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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 12:1-3; Belief and the Spirit

08/24 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 Belief and the Spirit Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140824_1cor12_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν. 2 οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι. 3 διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Now Concerning

In chapter 12, Paul signals with the words ‘now concerning’, that he is moving on to address another topic that the Corinthians had asked him about in a letter. Back in chapter 7, he said:

7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote:

There he addressed abstinence, celibacy, and marriage; in 7:25 he said ‘now concerning virgins’; in 8:1 ‘now concerning things offered to idols’; here in 12:1 ‘now concerning the spirituals’; in16:1 ‘now concerning the collection for the saints’; and in 16:12 ‘now concerning Apollos’. These are issues about which the church had written asking specific questions, to which the Apostle responds. Paul moves back and forth in this letter between issues that they had raised by the Corinthians in their letter to him, and reports which had come to him from others. We do not know exactly what the questions were, but we have the benefit of Apostolic teaching on the issues.

The Spiritual Ones

To understand what the question was, we have to look at what Paul wrote to answer their question. He introduces this section with a somewhat ambiguous phrase ‘now concerning the spirituals’ [τῶν πνευματικῶν]. This adjective built on the noun [πνεῦμα] ‘spirit’ could mean ‘the spiritual things’ or it could mean ‘the spiritual people’. And in the context it is used both ways. In verse 4 he mentions [χαρισμάτων], the usual word for spiritual gifts, literally ‘grace-gifts’, built on the word [χάρις] ‘grace’. In verse 3 he refers twice to what is spoken ‘in the Spirit’. In verse 7 he talks about the various manifestations of the Spirit that are given. In 14:1, he exhorts them to be zealous for the [πνευματικά], especially to prophesy. So ‘the spiritual things’ or manifestations of the Holy Spirit, grace-gifts, fits the context. But in 14:37, where he is concluding this section on [πνευματικῶν], he refers to anyone who thinks he is spiritual, clearly referring to a spiritual person. Back at the end of chapter 2 he contrasts the natural person with the spiritual person, and in 3:1, he laments that he cannot address the Corinthians as spiritual, but as fleshly, mere infants in Christ.

We know that pride and self-seeking were major issues in Corinth, a desire to impress others and be thought well of, to seek to advance one’s own status and standing in the community. There were divisions between rich and poor, wise and foolish, strong and weak, There was a severe vacuum of love, a lack of care and concern for the good of the other that repeatedly surfaces in Paul’s instructions to this church.

In these chapters, Paul addresses the diversity of the gifts given by the one Spirit, the mutual need of the different members for one another, the worthlessness of all the gifts without love, the essential purpose of the gifts to build up the church, and the priority of gifts that build up the church over gifts that build up the individual.

So we could re-create the Corinthian questions something like this: What is the measure of true spirituality? Some thought they were spiritual because they manifested more obviously supernatural gifts like speaking in tongues. They may have looked down on those who did not have such outwardly supernatural gifts as if they had not attained the same height of spirituality. Those without the showy gifts began to feel second rate and useless, unimportant appendages who did not have anything to offer, who simply didn’t belong. Those who didn’t possess these showy gifts may have even questioned the validity of those supposedly supernatural manifestations of the Spirit that were flaunted by some in their congregation. What about those so-called gifts? How are they to be used? Who are the truly spiritual ones?

Outline and Structure

Paul speaks to these issues with skill and pastoral wisdom. He addresses them as brothers, a term of affection, and he lays some theological groundwork before he confronts the abuses and improprieties in the way they treat one another. This is very similar to how he addressed the issue of idolatry back in chapters 8-10. He began in chapter 8 by clarifying the underlying theology that was foundational to the issue. Then in what seems at first glance to be a digression to another topic in chapter 9, he illustrates the principle of foregoing ones own rights out of service to others for their good. Then in chapter 10, he comes back to the issue with some very clear and direct commands that he expects them to understand and obey.

Here in chapters 12-14, Paul’s tactic is similar. In chapter 12, he lays some theological groundwork for the issue. In chapter 13, the love chapter, which many see as an out of place insertion in the middle of a discussion on spiritual gifts, he holds up the fruit of the Spirit as more essential to the Christian life than any particular manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. Then in chapter 14, he comes back to the issue of spiritual gifts with some very direct commands on how we should conduct ourselves and treat one another relating to spiritual gifts in the church of God.

Let’s look at this introductory section together:

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Paul appeals to their desire for knowledge. He does not want them to be uninformed. He says ‘I want you to understand’. And he refers to their previous life of ignorance in idolatry. You recall, when you were pagans, before you heard the gospel and believed, you were led astray to unspeaking idols.

Idolatry

Idolatry was a significant part of life before Christ, and continued to be a struggle in first century Corinth, as is evidenced by chapters 8-10. Idolatry is centering one’s life around anything or anyone other than God. Sports or leisure or power or status or wealth or things or recreation or relationships, anything other than God that becomes the focal point of life is an idol. And idols cannot deliver on what they promise. Money cannot buy happiness. Things break. Experiences leave us longing for more. Relationships cannot bear up under the weight of expectations and ultimately disappoint.

The prophets of the Old Testament have much to say about the idiocy of idolatry.

Habakkuk 2:18 “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! 19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise!Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it 20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

The foolishness of idolatry is glaring. Our Creator God invites us to find our satisfaction in him alone, and we turn from him and go searching for pleasure under every rock and tree and hole in the ground. Romans describes the rebellious sinful idolatry of all humankind this way:

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

We all tend toward idolatry in our hearts. Our desires lead us astray. We trade in the glory of knowing the immortal God for fleeting glimpses of his reflection in his creation.

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; …

However we were led, we were all led astray.

Jesus is Lord

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, in relation to your question of what is spiritual, I do not want you to be uninformed; I want you to understand. No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed”. Jesus spoke of the Spirit’s coming in John 15 and 16.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 16:14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit of God will always bear witness about Jesus and bring glory to Jesus. No one who is spiritual would ever speak evil about Jesus. This would be unthinkable for any follower of Jesus to say.

3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Notice that the apostle uses the language of inability. No one is able, no one can.

When Peter made his confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said:

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you. The confession of the identity of Jesus as God is not of human origin. The recognition of Jesus for who he is is a supernatural revelation from the Father through his Holy Spirit.

This was clearly Paul’s own experience, as he was ‘still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’ (Acts 9:1) when Jesus interrupted him on the road to Damascus.

Paul pointed this direction earlier in this letter when he:

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. …4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

He goes on to say that the rulers of this age did not understand the gospel,

1 Corinthians 2:8 … for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

The good news of what God has prepared for those who love him, the gospel of the crucifixion of the Lord of glory for us and for our salvation, these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

We have received the Spirit of God so that we might understand the God’s gracious good news. Without God’s Spirit we could not understand the gospel. This is what he goes on to say in the next verses.

1 Corinthians 2:13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

The natural person, the person who has not experienced the work of the Holy Spirit supernaturally revealing that Jesus Christ crucified is good news for us, this person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. He rejects the gospel because it is foolishness to him. He thinks it stupid. He is not able to understand the gospel, because the good news is spiritually discerned. The spiritual person who understands is only spiritual because the Holy Spirit is at work in him revealing Christ and the beauty of the gospel to him.

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul points to the blindness of unbelievers.

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

They are blind and cannot see the light of the good news of the glory of Christ. Only a sovereign omnipotent God can overcome this spiritual blindness and create light in the midst of darkness.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

God is the one who gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He shines in our hearts and opens our blind eyes so that we can see the truth and beauty of the gospel.

Paul says here in 1 Corinthians 12 that:

12:3 …no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Of course this does not mean that no unbeliever can mouth those words. Mockers can mouth the words. Hypocrites can mouth the words. Pretenders can mouth the words ‘Jesus is Lord’. Jesus himself warned of this.

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

It is possible to call Jesus Lord out of a heart of unbelief in him, seeking to do things for him to earn his favor, refusing to depend on him alone for what he has done for us. Amazingly, in this passage, those who were not known by Jesus are not only calling Jesus Lord, but they are manifesting some of the same spiritual gifts that the Corinthians thought marked them out as spiritual. Even these apparently spiritual acts could be bad fruit from an unbelieving root.

It is not merely vocalizing the syllables, as if they were some kind of magical incantation, that has any effect. Romans 10:9 says:

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

This confession that Jesus is Lord is evidence of a Spirit wrought transformation of my hard heart. When I say ‘Jesus is Lord’, I am owning him as the one to whom I pledge my allegiance, the one to whom I owe all my devotion, the one to whom I will ultimately answer. He is the one under whose authority I now gladly bow. He is my Lord, he is my King, my only Master, and I would have it no other way. I have been given new affections, new desires, desires to obey and submit to Jesus, affections for Jesus, longings to please him, hunger to worship him, eagerness to gather with his people, to walk with him, to know him. I cannot genuinely celebrate the Lordship of Jesus without the transforming life creating work of the Spirit. Belief, the basic confession of Jesus as Lord, is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work in my heart.

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion:

Do you see what Paul has done here? The Corinthians are asking about grace-gifts and wanting to know who are the truly spiritual ones. He has leveled the playing field. There are no more spiritual or less spiritual believers. Every believer is spiritual, because belief is the work of the Holy Spirit. No spiritually blind spiritually dead person can truly say ‘Jesus is Lord’. The Holy Spirit creates life in a dead heart and opens blind eyes so that a sinner can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and believe in him. This saving faith, believing in Jesus as Lord, is evidence of Holy Spirit transformation, evidence of true spirituality.

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

August 24, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Leaders

01/19/14 Church Leaders Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140119_church-leaders.mp3

We have been looking at the church, the assembly of Jesus-followers, the blood-bought possession of our Lord Jesus, those who acknowledge him as King, who proclaim the good news that Jesus was crucified for sinners, those who make disciples, those who gather together to devote themselves to the apostolic teaching, to the fellowship, to remembering Jesus through the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.

We looked at church members; that every believer is a member who belongs to the body of Christ, a body part intended to be a connected, healthy, functioning part of the body, each uniquely equipped and enabled to function as a vital part of the body of Christ.

Today I would like to look at those parts of the church body who have leadership responsibilities. What is the relationship between leaders and the rest of the body, and what are the responsibilities of the body to their leaders? What does God expect of leaders in his church, and what should we expect of them? We will look at a number of biblical passages to piece together what it should look like to be a leader in the church.

Pay Careful Attention

Paul addresses the elders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20. He prepares them for his absence, and charges them:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Feel the weight of responsibility laid on the leadership of the church. Wolves are coming. Fierce wolves who will not spare the flock. The responsibility of the leaders of the church is that of a shepherd with a flock. It is imperative that they be alert, diligently persevering in watchfulness. Pay careful attention. First, pay careful attention to yourselves, because he says that it is from among your own selves that men will arise distorting and dragging disciples away. I must keep vigilant watch first over my own heart so that I am not veering off course. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock. Leaders are to watch over the sheep that have been entrusted to their care. Notice the gravity of this responsibility: care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. If God paid the ultimate price for his church, he would expect us to guard his bride with no less passion and commitment. Notice also where this responsibility comes from. This is no man-made authority; there are no self-appointed leaders. The Holy Spirit has made you overseers. This is a responsibility given by God, and recognized by his church. In this verse we see the care of the triune God for his church. The church was purchased with the blood of the Son, the church belongs to the Father, and the Holy Spirit establishes and enables leaders to care for and protect the church.

Feed my Sheep

After his resurrection, Jesus entrusted Peter with responsibility over the sheep.

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Notice well, the sheep do not belong to Peter. Jesus claims them as his own. Jesus says they are ‘my sheep, my lambs’. Jesus entrusts Peter with their care; feeding and tending. The leader who loves Jesus first of all will be sure to keep his sheep well fed.

The Priority of Prayer and the Word over Physical Needs

As the early church grew, tension arose between the physical and spiritual needs of the followers of Jesus. Acts 6 records how they addressed some of these issues.

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

People began to complain, to grumble, to murmur, and the focus of attention of the leaders was being diverted to address their grievances. Notice, by the way, that it was not the widows themselves who were doing the grumbling. Others complained on their behalf. The apostles said ‘it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.’ Pure religion, James tells us, is to visit orphans and widows (James 1:27). But here we see the priority of the spiritual over physical needs. Prayer and the preaching of the word must not be neglected or interrupted. So they appointed deacons to address complaints and meet physical needs, Spirit-filled men, wise men, men of good reputation. This freed the apostles to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

Paul tells Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

Preaching and teaching is hard work. It is critical work. It must be a priority in the church. In 1 Timothy 3, a passage we will look at later that outlines the necessary character of church leadership, Paul refers to “the church of the living God” as “a pillar and buttress of the truth”. Truth must be defined, defended, and held to tenaciously. The word must be taught.

Equipping the Saints

Look with me at Ephesians 4. God poured out his undeserved grace on each part of his body to fulfill the purpose he designed for each one.

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

…11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Here he clearly defines the goal of church leaders. The purpose of gifted leadership in the church body is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Pay close attention to what this is saying: who is doing the work of the ministry? The saints, the body of Christ, every believer is doing the work of the ministry. The work of the ministry is not delegated to a few professionals. The work of the ministry is the work of the body of Christ, functioning together in unity, each member doing its unique part.

By his grace, God has given gifted leadership to his church to equip the saints. The role of leadership is primarily one of equipping. Equipping the saints for the work of ministry. This word means to mend, to restore, to perfect, to fit or frame together, to prepare, to perfectly join together. Equipping for growth in the body, equipping for unity, equipping to know Jesus better, equipping for maturity, equipping in Christ-likeness, equipping to detect and resist false teaching, equipping for love. Equipping for the work of the ministry. Every saint, every follower of Jesus is a minister, called to do the work of the ministry. You and I are ministers, servants, intended to serve others for the glory of Christ. The main purpose of those gifted to lead is to equip every believer for the work that they as a part of the body of Christ are called and gifted to do. Think of this as the base where you are issued equipment, where you assemble for tactical training, where you receive marching orders, where you are prepared to be sent out on mission. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

In 1 Corinthians 14 as Paul lists the gifts, he repeatedly emphasizes that the gifts are given for the building up of the church.

1 Corinthians 14:3 …one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 …one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 … so that the church may be built up. 6 … how will I benefit you …? …12 …strive to excel in building up the church. …17 … but the other person is not being built up. …19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others …26 … Let all things be done for building up. …31 … so that all may learn and all be encouraged, …40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Each part of the body is functioning properly when each part is all about building up the whole body in love.

Selfish Shepherds of Israel

In the Old Testament,God incriminated the selfish leaders of Israel for not doing what they were called to do.

Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Notice on what grounds he accuses these greedy shepherds. They do not feed the sheep. They feed only themselves, they eat the sheep, they use the sheep for their own benefit. They fail to strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strayed, or seek the lost. They have failed to protect the sheep from predators, becoming predators themselves. They rule with force and harshness. God will judge these shepherds. They will be held accountable.

10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

God himself will shepherd his people

11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out … and gather them… And I will feed them … 14 I will feed them with good pasture,… There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. …19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? …22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. …23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. …

27 …And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 … they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, … 30 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.”

God will seek for and rescue, gather and feed, give rest, bind up, strengthen, bring back, deliver, protect.

Servant Leadership

Jesus is the good shepherd. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything a shepherd was meant to be. Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). Jesus instructs his disciples to follow his example.

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.”

Leadership in the church is not about position or power or prestige. Leadership in the church is not about being served; leadership in the church is defined by self-sacrificial service for the good of others.

Qualifications for Leaders

That is why we find the character qualifications for leadership in Christ’s church.

1 Timothy 3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

In his instructions to Titus, he adds:

Titus 1:7 … He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Leaders in the church must be men of character, men who have proven themselves responsible, men who are sound in doctrine, men who are selfless, eager to serve. Leadership in the church is not at all about what you can get; rather it is all about what you can give.

Shepherd the Flock

Peter says this to the leadership in the churches.

1 Peter 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Peter tells the leaders to shepherd willingly, eagerly, as examples; not under compulsion, not for shameful gain, not in a domineering way.

He tells those who are younger be subject to the elders; and he tells everyone to be clothed with humility toward one another. Church leaders are to shepherd God’s flock as under-shepherds responsible to the chief Shepherd, the one to whom they will ultimately give account.

Obey, Submit to, and Pray for your Leaders

The author of Hebrews gives instruction to the church.

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In this passage he points to the responsibility of the leaders to keep watch over your souls, and he reminds that they will have to give an account. In light of this weight of responsibility of leadership, He commands all of us to be continual in worship, to do good, to share, to obey our leaders, to submit to them, and to pray for them; to make their job pleasant and not painful. He reminds us that God is the great shepherd of the sheep; and God is the one who ultimately will equip you with everything good so that you can do his will. By his unmerited grace, he sees fit to equip the saints for the work of the ministry through the instrumentality of church leaders. God himself is the one who through Jesus Christ will work in each one of us that which is pleasing in his sight. 

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

January 19, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Members

01/05/14 Church Members Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140105_church-member.mp3

It has been suggested to me that it might be useful for us as we begin a new year together and as we approach our annual meeting and as we are encouraging you to apply for membership in this local church, to study together what it means to be a church member. In order to understand church membership, we first need to understand what the church is, and then what the bible means when it talks about members, and let that shape how we think about church membership.

Church

First, what is a church? According to the dictionary,

http://dictionary.reference.com

church [church] noun

1.  a building for public Christian worship.

2. public worship of God or a religious service in such a building: to attend church regularly.

That is how the modern English dictionary defines ‘church’ But in the New Testament, the word church never once refers to a building or a location. The New Testament word is [ἐκκλησία] ekklesia; it means a called out assembly of people. In Acts 19 this word usually translated ‘church’ is translated ‘assembly’ referring to the riotous crowd that gathered in the theater in Ephesus shouting “great is Artemis of the Ephesians”. The town clerk quieted the crowd and told them that if they have any legitimate issues they should be settled in the legal assembly (again the same word usually translated ‘church’). The Greek word ekklesia simply means a gathering or assembly of people. The church or gathering is made up of individuals. After Stephen was martyred, Saul persecuted the church by going after individuals.

Acts 8:3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

After Saul met Jesus, we are told:

Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Here we see that individual followers of Jesus in different geographic regions, who would not typically meet together, are all collectively called ‘the church’, singular. Jesus spoke this way when he said “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt.16:18). Jesus is building an unstoppable assembly of people. Acts 20:28 tells us that God obtained the church with his own blood. So the assembly, the church that we are talking about is the blood-bought people of God, made up of believers who follow Jesus.

In Acts 14, as Paul and Barnabas visited cities, they preached the gospel and made disciples of Jesus. As they passed through these areas again, they strengthened and encouraged these followers of Jesus.

Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

So they established assemblies of believers or churches in each city, each with their own local leadership. After they returned to Antioch from this missionary journey we are told:

Acts 14:27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

Pay close attention to how they talk about the church. It does not say they showed up at an address. It says that they ‘gathered the church together’. It does not say where. Where is irrelevant. The church is not a location. The church is not a building. The church is the blood-bought people of God who gather together. Notice also that church is not something we do. We do not do church, have church, or attend a church service. Church is not an event or a religious service of one form or another. Church is not where. Church is not what. Church is who. Church is our identity as a collective group of Jesus-followers. In Acts 15 Paul returned to many of the cities where he had made disciples:

Acts 15:41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Acts 16:5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

Here he refers to churches plural. There were multiple assemblies of Jesus-followers in different locations. The churches were strengthened in the faith by strengthening the people who made up those churches. The churches increased as disciples were making more disciples.

So we can talk about the church, the assembly of people that Jesus bought with his blood and will take from every tribe and language and people and nation. And we can talk about churches, local gatherings of Jesus-followers with their own local leadership.

Members

This brings us to the next question; What is a member? I thought it might be informative to start with a dictionary definition.

http://dictionary.reference.com

mem·ber·ship [mem-ber-ship] noun

1. the state of being a member, as of a society or club.

2. the status of a member.

3. the total number of members belonging to an organization,society, etc.

Notice some of the key words in this definition: state, status, number; society or club; belonging.

A quick google search was revealing. Here are some of the first things that pop up for ‘membership’:

Membership Saves You Money On The Things You Love To Buy. Learn More!

Investigate the benefits of basic and society memberships. Explore member and visitor resources and services. Renew or elevate a current membership.

Members can get it all! Members can express their unique style … explore member-only areas

The focus is on you, the member; membership saves you money on the things you love! Membership has benefits. Membership has perks and privileges. Membership grants you exclusive access to resources and services that you wouldn’t have if you weren’t a member. We are encouraged to ask questions like ‘why should I become a member? What’s in it for me? Why is this membership better than that one? What will I get out if it?’ This understanding of membership is shaped and influenced by the individualistic consumer mentality of this present age in which we live. I am the center. I will shop around for a membership that suits me, that serves me well, that meets my needs and fulfills my expectations.

Did you know that church membership is a biblical concept? But if we take what our culture tells us about membership and apply it to the church, we will end up with a disastrous mess. We should not be surprised that the Bible re-defines what membership means and re-calibrates our thinking on what it is to be a member. So buckle up, hold on to your brains, we are going to look at what the Bible has to say about being a member. Let’s start with something Jesus says.

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

The word ‘member’ that Jesus uses is [μέλος] melos; it means a limb or a part of the body, like an eye or a hand. Think for a moment on how this re-shapes the idea of membership. A member is not an individual with rights and privileges; instead a member is a connected functional part of the whole. This how the Bible talks about church membership. This is what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

Membership is a body analogy. The human body is made up of a bunch of connected functional parts. The many members make up one body. When someone puts faith in Jesus and becomes a follower of Jesus, that person is baptized with the Holy Spirit and made a part of the body of Christ. Paul goes on to ‘flesh out’ this body membership analogy:

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

Notice that there is necessary diversity of function among the members of the body. One member has one function, another has another function. All members are dependent on one another.

Paul warns us against member envy. There is a tendency among the members of the body to be discontent. We often wish we were something other than what we are. Imagine a ligament in the left knee noticing how eloquently the mouth speaks and trying to yell out in competition!

Notice too how serious it is to have a disconnected member. One member cannot say to another member “I have no need of you”. That is not true. We are designed to be incomplete parts connected to the whole, incomplete without each other. No member stands alone. No member can say ‘I am so important that I don’t need the rest of the body. I am the hand. This sluggish body is holding me back. I think I am going to go it alone for a while’. Neither can any member say ‘I am so insignificant, so unimportant, so unnoticed that the body will be just as well without me. I am only one vertebrae in the spine, I will just quietly disappear and no one will even notice.’ Paul says ‘indispensable!’

In this body analogy, there is no room for retirement. One day the kneecap says ‘I’ve been filling this role for so many years. I’m tired of it. It’s time for me to retire and make room for someone else to step up. When your kneecap gives out, that’s called an injury, and it causes the whole body to suffer.

There may be a time when amputation is necessary, when a member has become so infected with the disease of willful unconfessed sin that for the protection of the rest of the members, they must be severed from the body, but this is a drastic measure, a messy last resort when every other effort has failed, and always with the goal of restoration. The consequences of this action must be carefully weighed, as the body will be handicapped without this member. This highlights the seriousness of membership. For someone to simply choose to dismember themselves from the body for whatever reason is reckless and irresponsible. It handicaps the body and is lethal for that body part.

Some might say ‘oh, I am staying connected to Jesus, the Head, but I just don’t want to be connected to the body’; that is sheer nonsense.

Every member in the body is to be a connected functional part of the whole. This is by God’s design. If we look back at verse 11, we see that it is the “Spirit who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” Verse 18 tells us “God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose.” Verse 24 tells us that “God has so composed the body …that there may be no division in the body.” God designed you individually to be connected and play a vital, indispensable role in the body, for the good of the whole body. God intends “that there be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” In humility, we are neither to overestimate or underestimate our value in the body. Neither are we to overestimate or underestimate the role of anyone else in the body. No division. “Have the same care for one another.”

26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

You all together are the body of Christ. Each one is to be a connected functional part of the whole. The New Testament assumes that every Jesus-follower is a connected functional member of the body of Christ. When the apostle wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus, it is clear that there was a real assembly of believers in that city to whom the letter would be delivered. When Paul wrote to the church of God that is in Corinth and told them that they were not to judge outsiders but those inside the church, and that they should ‘purge the evil person from among you’ (1Cor.5:13), he assumes that they knew who was outside the church and who was inside, whether that was on a paper member list or a mental one. The bible doesn’t specify how we should keep track, but it is imperative that we know.

Who Should Be A Church Member?

So if we ask the question ‘who should be a member of the church?’ we can answer ‘all those and only those who are genuine followers of Jesus.’ The church is a family that you must be born into. You cannot be a member of the church unless you have experienced the new birth. Those who have experienced the regeneration of the Holy Spirit have been made members of the body of Christ. They are those who experience forgiveness of sins through faith in the Lord Jesus. They make a public profession of that faith through baptism, which is an outward picture of the inward reality. You are not a member of the body of Christ and should not be one on paper if you do not embrace the good news of Jesus. If you do belong to Jesus, then you are a member of his body, and it is essential that you connect with a local body of believers.

What is My Part In the Body?

Here is another question. I am a member of the church. How do I know what my part is? I want to be a connected, functional part of the whole. What part am I? How do I know? You could take a spiritual gifts inventory and that might help a little bit. Let me give you 4 simple things that I think will help you see what part you are to play in the body of Christ.

1. Clearly understand the goal. What is the purpose of the church? What is our mission, our objective? If we clearly see the destination, we can more easily see if we are moving in the right direction or if we are getting sidetracked. The purpose of the church and of every member is to glorify God by loving God, loving people, and making disciples who glorify God by loving God, loving people and making disciples. The great commandment and the great commission encapsulate the purpose of the church. If what I am doing does not advance the great commission and embody the great commandment, then I am probably not functioning in the church in the way that God intended.

2. Be a healthy member. A body part that is diseased, disconnected or sick cannot function properly in the body. Stay connected to the members around you. Value them. Seek unity in the body. Stay connected to the Head; abide in Christ. Turn away from your sin.

3. Be obedient; when the Head (who is our Lord Jesus Christ) calls you to do something; do it! But that’s the problem, how do I know what Jesus wants me to do? Many people say ‘I just don’t feel called to that’. I’m not sure what feelings have to do with it. Calling is not a feeling, it is not often a message in the clouds or a still small voice. Here’s how this might look.

If you notice something that would glorify God, love people and make disciples that is not happening, then you should complain to the leadership and demand that they appoint a committee to investigate and address the problem… no really, if you notice something that is not being done and it needs to be happening, very likely that is the Holy Spirit pointing you to exactly what part you are to play in the body. There are more good gospel opportunities in our community than we could ever fully exhaust. But if you have a clear understanding of the goal, if you are a healthy connected member, and if God has opened your eyes to a need, if God has given you a passion for something, then get busy! By all means seek wisdom and godly counsel from leaders, get equipped, but go do it. Be an active member. Step up. Take responsibility. Function. Engage. Enjoy. Be who you were created to be. Do something!

4. Don’t be so self-conscious. What I mean is this. A guitarist who has to consciously thing about where each finger goes to make a chord is still learning how to play. Try running up the stairs sometime while paying careful attention to how each muscle and ligament in your foot and leg move. Actually, don’t. You would probably fall down and hurt yourself. But if your son is crying upstairs and you need to get up there to see if he’s all right, if your body is functioning properly, you don’t need to think about which part does what, you just go. Your body naturally, almost unconsciously does what it was meant to do. Don’t over-analyze your every move. Clearly understand the gospel goal, be a healthy, holy, connected member, and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

If you are a believer in Jesus, you have been made a member; not of a social club, but of the body of Christ. Our all-wise God has carefully placed you in the body exactly as he intended. Think about the implications! Church is not where I insist on my own way. Church is an assembly of people with whom I voluntarily give up my own preferences for the good of the body. The body is only as healthy as its sickest member. I will seek to stay connected, to seek unity, to put to death my pride. As a member of the church, I look for ways to function that contribute to the overall purpose. As part of the church, I come not to be served, but to serve, and to give my life, my gifts, my talents, my passions for the benefit of the others. As a church submitting to Jesus our Head, we show the world that it is good to live under God’s authority.

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

January 5, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:6-9; The Un-Married

11/10 1 Corinthians 7:6-9 The Un-Married;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131110_1cor7_6-9.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατε, καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι· 2 διὰ δὲ τὰς πορνείας ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα ἐχέτω, καὶ ἑκάστη τὸν ἴδιον ἄνδρα ἐχέτω. 3 τῇ γυναικὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἀποδιδότω, ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἡ γυνὴ τῷ ἀνδρί. 4 ἡ γυνὴ τοῦ ἰδίου σώματος οὐκ ἐξουσιάζει ἀλλὰ ὁ ἀνήρ· ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ τοῦ ἰδίου σώματος οὐκ ἐξουσιάζει ἀλλὰ ἡ γυνή. 5 μὴ ἀποστερεῖτε ἀλλήλους, εἰ μήτι ἂν ἐκ συμφώνου πρὸς καιρὸν ἵνα σχολάσητε τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ πάλιν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ἦτε, ἵνα μὴ πειράζῃ ὑμᾶς ὁ Σατανᾶς διὰ τὴν ἀκρασίαν ὑμῶν. 6 τοῦτο δὲ λέγω κατὰ συγγνώμην, οὐ κατ’ ἐπιταγήν. 7 θέλω δὲ πάντας ἀνθρώπους εἶναι ὡς καὶ ἐμαυτόν· ἀλλὰ ἕκαστος ἴδιον ἔχει χάρισμα ἐκ θεοῦ, ὁ μὲν οὕτως, ὁ δὲ οὕτως. 8 Λέγω δὲ τοῖς ἀγάμοις καὶ ταῖς χήραις, καλὸν αὐτοῖς ἐὰν μείνωσιν ὡς κἀγώ· 9 εἰ δὲ οὐκ ἐγκρατεύονται, γαμησάτωσαν, κρεῖττον γάρ ἐστιν γαμῆσαι ἢ πυροῦσθαι.

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Paul is addressing issues that the church in Corinth had written him about. Chapter 7 deals with sexual relationships between men and women. He had already addressed incest, adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, and other forms of sexual immorality in chapters 5 and 6. His conclusion was that those who continue to practice such things, along with idolaters, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Not that there is no hope for someone who has sinned in any of these ways. He makes it clear that some of the believers in Corinth had fallen into all of these categories. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (6:11). There is forgiveness and hope for every sinner who turns to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing.

At the beginning of chapter 7, he addresses the teaching that was circulating in Corinth “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. This is simply not true in all circumstances. He clarifies that for the married, they have obligated themselves to their spouse. He forbids them to deprive one another and encourages enjoyment of sexual activity within marriage as a defense against Satanic attack.

He will go on to address questions about the unmarried, widows and widowers, the married, those married to an unbeliever, issues of divorce and remarriage, and single people. He gives much practical teaching and pastoral counsel to people who find themselves in various circumstances. This is a difficult passage, not only because the subject matter is very personal, but some of Paul’s vocabulary is open to differing interpretations. With God’s help, we will do our best to work our way through this passage together.

A Concession Not A Command

1 Corinthians 7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.

Verse 6 is a difficult verse. We have to try to understand what ‘this’ refers to. What is it that Paul is saying that is not a command but only a concession? Different interpretations have been suggested. Some see ‘this’ as referring to what immediately precedes, the requirement for a married couple to come back together again after a time of abstinence. But he is clearly commanding that they come back together again, and as a defense against Satanic attack. Some have suggested that all of verse 5, where he allows temporary abstinence by mutual agreement for a limited time and for the purpose of prayer is a concession and not a command. In other words, I am not mandating that married couples abstain for prayer, but is conceding to this practice within the stated conditions. This is a possibility, but he has already made it clear that abstaining is not a command by his wording ‘except perhaps’. Some take ‘this’ to refer back to the whole of verses 2-5, that his command that each man should have his own wife and each woman should have her own husband is not a command but a concession. He is not mandating marriage for all; in the next verse he holds up his wish that all would remain single as he himself is. He discusses the value and advantages of singleness in verses 32-35. This is a good possibility. Others take ‘this’ to refer forward to what he is about to say. His following wish that all were single like himself is a concession not a command. He will go on to say that although he wishes that all could be fully devoted to pleasing the Lord as he himself is, he is aware that not all have the same gifting he has and for them this would not be good. Both of these last two interpretations fit well with what Paul says in this passage, and both are true. Not every person is commanded to be married, and not every person is commanded to live a life of celibacy.

Spiritual Gifting in Marriage and Singleness

1 Corinthians 7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

Paul will talk quite a bit in 1 Corinthians about spiritual gifts. In chapters 12-14 he will talk about things like speaking in tongues, utterances of wisdom and knowledge, gifts of faith and healing, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, and working miracles. In chapter 1, he thanked God that the Corinthians were “not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1:7). Here in chapter 7, dealing with marriage and singleness, he refers to another kind of grace-gift from God. Each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. The Corinthians were eager to outdo one another with their spirituality. If it was considered more spiritual to live a celibate life, the married people were willing to put away their spouses to win the title of spirituality. Paul says ‘stop it!you’re playing with fire!’ What is more spiritual is to see how God has uniquely gifted you as an individual and use your gifts for the glory of God. Paul here is claiming that the celibate life, which he practices, is a grace-gift from God. And equally so, marriage is a grace-gift from God, each to be used to bring glory to God. Paul was given the gift of contentment in celibacy. Many are given the gift of contentment in marriage. Each has his own gift from God, one of one kind, one of another. Paul will list advantages he sees in singleness, especially considering the circumstances in which they were then living, but he holds both singleness and marriage up as valuable gifts from our good God. If you are gifted by God with singleness, it is better for you to remain single. If you are gifted by God for marriage, it is better that you marry. Going back to the statement of the Corinthians ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’ Paul would say ‘yes!, if you are gifted by God for singleness.’ But if you are gifted by God for marriage, then each one should enjoy his or her own spouse as a good gift of God.

To the Unmarried and the Widows

1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.

Here is another challenge in interpretation. To whom is Paul referring when he says ‘unmarried’? The word itself can refer to anyone who is currently without a spouse for whatever reason. It can refer to singles who have never been married, or it can refer to widows or widowers or the divorced or separated. If Paul is using the word in this broad general sense, then ‘the widows’ is one subcategory of ‘the unmarried’, and we could translate ‘to the unmarried, especially to the widows.’ Paul uses this word in verse 11 to refer to the wife who is separated from her husband. In verse 34 he uses this word to distinguish the unmarried woman from the virgin. Frequently in this chapter Paul gives equal treatment to the male and female counterpart in each situation, and he will deal specifically with the ‘never been marrieds’ in verses 25 and following, so we could translate verse 8 as ‘to the formerly marrieds’, or ‘to the widowers and the widows’.

Whether he is addressing the broad category of unmarrieds or the specific categories of the formerly marrieds, his advice is ‘it is good for them to remain as I am’. We will see as we work our way through this passage that this is Paul’s repeated advice in a number of different situations given their present circumstances. It is good to remain as you are. If you are married, stay married. If you are single, stay single. Don’t seek to change your status. Not that it is wrong to change your status, but it is good to remain as you are.

Was Paul Married?

This raises an interesting biographical question about the Apostle Paul. It is clear from this and other passages that Paul lived a celibate life. But had he ever been married? That question is more difficult to answer. It is possible that Paul was never married, in which case he tells the widows to remain content in celibacy as he is. It is possible that Paul was married and his wife either died and he never remarried, or that his wife left him, possibly because of his conversion to Christianity. This is speculation, based largely on Jewish tradition. The reasoning goes like this; Paul claimed to be a “Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee” (Phil.3:5). He says “And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal.1:14). Later Jewish traditions tell us that men by the age of twenty were expected to be married, so for Paul to have advanced in Judaism as he claims would imply that he must have been married. Some take his statement in Acts 26:10 about his former persecution of Christians, “when they were put to death I cast my vote against them” to mean that he was a voting member of the Sanhedrin, and later laws about Sanhedrin membership require a man to be married. The bottom line is that none of this is conclusive. The bible does not tell us, and we cannot say with certainty whether Paul was ever married or not. All that we are told is that he was not married at the time he wrote his New Testament letters. He says in chapter 9:

1 Corinthians 9:5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

He claims to have the right to be married, but he did not take advantage of that right.

For Those Without Self-Control

1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

For the unmarried and widows, it is good to remain unmarried. But that is not the only thing permitted, and that may not be the best thing for them. He says that it is good to remain unmarried, but if they are not self-controlled, they must marry. Unfortunately, this verse is difficult to translate without implying that the lack of self-control is negative. May read this and conclude that Paul has a low view of marriage, which is only a vent for the weak who can’t control their sexual urges. But that is to misunderstand the text. The lack of self-control in this verse is not negative or derogatory. We might be better to paraphrase it ‘if they are not predisposed to continence’ or ‘if they don’t have the gift of celibacy’. There is no negativity toward those who have a different gifting. In fact, the strength of sexual drive may be one clear indicator of gifting by God for marriage or celibacy. Each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. Those without the gift of celibacy should not attempt to live as if they had the gift. Paul’s instruction to them is clear. Let them marry. This is a command, in the imperative.

Paul gives extended instructions about the status of widows in the church to the young pastor Timothy.

1 Timothy 5:3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

It was the obligation first of the family to care for widows. If they had no family, the church would care for their needs. But Timothy was cautioned against placing younger widows in the care of the church. Instead they were encouraged to marry a believing husband and maintain their independence. He has a whole list of the dangers of enrolling younger widows into church charity programs. One major reason is that they may not have the God-given gift of celibacy. Paul says ‘if they are not exercising self-control, let them marry’.

Better To Marry Than To Burn

1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

He said it is good to remain as they are if they are gifted in that way, but it is better to marry if they are not gifted with celibacy. It is better to marry than to burn. What does Paul mean when he says it is better to marry than to burn? Probably he means that it is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion, so many modern translations add the interpretive phrase ‘with passion’. This would fit well with the first section of this chapter, where marriage is rightfully used as a weapon against Satanic temptation to sexual immorality. Pursue the God-given path to sexual fulfillment in marriage rather than sentencing yourself to a life of temptation and frustration.

Some have understood this burning in a different sense. Two rabbis were walking along a road. (This sounds like the beginning of a good joke, but it is not. It is actually from the Jewish Talmud [TB Qiddusin 81a; cited by Bruce, p.68]) Two rabbis were walking along a road and they see a woman walking ahead of them. Rab says to R. Judah ‘Hurry up and get in front of Gehenna’. Gehenna was a place of idolatry and child sacrifice in the fires outside of Jerusalem. It became a picture of the fires of eternal punishment, often translated ‘hell’ in the Gospels. I think the idea was to put the temptation to lust behind you, a temptation which would send you to hell. Let’s bring this up to date. We often hear an attractive member of the opposite sex referred to as ‘hot’. From now on when you hear ‘hot’ think ‘hot’ as in Gehenna. Paul said that the ‘pornea’, the sexually immoral would not inherit the kingdom of God. It is better to find fulfillment in marriage than to burn with lust that will end up sentencing you to burn in hell. As Jesus said

Matthew 18:9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell [Gehenna] of fire.

Practical Advice

Paul is intensely practical in this passage. He doesn’t say everything there is to say about marriage or singleness here. But what he does say is practical. Let’s end with some practical advice.

What if you are single today and thinking ‘I don’t think I have the gift of celibacy’? First, get your priorities straight. Recognize that your body is not meant for sexual immorality, it is meant for the Lord. So glorify God with your body. Take advantage of the freedoms of your present singleness to bring maximum glory to God.

Next, as Paul said at the end of chapter 6 ‘flee sexual immorality’. Smash your I-phone. Tear out your internet connection. Do whatever it takes to flee sexual immorality. Paul promises in chapter 10

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Then, if you recognize that you are not gifted for singleness, prepare yourself for marriage. Guys, this might mean you need to grow up. Get a job. Start bathing. Stop playing video games all the time. Stop texting and learn to have a real conversation. Be responsible. Learn to put someone else’s needs and desires ahead of your own. Stop making excuses and start following Jesus with all your energy.

What if you realize today that you have blown it big time? Maybe you are seeing for the first time what God has to say about the seriousness of sin. Maybe you’re realizing that based on what you have done you deserve to be cast straight into the fires of Gehenna. Is it too late for you? Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’ (Jn.8:11). If you run to Jesus, you can be washed, set apart, declared not guilty because Jesus took the punishment you deserve on himself at the cross. He would love to forgive your sins and make you new and transform your desires. Come to him.

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

November 10, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 4:10-11; The End is Near – Use Your Gift

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090531_1peter4_10-11.mp3

05/31 1 Peter 4:10-11 The End is Near: Use Your Gifts to Glorify God

10 ekastov kaywv elaben carisma eiv eautouv auto diakonountev wv kaloi oikonomoi poikilhv caritov yeou 11 ei tiv lalei wv logia yeou ei tiv diakonei wv ex iscuov hv corhgei o yeov ina en pasin doxazhtai o yeov dia ihsou cristou w estin h doxa kai to kratov eiv touv aiwnav twn aiwnwn amhn

4:7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Peter puts on his sandwich board sign that says ‘the end of all things is at hand’ and because the only thing holding back justice and the final judgment is the mercy of our longsuffering God, because the end could come at any moment, he gives us instruction; four things we should be devoted to in light of the end. The first was prayers – we must keep a level-headed vigilant attitude – we must organize our life and think clearly in order to pray more effectively. Highest on his priority list is love – love for one another – earnest unceasing love – because if we truly love each other the way Jesus loves his church, then we will be able to put up with a lot of things that would otherwise irritate and separate us. We will have the highest good of the other in mind and that will rule all our thoughts and feelings and words and actions. This love must extend to practical acts of generosity and hospitality – and without the complaining that would ordinarily accompany frequent and repeated guests and meals and cleaning and preparation and laundry and all the labor that goes into doing hospitality.

The end of all things is at hand; history is moving toward a fixed goal – the culmination of everything is right around the corner. Because the end is near, we must be disciplined in prayer, earnest in love, cheerful in hospitality, and Peter gives us one last instruction in light of the end; he moves from mutual love to mutual service; he says ‘make use of your gifts to serve one another’.

4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Peter is talking here about spiritual gifts. This is an essential passage to consider when looking at the gifts of the Spirit. Paul gives extensive lists of spiritual gifts in various places. Peter doesn’t give us a long list of specific gifts – he gives much more generalized instruction concerning the gifts. He gives us the big picture ultimate purpose of the gifts.

The Extent:

He starts by telling us:

4:10 As each has received a gift,

His basic assumption is that every Christian has been gifted by God. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have at least a gift. Every member of Christ’s body has a function and a role. There are no useless members. There is not one of the Lord’s people who has not received some gifts from him that they can use to bring good to their fellow believers and glory and praise to God.

Each has received a gift. The word ‘gift’ is ‘charisma’ [carisma] and the root is ‘charis’ [cariv] ‘grace’. Gifts are exactly that – gifts; gracious undeserved outpourings of God’s goodness as the supreme giver. Free gifts flowing from the undeserved grace of Almighty God.

The Purpose – To Serve

His assumption is that we have all been gifted by God. His admonition is that we use our gifts, and that we use them properly.

4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Our gifts are not for our own benefit. My gift is for your benefit; your gift is for my benefit. God does not give his gifts so that we can boast and gloat and promote and display or draw attention to ourselves – they are gifts that we did nothing to merit. Since all gifts are rooted in the free and sovereign grace of God, there is no room for pride in the one who has received. We must not overvalue ourselves as if we had earned God’s favor; and we must not undervalue our gift and hide it as if it were not important and did not exist. We are to use our gifts. The proper use of our gifts is to serve one another – as Paul puts it ‘for the building up of the body of Christ’

1 Corinthians 14:3-5 … so that the church may be built up.

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

Peter calls us stewards – someone who manages the resources of their master. We have been entrusted with a responsibility to manage God’s resources. God’s gifts are a weighty responsibility. We are stewards; we can be good and faithful servants or wicked and slothful servants with what God entrusts to us. In Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25, the unfaithful servant buried his gift and returned the exact amount to his master. We are expected to take inventory of what we have been given and wisely invest and risk and creatively explore ways in which we can utilize our gift in such a way that the return is maximized for the glory of God.

We are to use our gifts as we have received them – ‘As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another’ – they were graciously and freely given to us out of the abundant generosity of our great God. We ought to use them freely, graciously, and with abundant generosity for the good of those around us.

Categories of Gifts:

We are to be good stewards of God’s varied grace. God’s gracious gifts are multi-faceted and infinitely variable. Paul in several places in his letters lists some of the various gifts (Rom.12:6-8; 1 Cor.12:8-10, 28-30; Eph.4:11). None of the lists is the same, and even within each gift, there are infinite variations and unique manifestations. Our God is a God who can craft each snowflake with an unique and distinct signature and pattern, and he can gift his people with an infinite diversity of degrees and styles and combinations of giftings. Peter here is not interested in specifying any of the different gifts; he lumps them into two broad categories and focuses our attention on the proper use and ultimate purpose of all the gifts.

11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies

His two major categories are speaking gifts and serving gifts. Speaking gifts would probably include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, exhortation, wisdom, knowledge, tongues and interpretation. Serving gifts would probably include giving, leading, mercy, service, faith, healing, miracles, distinguishing spirits, helping and administration. [see chart]

Means of Using the Gifts

The one who employs a speaking gift is to use it as one who speaks oracles of God. This phrase is used in the LXX to refer to the words of the Lord revealed to the prophet Balaam:

Numbers 24:4,16 the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered:

It is used in the New Testament to refer to the OT scriptures

Acts 7:38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.

Romans 3:2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.

Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,

It is an incredibly serious thing to say ‘thus saith the Lord’.

Ezekiel 13:6-8 They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the LORD,’ when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. 7 Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the LORD,’ although I have not spoken?”8 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord GOD.

God is against the one who claims to speak for him when he has not spoken. James says:

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

This is a weighty responsibility, not to be taken lightly. Paul says:

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth

Paul tells young Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

He tells Titus:

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

When the people heard Jesus teach:

Mark 1:22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.

Luke 4:32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.

We have been entrusted with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must authoritatively proclaim God’s truth. The authority is not inherent in the messenger, but in the message. In so far as the message is true to God’s word it carries the weight of God’s authority. The noble Bereans were praised as they listened to the apostle because:

Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

God’s word is our authority. We must be faithful to his word.

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

The one who serves is to serve not their own strength but in the strength that God supplies. God’s gifts must be operated with God’s strength that he abundantly supplies in order to be fruitful. Jesus said:

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

Jesus told Paul:

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” …

We must own our total inability apart from the power of God at work in us. And we recognize that when God’s power is working:

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

When you speak, speak with God’s voice and God’s authority (not your own); when you serve, serve with God’s strength and God’s supply (not your own).

The Goal

What is the goal? The ultimate purpose for our speaking and our serving is

–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

‘When those who speak utter God’s words rather than their own and those who serve do so in God’s strength rather than their own, God through Jesus Christ receives the glory … the provider is always the one who is praised’ (Schreiner, p.215). This must be our motivation for everything we do – that we do it in such a way that it is evident that the words are divine words and the power is divine power so that the glory goes to the divine enabler and not to the channel through which the divine work flows. That’s the only way we can obey what Jesus is telling us in:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

This is the ultimate purpose of everything:

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

We exist to bring glory to God. We were created to bring him praise. But we can only bring glory to God through the person of Jesus Christ. We cannot come to God on our own.

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

We must have a mediator

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jesus, fully God and fully man, was the only one capable of satisfying the wrath of God against our sin by his death as our substitute.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God

It is through Jesus that we are brought to a place where we can give the glory to God that is his due.

The Doxology

Peter is compelled to worship this great God:

To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

God owns the right to all glory. Whenever we glory in a lesser thing, we commit idolatry and treason and rob God of his due. He alone deserves our praise and he demands our worship.

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Isaiah 48:11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

God’s glory is eternal and his rule will never end. He alone is worthy of our undivided adoration and affection. Let’s give him the glory that he is due.

Romans 12:6-8

1 Corinthians 12:8-10

1 Corinthians 12:28-30

Ephesians 4:11

1 Peter 4:10

apostles

apostles

speaking

prophecy

prophecy

prophets

prophets

evangelists

pastors

teaches

teachers

teachers

exhorts

wisdom

knowledge

tongues

tongues

interpretation

interpret

contributes

serving

leads

mercy

service

faith

healing

healing

miracles

miracles

distinguish spirits

helping

administrating

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

May 31, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12; the Church made up of Individuals

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090125_the_church_4.mp3

1/25 The Church; Made up of Individuals with Spiritual Gifts

We’ve been talking about the church. We’ve been focusing on the big massive truths about the church. We saw that the church is a community of people called out from the world by the Lord Jesus Christ, founded on his identity, and united by the new birth. We saw that the church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of Jesus and she will overcome. We took a look at what characterized the early church; they were filled with awe at the awesome works of God, they were filled with joy and generosity and praise, and they devoted themselves to studying and hearing God’s word, to intimate community life, to worship and remembering Jesus’ finished work, and to seeking God in intimate conversation with him.

Today I want to ask the question ‘so what’s my part?’ Paul says:

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

So if we are Christ’s body, the church, and the church is made up of individual members, then what is my specific role and function in the group? As an individual member, what part do I play? What do I contribute? We are going to look at spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.

There’s a lot of confusion in the air on the topic of spiritual gifts. In some churches there is an overemphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, especially a few particular gifts. In other churches, there resistance and fear to even talk about the gifts. Paul tells us that he doesn’t want us to be ignorant or uninformed about the gifts. We can’t afford to go through life not knowing what God has uniquely shaped us to do.

We went on vacation one year to visit family for Christmas, so we were out of town for my work Christmas party. A few days after I had returned to work, they were cleaning up the holiday decorations and a co-worker came to by cubicle and said ‘hey, did you ever pick up your gift?’ What do you think my response was? ‘Eh. Whatever. Can’t you see I’ve got work to catch up on? I don’t have time for a gift.’ How many think that’s how I responded? How would you respond? ‘Gift? Gift! What is it? Where is it? I want it….now!’ How many of you know that it is more blessed to give than to receive? How many know that it is still pretty blessed to receive?

The word translated ‘spiritual gifts’ in our bible is just one word in the original; ‘pneumatikon’ [pneumatikwn], which simply means ‘of the spirit’ or ‘of the air’. You have pneumatic tires on your car. We had a pneumatic shop where I worked. Pneumatic simply means ‘of or relating to air; powered by air’. We built elaborate control systems that would operate by air power. We had a giant air compressor in a shed outside the building, and air lines piped in and run all over the ceiling, with air drops for connecting pneumatic equipment. We had pneumatic drills and pneumatic wrenches and pneumatic screwdrivers and pneumatic presses and pneumatic nail guns. Each tool had its specific function, but they all ran on air. When they were not connected to the air lines they were useless. When they were connected to the air source, they had great potential to get a lot of work done efficiently and effectively. They also had the potential to do a lot of damage if they were misused. The air press would neatly and efficiently press a part into place, but it also had the potential to permanently disfigure your finger if you misused it. The air nailer would effortlessly and precisely pound a nail into a 2×4, but it would just as effortlessly put that nail through your foot if you weren’t careful, as one of my co-workers found out. The things that are of or pertaining to the ‘Pneuma’; the Spirit are powerful tools for good, but they can also be used inappropriately and result in harm.

That’s one of the main reasons that Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church. This church was misusing the gifts of the Spirit to their own harm. They were selfish and boastful and proud and Paul wrote to correct their problems and put them back on the right track. So Paul tells them up front ‘I do not want you to be uninformed concerning spiritual gifts.’ There are things you need to know about the gifts of the Spirit. Not just that there are gifts and which ones you have, but how to use them in a way that builds up the body and brings honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at what he says in v.2:

2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Notice he’s talking about being under the influence or control of another. The word he uses of being ‘led astray’ was the word commonly used of leading a condemned person away for execution. That’s the picture we have of our life before Christ – being led to worship worthless things by demonic powers. Paul is concerned not with the fact that what you say was supernaturally induced but where it came from. The spiritual source is revealed by the content of what you say. God’s Holy Spirit would never induce you to say something against Jesus. On the flip side, here’s a true gift of the Spirit of God: acknowledging that Jesus is your King! As Jesus told Peter ‘flesh and blood has not revealed this to you’; surrendering to Jesus as Lord and King is a supernatural work of the Spirit of God in your life.

He goes on to talk about the unity of the body in the diversity of the gifts:

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Gifts ‘charismaton’ [carismatwn] is from the root ‘charis’ [cariv] grace or free gift; there are varieties of gifts, there are varieties of service, there are varieties of activities; but the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God gives and empowers. Notice the triune God here? God is one; but God gives a unique manifestation of the Spirit to each individual. Pay careful attention to the last phrase: ‘for the common good’. That is key to the discussion of spiritual gifts. Your gifts are not for you. Your gifts are for others. My gifts are for your benefit. Selfishness and pride are contrary to the purpose of the gifts. You can’t hoard the gifts you have been given and you can’t boast about the gifts you have – they are gifts given freely by God as he chooses. The gifts are for the common good.

Let’s look quickly at some of the gifts. Understand there is no comprehensive list of gifts given in the bible. We’ll look at a few passages that list some of the gifts – but the point is not to exhaustively list them but to give us an idea of what kinds of gifts and abilities God has given to his church to use for the common good. And remember, don’t just go down the list checking off ‘that’s not my gift, that’s not my gift, does not apply…’ The gifts are for the common good, so although no one has all the gifts, we all benefit from the gifts of those around us, so an awareness and appreciation of those gifts in others will be beneficial to you as an individual and to us as the church. [I am indebted to pastor James MacDonald for the definitions of the gifts.] Buckle your seat belts, here we go.

8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,

Wisdom is the spiritual ability to understand God’s perspective on life situations and to share those insights in a simple understanding way; it is a capacity to relate the truth of scripture to real life situations.

and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

Knowledge is the spiritual ability to know things that were not learned through normal channels.

9 to another faith by the same Spirit,

Faith is the spiritual ability to trust God for what cannot be seen and to act on God’s promises. Faith is confidence in God. All believers have faith in God, but the gift of faith is an extraordinary ability to believe God for the impossible.

to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

Healing is the spiritual ability to be God’s channel to restore health. This is similar to the gift of faith, but specific to healing. I don’t believe this is limited to physical healing, but can include emotional and spiritual healing as well.

10 to another the working of miracles,

Miracles is the spiritual ability to receive and display exceptional interventions of God’s power in ways that bring him glory. By definition miracles are not frequent and typical but unusual and exceptional. Miracles are things that are not explainable by natural causes.

to another prophecy,

Prophecy is the spiritual ability to publicly communicate God’s word in an inspirational way that convinces unbelievers and challenges and comforts people. It is the ability to persuasively declare God’s word in a way that makes the truth come alive and people sense God himself is speaking. The gift of prophecy speaks God’s word with authority, bringing conviction of sin and awareness of its consequences. The gift of prophecy is not the same as the office of prophet. There are people today with the gift of prophecy, but we do not call them prophets.

to another the ability to distinguish between spirits,

Distinguishing spirits or discernment is the spiritual ability to distinguish right from wrong and to separate truth from error. It is the ability to discern motives and agendas. A word of caution is in order here. There are many so called discernment ministries that are hyper critical and find something wrong with every ministry and demonstrate no love or grace. The gift of discernment used in the flesh is a destructive and dangerous thing.

to another various kinds of tongues,

Tongues is the spiritual ability to speak a message from the Lord or to the Lord through divinely anointed utterances which are languages

unrecognized by speakers and hearers. Like all the gifts, the purpose of tongues is for the edification of the church. The whole point of this section is that tongues is a gift, but it is not the most important gift and it should not attract all the attention in the church. We have two main parameters that will keep us balanced in our thinking about tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:30 tells us that not all believers speak in tongues. It is a gift given to some but not all in the church. 1 Corinthians 14:49 makes it very clear that we are not to forbid speaking in tongues. If we stay between these two boundaries, we can maintain a biblical balance.

to another the interpretation of tongues.

Interpretation of tongues is the spiritual ability to make known to the church the message or interpretation of the one who spoke in tongues. It is in combination with the interpretation that tongues edifies believers. That is why Paul demanded:

1 Corinthians 14:27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.

Lets jump down to verse 27 where he adds some other gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles,

Apostles. The bible is clear that the office of apostle is closed.

Ephesians 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

The foundational offices of apostle and prophet are not repeated, however there are people today with apostolic gifting. This is the spiritual ability to start new churches and ministries and oversee their development; these are ministry entrepreneurs with a boldness to take the gospel to uncharted territories.

second prophets, third teachers,

Teachers have the spiritual ability to educate God’s people by clearly explaining and applying the bible in a way that causes others to learn. It is the ability to equip and train people for ministry.

then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping,

Helping is the spiritual ability to recognize unmet needs in the church family and take initiative to provide practical assistance to others quickly, cheerfully, and without need for recognition. Thank God for those with the gift of helping.

administrating

Administration is the spiritual ability to ascertain the gifts of others and recruit them for ministry. They organize and manage resources for effective ministry. Administrators have the ability to coordinate many details and execute the plans of leadership.

and various kinds of tongues.

We already talked about tongues. Let’s turn over to Ephesians 4 to see some more.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. … 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists,

Evangelist is the spiritual ability to effectively communicate the good news of Jesus Christ to unbelievers; the ability to sense opportunities to share Christ and lead people to respond in faith. Understand, we are all commanded to do evangelism;

2 Timothy 4:5 As for you, …do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

But some are specially gifted and evangelism comes naturally.

the pastors

Pastoring is the spiritual ability to care for the needs of a group of believers and equip them for ministry; ability to nurture people in spiritual growth and assume responsibility for their welfare.

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Notice again the emphasis on mutual edification. Let’s turn over to Romans 12 to see some more.

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

Service is the spiritual ability to recognize unmet needs in the church family and to invest personal resources to meet that need. A person with the gift of service delights to do get the job done.

the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation;

Exhortation or encouragement is the spiritual ability to motivate God’s people to apply and act on biblical principles especially when they are discouraged or wavering in their faith; ability to bring out the best in others and challenge them to develop their full potential.

the one who contributes, in generosity;

Giving is the spiritual ability to generously contribute money and other resources so that the body of Christ might be strengthened and expanded; this person experiences tremendous freedom and joy when they give – they are open handed and open hearted with singleness of purpose.

the one who leads, with zeal;

Leading is the spiritual ability to communicate a compelling vision in a way that produces followers.

the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Mercy is the spiritual ability to recognize people who are hurting and take action to relieve their suffering. This person is extremely compassionate and gladly carries the burdens of others without feeling inconvenienced.

This was a fast overview of some of the gifts that God has blessed the church with. You might be asking ‘how do I know what gifts I have been given? You can get online and find spiritual gift inventories and questionnaires that will help you identify your gifts, but here’s the best way to really find out. Get involved! Show up. Be part of the body. Get involved in each other’s lives. Step out of your comfort zone. Be stretched and try new things. When you do, there will be three main indicators that tell you you’ve found your place: you will be satisfied; God will be glorified, and people will be edified.

If you have gifts that you are not aware of, or are hiding, we all are suffering. We simply can’t afford to go through life together not knowing what God has uniquely shaped us to do.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Romans 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

January 25, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment