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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Spirit’s Fruit; Faithfulness Like Jesus

07/23 The Spirit’s Fruit; Faithfulness Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170723_faithfulness-like-jesus.mp3

We are looking together at the fruit of the Spirit, the character that the Holy Spirit without fail produces in the life of every follower of Jesus.

Today we look at the fruit of faithfulness. If you are using the old King James, it will have ‘faith’ instead of faithfulness. This word, along with all 8 of the other words in this list of fruit is a noun. This word is most often translated in other contexts simply as ‘faith’. But in this list it indicates an ethical quality, so it is translated as an adjective. The Greek word is [πίστις] from the [πιστεύω] word group. It means to have faith; to believe, trust, to depend on. With the definite article it can refer to the faith, the teaching, the content of the gospel. The adjective form means to be faithful, dependable, trustworthy, or reliable.

Faith Defined

We can look at Romans 3 to see some of the ways this word is used. In Romans 3, Paul is asking if Jews are not automatically saved, but must believe the gospel just like everyone else, and the gospel has gone out to all people, then is there any advantage in being an ethnic Jew. The first advantage he lists is that

Romans 3:2 … To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with [v. πιστεύω] the oracles of God.

‘Entrusted with’ translates the passive verb form of this word ‘faith.’ They were believed in or trusted with the Scriptures. They were considered faithful in the task of transmitting Biblical revelation to us. In the next verse, he uses both the verb and the noun of this word.

Romans 3:3 What if some were unfaithful [v. ἀπιστέω]? Does their faithlessness [ἀπιστία n.] nullify the faithfulness [n. πίστις] of God?

‘Unfaithful’ or ‘unbelieving’ translates the negative verb form. They were without faith. They did not believe. Those who did not believe are called ‘faithless,’ the negative noun form. In contrast, God is called ‘faithful,’ the noun form we see in Galatians 5. Verse 4 goes on to describe the faithfulness of God.

Romans 3:3 …Does their faithlessness [n. ἀπιστία] nullify the faithfulness [n. πίστις] of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

God’s faithfulness is his truthfulness, his righteousness or justice, that what he said certainly happens. His words, when examined, prove to be flawlessly true and trustworthy.

The next chapter, Romans 4, has my favorite Biblical definition of faith.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes [v. πιστεύω] in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith [n. πίστις] is counted as righteousness,

…16 That is why it depends on faith [n. πίστις], in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith [n. πίστις] of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed [v. πιστεύω], who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed [v. πιστεύω] against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith [n. πίστις] when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief [n. ἀπιστία] made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith [n. πίστις] as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

From this passage we see that to have faith or to believe is opposite of works; it is depending on or trusting in the work of another; ‘to the one who does not work but believes in him’. It is depending on a gracious promise; something we didn’t earn and don’t deserve, but is freely offered to us; ‘that is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace’. Faith must have the proper object; it is faith in the God ‘who gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not exist’. Faith must have content; ‘he had been told.’ Faith is trusting the impossible promises of God in spite of the circumstances to the contrary. Unbelief is doubting or questioning the promises of God, wavering in confidence in God. Faith gives all glory to the God who is able to do the impossible. Faith is being ‘fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised.’ Our faith must be placed in the promises of our faithful God.

Faithful Service

Galatians 5 tells us that faithfulness is fruit of the Holy Spirit. Faithfulness is produced in us when we look at our faithful God and trust his character. To have faith is to believe, trust, depend on one who is faithful. To be faithful is to be dependable, trustworthy, reliable; to keep your word.

In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus is talking about the signs of his coming, and the unexpected nature of his return. He says:

Matthew 24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 45 “Who then is the faithful [adj. πιστός] and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus encourages us to be always ready for his return, to be faithful and wise with what he has entrusted to our care. He has trusted us with caring for his household. We will be rewarded for faithful service. There will be punishment for unfaithfulness. Unfaithfulness looks like self-centered abuse of authority and taking advantage of the absence of the master for personal indulgence. Faithful service looks like doing exactly what the master requested at the proper time, serving others, providing for the needs of others.

Jesus asks ‘who is the faithful and wise servant?’ Then he tells a story in Matthew 25 about wisdom or foolishness in being prepared at all times for his coming, and he tells a story about faithfulness or unfaithfulness.

Matthew 25:14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Faith is confidence in the God who entrusts us with gifts, that he is wise and good. Notice, it says he gave differing sums of money to the servants, ‘to each according to his ability’. He knew he servants, he knew their capacity, their capability. He gave them exactly what he knew they could handle.

We all tend to doubt this. We all tend toward unbelief. Pastors tend to look around and see other pastors with larger congregations and ask ‘why can’t I have a bigger church?’ He gives to each according to his ability. Then you have a pastor of a large congregation who knows that more people equals more problems and he looks at the smaller church and says ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have fewer problems’. He gives to each according to his ability. God knows what he is doing. I’m sure this is true of everybody. ‘Why was I entrusted with this? Why wasn’t I entrusted with that? Why did he get five and I only got two?’ In order to be faithful, we need to have faith that God knows what he is doing when he gives us what he does. Has he given you resources? Health? Sickness? Adversity? Prosperity? Be faithful to glorify him with whatever he has entrusted to your care.

I want you to see something else about faithfulness in Jesus’ story. Look at what the servant who was given five talents did. He put them to work. He took what he had been entrusted with and made use of it. We are not told exactly what he did, but a 100% return on investment is pretty substantial, and probably indicates a high level of risk. He invested the money aggressively and doubled his investment. Safe investments don’t produce that kind of return. He took risks with his master’s money. And he is commended for it. The master doesn’t come back and say ‘what were you thinking? You could have lost it all! You got lucky this time, but I’m never trusting you with my money again.’ No, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Being faithful means taking great risks with what we have been given in hopes of great gains for our master. Remember, the money does not belong to us. It belongs to the master. Neither is the gain ours. The profit goes to the master. God expects us to step out of the safe zone. William Carey, missionary to India, remembered as the father of modern missions, said ‘expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.’ We can take risks with what God entrusts to us, because God is ultimately in control. This too is a matter of faith. Do we believe God’s promise that ‘for those who love God all things work together for good’ (Rom.8:28), even the bad things? Is any risk too great that has the potential of advancing the glory of Christ in the world?

Notice in Jesus’ story, both servants who invested what they had been entrusted gained 100%. There was no servant who invested and lost money. There was no servant who invested and only gained 50%.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Notice also that there was no differentiation between the servant who gained 5 and the servant who gained 2. Both were faithful with what they had been given. Both heard the words ‘well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your master.’

But there was one servant who was not good and faithful.

Matthew 25:24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

This servant misunderstood his master. He thought him to be a hard man, a lazy man, a greedy man. He had no confidence, because he did not understand his master was gracious and forgiving. He acted out of fear and unbelief. He played it safe with the master’s money. He buried it. He hid it. He preserved it. He was careful not to lose any. He returned what he had been given. And he was called ‘wicked and slothful.’ Not good and faithful, but wicked and slothful. He was not faithful; he failed to invest at all. He was slothful.

God’s Faithfulness and Ours

You see, faithfulness is fruit. It grows in a heart that is looking at our faithful God. We can risk being recklessly faithful because we know God. Our confidence is not in our skill or ability, in our effectiveness in planting or watering, but on God who gives the increase.

Paul, addressing the messed up church in Corinth, points them to:

1 Corinthians 1:7 …our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul’s confidence for the Corinthian believers was not in them. His confidence, his faith, was in the fully capable faithful God. He said the same to the Thessalonian believers.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

In 2 Thessalonians, he asks for prayer in the risky venture of advancing the gospel into places where Christ was not named.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

His confidence for himself and for them was in the faithfulness of God. He was faithful in his mission, because he knew God would always be faithful to his promises.

The author of Hebrews points us always back to Jesus.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, … 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, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

Because of Jesus, because we have confidence to enter by the blood of Jesus, because we have a great priest who invites us to draw near, we can hold fast without wavering, we can be faithful, because he who promised is faithful. We can be faithful to love and stir each other up to love because he will never let us down.

He who promised is faithful. God is dependable, trustworthy, reliable. We can count on him, we can bank on him. He will never let us down. He will never go back on his word. Because we have this kind of confidence in this kind of God, we can become this kind of people. We can be know as dependable, reliable, trustworthy, women and men of our word. Even when others let us down, we can follow through.

Martin Luther writes sees the passage this way: “In listing faith among the fruits of the Spirit, Paul obviously does not mean faith in Christ, but faith in men. Such faith is not suspicious of people but believes the best. Naturally the possessor of such faith will be deceived, but he lets it pass. He is ready to believe all men, but he will not trust all men. Where this virtue is lacking men are suspicious, forward, and wayward and will believe nothing nor yield to anybody. No matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault with it, and if you do not humor them you can never please them. It is quite impossible to get along with them. Such faith in people therefore, is quite necessary. What kind of life would this be if one person could not believe another person?”

In 2 Timothy 2, Paul encourages Timothy to ‘be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus’ and entrust what you have learned to faithful men who will pass it along. He encourages him to be a good soldier, to live an unentangled life. He reminds him of Jesus, and Paul’s own sacrifice and suffering ‘for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus’ as he risks his very life for the gospel. And he recites this well known saying:

2 Timothy 2:11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

We can risk suffering, even death, because we have his word, his promise, he will be faithful. And we can have this gospel confidence, knowing that it is not contingent on our performance. Even if we are a failure, even if we are faithless, if we confess Jesus as Lord, he will be faithful to his promises because his own character is at stake. He will not deny his own faithful character just because we falter. He who promised is faithful; he will surely do it.

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

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Equipping the Saints; Ephesians 4:11-16

01//08 The Church and The Equipping of the Saints [Ephesians 4:11-16]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170108_equip-the-saints.mp3

Last week we began to look at who we are as the church, what we are to be about. We saw from Ephesians chpaters 1-3 that to understand what is our purpose as the church, we must begin by understanding who we are as the church, our identity in Christ. We are called saints, faithful, blessed, chosen, loved, predestined, adopted, purchased, forgiven, destined for inheritance, we are sealed, made alive, saved. This is our identity in Christ, not because we earned it, not because we did something to deserve it, but only because of the sheer unmerited grace of a good God. We heard the good news of God’s grace, and we responded by depending on the only one who can rescue us.

As a group of saints, the root and foundation of everything we are and do grows out of and is built upon knowing together the manifold love of Christ toward us that surpasses knowledge. There is a corporate aspect of knowing; Paul prays in 3:17

Ephesians 3:17 …that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

We are to comprehend together with all the saints the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Of course, we should be individually pursuing an understanding of the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, but this ought to fuel the fire of corporate worship, as we come together to know together the incomprehensible love of Christ. This worshipful comprehending of the love of Christ together is a primary purpose of the church.

In Chapter 4, Paul begins to tells us how to live in light of our identity in Christ. The first thing he points us to is our gospel unity

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

We are to be diligent to guard our unity in the gospel. We have unity; we were made one in Christ, we have peace with God and with one another through Jesus; we are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. We as a church are to be passionate about defending and maintaining our gospel unity.

Paul goes on in Ephesians 4:7-16 to talk about the grace-gifts that have been given to each of us to build up the body. The gifts are given to grow us up in Christ, and to they are to be used in love.

Then in 4:17-6:9 he talks about what the Christian life is to look like. Our lives are to relfect our new identity in Christ.

He concludes in 6:10-20 with the full spiritual armor of gospel realities that belong to us in Christ, to be permeated by prayer.

So we have learned so far from Ephesians that we as the church are to know together our identity in Christ, that we are to diligently defend our unity in Christ, that we are to use our gifts in love to build up one another, that we are to live lives that reflect our new identity in Christ, and that we are to arm ourselves with gospel realities in prayer, so that we can stand our ground as the church against the schemes of the enemy.

Equipping the Saints

This week I want to dig deeper into into the text in Ephesians 4:11

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

I take this as a clear purpose statement for the leadership of the church. To equip the saints. What does it mean to equip the saints? Our English translation sounds like ‘to equip’ is a verb. But it is actually a noun; ‘to the equipping’, to the compelte furnishing. This word can mean to mend, repair, or complete; to fit out, equip, or prepare; to strengthen, perfect, or complete. This and the following verses list 5 things that the saints are to be equipped for or toward, and then some things they are to be prepared against.

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints

for (εἰς) the work of ministry,

for (εἰς) building up the body of Christ,

13 until we all attain to (εἰς) the unity of the faith

and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

to (εἰς) mature manhood,

to (εἰς) the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

The saints are to be fitted to work of ministry; to building the body of Christ, to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a manture man, to a measure of maturity of the fullness of Christ. These are the things the saints are to be equipped for.

Work of Service

The saints are to be equipped for work of ministry or work of service. Notice, this is every saint; all the saints are to be equipped for ministry. Every believer is a minister. The word ‘diakonia’ is where we get our word deacon. It simply means service. Every saint is to be prepared for service. What that service looks like will be as unique and various as the individuals who make up the body of Christ. Service may be exhorting and encouraging, coming alongside others, it may be teaching and discipling others, it may be acts of mercy, binding up the brokenhearted, it may be practical service in lending a helping hand, it may be financial giving to meet the needs of others. Service takes many shapes. Service by definition is others-centered, because we are serving someone. And service is work. To serve well takes, time, effort, intentionality. There is a choice involved. I can choose to use the gifts I have been given to bless others, or I can miss the opportunity to be involved. It takes will, effort, energy to be involved. The saints are to be equipped for the work of service. This verse echoes back to 2:8-10, where we are saved…

Ephesians 2:9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are not saved by our works, but we are created new in Christ for good works. These works are prepared ahead of time by God. He intends that we walk in the works he foreordained for us. Here we see that the church plays a role in preparing and strengthening the saints for the work of service.

Building The Body

The saints are to be equipped for building the body of Christ. In a building there is structure, architecture, a plan, a foundation. We each play a role in the structure. This echoes back to 2:19-22.

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. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

You are a part of the building. You are to be built on the one cornerstone of Christ Jesus. You are to be joined together with other believers into a temple, a dwelling place for God. For a stone to be part of the building, it needs to be on the foundation. A stone not on the foundation is not part of the building. The church plays a role in fitting the saints to be built up on the one foundation, to be joined together with one another, to be holy, to enjoy together the presence of God in us.

Unity of the Faith and Knowledge of the Son

Verse 13 tells us the saints are to be equipped for the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. As we are built together, serving one another, we are to experience the unity of the faith. This is a oneness that comes from dependence on the same person. The unity of the faith is not merely the unity of having a common set of beliefs. It is that. We must believe in the one God who is Father, Son and Spirit. We must believe that the Son became human, born of a virgin, to die in our place, that he rose from the dead and returned to the right hand of his Father. We must believe that we are set free from our sin by the free act of a sovereign God, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, ultimately for the glory of God alone. There is concrete content to our faith, but our trust and dependence is not ultimately in a set of facts, but in a person. We are united by a common dependence on the person of the Son of God. We are one because we know the same person. We have a common friend. Have you ever met a stranger only to find out you have a common friend. You may not have met each other, but there is a connection when there is a common bond to the same person. As believers, we have that in Jesus. We have a unity with every other believer because of our common dependence on and relationship with the Son of God. Paul prayed back in 1:17,

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

We need to be given spiritual wisdom and revelation to know Jesus. The church plays a role in repairing and strengthening this unity in the knowledge of Jesus.

Maturity

The saints are to be equipped toward maturity. To a mature man. This echoes back to 2:15

Ephesians 2:15 … that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

This one new man, no longer Jew and Gentile, no longer two but one, the church, the united body of Christ.

This one new man is to be a mature man. To completeness, to mental and moral maturity, to fully developed character. There is a goal we are aiming at, a purpose we are pursuing, an end we are moving toward. Some of us just need to grow up. None of us have arrived yet. We all must be patient with one another, because we are all moving toward a goal, and we are all in various stages of growth. God is at work in us to develop character in us. Character is most often developed through trials, so we need extra grace and patience for one another, as navigating a trial is often a messy ordeal. God intends that on the other side we will come out as pure gold, but in the process, all our filth floats up to the surface for all to see. Have you ever been in the room when another parent is disciplining their child? It can be awkward and uncomfortable to observe the process, but it is essential for the child’s growth to maturity. In the body of Christ, we need to understand that we are all under the good hand of the refiner, who will bring us through whatever fires are necessary to purify us; we are all under the gracious hand of the Father, who will be faithful to discipline the children he loves, to develop mature character in us. The church family plays a role in mending and perfecting the saints toward maturity.

The Measure of the Fullness of Christ

The saints are to be equipped toward the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. In 1:23 the church is the fullness of Christ. In 3:19, Paul prays that we would know the love of Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God.

We are to be fitted for the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The measure of our maturity is Jesus. We are not to be foolish, measuring ourselves against each other; wishing we were as advanced as so-and-so; thankful we are not as immature as what’s-his-name. Our standard is Christ. We as the church are to be filled with Christ. We are to live Jesus to each other. We are to live Jesus to our community. We are to put Jesus on display in every area of our lives. We are to be filled to overflowing with Jesus. The character of Jesus is to permeate our attitudes, our emotions, our thinking, our choices. The church plays a role in perfecting and completing the saints in this Christlike fullness of maturity.

Equipped Against

There is a negative aspect to the equipping. Paul lists these 5 things we are to be equipped for; for the work of ministry; for building the body of Christ, for the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, for a manture man, for the measure of maturity of the fullness of Christ. In verse 14 he moves into the negative; what we are to be equipped against.

Ephesians 4:14 so that we may no longer be children,

tossed to and fro by the waves

and carried about by every wind of doctrine,

by human cunning,

by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

The equipping of the saints is an equipping toward maturity and away from immaturity. We are no longer to be children. Children are characterized by variability. One moment I want that; the next moment I don’t want it any more. One minute I’m throwing a tantrum to get my way, and halfway through I’ve forgotten what I was tantruming about. Truth changes based on whose voice is loudest or most persuasive on the playground. We are no longer to be children fluctuating and carried around by the waves. We are not to be carried about by every wind of teaching. We are to be anchored in sound teaching. We are to have roots that go down deep into the gospel truth of Christ crucified. We are to be enamored by the latest author or speaker. There are lots of doctrinal winds blowing. Everyone has opinions about truth. There is wisdom in reading outside our century. There is wisdom in reading from the 200’s and the 1200’s and the 1600’s. When we see the continuity of the gospel message throughout church history, the foundations of the faith that believers held dear throughout the ages, we are protected from the gimmics of our age that try to sell us something that sounds like the gospel, but is really a plastic immitation. There are those who would deceive us. There are those who would cheat us out of the truth for personal gain. The church is to have a role preparing and strengthening the saints to stand firm in the faith once-for-all delivered.

Grow Up in Truth and Love

Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up

in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together

by every joint with which it is equipped,

when each part is working properly, makes the body grow

so that it builds itself up in love.

Truth without love is cruel. Love without truth is empty. The church is to be equipped to speak, to live and declare truth. The church is to be equipped to speak truth in love, with a genuine desire to do good to others. The church is to grow up. We are to grow up in every way. Grow up in all things. Grow up into Christ, our head. The head is the one from whom we receive the organization and unity that holds the whole body together. The energy of each part comes from the head. The proper working of each part is directed by the head. The head causes the growth. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus causes the body to build itself up in love. The church is meant:

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints

for (εἰς) the work of ministry,

for (εἰς) building up the body of Christ,

13 until we all attain to (εἰς) the unity of the faith

and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

to (εἰς) mature manhood,

to (εἰς) the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

The church is to guard against false doctrine. The church is to speak truth in love. To be submitted to Christ our only head. To function properly as unique and varied members of one body. To buld up the body in love.

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

January 11, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:15-18; Refreshing Saints and Apostles

07/12 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 Refreshing Saints and Apostles ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150712_1cor16_15-18.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

15 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί· οἴδατε τὴν οἰκίαν Στεφανᾶ, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀχαΐας καὶ εἰς διακονίαν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἔταξαν ἑαυτούς· 16 ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑποτάσσησθε τοῖς τοιούτοις καὶ παντὶ τῷ συνεργοῦντι καὶ κοπιῶντι. 17 χαίρω δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ παρουσίᾳ Στεφανᾶ καὶ Φορτουνάτου καὶ Ἀχαϊκοῦ, ὅτι τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα οὗτοι ἀνεπλήρωσαν, 18 ἀνέπαυσαν γὰρ τὸ ἐμὸν πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὑμῶν. ἐπιγινώσκετε οὖν τοὺς τοιούτους.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Paul is giving his closing exhortations to the Corinthians church. Back in chapters 9 and 10, Paul held himself up as an example to the believers in surrendering rights and seeking the good of others above one’s own good, and in 11:1 Paul says ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Here at the close of this letter, he holds a member of their own congregation up as worthy of honor and imitation. He points to the household of Stephanas.

Firstfruits

Here he says that the household of Stephanas was the firstfruits of the region of Achaia. This is the same word ‘firstfruits’ that he used in 15:20 of Christ as the firstfruits of the resurrection of believers who have fallen asleep. The firstfruits was an Old Testament offering, a sample from the harvest, it shares continuity with the rest of the harvest, it was a part of the harvest, and it was a promise of more good things to come. In 1:16, he said that he had baptized the household of Stephanas. The household of Stephanas were some of the first to believe the gospel in that region, and Paul looked at them as a promise of more to come. The good news of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and risen from the dead had penetrated into a dark place, had created new life, and had begun to transform sinners, and he expected that to spread.

Devoted Themselves

Listen to how Paul describes these believers. He says that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. This is not something that was pushed on them. This is not something they did unwillingly or half-heartedly. They devoted themselves. This word can be translated ‘to addict, to appoint, to determine, to ordain, to set.’ They addicted themselves to the service of the saints. They set themselves apart to this purpose. They were determined to serve. This was voluntary, eager service. This was not under compulsion, these were cheerful givers. They delighted themselves in serving others. They set themselves aside to be useful to the believers. Do you know anyone like this? We need people like this in our churches, people who are not looking for position or recognition, people who simply want to be useful to God by serving his people. This word service is where we get our word ‘deacon’ – it simply means a servant.

These are often behind the scenes people, people who are not interested in the limelight, selfless people who prefer to remain unknown and unrecognized. People who simply see a need and do whatever is within their power to care for that need. These are people who recognize their gifts and without drawing attention to themselves, simply get busy using their gifts to love and serve and build up others. These are truly selfless people, who genuinely care about others more than they care about themselves.

Household

Notice that Paul is not referring to one particular individual. He says ‘you know the household of Stephanas’. This was a family that served together. We aren’t told details, but a household would likely include Stephanas and his wife, his children, and possibly any servants he employed, possibly others who lived with them, who were under his care, who together found joy in serving the saints. This is family ministry. A whole family that was united to serve others. The family unit is a powerful thing.

Sometimes the gospel divides families. When an individual hears the gospel, he may have to choose to follow Jesus, knowing that following Jesus could destroy his relationship with his wife, with his children, with his family. Paul understands the dynamic where a family is divided over the gospel, and he gave practical instructions on how to handle these kinds of situations in chapter 7. But here he is looking at a family that is united by the gospel and transformed by the gospel with a passion to serve the people of God.

Joshua said ‘choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD’. This is a household that has recognized the many different things that families are all about, the many different things families are passionate about and centered around, and they have chosen to center family life around service to the believers. They have prioritized in a radically different way than the culture around them and given themselves over to Christian service. Mother, father, children old and young, all looking away from themselves and their own wants and needs at how to love and serve and care for the body of Christ.

This is a radically different model for life and ministry. This is not the family making sacrifices so dad or mom can go off and serve in this or that ministry. This is the family together as a team loving and serving in ways that can only be done by a household. Certainly this includes hospitality, where the home is an environment defined by loving service to others, where others can be welcomed in and cared for and nurtured. Quite possibly, the church used the home of this family for their meetings, which would mean that the family took on the responsibility of preparing for and cleaning up after the meeting of the church. This doesn’t necessarily mean an immaculate showroom house, but it would include essential things like making sure the bathroom is clean and functioning, providing appropriate space for guests to feel welcomed and cared for, creating an atmosphere of others-focused selfless welcoming love.

What is your household like? Is your home a Christ centered home? Is your primary aim to advance the gospel? Is your home a place where believers can feel safe and loved and cared for and built up?

Servant Leadership

Paul holds up the household of Stephanas as an an example of what devotion to Christ can look like in a household. He encourages the believers to ‘be subject to such as these’. We often want leaders who are in control, who are determined, aggressive, forceful, who speak well and look good out front. But Paul has a different perspective. And this is in line with what Jesus taught. In Luke 22 we see:

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

It is startling to remember the context of this conversation. Jesus had just taken bread and said ‘this is my body broken for you’ and ‘this cup is my blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of your sins’. He had told them that he was about to be betrayed and crucified. And they around the table are disputing about who is the greatest.

Luke 22:25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Jesus initiated a different kind of leadership. His authority is not a top down controlling authoritarian you-serve-me kind of leadership. His leadership is a humble-hearted others-centered loving service. The household of Stephanas was a real life example of what this looks like, and Paul exhorts the Corinthians to voluntarily submit to such as these. These and every fellow worker and laborer.

We see Paul hold up another example of a fellow-worker who gave him joy, ministered to his needs, and is to be honored and imitated. He writes to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 2:25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Epaphras, like Stephanas, was a selfless servant who put other before himself, who filled up the lack and brought joy to those he served. He was a brother, a fellow-worker, a fellow soldier.

Some people talk about going into the ministry as if it were a glamorous career choice. Ministry simply means service, and service to people can be painful and messy and just plain hard. Paul says to be subject to every fellow-worker and laborer. This word laborer literally means to be weary or feel fatigue. Serving others, especially serving those who are disgruntled or opinionated or easily offended can be draining and exhausting. Ministry is eternally rewarding, but it can be just plain fatiguing.

Refreshing the Spirit

Listen to what the Apostle Paul says.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

It seems the letter the Corinthian church wrote to Paul was delivered by these men. He says that these three filled up what was lacking on their part. Paul had strong affection for the Corinthians. These were people he led to Christ, people he had invested his life in. He walked life with them. He missed them. He truly enjoyed their company. The visit from these three brought the apostle much joy. They refreshed his spirit. We don’t often think of the great Apostle to the Gentiles as needing to be refreshed, maybe even becoming depressed and discouraged. But he says in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that ‘we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.’ In two of his letters, Paul describes himself as being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ (Phil.2:17; 2Tim.4:6). Even in the midst of fruitful ministry where many were believing the gospel and being baptized, Paul needed encouragement from the Lord.

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Paul, afraid? Paul silent? Paul was human. He had needs. Emotional, spiritual, physical needs. He felt a poverty of spirit in being away from his beloved friends at this church. It brought him joy when dear friends came to visit.

Even leaders in ministry need other co-workers who will come along side them, others who understand the unique challenges and hardships of ministry, others who will bring refreshment to their spirits. This is what the coming of these three friends did for Paul, in the midst of something he describes as ‘fighting wild beasts at Ephesus’.

I have a dear friend and co-worker in the gospel who was so deeply hurt in the course of pastoral ministry that he describes it as if something deep inside him broke. He went into a deep depression, to the point where he had to take an extended break from ministry. God is healing him and giving him a renewed sense of vision and passion for ministry. I enjoyed the privilege of spending some time with him over the past week, and he was an encouragement to my soul.

There are some people who sap the spiritual energy out of you; who drain you of life and vitality. There are others whose love for Jesus and love for other people is a contagious overflow that refreshes your soul. Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus were that kind of friends, co-laborers in service to Christ, selfless servants who brought refreshment to everyone they were around. We need those kinds of people in our lives, people who are filled with the love of Christ, those who will just be a friend, who will love us as we are, who will be patient with our flaws and shortcomings, who will laugh with us, cry with us, hurt with us, just be with us, who will lay aside expectations and care for us.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

May we be those kind of people for others. May we refresh the spirit of those who are downcast. May we bring joy to those we are around. May we develop households who addict themselves to the selfless service of the saints. May we create places of refuge where broken sinners can be loved and nurtured and find healing and hope. May we be people who bring joy to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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

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

1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Nothingness of Life Without Love

10/26 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 The Nothingness of Life Without Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141026_1cor13_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

12:31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

13:1 Ἐὰν ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρώπων λαλῶ καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, γέγονα χαλκὸς ἠχῶν ἢ κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον. 2 καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν, καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν ὥστε ὄρη μεθιστάναι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐθέν εἰμι. 3 καὶ ἐὰν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου, καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμά μου, ἵνα καυθήσομαι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι.

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We are in 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter. If you haven’t read it in your bible, you’ve probably seen it on the back of a wedding program or in a valentines day card or heard it read in a marriage ceremony. It is a soaring piece of poetry, beautiful and moving. It is one of the most widely know and best loved pieces of scripture that has been ripped from its context and plastered all over lover’s lane. I want to tell you something maybe you didn’t already know. 1 Corinthians 13 comes between chapters 12 and 14! It comes between those chapters much the same way as chapter 9 comes between 8 and 10. 1 Corinthians 13 has a context, and that context helps us to understand what its author intended it to mean. We can pull out some verses and post them on our facebook page with some little hearts and balloons and roses that sound all sweet and sentimental, but I submit to you that 1 Corinthians 13 is a wrecking ball that will level you and I if we are really listening. I am being wrecked as I study it, and I intend to share the experience with you, dearly loved ones. Understand, it is a necessary wrecking and leveling. It is a constructive and healthy leveling, the way a deserted lot with dangerously crumbling buildings all overgrown with weeds and crawling with varmints needs to be bulldozed and burned and excavated to prepare it for a useful structure.

The Corinthians, much like us, were self-focused. They were proud, they were self-seeking, They loved status, they wanted priority and position. They had asked Paul a question that he is responding to in these three chapters. Their question, as we reconstruct it from Paul’s answer to them went something like this: ‘What is the mark of true spirituality? What are the evidences of a truly spiritual person? Are there specific manifestations of the Spirit that mark one out as advanced above others?’ And behind these questions was the desire to be thought well of, to be known and acknowledged as spiritual, to have a reputation for advanced spirituality. Paul begins his answer in chapter 12 by telling us that the truly spiritual people are those who confess Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit is at work in every person who comes to genuine faith in Christ, so every believer is ‘spiritual’. He highlights the diversity of the workings of the Spirit, and the interconnected interdependence of every part of the body with every other part. He reverses their status seeking, ranking the most despised gifts as most essential to the building up of the body, and lists the more sensational gifts that they were focused on last. He exhorts us to earnestly desire the higher gifts. And then he says ‘I will show you a still more excellent way.’ Chapter 13 is the superabundantly excellent way, more essential than any of the gifts. Chapter 14 continues his exhortation to pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.

Tongues

In every list of gifts in this section, in 12:8-10, in 12:28, and in 12:29-30, tongues is listed last. In chapter 14 he illustrates the greater value of prophecy over tongues and carefully regulates the use of the gift of tongues in the meetings of the church. But here in chapter 13, this order is reversed and tongues comes first.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Paul is pointing to the utter worthlessness of all the gifts of the Spirit if the person exercising them lacks love. He lists several ‘if’ statements, possessing spiritual gifts taken to the extreme, each conditioned by the repeated phrase ‘but have not love’ and draws the conclusion of utter valuelessness. He starts with their favorite, tongues. The gift of tongues is the God given ability to speak praises to God in a language not known by the speaker and usually needing interpretation to be understood by the hearers. That is sensational and attention grabbing, and we see something like this attracting huge crowds in Acts 2. Speaking in the tongues of men could be more simply translated speaking in human languages. Speaking in tongues of angels, then, refers to angelic languages. In the context of this passage, it may be that Paul is referring to actual angelic languages, or it may be that he is simply using hyperbole, going beyond what any of the Corinthians would claim. You speak in all kinds of human languages, what if I spoke in exalted angelic languages (if there even is such a thing)? The point is that even the most amazing gift of languages imaginable is nothing without love. If I have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Imagine your toddler has gotten into the pots and pans in the kitchen and has discovered that by banging the lid down on the pan, he can make noise. Repeated noise. Continual noise. Ceaseless noise. Incessant noise. No rhythm, just loud banging over and over and over and over and over again. It was cute. At first. But then you are sitting at your computer trying to concentrate, and your little angel comes up right next to your ear and begins to bang and clang the pot lids together. Or imagine your sweet little 8 year old in the back seat at the beginning of a very long car ride asks you this question: ‘Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the universe?’ Even if you answer ‘No’, she still feels compelled to bless you with this sound. It is not the sound itself, but the duration. If you think that’s bad, imagine when you ask her to please stop, suddenly all her siblings join in making the same noise!

Paul says that if I have been given the most spectacular manifestation of the spiritual gift of tongues, but I do not have love, I am, literally I have become; I have turned into a chunk of clanging brass. I am reduced to nothing more than a painfully repetitive loud noise. This is a scathing indictment on the status seeking tongues speaking Corinthians. They want to impress their friends with their giftedness. Instead, Paul says, you have turned into clanging banging irritating chunks of noisy metal.

Prophecy, Knowledge, Faith

Next, he takes the gift that he is encouraging them to pursue, a gift that is useful in building up the church.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all the knowledge. Again, Paul is using hyperbole. He is imagining the greatest possible manifestation of the gift of prophecy. Paul has said in chapter 4 that the apostles have been entrusted with the mysteries of God. Mysteries in this context are things that were hidden in ages past and have now been revealed. The primary mystery, as he talked about in chapter 2, is the gospel, the good news that through the crucifixion of Jesus, God is extending his love to sinners.

He invites them to imagine that his prophetic gift is such that he understands all mysteries and possesses all knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. They prided themselves in their knowledge. Paul addressed their knowledge back in chapter 8.

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Already in chapter 8, he has held up love as superior to knowledge. Knowledge tends to puff self up. Love builds others up. He warns that by your so called knowledge, you destroy a brother for whom Christ died.

1 Corinthians 8:11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.

For the Corinthians, understanding all mysteries and all knowledge would make for a very impressive spiritual resume. He adds to this the gift of faith. The spiritual gift of faith is an extraordinary Spirit enabled capacity to depend on God to remove major obstacles to the gospel. Here he draws on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 17:20

Matthew 17:20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Jesus’ point is that it does not depend on the size of your faith. Even the tiniest grain of faith placed in the proper object can remove the biggest obstacles. Paul speaks larger than life and imagines that he has all faith. Again hyperbole; faith so as to relocate mountains.

If he has the gift of prophecy and understands all mysteries and all knowledge and if he has the gift of faith to the maximum imaginable extent, but he does not have love, he says ‘I am nothing’.

Mercy, Generosity, Helps

Now he takes up the mercy gifts, gifts like helps or relief, and generosity.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If I give away all that I have; the idea is turning every possession into morsels of food to nourish the hungry. This takes generosity to the extreme. Not stopping with every possession, but even surrendering up my very body takes it to the next level. There is a textual issue here, and you may have a footnote in your bible, whether the word is burned or boast. The difference is just two letters in the original. Either way it is a picture of the ultimate sacrifice, surrendering ones own body up for the good of others. Paul says, even if I have the gift of mercy, bringing relief to the poor and if I do that to the absolute maximum imaginable extent, laying down my own life for others, but have not love, I gain nothing.

There is a progression here. If I have not love, I become empty noise. If I have not love, I am nothing. If I have not love, I gain nothing. I become nothing, I am nothing, I gain nothing.

What Is Love?

This raises a question. How can one give all that they have and even surrender their own body without love? Isn’t that the definition of love? Isn’t biblical love self sacrifice for the good of the other? Jesus said in John 15

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

If we look around, we find examples of people sacrificing themselves for others. Movies are made in praise of these selfless acts. On the battlefield, in the hospital, in the streets, we see examples of people laying down their lives for others. And not all of these people claim to be followers of Jesus. What can we say about this? Jesus said:

John 13:34 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. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Does this mean that when we see self sacrificial love for others in someone who rejects Jesus as King and rescuer, we must conclude, in spite of their unbelief, that they must be OK? To a lesser degree, there are many selfless acts of generosity, mercy, care for the poor and needy carried out by good people all around us.

What Paul describes seems to be the greatest possible expression of love according to Jesus; laying down your life for others. But he indicates that it is possible to do these things and not have love. And he indicates the outcome; that it profits me nothing. How is it possible to do what we would consider loving acts and not have love?

It may be helpful to understand that in the Greek there are multiple words for love. In English our one word ‘love’ covers them all. There is storge, the affection of a parent for a child and a child for their parents; there is phileo, the love of friendship; there is eros, romantic love, what we might call ‘being in love’; and there is agape, something almost unique to the New Testament writers, and used to describe God’s love. We can easily see how the affection of a parent for a child or for another needy or helpless individual could express itself in the ultimate self-sacrifice. We can see how a robust friendship love could lead one to make the ultimate sacrifice for a friend, and we could see how impassioned lovers might make the ultimate expression of love to one another.

These generous self-sacrificial deeds of love are noble and admirable. They are a reflection of the image of God in his creation. But they are not saving acts. They profit nothing. They earn nothing.

Agape Love

What is it that distinguishes this God kind of love from other loves, without which we gain nothing? What is it that the unbeliever who takes a bullet for a friend does not have? I think we find help in the simple statement of 1 John 4:19.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

The love Paul and Jesus and John are talking about is a response that flows from divine love. We love because we have been loved by God.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

The love we are talking about is from God. It has its source in God who is love. It comes from the new birth. It is founded on a testimony that Jesus is the Son of God who came and paid the price for our sins. It is a love produced in us by the Holy Spirit. We see in Galatians 5 that this kind of love is a fruit of the Spirit.

If we look at the context of Jesus’ statement that the greatest love is laying down one’s life for a friend, we see where this kind of love comes from.

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

…8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

…11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

This fruit of love comes from abiding in Jesus. Abiding in his love for us. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. We are loved by God, not because there is something loveable in us, something in us that attracts his affection, but out of the overflow of his own satisfaction in loving and being perfectly loved. God is love. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves his Father, and the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. This complete and perfect trinitarian love, this perfect joy and delight in the beloved, spills over and finds joy in extending this love to others. This is a love that comes not out of need but out of overflowing fullness. God is love, and we love because he first loved us.

We love because

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…

We love because

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

We love because

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

We love because

1 John 4:10 …he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We love because

Galatians 2:20 …the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We love because

Ephesians 5:2 …Christ loved us and gave himself up for us….

We love because

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

When our love is a work of the Spirit in us, rooted in God’s grace to us in the cross, when our love is the overflow of satisfaction in being perfectly loved by God, when our joy and delight in God spills over and finds joy in extending this love with which we have been loved to others, this is the love that is the superabundant more excellent way. Without this love I have become nothing, I am nothing, and I gain nothing. This kind of love is evidence of true spirituality.

If you want to become more loving, the solution is not to make an effort to do more loving things, the solution is to fix your eyes on Jesus. Allow him to love you with his unquenchable love. Invite him to fill you to overflowing with his all-sufficient love. That love will inevitably spill over to those around you.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

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

October 26, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:28-31; Jealously Desire Greater Gifts

10/12 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 Jealously Desire Greater Gifts; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141012_1cor12_28-31.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

27 Ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε σῶμα Χριστοῦ καὶ μέλη ἐκ μέρους. 28 καὶ οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας, τρίτον διδασκάλους, ἔπειτα δυνάμεις, ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, ἀντιλήμψεις, κυβερνήσεις, γένη γλωσσῶν. 29 μὴ πάντες ἀπόστολοι; μὴ πάντες προφῆται; μὴ πάντες διδάσκαλοι; μὴ πάντες δυνάμεις; 30 μὴ πάντες χαρίσματα ἔχουσιν ἰαμάτων; μὴ πάντες γλώσσαις λαλοῦσιν; μὴ πάντες διερμηνεύουσιν; 31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, 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.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Paul is listing some of the diverse grace-gifts, services and workings of the Spirit in the lives of followers of Jesus. Distinct and different manifestations of the same Spirit are given to each believer for the common good. The Corinthians are striving for the more showy and supernatural manifestations as signs of elevated spirituality. Paul turns this status seeking upside down and lists their more sensational gifts last and the least exciting or impressive gifts first.

The Last Shall Be First

This fits with what Jesus taught his status seeking disciples.

Mark 9:34 …on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

The disciples, just like the Corinthians, just like all of us, wanted to be first. They wanted to be served. Jesus turned that expectation on its head. The most important is the last of all and servant of all. That is exactly how Paul described the role of Apostles in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13. He said they had been put on display as a public spectacle, they were foolish, weak, held in disrepute, hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, beat up, homeless, manual laborers, reviled, persecuted, slandered, scum and refuse. Those who were the least had become the greatest. Those who lacked honor have been clothed in special honor. The apostles, those who served as the foundational eye-witnesses to the life, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus had become first in the church.

Prophets, those who spoke on behalf of God to his people, those who prepared the way and pointed to Jesus, those who convict and convert, those who build up, encourage, teach, and console. In the list of gifts at the beginning of this chapter, prophecy is paired with distinguishing between spirits, the ability to evaluate the genuineness and accuracy of prophecy. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 tells us not to despise prophesies, but to test everything, which may indicate that there was a tendency in the church to despise prophets or prophecies. Prophets had become second in the church.

Teachers, those who make disciples, those who teach truth and encourage obedience to Jesus, those who bring unity to the body, who protect from error, who mature and equip the body for works of service, the teachers are third in the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

The rest of the list does not come in a specific order. It is first, second, third, then, then, and three others. First apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. This is how God sovereignly appointed his church to function.

Then Miracles

Then miracles. When we looked at the list at the beginning of this chapter, we saw that miracles, or workings can be power to do mighty deeds, authority over demonic powers, or the power of the gospel to rescue sinners.

Then Grace-Gifts of Healings

Here, as in the first list, miracles or workings of power is paired with healing. Grace-gifts of healings. Both words, gifts and healings, are plural, indicating that there may be multiple gifts of different kinds of healings. Healings can be spiritual or physical, and can be supernatural or medical. Jesus opened the eyes of those who were born blind, and he opened the eyes of those who were blind to the beauty and truth of the gospel. He raised the dead, and he gave life to those who were dead in their trespasses and sins. Various grace-gifts of healings.

Helping

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

The next two gifts, helping and administration, are new, not mentioned in the other lists. In fact, these two gifts aren’t mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament.

This idea of helping can mean ‘taking hold’ in the sense of plants taking root; it can mean physical support in the sense of bandages or splints applied to injuries, it can mean administrative assistance in the sense of carrying out official duties. The word is in the plural, implying that there are different kinds of help. The verb form of this word in found in Acts 20:35. Paul says:

Acts 20:33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Here we see helping in the sense of caring for basic necessities, giving assistance to those in need. It is also used in the context of serving a master in 1 Timothy 6.

1 Timothy 6:2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things.

The master is helped or benefited by the good service of a servant. Some servants were put in charge of the finances and investments of a master. Some servants were put in charge of other servants, managing the affairs of the household. Other servants were simply available to help in whatever capacity needed. This is a broad term that can include many different types of service.

This seems to be the idea behind the appointing of deacons in Acts 6.

Acts 6:1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The deacons were selected to come alongside the Apostles, to assist them in the administration of the daily distribution, to free them up to focus on the activities and responsibilities that they were uniquely gifted and equipped for. They supported and assisted the Apostles both in the mission of advancing the gospel and in administration of the care for the needy.

This gift may overlap with the gifts listed in Romans 12 as the one who serves, one who exhorts or comes alongside, one who contributes, or one who does acts of mercy. It may overlap with the gift listed in 1 Peter 4 as the one who serves.

Administrating

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Helping is paired with administrating. This word is also in the plural; indicating that there are different forms of administrating. A closely related word is translated in Acts 27:11 and Revelation 18:17 as ‘pilot’ or ‘shipmaster’. Both forms of this word are derived from a Latin word meaning ‘to steer’. This word paints the picture of a pilot or helmsman, one who wisely navigates a ship through dangerous waters, carefully avoiding the rocks of false teaching, faithfully holding her steady through the winds of dissension and division, and the waves strife and status seeking, wisely able to see the big picture, keep the destination in mind, and keep the ship from veering off course.

This gift may overlap with the gift listed in Romans 12 as ‘one who leads’. It seems this concept of piloting fits the picture of the leadership gifts painted in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

We need leaders, those who can steer, those with steadfastness, vision, and wisdom to keep us on course.

We need helpers, those who come alongside, those who help others to take root, those who are a support to the broken, those who serve, those who assist others, who free others up to do what they were meant to do.

These gifts may seem plain, ordinary, unspectacular, even natural, but these gifts are just as necessary, (arguably much more necessary) than the more showy gifts, they are a free gift of God’s grace to the church. Helping, administrating, coming alongside, steering are just as supernatural, just as Spirit wrought, just as as originated in the triune God, just as empowered by God, just as divinely ordained and purposed for the good of the body and the glory of Christ as any of the other gifts. As Paul has said, those who seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those we think less honorable, we give greater honor.

Various Kinds of Tongues

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Last on the list, the favorite of the Corinthians, is tongues. Tongues or languages, as we saw before and will look at more carefully in chapter 14, are words of prayer or praise spoken to God, in languages not always understood by the speaker, requiring explanation to be understood by others.

Not Anyone is Everything

1 Corinthians 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

The structure of these sentences in the original makes it clear that the answer to each question is no. Clearly, not all are apostles. Not everyone was an eye-witness to the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. Obviously not all are apostles.

Not all are prophets. In the broad sense, many may speak on behalf of God to the people. Many may convict, convert, console, build up, and encourage. Paul tells us that we should all desire to prophesy, but not everyone is a prophet.

Not all are teachers. All believers may teach truth, encourage obedience and make disciples of Jesus, but James warns that not everyone will be a teacher.

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Not all work miracles or possess grace-gifts of healings. Not all speak in languages or interpret.

Some groups even today make speaking in tongues the necessary evidence of salvation or of Spirit baptism, or a mark of a higher plane of spirituality. This passage expressly prohibits that kind of nonsense. Not all speak with tongues. None of these grace-gifts can be the infallible sign of spirituality, because not every Spirit baptized divinely equipped follower of Jesus has all the gifts. These are gifts freely given by God’s grace to be used for the common good. Each one is a body part, a limb or an organ. If I had all the gifts, I would be a complete body and I would have no need of you. But no one does. I need you. We need each other. No one can say they do not belong.

Covet Earnestly the Greater Gifts

Paul says something startling to transition into chapter 13. He tells us to covet the greater grace-gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

This word is translated here and three times in chapter 14 as ‘earnestly desire’ or be ‘eager for’, but often this word is used in the negative sense of covetousness or envy, as it is in 13:4, ‘love does not envy’. This is where we get our word zeal, zealous or zealot. It is a powerful emotional word, and communicates passion and strong desire.

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. …

14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

14:12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

14:39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

The Corinthians were eager for gifts that granted them high social or spiritual status. Paul exhorts them with a touch of irony to be zealous for the greater gifts, but to allow him to redefine the greater gifts as those that build up others rather than self, those that they had despised, those they considered the lowest, the most menial or ordinary. Zealously pursue self-sacrificial service to others.

Mark 9:35 … “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

If one member is honored, all rejoice together; Paul holds up the greater gifts for honor, so that the whole body can rejoice. He exhorts us to long for the greater gifts to be in full effect and power in our local congregation; that the greater gifts, the gifts that build up, would be manifest. Not that I would seek any gift for myself, but genuinely seek the health of the whole body, of which I am a part, and in which I suffer if the greater gifts are absent.

And he will show us a superabundant far surpassing exceedingly better way, something even greater than all the greatest gifts, the way of love.

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

October 12, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:1-2; The Must of Christian Ministry

07/28 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 The Must of Christian Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130728_1cor4_1-2.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὕτως ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος ὡς ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ καὶ οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων θεοῦ. 2 ὧδε λοιπὸν ζητεῖται ἐν τοῖς οἰκονόμοις ἵνα πιστός τις εὑρεθῇ. 3 ἐμοὶ δὲ εἰς ἐλάχιστόν ἐστιν, ἵνα ὑφ’ ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ ἢ ὑπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας· ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω· 4 οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ σύνοιδα, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι, ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριός ἐστιν. 5 ὥστε μὴ πρὸ καιροῦ τι κρίνετε, ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ κύριος, ὃς καὶ φωτίσει τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῦ σκότους καὶ φανερώσει τὰς βουλὰς τῶν καρδιῶν, καὶ τότε ὁ ἔπαινος γενήσεται ἑκάστῳ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ.

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Paul is correcting the misunderstandings of Christian leadership in the church in Corinth. They viewed Christian leaders as figureheads to rally around. There was quarreling and division, jealousy and strife, each believer identifying himself with one Christian leader over against any other. Paul is eager to correct this misunderstanding. Only Christ was crucified in your place as your substitute, so only Christ deserves your devotion (1:13). No human leader, not Paul, not Apollos, not Cephas, has earned your allegiance. Each of them was sent to preach the gospel, to announce the message of the cross, of Jesus Christ and him crucified. We proclaim the message to everyone, but it is God’s power, God’s choosing, God’s calling that saves. God is the source of life, and we must boast only in God.

Paul has re-framed their thinking about leadership in the church. He has painted himself as a nurse-maid, faithfully feeding the infant believers what they most need to be nourished (3:1-3). He has framed himself and Apollos as fellow field hands, one planting, another watering, each fulfilling his unique role, both looking to God to give the growth (3:5-9). He has illustrated himself as a wise master-builder, having laid the one and only foundation for the church, who is Jesus Christ, and other builders continue to build upon it, and will be held accountable for the quality of their work (3:10-15). At the end of chapter 3, he told the Corinthians that they had it all backward, and they were cutting themselves off from the blessings that belong to them in Christ. The Corinthians were saying ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos’. Instead, Paul and Apollos and Cephas belong to the church, and are given by God to serve them and bless them.

Here in chapter 4, Paul tells them how they should view Christian leaders. He gives them two descriptions of Christian leadership, and one characteristic of Christian leadership, and then he confronts their critical judgmental attitudes with some corrective balance.

Servants of Christ

‘This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ’. We are not apostolic celebrities, to be waved as a banner over your competing ships. We are servants. The word here translated ‘servants’ is different than the word translated ‘servants’ back in 3:5. There, the word was diakonos [διάκονος], from which we get our word ‘deacon’. A deacon was a server or a table waiter. The word here is [ὑπηρέτης] huperetes, literally an under-rower. The word has its origin in Greek military ships, which were propelled by oarsmen who rowed from below the main deck. In the gospels we see this word used most often of guards or officers sent to carry out the orders of a superior. In John 7, the chief priests and Pharisees sent ‘huperetes’ to arrest Jesus. They returned without him, and were asked why they did not carry out their orders. They replied ‘No one ever spoke like this man!’ Jesus uses this term to describe servants who would fight to defend their king (Jn.18:36). Luke uses this word in chapter 4 referring to the synagogue attendant responsible for the care and storage of the scrolls of scripture. In Luke 1:2, he describes the eyewitnesses of Jesus as ‘huperetes’ of the word who delivered them to us. In Acts 13:5, Barnabas’ cousin John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas as an assistant or ‘huperetes’ on their missionary journey, but he later deserted them. In Acts 26:16, Jesus appointed Paul as a ‘huperetes’ and witness of him. This is how Paul says that the believers should consider their Christian leaders, not as the ones in charge on the deck shouting out orders, but as the ones down below, propelling them forward. They don’t act on their own, they are a team, working in unison. They are servants acting under authority. They are officers carrying out the orders of their superior.

Paul is very clear to specify who they report to as servants under authority. They are servants of Christ. They are under the direction of Christ. They will answer only to Jesus for how they carried out their orders. At the end of the last chapter, Paul said to the Corinthians that

1 Corinthians 3:21 …all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours,

Here Paul is careful to clarify. Paul, Apollos and Cephas, apostles and Christian teachers and leaders are given to the church, they belong to the church, they are all given by God to bless the church, but they will not answer to the church. Both the church and her leaders belong to Christ and will answer to Christ. Paul warns Timothy

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Sometimes what the church needs to hear is not what the church wants to hear. There is a dangerous temptation for a church to hire someone who will tell them what they want to hear, someone who won’t challenge or confront or reprove or rebuke or exhort, someone who won’t expose the sin in their hearts and force them to deal with it. There is a deadly desire in ministers to be liked by their people. Don’t say anything that will offend or rock the boat, people won’t like you, and they might even fire you.

The first thing the church needs to understand about her ministers is that they are servants of Christ. They have one Lord and Master, and his name is Jesus. I will not answer to you for how I have served you. I will stand before Jesus and give an account of how I served you.

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

The second thing the church must understand about her ministers is that they are stewards of the mysteries of God. Paul has used this word ‘mystery’ already in this letter,

1 Corinthians 2:7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

Mystery in the New Testament refers to something that had been hidden and undiscoverable, that has now been revealed and made known. Paul claims to communicate the hidden mystery wisdom of God, which he says is “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:2). The message of the Scriptures is that the great King will ultimately triumph over evil and reign in righteousness and justice, but that which was hidden and is now openly proclaimed is that this great King would triumph over evil by stooping to become part of his creation, taking that evil into himself and dying. Jesus, the promised Messiah, crucified in the place of the sinners he came to rescue. The cross is the hidden mystery wisdom of God.

Paul calls himself and all ministers in the church stewards of this gospel message. A steward is a servant who was entrusted with the management of household affairs. Jesus helps us understand what this steward or household manager was.

Luke 12:42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

The household manager was a servant appointed to oversee the preservation and expansion of the estate, including the care and supervision of the other servants. Paul says that is how you should view leaders in the churches. Fellow-servants entrusted with a greater burden of responsibility. This is how one should regard us, stewards or household managers of the mysteries of God. We are custodians of the gospel message. We have been entrusted with the preservation and expansion of the kingdom of God, which advances through the proclamation of the good news, good news that the King was crucified to bring the rebels home.

It is clear that even an apostle, even an angel is not at liberty to change the gospel message in any way. Paul uses the strongest possible language to make this point in Galatians 1

Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

The second thing the church must understand about her ministers is that they are entrusted with the preservation of the gospel message. It is absolutely critical that we cling tenaciously to the historic gospel message once for all delivered to the saints (Jude3);

1 Corinthians 15:3 …that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

We must add nothing to it, we must take nothing away from it. We are not authorized to alter it in any way. We have received it; we must hold fast to it, we must stand firm in it, we are being saved by it.

The Requirement of Faithfulness

1 Corinthians 4:1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

A Christian leader, an under-rower of Christ, a household manager, entrusted with the care of the gospel message, must be trustworthy. This is the one absolutely critical characteristic of Christian leadership. It says nothing about being smart or good looking or persuasive, a good communicator, with good people skills, able to make great decisions, raise money, or manage people well. Those may all be helpful, but without faithfulness, they are worthless. The one characteristic that Paul tells young pastor Timothy to look for when passing on the gospel message is faithfulness.

2 Timothy 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Someone entrusted to guard the gospel must be trustworthy. He must be faithful; he will do what he said he would do. You can believe him, depend on him, count on him, rely on him, trust him.

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful…

God is the ultimate standard of faithfulness. God is worthy of our trust, our belief, he will always do what he said he would do. God is faithful to himself and to his promises. Christian leaders must reflect God’s character of faithfulness.

Jesus repeatedly highlights the importance of faithfulness in those who would be entrusted with responsibility.

Luke 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Faithfulness is a character trait that does not increase with the size of the responsibility. Many people feel that they can be irresponsible with the little things, but if only they were trusted with something really important, they would rise to the occasion. It simply doesn’t work that way. A faithful person will be faithful with a very little or with much.

Jesus goes on to say that faithfulness is knowing who your master is. In order to be found faithful, you need to know who you are being faithful to. Your allegiance must be clear. A Christian leader cannot serve both God and his people. He can serve God by serving his people well, but he must know who his true master is. When a conflict of interest comes, and it will come, it must be resolved which is the one master. As Paul says in Galatians:

Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

If a minister or leader wants most of all to please his people, he will end up being unfaithful to God and harming his people. But if he has determined to be relentlessly faithful to God and his word, he may deeply hurt and offend his people as he speaks the truth in love, but as the Proverb says:

Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Every Christian, and especially Christian leaders are under-rowers, sent to carry out the orders of our superior, who is Christ. We must have no question who our master is. We are household managers, custodians of the gospel, the message of Christ crucified for sinners. As stewards of this most important of all messages, it is essential that we be found faithful. We must faithfully obey our one master, Christ, and we must faithfully cling to the one message, the message of the cross.

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

July 28, 2013 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 Corinthians 3:5-9; The Nature of Christian Ministry

05/19 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 The Nature of Christian Ministry;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130519_1cor3_5-9.mp3

  1Cor 3 [SBLGNT]

1 Κἀγώ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἠδυνήθην λαλῆσαι ὑμῖν ὡς πνευματικοῖς ἀλλ’ ὡς σαρκίνοις, ὡς νηπίοις ἐν Χριστῷ. 2 γάλα ὑμᾶς ἐπότισα, οὐ βρῶμα, οὔπω γὰρ ἐδύνασθε. ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε, 3 ἔτι γὰρ σαρκικοί ἐστε. ὅπου γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις, οὐχὶ σαρκικοί ἐστε καὶ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον περιπατεῖτε; 4 ὅταν γὰρ λέγῃ τις· Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, ἕτερος δέ· Ἐγὼ Ἀπολλῶ, οὐκ ἄνθρωποί ἐστε;

5 Τί οὖν ἐστιν Ἀπολλῶς; τί δέ ἐστιν Παῦλος; διάκονοι δι’ ὧν ἐπιστεύσατε, καὶ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ κύριος ἔδωκεν. 6 ἐγὼ ἐφύτευσα, Ἀπολλῶς ἐπότισεν, ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς ηὔξανεν· 7 ὥστε οὔτε ὁ φυτεύων ἐστίν τι οὔτε ὁ ποτίζων, ἀλλ’ ὁ αὐξάνων θεός. 8 ὁ φυτεύων δὲ καὶ ὁ ποτίζων ἕν εἰσιν, ἕκαστος δὲ τὸν ἴδιον μισθὸν λήμψεται κατὰ τὸν ἴδιον κόπον, 9 θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί· θεοῦ γεώργιον, θεοῦ οἰκοδομή ἐστε.

 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.

Paul is addressing the unhealthy immaturity of the believers in Corinth. They think they are advanced, spiritual, ready for meat doctrines. Paul points to their division, their quarreling, their party spirit, their jealousy and strife, and says that although you have God’s Holy Spirit living inside you, you are acting as if you were merely unregenerate humans, people controlled by fleshly instincts.

In mentioning the party divisions between the followers of Paul and the followers of Apollos, he is coming back to the issue he identified as the root of their problems in 1:12. The intervening chapter and a half laid the groundwork for them to understand what true wisdom is. God’s wisdom is different from man’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is the cross, Jesus Christ and him crucified. To follow a leader who is not popular but instead got himself executed as a common criminal seems foolish. But this message is not only wisdom but power. God in Christ is turning the wisdom of the world on its head and bringing it to nothing. Through this foolish message he is saving people; not the wise and well-to do cultural icons, but the low, the losers, the nothings. The method of the preacher fit the message; not polished oratory, but plain proclamation of the truth, the simple facts of the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ was crucified in the place of sinners. This message is not able to be understood by those whose minds are twisted and darkened by sin. It is a spiritual message that can only be received by those whose eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit of God. So we who have seen the beauty of the gospel in the face of Jesus Christ, we who have received the Spirit of God so that we can understand the things freely given us by God have received a great treasure. We have been given the mind of Christ.

But although the Corinthian believers had been given this greatest of all treasures, although they had received the Holy Spirit of God, they refused to grow up. They had not passed out of the self-centered phase of infancy where all they can say is ‘mine’. Although they possessed the mind of Christ, they were not living lives of humility, love, and self-sacrifice, putting the interests of others before their own, which is characteristic of the mind of Christ. Instead they were operating out of divisiveness, jealousy and strife.

The Nature of Spirituality (2:10-16)

First, Paul had to set them straight on the nature of spirituality. A spiritual person is not a person who has achieved a more advanced level of spirituality than another Christian. Instead, a spiritual person is a person who has received the Spirit of God, which is characteristic of all believers in Jesus. The unspiritual person is the person who does not have God’s Spirit, and is perishing. The believers in the church in Corinth were simply all fellow believers at the foot of the cross. Their competitive division, jealousy and strife were evidence of immaturity.

The Nature of Christian Ministry (3:5)

Now he goes on to clarify for them the nature of Christian ministry. In Corinth, there was a tendency either to overvalue or to undervalue those who had been placed in leadership roles in the church. Some elevated their favorite minister to celebrity status and acted like groupies in their fan club; others, those who considered themselves more spiritual, asserted that they didn’t need any leader. They had a direct connection with Christ and were above the need for any Christian leadership.

Paul asks ‘what is Apollos, what is Paul? Not who but what. Not the dynamic and powerful speaker and teacher, not the plain speaking persecuted apostle and evangelist and church planter. You are rallying behind the names and persona’s of these figureheads, but what are they?

Paul shifts his metaphor from a mother nursing her newborn infant with milk to servants who wait tables to a field with farmhands, to temple construction with hired laborers.

He says that we (Apollos and Paul) are servants. Diakonoi [διάκονοι], where we get our word deacon, meant a lowly household servant. Cook the meal, serve the tables, clean up after the meal, take out the trash, prepare the next meal. You are placing us on pedestals as heroes to be worshiped, but we are servants. Servants through whom you believed, not in whom you believed. Remember, in 1:13 he asked the absurd rhetorical question ‘was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?’ Of course not! Paul did not die for your sins. Jesus did. You believed in Jesus and were baptized into the name of Jesus. You didn’t believe in Paul or Apollos. You believed through, or because of, or on account of. They were the instruments God used to bring you to faith in him. So don’t undervalue them. Thank God for them. Without them you would not have believed, as Romans 10 says:

Romans 10:14 …And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

God used them to bring you to faith in him, so treasure them, honor them, thank God for them, but don’t put your faith in them. Don’t put them on a pedestal as an object of your devotion and allegiance. Paul tells the Galatians (1:8) that if we (the apostles) flake out and start preaching a different gospel then let us be accursed! The central issue is not the messenger but the message. Many Christians talk about their favorite pastor or bible teacher or denomination as if they were almost divine and worthy of worship. Paul asks the question ‘what are we?’ and answers ‘we are servants, a means to an end, and the end is not us!’ The goal is you believing in Jesus, loving Jesus, following Jesus. We are servants pointing you to him.

This view of ministry as servants comes straight from the teaching of Jesus. Jesus’ disciples were eager to outdo one another. They were continually jockeying for position, and eager to secure the title of ‘great’ for themselves.

Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus holds himself up as the ultimate example for greatness in Christian ministry. He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. So if you want to be great, you must learn to serve others. The one who is truly great is not the one who wins the popularity contest or the one who gains the most followers. True greatness is a life of humble self-sacrificial service born out of love for others.

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.

The Lord assigned to each his role. Literally ‘and to each as the Lord gave’. We are given our assignments by the Lord. We don’t even get to pick what we want to do. Paul will say in chapter 12 about spiritual enablements for service that the ‘Spirit apportions to each one individually as he wills.’ We are servants following orders. We might look around the church and say ‘I don’t like my role. I’d rather be doing what he or she is doing’, or ‘I think my role is less important or less valuable than their role, so I’m just going to stay home’ or ‘I think it would be much more effective if I did it this way instead.’ That is jealousy and strife, evidence of immaturity. At the bottom, that is rebellion against an all wise King, assuming that we know better and would arrange things better if we were in charge.

Agricultural Illustration

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul uses an agricultural illustration. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. There are a lot of factors that go into good farming, there is technique and skill and good old fashioned know-how that goes into successful farming. But even the best farmers can lose a crop. Unless the weather cooperates, all is lost. Without the proper amount of sunshine and rain, seeds do not germinate. A late frost can destroy; wind or hail can strip a field. Too much sun or too much rain can drown or scorch a crop. Success in farming is dependent ultimately on God who sends the weather.

So it is with Christian ministry. We each fulfill our God-given roles. We work hard. Hopefully we work with ever increasing skill and diligence. But only God can give growth. That is his gift to give.

Interdependence in Christian Ministry (3:6, 8)

Paul’s illustration shows the interdependence of Christian ministry. I planted, Apollos watered. Without the seed sown in the soil, there will be no crop. Apollos could water the barren earth all day every day, and the only thing it would produce is weeds. The seed has to be sown. If Paul planted good seed into dry ground and there was no water, the seed would lay dormant in the soil. There would be no growth. He who plants and he who waters are one. The Corinthians are dividing between following Paul and following Apollos. Paul says we are not in competition with one another. We are on the same team, working toward the same goal. We find out in chapter 16 that Apollos is actually with Paul in Ephesus when he pens this letter. Paul says:

1 Corinthians 16:12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

We are together, we are united, we are on the same team! Imagine Apollos saying ‘I’m so good, I can irrigate twice as fast as you can plant.’ And half the Corinthian church is cheering him on. Stop it! You’re just going to make a muddy mess. No, the field workers work together toward a common goal. The goal is a fruitful harvest for the owner of the field. Get the seed in the ground, give it sufficient water, and trust that God will produce growth.

Reward for Faithful Christian Ministry (3:8)

Paul says that ‘each will receive his wages according to his labor’. Notice that the wages are not according to fruitfulness but according to faithfulness. Because fruitfulness is ultimately up to God. Some in Christian ministry faithfully till the hard soil with little or no results. When God called Jeremiah (7:27), he told him up front that he is to speak, but the people will not listen. What a discouraging mission – knowing up front that there will be no fruit! But wages are not based on fruit but on faithfulness. Others may be sent to a field that is ripe for harvest and put in half-hearted effort and see amazing results, but they too will be rewarded not for their fruitfulness, but for their labor.

And notice who evaluates the labor of Christian ministers. The Corinthians were all about giving their opinions on how Paul and Apollos were doing. They had their critique of what they did well and what they should have done differently. Some liked one minister better than another, issues of style and personality and technique and delivery. It seems that Christians can easily become connoisseurs of teaching. Tasting, sampling, comparing, evaluating, critiquing, criticizing, condemning. We tend to think that the one who is able to evaluate and critique is the expert in the field with advanced knowledge, a sign of maturity. Paul is saying that this is not a sign of maturity but of immaturity. You are missing the main point of the gospel. When you become a critic, you cease to be a disciple.

I am human. I have a desperate desire to be liked. I want to be accepted by you. But there are times when I need to fill the role of nurse who administers medicine under the Doctor’s orders. I have to come into the exam room with a big needle and you’re not going to like me very much at all. You might cry and throw a fit and tell me what a horrible person I am for causing you such pain, but I am under orders. I could try to be your friend and get you to like me and empty the medicine down the sink. You might think I’m great for the moment, until the disease spreads and begins to kill you. In the end, that would be a great disservice to you and gross negligence in my duties. Of course I want to be liked, but it’s more important that I be found faithful, that I follow the good Doctor’s orders.

In Paul’s analogy, the church is the field, God’s field. The ministers, the servants are God’s fellow-workers. The evaluation and the wages will come from the Master of the field. The evaluation of ministry, the only evaluation that really matters, is God’s evaluation. And that evaluation is coming. Paul will speak more to this issue of reward for faithful ministry in the next section.

Absolute Dependence on God in Christian Ministry (3:6-7)

Even when the planter and the waterer are in perfect harmony, even when they labor faithfully, unless God causes the sun to shine, there will be no fruit. In chapter 2, we were told that:

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Paul is sowing good gospel seed among natural people. Apollos is coming behind and watering that seed with the water of sound biblical teaching. They are in full harmony and cooperation. But unless God shines the light of his Holy Spirit into the minds of unbelievers, there will be no germination of the gospel seed, there will be no life, there will be no growth, and there will be no fruit. So ultimately, growth is dependent on God. If I refuse to sow the gospel seed, God can hire someone else. If I refuse to water with biblical truth, God can hire someone else. But unless God’s reveals these things to us by his Spirit, there can be no life. ‘So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.’ Paul says ‘some of you are putting me and Apollos on rival pedestals. We are nothing. Nothing! God is everything! We are servants, hired field hands. God gives the growth. Keep God at the center of your worship. As the last of the Old Testament prophets, John said:

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. … 29…Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Am I faithfully serving in the ministry I have been given? Am I humbly serving out of love for others? Am I looking to God alone for his approval? Am I serving in absolute dependence on God to give the growth? Is my joy complete when Jesus gets all the attention and I fade into the background?

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

May 19, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment