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2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation

04/29_2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180429_2cor3_1-3.mp3

Paul gets to the heart of the issue here. He lays out his credentials as a minister by pointing to the transformation that has happened in the lives of his readers.

Paul Commends Himself (Again!)

Paul has described the apostolic ministry in 2:14 as ‘ through us God in Christ always …spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.’ In 2:17 he contrasts himself with ‘so many,’ who peddle God’s word for profit. We are not like them; rather we are men of sincerity, our source of authority is God, everything we do is in the presence of God, and it is in Christ that we speak. Back in chapter 1:12, Paul boasted ‘in the testimony of his conscience, that he operated with simplicity and godly sincerity, by the grace of God.’

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

This first phrase of chapter 3 should probably be read as an exclamation, not a rhetorical question. We are beginning to commend ourselves to you again! Paul is making a case for his integrity; he is laying before them the evidence of his authenticity. He even contrasts his ministry with those who are in it for profit. We, who planted the church, who spent 18 months with you investing in you, who visited you in the past and plan to visit again, who sent letters and messengers to you, we need to go over the formality of introductions all over again!? You, who experienced new life as a result of our ministry among you, now we are forced again to present evidence of our authenticity!

The letter to the Romans is a letter of self-commendation; Paul writes to believers he has never met, introduces himself and his ministry, and lays before them the gospel he preaches. In chapter 15 he outlines his plans to visit them, and his desire to be supported by them in his mission to Spain. In Romans he is commending himself to a church he has never visited.

In Romans 16, he says:

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

We call this a letter of reference or a recommendation. A trusted person writes to affirm the character of another. Do you recommend this person as a student in our college? Would you recommend this person as a good fit for this particular job? Paul is not against letters of commendation; he writes them himself. In fact, in Romans 5:8 he says:

Romans 5:8 but God shows [commends] his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The death of Christ for sinners is a commendation of God’s love for us.

Paul uses the word ‘commend’ or ‘recommend’ twice in 2 Corinthians 3:1, and 7 more times in the rest this letter. He says in the next chapter

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

In chapter 5 he says that his character should be well known to them; he is not really commending himself again, but giving them reasons to defend against those who boast in outward appearances and not in the heart. In chapter 6 he says:

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

And then he lists not only his positive character traits, but also his hardships, afflictions, persecutions, his weakness. In chapter 10 he clarifies:

2 Corinthians 10:18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Paul is not against letters of recommendation. He is not even against presenting one’s own credentials to establish credibility. 2 Corinthians could be seen as an extended commendation of authentic apostolic ministry. The issue is not in the necessity of introductions. The problem lies in the ‘again.’ His point here in chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians (in actuality his fourth correspondence to this church) is that they ought to be well beyond the stage in their relationship that requires formal introductions.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:1 …Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.

If I am not to others, at least I am to you! They were believers in Jesus because he had traveled to Achaia and preached the gospel in Corinth. They owed their very existence as a church to his apostolic ministry. In chapter 12 he says:

2 Corinthians 12:11 …I ought to have been commended by you. …

The Corinthians, who ought by this time to be Paul’s loudest fans, now need to be re-acquainted with what genuine Christian ministry is all about.

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

This second question is rhetorical, and it is framed to demand a negative answer. We do not need letters of recommendation to you, and we do not need letters from you. The Corinthian church had the audacity to place themselves over apostolic ministry as if the final authority to evaluate apostolic ministry was with them. Paul expected them to be able to discern between a true apostle and a false one, but they were flirting with false apostles and rejecting the one they knew to be true.

You Are Our Letter

2 Corinthians 3:2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.

The Corinthians don’t realize they are the letter. They are the objective evidence of Paul’s apostolic ministry. The fact that there are now followers of the Jewish Messiah gathering as a church in the pagan city of Corinth is evidence of a genuine work of God.

But notice where this is written. It is written on the heart of their Apostle. In this he is like his Master. In a similar metaphor Isaiah looks forward to Jesus “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (49:15). In the Song of Solomon we find this language of love:

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.

Paul communicates not only that the Corinthians are a letter of reference, an authentication of his apostolic ministry, but also that he carries them always with him, not in his travel bag, but in his heart. As he says in chapter 11,

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches

As we saw at the end of chapter 2, Paul carries the Corinthians so close to his heart, that the relational tension prevented him from taking full advantage of an opportunity to preach the gospel.

And this is no secret. They are written on his heart, but he wears it on his sleeve. His heart is an open book, and anyone can read what is written there. Anyone who knows Paul knows of his affection for his churches. Certainly those in Troas would be aware of his great affection for them.

A Letter From Christ

2 Corinthians 3:3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

‘You show that you are’; this is the same word from 2:14 that the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is put on display or made manifest through us in every place.

Paul’s primary concern is always making Christ known. The Corinthian church, for better or worse, whether they know it or not, puts Christ on display. They put on display that they are a letter from Christ. This is the highest authority. This letter originates from Christ Jesus himself.

And this letter, Paul says, is ‘delivered;’ literally ‘ministered’ by us; this is ambiguous. It could mean that Paul pictured himself as the one delivering the letter, or it could mean that Paul is the amanuensis or scribe writing down every word Christ dictates to him. Because the Corinthians are the letter, it seems to make more sense to see Paul holding the pen, or possibly Paul is the pen in the hand of the Lord Christ. Either way, Paul is in a subordinate role to Christ. Scribe or errand boy, Paul is in service to Christ, ensuring that the message of Jesus is scrawled in large letters on the hearts of the Corinthians.

Ink / Spirit

Written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. This is that which is actually applied to the page; not ink but the Spirit of the living God. Paul is instrumental in applying the ink of the Spirit to the page of the Corinthians lives in order to make Christ known.

Here we see the triune God at work in the ministry of the apostle. The letter originates from Christ, it is written with the ink of the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit is the Spirit of the living God, sent out by the Father.

Heart of Stone / Flesh

The next contrast is what is written on. That which is written on is not tablets of stone, but tablets of human (literally ‘fleshly’) hearts. Normally in Paul’s day we would expect ink on papyrus. But Paul mixes metaphors once again; it is ink on stony tablets contrasted with the Spirit on fleshy heart-tablets.

Paul is linking several Old Testament themes; the tablets of the covenant given to Moses on Sinai, tablets of stone written on with the finger of God, and the hard stony hearts of the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 9, when Moses recounts the initial giving of the law, he rebukes Israel for their stubbornness and rebellion against the Lord. While he was on the mountain with God receiving the tablets of stone, the people were provoking God to wrath by their idolatry. God’s law was written on stony tablets corresponding to the stony rebellious hearts of his people.

But Paul also has in mind the promise of the Spirit poured out in the New Covenant, promises we find in Ezekiel and Jeremiah

Ezekiel 11:19-20 says:

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

And again in Ezekiel 36:26

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

God knows that his people need a heart transplant. The heart of stone must be removed and replaced with a responsive fleshy heart. Ezekiel goes on in verse 27

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Not only will God remove their hearts of stone and give them a fleshy heart, he will put his own Spirit in them, enabling and empowering them to walk in his ways.

Just as the law written on stony tablets corresponded to the stony hearts of the people, so now the New Covenant work of the Spirit of God corresponds to the new fleshy hearts given to his people.

New Covenant Writing

Another New Covenant passage, Jeremiah 31, is the piece that gives the picture of God writing on the hearts of his people.

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The content of what is written is not different; God writes his law; a law summed up by Christ as

Matthew 22:37 …“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

(love fulfills law: Rom.13:8,10; Gal.5:14; Mt.7:12)

But God has written, no longer on stony tablets, but on the newly given fleshy heart-tablets of the Corinthians, not with ink, but with his own Holy Spirit. As a result, Christ is put on display in the lives of the Corinthians. In this New Covenant transaction, Paul is a minister of Christ, facilitating their transformation. Paul’s evidence of authenticity is this very transformation that has taken place in the hearts of the Corinthians. And this has affected the heart of the apostle as well. These struggling new believers are written on his heart.

Application

What is your heart like? Is it hardened toward God? Ask him for a new heart; a heart that is tender toward him. Has your heart been transformed by love to love? Has God’s own self-sacrificial love written love for him and for others on your heart? Do you have people written on your heart? Is the Spirit of the living God bringing about real heart transformation in you?

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

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

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April 30, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 2:4-5

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20081116_1Peter2_4-5.mp3

11/16 1 Peter 2:4-5 be built together as a house of priests offering sacrifices

1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation– 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

4 prov on prosercomenoi liyon zwnta upo anyrwpwn men apodedokimasmenon para de yew eklekton entimon 5 kai autoi wv liyoi zwntev oikodomeisye oikov pneumatikov eiv ierateuma agion anenegkai pneumatikav yusiav euprosdektouv yew dia ihsou cristou

Peter has given us five commands on how we are to respond to the initiating grace of God. After describing God’s great mercy and the riches of his grace to us, he commands us to set our hope completely on grace – God’s grace that is yet to come and will come to us at the proper time. Then he commands us to be holy like God is holy. We are to stop acting like we are still stupid and set God apart and treat him as if he were the most valuable thing in the universe – because he is! Then we are commanded to fear him – conduct your lives in fear – fear that we would offend God by treating the blood of his dear Son as if it were impotent and powerless to accomplish our transformation.

The first three commands are fix our attention on God. The fourth command looks at our horizontal relationships as an outward expression that our relationship with God is on track. He commands love – love one another unhypocritically, earnestly, from the heart.

Next he commands us to crave milk – the pure spiritual milk – so that we will grow up to salvation. It was the word that effected our new birth; it is the word that God gives us so that we will be spiritually nourished and grow to maturity – so develop a healthy hunger for God’s word. He has commanded holiness, hope, fear, and love, and he has commanded the means by which we are to accomplish those things – feed on the word and you will grow to maturity in holiness, fear, love and hope.

Then he adds a conditional clause – ‘if’. He takes Psalm 34:8 which says:

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD [YHWH] is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

and changes it to a condition – you will crave milk and grow IF you have tasted that the Lord is good. He is assuming that we have and that we will, but he is laying it out as a question to provoke us to think. Have we tasted that the Lord is good? Do we crave more of him in his word? Do we long, like a newborn baby longs for its mother’s breast, to feed on him and have all our cravings satisfied in him? If we do, what comes next naturally flows – we will come to him.

‘As you come to him’ is a participial phrase that could be translated ‘coming to him’. He probably adopted this language from Psalm 34:5,

Psalm 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

where ‘look to him’ in the LXX is the same verb that is here translated ‘coming to him’

‘Him’ in this sentence refers back to the ‘Lord’ of the last sentence that we have tasted and found good. Peter has lifted ‘YHWH’ – the covenant name for God in the Old Testament – from Psalm 34 and made it equivalent to ‘Jesus’ that we as believers come to.

John 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

‘Coming to Jesus’ can describe our initial act of believing in him; But believers come continually and repeatedly to Jesus as an expression of our faith in him. If we have tasted that he is good we will come earnestly and often to him for much needed nourishment.

Peter – (who was nicknamed ‘the rock’ by Jesus in Matthew 16:18) uses a stone metaphor to describe Jesus. He had used this in Acts 4 in his preaching. He picked it up from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 21. A rock is something solid, unchanging, dependable. When we want to say someone is dependable we say they are ‘rock solid’. In C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Peter is not sure he will survive a battle and tells Edmond to ‘say something especially nice to Trumpkin. He’s been a brick.’ (Prince Caspian, p. 193). Brick is used as an idiom for a helpful, reliable person. When we want to make a memorial that will withstand the ravages of time, we have it chiseled into granite. Peter’s readers have nothing solid in their lives – they are aliens and exiles. They have no certainty of the future. They don’t know when they might be arrested or killed for their faith. Peter encourages them that they have come to him who is a rock – in the midst of shifting times, they have their hope anchored in the bedrock.

But we use rocks in a different metaphor as well. We might say ‘you’re as dumb as a rock’ and we mean that there’s not much activity upstairs. Or we say something is ‘stone dead’ – it doesn’t get much deader than a stone. In fact the bible refers to false gods that were made out of wood and stone:

Deuteronomy 4:28 And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.

Isaiah 37:19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed.

Revelation 9:20 The rest of mankind, … did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk,

Peter surprises us here with his paradoxical metaphor – Jesus is not a normal lifeless stone, but a living stone. Absolutely steadfast and immovable, but full of life and life-giving to all who come to him. This is the third time he has used the term ‘living’; we are born again to a living hope, we have been born again through the living word, and now Jesus is the living stone that we come to.

But he says Jesus is ‘rejected by men’; Jesus to many was a rock in the path; he was in the way – an obstacle that you would trip over if you weren’t careful, and they cast him aside – they crucified him. Peter has in mind Psalm 118:22 and he quotes it down in verse 7. He also quoted it in his sermon recorded in Acts 4:

Acts 4:10-12 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead––by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 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.”

and there he specifically applied it to the Jewish leaders. Here he applies it to mankind generally – Jesus is in general rejected by men.

Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

If you want to be popular and do what the majority of people are doing, you won’t come to Jesus – not on his terms anyway. Men naturally reject Jesus. That shouldn’t surprise us. What should surprise us is when we see a work of God’s grace in a person’s life where they are awakened to who Jesus is and their blind eyes are opened and they joyfully embrace Jesus as King and Savior. When I look around this room, what I see is evidence of God’s grace. No one, apart from God’s work of grace in his life, turns to Jesus. That’s what Jesus said:

John 6:65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Every believer is evidence of God’s grace.

Jesus is rejected by men. But God has a completely different perspective on his beloved Son. Men despise and reject Jesus. To his Father, he was chosen – elect or choice – the same word Peter used of his readers in 1:1; and Jesus is precious – or honored, of high reputation with his Father. The rejection of men found expression in their calling him illegitimate, saying that he has a demon, attributing his miraculous deeds to the devil and climaxed in their shouts ‘crucify him, crucify him!’ The Father’s love for Jesus was expressed through the voice from heaven that declared:

Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Luke 9:35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

and found ultimate expression in the Father raising Jesus from the dead three days after the crucifixion. Peter said in Acts 3:

Acts 3:13-15 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

God raised Jesus from the dead. So we come to Jesus is the life giver:

John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. …25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.

John 10:10 …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly….28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

If you come to Jesus you will live. Jesus was the one who could touch a leper and rather than contracting that infectious disease, his life giving power would make the leper clean. The resurrection life of Jesus is infectious. Come to Jesus and you will live. In verse 5 he carries this metaphor of Jesus as the living stone to us as living stones. Because of Jesus we have life, and because of Jesus we are solid and will last forever.

Now we get to the central phrase of the sentence – ‘you are being built up’. Coming to the living stone, you as living stones are being built up. God is implied as the builder, and he has a purpose for you! There are two purpose phrases in verse 5; ‘to be’ and ‘to offer’. We are being built into something so that our identity is changed and so that our actions are changed. God is shaping us with a definite purpose in mind. And the ‘you’ here is not singular; ‘you individually’ but plural; ‘you all’ our ‘you collectively’. Of course this has implications for us individually, but Peter’s emphasis is on us collectively. Remember his admonition for us to ‘love one another’? that fits right in here –

you can’t love one another all by yourself. The command to love one another implies connectedness to the group. So here, if you are one living stone out in a field by yourself, you have no potential of being built into anything. We have Lincoln Logs at home. And we have five kids. There’s different ways they can play with the Lincoln Logs. They can divide up all the pieces equally so each one gets their fair share. They can move to a corner of the room so that they have control of their pieces. But there’s not much they can do with their little pile of Lincoln Logs. They could pretend the logs were people and they could have conversations. But that’s not what the Lincoln Logs were designed for. In order to build anything significant, they have to come together and allow their little pile to be used for the common good. Then they can really build something, and they are using the logs for what they were created for. God wants to use us together to build a house. You and I are in the process of being built up as a spiritual house.

But what if the pieces don’t fit together? We’re simply incompatible – we just can’t peacefully co-exist… Lies! Those are lies from the pit of hell. Jesus said he would build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. We reject those lies and submit ourselves to the wise master builder. He looks at us, his living stones, that don’t fit together and he says ‘hmmm, these stones don’t fit nicely together. Look, this one has a sharp outcropping of envy that I will chisel off. This side is all lumpy with hypocrisy and I will grind it smooth. This deceit must go if these stones will fit together as I intend. This corner of malice must be filed smooth. This one is covered with the leprosy of slander and bitterness. I will bake it in the furnace until all the disease is gone. Ahh, now they are just beginning to fit together. These two I will allow to rub against each other and chafe each other until over time they will have worn each other so smooth and will fit so perfectly together that not even a knife blade could fit between them.

Understand, we are talking about a spiritual house – not a physical building. When we believers come together, we are God’s house, God’s temple. When Jesus on the cross cried out ‘it is finished’ the heavy curtain that hid the most holy place from view was ripped from top to bottom.

Mark 15:37-38 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

God …does not live in temples made by man (Acts 17:24). But he dwells in the midst of his people. You and I as living stones are being fitted together in to a spiritual dwelling for the God of the universe!

And our purpose? ‘To be a holy priesthood’ and ‘to offer spiritual sacrifices’. Here the metaphor bends. Now the living stones who make up the house become the holy priesthood that offer sacrifices to God. Under Old Testament law, not just anyone could take upon himself the office of a priest. You must have been a literal physical descendant of Moses’ brother Aaron. You had to be able to trace your blood line to the tribe of Levi. The priests were appointed by God to facilitate the worship of God. Only those selected to serve as priests could enter the holy place to offer sacrifices to God, and only after they had been set apart by blood. Only one priest, the high priest could ever enter the most holy place, and he could only enter once a year carrying blood from the offering to present at the mercy seat to make atonement for the sins of the people. Jesus, our great high priest, presented his own precious blood before the throne of God, propitiating our sins and :

Hebrews 1:3 … After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, …

We now together have been set apart as holy to serve as priests to God. But what kind of sacrifice do we offer? Our text says that we offer ‘spiritual sacrifices’. We no longer offer the blood of bulls and goats – the once for all perfect blood sacrifice has been made. Our sins are decisively and finally dealt with. So what kind of offering do we make?

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 15:16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 4:18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

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.

So we offer our bodies, we preach the good news, we support the ministry of the gospel, we worship and praise God; we do good and share what we have. These offerings that we make are said to be ‘acceptable to God.’ A priest had to be extremely careful that he did not defile himself and so become unfit to offer sacrifices acceptable to God. He had to check the animal carefully to be sure that it was unblemished so that it would be acceptable to God. The procedure for offering had to be followed exactly so that the sacrifice would be acceptable to God. And the heart motive of the offerer had to be right before God for that offering to be acceptable to God. We are said to be a holy priesthood that offers spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. What is the procedure by which we make and offering that is acceptable to God? We certainly don’t want to be rejected by God. Our text tells us that we offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. There is no offering, no matter how great it may seem, no matter how deep the cost to ourselves that is acceptable to God if it is not through Jesus Christ. Many try to come to God on their own merits and offer to God their best, but it is filthy rags and rejected by God. Only those that come, not on their own merit, but on the merit of Jesus Christ as their perfect substitute, can:

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

It is only:

Ephesians 3:11-12 …in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Only through Jesus Christ and his precious blood can we find acceptance with God. Only by putting our confidence in the perfect sacrifice that he made can our sins be washed away. Only having been born again by the living and abiding word of God and given new life through the resurrection of Jesus can we approach the Father and find his favor.

So together, as his redeemed blood bought people, his holy priesthood, we together will offer a sacrifice of praise to him. We together will approach the table that God has prepared for us and we will commune with him and with one another. We together will lift up our prayers of worship and adoration to the King who is holy, and in so far as it is through Jesus Christ, we can have confidence that we are accepted by the Father.

November 16, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment