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2 Corinthians 6:4-5; Paul’s Resume of Afflictions

03/17_2 Corinthians 6:4-5; Paul’s Résumé of Afflictions; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190317_2cor6_4-5.mp3

Paul’s Resume

Last time we looked at the cover letter to Paul’s résumé:

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

He is commending his ministry as a ministry of integrity, a blameless ministry. He removed obstacles from the gospel so that it would have maximum effect. God alone saves, but he did everything in his power to eliminate stumbling blocks to clear the runway for the gospel. The only offense he allowed was the offense of the gospel itself, the message of the cross.

Paul gives his resume in verses 4-10. Don’t open your Bibles, and let me read to you Paul’s resume:

‘I’ve successfully planted over 20 churches all around the Mediterranean, I’ve brought the gospel to every important city, preached to huge crowds, made an impact everywhere I’ve traveled, packed out every venue. I’m a skilled communicator to both large and small groups. I’m a gifted writer; I’ve authored at least 11 best sellers. I’m driven and tenaciously faithful; I had to part ways with a co-worker who just couldn’t keep up with my pace. I was even instrumental in correcting one of the Lord’s own original twelve when he got off track. I’ve mentored countless people in successful ministry techniques and developed leaders. I’ve seen the risen Lord face to face, he speaks to me in dreams and visions. I have an abundance of spiritual gifts, not to mention my charitable work collecting and distributing funds to the poor and oppressed.’

Although most of that is true, and these are the things we would expect anyone to highlight in a resume, that is not what Paul says. This is not the kind of resume anyone would expect. If you haven’t already, please open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 6 and look at what Paul lists as his credentials that commend him as an authentic minister.

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

As I said last week, this passage is lyrical, poetic, it has a rhythm and cadence to it, it is memorable, and as worthy of memorization as 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. This passage is structured in a way that does not come through in many translations; there are three different prepositions; in (ἐν) 18 times in verses 4-7; through (διὰ) 3 times in verse 7-8; and as (ὡς) 7 times in verses 8-10. After the introductory statement in verses 3 and 4, he lists ten hardships in verses 4-5 that he faced in ministry, beginning with the way he faced them (in much endurance) followed by three general hardships (in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities), three specific types of persecution (in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots), and three voluntary hardships (in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers). In verses 6-7 he lists eight characteristics of ministry; four fruit of the Spirit (in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness) and four means of grace (in Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in word of truth, in power of God). In verse 7 he gives us a picture of how he fought the battle of ministry (through the weapons of righteousness for the right and the left), introducing nine paradoxes of ministry (through glory and shame, through slander and praise, as deceivers yet true, as unknown yet well known, as dying yet behold we live, as punished yet not killed, as sorrowful but always rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing everything).

This is not what the Corinthians expected ministry to look like They were being led astray from the way of Jesus by false impostors who painted a worldly picture of ministry as glamorous, prestigious with plenty of fame and fortune. For them the sign of God’s blessing was outward and material. For Paul, the evidence of authentic ministry was ministry that followed in the footsteps of the Master.

The authenticity of a ministry is not demonstrated so much in God’s external blessings, but rather in how one responds to adversity.

In Much Endurance [ἐν ὑπομονῇ πολλῇ]

Paul starts his list with ‘in much endurance’. The word endurance literally means to remain under.

Paul lists endurance or patience in chapter 12 where he says

2 Corinthians 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience (ἐν πάσῃ ὑπομονῇ), with signs and wonders and mighty works.

Here we get insight into what he means by the signs of a true apostle. In Mark 13 Jesus warns:

Mark 13:22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

It is not merely supernatural signs and wonders that evidence authenticity; it is primarily character, especially under adversity. Just a few verses earlier in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says:

2 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships (ἀνάγκαις), persecutions, and calamities (στενοχωρίαις). For when I am weak, then I am strong. 11 …I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing.

Paul repeats in the context of the signs of a true apostle two of the terms he lists on his resume here in chapter 6; hardships and calamities, with much endurance or patience.

As we will see later in this list, this endurance in the face of adversity is not a mere stoic resolve to tough it out, but a gift of the Spirit of God. It is divinely enabled endurance, the ability to remain under adverse circumstances with joy that demonstrates authenticity.

General Adversity; In Afflictions, In Hardships, In Calamities

[ἐν θλίψεσιν] [ἐν ἀνάγκαις] [ἐν στενοχωρίαις,]

Afflictions, hardships, and calamities are broad general categories of circumstances that call for endurance. Affliction means to be hard pressed or squeezed. Hardship means necessity or distress. Calamity means anguish, or literally narrowness. The verb form of this word in 2 Corinthians 4:8 is translated ‘crushed’. Afflictions, hardships, calamities; under heavy pressure, in distresses, experiencing anguish. Together these words paint a picture of hardship, the trials and stresses of ministry.

Jesus promised his followers affliction or tribulation.

John 16:33 …In the world you will have tribulation (θλῖψιν). But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

In his parable about the sower and the soils, Jesus warned that affliction would cause false believers to fall away (Mt.13:21; Mk.4:17). Jesus said in Matthew 24

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation (θλῖψιν) and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. …13 But the one who endures (ὑπομείνας) to the end will be saved.

In Acts 14, Jews from Antioch and Iconium pursued Paul to Lystra and persuaded the crowds to stone him. He was dragged out of city, assumed to be dead. But he rose up and went back in to the city, the next day continuing on with Barnabas to Derbe.

Acts 14:21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue (ἐμμένειν) in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations (διὰ πολλῶν θλίψεων) we must enter the kingdom of God.

I can imagine what Paul looked like after being stoned and left for dead, and I’m sure hearing from his lips was a vivid picture of what kinds of afflictions they may have to endure in following Christ.

At the opening of 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of God’s comfort that he has experienced in the midst of his afflictions, and he invites them to join him in patiently enduring suffering so that they too might experience God’s comfort in affliction.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 3:3 that no one be moved by these afflictions (θλίψεσιν). For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction (θλίβεσθαι), just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. …7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress (ἀνάγκῃ) and affliction (θλίψει) we have been comforted about you through your faith.

There is that word distress or hardship. Paul experienced distress and affliction out of concern for the faith of the young believers who were experiencing affliction.

Paul is painting a picture that affliction, hardship, even calamities are all part of normal ministry, part of following Jesus.

Specific Persecutions: In Beatings, In Imprisonments, In Riots

[ἐν πληγαῖς] [ἐν φυλακαῖς] [ἐν ἀκαταστασίαις]

Beatings, imprisonments, and riots are more specific forms of adversity that require endurance; while the others can be purely circumstantial, these three forms of persecution are carried out by people.

Up to the time of writing of 2 Corinthians in the narrative of the book of Acts (20:2-3), Luke only records one imprisonment and beating (Philippi – Acts 16:22-33), and one riot (Ephesus – Acts 19:23-20:1). We learn from this and other statements in Acts that Luke did not record every event that happened everywhere; he was selective. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul mentions ‘countless beatings’ specifically listing five lashings, three beatings with rods, and one stoning.

Acts 16 records one beating and imprisonment in Philippi:

Acts 16:22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Acts 19 records a riot in Ephesus:

Acts 19:23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. …26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. …28 …they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Notice that this riot was a response to what Paul preached, and the fact that people had believed his message. His preaching was a threat. It challenged their culture and beliefs.

Several months later, Paul gathered the elders from Ephesus:

Acts 20:18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Here we see Paul embracing afflictions and even imprisonment as an expected part of gospel ministry.

Voluntary Hardships: In Labors, In Sleeplessnesses, In Hungers

[ἐν κόποις] [ἐν ἀγρυπνίαις] [ἐν νηστείαις]

Labors, sleeplessness, and hunger are things voluntarily endured in the service of Christ and the advance of his gospel. They are not necessarily unavoidable, but they are embraced by the genuine servant of God.

Labor can mean trouble, toil, wearisome work. It could refer to manual labor, that Paul worked with his own hands to support himself in ministry. It can also refer to the labor involved in preaching, teaching, and making disciples.

Sleeplessness could refer to times Paul went without enough sleep because he was working night and day to support himself (1Thess.2:9; 2Thess.3:8). It could also refer to the long hours of ministry (Acts 20:31). Often it refers to being vigilant or watchful in prayer. Paul mentions praying earnestly night and day (1Thess.3:10; 2Tim.1:3). It is not that Paul had trouble sleeping; it was that the demands of ministry often required him to serve well into the night.

Hunger can mean fasting, voluntarily abstaining from food to focus on prayer; or Paul could mean that he simply went without enough food. As he says in Philippians 4

Philippians 4:12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Cross-Shaped Ministry

All this points to circumstances that are both physically and emotionally draining; weariness, fatigue, exhaustion that comes through serving others. Paul understood what it was to be brought to the end of himself so that he would rely not on himself ‘but on God who raises the dead’ (2Cor.1:9).

Last time we saw that Paul seeks to give no offense but the cross, and this is exactly what the Corinthians are offended by; that his life and ministry is characterized by the cross. He endures suffering in service to others, because his Master is the Suffering Servant. He took up his cross to follow Jesus.

He said back in chapter 4 as a description of his ministry ‘we are:

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Paul endured, not by sheer strength of will, but by divine enablement, by the resurrection power of Jesus at work in him.

And he invites us to share with him in the sufferings of Christ.

***

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

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March 18, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:11-13; An Audience of One

01/13_2 Corinthians 5:11-13; An Audience of One; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190113_2cor5_11-13.mp3

Who are You Seeking to Please?

You serve in the church. Maybe you volunteer to teach or host a bible study, maybe you help with nursery or Sunday school, maybe you clean or do maintenance or yard work, maybe you serve the youth, maybe you’re into administration, or maybe you give generously, maybe you make a meal for someone, maybe you write a note of encouragement, or visit someone who is sick, maybe you talk to everyone you run in to about Jesus, maybe you spend a lot of time in prayer for others, maybe you have people over to your house. Maybe I haven’t mentioned the thing you do, and you’re wondering if I’ll get to it.

Who notices? What if no one notices what you do? What if no one says thank you? What if no one seems to care? Do you get discouraged, wonder if it’s really worth it?

What if people do notice your service, and they criticize you for how you do what you do? Or what if no one comes to you, but you hear that people are talking about you and they don’t like the way you are doing things?

Or what if you happen to be there when people are talking about someone else’s service?

This is what was going on in Corinth. This is one of the reasons Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. We learn from reading the letter that people were talking about Paul. Some were questioning his character, his motives, his authenticity. Some who didn’t know him were questioning his gifting, his calling, his fitness for ministry. And some who did know Paul were hearing these conversations, but they were not coming to his defense. Maybe they were even being pulled in.

Recap/Outline

We are in 2 Corinthians 5:11-13. We have been away from 2 Corinthians for some time, so we need to orient ourselves on where we are in this letter.

Chapters 1-7 explain the characteristics of genuine ministry; gospel ministry is ministry that looks like the gospel and is shaped by the gospel. Real ministry is service that embraces suffering for the good of others.

Chapters 8-9 encourage an experience of God’s grace to overflow in practical generosity to others.

Chapters 11-13 confront the false apostles who proclaim a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.

In chapter 4, Paul described his apostolic ministry as cross shaped ministry. To follow Jesus is to go the way of the cross, a life laid down in service to others. He concludes:

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Paul has an eternal perspective. He is keeping his eyes on the unseen realities. He spells out his hope in chapter 5, that he has certainty of what comes after death for the believer. In fact he has a deep longing to be at home with the Lord. In verse 9 he gives his prime motive for ministry.

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul desires, more than anything else, to be pleasing to the Lord. One of the unseen motives that drives him is appearing before the judgment seat of Christ. We each will stand face to face with Jesus and give account for what we have done. This is a sobering prospect, a reality that should make each of us pause and ask some questions; Am I in Christ? Will I be found genuine? Have I made it my aim above all else to be pleasing to him? Have my attitudes, actions, and thoughts been pleasing to him?

Paul views this coming day of judgment with sober joy. He knows that for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. He longs to be with the Lord, to see him face to face. But this is no casual flippant occasion. This is weighty, serious. Serious joy.

Persuading People

In light of this, he says in verse 11

2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

Knowing the fear of the Lord. Aware of the coming judgment, we persuade men, people. In Acts 18, when Paul first came to Corinth, it says:

Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

He reasoned, he talked through, his goal was to persuade people of the truth of the gospel. Paul understood (as he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4) that

2 Corinthians 4:4 …the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

And he understood that it is only

2 Corinthians 4:6 …God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” [who must shine in their] hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But this truth did not prevent him from working hard to persuade others. Using the scriptures, using logic, using history, and his own experience, he sought to persuade people. But he never manipulated.

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word…

But he did seek to persuade. He understood that every person will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and he would do everything in his power to persuade them to put their trust in Jesus alone. He understood his responsibility to them and sought to discharge his duty well. He understood that faith is the gift of God (Eph.2:8) and he understood that faith comes from hearing the word of Christ (Rom.10:17).

Manifest to God

2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

Paul sought to persuade all people to believe in Jesus, but he was having now to persuade the Corinthians of his own legitimacy. He again attests to his openness before God. What we are is known or manifest to God. He used this verb just in verse 10, where he said ‘we must all appear [or be made manifest or shown] before the judgment seat. Now he says ‘to God we are manifest.’ To God we are openly shown and known. But, he says, I hope in your consciences we are also manifest, known and shown.

Back in chapter 4, Paul said

2 Corinthians 4:2 …by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

By making the truth of the gospel manifest and open, we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience in the presence of God. If this is his stance before unbelievers, surely the consciences of the believers in the church he planted ought to recognize him. Back in chapter 3 he said:

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, …

‘We are beginning to commend ourselves to you again!’ We shouldn’t need to go over introductions again. Here in chapter 5, he says

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

Outward Appearances

Don’t look at this as a letter of introduction; you already know us! Instead, look at this as a reminder of the gospel and who I am in Christ. You can then use this as a defense against those who judge by outward appearances. Here we get to the heart of the issue. Corinthian culture was all about status and position and eloquence and presentation, how much you made and how much you were worth. It was superficial. It was about how you were perceived by others.

I know none of you can relate to this, a culture so caught up in outward appearance, so I’m going to have to work really hard to help you see any kind of application that is relevant to us today. You don’t know anyone focused on outward appearances, do you?

There were false apostles in Corinth who were undermining Paul, raising doubts, questions about his character, his credentials, his credibility. Much of this was based on outward appearance. He was despised and rejected by many, all too acquainted with suffering and grief. If they would look closely, they would see that his life reflected his Master.

This wasn’t just a power struggle; we find out in chapter 11 that they are being led astray to a counterfeit jesus, a false gospel. Paul’s character is being criticized, the church he invested in is being led astray, no one in the church seems to be standing up for him or for what is right. How does he respond?

His response is to patiently instruct them. Paul is not eager to defend himself; but he is passionate about protecting the church. And in this case that means showing them how to defend their apostle.

Ecstatic or Maniac?

2 Corinthians 5:13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

Verse 13 can be understood in more than one way. The word ‘we are beside ourselves’ is used differently in different contexts. Its usual meaning is to be astounded or amazed, usually at something supernatural. It is used this way 15 times in the gospels. Only once, in Mark 3, is it used with the sense of ‘to not be able to reason properly.’

Mark 3:21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

There is a different word ‘mania’ that is less ambiguous, that always means to be crazy or to not be thinking rightly. If Paul wanted to be clear that this was his meaning, he could have used ‘mania’, as he does in 1 Corinthians 14:23.

The noun form of the verb he uses here is where we get our word ‘ecstasy’. The noun is used four times for amazement, and three times for being in a trance. It is possible that Paul is referring to his ecstatic spiritual experiences. In 1 Corinthians he told them

1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

The Corinthians were enamored with the showy overtly supernatural gifts. They were focused on outward appearance. Paul’s focus was on building them up, not impressing them with a demonstration of his own spirituality. It may be that he is saying that if we (apostles) have ecstatic experiences, it is between us and God. That is not the basis of our leadership. The false apostles may make a big deal about their ecstatic experiences. But Paul would rather speak five words with his mind in order to instruct others. In Colossians, Paul warns of those who would disqualify you, who were

Colossians 2:18 …going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to [Christ]

If we are of sound mind, it is for you. Paul really doesn’t care if outsiders are impressed with him. He is willing to be misunderstood, to be thought a fool, as long as the church is being built up. His aim in all things is not to please people, but to please the Lord. He does not need the applause of people if he can stand before the Lord on judgment day with a clear conscience.

Boasting Only in The Cross

Paul is giving them reasons to be confident in him. He is re-framing their thinking to see as God sees, to see the cross not as shameful, to be shunned, but beautiful, to be embraced. Others were boasting in outward appearance. Paul gives reasons, grounds not only for defending him, but for boasting in him. Now how does this fit with Paul’s statement in Galatians 6:14 that he boasts in nothing but the cross?

They can boast in their apostle, because his life and ministry is shaped by the cross, so their boasting in him is in reality a boasting in the cross.

You see, Paul viewed the day of judgment as a day of boasting, not in himself; he said ‘that we are not sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers’ (2Cor.3:5-6). In chapter 1 he boasts of the testimony of a clear conscience, but he goes on to say that he conducted himself by the grace of God (2Cor.1:12), a grace that is unearned, undeserved. He looks forward to the day of judgment,

2 Corinthians 1:14 …—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

There will be mutual boasting; ‘this is my church, the church I gave myself to! Look what God has done in them! Look how Christ is formed in them!’ ‘This is our apostle! Look what God has done in us through his ministry! He did not just tell us about the cross, he showed us the cross through his life and sufferings!’ They can boast in each other, and it is a boasting only in the cross, in the transformational power of the cross.

People naturally look at outward appearances. And the cross is not glamorous.

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

‘It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe’ (1Cor.1:21). We must learn to see past the surface. We must begin to see as God sees; because it is what God sees that matters. Man looks on the outward appearance; the Lord looks at the heart (2Sam.16:7).

What we are is known to God. To God we are open and manifest. And if we are pleasing to God, it shouldn’t matter too much what others think of us.

***

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

January 14, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church and the Body of Christ; Ephesians 5

01/06 The Church the Body of Christ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190106_church-body-of-christ.mp3

Last week Daniel spoke about craftsmanship; how God is the master craftsman, the potter, who picks us up out of the muck and mud, who molds us and shapes us into the very thing he intends us to be, something useful, something beautiful. And he intends for us to enter in to his creativity. He has gifted us, he has invited us in to join him in his creativity, as he fashions beauty out of dust.

I like to take the beginning of a new year as an opportunity to look at who we are, what we are to be all about, to refocus.

Incarnation and Salvation

Daniel set this up for us when he talked about craftsmanship. God had to take the initiative. Clay can’t form itself. Like the demon possessed man who Jesus set free, it is grace. It is all of grace. Undeserved kindness. We were dead. Enslaved. Christ has set us free. He scooped us up out of the muck, and forms us into something beautiful, something useful. That’s why he came. He came to seek and to save what is lost. He came to redeem. To buy us out of the slavery we willfully sold ourselves into. He came to pay our price.

God humbled himself and became human so as a human he could enter in to our mess, to pick us up and pay our price, to take our place. That is what the incarnation is about; God the Son was born of a virgin as a human baby, so that as a man he could legitimately take our place, suffering our punishment, perfectly submitting to and obeying his Father in everything, thus fulfilling all righteousness.

Incarnation and One Flesh

But there is another part of the incarnation that I want us to see today. And my prayer is that this would cause us to wonder and worship, to stand in awe of him, to rekindle our passion for him, to be useful to him. That it would ignite our amazement of and our love for the church.

Look with me at Ephesians 5. This is the classic marriage passage that you’ve probably heard in wedding ceremonies, but I want you to listen carefully to what it says:

Ephesians 5:31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

This passage teaches a husband how he should love and serve his wife, and how a wife should respect her husband. But Paul has something bigger in mind. He teaches us that this fundamental human relationship is an illustration of a greater reality, the relationship between Christ and the church. ‘A man shall leave his father and mother’; Jesus left his Father’s side, from the cross he discharged his responsibility for his human mother to his beloved disciple, and he now holds fast to his bride the church. Jesus took on human flesh at the incarnation, and has now become one flesh with the church.

Allow me to read Ephesians 5:23-32 focusing only on what it tells us about Christ and his church.

Ephesians 5:23 …Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 …the church submits to Christ, … 25 …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 …[Christ] love[s the church] as [his] own bod[y]. … 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

The church is pictured as the bride, sanctified, adorned, loved, sacrificed for.

The first part of this is Christ’s sacrifice. He gave himself up for her. Jesus died for the church to sanctify, cleanse, make holy and blameless. He took our sins. He is our savior.

The second part of this, that we must not miss, is why. Why did Christ give himself up for the church? Why did he pay for our sins with his own blood? So that he might present the church to himself in splendor. Jesus intends to take us to be his own, to hold fast to us, to be united with us as a husband with his bride.

This passage tells us that Christ has become one flesh with the church. Christ is the head of his church. The church is called his body, his own flesh. We are members of his body. This is simply stunning. It is staggering to think that the eternal God, unbounded by time or space, entered into his creation, became part of his creation as a baby. Tiny fingers and toes. Eyes full of wonder. Fragile. Dependent. He took on flesh. He became human. Jesus has entered his creation physically, and now he says we are his body, his hands, his feet, his fingers and toes. He is our head. We have become one flesh with him. We have been united to him. We are his body.

This boggles the imagination! We are connected to Christ as intimately as our body is connected to our head! We are now ‘bone of his bones, flesh of his flesh’ (Gen.2:23). When my stomach grumbles, my head says ‘it’s time to eat’ and my feet bring me over to the kitchen and my hands put together something to eat. If I smash my thumb with a hammer, my head feels the pain, and my whole body gets involved. We are connected to Christ. We are one flesh with him. We thrive under his authority. We are nourished and cherished, because we are part of him, connected to him.

At the incarnation Jesus took on flesh, so he could become one flesh with us, his church, his body.

The Body in Ephesians

Back in Ephesians chapter 1 (v.22-23), the Father put all things under the authority of Jesus, and “gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

We, his body, the church, are the fullness of him who fills all. I take this to mean that he fills all in all by means of his body the church, the fullness of him. “The church, filled by Christ, fills all creation as representatives of Christ” (ESV Study Bible notes).

Ephesians 2 (v.13-22) points out the horizontal unity brought about by the vertical unity we have with Christ our head. Because we all, Jew and Gentile have been united to Christ, we have also been knit together with one another in one body. In Christ we “have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” He has “reconcile[d] us both to God in one body through the cross.” “Through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” “In him” we “are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Chapter 3 tells us:

Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

We all, however different we may be, are members of the same body, the body of Christ, an organic unity, a living organism.

Ephesians 4 (v.4) tells us “There is one body and one Spirit”. Just as the head directs what the body does, so Jesus directs us. Just as the body without the spirit is dead, and our spirit animates our body, so the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer connects us all as one body and animates us to do what our Head desires that we do.

When Each Part is Working Properly

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. …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,

This body of Christ, the church, is united as one and gifted for building up the body. Every believer is to be equipped for ministry, for service in love to others. Whatever grace you have been given is not just for you; it is for building up the body, for equipping the saints for the work of service.

Ephesians 4:15 …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.

Do you see this body metaphor literally fleshed out? A body is made up of many parts. The human body is fantastically equipped with joints and ligaments that hold everything together in a functional useful way. Do this: open your hand and then make a fist. One of my favorite things about our babies was when their tiny hands would grasp my finger. Did you know that the human hand is made up of about 29 bones and 29 major joints, about 123 ligaments, 34 muscles that move the fingers and thumb, 48 nerves, and at least 30 arteries? That’s just the hand. Notice it says ‘when each part is working properly’? Have you ever had just one part not working properly?

A few years back Deanna injured her finger. Just one joint was damaged. Now 28 out of 29 seems like it would not really be a big deal. That’s 96.5% of her joints working just fine. If we count all 293 parts (and that’s probably a low number), that boosts the percentage of functional parts to 99.7%. You should be just fine with less than 0.4% not working, right? Her signature no longer looked like her signature. She couldn’t make a fist. She would drop things. It was incredibly painful. Just one part. Ask her if it made a difference!

You might be tempted to say, ‘I’m just one part. Not even a very important part. I won’t even be missed.’

Ephesians 4:15 …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.

Every part needs to be there, and every part needs to be functioning as it was designed. You matter. The head notices when a part is not functioning properly.

I’ve had a few conversations recently where people have asked ‘how are you, and how is the church doing?’ It’s been a hard year. Just over a year ago, October 2017 we sent out a number of people who were very involved serving our body here to plant a church in Gunnison. And that left a tangible hole in our body. Our church family gave birth to another church, and birth is a joyful experience, but birth is also a traumatic experience. And it takes time to recover. I think we are recovering well, and we can rejoice in what God has done and is doing in us and through us. The birth has created opportunities for those who had been less involved to step up and become more involved. What we long for is that “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.”

Here’s a few questions for each of us to think about.

-How has God in the riches of his grace gifted me?

-How am I using those gifts to their maximum capacity for the glory of Christ?

-How am I intentionally engaging in building up the body in love?

I’ve put these questions in your notes, and left room for you to respond. Take a minute right now to write something down.

‘I’m not gifted’ is not a valid answer for a believer. ‘I don’t know’ is weak, unless it is followed by ‘here are the ways I will pursue finding out this week.’

The body of Christ is a unity, a community, a place to belong, to be a part of something bigger than yourself. And I believe that when functioning properly, the church is much greater than the sum of all its parts. We “are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph.2:22).

The goal we are to be striving together toward is given in verses 11-13 of 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,

Pursue unity of the faith; pursue knowledge of the Son of God; pursue Christlike maturity. Build up the body.

As we close, listen carefully the exhortation in Romans 12.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

***

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

January 7, 2019 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:17; Freedom in The Lord The Spirit

07/01_2 Corinthians 3:17; Freedom in the LORD the Spirit ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180701_2cor3_17.mp3

Paul is talking about boldness and confidence in ministry; where does his competency come from? Who is sufficient to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus everywhere, which among those being saved is the aroma of life to life, but among the perishing is the aroma of death to death? ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ (2:16)

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Paul is competent, not in himself, but God has made him sufficient to be a minister of the New Covenant, a minister of the Spirit. He contrasts his ministry with the glorious ministry of Moses

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Paul has in mind Exodus 34, where Moses came down from the mountain from talking with God, his face shining or glorious.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Paul’s apostolic ministry is not like Moses’ ministry; it is an unveiled ministry; he is bold, open, plain-speaking. The Old Testament still today remains veiled to those who do not turn to Jesus. Their minds are hardened. A veil lies over their hearts.

Only in Christ is that veil rendered ineffective, abolished, brought to nothing. When one turns to the Lord, the veil is lifted.

Exodus 34 and the New Covenant

Paul takes Exodus 34:34 and applies it to his New Covenant ministry. Exodus 34:34 reads:

Exodus 34:34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, …

Paul continues to contrast the Old Covenant ministry of Moses with Apostolic New Covenant ministry. Notice how he adapts the Exodus wording in 2 Corinthians 3:16 and applies it to the New Covenant:

2 Corinthians 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Where Exodus 34 has ‘Moses,’ 2 Corinthians has ‘one’ The reference to Moses is generalized and left open. Under the Old Covenant, only Moses had access to the presence of the Lord. Now anyone. Anyone can turn and enter the presence of the Lord.

The verb ‘went in’ is changed to ‘turns’ The implication is that one turns away from something else and turns toward the Lord. This word is used for the conversion of the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 1:9

1 Thessalonians 1:9 … how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

In the New Covenant there is a turning; a turning away from something, and a turning toward the Lord. What are we to turn away from? We will come back to this question in a minute.

The voice of the verb ‘remove’ is changed from middle; something Moses did to himself, to passive; something that is done to the one turning by someone else. Moses removed his own veil. The unbeliever is not able to remove the veil that lies over his own heart and mind. It must be removed for him by another. Only through Christ is it taken away.

And a conditional element is added; ‘if’. If or when one turns, the veil is removed.

If; Our Righteousness and God’s

Why ‘if’? And if anyone can now turn to the Lord, why don’t more turn? Why is the New Covenant access rejected by so many, especially so many of God’s chosen people? After he came to the city of Corinth:

Acts 18:5 …Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Why do so many of the Jews refuse to believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah? This may have been one of the questions raised by those who were critical of Paul’s ministry. If he is really a genuine apostle, why isn’t he more effective, especially among his own people?

Paul’s own testimony gives us a personal illustration of what he is talking about and helps us understand why so many reject the message.

He says in Philippians 3 that he has reason for confidence in the flesh, and he catalogs his resume.

Philippians 3:4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Paul had a righteousness that was under the law. He claimed to be blameless. He had reason for confidence in the flesh. Yet he traded it all in.

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,

Rubbish? A blameless righteousness under the law? A total loss? Why?

Philippians 3:8 …in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

He traded in his own righteousness, law righteousness, for the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ. He traded his self-righteousness in for a relationship with Jesus. This is why so many who have the law fail to receive the gift of God. They have confidence in the flesh. They have a righteousness under the law, and are unwilling to let go of what they have worked so hard to attain to receive freely what someone else has earned. In Romans 10 Paul talks about his fellow Israelites:

Romans 10:3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

So in turning to the Lord, what must we turn away from? From confidence in the flesh; from our own self-righteousness. One must turn away from self, from self-confidence, from self-reliance and turn to the Lord. Paul claimed to be blameless according to righteousness under the law, yet he considered that rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!

Paul calls it ignorance in Romans 10. He calls it blindness in 2 Corinthians. There is a veil that lies over their hearts. So many are blind and don’t even know it. The veil must be removed. They can’t remove their own blindness; they don’t even know it is there. The veil must be removed through Christ.

The Lord The Spirit Is

He says ‘if one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.’ In Exodus 34, ‘Lord’ is the translation of the Hebrew YHWH, God’s covenant name. In the Septuagint (LXX) this is translated into the Greek as Kurios. In Philippians 3:8, a verse we already looked at, Paul refers to ‘ Christ Jesus my Lord,’ connecting Jesus with YHWH of the Old Testament. In Romans 10 this is even more clear. He says in

Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

…12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The Christian confession is ‘Jesus is Lord’ or Jesus is YHWH. He backs this up from a quotation of Joel 2:32 that whoever calls on the name of YHWH will be saved. John the Baptist, preparing the way for Jesus, when asked who he was (Jn.1:23) cited Isaiah 40:3 ‘Make straight the way of YHWH, the Lord’. Clearly in the New Testament Jesus is identified as YHWH of the Old Testament.

But in all of Paul’s quotations of the Old Testament, ‘Lord’ refers to God generally, not specifically to any one member of the Trinity. Here in verse 17 he clarifies. YHWH, Lord, in Exodus 34:34 is the Spirit.

Paul has been talking about the ministry of the Spirit in contrast to the ministry of death, of condemnation, of the letter, that which is being done away with. When Moses took off the veil and entered the presence of YHWH, he was in the presence of the Lord, the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who makes alive, who justifies and makes righteous, who remains. It is the Spirit who writes Christ on the tablets of human hearts, hearts that have been made flesh by the regenerating New Covenant work of the Spirit. Spirit in the Hebrew is breath or wind. It is the voice of God that makes God known.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The Spirit is the one who reveals the things of God to us. The Spirit is the Spirit who is God, and he is the Spirit of God. There is identification with distinction. Jesus is YHWH; the Father is YHWH; the Spirit is YHWH. But the Spirit is the Spirit of (indicating possession) God. He is God’s Spirit, the Spirit who belongs to God. The Spirit is YHWH, and he is also the Spirit of YHWH; the Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is… Freedom!

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Freedom! This is an exclamation! Where the Spirit of the Lord is …Freedom! What is the freedom he is talking about? This implies there is no freedom outside the Spirit of the Lord. Humankind not free; we need to be set free by his Spirit. We are naturally in bondage. Oh, we do have freedom; we can do whatever we want, and we do, and it does not go well for us. We are in a hole, with a shovel, and we can do whatever we want with our shovel. And that gets us deeper and deeper in the hole.

What is the freedom Paul is talking about here? The context in verse 18 is freedom to enter the presence of the Lord unveiled. In verse 14-15 it is freedom from hardened minds and veiled hearts. It is freedom to see Jesus in the Old Testament. In verse 3 it is the freedom that comes from having stony hearts turned to flesh. In verse 6 it is freedom from death, the freedom of being made alive. In verse 9 it is freedom from condemnation; the freedom of righteousness. In verse 11 it is the freedom of that which is permanent; freedom from that which is doomed to pass away. Freedom is parallel to the confidence of verse 4 and the open-faced boldness of verse 12.

The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom. But not the freedom you might think This is freedom from blindness, the freedom of an imputed righteousness, freedom of access to enter the presence of the Lord, freedom of unhindered boldness, freedom from false pretense, transparency to be who you have been called to be, freedom of integrity. One author writes this freedom is ‘a liberation from a heart turned in on itself’ [Seifrid, p.177 PNTC]

Paul is referring back to Exodus. In that context freedom was freedom from bondage to an oppressive and cruel taskmaster. It was freedom from slavery. But it was also freedom for something. It was freedom to serve the Lord, freedom to obey and follow the Lord; freedom be in the presence of the Lord as the people of the Lord. It was freedom from, but it was also freedom for.

Paul says in Galatians 5

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

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

The freedom we are called to is freedom of access, freedom to be in the presence of the Lord, freedom of relationship. We are set free to respond to God’s goodness. We are set free to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and that will naturally spill over into love and service to others, love for neighbor, even love for enemy.

2 Corinthians 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Freedom! Enjoy your blood-bought freedom. You have been set free by the Holy Spirit to see Jesus for who he is and receive from him life and righteousness, access to the Father. Enjoy freedom of relationship with God. Enjoy your freedom to love God, freedom to love and serve others, openly and plainly share truth with others, freedom to minister to others.

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

July 4, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:23-24; Christ-Like Leadership for Your Joy

02/11_2 Corinthians 1:23-24; Christ-like Leadership for your Joy ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180211_2cor1_23-24.mp3

We are going to be looking at 2 Corinthians 1:23-24 to see what godly leadership ought to look like, to see the purpose and posture of godly leadership, the overarching goal of Christlike leadership to serve others for their joy.

Paul’s Changing Travel Plans

There is a backstory to this book we know as 2 Corinthians. Paul came to the city of Corinth, proclaimed the gospel, and spent over a year and a half establishing a church there. He continued on across the Agean Sea to the city of Ephesus, and then on to Jerusalem. He returned by land through Asia to Ephesus, where he spent over 2 years.

Piecing the details together, we find that during his time in Ephesus, he received word that all was not well in in the church in Corinth. He wrote a letter to Corinth that was misunderstood, and then he wrote what we have as 1 Corinthians, addressing problems in the church, answering questions, and clarifying issues. His plan, as stated at the end of 1 Corinthians, was to leave Ephesus the following spring and travel up through Asia and then down through Macedonia to visit them, and spend some significant time with them, and then the following spring to carry their gift to the church in Jerusalem. We could call this ‘plan A’.

But Timothy sent word to Paul that the Corinthians did not respond well to his letter, so Paul changed his plans and made an emergency visit to Corinth to address the problems face to face. This proved to be a difficult confrontation, a ‘painful visit’. Paul returned to Ephesus, having been personally attacked, his authority rejected. This was an unplanned emergency visit.

He then planned to complete his ministry in Ephesus, sail to Corinth for a brief visit, continue up through Macedonia to receive their collection, then stop again in Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem with the collection. He may have communicated these plans to them during his painful visit. We’ll call this ‘plan B’.

Instead, when he received news that things only got worse in Corinth after his visit, he sent Titus with a ‘painful letter.’ Paul then traveled north to Troas, hoping to meet Titus there with word of how they responded to his letter, but not finding Titus, he continued on by land over into Macedonia, where he connected with Titus. It is from Macedonia that he writes the letter we know as 2 Corinthians. We could call this ‘plan C,’ which was in substance a return to ‘plan A’.

Paul’s Defense of His Changing Plans

In this letter, there is an undercurrent of 4-5 years worth of relational turmoil and tension with this church. They are questioning his authority, his credibility, his character. They are not following his instructions. In 2 Corinthians, Paul is communicating his heart, and why his plans changed:

In verses 8-11 he wants them to know that he experienced a deadly peril in Asia that disrupted some of his plans. In 12-14 he boasts in the testimony of his clear conscience; he always only operated with simplicity and godly sincerity; he based his decisions on the grace of God and not fleshly wisdom. In verses 15-17 he communicates that his desire to visit them twice was to give them a double opportunity to participate in the grace of giving. In 18-22 he takes an oath on the faithfulness of God; God’s promises are always Yes & Amen in Jesus, and Paul’s own heart is always Yes toward them.

But the Yes in God’s actions is not always transparent. Often God’s Yes is hidden in a No. God said No to his Son Jesus so that he could say Yes to us. God’s promise of rescue came to us in the form of the crucifixion of God the Son. So too, Paul’s Yes is sometimes concealed in what seems to be a No. His painful visit and painful letter may have seemed to them to be a No, that he is against them, but in fact, it was a Yes, that he loves them, he is all in, and he is for them.

Here in verse 23, Paul begins to hit head on the issue of his travel plans, and why they changed. In 1:23-2:2 he calls God as his witness; he did not come as he had planned in order to spare the Corinthians another painful visit. Instead he sent a painful letter by the hand of Titus. In chapter 2:3-4 he lets them know that this painful letter was to demonstrate his abundant love for them. In 2:5-11 he says that the painful letter was to give them an opportunity to demonstrate their obedience. In 2:12-13 he lets them know that he even walked away from an open door for the gospel out of a troubled spirit and deep concern for them.

Then from 2:14-7:4 he takes over 4 chapters to lay out the characteristics of cross-shaped gospel ministry, before he picks back up this thread of his travel plans and communicates in 7:5-16 that he indeed met Titus in Macedonia and received word that they had responded favorably to his painful letter.

God Is My Witness

With this background in mind, let’s look at some profound truths in his answer in 1:23-24.

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul is under attack. It is as if he were standing trial, with the Corinthians as the prosecuting attorney. He has communicated his tumultuous circumstances, he has produced the testimony of his own conscience, he has communicated that his motive was to do them good and not harm, and that as surely as God is faithful to his promises, so Paul is consistently for them. It was through Paul’s preaching that Christ came to live among them through the gospel. He is with them being established by God in Christ through the Spirit. Here in verse 23, he calls God himself to take the witness stand. I call God to witness against my soul. He can appeal to no higher authority to establish his integrity.

It Was To Spare You

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.

What does Paul mean ‘it was to spare you’? If we look back to 1 Corinthians, he warned

1 Corinthians 4:18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

As an Apostle of the Lord Christ, Paul carries God’s power and authority. Paul bears the burden of parenting the churches that he planted, and part of the responsibility of a parent is to discipline his children. This church was out of line, and he has the authority to come with a rod. But as a good parent, he doesn’t want to come at them with discipline. He wants to win their hearts. He says at the end of this letter,

2 Corinthians 13:2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—

He refrained from coming again to Corinth to spare them. But he will come again, and then if they are still unrepentant, he will not spare them. He goes on:

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

Paul was accused of being weak. Paul here says that it makes him happy to be able to be weak among them. His heart is not to be heavy-handed, but he prays for their restoration. His heart and his authority is to build up and not to tear down.

When It Is Better Not To Confront

We can learn something from Paul’s approach. Sometimes it is better not to come. Sometimes it is better to stay away, to change plans, to postpone a visit.

Now Jesus is clear,

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

We are to keep sins private. We are never to gossip or slander. “You know, I’m really concerned about Bill. I think he might be slipping back into sin. Would you pray for him with me?” No, Jesus says go, between you and him alone. And the goal is always restoration. To win your brother back.

But Paul shows some fatherly wisdom here. Kids are different. They respond differently to different approaches. A wise father is sensitive to that, and if his goal is to win the hearts of his children, he will approach his children differently. Paul had written two letters. They didn’t respond well. So he showed up. An emergency visit to deal with the problems head on, face to face. It was a painful confrontation. It didn’t go well. They didn’t respond well. So he backs off. He gives them space. He writes them another letter through his tears. He is brokenhearted, and he is on his knees. He sends someone else.

Kids are different, and relationships are messy. We would like for it to be clean cut. I followed the steps. Step one, step two, step three, you’re out! But relationships are not like that. Embrace the messiness. Enter in with your whole heart. Allow God’s pattern of grace to determine how best to move forward. Remember, in verse 12, Paul says ‘I make my plans, I behave in the world …by the grace of God.’ How does God’s grace come to you? What does God’s grace look like in this situation? How can I extend God’s undeserved grace toward you? How can I demonstrate love to you, to communicate that I am for you? How can I win your heart?

You think I didn’t come because I don’t care about you. But it was to spare you that I didn’t come, to give you space. God is my witness, I didn’t come because I love you.

Not Lording Over You

Now this is open to some misunderstanding. This might come across as heavy-handed; ‘it was to spare you that I didn’t come.’ My sole purpose is to keep you in line. And if you don’t listen up, watch out! So Paul clarifies:

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul gives us huge insight into godly leadership. This is built on Jesus’ teaching on leadership.

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.

This is the same word as in 2 Corinthians 1:24; exercise lordship over. The disciples wanted to know who was top dog. Who is in authority. Who gets to have it his way. Who gets to call the shots. Who gets to dominate everyone else. Who gets titles of honor and respect. Jesus says this is how Gentile leadership looks,

Luke 22:26 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 turns leadership upside down. Jesus says that true greatness is serving others, not being served. Jesus says:

Matthew 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

True leadership is sacrificial service for the good of others. Peter exhorts elders as a fellow elder,

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Shepherd willingly, eagerly, as an example, not as an overlord. Peter says:

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 …Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…

Shepherd. Not to be served, but to serve the needs of the sheep. Willingly, eagerly, clothed with humility.

By Faith you Stand Firm

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, … for you stand firm in your faith.

Those in authority are not to domineer over anyone’s faith, because, well, they can’t. It is by faith you stand firm. Calvin (p.145) observes that this is a curious phrase; that “he argues from contraries. …the nature and effect of faith [is] such that we lean, in order that we may stand”. Faith is by definition dependence upon another; we stand firm by our leaning on or trusting in another. And that another is not any church leader. If our faith is to stand, it must be on the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Paul is eager to say that he is not the Lord in whom anyone ought to trust. He together with the Corinthians is trusting in Jesus. God is establishing them both in Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter stated it clearly during the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, discussing how the Gentiles would be saved:

Acts 15:11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Peter the Apostle stands alongside every Gentile believer as one saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone and not by works of the Law.

No man can stand over another man’s faith. There is one Lord in whom we must believe and that is Jesus Christ (1Cor.8:6).

Fellow-Workers for your Joy

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul had an exclusive list of co-workers that included Priscilla, Aquila (Rom.16:3); Urbanus (Rom.16:9); Timothy (Rom.16:21, 1Thes.3:2); Apollos (1Cor.3:9); Titus (2Cor.8:23); Epaphroditus (Phil.2:25); Clement (Phil.4:3); Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus Justus (Col.4:11); Philemon (1:1); Demas, Luke (Phlm.1:24). This would have been something (if you were looking for status) to be able to say ‘I made the list; I am a fellow-worker of the Apostle Paul.’ Here he says ‘I am your fellow-worker.’ Paul and the other apostles come alongside me, labor together with me? He puts himself under and alongside us.

What is the aim? What are we working toward? What is it that Paul and the other Apostles come up under and alongside each one of us to accomplish? I could think of some great fill in the blanks; we are working together with you to bring the gospel to the whole world; We are working together with you for your holiness and sanctification. To establish churches in every city. To accomplish the great commission, to make disciples of all nations. To advance the glory of God and his kingdom in all the earth. Those would all be great biblical ways to finish the sentence, but that’s not how Paul finishes the sentence. He says ‘we are co-workers with you for your joy.’ For your joy! Joy! Paul is working together with us for our joy! Even in the painful hard things, even in discipline, he is working with us for our joy. For your joy. Godly leadership is not domineering; godly leadership serves. Godly leadership works under and alongside you for your joy. For your joy! Oh I want to get into this, but it’s going to have to wait until next week.

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

February 14, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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