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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

God Unchanging; Psalm 102

09/13 God Unchanging; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150913_god-unchanging.mp3

Prayer

O Lord, we desire to know you. We long to enjoy your intimate fellowship as Enoch, who walked with you and was not, for you took him. We want to love and fear you like Abraham, so much that no sacrifice is considered too great. We desire to count our time with you so valuable that like Daniel we would risk being eaten by lions just to spend a few precious moments with you. We want, like Job, to bless your name and worship you, whether you give good gifts, or take those gifts away. Help us to say with the Psalmist, that we seek you, we thirst for you, we faint for you, ‘because your steadfast love is better than life’ (Ps.63:3).

Everything Changes

Today we will look at the immutability of God, the unchangeable nature of his being and attributes.

When we travel to visit family in Minnesota, it is a 22 hour drive, so we usually stop somewhere in the middle to spend the night. One of our early trips, Deanna found a great deal on a motel. It was an older motel, and they rented us what must have been the caretaker’s apartment. It had several rooms, a small kitchen, and the pool was right outside the door. It looked like it had been furnished in the ’70’s, but it was comfortable, it fit our family well, and it was cheap! We made some great memories there with our little family. On a later trip, we tried to look this place up so we could make reservations. We couldn’t find it online. We made some calls, but came up with nothing. We tried to remember where exactly it was. We took the exit and drove around, but we couldn’t find it. Finally, we narrowed it down to where it was, and it was a construction zone. The property was surrounded by chain link fence, and there was nothing there but dirt. No motel, no apartment, no pool, no parking lot, no sign, nothing. It was gone. Erased. No trace. Obviously we had to find a different place to stay.

Everything changes. Our culture has changed. Our country has changed. What not too long ago was considered deviant behavior is now celebrated and protected. What would have been considered standing up for what is right and good and true is now considered hate speech. What was wrong is now right. What was right is now wrong.

In a world that is so rapidly changing we look for something stable, something solid, something permanent, something that we can hold on to, something we can trust.

Consider our brothers and sisters fleeing from Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritria seeking a place to live where they will not be killed for their faith in Christ. Last year nearly 200,000 Assyrian Christians were forced to flee their homes around the Mosul area in Iraq, near the site of ancient Nineveh, after ISIS took control of the city and destroyed historic Christian churches. Imagine, the stability of an 1800 year old church building demolished and the Christian community forced to flee, be killed, or convert to Islam. What is there to hold on to? What doesn’t change?

Psalm 102

Listen to the words of Psalm 102

Psalm 102

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you!

2 Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress!

Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!

3 For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.

4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread.

5 Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh.

6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places;

7 I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.

8 All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse.

9 For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink,

10 because of your indignation and anger;

for you have taken me up and thrown me down.

11 My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

Listen to the descriptions the afflicted one uses of himself; my days pass away like smoke; grass that has withered, alone, my days are like an evening shadow, I wither away like grass. Temporary, transient, fading, impermanent, unstable, momentary, fleeting.

Now listen to the permanence and stability of the rest of the Psalm:

Psalm 102:12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.

13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;

it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come.

14 For your servants hold her stones dear and have pity on her dust.

15 Nations will fear the name of the LORD,

and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.

16 For the LORD builds up Zion; he appears in his glory;

17 he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer.

18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,

so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:

19 that he looked down from his holy height;

from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,

20 to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die,

21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD,

and in Jerusalem his praise,

22 when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days.

24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days—

you whose years endure throughout all generations!”

You are enthroned forever; throughout all generations; generations to come; you whose years endure throughout all generations.

Listen to the closing verses:

Psalm 102:25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,

and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment.

You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,

27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;

their offspring shall be established before you.

What is more permanent than the foundation of the earth and the regularity of the heavens? And yet compared to God, they were brought into existence by him, they will perish, they will wear out, they will be changed and pass away, but the LORD will remain. You are the same. Listen to the comfort in those words. You are the same! Something stable. Something unchangeable. Something solid and consistent. Something to hold on to when everything else is in upheaval and turmoil. You remain. You are the same. Everything else changes. The heavens and the earth change, all created things change, but you are the same. The immutability of God is a strong comfort in troubled times.

Unchangeable and Impassible

What does it mean that God is unchanging? It means both that he will not change and that he cannot change. He is who he is. His being, his essence, his character is always the same. What he is he always is. He cannot be other than he is. He is consistent.

Did you ever have something important you wanted to ask your parents? You learn to pay attention to what is going on and be sure to ask at the right time. Is mom in a good mood? Did dad have a good day at work today? If you ask at the wrong time, the answer is automatically ‘no’. So you learn to pick up on cues, to find the most agreeable time to ask. God is not like that. God is always in a good mood. I think that is what the Westminster divines were getting at when they wrote their description of God who is ‘without body, parts, or passions, immutable’ [Westminster Confession, 2, I]. They did not mean that God is not passionate about anything, or that he is emotionless. It is clear that God has a red-hot hatred of sin and evil, and that he delights to show mercy and extend grace to undeserving sinners. But he is not passively affected from something outside himself. God is never grumpy and frustrated because he had a bad day and things didn’t go his way.

Unchangeable in His Character and Nature

God says to his disobedient people:

Malachi 3:6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

I YHWH do not change. This is a passage of judgment. He is rebuking them for their unrighteousness, for their sorcery, adultery, lies, oppression, lack of love and care for the hurting and downcast, lack of fear of the Lord. The fact that they are not consumed is not because of them. They fully deserve to be consumed. They have earned the fires of hell. The fact that they are not consumed has nothing to do with them. They are not consumed because of the character of God. God is an unchanging God. God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. He is always that way. You are not consumed because I am God and I have made promises to you, children of Jacob. The day of judgment is coming. God is just and he will punish all the arrogant and all evildoers. But he is patient and merciful. He sends his messenger to turn the hearts of his people back to him.

James tells us:

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

God is the Father of lights. There is no fickleness, no variability in him. There is no shadow from turning. There is absolute consistency. Rock solid reliability. No dark spots on his character. God cannot be tempted with evil and he tempts no one. All good gifts come from him. The greatest gift is new birth. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth. He caused us to be born again through the transforming power of his word.

Unchangeable in his Purposes and Promises

What a glorious truth that God is unchangeable. He is ever the same. He is unchangeable in his being and essence; he cannot become more God than he is; he cannot become less God. He is God. He always has been God. He always will be God. He is unchanging in his perfections or his attributes. Every characteristic that describes God has always been true of him and will always be true of him. He has always been just and will forever be just. He has always been love and will for eternity be love. God is unchanging in his purposes and his promises. He does not set out to do something and then change his mind.

Numbers 23 says:

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie,

or a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Has he said, and will he not do it?

Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

God is contrasted with man. Man is characterized by changeability. We change our minds. We lie. We speak and don’t follow through. God is not a man. He never was a man. He is not a son of man. God is not like man. He cannot lie. He cannot change his mind. He does not promise and then fail to make good on his promise. We change our minds because we don’t have all the facts up front. We make a decision based on limited information, and then when more information comes, we see a better way. We change our minds because we are subject to circumstances that are beyond our control. Something happens and now we can’t follow through with what we had planned. But there is nothing God does not know. He has all the facts in front of him, so he always makes the best possible decision. To change his mind would be to move from the best decision to a worse alternative, and God will not do that. There are no circumstances unforeseen or beyond God’s control. Nothing will ever come up that forces God to change his plans.

God Changes His Mind

1 Samuel 15 says:

1 Samuel 15:29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”

God is not a man. He will not have regret. We regret when we make a bad decision and have to suffer the consequences. We didn’t have all the facts, and couldn’t see the outcome, and knowing what we now know, if we had it to do over again, we would choose differently. God is not a man to regret or repent or change his mind that way. But doesn’t the Bible say that God changed his mind on occasion? One of those occasions is right here in 1 Samuel 15. It will help us to look at it. Back in verse 11, God tells Samuel:

1 Samuel 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night.

And then in verse 35, we are told:

1 Samuel 15:35 And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

And in between these two verses that tell us that God regretted or repented or changed his mind, we have the statement that

1 Samuel 15:29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”

So what do we make of this? God regretted that he made Saul king, because Saul turned back from following the Lord. He disobeyed the Lord, he rejected the word of the Lord, and so the Lord rejected him as king. God was sorry that he made Saul king, not in the sense that he wished he had more information on which to base his decision, not in the sense that he wished he could have known what was going to happen, not in the sense that he would choose differently if he had it to do over again. God is not a man that he regrets that way. God new exactly what Saul would do. God knew that he would turn away and disobey. God knew Saul’s character and the outcome of what would happen, and knowing all this, he chose to make Saul king for a time according to his good and wise purposes. When Saul chose to disobey, God responded the way he always responds to sin and disobedience; with judgment. Sin has consequences. God did not change. Saul changed. And although God knew it all along and saw it coming, he is grieved by sin. He has an emotional response to our sin. But even in Saul’s rebellion, God had good purposes that were bigger than this isolated event, that he was bringing about, bigger purposes for the nation of Israel, bigger purposes for David, and if he had it to do over again, he would make the exact same choice, knowing that it is the best possible choice, even though he will grieve over Saul’s rebellion. He regretted or repented or changed his mind, but not in the same way that we as finite creatures with limited foresight and understanding regret or change our minds. God is not a man that he should have that kind of regret.

Unchangeable Word

Isaiah 46 says:

Isaiah 46:8 “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

God accomplishes all his purpose. His counsel stands. When he speaks he brings it to pass. His purpose is unchangeable. He is absolutely unique in knowing the end from the beginning and never having to change his mind. In Isaiah 40 he says:

Isaiah 40:6 A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Again the contrast is drawn between the changeability of people who wither and fade like grass and flowers, but God’s word stands forever. The confidence we have in God’s word, the Bible, is rooted in the character and nature of God. Because God is unchangeable his word is unchangeable. When he speaks he never has to take it back, because he is not subject to limited knowledge or outside forces beyond his control. His word stands forever because he is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb.13:8).

We can take great confidence in the unchangeable character of God.

Hebrews 6:17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone …

God’s purpose is unchangeable. His word is unchangeable. His promise is unchangeable. It is impossible for God to lie. This is strong encouragement. This is a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul. This is an unwavering hope that enters in to the very presence of God, that flees for refuge to Jesus.

The Rock

God is referred to as a rock repeatedly in scripture because a rock is the nearest thing we can think of that seems solid and permanent and unchanging. Deuteronomy 32 says

Deuteronomy 32:3 For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! 4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

God is perfect, just, faithful, upright. He will never change. He is solid, reliable, enduring. Psalm 31 says:

Psalm 31:1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! 2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! 3 For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; 4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. 5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

God is a rock of refuge, a strong fortress. We can run to him with absolute confidence because of his unchangeable in his being, his perfections, his purposes. He will never go back on his word. And he has promised to rescue all who run to Jesus for refuge!

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

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September 13, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:1-6; God Was Not Pleased

04/27 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 God was not Pleased;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140427_1cor10_1-6.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 10 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὐ θέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν πάντες ὑπὸ τὴν νεφέλην ἦσαν καὶ πάντες διὰ τῆς θαλάσσης διῆλθον, 2 καὶ πάντες εἰς τὸν Μωϋσῆν ἐβαπτίσαντο ἐν τῇ νεφέλῃ καὶ ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ, 3 καὶ πάντες τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν βρῶμα ἔφαγον 4 καὶ πάντες τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν ἔπιον πόμα, ἔπινον γὰρ ἐκ πνευματικῆς ἀκολουθούσης πέτρας, ἡ πέτρα δὲ ἦν ὁ Χριστός· 5 ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τοῖς πλείοσιν αὐτῶν ηὐδόκησεν ὁ θεός, κατεστρώθησαν γὰρ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ. 6 Ταῦτα δὲ τύποι ἡμῶν ἐγενήθησαν, εἰς τὸ μὴ εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἐπιθυμητὰς κακῶν, καθὼς κἀκεῖνοι ἐπεθύμησαν. 7 μηδὲ εἰδωλολάτραι γίνεσθε, καθώς τινες αὐτῶν· ὥσπερ γέγραπται· Ἐκάθισεν ὁ λαὸς φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν, καὶ ἀνέστησαν παίζειν. 8 μηδὲ πορνεύωμεν, καθώς τινες αὐτῶν ἐπόρνευσαν, καὶ ἔπεσαν μιᾷ ἡμέρᾳ εἴκοσι τρεῖς χιλιάδες. 9 μηδὲ ἐκπειράζωμεν τὸν Χριστόν, καθώς τινες αὐτῶν ἐπείρασαν, καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν ὄφεων ἀπώλλυντο. 10 μηδὲ γογγύζετε, καθάπερ τινὲς αὐτῶν ἐγόγγυσαν, καὶ ἀπώλοντο ὑπὸ τοῦ ὀλοθρευτοῦ. 11 ταῦτα δὲ τυπικῶς συνέβαινεν ἐκείνοις, ἐγράφη δὲ πρὸς νουθεσίαν ἡμῶν, εἰς οὓς τὰ τέλη τῶν αἰώνων κατήντηκεν. 12 ὥστε ὁ δοκῶν ἑστάναι βλεπέτω μὴ πέσῃ, 13 πειρασμὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ εἴληφεν εἰ μὴ ἀνθρώπινος· πιστὸς δὲ ὁ θεός, ὃς οὐκ ἐάσει ὑμᾶς πειρασθῆναι ὑπὲρ ὃ δύνασθε, ἀλλὰ ποιήσει σὺν τῷ πειρασμῷ καὶ τὴν ἔκβασιν τοῦ δύνασθαι ὑπενεγκεῖν.

1 Corinthians 9-10 [ESV2011]

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 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. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Paul has been talking to the Corinthians about the possibility of disqualification. He gently introduced the idea, using himself as an example. At the end of chapter 9, he tells them that he disciplines his own body so that he will not be disqualified after preaching to others. The word ‘disqualified’ means tested and proven false. Is it possible for one who has proclaimed the gospel to others to miss out on sharing with them in the rescue of the gospel?

It seems the Corinthians felt it was within their rights and liberties to attend pagan temples and participate in the celebrations there. In chapter 8 Paul began by warning them of the danger of destroying a brother by leading him to violate his conscience, a brother for whom Christ died. Then, in chapter 9, he holds himself up as an example of someone with undeniable rights, who voluntarily forgoes those rights for the sake of the gospel, in order to win as many as possible. Now, in chapter 10, he moves into the biblical text to demonstrate that their flirtation with idolatry was not only dangerous to those with weak consciences, but potentially lethal for those who thought of themselves as able to withstand any temptation.

He links chapter 10 with what he has said before with the little connecting word ‘for’. He has said that he himself, the apostle, would be in danger of disqualification, of being proven false, if he did not discipline his body and keep it under control. In chapter 10, he gives the biblical basis for this danger.

He does not want his readers to be ignorant of their Old Testament heritage. The wise Corinthians were in grave danger because they were ignorant of something. Paul, the Jew, writing to Gentile followers of Jesus, refers to the Israelites as ‘our fathers’. Because of Jesus, the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile has been torn down, and God has made one new man out of the two (Eph.2). We, who were Gentiles, now share a heritage with our believing Jewish brothers. This is how we should read the Old Testament. These are ‘our fathers’. This is our heritage.

Paul points back to our fathers, and links them to us through the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper. He points back to the Israelites who were delivered from Egypt, and says that they were baptized and they participated in communion.

All Were Under the Cloud

All our fathers were under the cloud. As the children of Israel left Egypt, we are told:

Exodus 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

When the Egyptian army pursued the people and they were trapped, with no way of escape, we are told:

Exodus 14:19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

Psalm 105, retelling the story of the Exodus, puts it this way:

Psalm 105:39 He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night.

The cloud was a divine covering, protecting God’s people. They were under the cloud, under God’s supernatural protection.

All Passed Through the Sea

Paul points out that all of our fathers passed through the sea. Exodus 14 says:

Exodus 14:21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic,

All the Israelites marched through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on either side. Paul says that this passing through the midst of the sea covered by God’s protection was their baptism into Moses.

1 Corinthians 10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,

They were all baptized into Moses, connected to Moses, identified with him as their leader. We might think it a stretch to refer to the Red Sea crossing and cloud covering as a baptism, but if we look over to 1 Peter, he says that Christian baptism corresponds to the salvation of Noah and his family, who were brought safely through the water in the ark (1 Peter 3:20-21). They had experienced deliverance, salvation, the Lord had rescued them. In a sense they passed through the waters. Waters that brought the Lord’s judgment and death, they emerged from alive. They were now immersed into the leadership of Moses. The sea closed behind them. There was no going back. This was a decisive close to their days of slavery in Egypt, and the beginning of a new life as followers of YHWH. Every one of them that passed through the sea had been publicly identified with the people of God.

All Ate the Same Spiritual Food

Paul goes on:

1 Corinthians 10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

Paul is linking the Lord’s supper, which he will talk about explicitly in verses 14-22, with the spiritual food that was given to sustain the Israelites in the wilderness. They ate the same spiritual food.

Exodus 16:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

This was bread from heaven, God’s supernatural provision for his people to sustain them while they were in the wilderness. All of the Israelites ate this supernatural bread.

Exodus 16:14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

…31 Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

God provided for his people’s needs. The people said to Jesus:

John 6:30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jesus is the one who came down from heaven and gives life to the world.

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

Jesus is the true spiritual food. Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven. Jesus, when he commanded his followers to remember him with broken bread,

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

All Drank the Same Spiritual Drink

1 Corinthians 10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

Exodus 17 was the beginning of their time in the desert.

Exodus 17:1 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Then, in Numbers 20, just before the people entered the promised land, we are told again:

Numbers 20:2 Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” 6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, 7 and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” 9 And Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the LORD, and through them he showed himself holy.

Because of these two passages, one at the beginning, and the other at the end of the 40 years in the wilderness, that both point to a rock as the source of water for the people, and the assumption that God must have provided water throughout their time in the wilderness, a Jewish tradition developed that said that this rock followed them and continued to provide for their needs. Paul picks up on this tradition, but says it was not a physical rock that followed them, but the Rock was Christ.

When we look at how Deuteronomy describes YHWH as the Rock, we get an idea of what Paul is saying.

Deuteronomy 32:4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

Deuteronomy 32:15 … then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

Deuteronomy 32:30 How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had given them up? 31 For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves.

YHWH is the Rock of salvation. Paul identifies Jesus as YHWH, the Rock. It was Jesus who satisfied their thirst in the wilderness.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Jesus claimed to be the satisfaction for our deepest thirst. He invited his followers to remember him in communion.

Luke 22:20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

God Was Not Pleased

Paul has made his case that just like the Corinthians, their fathers had been publicly identified with the people of God, had been protected by God, had been nurtured and sustained by God, had experienced unmistakable blessings of God, and yet he says:

1 Corinthians 10:5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

This is a huge understatement. Paul has said ‘all’ 5 times. All of them were under the cloud; all of them passed through the sea; all of them were baptized; all of them at the spiritual food; all of them drank the spiritual drink; yet with most of them God was not pleased. According to Numbers 1:46, there were 603,550 Israelite males 20 years or older, not counting any from the tribe of Levi. Of them, only 2 men would enter the land. With most of them, God was not pleased.

Numbers 14:28 Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the LORD, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’ 35 I, the LORD, have spoken. Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.”

These, our fathers, who, like us, had experienced so many of God’s blessings, God’s protection, God’s provision, had participated as it were in baptism and communion, were identified as the people of God, it was these whose corpses littered the desert. And Paul says that these things happened as examples for us. We too are in danger, having experienced so many of God’s blessings, we who participate in the ordinances, we who are identified with God’s church, we are in danger of being disqualified, of being proven false if we do not continue to love Jesus above all else.

The author of Hebrews in chapter 3 points back to this same thing and warns his readers of the danger of not listening to Jesus, not following him, not believing him.

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

There is a real danger of going astray in our hearts. Sin is deceitful. It tells us lies. Sin tries to persuade us that we should not believe God, that he is not telling us the truth, that true fulfillment, true joy is found outside of him, found in things that he is keeping from us. Our hearts are not to be trusted. They often seek to lead us away from the true God. Sin lies to us and causes us to become callous toward God. We become discontent with the supernatural food that he rains down on us from heaven, and our hearts long for the meat pots of Egypt. We begin to distrust him, to doubt him, to question his goodness. We are in danger of being proven false, after preaching to others being ourselves disqualified. We must follow the example of Paul, who landed well placed gospel punches right under the eye of his own fleshly desires, who preached the gospel to himself, who disciplined his body and forced it to surrender and embrace the good news, who reminded himself daily of the greatness of the good news, who trained his heart to love this God who would leave his throne and lay down his life to rescue a rebel, trained himself to cling to this God who spoke into the darkness and created light.

This is the good fight of faith, this is the battle to believe. Christian, take up the full armor of God so that you can stand. Cling to Christ so that you will not be proven false. Brothers and sisters, plant your feet in the gospel and stand firm.

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

April 27, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 3:10-15; The Church’s One Foundation

05/26 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 The Church’s One FoundationAudio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130526_1cor3_10-15.mp3

1Cor 3 [SBLGNT]

10 Κατὰ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι ὡς σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων θεμέλιον ἔθηκα, ἄλλος δὲ ἐποικοδομεῖ. ἕκαστος δὲ βλεπέτω πῶς ἐποικοδομεῖ· 11 θεμέλιον γὰρ ἄλλον οὐδεὶς δύναται θεῖναι παρὰ τὸν κείμενον, ὅς ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς Χριστός· 12 εἰ δέ τις ἐποικοδομεῖ ἐπὶ τὸν θεμέλιον χρυσόν, ἄργυρον, λίθους τιμίους, ξύλα, χόρτον, καλάμην, 13 ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον φανερὸν γενήσεται, ἡ γὰρ ἡμέρα δηλώσει· ὅτι ἐν πυρὶ ἀποκαλύπτεται, καὶ ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον ὁποῖόν ἐστιν τὸ πῦρ αὐτὸ δοκιμάσει. 14 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον μενεῖ ὃ ἐποικοδόμησεν, μισθὸν λήμψεται· 15 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον κατακαήσεται, ζημιωθήσεται, αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός.

1Cor 3 [ESV2011]

1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Paul is dealing with the root problem of quarreling and division in the church in Corinth. Much of this seemed to stem from a misunderstanding of the role of Christian ministry. Some had too high a view of Christian ministry, framing their favorite as superstar and pitting one against another. Others wanted to dispense with leaders all together and felt they had attained a spirituality where they had no need for anyone to minister to them.

Christian ministry is neither status nor stardom but service. But that service is not superfluous. It is not just any service, but service to the King of kings and Lord of lords. God alone gives the growth, and he gives it by means of the ministers he has given to his church.

Among ministers there must not be competition but instead cooperation. In his agricultural metaphor of planting and watering, there is interdependence among servants of Christ. None of us can do it singlehandedly, and for maximum fruitfulness, we must work as a team. Reward for Christian ministry is not evaluated by the plants in the field, but by the Master of the field. And he evaluates reward not on fruitfulness, but on faithfulness. Ultimately, all ministry is totally dependent on God who alone is able to give growth. We are nothing; God is everything. It is all about God. In verse 9, he emphasizes the priority of God by starting three phrases with ‘God’. God’s fellow-workers are we; God’s field, God’s building are you. And here he shifts from an agricultural metaphor (a field) to a construction metaphor (a building) because he wants to talk about foundations and quality of workmanship, and rewards or losses for proper or improper construction.

Ministry by the Grace of God

Paul starts this discussion of construction and foundation and workmanship and his own unique role in it all by tying it back to God’s grace. ‘According to the grace of God given to me’. Paul is about to say some things that could be perceived as arrogant and full of himself, but that is the furthest thing from his heart. Paul played a unique and foundational role in the church and in the history of Christianity, but rather than make him proud, it made him profoundly humble. ‘According to the grace of God given to me’. He introduced himself in this letter as ‘Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.’ In 2 Corinthians he will say ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’. Here in chapter 3 he says that Paul is a servant through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each. Paul knew that there was nothing in himself to be proud of. He says in chapter 15

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.

Unworthy. He had done nothing to deserve this role. In fact, he had done everything to disqualify himself from this role. He was a persecutor of God’s church. Acts describes him as ‘breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’ (9:1). He obtained authorization from the high priest to pursue and arrest any followers of Jesus he could find, men or women. But by God’s grace, when he deserved the opposite, freely as a gift, Jesus met him where he was, brought him to repentance, forgave him everything, and appointed him apostle. ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ Paul said

1 Timothy 1:15 …Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Grace is favor and kindness shown to someone who doesn’t deserve it, doesn’t want it, isn’t asking for it. Paul never forgot, never lost sight of the fact that ‘by the grace of God I am what I am’. All Christian ministry (if it is truly Christian) is by the grace of God. Not one servant of Christ, not one minister has earned the right to be called a minister. If I am anything at all, it is ‘according to the grace of God given to me’. All I have is a gift, not earned, not deserved, but freely given. It is a treasure, and so I must treasure it. We must never cease to be amazed in wonder at the fact that God calls sinners, sinners like me, sinners like you, into the high calling of service to the living God by sheer unmerited grace.

Skilled Master Builder

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation,

Paul compares his apostolic ministry to the role of a skilled master builder, a wise ἀρχιτέκτων. Only this kind of architect is not the one in the tenth floor office behind a drafting table or CAD screen pumping out reams of detailed engineering drawings but never even visiting the job site. He is the chief craftsman on the job, the master builder overseeing that the whole project is carried out with precision and skill according to plan. He personally, hands on, laid the foundation. The foundation is the first and most essential part of the building project. If the foundation is sound and well laid, the building can be strong and stable. If the foundation is faulty, the structure will sink or crack or fall over. The foundation is all-important in constructing a lasting building. The foundation defines the shape of the building. Many ancient cathedrals were built in the shape of a cross. Once that cross-shaped foundation has been laid, the building must take on that cross shape. It cannot be rectangular or square or round. The foundation sets the limit for the size and shape of the structure that will be placed upon it. To change the shape of the building, you must add to or take away from the foundation.

The Church’s One Foundation

Paul, as a skilled, or literally ‘wise’ master builder laid the foundation. That word ‘wise’ connects us back to his discussion on wisdom in chapters 1 and 2. The Corinthians made a big deal about wisdom, and Paul makes it very clear that God’s wisdom is not the same as man’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is perceived by unbelieving people as foolishness, and what seems to be wise in human understanding, God will destroy and turn upside down and bring to nothing. Paul pointed to the secret and hidden wisdom that he taught, wisdom taught by the Spirit of God, the same wisdom with which he laid the foundation of the church.

Jesus contrasted a wise man who built his house on the rock and a foolish man who built his house on the sand. When the storm came, the wise man’s house withstood because it had been founded on the rock. The foolish man’s house fell, and great was the fall of it. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Paul claims to be a wise master builder. What is that wisdom? How did he lay the foundation for the church of Corinth as a wise master builder? What is the foundation of every true church? He doesn’t leave us guessing. In verse 11, he says

1 Corinthians 3:11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the foundation of his church. When Jesus questioned his disciples about his own identity,

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Holy Spirit revealed wisdom, the rock on which the church is built is Jesus Christ. The identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, according to prophecy both God’s anointed forever King and suffering servant who would substitute himself for his people.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

The person of Christ as the only Son of the living God, and the work of Christ, what he came to do form the solid rock on which his church is built.

How did Paul, the wise master builder, lay this solid foundation in the church at Corinth? He says

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

He preached the gospel, the good news, the cross of Christ, where the wages of our sin met the justice of a holy God in the person of our substitute, Jesus.

Paul pointed the Ephesian church to this same solid rock.

Ephesians 2:19 …you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

With this Peter agrees.

1 Peter 2:4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

Jesus is the foundation and we are built on him. We as members of the household of God, we as living stones being built up as a spiritual house, are joined together on the one foundation of Jesus Christ and him crucified.

There are many churches, even churches that claim to be Christian, those that bear the name of Christ, that are not built on the foundation of Christ. Imagine a foreman coming up to the job site, and he is impressed with how much progress his workers have made while he has been gone. The building is growing tall. But as he enters the site, he is horrified at what he sees. ‘You morons! The foundation is over there!’ They have been stacking up bricks on the sand. The structure looks impressive, but it is not even on the foundation! All the labor is wasted. We cannot abandon the foundation! We are not at liberty to add to it or take away from it! We cannot add a wing over here to suit our fancy. We cannot dig down and rip out part of the foundation that we aren’t particularly fond of. If we deviate from the foundation of the gospel, the cross, the truth about Jesus, the structure we build might be impressive and draw attention, but it is not the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Take Care How You Build

This is not the problem Paul addressed in the church in Corinth. He believes that they are indeed building on the only solid foundation. Otherwise he would not call them ‘saints’ and ‘the church of God’. For them it is not an issue of what they are building on but how they are building on it.

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.

This is not a warning not to build. The whole point of a foundation is to be the foundation for the structure. Have you ever seen an abandoned foundation? The work was started, the foundation laid, but nothing was ever built on it? That is not what a foundation is for. Paul as a skilled master builder laid the foundation with the intent that it would be built on. The problem is not that someone else is building on Paul’s foundation. Paul is not telling them to stop all work until he returns. But he is saying to pay careful attention to how you build. There can be a deep strong solid foundation, and a lazy, sloppy, half-hearted work crew that builds second rate work on a good foundation.

An Unseen Foundation

An interesting thing about most buildings is that you often can’t see the foundation. You see the structure built on the foundation, but the foundation is hidden under ground. Our foundation is not buried in the ground, but risen and seated at the right hand of his Father on high, but he remains unseen. But everyone can see the people who claim to be build on him. When you look at a building and see major cracks, stones separating and falling out, you can draw some conclusions about the building. Probably the foundation is bad. But it could be that the foundation is good but the builders failed to build well, and their work is falling apart. When the world looks at those who claim to be followers of Jesus and sees fractures and splits and divisions and separations, the assumption is that the foundation is faulty and flawed. When that happens, we are lying about Jesus! We are dishonoring Jesus!

Paul warns the church in Corinth, ‘let each one take care how he builds upon it’. In chapters 12-14 where he addresses the issue of spiritual gifts, he says

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

And he says that the purpose of the gifts is to build up the church, the body of Christ. Every believer has been gifted by God for the common good, for the building up of the body of Christ (cf. Eph.4:12). Each one is responsible for building up the body of Christ. You are building! Building is not optional for the Christian. Even if you don’t show up, you are building. The question is not if you are building, but how you are building.

1 Corinthians 3:10 …Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

You and I are building. The question is what is the quality of our work, what kind of materials are we using? Remember, you are not building a thatched roof hut for your mother-in-law; wood, hay and stubble might be appropriate for that. We are building a temple for the King of kings, a dwelling place for the most high God. You don’t build a mud hut on a foundation of the most costly stone. Not only the shape of the building but also the quality and value of the building must match the foundation. There are two kinds of materials; combustible and non-combustible, and they will be made known on the day of judgment by fire. We build with gold, silver, and precious stones when our lives and our conversations and our attitudes are shaped by the gospel. We build with wood, hay and straw when our attitudes, actions and interactions are out of sync with the cross. What kind of advice do you give? On what do you base your decisions? Why do you do what you do? What do you do with your money? What kind of character does your interaction with others foster?

In these verses, Paul is not asking the question if you are saved or not. He is assuming that you are being saved because you have a relationship with Jesus. The issue is will you receive rewards or suffer loss. Remember Paul’s confidence in the Corinthians expressed in the opening of the letter.

1 Corinthians 1:7 …as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But there is a real possibility that we who have trusted in Christ, we who have had our sins forgiven at the cross, we who are being sustained guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, that on that day it will be revealed that we have wasted our life. What a tragedy to find that everything we spent our time on and invested our life in does not hold up under the scrutiny of Jesus. We may spend the remainder of our life heaping rubbish on the precious foundation of Jesus Christ, and thankfully all the rubbish will be incinerated, but we will have nothing to show. How shameful to have this ministry given to us by the grace of God, to have gifts and the infinite resources of gospel wisdom and strength supplied to us by the Holy Spirit and to do nothing with them that is of any eternal significance.

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

May 26, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 3:8-9; God Honoring Conduct: All of You

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090329_1peter3_8-9.mp3

03/29 1 Peter 3:8-9 God honoring Conduct; All of You

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Peter has given instruction in how to conduct life in a way that proclaims the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness. We display the attributes of God by submitting to authority, authority in government, authority in the workplace, authority in the home. Our conduct puts God on display even when – especially when submitting to authority that is corrupt and ungodly. Now Peter concludes his exhortation to live in such a way that unbelievers notice our conduct and are drawn to Jesus by giving us five summary attributes that we are to display; unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, tender heartedness, and humility of mind. He begins and ends his list with attributes of the mind or thinking. They are compound words; like-minded and humble-minded. There is a significant focus in the bible on the mind and the thinking:

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

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…

Philippians 2:2, 5 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind…Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Unity of Mind [omofronev] – this is what Jesus prayed for in John:

John 17:21-23 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

What does he mean by unity of mind or unity of thinking? What’s your favorite color? That’s mine too. What’s your favorite food? That’s mine too. What do you think about the president? That’s what I think too. Does unity of mind mean that we are all cloned into robots that think the same things about everything? Or is it something deeper and richer than that? It ought to be the sincere endeavor of every believer to so saturate our minds in the scripture that on the great issues of God and salvation we joyfully embrace the same truths. There are secondary issues that are less clear, but on the things on which the bible is clear, we must submit to God’s authority and wholeheartedly embrace his revealed truth. We share a common biblical world view and we share a common aim and purpose. Let’s not leave what this is unstated. God is God and we exist to bring him praise. In Peter’s language we exist (2:9)’to proclaim the excellencies of him’; ‘that they might… glorify God’ (2:12). We glorify God as we direct attention to Jesus with our words and our conduct. Our world view must be God centered. How do we make progress toward unity in thinking? It requires saturation in the word of God both individually and corporately. It requires fellowship and communication, effort in study and a teachable spirit.

Sympathetic [sumpayeiv]– Sympathy is entering into and experiencing the feelings of others. Not only are we to be on the same page with the truths of scripture, but we are to bear one another’s burdens; grieve with those who are experiencing sorrow, and rejoice with those who are experiencing joy (Rom.12:15). This requires effort of a different kind. Some people are hard wired to be sympathetic – my wife is one of these. Our cat just had kittens this week, and she was entering into labor right along with our cat. She is by nature a sympathetic person. But whether this comes naturally to you or not, we are all called to be and do all of these. The things that come less naturally to us, we must exert special conscious effort.

Brotherly Love [filadelfoi] – this is the centerpiece of the five admonitions. Peter has already pointed us to this in 1:22:

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

(also Rom.12:10; 1Thess.4:9; Heb.13:1; 2Pet.1:7). In Christ we have become siblings and we are to have brotherly affections toward one another. This is the mark by which others will know that we are Christians (Jn.13:34-35).

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The first and the last words in this list have to do with the mind. The second and fourth have to do with the emotions. This word ‘brotherly love’ is more than emotion. This involves the will. It is an action word. You won’t often find brothers sitting around saying ‘I love you’ to each other. But brothers do love and it is a love that runs deep. It is a love that is expressed in action. Love at its core is seeking the highest good of the person loved. Here’s one way my brother expressed his love for me: my brother was a smoker. He once told me ‘if I ever catch you smoking, I will kill you’ – and I knew he was serious. At least in that instance, had my highest good in mind. Brotherly love can be costly. Seeking the highest good of the person you love may require you to inconvenience yourself greatly. Because ‘God caused us to be born again’ (1:3), we are his children. In Jesus Christ we are now brothers and sisters. We must love one another.

Tender hearted [eusplagcnoi]- Literally translated, this term ‘eusplangknoi‘ is ‘good boweled’ The bowels were thought to be the seat of emotions. In fact, we say ‘I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach; my stomach is in knots; I have butterflies in my stomach; or this is my gut feeling.’ This refers to the deepest of human emotions. The verb in the gospels is used exclusively of Jesus:

Mark 1:41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”

Mark 6:34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

Luke 7:13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

This is being good hearted or tender hearted, sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. This was the emotion that motivated the good Samaritan in Luke 10:33; it was what caused the father to run to embrace his prodigal son in Luke 15:20. In Ephesians 4:32 we see that this emotion toward each other is rooted in the mercy that we have experienced from God in the forgiveness of our sins:

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Humble Minded [tapeinofronev]- Peter has highlighted attitudes of the mind, emotions, will, emotions, and now back to the mind. First he said we are to have unity of mind; now he says we are to have ‘humility of mind’. What does that mean? Are we to be so modest in our thinking that we don’t claim to know anything for sure? Here’s a tension I want to highlight. We are told:

Jude 1:3 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.

How do we reconcile this command to fight for truth with the command Peter gives us here to be ‘humble-minded’? In 1908, G.K.Chesterton, a British writer said:

“What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert – himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason… We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table” [Orthodoxy, p.31-32; cited in Piper, Brothers We are Not Professionals, p.162]

Humility of mind is not the abandonment of conviction but a subordination to God and his truth. Jesus said ‘you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). Speaking truth is an instrument for salvation of unbelievers and as such it is an essential part of love. We do not know everything; 1 Corinthians 13:12 says ‘now I know in part’; and yet we are told:

Titus 2:15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Humility of mind is not being wishy-washy about the truth. If it were we could have no real substantial unity of mind. That’s why Paul can put unity of mind together with striving for the faith of the gospel:

Philippians 1:27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

True humility is a gift. If it were something we could attain, we would be proud of attaining it. Humility of mind is the gift of receiving the good news and standing firmly on the rock solid truth of the good news, knowing that we did nothing to deserve it. Anything we know we know by the grace of a merciful God who chooses to reveal himself to us. And what God has revealed to us in his word we can proclaim with absolute confidence and with humility of mind.

So we are to embrace fellow believers mind, emotions and will; with brotherly love, with sympathy and a tender heart, with unity and humility of mind. But we are to go beyond this. Peter says:

3:9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling…

One commentary I read said that verse 8 addresses the Christian’s relationship with fellow believers and verse 9 addresses our relationship with unbelievers. An older commentary I read got it right. This was written in 1658, so the language is more difficult to follow. Alexander Nisbet said ‘The children of the Lord may resolve not only to meet with hard usage and bitter language from the profane or those that are without, but even from their fellow professors’ (p.129). He’s right. I have learned from personal experience that the most painful blows you take in ministry with other Christians are the ones you take from within the group of believers. You are on the front lines of ministry and you take a bullet. That’s no surprise. The surprise comes when you examine the wound and you realize the shot came from behind – from one of your own. Brothers and sisters, that ought not to be, but it is. And Peter, writing to believers living in a hostile community, knew that this would be the case for them as it will be for us, and he gave us some clear instruction on how to deal with it. When that happens, whether you receive evil, whether you receive insult from the world outside or from those that claim to be your brothers and sisters, do not repay with evil and with insult. When that happens, your flesh rears its ugly head and demands retribution. We might even justify it as righteous indignation. We have been hurt, we have been wronged, we have been sinned against and we want it to be made right – or more than right. That is what the laws of retribution were for – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I feel that if you took out my eye, I am justified in taking your head off. If you knocked out my tooth, I have the right to kick all your teeth down your throat. But the New Testament takes us further than simply not paying back more than is deserved. It takes us even further than not demanding immediate justice at all but leaving room for the wrath of God. Peter calls us to more than relinquishing our rights or passive inaction. Peter calls us to bless those who insult us and do evil against us. Don’t be satisfied to simply let it go; do good to the person who wronged you and pray that God would bless them.

Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Jesus taught us:

Luke 6:27-36 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (cf. Matthew 5:38-45)

This takes us back to what Peter said in 1:15 ‘but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,’ – our being kind to those who mistreat us reflects the character of God who was kind to us when we were his enemies.

Peter gives us the reason for this conduct:

9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

We have been called to bless those that injure us. This is the fourth reminder in Peter that God acted to call us to himself; in 1:15 ‘as he who called you is holy’; 2:9 ‘proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness’; 2:21 ‘to this you have been called’. In 2:20-21 Peter encouraged servants that suffering for doing good is what they have been called to do:

2:20 …But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 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.

All the way back in Genesis 12, God’s called Abram to be a blessing to all the nations.

Genesis 12:2-3 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

We are called to be a blessing to those around us, even to our enemies; especially to our enemies.

Now this all sounds good. It sounds right – until we walk out those doors and someone says something or does something to us that isn’t right. Then it all comes apart. What do we do? How can we possibly respond the way Peter commands us to respond?

“when Christianity calls upon us to do what does not seem humanly possible it shows us its genius – supernaturalism. Peter, of all men, should know what the grace of God had done for him in this respect. He had been not only fast with the sword; he had been quick with his tongue.” [D.J.Kenyon, He that will Love Life, p.197; cited in Hiebert, p.214]

Here’s the point. We cannot do this apart from the grace of God at work in our lives. The power of God has to be at work in my life to create the desire to respond this way to the various circumstances that confront me each and every day. This is not normal or natural. This is supernatural. And Peter tells us ‘if you respond this way, if you allow the power of God to work in your life so that you bless your enemies, you will inherit a blessing’. We’re going to look more at what that means next time.

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

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

March 29, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church’s One Foundation; Matthew 16:18

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090104_the_church_1.mp3

1/04 The Church; Community founded on the Identity of Jesus and United by the New Birth

I want to take the next few weeks and look at the church. As we’ve come into the new year I’ve spent some time thinking about what my life looks like, what I want it to look like, and what adjustments I need to make so that I can be who I want to be and do what I want to do. I’d like to encourage us as the church to do the same thing. So I want to look at the church in the bible; who are we supposed to be and what are we called to do. I want you to investigate with me what Jesus says about his church and invite you to imagine with me how we might be the church. Let’s dream together what it would look like for us to be who we are called to be and do what we are called to do.

I want to start today by looking at the identity of the church. The church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth. We will spend the rest of our time today filling out and understanding this definition.

Next week I’d like to look at the origin and destiny of the church. The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and will overcome.

In the following week, I’d like to look at more of the nuts and bolts of what the church is and does – who we are called to be and what we are called to do in our community and in the world.

Let’s start by looking at the word ‘church’ and define what it is that we are talking about. The Greek word translated ‘church’ in our New Testament is the word [ekklhsia ekklesia] which refers to an assembly or gathering of people. The word comes from the root [ek ek] out of; and [kalew kaleo] to call; literally it means the called out ones; and can be translated congregation or assembly. In classical Greek it was used for the summons to the army to assemble. The church is a group of people who have something in common. As I said earlier, the church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth.

I want to center our attention on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:18

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

Let’s look at the whole passage:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

The identity of Jesus is what’s at stake here. Jesus raises the question- ‘what’s the word on the street? Who do people say that I am?’ And he receives three answers; John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah or one of the prophets. I think it’s worth asking why people identified Jesus with these three figures.

John the Baptist would have been fresh in their memories. John was the cousin of Jesus, and he was a radical who lived in the desert, wore camel’s hair, ate bugs, and got in the face of the religious and political leaders of his day. He called the religious authorities names in front of the people they were supposed to be ministering to, and he sparked a revival in the masses. He meddled in the private sex life of the political leader of his day, telling him that God was displeased with his sexual sin, and this got him thrown in prison and eventually beheaded. Herod, who feared John, was paranoid and thought that Jesus was John raised from the dead. (Mark 6:14ff) Apparently Herod’s paranoia sparked a rumor that Jesus was this greatest of all prophets raised from the dead.

Elijah; [1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2] Elijah was a prophet from the Old Testament around 873-843 BC; about 50 years after King Solomon, at the time of Ahab, the evil king of Israel, and his wicked wife Jezebel. At his word there was a drought in Israel for three years. God supernaturally provided food for him during the drought. Elijah raised a young man from the dead. He challenged the idolatrous worship that was taking place in Israel to a showdown between Baal and Asherah, and YHWH, the true God of Israel. He had all the false priests executed. God took him to heaven in a whirlwind with chariots of fire and horses of fire. There was an expectation that he would reappear at the end times:

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

But why Jeremiah?

Jeremiah was a priest and a prophet who was called by God to speak to rebellious Israel who were unfaithful to the Lord. He preached during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiachim, and Zedekiah (627-587 BC) until Judah was carried off into captivity in Babylon . He was called to speak against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people (1:18). Jesus quotes this prophet when he says

Luke 19:46 …“It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jeremiah 7:11 ‘Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord… 20 therefore thus says the Lord God: behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched… 25 From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. 26 Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. 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 was called to prophesy to the nation of Israel with the advance knowledge that his preaching would not bring repentance and restoration but rather greater accountability and condemnation. Because of this he was know as the weeping prophet. Yet he faithfully preached to the people up to the day they were carried off into captivity, even suffering arrest and abuse at the hands of the leaders of Israel.

I think this gives us some insight into the temperament of Jesus. Jesus was known as ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

And we are told that he wept over Jerusalem;

Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” 45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

John tells us:

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

So the people identified Jesus with John, who confronted the evil of his day and sparked a major revival; and Elijah, a fiery prophet who performed miracles, feeding the hungry and even raising the dead; and Jeremiah, the weeping prophet who foretold the fall of Jerusalem and was rejected. There is an element of truth in all these identifications of Jesus, but they all fall short.

Jesus said John was the greatest of men (Matt.11:11). But John was discouraged in prison and sent word to Jesus asking if he was the Christ or if they should look for another. Elijah was afraid of Jezebel and ran into the desert to hide and wanted to die. Jeremiah complained to the Lord. These were all prophets of God, used by God to do mighty works, yet they were all mere men, and they all had their own flaws and shortcomings. No one in Jesus day thought that he was just a good man or a great moral teacher or a really nice guy. They recognized him as a person invested with supernatural power and eloquence. He was a radical prophetic voice in the world. But their analysis fell short of who he really is. Jesus is the great Prophet; he is our great High Priest; he is a mighty worker of supernatural signs. But he is more than a man with faults and flaws. He is messiah, the anointed King of kings, the divine Son of God.

When Peter responded with the right answer, Jesus commended him and called him blessed, but he also clarified the source of this information. Peter did not come up with this on his own. The fact that Peter recognized Jesus for who he is was evidence of divine intervention; supernatural revelation from the Father.

16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The identity of Jesus is the foundation stone of the church, and the true identity of Jesus comes as a revelation from the Father. Men may conclude that Jesus was a good man or a great moral teacher or even a prophet of God, but God bears witness about his Son that he is God in the flesh, the fulfillment of all the prophecies. There was a Pharisee who came to Jesus at night and had his own perception of who Jesus was. He called him ‘Rabbi’ and identified him as a teacher who came from God doing signs. Jesus challenged him on his need for a spiritual transformation so that he could see Jesus for who he really is:

John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus went on to reveal his identity as the only Son of the Father sent to bring eternal life and salvation to a world condemned by sin.

…14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The new birth is necessary to see Jesus for who he is, and it is a work of the Spirit of God. Paul describes this as being immersed or baptized by the Spirit into one body – the body of Christ, his church.

1 Corinthians 12:12 …so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body––Jews or Greeks, slaves or free––and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

…27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church…

The church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth and united by the new birth. The identity of Jesus is pivotal and foundational.

17 …“Blessed are you, …For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

We must have our lives built on the rock of Jesus. We must have his identity revealed supernaturally by the Father. We must be born again by the Spirit of God to truly know him for who he is. The identity of Jesus is the foundation of the church.

Jesus, we want to see you; to see you for who you really are. To get a vision of you in all the radiance of your glory; universe Maker, Lion of the tribe of Judah, King of kings and Lord of lords, infinite Word, exalted Son, Love incarnate, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, God with us – Jesus. Father, remove the scales from our eyes so that we can see Jesus for who he really is. Lord, if there are any here who have not been transformed by Jesus, I pray that you would cause them to be born again; cause them to come to you, to trust you, to be set free by you, to experience the abundant life in you. Holy Spirit, fall on us and overpower us.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 2:4-5

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20081116_1Peter2_4-5.mp3

11/16 1 Peter 2:4-5 be built together as a house of priests offering sacrifices

1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation– 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

4 prov on prosercomenoi liyon zwnta upo anyrwpwn men apodedokimasmenon para de yew eklekton entimon 5 kai autoi wv liyoi zwntev oikodomeisye oikov pneumatikov eiv ierateuma agion anenegkai pneumatikav yusiav euprosdektouv yew dia ihsou cristou

Peter has given us five commands on how we are to respond to the initiating grace of God. After describing God’s great mercy and the riches of his grace to us, he commands us to set our hope completely on grace – God’s grace that is yet to come and will come to us at the proper time. Then he commands us to be holy like God is holy. We are to stop acting like we are still stupid and set God apart and treat him as if he were the most valuable thing in the universe – because he is! Then we are commanded to fear him – conduct your lives in fear – fear that we would offend God by treating the blood of his dear Son as if it were impotent and powerless to accomplish our transformation.

The first three commands are fix our attention on God. The fourth command looks at our horizontal relationships as an outward expression that our relationship with God is on track. He commands love – love one another unhypocritically, earnestly, from the heart.

Next he commands us to crave milk – the pure spiritual milk – so that we will grow up to salvation. It was the word that effected our new birth; it is the word that God gives us so that we will be spiritually nourished and grow to maturity – so develop a healthy hunger for God’s word. He has commanded holiness, hope, fear, and love, and he has commanded the means by which we are to accomplish those things – feed on the word and you will grow to maturity in holiness, fear, love and hope.

Then he adds a conditional clause – ‘if’. He takes Psalm 34:8 which says:

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD [YHWH] is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

and changes it to a condition – you will crave milk and grow IF you have tasted that the Lord is good. He is assuming that we have and that we will, but he is laying it out as a question to provoke us to think. Have we tasted that the Lord is good? Do we crave more of him in his word? Do we long, like a newborn baby longs for its mother’s breast, to feed on him and have all our cravings satisfied in him? If we do, what comes next naturally flows – we will come to him.

‘As you come to him’ is a participial phrase that could be translated ‘coming to him’. He probably adopted this language from Psalm 34:5,

Psalm 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

where ‘look to him’ in the LXX is the same verb that is here translated ‘coming to him’

‘Him’ in this sentence refers back to the ‘Lord’ of the last sentence that we have tasted and found good. Peter has lifted ‘YHWH’ – the covenant name for God in the Old Testament – from Psalm 34 and made it equivalent to ‘Jesus’ that we as believers come to.

John 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

‘Coming to Jesus’ can describe our initial act of believing in him; But believers come continually and repeatedly to Jesus as an expression of our faith in him. If we have tasted that he is good we will come earnestly and often to him for much needed nourishment.

Peter – (who was nicknamed ‘the rock’ by Jesus in Matthew 16:18) uses a stone metaphor to describe Jesus. He had used this in Acts 4 in his preaching. He picked it up from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 21. A rock is something solid, unchanging, dependable. When we want to say someone is dependable we say they are ‘rock solid’. In C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Peter is not sure he will survive a battle and tells Edmond to ‘say something especially nice to Trumpkin. He’s been a brick.’ (Prince Caspian, p. 193). Brick is used as an idiom for a helpful, reliable person. When we want to make a memorial that will withstand the ravages of time, we have it chiseled into granite. Peter’s readers have nothing solid in their lives – they are aliens and exiles. They have no certainty of the future. They don’t know when they might be arrested or killed for their faith. Peter encourages them that they have come to him who is a rock – in the midst of shifting times, they have their hope anchored in the bedrock.

But we use rocks in a different metaphor as well. We might say ‘you’re as dumb as a rock’ and we mean that there’s not much activity upstairs. Or we say something is ‘stone dead’ – it doesn’t get much deader than a stone. In fact the bible refers to false gods that were made out of wood and stone:

Deuteronomy 4:28 And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.

Isaiah 37:19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed.

Revelation 9:20 The rest of mankind, … did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk,

Peter surprises us here with his paradoxical metaphor – Jesus is not a normal lifeless stone, but a living stone. Absolutely steadfast and immovable, but full of life and life-giving to all who come to him. This is the third time he has used the term ‘living’; we are born again to a living hope, we have been born again through the living word, and now Jesus is the living stone that we come to.

But he says Jesus is ‘rejected by men’; Jesus to many was a rock in the path; he was in the way – an obstacle that you would trip over if you weren’t careful, and they cast him aside – they crucified him. Peter has in mind Psalm 118:22 and he quotes it down in verse 7. He also quoted it in his sermon recorded in Acts 4:

Acts 4:10-12 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead––by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

and there he specifically applied it to the Jewish leaders. Here he applies it to mankind generally – Jesus is in general rejected by men.

Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

If you want to be popular and do what the majority of people are doing, you won’t come to Jesus – not on his terms anyway. Men naturally reject Jesus. That shouldn’t surprise us. What should surprise us is when we see a work of God’s grace in a person’s life where they are awakened to who Jesus is and their blind eyes are opened and they joyfully embrace Jesus as King and Savior. When I look around this room, what I see is evidence of God’s grace. No one, apart from God’s work of grace in his life, turns to Jesus. That’s what Jesus said:

John 6:65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Every believer is evidence of God’s grace.

Jesus is rejected by men. But God has a completely different perspective on his beloved Son. Men despise and reject Jesus. To his Father, he was chosen – elect or choice – the same word Peter used of his readers in 1:1; and Jesus is precious – or honored, of high reputation with his Father. The rejection of men found expression in their calling him illegitimate, saying that he has a demon, attributing his miraculous deeds to the devil and climaxed in their shouts ‘crucify him, crucify him!’ The Father’s love for Jesus was expressed through the voice from heaven that declared:

Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Luke 9:35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

and found ultimate expression in the Father raising Jesus from the dead three days after the crucifixion. Peter said in Acts 3:

Acts 3:13-15 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

God raised Jesus from the dead. So we come to Jesus is the life giver:

John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. …25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.

John 10:10 …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly….28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

If you come to Jesus you will live. Jesus was the one who could touch a leper and rather than contracting that infectious disease, his life giving power would make the leper clean. The resurrection life of Jesus is infectious. Come to Jesus and you will live. In verse 5 he carries this metaphor of Jesus as the living stone to us as living stones. Because of Jesus we have life, and because of Jesus we are solid and will last forever.

Now we get to the central phrase of the sentence – ‘you are being built up’. Coming to the living stone, you as living stones are being built up. God is implied as the builder, and he has a purpose for you! There are two purpose phrases in verse 5; ‘to be’ and ‘to offer’. We are being built into something so that our identity is changed and so that our actions are changed. God is shaping us with a definite purpose in mind. And the ‘you’ here is not singular; ‘you individually’ but plural; ‘you all’ our ‘you collectively’. Of course this has implications for us individually, but Peter’s emphasis is on us collectively. Remember his admonition for us to ‘love one another’? that fits right in here –

you can’t love one another all by yourself. The command to love one another implies connectedness to the group. So here, if you are one living stone out in a field by yourself, you have no potential of being built into anything. We have Lincoln Logs at home. And we have five kids. There’s different ways they can play with the Lincoln Logs. They can divide up all the pieces equally so each one gets their fair share. They can move to a corner of the room so that they have control of their pieces. But there’s not much they can do with their little pile of Lincoln Logs. They could pretend the logs were people and they could have conversations. But that’s not what the Lincoln Logs were designed for. In order to build anything significant, they have to come together and allow their little pile to be used for the common good. Then they can really build something, and they are using the logs for what they were created for. God wants to use us together to build a house. You and I are in the process of being built up as a spiritual house.

But what if the pieces don’t fit together? We’re simply incompatible – we just can’t peacefully co-exist… Lies! Those are lies from the pit of hell. Jesus said he would build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. We reject those lies and submit ourselves to the wise master builder. He looks at us, his living stones, that don’t fit together and he says ‘hmmm, these stones don’t fit nicely together. Look, this one has a sharp outcropping of envy that I will chisel off. This side is all lumpy with hypocrisy and I will grind it smooth. This deceit must go if these stones will fit together as I intend. This corner of malice must be filed smooth. This one is covered with the leprosy of slander and bitterness. I will bake it in the furnace until all the disease is gone. Ahh, now they are just beginning to fit together. These two I will allow to rub against each other and chafe each other until over time they will have worn each other so smooth and will fit so perfectly together that not even a knife blade could fit between them.

Understand, we are talking about a spiritual house – not a physical building. When we believers come together, we are God’s house, God’s temple. When Jesus on the cross cried out ‘it is finished’ the heavy curtain that hid the most holy place from view was ripped from top to bottom.

Mark 15:37-38 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

God …does not live in temples made by man (Acts 17:24). But he dwells in the midst of his people. You and I as living stones are being fitted together in to a spiritual dwelling for the God of the universe!

And our purpose? ‘To be a holy priesthood’ and ‘to offer spiritual sacrifices’. Here the metaphor bends. Now the living stones who make up the house become the holy priesthood that offer sacrifices to God. Under Old Testament law, not just anyone could take upon himself the office of a priest. You must have been a literal physical descendant of Moses’ brother Aaron. You had to be able to trace your blood line to the tribe of Levi. The priests were appointed by God to facilitate the worship of God. Only those selected to serve as priests could enter the holy place to offer sacrifices to God, and only after they had been set apart by blood. Only one priest, the high priest could ever enter the most holy place, and he could only enter once a year carrying blood from the offering to present at the mercy seat to make atonement for the sins of the people. Jesus, our great high priest, presented his own precious blood before the throne of God, propitiating our sins and :

Hebrews 1:3 … After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, …

We now together have been set apart as holy to serve as priests to God. But what kind of sacrifice do we offer? Our text says that we offer ‘spiritual sacrifices’. We no longer offer the blood of bulls and goats – the once for all perfect blood sacrifice has been made. Our sins are decisively and finally dealt with. So what kind of offering do we make?

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

Romans 15:16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 4:18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

So we offer our bodies, we preach the good news, we support the ministry of the gospel, we worship and praise God; we do good and share what we have. These offerings that we make are said to be ‘acceptable to God.’ A priest had to be extremely careful that he did not defile himself and so become unfit to offer sacrifices acceptable to God. He had to check the animal carefully to be sure that it was unblemished so that it would be acceptable to God. The procedure for offering had to be followed exactly so that the sacrifice would be acceptable to God. And the heart motive of the offerer had to be right before God for that offering to be acceptable to God. We are said to be a holy priesthood that offers spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. What is the procedure by which we make and offering that is acceptable to God? We certainly don’t want to be rejected by God. Our text tells us that we offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. There is no offering, no matter how great it may seem, no matter how deep the cost to ourselves that is acceptable to God if it is not through Jesus Christ. Many try to come to God on their own merits and offer to God their best, but it is filthy rags and rejected by God. Only those that come, not on their own merit, but on the merit of Jesus Christ as their perfect substitute, can:

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

It is only:

Ephesians 3:11-12 …in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Only through Jesus Christ and his precious blood can we find acceptance with God. Only by putting our confidence in the perfect sacrifice that he made can our sins be washed away. Only having been born again by the living and abiding word of God and given new life through the resurrection of Jesus can we approach the Father and find his favor.

So together, as his redeemed blood bought people, his holy priesthood, we together will offer a sacrifice of praise to him. We together will approach the table that God has prepared for us and we will commune with him and with one another. We together will lift up our prayers of worship and adoration to the King who is holy, and in so far as it is through Jesus Christ, we can have confidence that we are accepted by the Father.

November 16, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment