερίσομεν; 12 εἰ ἄλλοι τῆς ὑμῶν ἐξουσίας μετέχουσιν, οὐ μᾶλλον ἡμεῖς; Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐχρησάμεθα τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ταύτῃ, ἀλλὰ πάντα στέγομεν ἵνα μή τινα ἐγκοπὴν δῶμεν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 13 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ τὰ ἱερὰ ἐργαζόμενοι τὰ ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ ἐσθίουσιν, οἱ τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ παρεδρεύοντες τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ συμμερίζονται; 14 οὕτως καὶ ὁ κύριος διέταξεν τοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καταγγέλλουσιν ἐκ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ζῆν.

1 Corinthians 9 [ESV2011]

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 9:1-14, Paul overbuilds the case that he as an apostle has the legitimate right to be supported by the churches that he serves. He builds this case so thoroughly that no one would dare to dispute that he has this right. He musters evidence from the example of the other apostles, from the example of basic principles common to all society, from Old Testament law, from the precedent of priestly shares in temple offerings, and from the command of the Lord Jesus himself. He does all this in the context of the Corinthians insisting on their so-called rights that were really not legitimate rights, as he will show in the next chapter. He builds this bulletproof case for his rights so that he can stagger them with the concept that even when you do have legitimate rights, the path of love may be to voluntarily forgo those rights for the good of others.

Paul asks a lot of questions in this section. Rhetorical questions, to which the answers are obvious. He expects his readers to be able to fill in the correct answers and in doing so powerfully affirm his rights. He begins with this: ‘Am I not free?’ Paul is passionate about freedom. He wrote to the churches in Galatia passionately defending the freedom that we have in Christ. He says

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

He will come back to this issue of freedom and how to use it in the second half of this chapter (v.19).

His second question is “Am I not an apostle?” and he follows this with two more questions that affirm his calling as apostle. “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” A primary prerequisite of an apostle, one sent by the Lord Jesus was to have actually seen Jesus. Jesus blinded Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and personally commissioned him to bring the good news about him to the Gentile nations (Acts 26:14-18). “Are you not my workmanship in the Lord?” Paul points to the existence of a church of God in Corinth as evidence of the authenticity of his apostleship. He begins this letter by addressing:

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

And he gives thanks to God

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

The very fact of their existence as followers of Jesus in the pagan city of Corinth is proof positive that Paul was sent by Jesus to bring the good news to the people there. Their existence as believers was dependent on the fact that the apostle Paul preached the good news to them. So he says:

2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.

God’s grace was extended to the pagan city of Corinth through Paul, and many who were entrenched in the false beliefs of that culture were supernaturally transformed into Jesus followers through his preaching. Paul claims in chapter 3:

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

The church in Corinth was the evidence that Paul was sent out by Jesus. Even if no one else in the whole world acknowledged Paul as an apostle of Jesus, the followers of Jesus in Corinth must acknowledge him. This is his defense to anyone who would challenge his calling.

Apostles’ Rights

Then starting in verse 4 he unleashes a tirade of rhetorical questions defending his rights.

4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Who would deny someone the right to eat and drink? But in the context, he is saying that if someone receives services from someone without paying for those services, that is to deny them the right to eat and drink. In chapter 8 we see that the Corinthians were defending their purported right to participate in idol feasts and eat food sacrificed to idols. Paul asks the question ‘don’t we have the right to eat at all?’ The question here is not food connected with idolatry; the issue here is the right to basic subsistence. Paul has the legitimate right to be compensated from those he serves in preaching the gospel.

That right goes beyond himself.

5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

Paul is not claiming the right to be married. That is a given. When he laid out the advantages of singleness in chapter 7, he was careful to make it clear that marriage is good and a legitimate option. Paul claims here that the church is obligated not only to pay his own personal expenses, but also the expenses of his family if he had one. If he comes to preach the gospel, those to whom he preaches are obligated to provide for his needs and the needs of his wife. He points to the other apostles as examples of this. We don’t know much about the family lives of the other apostles. We are told in the gospels that Peter (or Cephas) had a mother-in-law (Mt.8:14), which would imply that he was married. The brothers of the Lord, James and Joses and Judas and Simon (Mk.6:3) apparently were also married. James, we know from the book of Acts, became a leader in the church in Jerusalem. According to Paul, most of the other apostles and the brothers of Jesus who were serving the church were married, and they and their wives were supported by the churches. For Paul’s original readers, this was common knowledge that did not need to be defended; it was the basis of Paul’s defense of his rights.

6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

Paul is asking if he and Barnabas were the only exceptions to the rule. All the other apostles and leaders of the churches were supported by the churches they served. Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John left their fishing to follow Jesus. Matthew left collecting taxes to follow Jesus. Why were Paul and Barnabas not allowed to stop making tents and be provided for by the churches?

Soldier, Vinedresser, Shepherd

Paul continues to build his case. He asks three more rhetorical questions that point to the normal expectation in society for one’s occupation to provide for one’s own needs.

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

Soldiers don’t go to serve their country and pack a sack lunch for battle. It may be simple and basic, but their needs are taken care of. And in that day, the soldier was entitled to share in the spoils of war. The one who plants the vineyard does so expecting to enjoy the fruit that the vineyard produces. The shepherd who tends the flock enjoys the dairy products that come from the flock. In our day we could ask ‘who goes to work and expects never to get a paycheck?’ This is absurd. A principle so basic and so common sense that someone who works for a living expects to make his living by his work must certainly be applied to someone who gives his life to proclaiming the gospel.

Interestingly, all three of these illustrations, the army, the vine, and the flock are all used in the bible to describe the people of God. The soldier, the vinedresser, and the shepherd or pastor all are occupations used to describe those who are entrusted with the leadership of God’s people. Paul says to the elders in Ephesus:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for (shepherd) the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

And Peter exhorts the elders:

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

In Matthew 20, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to the master of a house who hired laborers for his vineyard. In Matthew 21, he told a parable about a master of a house who planted a vineyard and leased it to those who would tend it, and went on a journey expecting to come back and enjoy its fruits. Jesus said in John 15

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

Paul viewed his own work as a field hand. He says in 1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul told Timothy:

1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience….

and

1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In 2 Timothy, he says:

2 Timothy 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

Jude says

Jude 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

His point in all of this is that those who serve as a soldier, those who work in the vineyard, those who tend the flock all expect to have their needs met through that work. How much more those who defend and advance the truth, feed the sheep and tend the branches so they stay connected to the vine and produce fruit?

The Law

Paul moves now from common-sense human illustrations to a biblical defense of his right to make a living by the gospel.

8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

Deuteronomy 25:4 says “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.” Paul takes this and applies it to himself and others who preach the good news. This may seem a bit of a stretch, until we actually turn back to Deuteronomy and find that this one statement about oxen is sandwiched in a whole section where everything else is dealing with protecting the rights of laborers, hired servants, the poor and needy, widows, orphans, foreigners, those in debt and those found guilty of minor offenses, making sure that they are protected, cared for, clothed and fed. In that context, if a beast of burden has the right to eat some of the produce while it is working, how much greater the obligation to care for a human person created in the image of God. Paul takes this scripture and says that it was written for our sake. As Luther said, God did not have this written for oxen because oxen cannot read. This was written for rational humans, because we labor in hope of sharing in the produce. Again, these farming metaphors are directly applicable to gospel ministry. Paul uses this scripture also in 1 Timothy 5 as a basis for caring for those who preach and teach in the church.

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

Paul argues from the greater to the lesser. If an ox is entitled to eat of the good grain that he is threshing, surely he would be entitled to eat of his regular feed. Paul says:

11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

If we have invested in you things of greater eternal value, is it too much to ask that we share in the lesser temporary material benefits?

Galatians 6:6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Paul argues that the Corinthians were financially supporting other workers.

12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

Surely the apostle who brought to them the good news in the first place has a rightful claim to be supported by them. He says in

2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

If he is serving in a church, he has the right to be supported by that church. Paul tips his hand to where he is going with all this talk about his rights. He has not made use of these legitimate rights in order to remove every possible obstacle to the gospel of Christ. The good news message that forgiveness of sins comes through the sacrifice of Jesus to all who believe is primary. If my rights hinder that message in any way, then it is time to forfeit my rights for the sake of the gospel. This is the whole point of this passage. Paul is compounding his defense of the legitimacy of his rights not so that he can finally get what he deserves, but so that he can demonstrate that it is right to surrender your rights out of love for others and for the sake of the gospel.

The Temple

But he is not done yet. He brings up another Old Testament principle and applies it to the New Testament church.

13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul includes a gentle rebuke here. He asks the Corinthians, who claim to know so much ‘do you not know?’ This is something he expects them to know. Numbers 18 outlines in detail the things that were given to those who served in the Old Testament sanctuary. The contributions, the consecrated things, the grain offerings, the sin offerings, the guilt offerings, the wave offerings, the best of the oil, the best of the wine, the grain, the firstfruits, all the devoted things, all the holy contributions, and every tithe were given to those who served in the Lord’s temple as their portion to provide for their needs and the needs of their families. The contributions that came to the Lord in the temple were given to those who served in the temple to free them up to serve. Paul connects this Old Testament practice directly to the New Testament church. He says:

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

In the same way. Just as the Old Testament priests were cared for by the donations of the people, so those who proclaim the gospel should earn their living by the gospel. This, Paul says, is no less than a command of the Lord Jesus himself.

When Jesus sent out the seventy, in Luke 10,

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, …7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. … (cf. Matthew 10:7-10)

When Jesus sent out the twelve in Matthew 10, he said

Matthew 10:7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.

Jesus sent his followers out without provisions, expecting them to be provided for by those they ministered to. Those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul is free. He is an apostle. He has the right to eat and drink. He has the right not only to have his own needs met, but also the needs of a family through the support of the church. He has the right to stop supporting himself through manual labor and be cared for by the church. Those in common occupations expect to earn a living through their work, how much more those who defend the faith, tend God’s vineyard, and pastor his flock? Those who invest in others eternal good surely have the right to have their temporal needs met. The Scriptures confirm that those who serve God have the right to be provided for thorough the donations of God’s people. The command of the Lord Jesus is that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. And yet in full possession of these inalienable God-given rights, Paul has the radical right to let go of his rights out of love for others and for the sake of the advance of the gospel. 

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

March 9, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 8:7-13; Obligation to Love

03/02 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 – Obligation to Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140302_1cor8_7-13.mp3

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

7 Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν πᾶσιν ἡ γνῶσις· τινὲς δὲ τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου ὡς εἰδωλόθυτον ἐσθίουσιν, καὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτῶν ἀσθενὴς οὖσα μολύνεται. 8 βρῶμα δὲ ἡμᾶς οὐ παραστήσει τῷ θεῷ· οὔτε γὰρ ἐὰν φάγωμεν, περισσεύομεν, οὔτε ἐὰν μὴ φάγωμεν, ὑστερούμεθα. 9 βλέπετε δὲ μή πως ἡ ἐξουσία ὑμῶν αὕτη πρόσκομμα γένηται τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν. 10 ἐὰν γάρ τις ἴδῃ σὲ τὸν ἔχοντα γνῶσιν ἐν εἰδωλείῳ κατακείμενον, οὐχὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτοῦ ἀσθενοῦς ὄντος οἰκοδομηθήσεται εἰς τὸ τὰ εἰδωλόθυτα ἐσθίειν; 11 ἀπόλλυται γὰρ ὁ ἀσθενῶν ἐν τῇ σῇ γνώσει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς δι’ ὃν Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν. 12 οὕτως δὲ ἁμαρτάνοντες εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τύπτοντες αὐτῶν τὴν συνείδησιν ἀσθενοῦσαν εἰς Χριστὸν ἁμαρτάνετε. 13 διόπερ εἰ βρῶμα σκανδαλίζει τὸν ἀδελφόν μου, οὐ μὴ φάγω κρέα εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἵνα μὴ τὸν ἀδελφόν μου σκανδαλίσω.

1 Corinthians 8 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

In chapters 8-11, Paul is addressing the issue of a Christian’s interaction with pagan society. In the pagan culture of Corinth, idolatry permeated every area of life; politics, sports, employment, family, even eating. Almost all meat would have some connection with pagan idolatry. Meat at a friend’s house may be the leftovers from a pagan sacrifice. Meat sold in the market often came from the priest’s portion of the pagan sacrifice. Pagan temples had dining rooms that were rented to celebrate special occasions. Some of the believers in Corinth were claiming the right to eat food that came from the temple, even the right to attend banquets held at the temple, arguing that because there is only one true God, and since food cannot earn for us favor with God, then we have freedom to eat whatever we want wherever we want.

We may think we can safely tune out this whole section as irrelevant because I can’t remember the last time I was invited to a temple for a banquet, or when my neighbor invited me to a barbeque that was dedicated to Asclepius or Aphrodite or Zeus. But if you find yourself in another country or another culture, you may quickly realize how important it is to think carefully through these issues. And when we put these instructions in the context of the broader issues of idolatry as being anything we love or honor or elevate alongside the one true God, then this becomes massively relevant and intensely practical.

The Principles behind the Decree

And we are greatly helped by the way the apostle deals with this issue. This was a settled issue. Paul could have simply laid down the law, cited the Jerusalem decree, and moved on. And that may be what he had done in earlier correspondence or in person with this church. Paul was there at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. Paul was one of those entrusted with the responsibility to deliver the decision to the Gentile churches. For a non-Jew to become a follower of Jesus, they did not have to become Jewish or come under the burden of Jewish law. But they must turn away from their false gods to the one true God. They cannot add Jesus to the list of gods they worship and serve. In turning to Jesus they must turn away from the worship of false gods, from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, from sexual immorality. Paul could have laid down the law. But instead he lays out the reasons behind the decision to help them (and us) to think more carefully through the issue and lead them to the proper conclusion.

Paul brings them back to first principles. There is only one God, and that one God requires that we love him with all heart and soul and mind and strength, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Love seeks the genuine good of the other, even if it is costly to us. The Corinthians boasted in a kind of knowledge that set them apart from everyone else; Paul points out that this knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

He points them back to first principles of monotheism; there is no God but one. By saying there is one Lord and God we confess that we owe our undivided allegiance and obedience to this one God. God reveals himself as a jealous God, and demands that we have no other gods besides him. Paul clarifies that this one God is God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, distinct persons with different roles, but God, one eternal being.

The double command of love must govern all of life. Love for God must come first. And this humbles us, because we only love because he first loved us. In verses 7-13, he spells out what love for our brother should look like. Paul does not confront their idolatrous behavior head on, but rather seeks to persuade them. In chapter 10, he will lay out clear conclusions, like 10:14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” and that eating idol food is eating at the table of demons (10:16-22). In this chapter Paul assumes for the sake of argument that what they are saying is true, and that their knowledge is accurate. Even if it were true that Christians have legitimate liberty to join in pagan feasts, love would require a different path.

This Knowledge is Not In All

The Corinthians were claiming to have knowledge. They said ‘we know that all of us possess knowledge’. Paul here clarifies ‘but not all possess this knowledge’. This ‘knowledge’ that it is acceptable to participate in pagan feasts because the gods honored are false empty nothings, this is not in everyone.

7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

Before they heard the gospel and believed in Jesus as God, many Corinthians would have regularly participated in these celebrations in honor of the various gods, and upon entering their former place of worship would feel soiled, dirty, defiled. Their conscience is weak, not because they are too easily offended and over-sensitive, but because they cave to the example of those who claim to be wise and eat, even though they don’t themselves have this so-called wisdom that would free them to participate. The weak conscience is a conscience that isn’t sure of itself, that doesn’t have the strength to stand on its own two feet, the moral consciousness that questions if it is permissible but does it anyway. This is a moral consciousness that is swayed by the opinion and example of others. Notice that Paul doesn’t say that they merely feel defiled. He says that their conscience, their moral consciousness is defiled. He says in Romans 14:23

Romans 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Subjective Sin

These verses tell us that there is a subjective reality to sin. Something may not be forbidden by God, let’s stay (to be culturally relevant) drinking a particular beverage. If you have been raised to believe that it is sin to partake, even though you can’t produce the verse that says it is wrong, you are convinced that it is a sin against God. Objectively it is not wrong. No specific command, no general principle in the bible says it is wrong. Your conscience has been misinformed. But if you fill up your cup and drink, believing it is wrong, you are saying in your heart ‘I believe this to be a sin against God, but I am going to do it anyway’. God looks on the heart, and in your heart you have sinned against God. The act is not objectively sinful. It is not sinful in and of itself. But it becomes sin for you when, thinking it is sin, you do it anyway.

There is also an objective reality to sin. If you were not raised to believe that any sexual intimacy outside of a marriage relationship is sin, you may feel no guilt in fornicating with your girlfriend. It may feel so right. But it is still really, objectively, according to God’s absolute standard, wrong. Idolatry is on that list, putting any thing, any tradition, any relationship equal in importance with God is sin, whether it feels sinful or not. Much that we don’t feel guilty about is objectively sin against God. One reason the Holy Spirit is given to believers is to convict us of sin that we are not aware is sin.

Food Does Not Bring Us Before God

The Corinthians argument is that ‘Food does not bring us near to God’. We are presented blameless before God through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law. In a vision God offered to Peter all kinds of ceremonially unclean things to eat, and God said ‘what God has made clean, do not call common’ (Acts10:15). Jesus declared all foods clean (Mk.7:19). He said that it is not the stuff that goes in, but what comes out that defiles a person. Stuff like evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness that come out of a person’s heart. That is what defiles, not food. Food does not bring us near to God. Keeping various rules like:

Colossians 2:21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Food does not bring us near to God. No list of do’s and dont’s will earn favor with God. Only Jesus can bring us near to the all-holy God. Food has no importance. Notice how Paul frames this: ‘We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do’. I find it interesting that he doesn’t say the opposite. He could have said ‘We are no better off if we do not eat, and no worse off if we do’, but he didn’t because that may not be true. Based on his conclusions in chapter 10, we may be better off not to eat food sacrificed to idols, and we may be worse of if we do. He says forfeiting your liberty to eat the steak does not separate you from God, neither does eating the steak bring you closer to God. Since food does not bring us nearer to God by eating or alienate us by not eating, we can safely forgo our right to eat for the sake of a brother.

Stumbling Block

This is what he says in verse 9

9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

Paul’s language borders on condescending. Paul distances himself from ‘this right of yours’. They are demanding their rights. They have this knowledge. Paul says ‘look out!’ When you start demanding and defending your own rights, you are already on dangerous territory. The problem when I begin to demand my rights, I often end up trampling on the rights of others. Paul alerts them to the existence of others for whom they must be concerned. Watch out that this right you claim does not become a stumbling block to the weak. You who claim to have ‘wisdom’ have an obligation to the weak.

This word ‘stumbling block’ has a clear Old Testament connection to idolatry. God warned in Exodus 34:

Exodus 34:12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. 17 “You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

This is exactly what happened to Israel in the wilderness.

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

Jesus references this when he rebukes the New Testament church in Pergamum and calls them to repentance:

Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

To draw someone into worship of anything besides the one true God is a stumbling block.

Build Up to Destruction

To put a stumbling block before the weak is a serious issue.

10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?

Paul is somewhat sarcastic here. The word translated ‘encouraged’ is the word usually translated ‘edified’ or ‘built up’. To ‘build up’ a weaker brother so that he participates in idolatry – some kind of building up that is! The conscience is a valuable tool. It is not infallible. The conscience is a delicate instrument, like a compass. Compasses sometimes need to be calibrated. But you do not calibrate the compass of conscience with the sledgehammer of my knowledge and rights, sending it spinning in every direction and rendering it useless to guide. You calibrate the compass of conscience with the precision screwdriver of love.

Listen to how Paul confronts the puffed-up Corinthians.

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

Destroyed. Perished. Lost. Who would want that on their hands? Not anyone, but a weak person. You would trip up and destroy someone who can’t even stand on their own? A brother! Not an enemy, not an outsider, a brother, a sibling, part of the family! There ought to be some tender affection in you toward your own brother. And if not for my brother, then surely for Christ. This one who through my supposed knowledge I am leading back into bondage to sin, and into destruction, is one for whom Christ died. To think that I would attempt to nullify the effect of the cross of Jesus! I am a sinner saved only by God’s undeserved grace through the cross. To lead another for whom Christ died back into the sin out of which he was snatched and from which he is set free is unthinkable. Jesus loved that person and gave himself up for them. He made the ultimate sacrifice out of love. But I am so puffed up in my knowledge and concerned about my rights that I cannot sacrifice something so insignificant to love them.

12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

Paul applies this principle of love to his readers. To wound a weak conscience, to lead a weak brother into sin, is to sin against them, and to sin against someone for whom Christ died is to sin against Christ Jesus himself. This lesson would be vivid for Paul, formerly Saul, persecutor of the church. When Jesus confronted him on the road, he asked “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts9:4). To persecute the church is to persecute Jesus. Jesus said ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Mt.25:40). Jesus taught

Matthew 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Jesus takes great offense if we do not love those whom he so loved that he gave up his own life as a substitute for.

Paul concludes with his own personal application.

13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Food, something so insignificant in the context of the substitutionary death of Christ for sinners; my right becomes so trivial in light of Christ Jesus, being in the form of God, who made himself nothing, and died on a cross for sinners like me (Phil.2:5-8). Paul says if food leads a brother for whom Christ died back into idolatry and away from Jesus, I will give up my right to eat meat altogether. I have no right to be rescued from my own sin. That is pure undeserved grace. It is a gift, not a right. I surely have no right to interfere or tamper with the undeserved grace God chooses to extend to another sinner. Rather, I have an obligation to love those whom Christ loved.

March 2, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1 Corinthians 6:1-8; Better to be Defrauded

09/29 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 Better To Be Defrauded; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130929_1cor6_1-8.mp3

1Cor 6 [SBLGNT]

6:1 Τολμᾷ τις ὑμῶν πρᾶγμα ἔχων πρὸς τὸν ἕτερον κρίνεσθαι ἐπὶ τῶν ἀδίκων, καὶ οὐχὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἁγίων; 2 ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἅγιοι τὸν κόσμον κρινοῦσιν; καὶ εἰ ἐν ὑμῖν κρίνεται ὁ κόσμος, ἀνάξιοί ἐστε κριτηρίων ἐλαχίστων; 3 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἀγγέλους κρινοῦμεν, μήτιγε βιωτικά; 4 βιωτικὰ μὲν οὖν κριτήρια ἐὰν ἔχητε, τοὺς ἐξουθενημένους ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, τούτους καθίζετε; 5 πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λέγω. οὕτως οὐκ ἔνι ἐν ὑμῖν οὐδεὶς σοφὸς ὃς δυνήσεται διακρῖναι ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, 6 ἀλλὰ ἀδελφὸς μετὰ ἀδελφοῦ κρίνεται, καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ ἀπίστων; 7 ἤδη μὲν οὖν ὅλως ἥττημα ὑμῖν ἐστιν ὅτι κρίματα ἔχετε μεθ’ ἑαυτῶν· διὰ τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀδικεῖσθε; διὰ τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀποστερεῖσθε; 8 ἀλλὰ ὑμεῖς ἀδικεῖτε καὶ ἀποστερεῖτε, καὶ τοῦτο ἀδελφούς.

1Cor 6 [ESV2011]

6:1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

The church in Corinth had a pride problem. They were puffed up, they were arrogant, they thought they were wise and advanced and super-spiritual. They had lost sight of the cross. Paul is bringing them back to a humility appropriate to followers of Jesus. In chapter 5, he addressed the first major evidence that all was not well in Corinth. They were tolerating sexual immorality in the church, of a kind that was not even tolerated among unbelievers. Here in chapter 6, he addresses the next major evidence, lawsuits among believers, and he gives us some clear and practical direction on how to handle issues that come up between people.

How Dare You?

He begins this section by asking ‘How dare you?’ Who has the audacity to do this? What they are doing is totally out of line, and they should know better. It is no surprise that there are issues between people. You borrowed my rake, and haven’t given it back. Your kid threw a ball through my window. You hired me to remodel your kitchen, and it’s now three months later and you still haven’t paid me. I hired you to put a new roof on my house and you didn’t finish, and now it’s snowing in my living room. You backed into my car after church last Sunday, and left a big dent. You dug a hole, and I fell into it, and now I have doctor bills. I lent you money, again, and you still haven’t paid me back. You were rude to me and you never apologized. You dog leaves me presents in my front yard every morning. You didn’t treat me fairly or speak to me kindly. I feel that you have wronged or offended me in some way. You have something that is mine. You owe me. Fill in the blank. People hurt people. People violate the rights of other people. People inconvenience and injure and offend other people. This is no surprise. This is part of life in a fallen world. Paul is not shocked that there are issues between people. He is shocked and appalled at the way they are responding to these offenses. How dare you? When you have an issue, you take your brother to court!

Civil vs. Criminal

It is important to keep this in proper perspective. The language he uses in this passage describe the kind of case he is talking about. He says it is a ‘grievance’, a ‘trivial case’, ‘matters pertaining to this life’, ‘a dispute between brothers’, issues of being ‘wronged and defrauded’. These are not cases of assault, homicide, statutory rape, or the like.

Paul says in Romans 13:

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

He holds up the secular government as established and instituted by God, God’s servant to carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. What Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 6 are issues we might categorize as small claims, grievances, civil disputes. If you witness a murder, don’t call the elders of the church; call 911.

Before The UnJustified

Paul says ‘how dare you bring your civil disputes to court. The first problem with this is that the secular judges are ‘unjust’ or ‘unrighteous’. This is another way of saying ‘unbelieving’ (as he does in verse 6), in contrast to the saints, God’s holy ones who have been justified or declared righteous because of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We have a legal standing before God as not guilty, cleared on all counts, because Jesus suffered the penalty for all our wrongs. Why would you take your petty disputes before unjustified people?

But not only were the Roman courts run by people who had not experienced the transforming grace of Jesus, they also had a reputation for injustice. The courts had a tendency to be unjust, favoring the rich, those with power and influence. James refers to the legal system like this:

James 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

The poor were at a deep disadvantage in the court systems. And the Christians were typically those who were poor, being mistreated through the legal system. But in Corinth, there were rich people in the church who used their wealth and position in society to take their brothers to court, squeezing out of them more than they had to give. We see this in verse 8.

8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

The goal of taking someone to court is usually not just a desire for justice. It is a desire for revenge, or a desire for more and more and more. I don’t want what is fair, I want to take you for all you are worth, every last penny. After all, I have to pay my lawyers, and I only get what is left over.

The Saints will Judge

Paul’s question implies that there is another option when disputes arise. Why don’t you take your case before the saints? Jewish communities in the first century Roman world would never bring their disputes before a Roman court. The Jewish community had their own system of handling disputes. After all, God had given them his word. To go to an outsider for litigation would be to say that God’s word doesn’t have all the answers. Paul is expecting the Christian church in Corinth to do the same. Of course you will have grievances with people, but dare you to go to law before the unrighteous instead of the holy ones? Take your case before your fellow believers.

Twice in this passage, Paul asks the question ‘do you not know’, an insult to those who claim already to know it all. He asks ‘Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?’ Revelation 20 says:

Revelation 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Paul tells Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:12 if we endure, we will also reign with him…

Paul says here that we, the saints, God’s holy people, will judge the world. He argues from the greater to the lesser. If you can solve advanced algebraic equations, surely you can handle a simple addition problem.

2 …And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?

Again he is poking at their pride. Are you unfit, incapable, incompetent to judge trivial cases? In chapter 4, he mocks their arrogant boasting when he says ‘already you have become kings! And would that you did reign…’ (4:8). One day they will have the weighty responsibility of judging the world, but they can’t arbitrate a petty argument.

He asks a second ‘do you not know’ question, implying that this is common knowledge, something they ought to already know. And this is intriguing.

3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

We are to judge angels!? The author of Hebrews describes angels as:

Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

He goes on to say:

Hebrews 2:5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” …

The world to come is subjected not to angels, but to a man, the man Jesus Christ. All things will be subject to Jesus. If we are in Jesus, connected to Jesus, then we will reign with him, even over the angelic hosts. If we are destined to rule over angels, the highest order of created spiritual beings, how much more should we be qualified to render justice over matters of this temporal earthly life?

Appoint the Nothings!

Verse 4 is difficult because it is open to varying interpretations. The ESV, and many other translations render it as a question.

4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?

In the original Greek text, there were no punctuation marks, so determining what was a rhetorical question and what was a statement or even a command depends largely on the context, and can be rather difficult to decide. The King James, and many of the commentaries, render verse 4 as a command.

[KJV] 6:4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

Both interpretations make good sense, but it seems that to take this as a command makes better sense of the grammar. The active verb in the sentence is ‘appoint’, and the church would have no jurisdiction to appoint secular judges. And the word ‘no standing’ or ‘least esteemed’ would be a very derogatory way to refer to secular magistrates. Paul has already used this same word in chapter 1 to refer to the believers.

1 Corinthians 1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,

God chose the least esteemed, the nothings. You then, take the nothings and appoint them to judge these trivial matters in the church. Even George the garbage man, who has experienced God’s grace in the cross, is more qualified to judge things dealing with this life.

5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers

Remember, Paul has used this word ‘wise’ 10 times in the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. Wisdom was a big deal to them. They all wanted to be thought wise. He writes this way to shame them, to humble them, to bring them down to the place where they begin to lay aside their status and see one another for who they really are. Look at the person next to you this morning and say ‘You will judge the world! You will judge angels!’

Brother Against Brother

Paul summarizes the sad situation in verse 6:

6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?

He uses this family term ‘brother’. Surely someone ought to be able to settle a dispute among the brothers. Something has gone radically wrong when members of the same family are suing one another. A relationship that is meant to be characterized by love and protection is now shattered by greed and animosity. Those who ought to be on the same team, who ought to have each others back, are now out to get each other. And this before unbelievers! We are brothers because we believe in Jesus. Our aim is to persuade others to believe in Jesus. How counterproductive for us to take our brother into court before an unbeliever!

The Way of the Cross

Paul now gets to the heart of the issue. He has suggested that when they have disputes, they bring them before members of the community of faith, who are much better equipped to settle these issues. Now he offers them a still more excellent way, the way of the cross.

7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?

No one goes to court to lose. If you think you don’t have a strong case, you might try to settle out of court. The goal of a suit is to win, and to win big. Paul turns this around. The fact that you are taking each other to court is evidence that you have already been defeated. You are not following Jesus. You are not walking in victory. You are not walking in the way of the cross.

Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But my rights have been violated. I have been wronged. Justice has not been done. I should have a voice. I need to be heard. I want to be taken seriously. I deserve better than this. Paul says it would be better to suffer wrong, to be hurt, to be treated unjustly. It would be better to be defrauded, robbed, swindled.

This is what Jesus taught.

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…

This is the example of Jesus.

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

This is the way of the cross.

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,…

If your brother sins against you, you can go and tell him his fault. You can bring him to court. You can seek justice. Or you can be defrauded. You can be wronged. You do not have to demand your rights. You can follow Jesus.

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

September 29, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment