PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Works vs Fruit; Galatians 5

05/21 The Work of the Spirit and the War Against the Flesh [Galatians 5:13-21; 24-26]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170521_works-vs-fruit.mp3

Today we begin a series on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. I believe this will be very practical and helpful, and I would invite you to be praying with me that God the Holy Spirit would be at work through his word to produce his fruit in the lives of his people for his glory.

~prayer~

Paul is in anguish over the Galatians. He is astonished that they are deserting Jesus and turning to a different gospel. These Gentiles are being pressured to submit to the Jewish law. Paul is fighting to preserve the truth of the gospel, the good news that we are declared right before God not by keeping the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. The Christian life is not me attempting to live up to some standard, but Christ living in me, a life lived “by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal.2:20). Paul is eager to embrace the freely given grace of God, and he understands that if righteousness could come through the law then Christ was crucified in vain.

Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ

He says in chapter 3

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—

The Christian life is begun by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. I hear with desperate dependence the good news proclaimed that Christ was crucified for me. The Holy Spirit is at work in me so that as I hear the gospel I trust not my abilities but Christ alone. The Spirit works this in me. Having freely received the Spirit through faith, is it now up to my flesh to finish the work he began in me? Of course not! If the beginning of the Christian life is a work of the Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, so the continuance and completion of the Christian life is all a work of the Holy Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Sanctification by Grace through Faith in Christ

Paul says in Galatians 4

Galatians 4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Paul’s longing is that Christ would be formed in them. Christ – himself – formed in you. Christ – who lives in me. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This is no human effort. Paul’s heart is that they would live in complete daily dependence on the Spirit in them to produce the character of Christ in them.

In chapter 5 he warns not to fall away from grace, to turn from the freely given gift of God who is at work in us by his Spirit, in order to attempt to obtain righteousness by our own effort.

Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

We do not work, we eagerly wait. We wait for the hope of righteousness; a confident assurance of a righteousness that God will bring about in us. We trust. We depend. We believe. Through the Spirit. By faith. We wait. It is not our effort. Not what we do or don’t do that “counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” It is not me working, but faith working. Dependence on God is at work, and it expresses itself in love.

Freedom to Want

In verse 13, Paul warns against misusing this freedom we have in Christ, our freedom from the law, in a way that allows the flesh to gain traction.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are set free in Christ to fulfill the law by serving one another through love. So many misunderstand freedom as a freedom from any authority. Rather freedom in Christ is freedom from the tyranny of a cruel slave-master to be back under the good and right authority of the God who is love. It is a freedom at the heart level. We are no longer under debt and an obligation to live up to the standards of the law. Instead we are freed to do what we want. We are set free at the level of our desires. We are set free from the suicidal desires that compelled us to pursue things that destroy; we are set free at the heart level to hunger and thirst after the things that truly satisfy.

War of Desires

Paul warns:

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Life by the Spirit is war. There is war outside and war within. Paul warns; if you bite and devour one another, watch out; our fleshly desires stir us up against one another. If we follow the flesh (and often we do) we will be biting and devouring each other.

But as believers in Jesus, we have been given the Holy Spirit of God. We still have the old nature, the flesh. And our sinful flesh will not just roll over and admit defeat. It will not go down without a fight. So we have a war on our hands; a war within. It will be long – lifelong. It will be messy – there will be casualties. But we are assured of victory – the outcome is certain. We battle a decisively defeated foe. The flesh was defeated at the cross. If we are in Christ, if we have identified with him in his death and resurrection, the victory has already been won. Jesus conquered sin and death and hell on the cross. And my flesh was crucified with him on that cross.

By flesh the Bible doesn’t mean physical bodies. Our bodies are not inherently evil. Our physical bodies will be resurrected glorified. We will enjoy a sinless existence in our physical bodies in the presence of God for eternity. God created Adam and Eve with physical bodies in the garden and he said it was all very good. Our bodies are not the problem. The flesh is the problem. By the flesh, the Bible means that fallen part of us that desires other things more than God. It is that part of us that wants to be our own master, determine our own destiny, live for our own glory, be our own god. As believers, we now have the Holy Spirit living within, and we now have competing desires. The flesh has its desires, and the Holy Spirit brings with him his desires, and these two are in conflict. The Holy Spirit desires to magnify Jesus above all.

These competing desires ‘keep you from doing the things you want to do.’ We are in a battle. But who is the you? You are either giving in to the flesh, biting and devouring one another, or you are led by the Holy Spirit, free from the law, through love serving one another. So who is the you? What is your identity? Do you embrace the flesh, with its passions and desires, or do you embrace the Spirit, and allow him to transform you? This is a big deal.

Works of the Flesh

In verse 19, he moves from talking about the desires of the flesh to the works of the flesh.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The flesh manifests itself. There are fifteen words that divide into four categories here. The first three words have to do with sexual sin; sexual immorality, sexual impurity, uncontrolled lust. Then there are two words dealing with religious pursuits; idolatry and sorcery. The flesh makes an idol out of just about anything; family, relationships, work, success, kids, power, reputation. Sorcery is an attempt to gain control by manipulating the spiritual realm. The next 8 are relationship words. And most of these are in the plural; they have multiple manifestations, they may take multiple forms. Enmity – hostile feelings and actions; strife- contention and discord; jealousy – an envious rivalry; fits of anger – bursts of temper; rivalries – selfish ambitions; dissensions – uprisings or controversies; divisions – creating factions; envy – ill will or spite. Most of these are inward attitudes and feelings, attitudes of the heart. The last two, drunkenness and orgies, have to do with excess; excessive drinking, excessive feasting or partying. The desires of the flesh display themselves in works of deviant and destructive sexuality, dark religious practices, self-centered and damaging relational dynamics, and excessive overindulgence.

Recognize, this is a big deal. This is a warning. Paul says ‘I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.’ So this is a salvation issue. If you have embraced the desires of the flesh, if your life is characterized by the works of the flesh, if there is no battle between flesh and Spirit, then you may not know Jesus. But don’t be discouraged; if you are not winning the battle all the time, if you are still struggling against the same sins. The fact that there is a battle going on and you are convicted over your sins is a good sign.

We could look at Jesus’ story of the prodigal and see these fleshly desires manifesting themselves in the works of the flesh. The prodigal idolized money and freedom from all authority and sinful pleasure. He indulged in sexual immorality, excessive drinking and partying.

We could look at his unforgiving older brother and see enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy.

These are the normal outworkings of the flesh. But when the Spirit comes in, then there is war.

Of course we could look at the father in the story and see the fruit of the Spirit on display; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We will look at these characteristics in the coming weeks.

How is the Fruit of the Spirit not a list of moral virtues? (070218)

We need to understand how the lifestyle of the morally upright around us fits in to this overall picture. We acknowledge that many that don’t know Christ personally live lives that we would describe as ‘good’; they are kind, patient, faithful, gentle, self-controlled, they exercise patience, they are peace loving, they show love to others, and they seem happy. Does this mean that the Spirit is at work in their lives? Is this evidence of the Holy Spirit, and should we conclude that people who live this way must be justified believers, because Jesus says ‘by their fruits you shall know them’? In fact we probably can think of people we know that do not follow Jesus that we would say have more of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives than we do. Do we have biblical categories in our minds to fit these facts into? Or does this confuse us and cause us to question and doubt?

Let’s look at what Jesus said:

Matthew 7:16-20 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Now that sounds pretty clear-cut. If you can see the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life, then they must be O.K. with God, right? If they are loving, kind, good, gentle, patient and self-controlled, then they must be on the right track. Be careful not to jump to conclusions before you’ve read the whole passage. Let’s keep reading and see what Jesus says next:

Matthew 7:21-23 “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. 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?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So, apparently there will be people who on the surface appear to have it all together; even people who sincerely feel that they have it all together, who will be very surprised on judgment day. They will say things like ‘but Jesus, we acknowledge you as Lord; we believe in you’. And Jesus says, ‘no, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’. They will say ‘but we did that; we prophesied, we even cast out demons in your name; we did many mighty works in your name’. So they were doing good works. They were performing great acts of love. And not just that; there were supernatural things going on. Prophecies were being given; people were being delivered from evil spirits. Obviously the Spirit was at work in their lives. But on this ground they were not welcome in heaven. What was it that they lacked? Jesus says the critical thing is not what you do; it’s who you know. Jesus says ‘I never knew you. You may have done some amazing things. You may be the most loving, kind, generous person around, you might have even done these things in the name of Jesus, but we had no relationship. I never knew you.’ And Jesus sends them away and calls them ‘workers of lawlessness’. How can he say that when they were doing good works? In God’s eyes all their love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control were filthy rags in his sight. Their good works were valueless because they didn’t stem from a relationship with Jesus.

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.

Contrast Works and Fruit

Notice the flesh is always working, striving, exerting effort to attain its unwholesome desires. The Spirit grows fruit. It is an organic thing. It is not manufactured. If the right seed is planted, the right plant sprouts up. Whatever kind of tree it is, that is the kind of fruit that will be produced. There are ways to encourage and enhance fruitfulness; preparing the soil, watering, fertilizing, pruning. But ultimately the fruit is determined by the nature of the tree. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in keeping with his nature.

Notice also, the fruit of the Spirit is singular, where the works of the flesh are plural. There are various and disjointed manifestations of the fleshly desires. But the Spirit produces wholeness, integration, integrity. This is one fruit. It has different sides, different aspects; but it is one. It is one multifaceted fruit.

And take encouragement here. If you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit of the living God living within you.

Romans 8 tells us

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

And he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1Jn.4:4). And he who is in you is greater than your flesh. God wins! He will be victorious in your life. If the Spirit is there, he will produce his fruit in your life. He will not fail. If God could take the one who was crushed down under the weight of the sin of the world and raise him up to life again, he is fully able to overcome your fleshly desires and produce the satisfying fruit of the Spirit. Christ will be formed in you!

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

May 22, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Church is All About; Ephesians

01/01 New Years; What the Church is All About; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170101_church-ephesians.mp3

I’ts New Year’s Day. Often a time of reflection, looking back and looking forward; resolution making. So I want to ask some big picture questions today. What are we all about? What is church all about? If we know what our purpose is, we have a better chance of being more intentional about achieving our goals. If we each know what we are aiming at, it can help reduce frustration so we are not pulling in conflicting directions. If we know what we are about (or are supposed to be about) we can each make our individual contribution that helps to move us together to our goal.

Our Identity in Christ

I’d like to look in the New Testament letter to the Ephesians for help in defining our purpose as the church. To understand our purpose, we must begin by understaning our identity, who we are. And that is how Ephesians, as many of the New Testament letters, is structured. The first half of the book goes in to detail describing who we are in Christ. Only after that is firmly established, does the author move on to how we are to live out our identity.

Ephesians 1:1 begins by addressing us as ‘the saints’, literally, the holy ones, those set apart for a particular purpose. Did you know you have purpose, meaning, you are meant for something? That you have been set apart for a particular purpose? You are a holy one, a saint.

He also addresses us in verse 1 as ‘faithful’, trustworthy, true. Well, that rules me out. He must be addressing only a select few, only the faithful believers. There are faithful believers and unfaithful believers. And I’m not very trustworthy. But this is not what he is saying. He is not talking about our conduct, but about our identity. Maybe we don’t always act like saints, maybe we aren’t always faithful, but that is who we are. That is our identity. We are not faithful in and of ourselves. We are faithful in Christ Jesus. We are believers in Jesus Christ. We are trusting in Jesus. Faith and belief are different translations of the same Greek New Testament word. We are faithful because our faith is in Jesus. We are believable because we believe. We are trustworthy not because we are innately trustworthy, but because we are trusting in the one who is ultimately trustworthy. We are dependable because we are depending on another who is infallibly dependable.

We are ‘in Christ Jesus.’ We are identified with Jesus. We are hidden in him. We beong to him. We are united with him. Our identity is his identity. Our righteousness is his rightousness. Our purpose, our future is his future. We are in him, connected to him, inextricably linked with him. We have experienced grace – the good we don’t deserve – in him. All the good we experience, we have because we are connected with him.

Look at verse 3. In Christ God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Every spiritual blessing in Christ! Before the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ. He picked us! This is not something to argue over, this is something to worship over! He chose us for a purpose; to be holy and blameless in Christ in his presence for eternity. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons. Loved! Adopted! Look at verse 7. In Jesus we have redemption – we have been purchased to belong to him – purchased through his blood. We have forgiveness of our trespasses. We have forgiveness as a present possession. The accuser may point to my sin and say ‘but what about that?’ and I can point to the cross and say ‘I have forgiveness for that.’ Look at verse 11. Our adoption includes the privileges of sonship. In Christ we have obtained an inheritance. Not only loved, accepted, included, (as if that were not enough!) but we are made co-heirs with Christ in his inheritance!

Only Believe

Verse 13 tells us how this works. You heard the good news of salvation in Christ. You heard the word of truth. You believed. How great is that? This is good news indeed! Jesus paid it all. In full. I hear and I believe. I throw myself on this good news. I lean, I trust, I depend completely on Jesus. He is my only hope. This is indeed good news of rescue. Chapter 2 (v.1-3) goes into detail about my condition, my need. I was dead. Dead walking in trespasses and sins. Dead pledging my allegiance to the evil one. Dead and disobedient. Dead pursuing the passions of my own flesh. By nature a child of wrath. Later in chapter 2 (v.12) it tells me that I was separated from Christ, alienated, a stranger to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God. But then I heard good news. Gospel of salvation to sinners like me. I believed. That’s it. I trusted in, I depended on the good news of the finished work of another. And I was sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Every spiritual blessing is mine in Christ. Chosen in Christ. Loved. Predestined. Adopted. Purchased. Forgiven. Destined for an inheritance. Sealed with the Holy Spirit. This is our identity as believers in Jesus, the saints.

Chapter 2 tells us that God is rich in mercy – not eager to pay back the punishment we deserve. It tells us that he has great love with which he loved us. It tells us he made us alive together with Christ. He saved us. He saved us by grace – the good we do not deserve. He puts us on display as trophies of grace; showing off for all eternity the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. We are saved by grace. We are saved as a gift from God. It is not our own doing. It is not a result of works. There is nothing we can take credit for. It is through faith – depending on the work of another. We are his workmanship. We are a new creation in Christ, spoken into existence by the word of God, with a grand purpose. We were created in Christ Jesus toward good works. Good works prepared in advance by God. Good works, that because of our identity in Christ, we can now walk in them.

At the end of chapter 2, Paul uses the metaphor of architecture. We are a building. We are fellow-citizens with the saints. We are members of God’s household. And we are being built together into a holy temple in the Lord. Built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. We are meant together as the church to be the place where God lives. We are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. The structure takes its shape and trajectory from the one and only cornerstone, Christ Jesus himself.

Knowing Together

Chapter 3 Paul extolls the mystery of the gospel of God’s grace. He prays in verses 14-21 for strength for us, the saints, that, anchored in love, we would have strength to comprehend together with all the saints the immeasurable love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. See here there is a collective comprehension. We are to know together. We are to take eagerly, to sieze together upon the incomprehensible riches of Christ.

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

This is our root, this is our foundation. To know together the love of Christ. To cling together to the immeasurable multi-dimensional love of Christ. To know that which goes beyond knowledge. He prays that we would be spiritually strengthened to know together the love of Christ and that this would be our root and our foundation.

Paul doesn’t mention communion here, but that is a God-ordained way that we can comprehend together, sieze upon together, treasure together as a church the immeasurable love of Christ in the good news of grace. ‘Do this’ Jesus said, ‘in remembrance of me’ (Lk.22:19; 1Cor.11:24-25). As a church, we are to remember together our identity in Christ. We are to actively cling to and continually seek to comprehend the incomprehensible love of Christ for us in the gospel. As the root, everything else must grow out of this. As the foundation, everything else must be built on this. Paul spends 3 chapters laying the foundation of our identity in Christ so that we don’t miss the fact that everything else grows naturally out of this.

Therefore

The encouragement and exhortation in chapters 4-6 is built on the truth of our identity in Christ laid out in the first 3 chapters. Paul says ‘I encourage you, therefore’. All that comes after is built on all that has gone before. This incomprehensible salvation, freely given, by grace, totally unmerited, not of works, now overflows in good works that God prepared in advance for us to walk in them. Therefore, walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Walk now in a manner consistent with your new identity in Christ.

With all humility. The means of our salvation eliminates pride. We did nothing to deserve the good we have been given. If we truly comprehend our salvation, our lives will be characterized by an appropriate humility. With gentleness or meekness. God has treated us gently, with restraint. We must extend this gentleness to others. With patience or longsuffering. God has placed his righteous wrath at a great distance from us. We ought to extend the same patience toward our brothers and sisters. Bearing with one another in love. In God’s great love for us, he patiently endured while we were a long time dead in trespasses and sins, aligning ourselves with his enemy, carrying out our own lusts, children of wrath. In love, we can endure much with our brothers and sisters who wrong us.

Unity

We must be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Are we eager to find things to divide over? Are we eager to set ourselves apart from others? Or are we earnest and diligent to defend our unity? The unity we are talking about is unity of the Spirit. When we heard the gospel and believed in Jesus, we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Is our unity centered on who Jesus is? Is our unity defined by the good news of Jesus Christ crucified? Do we divide over which English translation of the Bible we use, or what style of music we prefer, our favorite teacher, our personal convictions on matters of conscience, denominational distinctions, what position we take on secondary doctrines? Unity is what we are to earnestly pursue. Not unity that ignores the gospel or undermines the gospel, but unity that is rooted in the gospel. We, very unique, diverse personalities, are held together by the bond, literally the ligament or tendon of peace. This peace is the peace of Ephesians 2:14-17; our reconciliation to God through the cross. Jesus Christ is our peace. We all have access in one Spirit to the Father. Jesus has made us one. We are to be diligent to defend our blood bought unity. There is one body and one Spirit. If you are believing the good news of salvation through Christ crucified, if you embrace this one hope, if you are united to Jesus by faith, you are part of the one body that is called the church. If you are sealed with the one Holy Spirit, if you surrender to the one Lord Jesus, if you are under the one God and Father of all, if you embrace the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, you belong to the one body. Our passion must be to lay down our preferences and diligently guard this gospel unity.

Grace-Gifts

Look at verse 7

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

Every believer is uniquely gifted by God with spiritual gifts. There is a variety of gifts but one Spirit. No one should boast about his or her gifts, because they are gifts of grace; they are undeserved. Paul gives a very short list of gifts here, but he is clear about what the gifts are for. Look at verse 11.

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

What we might view as more public gifts are meant to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Every believer is a minister; every believer is called to serve, and a primary function of the local church is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The gift of shepherd/teacher is meant to supply the saints with the tools they need to serve effectively in the unique and diverse ways they each have been called to serve. They are meant for building up the body of Christ. We learn in 1 Corinthians 12 that all the gifts are given for the common good (12:7). 1 Corinthians 14 makes it clear that all the gifts are meant for ‘building up the church.’ The gifts are given for the benefit of others, to be used in service to others. The goal is stated here; until we all attain the unity of the faith. Gifts in the body are meant to bring about unity of the faith. They are meant to bring about the knowledge of the Son of God. They are meant to bring about maturity in Christ. They are meant to guard against being deceived or led astray by changing doctrine. All the gifts are to be used in love, and are meant to help us grow up into Christ. The gifts properly functioning knit the body together in unity and allow for healthy growth as the saints are built up in love.

Put Off – Put On

Chapter 4 goes on to describe what the walk that flows out of our identity in Christ ought to look like.

Ephesians 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

Because we are new creations in Christ, the way we live will be different that it was before. Paul paints a picture of what we once were, that we should be no longer. Darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God, ignorant, hard hearted, callous, given to sensuality, greedy for impurity. We have a new identity in Christ. We are no longer to be characterized by attitudes, desires and actions of what we once were. We are responsible to identify and set aside those things that are characteristic of our former manner of life, and to put on new ways of thinking and living. Replace falsehood with truth. Be angry, but do not let it lead to sin, and do not let it last too long. Do not steal but do honest work so that you have something to share. Do not let your mouth corrode but instead let it build up and give grace. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Set aside bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice. Instead be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving as you have been forgiven. Walk in love as you have been sacrificially loved by God. Sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking must be replaced by thanksgiving. Seek in all things to please the Lord. Replace folly with wisdom. Replace drunkenness with a Spirit controlled life. Sing to the Lord and to one another, give thanks always for everything. Submit to proper authority. Wives respect your own husbands. Husbands sacrificially love you own wife. Children obey parents. Parents do not provoke but discipline and instruct your children. Servants serve as to the Lord. Masters serve your servants as to the Lord. A transformed heart must evidence itself with transformed desires, transformed attitudes, transformed thinking, transformed priorities, transformed actions.

Gospel Armor for Spiritual War

Paul closes with a reminder that our fight is not against other people. We are in a spiritual battle, and we must depend on God’s strength and stand firm in the gospel. We are to be girded with gospel truth, protected by a gospel rightousness not our own, a righteousness imputed to us by Christ. We are to stand firm in and be prepared with the gospel of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to protect ourselves with the shield of faith; gospel confidence in the promises of God. Let gospel salvation guard your mind. Take up the gospel word in the power of the Spirit as your only offensive weapon. Let all be permeated with the gospel access to the throne of grace in all prayer at all times with all perseverance.

As a church, we are to comprehend together our identity in the immeasurably great love Christ has for us. (Eph.1-3)

As a church, we are to be eager to guard gospel unity. (Eph.4:1-6)

As a church, we are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, each using our gifts to build up one another. (Eph.4:7-16)

As a church, we are to put off that which is characteristic of our former passions and put on new desires, new thinking, new attitudes and actions that evidence a transformed heart. (Eph.4:17-6:9)

As a church, we are to recognize that we are in a battle, that it is spiritual, and to stand our ground in the gospel realities that belong to us in Christ. (Eph.6:10-20)

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

January 5, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:13-14; Vigilant Steadfast Mature Powerful Love

07/05 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 Vigilant Steadfast Mature Powerful Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150705_1cor16_13-14.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

13 Γρηγορεῖτε, στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει, ἀνδρίζεσθε, κραταιοῦσθε. 14 πάντα ὑμῶν ἐν ἀγάπῃ γινέσθω.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

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

This is Paul’s closing exhortation to the Corinthians. This has been a heavy letter, confronting sin issues and wrong thinking and doctrinal deviance. Here at the end he gives them five concise imperatives for them to hold on to and live by. These are sharp staccato commands. The first four you would expect to come out of the mouth of a military commander before sending his troops into battle.

13 Γρηγορεῖτε, στήκετε… , ἀνδρίζεσθε, κραταιοῦσθε.

Be on guard, stand firm, be men, be strong. These are all present imperatives, commands that require a continuing posture of battle ready alertness and determination. We will take them one by one.

Be Watchful [Γρηγορεῖτε]

Throughout this letter, Paul has held in view the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He said in his introduction:

1 Corinthians 1:7 …as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The day of our Lord Jesus Christ is always to be kept in view. Jesus used this word ‘be watchful’ when he warned his followers:

Matthew 24:42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

The word means more than merely ‘don’t fall asleep’; it is an active vigilant attentiveness. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul uses the building metaphor of building with perishable or imperishable materials. He says:

1 Corinthians 3:10 … Let each one take care how he builds upon it. …13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.

At the coming of Jesus the enduring quality of your work will be revealed. In the context of church discipline in chapter 5 he says:

1 Corinthians 5:5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

The goal of loving discipline is ultimately salvation when it really matters, when Jesus returns. We are to keep always in mind that we live for another, for the one who bought us with his blood. We are to make it our aim to please him. We are to be ready for his return.

Be on your guard. Be watchful. Stay awake and alert. What kinds of things are we to be watching out for? In chapter 1 he raises the issue of division and disunity. Watch out, be on guard against quarreling, against disunity, against divisions in the body of Christ. In chapters 1 – 4 he warns of the dangers of thinking yourself to be wise and being puffed up with pride. In chapter 5 he warns against the danger of sin being tolerated or even celebrated within the body of Christ. He warns that this has a permeating contaminating effect on the entire body. He warns in chapter 6 he warns against the dangers of greed and sexual immorality, in chapter 7 of the dangers of a desire for circumstances other than what you find yourself in. In chapters 8 – 10 he addresses the danger of injuring a brother by demanding ones own rights and a careless indulgence in Christian liberty. In chapters 11 – 14 he warns against the dangers of selfishness and pride in the worship gatherings of the church. In chapter 15 he warns of the danger of being led astray by false teaching about the gospel. There are dangers without and dangers within. We must be vigilant. We must be on our guard. Peter affirms this in his letter:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

There is an every present danger, and it is never safe to let down your guard.

Stand Firm in the Faith [στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει]

Paul exhorts us to stand firm. He adds a qualifying phrase identifying where we are to stand firm. We are to stand firm in the faith. We are to stand firm in the gospel once for all delivered to the saints. He admonished us in the last chapter:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

We are to stand firm in the life transforming good news that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures. Standing firm means more than simply holding to be true the cold facts of the gospel story. Standing firm means to persistently act in a way consistent with what it means to follow Jesus. The Corinthians were in danger of compromising their conduct in ways that were inconsistent with the gospel. In chapter 6, where the issue is believers indulging in immoral behavior, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

In chapter 10, where the issue is participation in idolatry, treasuring or valuing anything or anyone as much as God, he says

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

How we eat and drink, what we do with our mind our attitudes, can demonstrate an inconsistency with what we say we believe. We must stand in the truth of the good news and we must be being transformed by it. Paul writes to the church in Phillipi:

Philippians 1:27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. …

Paul writes to the churches in Galatia, and he says:

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—

He exhorts them:

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

Jude writes:

Jude 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

We must stand firm in the gospel, we must contend earnestly for it, we must cling tightly to it, we must be transformed by it and live it out. We must hold gospel ground and not retreat before the enemy.

Act Like Men [ἀνδρίζεσθε]

This is a tricky word to translate well. The root of this word is the word used to refer to the male gender. This is challenging, because Paul writes this letter to ‘the church of God …those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.’ This clearly includes men and women. Is he calling for the female believers to ‘act like men’? Some translations attempt to avoid this problem by translating it ‘be courageous, be brave, or be valiant’. These are good translations, but they may miss the point. This word is not contrasting maleness with feminine qualities. Both this verb and the related adjective have been used to refer to courageous and valiant characteristics of women (PNTC fn.45). The contrast is more likely between maturity and immaturity. In chapter 3 he addresses their jealousy and strife and says:

1 Corinthians 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,

In chapter 13, pointing them to the way of love, he says:

1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

In chapter 14, he challenges their thinking on the issues of building others up in the local church.

1 Corinthians 14:20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

This is a call to maturity. Do not be immature, childish, petty, self-focused. The Corinthians were in danger of giving in to compromise under the pressure of a pagan society, but he exhorts them to be holy in actions and attitudes.

This also picks up on Old Testament language. Moses exhorted the people who would be led by Joshua:

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

To be mature or manly is to carry out your duties even in the face of danger and risk. It is not to give in to fear or hopelessness (PNTC). In verse 9 of this chapter we learned that open doors for effective ministry often come with many adversaries, and much maturity and courage is required.

Be Strong [κραταιοῦσθε]

Strength is required to bear up under trials. Throughout this letter there is a contrast between the weak and the strong. Paul proclaimed the good news in plain language so that the cross of Christ would not be emptied of its power. Christ is the wisdom and power of God. In 1:27, “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong”. Paul came to them in human weakness, knowing nothing among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. In chapter 8 he draws the contrast between those who think they are wise with those who have weak consciences, who can be led to sin against their consciences by the example of others. Paul says in chapter 9 that to the weak he became weak in order to win the weak. In chapter 12, using the metaphor of the body, he points out that every part is necessary, and the parts who seem to be weaker are indispensable. In chapter 15, he points to our physical bodies in the resurrection that are ‘sown in weakness and raised in power’. Be strong. Do not be strong in your own strength, but be strong in the Lord. In your weakness he is shown to be strong, so faithfully proclaim the seemingly weak and foolish message of the cross. Do not violate your conscience, do not be swayed by others who indulge in questionable things, but hold fast to your convictions. Function in the strength that God supplies so that God gets all the glory.

We see many of these themes repeated and practical instruction given in Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Let All That You Do Be Done In Love

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

The powerful military imagery is coupled with and saturated in love. Love is not some wishy-washy ooshy-gooshy soft and cuddly emotion. Love is robust, rigorous, powerful; it clings tenaciously to truth.

Neither is this vigilant, sure footed, courageous, and mighty imagery pictured as crushing and dozing over all in its path. It is to be strength characterized by love. This is a key characteristic that the Corinthians lacked. They lacked love in their divisions, in their quarrels, in their jealousy. They lacked love for Christ and the purity of his church in their tolerance of sin. They lacked love in their lawsuits against one another. They lacked love but instead pursued lust. They had knowledge which puffs up, but they lacked the love which builds up. They lacked love for their weaker brothers for whom Christ died. They lacked love when they demanded their own rights. They lacked love when each went ahead with their own meal and took no though for the poor. They lacked love in their pride over spiritual gifts. They lacked love for the body of Christ. This all climaxes in chapter 13, where Paul points out to them the worthlessness of spiritual gifts or sacrificial service without love. He describes the characteristics of love as patient, kind, not envying or boasting, not arrogant or rude, not self-seeking, not irritable, not keeping record of wrongs done, not rejoicing in wrongdoing, but rejoicing in truth. Love carries a limitless load and endures for limitless duration, it never stops trusting in God or hoping in God. Paul exhorts them to ‘pursue love and seek to build others up.

These verses echo Psalm 31.

Psalm 31:23 Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. 24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!

Paul says here ‘let all that you do be done in love’. All things, everything is to be done in love. Love is to saturate and permeate everything. Nothing is to be done apart from love. Love for God and love for others.

In 10:31, Paul told us that everything we do is to be done to the glory of God. In 14:26, Paul told us that everything is to be done to build others up. In 14:40 he said that everything should be done decently and in order. Here at the end of the letter, he tells us that everything must be done in love. God is love and the Spirit of God creates love in us. When we love others, we do things for the good of others, we seek their welfare above our own, we seek to build them up. We do things appropriately, in turn, in a decent and orderly way, respecting one another as we seek to build others up. As we love others, seeking not our own interest but the interests of others, to build them up, we demonstrate the love of God that has transformed us, and this brings much glory to our great God. All things are to be done in love, to build others up, for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

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

July 5, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:1-5; The Marriage Debt

10/27 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 The Marriage Debt;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131027_1cor7_1-5.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]

1 Corinthians 6:16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

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.

The gospel has implications on all of life. Paul preached Christ crucified, and this message of the cross was, to those who were being called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. The cross has implications on every area of life. The gospel message is God’s wisdom to make sense of all of life and his power to live life in such a way as to bring glory to God. A major problem in Corinth, and for us today, is understanding the implications of the gospel of Christ crucified on all of life. Paul, in a very down to earth way, helps them and us to make that connection.

In chapters 1-5 he addresses issues that have been brought to his attention;

1 Corinthians 1:11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you…

In chapter 5:9-13 he clarifies their misunderstanding of his previous communication. “I wrote to you in my letter… not at all meaning…” They took what he had written in a way that was not at all what he had meant so he spells out what he had intended.

In chapter 6, he begins to address slogans that they were using to justify all sorts of evil. ‘All things are lawful for me’ ‘Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy both one and the other’. They may have even been things the apostle had said, or summaries of his teaching, but now they were being used to open the door to practices that have no place among those who claim to be followers of Jesus.

Questions?

Here in chapter 7, he begins to address issues raised by the Corinthians in their correspondence to him. He says;

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

He will address five more of these matters in the course of this letter. Here he addresses abstinence, celibacy, and marriage; in 7:25 he says ‘now concerning virgins’; in 8:1 ‘now concerning things offered to idols’; in 12:1 ‘now concerning spiritual gifts’; in16:1 ‘now concerning the collection for the saints’; in 16:12 ‘now concerning Apollos’. We don’t know what kind of letter the Corinthians sent Paul. Maybe they were honest questions that had come up since the apostle had left. Maybe they were hotly debated issues in the church, and they were looking for Paul to settle their disputes. Maybe the letter wasn’t asking questions at all; maybe they were stating their conclusions and seeking to impress Paul, or even correct him. We don’t know. Whatever the nature of their letter, Paul was happy to address each issue. None of these topics were off-limits. Paul was not afraid of questions. He was eager to take the wisdom of God in the foolishness of the cross and apply it to any and all of life’s situations.

Pendulum Swing

The issue they raise here has to do with sexual intimacy. ‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman’ was probably another slogan that some in the Corinthian church tried to enforce. Corinth was an immoral city. Temple prostitutes were available, pornographic images were everywhere, it was not uncommon for people to be married and divorced and remarried and divorced many times over, and it was also not uncommon for those who were married to keep mistresses and have affairs. This had even crept into the church. In chapter 5, Paul addresses the man who was having relations with his step-mom. In chapter 6 he has to tell the church that the body is not meant for sexual immorality, and that it is unthinkable for believers to make use of prostitutes. There is a natural human tendency in this kind of setting to swing the pendulum far in the other direction. All we see, all we hear, all we have experienced is sex being misused and perverted and distorted. Paul has told us to flee pornea; flee sexual immorality; so we will flee from sexual intimacy all together. From this passage it appears that there were some who were over-reacting to their culture and coming to the conclusion that all sex is evil and to be avoided, even within marriage.

Paul warns Timothy that there would be false teachers in the early church who among other things would forbid marriage.

1Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Paul calls this kind of ascetic spirituality a departure from the faith, and the ‘teaching of demons’. God created all things, including marriage, for us to enjoy.

Paul addresses a similar issue in the church in Colossae, where he writes:

Colossians 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

The man-made regulation ‘do not touch’ uses the same word we have in this passage ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’. Paul says that this has the appearance of wisdom, but is powerless in the real battle against the indulgence of the flesh. Over-reacting to sin by promoting self-made religion of asceticism and severity to the body can actually make the problem worse, not better.

Strong Medicine for Sick Souls

You say ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’; I say no, because of the immoralities, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The remedy for rampant immorality is not a pendulum swing to the other extreme to demand a denial of all bodily pleasure. The remedy is a healthy view of human sexuality as it was designed by God. In the last section, Paul referred to the creation narrative, where God said ‘the two shall become one flesh’. The Corinthians are saying ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’. God said ‘it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him” (Gen.2:18). God brought the woman to the man, naked, in paradise, and he blessed them and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. God said this was good, very good. God intended for the man to touch his wife, and for the wife to touch her husband. Marriage is the appropriate context for human sexuality to find its intended fulfillment. The author of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Monogamy

Notice, by his language Paul rules out multiple partners. Each man should have his own wife, singular. And each woman should have her own husband, singular. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life. This is a God-given shield against the fiery darts of the adversary.

Mutual Obligation

I Corinthians 7:2 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.

Paul unashamedly uses the language of reciprocal belonging. This is shocking for any first century document, where so often men were free to do as they wished and women had no rights. Paul says that each man should have (the language of possession) his own wife, and that each woman should have (the same language of possession) her own man. This is the language of belonging. We can hear echoes from the Song of Songs.

Song of Solomon 2:16 My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies.

Song of Solomon 6:3 I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies.

Song of Solomon 7:10 I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.

This is the language of reciprocal belonging, of ownership. I am his, I belong to my beloved, and he belongs to me, he is mine. When I enter into the marriage relationship, I give myself to my spouse. I surrender my rights and my independence and voluntarily belong to another. To make sure we understand what this means, Paul spells it out for us.

1 Corinthians 7:3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.

This reflects the language of the Old Testament, where the practice of polygamy was not condoned, but regulated.

Exodus 21:10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights.

A husband is obligated to provide for his wife’s physical and emotional needs. The language used here is the language of indebtedness. By entering into marriage, he owes her a debt that he must pay. Everything that it means to be a husband; leader, provider, nurturer, instructor, encourager, strength, support, respect, patience, kindness, tenderness, compassion, intimacy, love; to bring her physical and emotional wholeness and completion is his debt to her.

There is no room here for using the other person merely to gratify one’s own desires. The language here is language of giving, not taking. When I focus on what I am owed and demand my rights, things typically do not go well. When I focus on my debt and give sacrificially and gladly to meet the needs of my wife, things tend to go remarkably better.

Intimacy within the marriage is to be perfectly reciprocal. ‘Likewise the wife to her husband’. As the husband owes a debt he is obligated to give to his wife, so the wife is obligated to give to her husband what she owes to him. Honor, encouragement, respect, help, submission to his godly leadership, intimacy, love; to bring him physical and emotional wholeness and completion is her debt to him.

1 Corinthians 7:4 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.

This was as staggering a statement in the first century Roman world as it is for us today. To say that the husband has authority over would be expected. But to say that the wife has the exact same authority over her husband’s body as he had over hers was revolutionary in Paul’s day. To say that anybody has authority over anybody else’s body is contrary to our culture, but this is exactly what the Bible says. This is the same word that he used in 6:12.

1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by [brought under the authority of] anything.

You are not your own. You were bought with a price. If you are a follower of Jesus, you belong to God, you are under his authority. And if you are married, you body belongs, first to God, and then to your spouse. And then Paul gives a clear command.

Stop Depriving One Another

1 Corinthians 7:5 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.

This could be translated ‘stop depriving one another’ or ‘stop defrauding one another.’ Celibacy, singleness, and abstinence is a legitimate option for believers, but it is not an option if you are married. The Corinthians tried to sound noble and spiritual; ‘my body is devoted to God; therefore I cannot fulfill my spouse’s base desires’. We simply say ‘I have a headache’ or ‘I’m just not in the mood’. Either way, the results are the same. And Paul calls it robbery. You owe your spouse a debt. Stop defrauding one another. Physical intimacy within the marriage is not dirty or defiling, it’s not a reward for good behavior. It is a good God-given gift, to be enjoyed regularly and frequently. Paul gives us three clear conditions that must be met to ever legitimately deprive one another. It must be by mutual agreement, it must be for a limited time, and it must be for the purpose of the couple devoting themselves to prayer. Paul’s reason is powerful. So that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self control. Paul exhorts us to take up this weapon of God against the onslaught of satanic temptation. This is the wisdom of Proverbs; “rejoice in the wife of your youth… be intoxicated always in her love” (Prov.5:18-19). We are commanded to flee sexual immorality. If you are married, the way you flee is to flee into the arms of your spouse.

Paul has reminded us that we are not our own. As believers in Jesus, we belong to God. We have been bought with a price, with the precious blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Our purpose is to glorify God. We were created to bring honor and praise to God. We were redeemed to worship him. So, glorify God in your body. For a married couple, physical intimacy is a way to glorify God with your body. God intends for you to enjoy his good gifts and give thanks to him in everything. Glorify God in your body.

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

October 28, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment