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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 11:16-21; The Character of False Teachers

11/15_2 Corinthians 11:16-21; The Character of False Teachers; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201115_2cor11_16-21.mp3

Paul is confronting the false apostles head on. And he is confronting the church for following them. He’s said (11:4) that they proclaim another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel, and the church is bearing with it well! He labels the so-called super-apostles as false apostles, deceitful workers, servants of Satan who disguise themselves as genuine but their works and their future judgment expose them as false. He warns the church that he fears for them, that they are in danger of being deceived by Satan to forfeit a simple relationship with Jesus for a counterfeit.

But some in this church have already been taken. They believe everything the false teachers tell them, which means that they question Paul’s authenticity and doubt his integrity. Paul is willing to ‘become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some’ (1Cor.9:22).

A Lamb in Wolves Clothing

The wisdom of Proverbs says:

Proverbs 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

Paul is willing to be thought a fool if that is what it takes to get their attention, to point out their folly and call them back to single-hearted devotion to the real Jesus. The Corinthians are wise in their own eyes, and need a little humbling.

He said in verse 1 of this chapter:

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!

And then (11:7-15) he boasted about humbling himself by serving them free of charge. Here in verse 16, he comes back to ask permission to do some foolish boasting.

2 Corinthians 11:16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.

Paul is willing to be considered a fool for Christ’s sake (1Cor.4:10), to let them think they are wise, if that is what it takes to reach them.

Paul has just exposed the false teachers for who they are, wolves in sheep’s clothing. Paul is now willing to be a lamb in wolves clothing if they will put up with him that way, but he lifts up the disguise and tells them in advance that is what he is doing.

According to the Flesh, Not the Lord

Paul is about to launch into what he considers foolish boasting, and he makes it clear that what he says, he says ‘not according to the Lord’, because many are boasting according to the flesh. Back in 1:17 they were accusing Paul of making his plans according to the flesh, and in 10:2 some suspect him of walking according to the flesh. But, he says

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

Here he contrasts boasting according to the flesh with speaking according to the Lord. More often (Rom.8:4-5, 12-13; Gal.4:23, 29) Paul juxtaposes living or walking according to the flesh with living or walking according to the Spirit. But here he contrasts speaking in line with the way the Lord would speak against boasting after the manner of the flesh, after a merely human, worldly pattern. This is the way unbelieving people boast, and it is foolish. It is not the way Jesus taught me to speak. “Our Lord was no boaster, and his Spirit does not lead any one to boast” [Hodge, p.266]. Carson writes: “Although no one ever made higher claims for himself than did Jesus, he uttered those claims not as a mortal vainly striving for equality with God, but as the self-emptied Son bent on the business of bringing salvation to condemned sinners” (Carson, p.109-110]. Jesus taught us wisdom that is not of this world, indeed contrary to the principles of this world.

In chapter 10, Paul refused to boast beyond limits, but only in what the Lord had assigned to him. He says

2 Corinthians 10:17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (cf. 1Cor.1:31)

Citing Jeremiah 9

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Speaking according to the Lord is boasting in the Lord. Alone. He is about to boast in verse 22 in his own ethnic heritage, language, culture and religious upbringing. But this is foolish fleshly boasting, and he wants us all to know that it is not speaking as the Lord would speak. It is not boasting only in the cross. It is according to the flesh, and it is folly.

Bearing With Abusive Leadership

Verses 19-20 are in several ways parallel to verse 4. He frames both sections with an ‘if’; if one comes, if someone does these things, as is actually happening, you put up with it. You bear it well, even gladly.

Verse 4 exposes the false teaching of the false apostles. He pulls back the disguise and shows them that they come preaching another Jesus, not the Jesus the apostles proclaimed, a different spirit, one you did not receive, a different gospel which you did not accept.

Verse 19 is a slap in the face, saying sarcastically that you are so wise that you gladly bear with fools. And in verse 20 he exposes the corrosive character of the false apostles. You put up with it if someone enslaves you, if someone devours, if someone takes, if someone self-exalts, if someone strikes your face. This is the abuse they were gladly bearing with.

Notice, Paul is not directly rebuking the false apostles. He is rebuking the church for embracing and following and supporting bad leaders. Bad leaders can’t lead if no one will follow them, if no one will support them. He already said in verse 15 ‘Their end will correspond to their deeds’, both the end of the false teachers and those who follow them. God will judge the false apostles. But the Corinthians should know better than to follow them. They should recognize them by their fruits, and their character is rotten to the core. They are enslaving you, devouring, taking, self-exalting, striking you the face. And you are putting up with it!

Enslaving You

No one can serve two masters (Mt.6:24). Paul says in Romans 6 that you are slaves to the one you obey. He said:

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 stands in stark contrast to these servants of Satan who are taking them captive to serve themselves. Paul will not bully or domineer them, but instead he pursues their genuine joy as he has betrothed them to one husband, to Christ (11:2). He said:

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Where the false teachers fight for the position of lord over them, Paul is glad to humble himself to serve them for the Lord’s sake.

Devouring

False teachers devour. Fire devours. The satanic birds in Jesus’ parable devour the gospel seed so it can’t take root (Lk.8:5) The hypocritical scribes and Pharisees devour widow’s houses (Lk.20:47), and the prodigal son devoured his father’s property with prostitutes (Lk.15:30). The false teachers make a practice of parasitic violence and exploitation. Sam Storms writes:

“True, godly, Spirit-filled leaders don’t exist for you to serve them. They exist to serve you! This was the precedent set by Jesus who said of himself that he ‘came not to be served but to serve’ (Matt.28:20). Leaders aren’t placed in the body of Christ so that their reputation, lifestyle, and bank account can increase at the expense of those who are led. Leaders lead so that those led might be ever more conformed to the image of Christ. And if such comes only at great cost to those in authority, so be it, for Jesus served his own by giving ‘his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt.28:20).” [Storms, p.164];

Taking

False teachers take advantage. To take or to receive is a very common word used in lots of positive and neutral contexts. But it can also be used in negative contexts for a violent seizing, as in Jesus’ parable of the tenants who took the master’s servants

Mattthew 21:35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another.

And when he sent his own son,

Matthew 21:39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Here it is used in the context of the false apostles seizing or laying hands on or taking advantage of. Paul used this word in verse 8 of robbing other churches by taking support from them. In 12:16 it is translated ‘got the better of you’; he is accused of cunning, taking them by deceit.

2 Corinthians 12:16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit.

Self-exalting

The false apostles lift themselves up. They put on airs, they arrogantly boast. In the last chapter (10:5) Paul said he wages spiritual warfare tearing down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

Isaiah 2:11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. 12 For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;

Striking You in the Face

Paul says they even go so far as to strike you in the face. Jesus used this word when one of the officers of the high priest struck him with his hand (Jn.18:23), and those holding Jesus in Jewish custody were mocking and beating him (Lk.22:63).

Most today take this as “almost certainly metaphorical language to refer to any kind of humiliating treatment” [Carson, p.111]. Except we know ‘religious leaders of the day at times punished offenders by slapping them’ [Guthrie, BECNT p.541] (cf. Acts 23:2).

And we see today’s false teachers who have people come forward so they can strike them on the face or push them to knock them down, allegedly ‘slaying them with the spirit’.

This puts what Paul said back in chapter 7 in context;

2 Corinthians 7:2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.

You gladly bear with fools who enslave you, who devour, who seize, who self-exalt, who strike you in the face. This is a ‘stunning disclosure of the aggressive authoritarianism and overbearing leadership tactics of the intruders.’ [Storms, p.163]

Shame and Weakness

2 Corinthians 11:16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

Paul has exposed the corrupt character of the false apostles. The Corinthians should be ashamed that they had been duped and taken advantage of, abused and shamefully treated. But Paul takes the shame on himself. It is his to his shame, he says sarcastically, that he was too weak to take advantage of them in that way. He was too weak to bully them, to lord it over them, to forcefully domineer. He was weak with the meekness and gentleness, the humility of Christ (10:1). He shows by his example that weakness is the way.

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.”

Paul is weak, and he will go on to boast in his weakness, because it is the path of following Jesus.

Fool’s Boldness

2 Corinthians 11:21 …But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.

Even in Paul’s weakness and dishonor, he is bold. In whatever someone is bold he is also bold. And he qualifies this; he is speaking foolishness. He said back in

2 Corinthians 10:2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.

Paul is weak, he begs that he will not have to show the boldness he fears he will have to show when he visits. He says in 10:12

2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

He isn’t bold enough, he doesn’t dare to measure himself by others. Those who do, he says, are without understanding. Here he foolishly dares to boast of whatever another dares to boast of. He is willing to put on the wolf’s clothing in order to show that he is not in the least inferior (11:5), yet in his heart he is harmless as a dove (Mt.10:16).

Paul puts on the wolf’s clothing to caricature the wolves, to expose their character and wake up the sheep to set them free from their clutches.

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

***

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

November 18, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:7-10; The Paradox of Ministry

03/31_2 Corinthians 6:7-10; The Paradox of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190331_2cor6_7-10.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. He is commending himself in everything as God’s minister. He purposes that no fault may be found with the ministry. He refuses to create stumbling blocks for anyone in anything. He will allow no stumbling block but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In verses 4-7 he gives a bullet-point list of 18 ways he commends himself, each introduced by the word ‘in’. He introduces the list by the way he faced adversity; in much endurance. Then he gives three general hardships, three specific forms of persecution, and three voluntary hardships, all in the plural.

Starting in verse 6 he lists four character qualities, fruit of the Spirit in his life: purity, knowledge, patience, kindness; followed by four divine enablements for the ministry: in the Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in the word of truth, in the power of God.

The Means of Ministry

Now after 18 bullet points of adversity and how he responds to it, all beginning with ‘in’, he switches prepositions; starting at the end of verse 7 he uses ‘through’ three times, followed by seven uses of ‘as’, introducing contrasts or paradoxes.

We are all called to minister, to serve others in love for their good. Ministry is conflict. Ministry is tension. Ministry is war!

You cannot please everyone ever. Jesus said ‘Woe to you when all people speak well of you’ (Lk.6:26). There will always be something someone doesn’t like about something you do. Expect it! Expect tension in ministry.

7… through weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; [διὰ τῶν ὅπλων τῆς δικαιοσύνης τῶν δεξιῶν καὶ ἀριστερῶν,]

Paul uses a military metaphor here. Ministry is war. He endures hardships in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. He is equipped to respond this way in or by means of the Holy Spirit, God’s unhypocritical love, the word of truth, the power of God. He is equipped for war!

He uses this word ‘weapons’ in 2 Corinthians 10:4 also in the context of the power of God.

2 Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

He is thoroughly equipped from right to left, for the battle. His weaponry consists in righteousness or justification. ‘The one who knew no sin, on our behalf was made to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ (2Cor.5:21). In Ephesians 6, righteousness is mentioned as the breastplate. Clothed with God’s righteousness in Christ he now stands ready, both for offensive and defensive, as with sword and shield. God’s righteousness is a weapon both offensive and defensive.

The next two contrasts are also introduced by ‘through’, indicating that all four of these nouns could be seen as part of his weaponry.

8 through glory and shame, [διὰ δόξης καὶ ἀτιμίας,]

through slander and praise. [διὰ δυσφημίας καὶ εὐφημίας·]

Paul’s sequence is positive-negative, negative-positive; sandwiching the negative inside the positive.

Glory is how he describes the new covenant ministry in chapter 3; the far-surpassing glory of the ministry of the Spirit; the lasting ministry of righteousness and life. It is a glorious ministry, but there is little glory in it. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor [in-glory], but we in disrepute [ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄτιμοι. (adj)].

It is a glorious ministry, but its ministers are held in disrepute or shame. We understand how glory or honor could be considered a weapon, part of our equipping for ministry, but shame or dishonor?

In Acts 5,

Acts 5:40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor [ἀτιμασθῆνα (v)] for the name.

Did you hear that? They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonored in the name of Jesus! Worthy to be shamed! They counted it an honor to be publicly dishonored. They remembered what Jesus had said in Matthew 10:

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, …17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Look at what Jesus is saying. You will be dishonored. You will be shamed. But in the midst of betrayals, even beatings and arrests is an opportunity to testify; to give Spirit empowered witness to Jesus. They saw slander and shame as an opportunity; an offensive weapon to bring glory and praise to Jesus!

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 4 to describe his role as a spectacle to the world, as fools for Christ.

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

Paul is slandered, treated as scum and refuse, yet through it all he implores all to be reconciled to God. Shame and slander, glory and praise, in it all his desire is to make Christ known; to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2:14).

It is particularly in the slander and shame that we become like Christ.

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

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

Matthew 27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

1 Corinthians 2:8 …they …crucified the Lord of glory .

Peter says:

1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Seven Paradoxes in Ministry

Paul switches in the next seven pairs to ‘as’ to introduce contrasts or paradoxes in ministry. Ministry is paradoxical. It is not always what it seems. Paul has already described gospel ministry as paradoxical; there are differing responses to the gospel between different groups of people; to those who are perishing and to us who are being saved. The same message of the cross sounds stupid to some and comes with power to others (1Cor.1:18). The same aroma of knowing God stinks like death to some and smells alive and beautiful to others (2Cor.2:14-16).

as deceivers, and yet true; [ὡς πλάνοι καὶ ἀληθεῖς,]

Paul himself said in 1 Corinthians (15:15) that ‘if Christ has not been raised… We are even found to be misrepresenting God’. Jesus was accused of being a deceiver in speaking about his own resurrection (Mt.27:63). Some perceive him to be a deceiver, yet

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

9 as unknown, and yet well known; [ὡς ἀγνοούμενοι καὶ ἐπιγινωσκόμενοι,]

Paul was unknown in the sense of being unrecognized, not considered authentic. His character was being questioned. Yet…

2 Corinthians 5:11 … what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

Even if you don’t know me, don’t recognize me, God knows me fully, and that is all that matters.

1 Corinthians 13:12 …Now I know [γινώσκω] in part; then I shall know fully [ἐπιγνώσομαι], even as I have been fully known [ἐπεγνώσθην].

as dying, and behold, we live; [ὡς ἀποθνῄσκοντες καὶ ἰδοὺ ζῶμεν,]

Paul was all to familiar with death. He said in chapter 4 that we are…

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the [dying] 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.

Paul faced death daily (1Cor.15:31). Yet he interjects an exclamation Look! Behold! We live!

2 Corinthians 5:14 …one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

We died with Christ, and his resurrection life is now at work in us!

as punished, and yet not killed; [ὡς παιδευόμενοι καὶ μὴ θανατούμενοι,]

These two statements echo the language of Psalm 118.

Psalm 118:17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. 18 The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.

If we look at the content, we see the Psalmist in his affliction, surrounded by the nations, crying out to the Lord, and the Lord as a valiant warrior bringing victory with his right hand. Then the gates of righteousness are opened so that the righteous may inter in. Psalm 113-118 were traditionally sung at Passover, and these Psalms were likely sung by Jesus and his disciples at the last supper. Only a few verses later we find this familiar paradox:

Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

The rejected stone is the cornerstone. Hosanna! Save us we pray! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Paul is embracing the paradox of ministry shaped by his Master. “As dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed.”

Isaiah 53:4 …we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,…

The punishment that brought us peace was on him.

Throughout this Paul is identifying with the suffering servant. He is willing to take up his cross and follow Jesus.

10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; [ὡς λυπούμενοι ἀεὶ δὲ χαίροντες,]

In a life of ministry, there is sorrow, but there is always joy. Paul writes from prison to Philippi:

Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

There is sorrow, mingled with joy. Like Jesus,

Hebrews 12:2 …who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Paul writes also to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. There is joy in the midst of sorrow when in our service we sacrifice for the good of others.

as poor, yet making many rich; [ὡς πτωχοὶ πολλοὺς δὲ πλουτίζοντες,]

How does someone who is poor make others rich? When Peter and John encountered the lame beggar, Peter said “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you” (Acts3:6). He gave him something of greater value than what he was seeking.

Paul fleshes this out most clearly in 2 Corinthians 8

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Matthew 8:20 …the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Paul voluntarily embraces a life of poverty in order to open the riches of eternal wealth to them.

as having nothing, yet possessing everything. [ὡς μηδὲν ἔχοντες καὶ πάντα κατέχοντες.]

How does someone have nothing while at the same time fully have all things? In Mark 10 Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give away all that he had and come follow me.

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

This is the paradox of the Christian life and ministry. You can give up everything and find that you have lost nothing. If you seek to preserve you life, you will lose it; you must lay down your life to truly find it (Mk.18:35)

This is the way of the cross; are you willing to take up your cross and follow Jesus? Are you willing to risk everything to experience the joy he promises in following him? Do I “ count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”? Am I willing to “suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”? Is my supreme desire

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

?

***

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

April 1, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Shame or honor

07/13 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Shame or Honor; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140713_1cor11_2-16.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 11 [SBLGNT]

2 Ἐπαινῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς ὅτι πάντα μου μέμνησθε καὶ καθὼς παρέδωκα ὑμῖν τὰς παραδόσεις κατέχετε. 3 θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι ὅτι παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν, κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ, κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός. 4 πᾶς ἀνὴρ προσευχόμενος ἢ προφητεύων κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ· 5 πᾶσα δὲ γυνὴ προσευχομένη ἢ προφητεύουσα ἀκατακαλύπτῳ τῇ κεφαλῇ καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτῆς, ἓν γάρ ἐστιν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ τῇ ἐξυρημένῃ. 6 εἰ γὰρ οὐ κατακαλύπτεται γυνή, καὶ κειράσθω· εἰ δὲ αἰσχρὸν γυναικὶ τὸ κείρασθαι ἢ ξυρᾶσθαι, κατακαλυπτέσθω. 7 ἀνὴρ μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ὀφείλει κατακαλύπτεσθαι τὴν κεφαλήν, εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ ὑπάρχων· ἡ γυνὴ δὲ δόξα ἀνδρός ἐστιν. 8 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀνὴρ ἐκ γυναικός, ἀλλὰ γυνὴ ἐξ ἀνδρός· 9 καὶ γὰρ οὐκ ἐκτίσθη ἀνὴρ διὰ τὴν γυναῖκα, ἀλλὰ γυνὴ διὰ τὸν ἄνδρα. 10 διὰ τοῦτο ὀφείλει ἡ γυνὴ ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους. 11 πλὴν οὔτε γυνὴ χωρὶς ἀνδρὸς οὔτε ἀνὴρ χωρὶς γυναικὸς ἐν κυρίῳ· 12 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἡ γυνὴ ἐκ τοῦ ἀνδρός, οὕτως καὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ διὰ τῆς γυναικός· τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ. 13 ἐν ὑμῖν αὐτοῖς κρίνατε· πρέπον ἐστὶν γυναῖκα ἀκατακάλυπτον τῷ θεῷ προσεύχεσθαι; 14 οὐδὲ ἡ φύσις αὐτὴ διδάσκει ὑμᾶς ὅτι ἀνὴρ μὲν ἐὰν κομᾷ, ἀτιμία αὐτῷ ἐστιν, 15 γυνὴ δὲ ἐὰν κομᾷ, δόξα αὐτῇ ἐστιν; ὅτι ἡ κόμη ἀντὶ περιβολαίου δέδοται. 16 εἰ δέ τις δοκεῖ φιλόνεικος εἶναι, ἡμεῖς τοιαύτην συνήθειαν οὐκ ἔχομεν, οὐδὲ αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τοῦ θεοῦ.

 

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 has been called by many the most difficult passage to interpret in all of the Bible. There are about as many different opinions on how it should be understood as there have been commentaries written. There is much debate about what was actually going on in the church in Corinth that Paul was writing to correct, on who specifically is being addressed, on what some of the key words and phrases even mean, on what the cultural and historical background really was, on how this all fits with other verses in 1 Corinthians and in the rest of the New Testament, and maybe most important, on how (or even if) we should apply it to life today. Several people have seen this passage coming in the text and asked me how I plan to handle it, including my own mom. This may be one of the texts Peter was referring to when he said of Paul’s writings:

2 Peter 3:16 …There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

So I think the best thing for us to do is avoid it and go on to the next passage. Skip forward to 11:17 and we will pick up there today. Passing over verses 2-16, we move on to 1 Corinthians 11 verse 17…

 

That was a test. We will study this passage, as difficult as it is, because I believe with all my heart that:

2 Timothy 3:15 … the sacred writings, …are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

All Scripture is profitable. The central issues of Christianity are unmistakably clear. Salvation is through faith in Christ Jesus alone. The good news that salvation comes to us by God’s undeserved grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone rings clear and loud throughout all of Scripture. Other issues, secondary issues, may be more obscure, but I believe they are still breathed out by God and profitable, so it is worth our while to carefully work through this passage. Some of the details we will have to hold loosely, as we simply can’t know for certain. I’m sure the original readers of this passage understood exactly what Paul intended to communicate. I wonder if some new discovery will shed light on the things that we find puzzling. But if we don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees, I believe there will be much here that is encouraging, edifying, and applicable even to us today.

So, by God’s grace and with his help, we will do our best to understand the text before us, to seek to learn what God would teach us through it eager to obey him, and to extend patience and grace to one another when we just see things a different way.

~pray~

1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

 

The Big Picture

It is essential that we see this passage as a connected section of the letter it is part of. To extract it out of its context and beat each other over the head with it would be to violate some of the very truths it is intended to convey.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul is addressing divisions in the church. The believers are quarreling, they are boasting, they are wise in their own eyes, they think they are spiritual, they are puffed up in favor of one against another. So Paul takes them back to the basic message of the gospel, the simple message of the cross, the foolish message of Christ crucified. He reminds them that everything; life, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption; everything is a gift from God. So if a believer boasts, his boast must only be in the Lord (1:30-31).

We have seen that chapters 8-10 form one unit dealing with idolatry. Now we will see that chapters 8-14 form a unit that deals with the central theme of worship. 8-10 deal with avoiding the false worship of idols, 11:2-16 deals with the way men and women ought to worship together in the church, 11:17-34 addresses the way rich and poor ought to worship together in the church, and chapters 12-14 deal with the role of the Holy Spirit and how spiritual gifts ought to be used in the worship of the church.

As we see the theme of worship throughout these chapters, we can also see some basic principles woven through these chapters. Paul begins in chapter 8 with the Christian principle of love, love for God and love that builds others up. He warns against self-centeredness that harms others by insisting on our own rights. As he sums up in 10:31-33, everything is to be done for the eternal good of others, so that God is glorified and others are benefited. 11:17-34 confronts their lack of love in the Lord’s supper, where they shamed the poor and honored the rich. Chapter 12 addresses their lack of love in the exercise of spiritual gifts, priding themselves in the more spectacular gifts, and shaming others as unnecessary parts of the body. He encourages them to have the same care for one another. In chapter 13, he invites them to rise to a more excellent way, the way of self sacrificial love. In chapter 14, he teaches that the way of love is for the good of others and the glory of God, and our gifts must be used so that believers are built up, unbelievers are saved, and God is honored. It is into this context of loving God and loving others, of glorifying God and seeking the good of others that Paul speaks to the issue of men and women in the church, how they can bring shame or glory to God, and how they can shame or honor one another.

Outline:

Seeing the structure of the passage will be helpful. David Garland in his commentary on 1 Corinthians (BECNT p.511) has detailed the chiastic pattern (or X shaped pattern), like a mirror with a central assertion and the parts on either side reflecting each other. We can start in the center and work out:

 

A. Commendation for maintaining traditions handed on by Paul; basic assertion that everyone has a head (11:2-3)

B. Shame about coverings for men and women (11:4-5)

C. Social impropriety for a woman to be uncovered; theological impropriety for a man to be covered (11:6-7)

D. Theological explanation from the creation account (11:8-9)

E. Central assertion: for this reason a woman ought

to have authority over her head (11:10)

‘D. Theological caveat from procreation (11:11-12)

‘C. Social impropriety for a woman to be uncovered (11:13)

‘B. Shame (and glory): lessons from nature about coverings for men

and women (11:14-15)

‘A. Admonition to conform to Paul’s customs and those of the churches of God (11:16)

 

The only imperative in the text (other than his exhortation to ‘judge for yourselves’ in 11:13) is found in 11:6 ‘let her cover her head’. What is at stake in this passage is honor or dishonor; shame or glory. And this finds expression in covering or uncovering the head. This is a cultural custom that is foreign to us. David Garland describes the cultural issue this way: “The head covering ‘is …worn in public to mark her off as a private person intent on guarding her purity, and so maintaining the honour of her husband and her father.’ …It communicates to others in public that the woman is demure, chaste, and modest, and that she intends to stay that way. …no male wanted his wife or a female in his charge to appear in public in a way that hints, intentionally or unintentionally, that the opposite might be true.” (BECNT, p.509-510).

Commendable

Paul starts off by praising the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

In verse 17, he will say ‘I do not commend you.; But here, he praises them for remembering him and holding on to his teachings. The ‘traditions’ would have been the teaching he delivered when he first came to Corinth to proclaim the gospel and plant the church. We now have his teaching expanded and clarified in the New Testament letters. He may have taught them something like what he wrote in Galatians 3.

Galatians 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

He may have taught them something like what he will say in 2 Corinthians 3.

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… 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. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

In Christ Jesus there is no male or female. When one turns to the Lord the veil is removed. We all with unveiled faces are beholding the glory of the Lord. So throw off your head covering! We are free in Christ! There are no more gender distinctions!

Cultural Shame

Paul says ‘but’. But I want you to understand. You do not yet have the full picture.

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

There are gender distinctions. There are differences in roles. There are legitimate authority structures in place. Even within the triune God. God, Christ, man, woman. This is huge, what he says here is foundational, and I want to come back to it next week to give it the time it deserves.

4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head,

The word ‘head’ is used with a double meaning. By inappropriately covering or uncovering the head, he or she brings shame on his or her own head, where ‘head’ stands for the person. By acting inappropriately you shame yourself. But ‘head’ also refers back to verse 3, where it says the head of man is Christ and the head of woman is man. There is evidence that at the time, men offering sacrifices to their pagan gods would perform the rituals with their heads covered. For a man to worship the true God with his head covered would bring shame to Christ, his head. There is a clear and essential difference between men and women. The very thing that is shameful for man is essential for woman. For a woman to worship uncovered in that culture would bring great shame on her husband or her father. It would be as shocking as if she showed up with a shaved head.

…since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.

It is a shame on herself and on her husband or father to be shaven. Paul argues that being uncovered is just as shameful, so ‘let her cover her head’.

An Issue of Glory

Paul gives here the theological reason why a man ought not to cover his head, but the woman ought to cover her head.

7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

Paul goes back to the order of creation in Genesis to defend this principle. Both man and woman were made in the image of God. But Eve was made by God from the side of Adam. She was to be his helper, a companion who corresponds to him, one who completes him. She was made from him and for him. And she is his glory. She is truly his better half.

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

She has the potential to bring shame or great glory to her husband. But in worship, the glory of God alone is to shine unrivaled, so it is inappropriate for woman, who is the glory of man, to be uncovered. All glory must go to God.

10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Literally this verse reads ‘on account of this the woman ought to have authority on [or over] her head’. It could be that authority stands for the symbol of authority, the head covering demonstrates that she is under authority, or it could mean that she has authority over her own head, that she has her head under control. She exercises control over her physical head so as not to expose herself or her head to indignity.

Puzzling is the cryptic phrase ‘because of the angels’. Angels who are also under authority, who keep their proper place, angels who cover their faces with one pair wings and their feet with another pair of wings in the presence of God, angels who are unseen guests wherever believers gather to worship, angels who are eager to learn about the salvation we enjoy? We don’t know exactly why the angels are mentioned here.

Nevertheless

11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

Paul is careful to balance the equation. Woman is from man and for man in creation, but subsequent to creation, every man has been born of woman and dependent on woman. In the Lord woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. Different genders, distinct roles, but equal value, dignity, and worth. In Christ, there is neither male nor female; every individual must come to God through Jesus. All things are from God. Everyone is dependent on God. God is sovereign over man and woman. God is preeminent.

Paul now invites them to apply their own innate sense of what is proper to the situation.

13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

He has argued from the relationship between God and Christ, from the created order, from what brings honor and shame, and now he argues from their own culturally conditioned sense of what is appropriate, what is shameful, what brings honor. It is natural for men to appear masculine and women to appear feminine. It would be shameful for a woman to pray uncovered.

He concludes with a warning against an argumentative spirit, and an appeal to the common practice of all the churches.

16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

Application

So what do we do with this? We want to obey God and his word. Does this mean all the men need to cut their hair short and all the women need to grow their hair long and wear a head covering? Some churches do that. I think that would be the easy way around dealing with the real issue. As my mother so wisely said many years ago as my own church was wrestling with some of these issues ‘any problem that can be solved with a pair of scissors is not a very serious problem’. I could have my head shaved in half an hour and it wouldn’t change the state of my heart one little bit.

Where is my heart? What do I most want? Do I want to bring glory to God above all else, to bring honor to God and build up my brothers and sisters? Do I desperately want the lost to hear and believe the gospel and be saved? Or do I insist on my rights, my comfort, my convenience, my preference, my own benefit, even if it dishonors God and shames the people around me? Do I love God and love others and seek to build them up, or do I love self and seek to build myself up?

If my heart is right, if I truly love the glory of God in the gospel more than my own good, then what Paul is saying here is that externals are not irrelevant. Some seemingly trivial superficial things do matter. Is there something in my appearance, in my demeanor, in my attitude, in the way I carry myself, in the way I relate to others, that brings shame to Christ or to his followers, is there anything in me that hinders people from listening to the gospel? Then get rid of it! Cut it off and throw it away! Is there anything, even little things that I could do that would bring glory to God and build up his people? Are there ways I can identify with lost people so that I can bring them the gospel? Am I not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, that they may be saved? Am I doing everything, whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, to the glory of God?

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

July 13, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 2:6-10

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20081123_1peter_2_6-10.mp3

11/23 1 Peter 2:6-10 shame or honor; proclaiming the excellencies of Him

1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation–– 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

6 dioti periecei en grafh idou tiyhmi en siwn liyon eklekton akrogwniaion entimon kai o pisteuwn ep autw ou mh kataiscunyh 7 umin oun h timh toiv pisteuousin apistousin de liyov on apedokimasan oi oikodomountev outov egenhyh eiv kefalhn gwniav 8 kai liyov proskommatov kai petra skandalou oi proskoptousin tw logw apeiyountev eiv o kai eteyhsan 9 umeiv de genov eklekton basileion ierateuma eynov agion laov eiv peripoihsin opwv tav aretav exaggeilhte tou ek skotouv umav kalesantov eiv to yaumaston autou fwv 10 oi pote ou laov nun de laov yeou oi ouk hlehmenoi nun de elehyentev

It is God’s word in the preaching of the good news that brings about the new birth (1:23-25). So we are commanded to be like infants and crave pure spiritual milk so that we can grow to maturity (2:1-2). And having tasted that the Lord is good (2:3), we will come to Jesus and keep coming back to Jesus over and over and over again (2:4) to meet him in his word to receive sustenance and nourishment for our souls.

We come to Jesus as a life giving unshakable stone. But as we come to Jesus we see massive conflict. Peter knew this. Peter had been with Jesus as he taught and as hostility rose against him. On that awful night, Peter denied his Lord three times to avoid the consequences of being identified with Jesus. Now Peter was likely writing from a dungeon in Rome because of his unashamed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And Peter’s readers knew this. They were followers of Jesus who were scattered across Asia Minor, who had become exiles and foreigners in their own hometowns because of their newfound faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the watershed. Jesus said:

Luke 12:51-53 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother–in–law against her daughter–in–law and daughter–in–law against mother–in–law.”

John 15:18-20 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

The cross divides:

1 Corinthians 1:23-24 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Peter has looked at Jesus as a living stone and we as living stones built into a spiritual priesthood offering acceptable sacrifices to God. Peter is looking at Jesus as the foundation stone that God has established and that divides people. He begins by quoting Isaiah 28:14 which is a decree of destruction to the leaders of Israel for their disobedience and unbelief.

Isaiah 28:14-17 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers, who rule this people in Jerusalem! 15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter”; 16 therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ 17 And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”

Jesus is the watershed, Jesus divides people. But Jesus is a stone laid by God the Father appointed and set by him as the cornerstone. He is elect or chosen by God and he is precious or honored in the sight of God. God gave Jesus honor by raising him from the dead. Jesus is a solid foundation to build your life on. Those that put their trust in him will never be shamed. If you are trusting in Jesus, you will not ultimately be disappointed. It may seem now that your persecutors are receiving honor and you are being shamed, but God has established Jesus as the cornerstone. Jesus defines and establishes the shape and direction of the building. Believers in Jesus have their feet on the rock that cannot be moved. Peter draws the application from the text that as the Father honors Jesus, so you who are depending on him will also be honored by the Father. This is in contrast to those who do not believe. Honor for those who believe in Jesus; shame for those who reject Jesus. In spite of their efforts to undermine and overthrow and marginalize Jesus, he has indeed become the cornerstone. Peter is quoting Psalm 118:22:

Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This appears in a Psalm that draws contrast between trusting in man and trusting in the Lord.

Psalm 118:5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? 7 The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.

The original context of the Psalm is the return of the king to the temple in Jerusalem after God has given him victory over his enemies. The ‘builders’ were the foreign kings who assured their own destruction by fighting against Israel, God’s chosen. Peter follows Jesus in his application of this Psalm, not to the foreign nations, but to the Jewish leaders who in attempting to build God’s building have rejected the cornerstone. Let’s take a minute to look at Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees:

Matthew 21:31-45 (cf. Luke 20:9-19) … Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. 33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.

Jesus is the divisive stone. Jesus is abrasive and offensive to his enemies. But Jesus will be victorious. Those who trust in Jesus will be victorious in the end. Those who reject Jesus will be ashamed. In verse 8 he quotes a phrase out of Isaiah 8:14. This passage is a warning to Israel and Judah to fear and trust the Lord rather than fearing other nations. Here’s some of the context:

Isaiah 8:9 Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. 10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us. 11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

God set Jesus as cornerstone to do two things. For those who are willing to stake their life on him as foundation, he is solid and reliable and will bring them honor. To those who choose to fight against him and reject him as foundation, he becomes to them a stone of stumbling and rock of offense. And Peter’s commentary on these passages is ‘They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do’. The word for ‘stumble’ can mean a violent beating against something. The cause of their stumbling is their disobedience to the word. Disobedience is synonymous with unbelief;

1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

1 Peter 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

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

‘The word’ is synonymous with the good news message:

1 Peter 1:25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

So they stumble over Jesus because they refuse to embrace the good news message. The question that Peter addresses here is ‘doesn’t their unbelief frustrate the purpose of God?’ God’s word is the indestructible life giving seed as he said in:

1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

If the imperishable good news word of the Lord that remains forever and accomplishes its purpose becomes something that people stumble over, doesn’t that nullify its life giving purpose? Peter’s answer is ‘no, they were destined to be disobedient to the word and stumble.’ God’s purpose is fulfilled even in those that reject him. It is an encouragement to believers who are suffering at the hands of unbelievers to know that what is happening to them is not beyond the control of their sovereign God. Just as the unbelief and rejection of Christ by the Jewish leaders who had Jesus crucified served the purpose of God by inadvertently accomplishing what God had set out to do (Acts 4:27-28); in the same way, the unbelievers who are grieving Peter’s readers with various trials (1:6) are serving the purpose of God in testing the genuineness of their faith (1:7). Peter contrasts their destiny with your destiny:

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

In contrast, you are an elect race – chosen – descendants of a common ancestor, people with a common heritage, sharing the unity of a common life. Because of the new birth this chosen race transcends the natural distinctions of ethnicity, language and culture. Peter draws his language from Isaiah 43:20:

Isaiah 43:15 I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” …19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?… 20… for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21 the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.

He calls us ‘a royal priesthood.’ Jesus, our foundation stone, is both King of kings and our great High Priest. Being built on him, we are a royal priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God, and we will reign with him. This and the next description come from Exodus 19:6.

Exodus 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

We are a holy nation. We are a community of people held together by the same laws, customs, and mutual interests. Holiness is our distinctive characteristic. We are a people set apart for the Lord.

And we are ‘a people for his own possession’. God ransomed us (1:18); he owns us and he delights in us. This language comes from Isaiah 43:21, Exodus 19:5 and Malachi 3:17.

Malachi 3:16…those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

And now he gives our ultimate purpose, our reason for existing as his possession; his elect race; his holy nation; his royal priesthood; it is

9 … that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

We are called to proclaim his excellencies! God who spoke into the darkness and said ‘let light be’ has called us effectually out of darkness and into his marvelous light. Now that we are in the light, our eyes are opened to see the glorious grandeur of his nature and character. (1Cor.4:4-6) Our purpose is proclamation. The subject of our proclamation is God – the excellencies of his being. God is great – make it known! And in the middle of our great high calling, verse 10 calls us to an appropriate humility. Peter reminds us that it is all of grace. We were in darkness and would have remained in darkness had it not been for the great mercy of God. He reminds us with the picture of Hosea, and the unfaithful wife that the forgiving and faithful husband won back and made his own:

Hosea 2:19-23 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD. …23… And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.”’

We were people with no identity; God made us his own people. We were rightly subject to the wrath of God and had no claim on his mercy, and he who is rich in mercy poured out mercy in abundance on our heads! Let us in humility as recipients of God’s great mercy proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light!

November 23, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment