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Leviticus Introduction

04/10 Leviticus Intro Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160410_leviticus-intro.mp3

All Scripture is Profitable

Romans 15:4 tells us

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

The Scriptures give us encouragement and hope to endure. All Scripture is for our instruction. Amen? Do you believe this?

2 Timothy 3 points us to the sacred writings

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

The sacred writings are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Do you believe this?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. Do you believe this?

What Is Leviticus?

Then turn with me to the book of Leviticus. It’s the third book in the Bible, the middle of the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, 27 chapters between Exodus and Numbers. Leviticus gets its English title from the Latin Vulgate translation, which comes from the Greek Septuagint, and it means ‘that which concerns the Levite’, even though the Levites are seldom mentioned in Leviticus. The tribe of Levi was the tribe responsible to set up, to take down, to carry, to care for and to guard the tabernacle in the wilderness (Num.1:47-54). A subset of Levites, those descended from Aaron and his sons, served as priests in the tabernacle.

The book of Leviticus begins with 7 chapters of instructions on the different kinds of sacrifices to be offered in the Tabernacle, then chapters 8-10 give instructions for the consecration of the priests who would carry out those sacrifices, chapters 11-15 give laws on cleanliness for the people, including dietary laws, purification after childbirth, how to handle skin diseases, mold in a house, and bodily discharges. These are all issues of uncleanness that need to be addressed by the appropriate sacrifice. Chapter 16 gives instructions on the great day of atonement and the cleansing of the Tabernacle. Chapters 17-25 give laws for holy living, chapter 26 gives blessings and punishments for obedience or disobedience, and rewards for repentance, and chapter 27 deals with vows.

Remember, all Scripture is God breathed and profitable.

Why Study Leviticus?

Why should we study Leviticus as a Christian? When we finished Exodus a few years ago, I was asked what we were going to study next, so I suggested Leviticus. People threatened to leave the church, or at least find another church for a year or so. Leviticus seems so… irrelevant. We don’t have a tabernacle, we don’t need a temple, we don’t have priests wearing funny clothes and we don’t offer animal sacrifices. Most of us don’t eat Kosher. The stuff about skin diseases and mold and bodily emissions seem a bit gross. So what’s the point? Why take time to study this ancient book?

There is an element of disciplined obedience. If we truly believe that all Scripture is profitable to make us wise for salvation and equipped for every good work, then it is arrogant and unwise for us to stand over Scripture and select the bits that we feel are more relevant or interesting and skip over the rest. A common metaphor used in the Bible for Christian growth and maturity is edification. Build one another up in the faith. This is a construction metaphor, and in building an edifice, the foundation is critical and every stone is important. Imagine if you were having a house built. You come to inspect the progress after the building starts to rise, and you notice a gaping hole in the foundation. When you find the guy who was doing the work, he says ‘well that particular stone just didn’t capture my attention. It wasn’t very interesting or exciting, so I left it out’. It may not be exciting – its a stone! But it’s necessary. It helps to hold the building up. We have been given 66 God breathed books that make up the collection we call the Bible, and they are all important. If we believe God spoke and communicated his truth to his people, if he saw to it that it was recorded in written form, if he ensured that it was passed down to us intact and unaltered, do you think it would be wise to disregard any of it?

Jesus in Leviticus

Now that is true of every book in the collection we call the Bible. But why Leviticus in particular? Why would a Christian want to study Leviticus? Christianity is all about following Christ. I believe we don’t understand Jesus if we don’t understand Leviticus. We are Christians because we follow Jesus, and Jesus said in Matthew 5:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus came to fulfill the Law. The Law was pointing to Jesus. We don’t fully understand Jesus if we don’t understand how he fulfilled the Law. When Jesus met his disciples on the Emmaus road, we are told:

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus after his resurrection opened the Torah, the five books of Moses and interpreted in them the things concerning himself. Leviticus is the centerpiece of the five books of Moses. Leviticus is about Jesus! Leviticus is all about Jesus. Jesus came to die – to die on a cross. He came to die as a perfect substitute for our sins. The cross is central to Christianity. We fail to understand the cross if we fail to understand the sacrificial system. The crucifixion of Jesus was a Levitical sacrifice.

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

Jesus is the one who mediates between us and the Father. Hebrews repeatedly (2:17, 3:1; 4:14-15, 5:5; 6:20; 7:26-28; 8:1; 9:11) calls Jesus our great High Priest. We fail to appreciate Jesus as our great High Priest if we don’t understand the role of a priest in the Old Testament. We don’t appreciate the sweetness of the New Covenant if we aren’t familiar with the Old Covenant that it supersedes. The New Testament book of Hebrews is a rich commentary on Leviticus that points us to Jesus, the better Priest who offers a better Sacrifice in the better Tabernacle.

My prayer as we study Leviticus together is that we will fall more deeply in love with Jesus, because Leviticus is all about Jesus.

Holiness

Not only will we grow to appreciate Jesus, Leviticus will teach us some practical things about how to approach God. God is holy. The main theme of Leviticus is holiness. God is holy, we are sinful, and that makes him dangerous. But true joy is found in relationship with him. Leviticus gives instructions on how a sinful people can approach a holy God and experience the joy of his presence safely.

A dangerous tendency among many Christians is to treat God casually. We are saved by grace, and we begin to take grace for granted, we get careless, we presume on grace, thinking it is no big deal. It’s okay to sin; God will forgive me. Leviticus communicates to us the seriousness of sin. God hates sin. All sin. Every sin is serious. And all of life matters. We cannot compartmentalize and think that when we are with church people we live to a different standard than when we are with our family or our friends or our co-workers. God is present in all of life, and all of life matters. A holy God must punish sin. Jesus calls us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48). Lest we think this is limited to the Old Testament, Ephesians tells believers that we were chosen in him “that we should be holy and blameless before him” (1:4). Peter cites Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2, 20:7, 26 and applies it to believers.

1 Peter 1:15 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.”

The goal for believers in Jesus is to become holy. Leviticus helps us to see what that even means, and it helps us understand how that happens.

Imperative Follows Indicative

Our holiness is always only a response that flows out of our sins being covered by sacrifice. We don’t strive to be holy in hopes that God will recognize our effort and accept us. We approach God through sacrifice that covers sin, because we aren’t neutral, we start out sinful. Then, because our sins have been covered, this creates in us a desire to please him in all things. It is fascinating to note that the outline of Leviticus looks a lot like the outline of many of the New Testament letters. They begin by proclaiming the good news of Christ, who met our need, washed us clean, set us free, made us whole, and then as a result of the gospel transformation that God works in us, this births an outflow of practical holiness that permeates all of life. The imperatives, the commands to live a certain way always follow and flow out of the indicatives, the statements of what God has done for us. Romans begins with 11 chapters of the good news of what God has done for us, and then concludes with 5 chapters that give us instruction on how to live in response to the truth of the gospel. Ephesians chapters 1-3 give us a rich overflow gospel indicatives, proclaiming what God has done, and then concludes with 3 chapters of practical instruction, imperatives that naturally flow as fruit out of the deep root of gospel transformation. If we look back at the broad outline of Leviticus, we see it begins with sacrifices that allow us to approach God, with who is qualified to offer those sacrifices, with what sacrifices address which specific issue of sin or uncleanness, and then the book concludes with practical instructions on how to live holy lives as those who have been forgiven by a gracious God.

It is my prayer that as we study Leviticus, we would deepen in our appreciation for the gospel, that we would increase in our hatred of sin, and it would birth in us a desire to please and glorify God in all of life.

Exodus Review

Let’s look at the first verses of Leviticus.

Leviticus 1:1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

The title in of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible comes from the first word of the Hebrew text: ‘wayyiqra‘; it means ‘and he called’. Leviticus begins with waw-consecutive; which means that the first syllable of the first word is a conjunction. How often have you picked up a book to read, and the first word on the first page is ‘And’? What would you do? I would turn back a few pages to see if I missed something, turn the book over to see if this is the second book in a series, because a conjunction like ‘and’ usually connects with something that went before. This is true of Leviticus. The ‘and’ is an indicator that Leviticus continues the story from the last paragraph of Exodus. So it will serve us well, as it has been several years since we studied Exodus, to use our remaining time to review Exodus to locate ourselves in the story. Exodus, of course, follows Genesis, so maybe we should begin at the beginning.

Genesis begins with God, who has always been there, creating everything that is. Everything he creates is good. He creates man to reflect his character to all creation, to rule under him, to be in relationship with him, but man rebels. Man brings sin and its ugly consequences into God’s perfect creation. But rather than immediately destroy rebellious mankind, God promises a rescue. Mankind gets worse and worse, to the point where God washes the earth clean with a flood, but shows grace to Noah and his family, and preserves them through the global catastrophe. Again mankind gets worse, but God extends grace to Abram, makes outrageous promises of land and descendants to this childless migrant, and promises to make him a blessing to all the nations of the earth. God gives him a son in his old age, his son Isaac has a son Jacob, and Jacob has 12 boys who become the 12 tribes of Israel. This family is a mess, with rival wives and favoritism to the point where the brothers gang up on the youngest and plot to kill him but instead sell him as a slave and lie about it. Famine strikes the land, so they move to Egypt, where God has providentially placed their younger brother to provide for them.

Fast forward 400 years, and we get to Exodus. They are now slaves in Egypt, cruelly oppressed by a tyrant king, and God hears their groaning and comes to their rescue.

Chapters 1-14 explain God’s redemption of his people, setting them free from slavery and destroying their enemies. Chapters 15-18 show God’s care for his people, providing for their every need in the wilderness, in spite of their constant grumbling. Chapters 19-24 outline God’s covenant with his people, explaining what it means for him to be their God and for them to be his people. Chapters 25-40 show God’s presence with his people, how he comes to live among them.

The focus of the entire book of Exodus is God’s presence with his people. God saved his people from slavery, cared for his people in the wilderness, entered into covenant relationship with his people, so that he could dwell in the midst of his people. The last section, chapters 25-40, culminating with God’s presence with his people, is broken in half with chapters 32-34, which recount the covenant treason of the people who worship a golden bull idol and break all of God’s laws, and Moses’ prayer of intercession for the people. God with mercy upon mercy renews his covenant with his people. The first half, chapters 25-31, detail God’s instructions for the construction of his tent in the midst of the camp, the tabernacle. The last half, chapters 35-39, recount the faithful, precise obedience of the people following the commands of the Lord down to every detail. This demonstrates the total, complete forgiveness and restoration that God graciously extended to his undeserving but broken and repentant people. Chapters 35-39 read as if nothing had ever happened. The book of Exodus ends with the tabernacle set up according to God’s instruction at the foot of Mount Sinai, and the glory cloud of God’s presence filling the tabernacle in the middle of his people.

This is where Leviticus begins. A stiff necked disobedient, complaining people, prone to wander, and God’s holy presence in the middle of their camp. God’s presence with his people is dangerous. And

Leviticus 1:1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, …

Leviticus is the account of God speaking to Moses from the Tabernacle, giving him specific instructions on how he is to be approached by his people. This phrase ‘The LORD spoke to Moses’ permeates the book, occurring some 37 times. Leviticus, in the most literal sense of the term, is God’s word to his people.

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

It is my prayer that this increases your affections for Jesus, the one who loves sinners so much that he goes to the cross as a sacrifice for us, the one who forgives even the worst offenses. I pray that if you see yourself today as a sinner, you would approach God through the once for all sacrifice of Jesus and find forgiveness and acceptance and freedom.

I pray that this would empower you to loathe sin, to recognize your relationship with God as a weighty matter, to rightly value your relationship with him and as an overflow of his transforming grace in your life, to pursue holiness.

I pray that this would whet your appetite and made you hungry – hungry for more of God’s word.

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

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April 10, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Be Happy (Psalm 1)

01/03 How to Be Happy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160103_be-happy.mp3

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence, 1776)

The Pursuit of Happiness

It is not just an American thing to pursue happiness. We all want to be happy. We all endeavor to pursue our own happiness. That is part of what it is to be human. We bought Satan’s lie and bit the fruit in the first place because we saw that it ‘was good for food, …a delight to the eyes, , and …to be desired to make one wise’ (Gen.3:6). We want to be happy. We eat lots of sweets because we want to be happy. We try to eat healthier because we want to be happy. We lounge around and watch TV because we are seeking happiness. We decide to exercise more because we want to be happy. We indulge in great pleasures, we make great sacrifices, all in pursuit of our own happiness.

I thought it would be fitting, at the beginning of this new year, to preach on how to be happy. It is not wrong for us to desire happiness. We are wired for pleasure. God designed eyes with the ability to perceive color and texture and depth and beauty. God created taste buds capable of savoring all varieties and complexities of flavors from salt to sweet to bitter to sour. He created ears that could delight in beautiful melodies. He gave us a nose that can appreciate savory aromas. God saturated our skin with nerve endings that respond to touch and warmth and sensation. God made us with the capacity to experience a rich complexity of emotions. God placed mankind in a garden of delights and he blessed them and said be fruitful, multiply, fill, subdue, exercise good authority, enjoy. God holds out to us the prospect of happiness. He invites us to pursue happiness. The book of Psalms begin with the word ‘happy’, and the word ‘happy’ occurs 25 more times throughout the Psalms. Most English translations render it ‘blessed’, although there is another Hebrew word that more properly means ‘blessed’.

What we are talking about is a happiness that is substantial. This is not empty frivolity, but settled joy; happy in the richest, deepest, most lasting sense. Happiness that satisfies the longings of our soul at the deepest level.

So what does the Bible say about how to be happy? How should we pursue our happiness in such a way that we taste it and enjoy it and it lasts? How do we pursue happiness in a way that it is not continually just out of reach, that it does not, as so often happens, slip through our fingers?

Look with me at Psalm 1.

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

Three Paths to Death

This Psalm starts in the negative; telling us three things that do not bring happiness. That which is morally wrong does not bring happiness. That which is offensive to God does not bring happiness. Happiness is not found in pride, scorning, mocking, or looking down at others. Getting advice from those who are morally bankrupt will never bring the happiness we desire. Fixing yourself in the path of resistance to God will never satisfy. Proud looking down at others will never bring true joy.

We say, ‘of course, who would embrace a wicked, sinful, prideful lifestyle as a means to happiness?’ The reason this Psalm lays out these three things as paths that do not lead to genuine happiness is because these are three places we naturally seek happiness in. Is there not something within us, when we see the ‘no admittance, danger keep out, do not touch’ sign, that thinks that pleasure is found in that which is forbidden? This was the first seed of doubt planted by the snake in the garden; ‘Did God really withhold a pleasure from you?’ Or do we not look around and ask ourselves ‘why do the wicked prosper’ (Ps.73:3)? You can’t really make it in the world without bending the rules, stretching the truth, cutting some corners. Do we not, in our minds, or among our friends, criticize others, point out their flaws, their shortcomings, and think that we are just a bit better than they? The Psalm warns us because these are paths we often take. That which is morally wrong, that which is offensive to God, that which inflates self, these are not paths to the joy we seek.

The Path to Life

The Psalm warns against three paths that do not lead to happiness, but only one that brings true joy. That is the law of the Lord; the Torah, the instruction, the direction of the Lord. This is inclusive of all God has said to us, all God’s instruction, all his Word. What we know as the Bible is the collection of all God’s instruction to us. The counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, the seat of scoffers all lead to ruin, but the instruction of the Lord leads to lasting happiness.

Notice our response to God’s word determines our eternal happiness. The one who is happy delights in God’s instruction. John Calvin wrote “that forced or servile obedience is not at all acceptable to God, and that those only are worthy students of the law who come to it with a cheerful mind, and are so delighted with its instructions, as to account nothing more desirable or delicious than to make progress therein …all who are truly actuated by love to the law must feel pleasure in the diligent study of it.” Grudging or obligatory attention to God’s word is empty. We may take medicine because we are supposed to, and we hope that it will be good for us, but it tastes terrible. We plug our nose and swallow the pill. It is distasteful, but good for us. God’s truth is not like that.

Psalm 19 describes God’s word as “pure, reviving the soul; …sure, making wise the simple; …right, rejoicing the heart; …pure, enlightening the eyes; …clean, enduring forever; …true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. … in keeping them there is great reward.” (v.7-11)

Psalm 119 says:

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 34 says:

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

Psalm 139 says:

Psalm 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

God’s word is precious, good, sweet, rewarding, valuable, more to be desired, reviving, rejoicing, enlightening. The one who finds true happiness finds God’s word as a treasure, as a pleasure, as delicious, as a delight. The one who is happy views God’s instruction with delight.

Notice also, the one who would be truly happy meditates on the words of God. Taste, take time to enjoy, savor, pay attention to, focus on, study, speak it, mutter it, muse on it, memorize it, turn it over and over and over.

My kids eat candy as if it were a race. Like a pack of insatiable piranhas they are attracted by the scent of sweets. They descend ravenously on the bag of M&M’s that was just opened, and sometimes when its over, I wonder if some of the wrapper got consumed in the frenzy. I don’t think they taste it at all. It seems the goal is to ingest as much sugar as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. I wish they attacked their chores like that! Don’t read God’s word like that. I want to warn you, that is a danger with Bible reading plans. Reading plans are good, they are helpful, and I would encourage you to read intentionally, with a plan. But the danger lies in it becoming a chore, a box to check off, a task to accomplish, something to get through and finish, something you feel bad about if you get behind, or you feel good about yourself if you keep up, a conquest. Don’t read God’s word merely to get through it. Slow down. Savor. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Enjoy him!

Spurgeon said “The inward meditation is the thing that makes the soul rich towards God. This is the godly man’s occupation. Put the spice into the mortar by reading, beat it with the pestle of meditation—so shall the sweet perfume be exhaled.” [Spurgeon, Ps1:1-3, # 3270]

Meditation is a process that cannot be hurried or rushed through. Eliminate distractions. Focus your attention. Think. Ponder. Muse. Prayerfully consider. Savor. Take time to enjoy. Delight yourself in the instruction of the Lord. Meditate on it day and night.

A Tree Planted

The Psalm compares the person who delights in and meditates on God’s word with a tree planted.

Psalm 1

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

He is compared to a tree, not a vegetable or a grain or a shrub. This is one who stands the test of time, one who has staying power, one who lasts. This is a tree planted. It is not a wild tree, an unplanned tree, a volunteer. This is a cultivated tree, carefully selected, intentionally placed by a wise gardener. Jesus said:

Matthew 15:13 …“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.

This is a tree planted by streams of water. Not in a desert. Not by a stagnant pool, not by a wadi or wash that fills with water during a rain and is dry the rest of the time. This speaks of intentional consistent irrigation. This is a tree that yields its fruit in season. This is not a decorative tree, or a shade tree. This is a fruit bearing tree. It is a cultivated tree, intended to be productive. Fruit trees are beautiful and good for shade, but their main purpose is to bear fruit. Jesus said:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. …8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Fruit bearing is directly proportional to abiding, delighting, meditating. The fruitful tree is nourished by the word. A tree without adequate water supply will wither. The one who day and night drinks in the word will not wither.

This is the happiness that comes from a purpose realized. In all that he does he prospers. He advances, makes progress, is profitable. This is not the empty happiness of fleeting pleasures. This is the enduring happiness of a purpose fulfilled, the enjoyment that comes from knowing what you were made for, being who you were created to be, doing what you were meant to do. This is the substantial satisfaction of being fruitful.

The Wicked are Not So

The contrast is drawn between the happy one who delights in and meditates on the truth of God’s word and the wicked. Notice, by the way, there is no third category. There is no category for nominal, complacent, comfortable, non-abiding, non-fruitful trees. There are those who treasure God’s word, and the wicked.

Psalm 1

4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

After grain is harvested, it is beaten and winnowed out to separate the kernel of grain from the chaff. Chaff is the useless husk that surrounds the grain. The contrast could not be more stark. On the one hand, a firmly planted well nourished fruitful tree, and on the other hand, the empty husk of grain blown by the wind. There is the one with purpose, rooted, alive, thriving, growing, productive, and there is the lifeless empty shell. What a description of a life with no purpose, with no joy. A mere empty husk blown away by the wind.

The Way of the Righteous

The Lord knows the way of the righteous. The one who is rooted in God’s word, nourished and satisfied, the one who delights in the Lord, knows that there is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom.3:10, 23). But the righteousness of God has been manifested, not a righteousness that comes from keeping the commandments, but a righteousness the entire scriptures point to, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Rom.3:21-22), the righteousness of Christ that is counted to us, credited to us as a gift (Rom.4). By the obedience of Christ we are made righteous (Rom.5:18-19). The Lord knows the way of the righteous. The only path to a righteousness that pleases God is the sinner humbly trusting God to credit us with a righteousness not our own, the righteousness of Christ.

There are 25 other places in the Psalms where we are declared to be happy. Those who are truly happy are:

those who delight in the instruction of the Lord (1:1 cf. Prov.3:13; 8:32, 34; 29:18)

those who trust in the Lord (2:12; 34:8; 40:4; 84:12; cf. Prov.16:20)

those whose God is the Lord (33:12; 144:15 (x2); 146:5)

those who enjoy the presence of the Lord (65:4; 89:15)

those whose strength is the Lord (84:5)

those who fear the Lord (112:1; 128:1-2; cf. Prov.28:14)

those who are forgiven (32:1-2)

those who are disciplined by the Lord (94:12)

those who do righteousness (106:3; 119:1-2; cf. Prov.20:7)

those who consider the poor (41:1; cf. Prov.14:21)

those who enjoy their children (127:5)

those who execute God’s judgment (137:8-9)

Known By the Lord

The Lord knows the way of the righteous. Those who are justified, declared righteous, credited with the perfect obedience of our Lord Jesus, are known by the Lord. The Lord know those who are his (2Tim.2:19). Those whose delight is in the word of God, who meditate on it day and night, are characterized by an intimacy with God. They are known by God.

Would you find real happiness? Do not seek it in that which is morally wrong, that which is offensive to God, that which looks down at others in pride. Do not listen to the counsel of unbelievers or follow their ways. Seek the righteousness that comes by faith in the finished work of Christ. Delight yourself in the Lord, in his word, treasure it, savor it, meditate on it, draw from it your nourishment day and night.

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

January 3, 2016 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:14-22; Fellowship with Christ

06/01 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 Fellowship with Christ;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140601_1cor10_14-22.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 10 [SBLGNT]

14 Διόπερ, ἀγαπητοί μου, φεύγετε ἀπὸ τῆς εἰδωλολατρίας. 15 ὡς φρονίμοις λέγω· κρίνατε ὑμεῖς ὅ φημι. 16 τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας ὃ εὐλογοῦμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία ἐστὶν τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ; τὸν ἄρτον ὃν κλῶμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐστιν; 17 ὅτι εἷς ἄρτος, ἓν σῶμα οἱ πολλοί ἐσμεν, οἱ γὰρ πάντες ἐκ τοῦ ἑνὸς ἄρτου μετέχομεν. 18 βλέπετε τὸν Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα· οὐχ οἱ ἐσθίοντες τὰς θυσίας κοινωνοὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου εἰσίν; 19 τί οὖν φημι; ὅτι εἰδωλόθυτόν τί ἐστιν, ἢ ὅτι εἴδωλόν τί ἐστιν; 20 ἀλλ’ ὅτι ἃ θύουσιν, δαιμονίοις καὶ οὐ θεῷ θύουσιν, οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς κοινωνοὺς τῶν δαιμονίων γίνεσθαι. 21 οὐ δύνασθε ποτήριον κυρίου πίνειν καὶ ποτήριον δαιμονίων· οὐ δύνασθε τραπέζης κυρίου μετέχειν καὶ τραπέζης δαιμονίων. 22 ἢ παραζηλοῦμεν τὸν κύριον; μὴ ἰσχυρότεροι αὐτοῦ ἐσμεν;

1 Corinthians 10 [ESV2011]

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

 

Chapters 8-10 of 1 Corinthians are a lengthy argument leading the readers to a godly conclusion. The Corinthians faced pressure to conform to their culture and participate in idolatry. Paul started by pointing out that although we all have knowledge, knowledge devoid of love is deadly. Living with the good of the other in mind is essential to following Jesus. Then he affirms the fact that they have rights and freedoms in Christ. But he holds himself up as an example of how a follower of Jesus can forgo legitimate God given rights for the sake of the gospel. At the end of chapter 9 he moves from the danger that my liberty may pose for a brother or sister in Christ, to the lethal effect it may have on my own relationship with God. He holds himself up again as an example of the danger of disqualification, or the danger of being demonstrated phony or false even after fruitful ministry. Then in chapter 10 he points to the example of Israel in the wilderness, most of whom played too close to the edge in seeking to gratify their desires, things like idolatry, sexual immorality, testing Christ by challenging God given leadership, things like grumbling and complaining about God’s good gifts. He warns them of the danger of self-confidence, he reminds them of the normalcy of temptation in the human experience, and he encourages them with the absolute faithfulness of God. He says:

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

And we might expect him to say, ‘therefore, you can plunge headlong into temptation, trusting in the faithfulness of God, confident that God will always provide a way of escape.’ But that is the opposite of what he says. Instead he says:

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Here he gives the clear conclusion his whole argument has been leading up to. How much can a Christian flirt with idolatry before he crosses the line? Paul’s answer is ‘No, that is the wrong question. Idolatry is lethal to your spiritual life. You should be asking ‘How far away from idolatry can I stay?’ He addresses them with a very affectionate term ‘my beloved’, and he says very clearly ‘flee from idolatry’. It doesn’t get much clearer than this. How much idolatry can I participate in before I jeopardize my relationship with God? Flee from idolatry! Run far far away. Run and never look back. Idolatry is not something to be toyed with. 603,548 Israelites fell victim to its treachery. Do not think that you can dabble with it and escape the same condemnation.

Idolatry is looking to anything outside of God to satisfy your desires, treasuring anything or anyone more than you treasure God. Idolatry is so pervasive in our society, maybe even more prevalent than it was in Corinth. There is so much that seeks to lead our hearts astray from God. To reveal the idolatry in your heart, simply look at where you spend your time, where you spend your energy, where you spend your money, what you talk about. These are the things that are most important to you, and God is jealous of your undivided affection.

Flee Immorality / Flee Idolatry

This passage is almost perfectly parallel to how Paul approaches the issue of sexual immorality in chapter 6. In 6:18 he says ‘Flee from sexual immorality’; In 10:14 he says ‘Flee from idolatry’. In 6:12 he says ‘all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful’, which he repeats verbatim in 10:23. He says in 6:15, 17 ‘Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? …he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him’ and in 10:16 he says ‘the cup …is a participation in the blood of Christ …the bread …is a participation in the body of Christ’. In 6:15 he asks ‘Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!’ In 10:21 he says ‘You cannot drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons’. In 6:20 he concludes ‘So glorify God in your body’ and in 10:31 he concludes ‘So, …whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’.

Think!

Paul is very clear in his conclusions, but he is wary of the dangers of a checklist. He demands that his readers think for themselves. He does not want formal external conformity to a set of regulations. He longs to see glad obedience from hearts and minds transformed by Jesus.

15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.

His readers have the capability to follow his logic. They have the capacity to think through his arguments. They can evaluate his conclusions. He doesn’t simply say ‘I’m the apostle, and you have to do it because I said so’. There are times when that is appropriate. But he invites them to thoughtfully engage with his flow of thought, trace out his line of reasoning and examine his conclusions. Think! Peter said that some of what Paul wrote is hard to understand! So engage your brains when you read this book. Paul uses words like ‘therefore’ and ‘so’ and ‘because’ and ‘in order that’. His words are not open to everyone’s interpretation. Words mean things. He intended to say something very definite, very specific, and if we are careful and thoughtful, we can understand what he says.

The Lord’s Supper

15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Paul parallels the Lord’s supper, our celebration of communion, with the idolatrous celebrations that the Corinthians were tempted to participate in. He demonstrates the incompatibility of intimacy with Christ and intimacy with demons.

He first refers to the cup. He calls it the cup of blessing. Jesus at the last supper with his disciples, blessed and gave thanks for the bread and the wine. When we celebrate the Lord’s supper to remember him, we bless and give thanks for the bread and the cup. It is the cup of blessing, the cup that Jesus blessed, that we also bless. Paul asks, ‘is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?’ When we take and drink the cup, we participate in the blood of Christ. The word is κοινωνία; communion, fellowship, or participation. When we drink the cup, we participate in the blood of Christ, all that it means for us. Jesus said that the cup was ‘my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Mt.26:28). A covenant is a binding committed relationship, often solemnized with blood. Jesus instituted the new covenant, the new relationship with God through his blood. Jesus offered his blood as a sacrifice for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and enter into a right relationship with God. The wages of our sin is death, and Jesus’ blood was shed, his life was poured out as a payment for our sin. By taking the cup and drinking, we are saying that we are participants in that new covenant, part of the people who were purchased with Christ’s blood, those who have been forgiven by trusting in the finished work of Christ for us.

Next, he mentions the bread that we break. ‘Breaking bread’ was a way of describing eating a meal together, and it was used to describe what believers did when they remembered Jesus with bread and wine. In the culture, to sit down together and share a meal created a bond of relationship and obligation. Tearing off bread from the same loaf, dipping in shared dishes and eating together was an intimate way of extending friendship. You would not sit down at the table and share a dish with someone you considered unclean or unworthy of your company. Jesus welcomes us to his table to share a meal with us. Jesus took the bread, and after blessing it, he broke it and said ‘this is my body which is given for you’ (Lk.22:19). The broken bread points to the human body of Jesus which was broken for us. By eating the bread, we participate in the body of Christ. We are saying that we are spiritually hungry and broken, and we benefit from the death of Jesus. We receive nourishment and sustenance from him. We are connected with him.

This is very different from the refreshments served by the stewardesses mid flight. They roll the carts down the aisles and offer you a choice of beverages to quench your thirst, and maybe a small pack of crackers to munch on. The napkin they give you may have the logo of the airline printed on it, but by drinking, you are not swearing your allegiance to that airline.

The cup of blessing and the bread broken are the meal we share at the table of Christ. He is our host, we are his guests, and we fellowship with him at his table. We enjoy the benefits he provides. We are connected to him. We are obliged to him.

Unity with Community

Verse 17 takes this a step further. The one bread that we all share unites us not only with Christ, but also with one another.

17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

There is a community formed around our communion with Christ. If you are in a binding committed relationship with Jesus through participation in his finished work on the cross, and I also am in that same binding committed relationship with Jesus, then we are bound to one another through our common bond to Christ. Those who participate in the new covenant meal are connected to our Lord Jesus and to one another.

Fellowship with Demons

Paul again points back to Israel as an example.

18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.

The text says ‘consider Israel according to the flesh’. Having just recounted the failure of the exodus generation, most of whom fell in the wilderness because of unbelief, this verse is likely pointing to fleshly or unbelieving Israel. Those who ate of the sacrifices made to the golden calf, those who ‘sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play’ had identified themselves with everything that altar stood for. Whatever altar you eat at, you become a participant with the deity that is being worshiped there, and you become connected with the other worshipers there.

This raises a question. Paul is suggesting that if you worship at a pagan altar, there is a real connection made with the one behind that altar. But Paul said in 8:4 ‘we know that an idol has no real existence and that there is no God but one’. Is Paul now saying that the idol does have a real existence? He clarifies. He is not saying that the block of wood or stone is anything but a block of wood or stone. But he is saying that there is an unseen reality behind the image. Paul is drawing on information from the Old Testament. When the people offered sacrifices to the calf, the calf was nothing but an inanimate statue made to look like an animal. But the calf idol became a focal point for worship directed to someone other than the one true God. It became a means of worshiping demons.

Leviticus 17 requires that all the sacrifices of the people be brought to the one place of sacrifice that God had authorized, so that they would not be worshiping demons.

Leviticus 17:7 So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.

Paul’s language reflects the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32

Deuteronomy 32:15 … then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded.

…21 They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. …

Moses connects the misplaced worship of the people with demon worship. We were made to worship. If we refuse to worship the one true God, we will worship success or power or possessions or family or pleasure. When we fail to treasure the one true God, and treasure other people or things, we turn our worship away from God and to demons. There is no possibility of being neutral.

Psalm 106 describes faithless Israel later, at the time of the conquest.

Psalm 106:34 They did not destroy the peoples, as the LORD commanded them, 35 but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds.

All these passages connect idolatry with demon worship. Lucifer desired to be worshiped as God. He and the angels who followed him seek to divert worship from God to other things. When we listen to their lie and are persuaded to seek pleasure and fulfillment in other things, we are participating with demons.

20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Jesus said ‘no one can serve two masters’ (Mt.6:24). We cannot sit down at the table of the Lord on Sundays and then seek to find satisfaction at the table of demons the rest of the week. Jesus will not tolerate it. He demands our undivided devotion, our absolute affection. We must choose whose table we will feast at.

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry

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

June 1, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:7a; No Grace-Gift Lacking

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121202_1cor1_7a.mp3

12/02 1 Corinthians 1:7a No Grace-Gift Lacking

1 Παῦλος κλητὸς ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ καὶ Σωσθένης ὁ ἀδελφὸς 2 τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν· 3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῇ χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ δοθείσῃ ὑμῖν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 5 ὅτι ἐν παντὶ ἐπλουτίσθητε ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν παντὶ λόγῳ καὶ πάσῃ γνώσει, 6 καθὼς τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐβεβαιώθη ἐν ὑμῖν, 7 ὥστε ὑμᾶς μὴ ὑστερεῖσθαι ἐν μηδενὶ χαρίσματι, ἀπεκδεχομένους τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ· 8 ὃς καὶ βεβαιώσει ὑμᾶς ἕως τέλους ἀνεγκλήτους ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 9 πιστὸς ὁ θεὸς δι’ οὗ ἐκλήθητε εἰς κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, 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. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul is thanking God for the grace of God at work in the believers in Corinth. Although there were many serious problems to address, although much was not right in the church in Corinth, although there were serious sin issues and doctrinal issues, there was still much to thank God for. Paul begins this difficult letter by thanking God for the evidences of grace that he observed in this wayward church. First, he thanks God that they were enriched in Christ in every way, especially in all words and all knowledge. Their minds had been enlightened. They had perceived the truth of the gospel message and believed. Then he thanks God that this fullness, this being enriched in all things, comes from the testimony of Christ, the witness Jesus bore of himself; the witness borne by the apostles about Jesus, the good news that God the Son became human, that he lived a perfect life, that he died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was raised from the dead, that he is King. This testimony of Christ was confirmed, made sure, shown to be firm and legally binding in the Corinthians. They believed the foolish message of the cross, and they were transformed by it. Although they were not yet what they ought to be, they were no longer what they once were. As Paul says in Romans 8:16

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

The good news about Jesus was demonstrated genuine among the believers in Corinth.

Not Lacking in Any Spiritual Gift

Next on his list of evidences of God’s grace at work in Corinth is verse 7; ‘so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift’. This will be the focus of our attention today. Paul thanks God that his grace is evident in their lives in that they lack no spiritual gift. What does it mean to lack, and what is a spiritual gift? And why would we spend so much time looking at just a few words?

Words Mean Things

God has spoken, and he has used words to communicate truth to his people. He has preserved his word through the centuries so that we can live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Words mean things. If we want to know what God says to us, we need to pay attention to the words he uses to communicate to us. Today we are going to take some time to look carefully at two of the words used in this phrase. Part of my job as a pastor is to preach, to proclaim God’s truth in the power of the Holy Spirit so that God is glorified and your life is transformed. Part of my job as pastor is to equip you, the saints, for the work of the ministry, to give you the tools you need to do the things God has called you to do. Think of it this way. This is a jar of baby food, and this is a little baby spoon. The food is already ground up really small. Somebody else has done the work of chewing. Somebody else uses the tools – the spoon to get the food into your mouth. You almost passively receive. Now picture a big thick juicy delicious steak. Here is a fork and a steak knife. I’m going to cut off some small bites and give them to you so you can get a taste for what is really good. But you are watching how I hold my fork and how I use my knife and you are learning. The goal is not to stay dependent, not to stay on a baby-food diet. The goal is to learn to enjoy food yourself. The goal is for you to learn to use the tools and dig in to God’s word on your own, with your family, with your friends and co-workers, maybe leading a bible study, being prepared to do what God is calling you to do. My prayer is that both things are happening. You are being fed. Your souls are being nourished with the pure milk of God’s word. But you are also watching, learning how to use the tools, becoming equipped to dig in to God’s word yourself. Here are some tools. This is an English dictionary. This is not where word meanings come from. What words mean comes from how the words are used in a culture, in a society. The dictionary listens to how a culture uses words and then tries to record what it hears. As the way the culture uses words changes, the dictionary has to catch up and publish a new version. The way people use words determine what they mean. So to find out what a word in the bible means, we need a different tool. We need to be able to see how a word was used by biblical authors so that we can start to hear how they used words in their culture and hear what they meant by what they said. This tool is called a concordance. It is an alphabetical catalog of every word in the bible and lists every verse that uses a given word. We can use it to get to know how the biblical authors used a word and what they meant by it. It also helps to know that our English bible is a translation from a different language. A good concordance will help you get behind the translation to get a taste of the original language. With a good concordance you can get at the original word behind the English translation and find every place that word was used, even if it is translated by a different word in English.

Spiritual Gifts

7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift,

What is a spiritual gift? There is one Greek word that is behind the translation ‘spiritual gift’ in our English bibles. ‘Charisma’ [χαρισμα] is derived from the Greek word for grace [χαρις] ‘charis’. This same word is translated twice in Romans 5:15-16 as ‘free gift’, and again in Romans 6:23

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The concept of grace, as we have learned, is diametrically opposed to any sense of earning or deserving. Grace is the polar opposite of works. Wages are set over against the free gift of grace. As Paul says in Romans 4:4

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift [literally: ‘according to grace’ κατα χαριν] but as his due [literally: ‘according to debt’; that which is legally or justly owed κατα οφειλημα].

And he says again in Romans 11:6

Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

There is no possible way to combine grace and works in salvation. If I work for or earn or contribute even a small percentage, then it ceases to be a gift, it ceases to be grace. In 2 Timothy 1:9 he points to God,

2 Timothy 1:9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

So the concept of spiritual gifts has at its root the concept of grace; a gift freely given and not in any way earned or deserved. We could translate it a ‘grace-gift’. At the heart of this concept is the free gift of eternal life, the gift of sins forgiven, the gift of reconciliation, the gift of a full, rich, satisfying relationship with God that is guaranteed to you for eternity, purchased for you by the blood of Jesus on the cross.

Gifts that Differ

This concept is expanded later in Romans and in Corinthians to include the various gifts God gives to his church to create a fully functioning body. In Romans 12, Paul uses the metaphor of one body with many members that differ in function, yet are inextricably interconnected as one body.

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

And he goes on to list some of the various grace-gifts God has given to his church; prophecy, service, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, mercy. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul points to the grace-gift of singleness and self-control. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, he addresses the issue of grace-gifts in the church in Corinth at length. He says:

1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Here we are given some definition on what these grace-gifts mean. In the trinitarian formula ‘the same Spirit, …the same Lord, …the same God’, our word ‘grace-gift’ is placed in parallel with two other synonyms; they are varieties of service or ministry, and varieties of activities or energies. Grace-gifts are God-enabled service, God energized activities. Grace-gifts are here said to be God-empowered, and they are said to be a manifestation of the Spirit. This is why the word is often translated ‘spiritual gifts’; they are gifts of grace that come from the Holy Spirit. The ultimate goal of these grace-gifts is for the common good. They are given by the Spirit of God for the good of the church, the body of Christ. Peter exhorts us:

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

So a spiritual gift or grace-gift is a concrete evidence of God’s grace that is given, not earned or achieved, it is an expression of divine energy, not human potential or effort, it is an act of service which promotes the common good, not for selfish gain [NIDNTT vol.3, p.703]

Not Lacking

Paul thanks God that the Corinthian church is not lacking in any spiritual gift. What does it mean to lack? This word is used in Luke’s gospel in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. He ‘squandered his property in reckless living’.

Luke 15:14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

That’s our word for ‘lacking’. He describes what he lacked. It says in verse 16

Luke 15:16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

And then he says that his ‘father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!’ The lack was a desperate shortage of something essential to life. When he returned as a beggar to his father, he was freely given more than he could have imagined.

There was a young man who came to Jesus asking what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus pointed him to the commandments.

Matthew 19:20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”

This man had not murdered, committed adultery, stolen, borne false witness, he had honored his father and mother, and claimed even to love his neighbor as himself. And yet he still sensed that he was coming up short. Something was missing. So he asked Jesus ‘what do I still lack?’

Mark 10:21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Jesus tells him he lacks one thing. One thing is lacking for eternal life, but Jesus gives this man three commands; he tells him to go sell, to give, and to come follow. But he says one thing is lacking. Is it one thing or three? I think he is saying ‘get the stuff out of the way that is preventing you from doing the one thing. One thing is lacking: come, follow Jesus.

Paul points in Romans 3 to the one area in which we all lack or fall short.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

He spent chapters one and two outlining how all men are without excuse because although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images. They brought God down to the level of a created being, a man or lower. All have sinned. All are under God’s judgment because all have failed to give God the glory that is his due. We come up lacking in giving God glory. He lays out the remedy in the next verse.

Romans 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

To lack is to have a shortage of something essential, whether on a physical level, lacking the basic necessity of food; or on a spiritual level, coming short of giving God his rightful glory, being distracted and missing the one essential thing to come, follow Jesus.

Thankful for no lack of Grace-Gift

Paul thanks God for his grace shown to the Corinthian church in that they did not lack in any grace-gift. This is the flip side of what he said in verse 5

5 that in every way you were enriched in him…

In every way they were enriched in him; in no way did they lack any grace-gift. This would include first of all the God-given gift of justification, forgiveness of all sin, the free and undeserved gift of eternal life in full soul-satisfying relationship with Jesus.

It would also include those various gifts of God’s grace given to his church to create a fully functioning body. They as a church are not lacking in any grace-gift. If they were not functioning as a healthy group of believers, which from the rest of this letter we know they were not, it was not because God was withholding something that they needed. They, like us, were enriched in Christ in every way. They were not lacking in any spiritual gift. They may have taken God’s generous gifts distributed according to his good purpose and prided themselves that they were superior to others who had different gifts. They may have used their gifts in self-serving ways rather than using their gifts to build up the body. They may have overemphasized the more spectacularly supernatural gifts and undervalued and neglected the more essential nuts and bolts gifts that were critical for the unity and health of the body. They were misusing, even abusing the gifts that had been given by God for their good. But even in this Paul finds reason to thank God. The fact that they were misusing the gifts of God meant that they had indeed been given gifts by God. God had extended grace to sinners in Corinth, they had received the free gift of eternal life, and God was at work in them. They certainly lacked in character. They lacked love. They lacked humility. But God was doing a great work. And there is reason to rejoice, because what God begins, he will see through to completion.

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

 

December 2, 2012 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment