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Leviticus 19:11-18; Practical Holiness and Neighbor

11/13 Leviticus 19:11-18; Practical Holiness 2; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161113_leviticus-19_11-18.mp3

Leviticus 19 is all about holiness. The chapter opens commanding “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” So Leviticus 19 is a theologically rich chapter. God is holy. So in this chapter we learn something about what God is like. We are to be holy because God is holy. God is holy, but we need something tangible to understand what holiness means. This chapter gives us a practical description of what holiness looks like. And one of the things we see about holiness is that holiness is not compartmentalized. Holiness is all over the map. Holiness touches every area of life. The first 10 verses touched issues of respect for authority, proper use of time, warnings against idolatry, observance of God’s instructions for worship, and care for the poor in a way that maintains human dignity. The next 8 verses that we will look at today deal with how we relate to other people; integrity, personal property rights, honesty, truthfulness, respect for God’s reputation, not taking advantage of those who are weak or vulnerable, justice and impartiality in the legal system, slander, perjury, hate, confrontation, vengeance, grudges, love. The issues range from the family unit to business dealings and employer employee relationships to our responsibility to the poor and underprivileged, foreigners and displaced, to our relationship with God in worship, to our relationship with every person we come in contact with, particularly those we don’t get along well with. Holiness is comprehensive. It deals with all of life.

Verses 1-10 fall into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD your God.” Verses 11-18 also divides into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD.” The final section, verses 19-37 uses these two phrases 4 times each intermittently.

It is important to say again that Leviticus 19 comes after Leviticus 16. Leviticus 16 is the great day of Atonement where the people of God were freed from all their sin. Now, having been forgiven and cleansed, what does life in relationship with a holy God look like?

Stealing, Lying, False Witness, and the NAME

Verses 11 and 12 begin by quoting the 8th command, summarizing the 9th and then referring back to the 3rd.

Leviticus 19:11 “You shall not steal; (VIII)

you shall not deal falsely; (IX)

you shall not lie to one another.

12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. (III)

You shall not steal. This is quoted almost exactly from Exodus 20:15. Except in Exodus, the commands are all in the 2nd person singular. You (individually) shall not steal. Here this command is changed to the plural. You (plural – all of you) shall not steal. If we lived in Texas, we could translate it ‘Y’all shall not steal!’ Why the change to the plural here? Why in this passage are some of the commands in the singular, addressing individuals, and some of the commands in the plural, addressing the community? Holiness is not only an individual thing. There is a corporate aspect to holiness. You and I must strive for holiness personally, but we as a group must strive to keep one another accountable to be a holy people. We together must be holy.

Personal property rights are protected here. You have the right to own something. And no one has the right to take what is yours away from you by force, by deceit or by manipulation. Do not take what does not belong to you.

You shall not deal falsely. You shall not lie to one another.” There is an echo here of the 9th command.

Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

And the 10th command gets behind the 9th to explain why someone might lie or deal falsely.

Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Stealing, dealing falsely, lying; all this is rooted in our desires. As James says,

James 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. …

We have passions, we have desires, we covet, we want. We are at war within. So we quarrel, we fight, we even murder to get what we want.

Leviticus 6 already alerted us to the possibility of this kind of sin and the proscribed sacrifice and restitution.

Leviticus 6:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the LORD by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor 3 or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby— 4 if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found 5 or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt. 6 And he shall bring to the priest as his compensation to the LORD a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering. 7 And the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for any of the things that one may do and thereby become guilty.”

Stealing, lying, bearing false witness can take many forms. Our unruly desires that wage war in our hearts could even cause us to violate the 3rd command.

Leviticus 19:12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. (III)

The 3rd command in Exodus reads:

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Our desires could lead us to take an oath in court by the name of YHWH, and lie in order to get what we want, and this would be to treat his holy name as common or to use it in a meaningless worthless way.

Oppression, Wages, the Disabled, and Fear of God

Leviticus 19:13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him.

The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning.

14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

Stealing can take many forms; using, pressing oneself upon a neighbor, taking advantage of by deceit, or outright robbery.

Even delaying to pay wages is a form of stealing. Proverbs says:

Proverbs 3:28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt.6:11), and often the laborer is dependent on that days wages for food for that day.

Holiness is broad enough to include how to treat those who are disabled or vulnerable. Cursing the deaf who cannot hear you cursing them, even if no harm comes to them is wrong. Putting a stumbling block in front of the blind who has no way of seeing what you are doing may bring harm to the blind person, or may just humiliate him, but either way this is wrong. The blind may never know who wronged them, the deaf may never even know they have been mistreated, but God knows. The motive for treating the vulnerable with respect and dignity is the fear of God. God is the one who will defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Injustice, Partiality, Slander, Perjury

Leviticus 19:15 “You shall do no injustice in court.

You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.

16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, (VI)

and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

Justice is to be upheld. Righteousness is to prevail. So far this chapter has encouraged care for the poor, for the foreigner, for the disabled. But matters of justice must be blind to social status. Partiality to the poor is just as evil as deference to the great. It is wrong to acquit the guilty because he is in a difficult situation. It is wrong to overlook the guilt of the great because they are powerful. What is right and just must decide each case.

You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people.” One way to harm a person is to attack them in court. Another way is to attack them with your words. James warns of the dangers of the tongue, and the New Testament has much to say against gossip and backbiting and slander. “You shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor” This is another way of stating the 9th command.

Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Justice depends on the truthfulness of testimony. In 1 Kings 21, Jezebel arranged for false witnesses to falsely accuse Naboth of a capital crime so that he would be executed and she could take his vineyard for her husband Ahab. Who is to stop someone from testifying falsely? “I am the LORD”

Hate, Rebuke, Vengeance, Grudges, Love

Leviticus 19:17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.

18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (X)

This gets down to the motive and response of the heart, and it gives practical instruction in what to do in difficult situations. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” It is not enough to keep your hatred hidden where no one sees and no one knows. Holiness extends to the inner thoughts and intents of the heart. Holiness penetrates even to the innermost feelings, attitudes and emotions. God cares as much with how you think and feel as with what you say and do.

But you don’t understand what he did to me! He tricked me out of my birthright and he stole my blessing! Don’t hate your brother in your heart. But how? I can’t help it! “You shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.” This is what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 18.

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.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge.” Instead you shall reason frankly with your neighbor. Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If your brother sins against you, confront him. In all humility, with all gentleness and patience, reason frankly with him. Confront him “lest you incur sin because of him.” Often being sinned against leads to sin that you will be held accountable for. This could be your sin of hatred, bitterness, holding a grudge, even taking vengeance. This could be your sin of failing to confront him and so prevent him from continuing in his sin.

James 5:19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

We have a responsibility to those who wrong us, to care for them, to love them. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” It is as difficult to give a rebuke with love in a spirit of humility and gentleness as it is to receive a rebuke with humility and learn from it.

Proverbs 27:5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

The Spirit and the New Covenant

But how do we do this? How do we not bear a grudge? How do we not slander? How do we not hate our brother in our heart? How can we love our neighbor as ourselves, especially a neighbor who has wronged us? You can’t just muster up from within yourself the will to obey these commands. It’s not natural to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself, much less a neighbor who has wronged you. That is not natural; it is supernatural. That is nothing less than a work of the Holy Spirit of God. The power to obey these commands comes from the Spirit in the New Covenant.

We see this even in the structure of Leviticus. In chapter 16 we are freely forgiven of all our sins based on the sacrifice of a substitute. Now that we have experienced forgiveness, we are told to replace hatred with love. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Where does love like this come from?

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

The ability to love our enemies comes from the experience that we, who were God’s enemies were so loved.

1 John 4:10 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.

God loved those who had sinned against him.

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak …ungodly… 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

God loved us, his enemies. We can love only because he first loved us. He showed us how to love our enemies. He shows us how it feels as enemies to be loved. Now that we have experienced grace, total undeserved unmerited love, we can begin to find joy in extending this same kind of love to those around us who deserve it least, to those who have personally wronged us.

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

Do not hate, do not hold on to bitterness or slander another person. You can let go of a grudge and forgive even the most grevious offenses because the cross shows you just how much you have been forgiven in Christ.

You might say ‘If it were just once I could forgiven them, but they have done the same thing to me over and over and over again.’ Jesus says to you ‘You whipped my back until the flesh hung like ribbons.’ But this attack was so personal. You spat in my face. But they have offended me so deeply I just can’t get it out of my mind. You pounded a crown of thorns deep into my skull. But they have wronged me and there’s nothing I can do about it. They’ve damaged my reputation. My hands are tied. You nailed my hands and my feet to a cross so I could barely breathe. But they humiliated me publicly. You stripped me of my clothes and suspended me publicly for all to mock. But this offence goes so deep it pierces my very heart. You ran a spear up through my side and into my heart. But I feel like I have been discarded. Thrown away. Locked up. Forgotten. You put me in a cave and sealed the entrance with a heavy stone. But I feel like there is no hope for me. I just can’t forgive. I am the resurrection and the life!

To bear a grudge is a heavy burden to bear. Would you be free from your burden today? Jesus says:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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

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November 17, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:8-13; The Cross Before the Crown

08/25 1 Corinthians 4:8-13 The Cross Before the Crown; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130825_1cor4_8-13.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

8 Ἤδη κεκορεσμένοι ἐστέ, ἤδη ἐπλουτήσατε, χωρὶς ἡμῶν ἐβασιλεύσατε· καὶ ὄφελόν γε ἐβασιλεύσατε, ἵνα καὶ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν συμβασιλεύσωμεν. 9 δοκῶ γάρ, ὁ θεὸς ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀποστόλους ἐσχάτους ἀπέδειξεν ὡς ἐπιθανατίους, ὅτι θέατρον ἐγενήθημεν τῷ κόσμῳ καὶ ἀγγέλοις καὶ ἀνθρώποις. 10 ἡμεῖς μωροὶ διὰ Χριστόν, ὑμεῖς δὲ φρόνιμοι ἐν Χριστῷ· ἡμεῖς ἀσθενεῖς, ὑμεῖς δὲ ἰσχυροί· ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄτιμοι. 11 ἄχρι τῆς ἄρτι ὥρας καὶ πεινῶμεν καὶ διψῶμεν καὶ γυμνιτεύομεν καὶ κολαφιζόμεθα καὶ ἀστατοῦμεν 12 καὶ κοπιῶμεν ἐργαζόμενοι ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσίν· λοιδορούμενοι εὐλογοῦμεν, διωκόμενοι ἀνεχόμεθα, 13 δυσφημούμενοι παρακαλοῦμεν· ὡς περικαθάρματα τοῦ κόσμου ἐγενήθημεν, πάντων περίψημα ἕως ἄρτι.

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 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, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul has brought the Corinthians back to the simple message of the gospel, the foolish message of the cross, the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified for sinners.

He is addressing spiritual pride. He is calling them back to gospel centered humility.

Paul has held himself up as an example of what Christian leadership should look like; he is a field-hand planting and watering seed; a builder constructing a building on the one foundation, an under-rower, propelling the ship forward under the direction of the one Captain. He has used the Scripture to warn them not to go beyond what is written, because all of Scripture demonstrates the folly of human pride. God promises to destroy the wisdom of the wise (1:19; Is.29:14). The only boasting that is appropriate is boasting in the Lord (1:31; Jer.9:24). God’s salvation is beyond what the heart of man could possibly imagine (2:9; Is.64:4). No one understands the mind of the Lord (2:16; Is.40:13). The wisdom of this world is folly with God (3:19-20; Job5:13; Ps.94:11). He invites them to consider what they have that they did not receive. Everything, absolutely everything, every singe thing that they have is a gift, by grace, and it is totally inappropriate, arrogant, ungrateful, and rude to boast in something you have received as if you did not receive it.

Now he uses sharp sarcasm and irony to drive his point home. We might be surprised to see the apostle using sarcasm. Many of us have been taught that sarcasm is sin. Here we find biting sarcasm in God’s inspired Scripture. So when is sarcasm appropriate, and when is sarcasm sin? Charles Hodge, principal of Princeton Theological Seminary from 1851 to 1878, has some very helpful comments on this subject.

That the passage is ironical, and even sarcastic, cannot be denied. This is not the only instance in which these weapons are used by the inspired writers. The prophets especially employ them freely in their endeavors to convince the people of the folly of trusting to idols. The propriety of the use of weapons so dangerous depends on the occasion and the motive. If the thing assailed be both wicked and foolish, and if the motive be, not the desire to give pain, but to convince and to convert, their use is justified by Scriptural examples.” (C.Hodge on 1Cor.4:8).

In this instance, the quarreling and boasting of the Corinthians was both wicked and foolish, and the desire of the apostle was not to crush, but to bring repentance and restoration, so he employs the most biting sarcasm to wake them from their foolishness and bring about a repentant humility.

Three inappropriate attitudes for the present age

First, he sarcastically lists three attitudes that are inappropriate for the present age.

1 Corinthians 4:8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!

The Corinthians act as if they are already satisfied, rich and reigning. These are not bad things for a believer to look forward to, but the fact that the Corinthians felt they already possessed them revealed a deep flaw in their understanding of Christian doctrine and what it means to follow Jesus. Many Christians today share their misunderstanding. Jesus came proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, that he is the King. Jesus paid for our sins, defeated the devil, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of his Father on high. He is the rightful King of the universe. We as his followers are adopted into his family, so that means that we are co-heirs with Christ, the King’s kids, royalty, and so, many conclude, we should live and act like royalty. We should drive the nicest cars, live in the nicest houses, eat the richest foods, have all the toys and the comforts and the pleasures that this world offers. After all, everything in this world, the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine, belong to our Daddy, and he loves to give good gifts to his children. The Corinthians, and so many of us, are enjoying the good life.

Already you have all you want! Already we are satisfied, satiated, glutted. The idea is that our stomach, or our life, is crammed so full that we have no room for anything else. It’s that feeling you have after thanksgiving dinner when you’ve eaten so much that those delicious pies which earlier looked so appealing now no longer hold much interest for you. All you want to do is go lay down somewhere and digest. This is not what the Christian life was meant to be. You should not already be satisfied. Your best life is absolutely not now! The best is yet to come, when we will see our King face to face, and we should be hungering, longing, yearning, aching to be with him. Our heart should resonate with the heart of the Psalmist:

Psalms 42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Already you have become rich! We have increased in goods. We have a lot of stuff. We live in nice houses, we drive nice cars, we have enough to eat, we spend money on things we don’t need. You might argue, no, we are just barely scraping by. Take a look at this chart by the World Bank’s Branco Milanovic. According to the New York Times, this tells us that “the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants” (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/the-haves-and-the-have-nots/?_r=0 ). That means that everyone here today would be considered rich by global standards. America’s 70 million pet dogs are probably better fed and medically cared for than the world’s 870 million people who suffer from chronic undernourishment. Jesus’ instructions to a rich man who came to him were

Mark 10:21 “…go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Jesus told a story about a rich man in Luke 12.

Luke 12:16 …“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Lk.12:15). God calls anyone who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God a fool. Those are strong words, and they probably apply to everyone in this room. If God has blessed us with prosperity, he has blessed us so that we can share what we have and give to those in need. Some of us need to simplify our lives so that we can free up resources to give away. Resources in God’s church are like blood in the body, meant to flow and bring life, rather than pool and bring sickness and death.

Already you have become kings! Already you are exercising authority and rule over others. All of us have an opinion. We all think we know what everybody else should be doing. If we are given the opportunity, if we have the power, we leverage our opinion on others.

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

We are eager to pronounce judgment, but none of us have all the information or insight with which to render an accurate judgment. All our ruling is premature and partial.

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

The Corinthians were satisfied, rich, and reigning, three attitudes that are inappropriate for this present age. Paul says ‘I wish it were true!’ I wish we were already reigning with Christ, but this is simply not true. Here are some of Jesus’ instructions to his followers found in Luke 6.

Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

According to Jesus, the appropriate state of his followers now is poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, reviled, and spurned. Jesus says woe to you if you are rich, full, laughing, and well spoken of. The church in Laodicea was similarly blind to their own true condition. Jesus says to them:

Revelation 3:17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

The Apostolic Example

Paul holds Jesus’ apostles up as examples for the church to follow. Actually, he says that God has put them on public display.

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.

Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified head down in Rome, Andrew was scourged and tied to an X shaped cross in Greece, James was beheaded in Jerusalem, John was thrown in boiling oil but was unharmed so spent the rest of his days in exile in Turkey, Philip was crucified in Syria, Bartholomew (or Nathaniel) was beaten, flayed, and crucified in India or Armenia, Thomas was lanced and burned in an oven in Greece, Matthew was axed to death in Ethiopia, James was thrown down from the temple tower in Jerusalem and then clubbed to death, Judas (or Thaddaeus) was crucified in Greece, and Paul was beheaded in Rome.

God put the disciples on display as the very last and least. In a Roman triumph, the victorious military commander would lead his troops on parade through the city, displaying the spoils of war, dragging along the most important captives, and last of all the captive slaves, destined to die in the Colosseum at the hands of gladiators or wild beasts for the entertainment of the crowds. Paul puts himself and the other apostles at the end of the procession, on public display to the universe, both men and angels.

We should learn a lesson from the apostles. A frequent argument among them was ‘who will be the greatest in the kingdom?’

Mark 9:35 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.”

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 18:2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus taught his followers that they must be humble, they must serve others, even giving their lives. The cross must come before the crown, both for Jesus and for his followers.

Three Contrasts

Paul continues his scathing sarcasm with three contrasts between the apostles and the Corinthians, and he holds up six snapshots of the current condition of the life of an apostle.

1 Corinthians 4:10 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, but we in disrepute. 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…

The first contrast is between fools for Christ and the wise in Christ. This should remind them of the first two chapters of this book where God’s true wisdom is displayed in the foolishness of the cross. You want to be thought wise in Christ, we are willing to become fools for Christ. The true wisdom of God that is wiser than men is the crass and base message of a bloody Messiah.

The second contrast is between weakness and strength. This again should bring them back to the first chapters of this letter, where the hidden power of God is unleashed through the seemingly weak proclamation of the gospel of the cross. In wanting to come across as forceful and strong, you have abandoned the power of the simple gospel.

The third contrast is between disrepute and honor. The Corinthians are seeking honor and glory, the apostles are seeking to give all glory to Jesus. They are willing to be humiliated for the sake of Christ. What the Corinthians don’t understand is that the way down is the way up. In 2:8, Paul describes Jesus as the Lord of glory, and in 2:7 he says that this hidden wisdom of Christ crucified was decreed by God for our glory. We will be glorified later because in humility we received the message that we were so bad that we deserved death, and that God became flesh so that he could die in our place.

Paul gives six snapshots of what the current apostolic lifestyle looks like in contrast to the already satisfied, rich and reigning attitude of the Corinthians. Rather than already experiencing the blessings of Christ’s kingdom, the apostles right up to the present hour are craving and thirsting and naked and beaten and homeless and exhausted in the demeaning role of laboring with our own hands.

Three Appropriate Responses to Hardship

Seeing that the Christian life follows Jesus’ example of the cross before the crown, and that Jesus promises his followers much difficulty (Jn.16:33), Paul gives three appropriate ways to respond to hardship.

1 Corinthians 4: 12 …When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat.

This is the hard stuff of practical application. When someone condemns, blames or criticizes you, what do you do? What is your emotional reaction, and what is your immediate response? Retaliate, vindicate, defend, explain, justify, exonerate. Can you let it go? Can you be silent? Can you go one step beyond and bless that person that trashed you? The word literally means ‘to speak well of’. If someone speaks evil of you, can you speak well of them? Only with the strength that God supplies!

What do you do when you are pursued, persecuted, afflicted, injured, harassed? I am shocked and offended. It’s not right! I want justice to be done! I want it to stop! Can you endure? Can you bear with it? Can you wait? Can you simply hold on in the middle of it? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within you!

How do you respond when someone slanders you, vilifies you, drags your name through the mud? Must you clear your name? Can you live with the fact that others might think something about you that may not be true? Can you pray for the person who slandered you? And I don’t mean the imprecatory prayers of the Psalms; ‘O Lord slay the evildoers in thy great wrath!’ Can you implore God for mercy and help for them? Can you bring comfort and encouragement to them? This is exactly what Jesus instructed his followers to do.

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Paul concludes with two synonymous summary descriptions of the apostolic ministry.

1Corinthians 4:13 …We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

The present is not the time for fullness, riches and authority, not if we are going to listen to Jesus or follow the example of the apostles. This is an offensive picture. This is the stuff that gets scraped off the plate and goes down the garbage disposal. This is the stuff that gets scraped off your boots after you walk through the farm field. This is the reputation of the followers of Jesus. Are you willing to have this be what people think of you?

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;

let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death,

Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin,

Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.

(Arthur Bennett, 1915-1994)

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

August 25, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment