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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Names of God

03/20 Names of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160320_names-of-god.mp3

We have been savoring God together, treasuring him for who he is, who he reveals himself to be. We are concluding a study on who God is, what he says about himself, what he is like. We have studied his character, his nature, his attributes, his personality, the Tri-une God, not merely to know more about him, but to know him, to enjoy sweet communion, fellowship with him.

My prayer is that these 24 sermons are not the end, but the beginning, because we have barely skimmed the surface of who God is. By God’s grace, we have gotten a taste, and I pray that that taste gives us an insatiable appetite for more, that it drives us deeper, deeper into who God is, who God is for us, and that we begin to experience the immeasurable greatness of our great God.

Names

Today I would like to look at God’s name. Names are important, they are intended to communicate something about the person, and even more so in the ancient world. Names identify a person, and distinguish that person from others. If you remember someone’s name, that person feels valued by you, important. Names are a way to connect with someone, we use them to communicate. To know someone’s name means that they have given you access to them, you don’t just know their title, you know their name. When we become close to someone, we say we are on a first-name basis. We don’t like it when someone gets our name wrong. God teaches us much about himself by his names, and he takes his name very seriously. The third commandment in God’s top ten list is this:

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

God takes great care in defending the honor of his name (Ezek.36:20, 23). His name is holy and awesome (Ps.111:9). His name is a strong tower (Prov.18:10). His name is glorious, awesome, to be feared (Deut.28:58). His name is to be proclaimed in all the earth (Ex.9:16). We are to acknowledge his name (1 Ki.8:33); love his name (Ps.5:11); exalt his name (Ps.34:3); wait for his name (Ps.52:9); seek his name (Ps.83:16); give thanks to his name (Ps.122:4); desire his name (Is.26:8); glorify his name (Jn.12:28); make known his name (Jn.17:26).

God is one, but he has many names. Some count over 200 names. If you include all his titles, the number swells to over 700. We can only look at a small sample of his names today.

El, Eloah, Elohim; The Strong One

What is God’s name? What does God communicate to us about himself through his name? In the very first words of Scripture, God is seen as Creator. The Hebrew word there is Elohim. This is a common word for God, used over 2,000 times in the Old Testament. Like our word ‘god’, it is a generic term, sometimes used of false gods or even human judges or governments. It is more of a title than a personal name. Although the singular form of this word ‘Eloah’ occurs a little over 50 times, the plural form is much more common. Most often this plural form is used with singular verbs and adjectives, indicating that we should not understand it as speaking of multiple gods, but of the one God in all his fullness, an intensive plural, indicating a fullness of life and power. The word ‘Elohim’ means the Strong One, the Mighty One, the One to be feared. God is the Strong Creator. The simplified form ‘El’ is often prefixed to other words to give a compound name.

El Elyon; God Most High

In Genesis 14, after Abram defeats the four kings and rescued his nephew Lot, we are introduced to Melchizedek, king of Salem, who is priest of God Most High, El Elyon (v.18, 19, 20, 22). Although there are other so-called gods, God is exalted above all gods. Abram won the victory because he is blessed by God Most High, who delivered his enemies into his hand.

El Roi; God who Sees

But in Genesis 16, God spoke to a pregnant runaway slave girl named Hagar who had been mistreated and who was wandering in the wilderness.

Genesis 16:13 So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

She names him ‘El Roi’ the God who Sees, because he looks after me. This God, who is God Most High, is a God who looks after the broken, the needy, the hurting, the mistreated, the outcasts, the rebels, the runaways.

El Shaddai; God Almighty

In Genesis 17, God comes to make promises to Abram, the 99 year old fatherless wanderer whose 90 year old wife was barren. God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, from ‘exalted father’ to ‘father of a multitude’. Into this impossible situation God gives Abram a name to hold on to.

Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”

I am El Shaddai, God Almighty. Is anything too hard for the Lord? (Gen.18:14). Romans 4, looking back on this event, says:

Romans 4:17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead ( since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

Into human weakness, the Lord comes as God Almighty, the God who gives life to the dead, who brings something out of nothing, who is fully able to do what he promises. God is the Omnipotent One, the One who bends the laws of nature to make them bow down and serve his purposes of grace.

El Olam; God Everlasting

After the promised son was born, and the Philistines recognized that ‘God is with you in all that you do’, and came to make a treaty with Abraham, Abraham planted a tree, and called on the name of El Olam, the Everlasting God (Genesis 21:33). Abraham was beginning to recognize that God was not going to disappear on him one day and leave him without help. God would always be there to make good on his promises.

YHWH, Yah; The I AM, Unchanging in Grace and Faithfulness

In Exodus 6,

Exodus 6:2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.

The LORD, the unpronounced four letters, translated in some English Bibles as Jehovah, probably something closer to Yahweh. God is not saying here in Exodus that his name YHWH was unknown before Moses’ time. In fact, we see this name throughout the book of Genesis. But here in Exodus he is making known what this name means.

Exodus 3:13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

YHWH is Elohim of your fathers. His name is ‘Ehyeh ‘Asher ‘Ehyeh, I Am that I Am, I will Be what I will Be. I am the First and the Last, I Am the same yesterday, today, and forever. What I was for the patriarchs, I will be for you. God is and remains God to his people, unchangeable in his grace and faithfulness. He is the I Am. This name occurs some 6,800 times in the Old Testament, and it occurs in combination with many other words that give us insight into who God is. It occurs frequently with Elohim, The LORD our God, The I AM, the Strong One; with El Elyon; The I AM, God Most High; with El Shaddai, The I AM, God Almighty; with El Olam, The I AM, the Everlasting God.

YHWH Rapha; The LORD our Healer

At the waters of Marah, where the people grumbled and God turned the bitter waters sweet, the Lord said:

Exodus 15:26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.

YHWH Rapha, The I AM, your Healer. Even when we are grumbling because circumstances seem to be against us, God is our healer. He can take what is bitter and make it sweet.

YHWH Nissi; The LORD my Banner

In Exodus 17, when Amalek came out to fight with Israel in the wilderness, and Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands on the mountain while Joshua defeated the Amalekites in the valley.

Exodus 17:15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

God granted the victory over the enemies of his people, and Moses responded with worship to YHWH Nissi, The I AM, my Banner. His banner flies over us when we seek his face and obey his command. He gives us victory over our enemies, trials, temptations. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

YHWH Mekoddishkem; The LORD who Sanctifies you

When God gave Israel the Sabbath to set them apart from all other nations, he said:

Exodus 31:13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

YHWH Mekoddishkem; The I AM, the one who sets you apart, makes you holy, sanctifies you. In the very next chapter, the Israelites worship the golden calf. We learned quickly that we can’t sanctify ourselves. He sets us apart. He makes us holy. It is the Lord who is our sanctification.

YHWH Shalom; The LORD is Peace

In Judges 6, Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites, who had been terrorizing Israel. When the Lord appeared to him, Gideon questions why all the bad things are happening if the Lord is with them; he complains that the Lord has forsaken them. The Lord commissions Gideon conquer the Midianites, but Gideon asks for a sign. When Gideon brings food, the Lord consumes his offering with fire and disappears.

Judges 6:22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” 23 But the LORD said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.

Even in the midst of complaining, doubting, testing; even when we try the patience of the Lord, even when we are riddled with unbelief, The Lord is gracious. We understand the consequences of our unbelief; the wages of sin is death. But God speaks Peace. YHWH Shalom, The I AM, our Peace. God is our peace, even in the midst of danger and turmoil and hardship, even when we respond to his rescue with doubt and fear and complaint, even when what we deserve is his righteous anger, he gives peace that passes understanding, that guards our heart and mind.

YHWH Sabaoth; The LORD of Hosts

In 1 Samuel, Hannah, a barren woman in a polygamous relationship, bitter in soul, prayed to the Lord for a son.

1 Samuel 1:10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

YHWH Sabaoth, The I AM, the Commander of angel armies. God is a Mighty Warrior, with infinite resources at his command, and he fights for those who are helpless to defend themselves.

YHWH Tsidkenu; The LORD our Righteousness

Jeremiah 23 holds a Messianic prophecy in the middle of a chapter about lying prophets and shepherds who scatter the flock

Jeremiah 23:6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ (cf. 33:16)

YHWH Tsidkenu, The I AM, our Righteousness. When all are acting unrighteously, when all are looking out for their own interests, The I AM is faithful to his own character. He always acts righteously. And he covers us, he clothes us with his own perfect righteousness. We are given a righteousness not our own. He is our Righteousness.

YHWH Raah, Rohi ; The LORD is my Shepherd

Psalm 23 says:

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

YHWH Raah, YHWH Rohi; The I AM is my Shepherd. He cares for me, provides for my needs, protects, leads, guides, comforts, corrects, gives rest, restores, nourishes, heals. When the LORD is my Shepherd I lack no good thing.

YHWH Jireh; The LORD will Provide

In Genesis 22, God called Abraham to take his only son Isaac, the son he loved, up on the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice. After Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood and bound his son and laid him on top oft the wood, and took the knife in his hand to slaughter his son, the Lord stopped him.

Genesis 22:13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

YHWH Jireh; the I AM will Provide. God provided a substitute. God provides his own Lamb for the sacrifice. When we finally let go of what we were clinging to, lay it all on the altar, offer it up to him, we are able to see that God provides everything in full.

Jesus; YHWH; Kurios; Lord

If we jump ahead to the New Testament, in John 8:

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

We see Jesus claiming to be the I AM, the one who was and is and is to come, the one who is what he has always been for his people, faithful and full of grace, YHWH of the Old Testament.

In Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2, he quotes the Old Testament prophet Joel.

Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (cf. Joel 2:32)

In Joel, the name of the LORD is the name of YHWH. Peter exhorts his hearers to call on the name of Jesus to be saved. Jesus is YHWH our Righteousness, our Sanctification, our Redemption, the Lamb of God, our Shepherd, our Peace, God’s Provision, our Healer; he is the Seed of the Woman, the Man of Sorrows, the Suffering Servant, the Son of Man. He is the Lord, the King, the Strong One, the Creator of all that is. He is the Holy one of Israel, our Portion. He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He is the Word. He is Immanuel, God with us. “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt.1:21)

*** You Are our Everything! ***

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

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March 23, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glorious Blessed Perfection

03/06 Glorious Blessed Perfection; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160306_glorious-blessed-perfection.mp3

We have been studying our God, the character and nature of God, what he says to us about himself, how he reveals himself to us in his Word. Today we will look at the glorious blessed perfection of God. To say that God is perfect is to say that there is no imperfection, no inadequacy, no lack in his character. Another way to say this is that God is all that he ought to be. He fully comes up to the ideal. He falls short in no area.

Even in our understanding of this we tend to be man-centered. We hear this and automatically think of our conception of who God ought to be, and we are glad to hear that God fully meets our expectations of what we feel he ought to be. This is arrogance; this is idolatry, to elevate our opinions above God and demand that he submit to our ideas of what is best and right. No, to say that God is perfect is to say that God fully meets his own idea of what it means to be God. There is no standard outside of God that God must live up to. God is his own standard.

If I were to ask you that question; ‘Are you all that you ought to be?’ I wonder how you would answer. Some might say ‘I’ve never even thought about a question like that. I’ve never stopped to think about what I ought to be.’ Others may answer ‘Of course I’m not perfect, but I think I am doing well. I contribute to society, try not to hurt others, and live a happy life.’ Many of us would probably answer something like this: ‘No, there are so many areas where I fall short of my own standards, I know my flaws, I am acutely aware of my shortcomings. I wish I could change this or fix that area of my life. I am striving, growing, moving forward, but I am not all that I ought to be.’ If we all examine ourselves carefully, we can all identify areas of potential improvement. But think of this. God is all that he ought to be. There are no areas in which he could do better, no areas of potential improvement. He is perfect. He is perfectly satisfied with his own character. He never looks back on an interchange and says ‘I wish I had responded differently than I did.’

Some people read things God has done or said, and they wish he were different than he was. They arrogantly presume that they could improve on his character. But to wish he were different than he is is to wish he were less than he is. He is absolute perfection, and any change from what he is would be to introduce a flaw, an imperfection.

Perfect, Lacking Nothing

James tells us that trials produce character with the end that we ‘may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing’ (1:4). When the rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit 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?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

The man was aware of a lack, something in which he did not measure up. Trials produce steadfast character and mature or complete or perfect us. To be perfect means to have no lack, no shortcoming, no flaw, to fully live up to what we were meant to be. This helps us understand what Jesus meant when he said:

Matthew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This does not mean that we must become gods as our heavenly Father is God. That would contradict the very nature of God, that there is and can be only one true God. But God is perfect, he has no lack. God is fully what he ought to be as God. We as humans are to be perfect, complete, mature, fully what we were made to be as humans, fully reflecting the image and glory of God, living wholeheartedly to love God and bring him glory.

Ezekiel 28, speaking of Lucifer’s fall, says:

Ezekiel 28:12 …Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; …On the day that you were created they were prepared. …14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.

This anointed cherub was perfect. His perfection was to perfectly be what he was created to be, to cry out ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’ to bring praise and glory and praise to Almighty God. He did not become perfect, he was created perfect, but he abandoned his perfection; we are told: ‘unrighteousness was found in you.’ Verse 2 said “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god”. Isaiah 14 tells us he said in his heart “I will ascend to heaven… I will set my throne on high… I will make myself like the Most High.”

To be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect is to be fully what we were created to be, just as God is perfectly what he ought to be as God. It is not, like Lucifer, to lift oneself up and strive to become equal with God in power and glory. That would be to deviate in the most loathsome way from what we ought to be.

Perfection of All His Attributes

God is perfect. He lacks nothing. He is all that he ought to be.

Psalm 18:30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

God is perfect in every way. His way is perfect. His works are perfect. God is perfect in his being, in his essence. God is perfectly self-existent, he is not dependent on anything outside himself. God is unchanging; he cannot improve, and he will not decrease in his perfections. God had no beginning and will have no end; he is perfectly eternal. God is spirit, completely present everywhere. God is tri-une, three persons yet one God, perfect in relationship. God is perfect in power, perfect in freedom, perfect in wisdom and knowledge. God is perfectly set apart. He is perfect in goodness, perfect in mercy, perfect in grace, perfectly compassionate, perfect in steadfast covenant keeping love, perfectly just, perfectly faithful, perfectly true. God is perfect in all his character, all his attributes. And in the perfection of his attributes and being, he is not a composite or conglomerate of differing attributes; he is one. He is. He is who he is, he is God. He is not made up of parts, pasted together, some parts in tension with others. No, he is perfectly one.

Glory

The perfection of God is a glorious perfection. The Bible talks much about the glory of God. We were created for the glory of God (Is.43:7). We are to glorify God in our bodies (1Cor.6:20). We are to do everything we do to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31). We are to ‘live in harmony with one another’…

Romans 15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

We are to ‘glorify God for his mercy’ (Rom.15:9). We believe, and we speak,

2 Corinthians 4:15 …so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Financial gifts are given ‘for the glory of the Lord himself’ (2Cor.8:19). The conversion of a persecutor led the leaders of the church ‘to glorify God because of me’ (Gal.1:24). In Ephesians 1, the eternal purposes of God for salvation are ‘to the praise of his glory’ (v.6, 12, 14). God is ‘the Father of Glory’ (Eph.1:17); He strengthens us to comprehend his love ‘according to the riches of his glory’ (Eph.3:16). Our ‘fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ is to the glory and praise of God’ (Phil.1:11). One day ‘at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth …to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil.2:10-11). The eternal punishment of 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 is to be ‘away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.’ The blessed hope of the believer is ‘the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ’ (Titus2:13). When our faith is proved genuine by fire it ‘results in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ’. (1Pet.1:7). Our conduct and good deeds bring glory to God (1Pet.2:12). When we utilize our gifts to serve one another by the strength that God supplies, it is ‘in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen’ (1Pet.4:11). When we suffer for being a Christian, we are to ‘glorify God in that name’ (1Pet.4:16). God’s glory is primary throughout Scripture. That is why the Westminster shorter catechism begins with the statement on our main purpose, ‘the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.’ The Bible is peppered with doxology; ascribing glory to God.

Romans 16:27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Jude 1:25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Revelation 5:12 … “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

Revelation 7:12 … “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

What is Glory?

So what is the glory of God? What is glory? From the passage in Exodus 33-34 that we have been studying, when Moses requests to see the glory of God, and God’s glory passes by while Moses is covered in the cleft of the rock, God declares his name, his character to Moses.

Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

The glory of God is the perfection of his being and attributes. Isaiah 42 says:

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

God’s glory is parallel with his praise. In Isaiah 66:19, God’s glory is parallel to his fame declared among the nations. God’s glory is the full perfection of who God is, his fame, his praise, his renown. In 1 Corinthians 15, the word glory is used to describe varying brightness of stars. The glory of God is said to give light in Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21. 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 compare the radiance of Moses’ face when he served under the law with the glory that comes with the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

And in 2 Corinthians 4 he says:

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

The light of the knowledge of the glory of God. Glory is the radiant brilliance of who God is blazing forth in splendor. Notice, the knowledge of the glory of God comes in the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus communicated to us most clearly the character and nature of God.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Hebrews 1 tells us Jesus:

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…

The radiance of the glory of God is the brilliant display of the manifold perfections of the nature and character of God.

Blessed Perfection

The glorious perfection of God is a blessed perfection. When God answers Daniel’s prayers, Daniel blesses God and says:

Daniel 2:20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.

And he goes on to extol the great power and worth of God. In Psalm 72, Solomon blesses God as he prays for the Messianic king.

Psalm 72:17 ​May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! 18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. 19 Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!

This Psalm is a prayer that the Messianic king reflect the character of God, and bring good to all who are under his rule. What does it mean to be blessed? For those who are under the Messiah’s rule, it means good will come to them. They will find justice, righteousness, prosperity, deliverance, protection, peace; they will flourish. It was promised to Abraham that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Good would come to them through him. Psalm 21 connects the blessings of the king with joy and gladness.

Psalm 21:2 You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. — Selah 3 For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head. …6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

In the beatitudes, Jesus contrasted the blessedness of the poor, the hungry, those who weep and are hated and persecuted with woe to those who are rich and full, who laugh and are well spoken of (Luke 6:20-26). Good things, great joy, will come to those who are blessed. But there will be terrible woe, pain and misery on those who experience their good only in this life. If for us to be blessed means to experience good and great joy, primarily and ultimately the joy of God’s presence, then what does it mean for God to be blessed? When we bless God, we ask that good and great joy come to him. But where does blessing come to God from? Does it originate in us? Of course, we can do what we were made for and give glory to God, and this brings him great pleasure. In Luke 15 Jesus tells us there is great joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. But ultimately even this does not originate with us.

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Even in Romans 1, where the wrath of God is revealed against truth suppressors who exchange the glory of God for images, who exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, even there God is declared to be ‘blessed forever! Amen (Rom.1:25). God is blessed forever in spite of the rebellion of his creation. God is full of great joy. Where does this come from? If our blessedness is ultimately found in the joy of God’s presence, where do you think God’s greatest joy comes from? God’s joy is not ultimately dependent on his creation, whether rebel or repentant. God’s greatest joy is the unshakable joy of his own presence. To say that God’s perfection is a blessed perfection is to say that God is delighted with his own perfect character and nature. God’s glorious name is blessed forever, and this was true before he brought anything into existence. God’s ultimate happiness is not dependent on his creation, or on anything outside of himself.

In 1 Timothy, Paul charges Timothy to defend the sound doctrine that is:

1 Timothy 1:11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

The good news is good news of the glory of God. The radiant brilliance of God’s nature and character as seen in our Lord Jesus Christ is good news. Sound doctrine is according to the good news of the glory of the blessed God. It is good news that God is blessed, that good comes to God, that he is filled with great joy, primarily the joy of his own presence, the eternal satisfaction and delight within the persons of the one triune God. God is fully pleased with the perfections of his own glorious nature and this is very good news for us.

Proverbs 18:10 ​The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

We will close with the doxology from 1 Timothy 6 that praises God who is happy, delighted to be who he is, filled with joy at the glory of his own infinite perfections; the blessed and only sovereign.

1 Timothy 6:13 …of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, …15 …—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

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

March 6, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Faithful and True

02/28 Faithful and True; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160228_faithful-true.mp3

What is God like? What can be known about God? What does he tell

us that he is like? We want to know God, to enjoy God, to delight ourselves in his presence, to experience him as he really is, to savor him. Jesus told us

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Suppression of Truth

Jesus tells us that eternal life consists in knowing God. But not just any idea of God will do. Eternal life consists in knowing the only true God. We must be careful. There is a grave danger that we would formulate an idea of God that does not correspond to the reality of who he is, and we would be found guilty of idolatry. Romans chapter 1 says

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

We as fallen mankind have an inclination to suppress the truth about God. Although we know true things about God, we do not act consistent with that knowledge. We do not honor him as God or give him thanks. We tend to exchange the glory of the immortal God for images of created things. We have a tendency to exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. This tendency in us is unrighteous, ungodly, and deserves God’s wrath. We must be alert to this tendency in ourselves, and be ware of taking the things God has revealed to us about himself and suppressing those things by our unrighteousness.

We want to enjoy God by experiencing him as he truly is. We do not want to be guilty of suppressing the truth about him or exchanging that truth for a counterfeit. One of the things God says about himself is that he is true. He is the only true God. What does it mean when the Bible says that God is true?

Full of Truth

Turn with me to the beginning of John’s gospel.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

We see in this passage that life comes by the light shining in the darkness. We see that the Word was the true light shining in the darkness, and that the Word became flesh and lived among us to show us the glory of the Father. We see that the Word, the only Son from the Father was full of grace and truth. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Jesus has made the invisible God known.

This passage in John directly connects back to the passage in Exodus that we have been studying. Keep your thumb in John 1 and turn back with me to Exodus 33. In Exodus 32, the people had become impatient with Moses’ delay on the mountain, and had made an image of God in the form of a bull-idol and worshiped and sacrificed to it. God threatens to wipe out all the people and start over with Moses, but Moses intercedes for the people and God allows them to live. In chapter 33, God is threatening that he will keep his promises and send Israel in to the promised land, but that he will not go with them because they are persistently rebellious and he would destroy them.

Exodus 33:12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” 17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Moses desires to know God, to know his ways, and he insists that the presence of God go with them. When God answers favorably, Moses requests to see the glory of God. God will reveal his character, his goodness, to Moses, but no one can see the face of God and live. John tells us that the law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side, Jesus has made his Father known. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, full of grace and truth. In Exodus 34, The Lord proclaims his name:

Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness

The Lord is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Jesus, the only Son from the Father is full of grace and truth. God is abundant in steadfast love, full of grace. God is abundant in faithfulness, full of truth. God reveals his full glory, the truth of who he is, in Jesus.

Light and Truth

This concept of truth or faithfulness in John’s gospel is coupled with light shining in the darkness. In the dark it is difficult to distinguish what is real from that which is a counterfeit. But in the full light the true character is seen for what it is.

In Jeremiah 10 the prophet sheds light on the people’s idolatry. He contrasts their idols with the one true God. Their idols are vanity, they cannot move, cannot speak, cannot walk, cannot do evil, cannot do good, they are stupid, foolish, false, worthless, a delusion;

Jeremiah 10:10 But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. 11 Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”

The Lord is the true God. He is incomparable in power, wisdom, understanding, his voice forms and brings about all things. The Lord is the true God in contrast to false gods who threaten harm and promise help but are impotent to do either. The Lord our God is true, he is no counterfeit; he is real, he is living, he had no beginning and will have no end.

Correspondence Between Word and Being

James warns against the deception of counterfeits.

James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

God is free from inconsistency or forgery. He is the Father of lights. He is the real thing, and the source of all that is true and genuine.

James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. …18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. …22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Do not be deceived and do not deceive yourselves. God is authentic. He birthed us by the word of truth. If we hear the word but do not do it, we are not true. We lie to ourselves. We prove not to be genuine. Truth is when the word and the deed are one. Falsehood is when the word does not match the reality. We also see this theme in 1 John.

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 2:4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Truth is when our claims perfectly correspond to reality. We had a friend who got a job as a door to door vacuum cleaner salesman. As a friend, we allowed him to come to our house and practice his sales pitch on us. He told us how the unit that he was selling far surpassed every other vacuum in sucking power. To demonstrate this, he had us turn on our vacuum cleaner (which was a shop-vac) and he stuck his credit card over the end of our hose. Then he proceeded to turn on his vacuum and attempt to suck his card away from our vacuum with his vacuum to demonstrate how much more powerful it was. He made several attempts, but completely failed. He was a bit embarrassed. His vacuum sucked. But our shop-vac sucked more powerfully. He was embarrassed because his words didn’t match the actual performance. He spoke bigger than the reality. His claims were demonstrated to be false. (And by the way, my friend didn’t remain in door-to-door sales for long).

God is true. His claims perfectly correspond to reality. God never inflates his claims. He never speaks bigger than he is. And have you read your Bible?! Have you listened to the things God says about himself?! Think for a moment of some of the things God says about himself. If someone came to your door claiming the things God claims for himself in his word, how would you respond?

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Every word of God perfectly corresponds to his essence, his being. He is what he says. His representation of himself matches exactly the reality of who he is. He is true.

I Am The Truth

In John 14, when Jesus is about to go to the cross, Jesus says:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

And he tells his disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them, to bring them to be with him where he is. When Thomas expresses confusion as to the destination and how to get there, Jesus responds:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus does not claim merely to know the truth, or to tell the truth; Jesus claims to be the truth. He says: “I am the truth.” He says “you believe in God, believe also in me.” Jesus is the truth. He is all that he claims to be, all that he ought to be. Jesus’ very essence embodies exactly who God is. As Hebrews tells us,

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. …

Jesus is the perfectly accurate representation of who God is. He is the truth.

In Revelation, Jesus is called “the holy one, the true one; the Amen, the faithful and true witness; Sovereign Lord, holy and true (Rev.3:7, 14; 6:10). In Revelation 19,

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

True Satisfaction

Jesus is faithful and true. In John 6, after Jesus fed 5,000 and the crowds pursued him to the other side of the lake, seeking more food, Jesus said:

John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. …55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

In what way does Jesus mean that he is the true bread from heaven? Does he mean true as opposed to metaphorical? In what way is his flesh true food and his blood true drink? Does he mean that we are to eat and drink his flesh and blood in a literal physical way? Clearly not. In the rest of the passage he clarifies that what is required is to come to him and believe in him. But he is saying that his flesh and blood is that which nourishes, sustains and satisfies us in a more genuine, real, and lasting way than any physical food. That which is true is that which is reliable, which can be depended upon, which does not fail or disappoint.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. … 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

Nothing satisfies human need, human longing like Jesus.

True and Trustworthy

Because God is true, he is trustworthy. He will live up to every expectation. He will perfectly keep his word. He will never disappoint those who trust in him, those who believe in him. Paul addresses Titus:

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began

God never lies. When God promises, he binds himself to make good on his promises. God is truth and God is completely trustworthy.

Hebrews 6:13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, …17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

When God takes an oath, he swears by himself, because there is none higher, none greater, no more sure standard of truth than himself. He is the absolute standard of truth. All truth comes from him. And the truth of God should give us strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us in the promises of God.

The Gospel is the Word of Truth

In the New Testament letters ‘the truth’ or ‘the word of truth’ comes to be synonymous with the gospel, the good news that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again, securing our forgiveness. (2Cor.4:2; Gal.2:5, 14; Eph.1:13; Col.1:5). We are to obey the truth, believe the truth, know the truth, love the truth, walk in step with the truth, be established in the truth… (Rom.2:8; Gal.5:7; Col.1:6; 2 Thes.2:10, 12, 13; 1Tim.2:4; 4:3; 2Tim.2:25; 3:7; 1Pet.1:22; 2Pet.1:12; 2Jn1:4; 3Jn.1:3)

Obtaining Truth

God is faithful and true. He is abundant in faithfulness and full of truth. He is the light by which we can discern what is genuine and what is counterfeit. How he portrays himself exactly corresponds to what he is in reality. Because he is true, he can be depended on, he will not disappoint or fail us. Jesus is the truth, the perfect expression of who God is, and the good news of Jesus is the truth that must be loved, embraced, obeyed.

In 2 Timothy, Paul charges Timothy to ‘rightly handle the word of truth (2Tim.2:15). He says:

2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

Notice how a knowledge of the truth comes. It does not come from hard study or persuasive arguments. It is repentance that leads to a knowledge of the truth; a turning, a change of mind and heart. And notice, this is a gift of God. If we have come to know and believe and love the truth, if we have come to see Jesus as the truth, we should not suppress that truth; rather we should honor God as God and give thanks to him.

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

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

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just and Righteous

02/21 Just and Righteous; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160221_just-righteous.mp3

We have been looking at the character of God, specifically at the goodness of God, his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures. We defined mercy as God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress; grace as God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment, God’s love, which is his special favor toward his people. Today we will look at God’s justice and righteousness, which is his goodness expressed by rewarding each one according to his work, and treating the righteous and the wicked distinctly (Bavinck, p.206, 215).

In Exodus 33, when Moses asked to see the glory of God, God replies:

Exodus 33:19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

In the next chapter God proclaims his character.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.

There seems to be dissonance in this verse. We might be inclined to replace the comma with a full stop in the middle of verse 7. We like to hear about a God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” But it might make us squirm a bit, and it is clearly contrary to our cultural climate to finish the sentence. We might not be so bold as to take out our black highlighter and strike the words from the page, but our voice might trail off, a bit embarrassed, and mumble the last lines under our breath. But we must finish the sentence! We want to know God, not as we wish for him to be, which would be to form a god after our own image, and worship and serve the created thing rather than the Creator, but we want to know God as he truly is, as he reveals himself to be. And he revealed himself to Moses as a God “who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquities of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

God is just. God is righteous. God will not let sin go unpunished. God will by no means clear the guilty. We might naturally recoil at this idea, or be embarrassed by it. We might feel a bit like the child of a father who easily loses his temper and flies into a fit of rage. The child is embarrassed by the actions of his father, especially if an outburst happens in front of his friends, but he loves his father and tries to downplay his imperfections, drawing attention rather to his better qualities. But to feel this way is to reveal that we misunderstand God’s justice, God’s righteousness, God’s wrath. To view God this way is to impose the limitations and imperfections we see in sinful creatures on the perfect and sinless Creator. We should not be embarrassed by God’s righteousness, or try to explain away his wrath. Rather we should delight in the justice of God, as an aspect of God’s goodness, because God delights in his own justice.

The Lord Delights in Justice and Righteousness

Listen to how the Bible speaks about God’s justice and righteousness.

Psalm 33:5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Psalm 97:2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Isaiah 5:16 But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.

Jeremiah 9:24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Hear this: the Lord loves righteousness and justice. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. The Lord of hosts is exalted in justice. The Lord delights in practicing justice and righteousness. God’s justice is a grounds for our boasting. God delights to reward each one according to his work. God is exalted in his treating of the righteous and wicked differently, as they each deserve.

Notice also, how justice and righteousness are coupled with his steadfast love. God’s justice and righteousness are not the opposite of his grace, mercy and steadfast love, they are not contrary to or in tension with his other attributes. Rather, God’s justice and wrath, and his love, mercy, and grace, rightly understood, are in perfect harmony.

Justice and righteousness are a positive expression of God’s goodness. To clarify this, it may be helpful to imagine a god who had no concern for justice, who was soft on sin and tolerated evil, who allowed the wicked to prosper and the upright to be persecuted. When we see images of persecution and slavery, of racial inequality and child prostitution, drug lords and terrorists, when we see wicked men prey on the innocent and helpless without consequence, our hearts cry out with the Psalmist “how long O Lord?”

Psalm 94:1 O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! 2 ​Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! 3 O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? 4 They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. 5 They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage. 6 They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; 7 ​and they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.”

The Psalmist sees injustice and cries out for the Judge of the earth to repay to the arrogant proud wicked evildoers what they deserve; he cries out for the God of vengeance to shine forth.

Many times in Scripture, we see God pouring out on his enemies what they deserve as a ground for worship

Revelation 19:1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39-43; Revelation 11:15-18; 16:4-7; Psalm 96, Psalm 98, etc.)

That God is just, that he punishes evil is grounds for worship. That God does what is right, that he rewards the righteous and punishes evildoers is something to rejoice in.

The Judge of All The Earth

In Genesis 18, God came down to give promises to Abraham and to punish Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 18:17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

The Lord is revealing his own just and right dealings with these wicked cities as an example for Abraham to learn justice and righteousness. He is teaching him to keep the way of the Lord by modeling his own righteousness and justice.

Genesis 18:20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

The Lord does not fly off into a fit of uncontrolled rage. The outcry was great and their sin was grave, so he investigates. He goes down to see.

Genesis 18:22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Abraham understood that the Lord is the Judge of all the earth. And as judge, he must do what is just. Abraham understood that it is unjust to sweep away the righteous with the wicked, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, to treat the righteous and wicked in the same way. For the sake of 10 righteous people God would spare the entire city. In the next chapter, we see the angels seizing Lot and his wife and his two daughters by the hand and bringing him out and setting him outside the city. The angel said “escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.”

Peter holds this episode up alongside Noah and the destruction of the ungodly world with a flood to demonstrate that

2 Peter 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,

The Judge of all the earth will do right. He differentiates between the righteous and the wicked, giving to each what he deserves.

God Repays Each According to his Deeds

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

The Lord does not judge based on appearances. He searches the heart and tests the mind, he judges every man justly. Jesus says

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.

Peter says to the church,

1 Peter 1:17 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 … 19 …with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Our Father judges impartially according to each one’s deeds. Paul spells this out in Romans. In chapter 1, he says that in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, because the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. In chapter 2 he says:

Romans 2:2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

God shows no partiality. God is a righteous judge, and his righteous judgments will be revealed on the day of wrath, when he renders to each one according to his works.

The Soul Who Sins Shall Die

In Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31, God clarifies a misunderstanding of his people when he said that he will visit “the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me” (Deut.5:9). There came to be a proverb ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ (Jer.31:29; Ezekiel 18:2), implying that God punishes innocent children for the sins of their fathers. This, indeed would not be just. But fathers need to realize that they set patterns for generations to come. There is a tendency for children to follow in the footsteps of their parents, and the children will not be able to excuse their sins because of the bad example of their parents. God says:

Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. 21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

Ezekiel 18:29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. As we have seen, God is good, he is inclined to extend undeserved mercy and overwhelming grace. He is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands [of generations].’ He prefers to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin. He invites us to turn and live!

The Good News of God’s Righteousness

But if God is just and righteous and will by no means clear the guilty, if he must treat us as our works deserve, if he must punish sin, then that leaves us all in a whole heap of trouble, doesn’t it? Yes, that’s the point of Romans 1 and 2, that ‘every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God.’

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

We return to the tension we felt in the beginning. How can God be merciful and gracious, abundant in steadfast love, inclined to forgive iniquity, transgression and sin, yet he is just and will by no means clear the guilty? How can God forgive, and yet repay each person according to what he has done? This is the power of God and the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel that addresses the problem for us of the wrath of God.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

God’s righteousness. Righteousness given to believing sinners by grace as a gift. We are all guilty. To get what we deserve is to experience hell. But if we will cry out to God for mercy, if we depend on the work of another, we can be given a gift we do not deserve. We can be declared righteous as a gift through the redemption and propitiation of Jesus. Jesus became our substitute. He took my place, and I take his place. All my sin was laid on him, he became sin for me, and God’s righteous wrath was propitiated, satisfied, in him. My sin got what it deserved; death. I now get what Jesus’ perfect obedience earned; the declaration of righteousness, and the reward; eternal life. Notice the concern to demonstrate God’s justice and righteousness.

Romans 3:25 …This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded…

God’s own justice does not allow him to merely pass over sins. God’s righteousness is upheld both in punishing the evildoer in the person of the Lamb of God who became sin for us, and in rewarding the righteous, as I now come to be in Jesus through faith and enjoy his inheritance.

We see this same emphasis on God’s justice in 1 John 1:9.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we turn and agree with God about our sin, his justice is satisfied, because we see sin as it really is, as an offense that must be punished, and he is just to forgive and cleanse us, because the punishment has been poured out on Jesus. This is no mere outward declaration. It changes us. If we are cleansed from all unrighteousness, then we are righteous. We are born anew, given a new heart, given the Holy Spirit, and we begin to hate what God hates and to love him above all else. The Spirit begins to bear fruit in us, and God, who searches the heart will give to us according to the fruit of our deeds.

May we praise God for his justice! We don’t want a God who doesn’t take sin seriously. A God who is soft, compromising, inconsistent is not worthy of our worship. The cross of our Lord Christ is a public demonstration of both the justice and mercy of our overwhelmingly loving God.

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

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merciful, Gracious, Compassionate

02/07 Merciful, Gracious, Compassionate; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160207_merciful-gracious-compassionate.mp3

We are seeking to know God, to increase in our affection for him as we listen to what he says about himself. This greatest of all beings, is profoundly worthy of our adoration and worship. We have looked at some of his essential attributes, those describing his very being, his essence, how he relates to his creation, to time, to space. We have looked at some of the characteristics which set him apart from us, in a class by himself, utterly unique and different – holy, and we are looking at some of the characteristics of which we find a faint reflection in us his creation, we who are made to reflect his image.

Last time we looked at God’s goodness. We used Stephen Charnock’s definition: “the goodness of God is his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures.” We saw that God is good in and of himself, in his very nature. He is the source of all good. And although he is not obligated to extend his goodness to any, he is good to all. In varying degrees, as he sees fit, he gives to each one better than we deserve. He is inclined to do us good. And he is our ultimate good. Although many settle for enjoying his good gifts, our supreme good is to enjoy forever the good giver of all those gifts.

In Exodus 33,

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

God’s goodness is defined here by God’s right to freely extend grace and mercy to whom he will. His goodness is then declared to Moses in chapter 34

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

God’s goodness is proclaimed as mercy, grace, longsuffering, covenant love, faithfulness, and justice. Today we will look at God’s mercy, his grace, and his patience.

Although there is much overlap in these concepts, the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921; p.206 ff.) helpfully distinguishes them according to whom they are directed. He writes that ‘mercy is God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress; grace is God’s goodness toward the guilty; longsuffering is God’s goodness manifested in patience toward those who are deserving of punishment.’

Moses (d. 1406 or 1220 BC)

Throughout the Scriptures we see that God is merciful, gracious, slow to anger. God revealed this to Moses. In Moses’ instructions to the generation who would enter the promised land under Joshua, in Deuteronomy 4, he warns the people in coming generations not to fall into idolatry. He says that you will ‘provoke the Lord to anger… you will soon utterly perish from the land … you will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples… you will be left few in number …where the Lord your God will drive you. And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands.’ but he gives them hope and confidence, based on the character of God.

Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. 31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.

He grounds this hope, hope for repentance, hope of forgiveness, on the fact that the Lord is a merciful, compassionate God. God is inclined to be good toward those in misery and distress, even when that misery is self-induced.

Jonah (c.782-753 BC)

Some 500 – 700 years after Moses, Jonah, the reluctant prophet, is sent by God with a message of judgment to Nineveh, the great city of Assyria. When he finally delivers his message, the pagan king proclaims a fast, for everyone to turn from evil and cry out to God. He says:

Jonah 3:9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah’s refusal to proclaim God’s judgment on this wicked enemy of Israel was due to his understanding of the goodness of God, his inclination to extend help toward those in distress, to be patient toward those who deserve punishment, to be forgiving toward those who are guilty.

Hezekiah (715-686 BC)

Some 30 – 50 years after Jonah, Hezekiah had already seen the northern 10 tribes of Israel conquered by Assyria because of Israel’s idolatry. After the wicked King Ahaz led Jerusalem in the abominations of rampant idolatry, King Hezekiah sought to cleanse Jerusalem from idolatry. He sent out an invitation to the remnant of Israel and Judah to return to the Lord and keep his Passover in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 30:6 So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the LORD God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. 8 Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”

Hezekiah finds hope for wayward people punished for their idolatry in the character of God. God is compassionate, merciful, gracious. He will turn away his fierce anger if his people will return to him.

Nehemiah (445 BC)

300 years later, after Judah had spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon, Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, and with Ezra sought to restore proper worship to God. In Nehemiah 9, a public prayer of worship and confession of sin, they recount the history of God’s grace and mercy from Abraham through Egypt to Moses into freedom,

Nehemiah 9:16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go.

Then they recount the supernatural conquest of the promised land under Joshua, and their subsequent slide into complacent idolatry.

Nehemiah 9:27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies.

After the time of the judges, throughout the time of the kings,

Nehemiah 9:30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God. 32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day.

The people under Ezra and Nehemiah turn to the Lord in hope in spite of their repeated history of sin because of God’s character. He is ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, great in mercies. He does not forsake them.

Undeserved, Unmerited, Free

Mercy is God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress. Grace is God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment. In order to truly appreciate, to truly enjoy God’s mercy and grace, we need to grasp what mercy and grace really mean, and how we relate to them. Mercy means I am miserable and needy. I am in a position with no way out and no way to help myself. To cry out for mercy is to recognize the desperate nature of my situation and ask for help from outside. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a story that helps us to feel the weight of our desperate situation.

Matthew 18:23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’

This is where the footnotes in your Bible can be very helpful. This servant owed ten thousand talents. What is that? What is a talent? The footnote in my Bible says that a talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer. I’m not sure what you take home in a year, but this man had embezzled 200,000 years worth of wages. He could not pay. He could never pay. So he was being sold. His wife, his children, everything that was dear to him was being sold. There was nothing this man could ever hope to do that would dig his way out of a hole that deep. It seems he didn’t even understand the depth of his situation. He doesn’t ask for mercy. He asks for patience. He asks for more time, an extension on the debt. As if given enough time he could somehow pay of the debt. But God doesn’t work that way. Look at the response of the king.

Matthew 18:27 And out of pity [σπλαγχνίζομαι] for him…

Out of pity. Literally, his innards were moved for him. In the depth of his gut, he was moved with compassion. Pity. His situation was hopeless. The king knew that no amount of time would make it possible for him to repay even a fraction of what he owed.

But the king had been wronged. Robbed blind. This man was a liar. A cheat. An enemy. He had abused the king’s trust, misused the king’s resources. He deserved to be sold. He probably deserved much worse. He deserved to be hated. But instead the king was inclined toward pity. In verse 33, the king says ‘I had mercy on you.’

Matthew 18:27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

The master released him fully. Complete pardon. The debt forgiven.

If you go on to read the rest of this parable, you will see that the point of the parable is how utterly out of place our unforgiving attitude toward the petty offenses of our brothers is in light of the staggering debt we have been released from. Clearly the servant didn’t grasp the magnitude of the undeserved mercy that had been freely extended to him when he deserved so much worse. He just didn’t get it. Although offered free pardon, he continued to operate as if he were under a system of debt. His heart wasn’t moved. He wasn’t changed.

Grace vs. Debt

Romans helps us understand grace by contrasting it with its opposite. In Romans 3:19, Paul has established the universal guilt of all mankind before God.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

And then in verse 23 and following, he holds up the hope of grace.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Justification, legal pardon, forgiveness, being declared not guilty, our debt expunged, is a gift rooted in God’s grace. It was not free. It is the most costly of all gifts. God paid the purchase price. Redemption in Christ Jesus, propitiation by blood sacrifice. God is not righteous if he merely lets sin slide, looks the other way, brushes it off as if it were no big deal. God in his patience had passed over former sins. This left a question mark on the righteous character of God. Does he really care about justice? How can he justify ungodly people? The price was paid in full. He paid it himself. He gives it to us by grace as a gift. Romans 4 clarifies what this means.

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

If you work, you earn wages. They are owed to you. They are due. Literally, this phrase could be translated ‘to the one who works, the wages are not counted according to grace but according to debt.’ Grace is the polar opposite of debt. Grace is unearned, undeserved, freely given, with no obligation. If you work you are entitled to a paycheck. And we have worked. We are entitled. The wages of sin is death. God owes us. He owes us death. He is only obligated to give us what we have earned. Grace is in a completely different category. We cannot demand it. We cannot presume upon it. God is in no way obligated to extend to us the least bit of grace. He is free to give us what we deserve, but it costs him dearly to extend to us grace. Faith is in a different category. It is not work. It is a total departure from the system of debt and obligation. It is a helpless dependence on the promised generosity of another, taking him at his word, gladly receiving a gift.

In Romans chapter 11, Paul speaks of the future of ethnic Israel, and the current unbelief of the majority of Jews, and he says:

Romans 11:5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

Grace is freely extended to a remnant of Israelites, like Paul. It is not based on performance. If it were in any way attached to merit or obligation or earning, it would not be grace. Grace ceases to be grace if you are entitled to it.

2 Timothy 1 speaks of

2 Timothy 1:8 …God 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,

God saved us, God called us not because of works but because of his own eternal purpose in Christ, because of grace – God’s inclination to extend goodness toward those who deserve nothing but evil.

Ephesians 1 is an extended hymn of praise of God’s glorious grace.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 2 describes us as

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

And then he says:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore remember…

Remember that you were separated, alienated, strangers, having no hope and without God. But now you have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Remember the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Remember God’s undeserved, unmerited, unrestrained, free gift.

Until we feel the weight of the debt we owed, until we realize the extent which it cost God to forgive us, until we recognize he wasn’t obligated to, he is just and free to exact from us every bit of what we owe, we, like the ungrateful servant, will not get grace. We will not understand mercy. Our hearts will not be moved. We will still operate under a system of debt. And we will miss out. If we feel entitled, if we feel God owed it to us to extend grace and mercy, we just don’t get it. God would be just to give us all what we deserve, but God is inclined to deal well and bountifully with us. God is inclined to pity us, to extend goodness toward those in misery and distress. God is inclined to withhold his punishment toward those who continue to sin, eager to bring us to repentance. God is inclined to extend his voluntary, unrestrained, unmerited favor toward guilty sinners, granting us justification and life instead of the penalty of death, which we deserve. Let us praise the immeasurable riches of his mercy and grace!

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

February 7, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Holy Holy God

12/06 Holy, Holy, Holy God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151206_holy-holy-holy-god.mp3

What is God like? When we think of God, what characteristic defines him? How does he define himself? If we could say only one thing about God, what would most capture his nature? Think for a moment, what word would you choose? This is really an unfair question, because God’s attributes cannot be separated or isolated from one another, and God’s characteristics are not in conflict with one another. Everything God does is an expression of all his attributes. I think many people today would say ‘God is love’ or ‘God is grace’, and that is true. We might choose love because we can think of a Bible verse that says ‘God is love’ (1Jn.4:8). And we might choose love or grace because that is how we want God to respond to us. We are rightly grateful that he is loving and gracious toward us. But at the root we want to elevate these characteristics of God because we are really all about ourselves. We know he is just and righteous, but we would rather experience his love and grace. That is what we want from him. But what is the emphasis in the Scriptures? What does God highlight for us about himself?

There is only one characteristic of God that is repeated three times consecutively in worship and praise to him. In Isaiah 6, the prophet is given a vision of the presence of God.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. I3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

These six-winged seraphs surrounding God’s throne are continually crying out ‘holy, holy, holy’. They are not crying out ‘love, love love’ or ‘gracious, gracious, gracious’. God is not heralded as ‘righteous, righteous, righteous’ or ‘eternal, eternal, eternal’ or ‘almighty, almighty, almighty’.

John, in his revelation of the presence of God, witnessed a similar scene around God’s throne.

Revelation 4:2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

Holy, holy, holy. They never cease to say ‘holy, holy holy’! Throughout eternity, the praise of God’s holiness reverberates around his throne.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he began by teaching them:

Luke 11:2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name…

The first thing we are to pray is that the Father’s name be hallowed, or treated as holy… on earth as it is in heaven. The third commandment is:

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

God’s name is to be treated as holy. It is not to be used in vain, in a worthless or common or ordinary manner.

God says in Leviticus 22:

Leviticus 22:32 And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you,

And in Ezekiel 39:

Ezekiel 39:7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

God’s name is holy, and his name is not to be profaned or made common. He calls himself the Holy One.

What does Holy Mean?

God declares that he is holy, and demands to be recognized as holy. What does it mean to be holy? Fortunately, the Bible gives us quite a clear picture of what it means to be holy. In these verses in Leviticus and Ezekiel, we see that to be holy or to sanctify, is contrasted with to profane or treat as common. The basic meaning of holy is that which is set apart. To sanctify is to set apart. There are clear instructions in the Old Testament law about how to set things apart to God. Something or someone who was to be holy was cleansed and removed from common or ordinary use, and through some ritual or process was dedicated or consecrated to be used in the worship or service of God. There was a negative and positive aspect to holiness or sanctification. Negatively, it was cleansed and removed from circulation in its ordinary use. Positively, it was dedicated or consecrated to be exclusively used in the service of God and to bring him glory. So when a priest was sanctified or made holy, he left his ordinary daily routine, came to the tabernacle, he was washed, clothed with different clothes, and anointed to serve as priest. He was set apart to the service of the Lord. He was not allowed to participate in common activities for the time he was appointed to serve. When someone dedicated a gold bracelet or earring to the Lord, it would be melted down, reshaped into something for the worship and service of the Lord, and then washed and anointed, never to be used for common purposes again. Whatever it came in contact with would also become holy, set apart exclusively to the Lord’s use. The specific blend of spices used as anointing oil and incense to the Lord (Ex.30:22-38) was to be holy. No one was to make any like it or to use it for any common purpose.

I The Lord Am Holy

Leviticus 19:2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 20:26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

We understand what it means for us to be holy. We are no longer to be involved in that which is common, ordinary, we are to be cleansed and set apart exclusively for the service and worship of God. We are to do all that we do to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31) But what does it mean for God to be holy? If holiness is being set apart, what is God set apart to or for? What is higher or more worthy that God must dedicate himself exclusively to?

What if what it means for God to be holy is very similar to what it means for us to be holy? For us to be holy is to turn from that which is common, and be dedicated exclusively to that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is God. For God to be holy means that he is exclusively dedicated to valuing that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is himself. Holiness in us is to seek the glory of God above all else. Holiness in God is to seek his own glory above all else. Might this be what God means when he says that he will not share his glory?

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

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

If God were to dedicate himself to anything other than himself, he would become an idolater, worshiping and serving something that is less than God, and by that act he would communicate falsely that there is something higher and more worthy of worship than God.

Isaiah 6:13 …Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

God’s holiness is his utter separation from valuing anything above himself, and his complete dedication to promoting the praise of his own glory.

We are to be holy because God is holy. We are to treasure God above all else, because he values himself above all else. We are to have no other gods beside him, because he honors no gods outside himself. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, because God loves himself completely.

This idea that holiness in God means that he loves himself above all and seeks his own glory at first sounds uncomfortable, and we might even recoil from it, because it seems we are attributing to God something that is sinful. For me to love myself and seek my own glory would be arrogant, narcissistic and sinful, because I would be robbing God of the honor due to him and taking it for myself, when I do not deserve it. But for God to fail to love himself and seek his own glory would be sinful. For God to love or seek the glory of anyone above himself would be for God to become a liar and an idolater. It is right for God to treasure that which is most valuable, which is himself.

Delighting in God’s Holiness

I think this will become clearer as we look at some of the passages that talk about God’s holiness. Exodus 15 speaks of the incomparable holiness of God.

Exodus 15:11“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

God is unique in his holiness. God does wonders, he is awesome in glorious deeds to demonstrate that he is most worthy to be praised. David’s song of praise when the Ark was brought to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 16 says

1 Chronicles 16:8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

We are called to delight, to rejoice, to glory in the holy name of God. We seek the Lord and delight ourselves in him because he delights in himself.

1 Chronicles 16:23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. 24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.

God’s salvation, his marvelous works, his glory is great and worthy of praise.

1 Chronicles 16:28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;

God’s name deserves glory. The splendor of his holiness deserves to be worshiped. God is right and good to display his greatness and worth so that we will respond with appropriate worship.

1 Chronicles 16:35 Say also: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.

We glory in his praise. We give thanks to his holy name. God is worthy to be praised, and he holds up his own name and his glory to be adored.

Psalm 29 says:

Psalm 29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 96 says:

Psalm 96:8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! 9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

We owe it to God to glorify his name. Angels owe glory to God. His holiness is splendid!

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.

His holiness of putting himself first in everything increases our gladness in him. He is our everything. We wait for his help and protection. We trust in his holiness, because he values what is most valuable. Our hearts are glad in him, because he is delightful!

Psalm 138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word

God exalts his own name and his own word above all things. He is holy. He puts that which is most worthy of praise first, namely himself.

In Psalm 89 (and also in Amos 4:2) God swears by his holiness.

Psalm 89:35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. (cf. Amos 4:2)

God can use his own holiness as the basis of his oath to bind himself because he will consistently uphold his own worth. He swears by something he holds dear, something that will require him to keep his word.

Holiness Inclines Toward Humility

Proverbs 9:10 ​The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

We gain insight, wisdom by fearing the LORD, by knowing the Holy One. To know God as holy, zealous for the honor of his own fame is wisdom.

Listen to Isaiah 57:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, …

His name is Holy, and he dwells in the high and holy place. This seems to put him out of reach. He is entirely separate, other, inaccessible. But listen to what God says:

I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

God’s holiness inclines toward humility. The holiness of God must crush the proud, to demonstrate that he alone is worthy, but to those who are contrite and lowly, he is favorable.

After the angel announced to Mary that she would carry the coming King,

Luke 1:46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 ​and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His name is holy, and he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

We can join in praise to God that he treasures that which is most valuable, himself. We must humble ourselves and acknowledge his surpassing greatness and delight ourselves in the splendor of his holiness. May we glory in his holy name!

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

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God All Knowing and Wise

11/29 God All-Knowing and Wise [omniscience] ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151129_god-all-knowing-wise.mp3

We are spending some time savoring together what God tells us about himself. He is the most perfect being, and to know him is to know true joy and fulfillment. We have the pleasure of enjoying a blood-bought relationship with this God who is Father, Son and Spirit. Throughout Scripture, we are pointed back to the character and nature of God as the foundation for our lives, for hope in troubled times, as an anchor for our souls. We are warned of the dangers and consequences of believing false things about God or imagining him to be other than he is. We want to know God, to see what he has said about himself, to worship him in truth.

The Good News of Omniscience

Last time we looked at the power of God, the freedom and authority of God. God is sovereign. God has the right and ability to rule over his creation however he sees fit, and that is good news because he is good and only does what is best.

Today we will look at the wisdom and knowledge of God. The Bible teaches us that God ‘is perfect in knowledge’ (Job37:16); that ‘he knows everything’ (1Jn.3:20); Peter told Jesus ‘Lord, you know everything’ (Jn.21:17); Solomon addresses God ‘you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind’ (1Ki.8:39); the Psalmist declares:

Psalm 147:4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 5 ​Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

The author of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

This is terrifying to those who do not know the forgiveness that comes only through a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows my heart, and my heart is ‘deceitful and desperately sick’ (Jer.17:9-10). I must ‘give account for every careless word’ I speak (Mt.12:36). But to those who do know him, this is good news indeed! He knows everything about me, and he loves me anyway?! He will never find out something about me that he doesn’t already know, that would cause him to turn away from me? There is nothing I will do in the future that he doesn’t already know, that would change his heart toward me? Truly, as David said:

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity… (Romans 4:7-8)

God who Cannot Learn

We stand amazed at a God who is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God does not fully know. God cannot increase in knowledge, because he is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God must learn. God will never be surprised, or caught off guard by new information.

So often our decisions are just plain bad. Have you ever made a bad decision? We make the best decisions we can based on the information we have, but we never have all the information. And the information we do have, we do not always know how to best utilize it. Have you ever said after the fact, ‘well that would have been really helpful to know’?

When I was younger, my mom used to make homemade frosting, and put it in these little orange Tupperware containers in the fridge. I would often spread some on a graham cracker for an after school snack. One day I remember coming home from school, opening the fridge, grabbing the little orange container, scooping up a finger full of the ‘frosting’ and popping it in my mouth, only to learn too late that this little orange container did not contain frosting, it was lard! That would have been nice to know before I stuck some in my mouth!

God never makes a bad decision based on incomplete information.

Sometimes our decisions are based on bad information. Did you know that sometimes people will tell you only part of the story in hopes that you will make the decision they want you to make? We have learned this through the challenging process of raising kids. ‘Dad, my brother sat on me and tried to scratch my eyes out! Look what he did to me!’ Your sense of justice is roused and you let the gavel fall. Then, through the tears, you come to find out that there is another side to this story. The ‘victim’ had been ruthlessly taunting and provoking her brother to the point where out of sheer frustration he responded the way he did. There is guilt on both sides. Sometimes people are less than truthful. How do you know who is telling you the truth? How do you know if it is the whole truth? God is never left to wonder. God knows the truth. God sees the thoughts and intents of the heart. God is never duped into making a judgment based on false information. God is perfect in knowledge.

God and ‘Chance’

But even if we had access to all the information, even if we had all the facts, we still can’t know what will happen in the future. Companies spend lots of money on surveys and statistical studies and analyzing trends and data and probabilities, but in the end, they have to roll the dice and take a chance. God never takes a chance. God ‘declares the end from the beginning’ (Is.41:22-26; 46:9-10).

It is true that the Bible talks of God as ‘regretting’ or ‘repenting’ or ‘changing his mind’ (Gen.6:5-7); but should we understand this to mean that God didn’t know what would happen before it happened? Should we understand that God took a chance and was surprised and caught off guard by what happened, and through the experience learned some things, and needed to quickly come up with plan B? God is grieved by the sinful choices of his creatures; he responds differently to disobedience than he does to obedience, but he is not surprised. He does not regret in the sense that he wishes he had had access to better information on which to base his actions.

Proverbs 16:33 ​The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

In fact, there is no such thing as chance. God’s providence rules the world, he determines the outcome of every roll of the dice. ‘Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father’ Jesus said (Mt.10:29). We can take comfort that the things we view as chance are in the omnipotent hand of an all wise God who loves us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Even tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, even death, even the uncertainties of the future, (Rom.8:35-39) God will work even these things together for our good.

God Aloof or Involved?

In Psalm 139, the Psalmist expresses amazement at the wisdom and knowledge of God.

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

God knows all my actions, even insignificant ones. God knows all my thoughts. God knows my plans, my habits. God knows how I will respond to any given situation. God knows everything I will ever say before I ever say it.

But is God a passive spectator? An all-wise sideline observer? He never interferes, right?

5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 ​Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

This word ‘to hem in’ means to bind, confine, cramp, enclose, shut in, secure. This seems to indicate that God is not passively watching, but is actively involved. And the Psalmist responds that this knowledge is wonderful.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 ​If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

God is present to lead, guide, or govern; and to hold, grasp, seize, take possession of, or enclose.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 ​even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 ​My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 ​If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

Every day of my life was written in God’s book before I existed! Every one of my days was formed as a potter forms the clay. There is no room here for the god of the deist, who set creation in motion, and then passively observes from a distance, aloof and uninvolved. God is intimately involved in our lives, leading, holding, hemming in, forming. And this is a good thing. God’s thoughts are incalculably great and precious, treasured, valuable.

The Psalmist concludes with a glad invitation to God’s interference in his life.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

God’s knowing is not a mere distant awareness of facts, but an involved nurturing protecting directing care.

Knowledge of what Might Have Been

God knows all things, even what might have been, had things been different than they are. In Jeremiah 38:14-23, God reveals to King Zedekiah what will happen if he surrenders to the King of Babylon, and warns of what will happen if he does not surrender. In 1 Samuel 23:10-13, God tells David what Saul will do, and how the people of the city he is hiding in will respond when Saul comes to seek him, so David and his men escape from the city.

In Matthew 11, Jesus:

Matthew 11:20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Jesus tells us what might have been if things had been different. If Jesus had done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, or in Sodom, they would have repented, and they would not have been destroyed. We are left to ask why? Why, if God knew that they would have repented, did he not send Jesus to them? God did not lack the power to act differently than he did. Jesus could have done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, and Sodom. God could have acted differently to bring about different results; however for his own wise and good purposes, he always chooses to bring about the highest good. It is right and good and wise to punish evil, and although God did not do all he could do to bring about their salvation, he also did not leave them without a witness. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, and Zechariah prophesied against Tyre and Sidon. Peter says:

2 Peter 2:6 …by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

Peter holds up ‘righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)’ (2Pet.2:7-8); Lot who was rescued from Sodom as an example that ‘the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment’ (2Pet.4:9)

This is a sobering reminder that God is not obligated to save anyone. God is able to save, but he is wise and just to punish evildoers, and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We should thank God that he does not give us what we deserve.

Jesus in the next verses of Matthew 11 responds to this with praise to God:

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus rejoices (Lk.10:21) at his Father’s gracious will to hide these things from some and reveal them to others. In the same breath he invites all who recognize their need to come to him and find rest for their souls.

Foolish Wisdom of the Cross

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul speaks of the seeming foolishness of the message of the cross, which is in reality the power and wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The good news of the cross seems foolish to the perishing, but God uses this foolish message to confound the wise and save all who humbly believe. God in his wisdom saves in this way ‘so that no human being might boast in the presence of God’.

Wisdom to the Praise of His Glory

In Romans 11, Paul responds to the wisdom of God’s plan with a shout of praise, his wisdom to show mercy to both Jew and Gentile, even when this means that many Jews will reject Jesus for a time in order to open a door of salvation to the Gentiles, so that God may show mercy to all.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

God is deep and rich in wisdom and knowledge. He does not need advice. His ways and judgments are inscrutable and unsearchable. Everything he does wisely moves toward the one overarching purpose of bringing him glory. From him and through him and to him are all things.

Ephesians 1 talks about God’s wise purpose to bring praise to his glorious grace.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

God works all things according to the purpose of his will, in all wisdom and insight, to the praise of his glory. Our salvation is according to his wise purpose, according to his wise counsel, to bring praise to his glory. Paul goes on to pray that we might have eyes enlightened to know the riches of our hope, our inheritance, his power toward us who believe; that we might know him.

In chapter 3 of Ephesians, Paul spells out for us what is the mystery of his will, that Jews and Gentiles together are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (3:6). The many faceted wisdom of God is made know to everyone through the church according to God’s eternal purpose (3:10-11). Paul uses this as motive to not be discouraged in the face of suffering, and he prays that we would have strength to comprehend what is the immeasurable love of Christ to us (3:13-19). He prays:

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

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

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Sovereign and Free

11/22 God Sovereign and Free [omnipotent] ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151122_god-sovereign-free.mp3

Allow me to read a letter

By the president of the United States of America. A Proclamation.

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

G. Washington.”

[http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=3584]

Washington mentions the providence of Almighty God – God’s preserving and governing of all things – as a primary reason for our thanksgiving.

We are studying who God is, what he is like, what God says about himself, how we can honor and worship him as he really is.

God is God. What does it mean for God to be God? The most common Hebrew word for God is El, Eloah, Elohim, which at its root means to be strong. He is God Almighty. God is the supreme ruler over all, he is the sovereign authority of the universe.

Let’s look at some of the things the Bible tells us about God.

Power in Creation

Psalm 33 says:

Psalm 33:4 For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 ​The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. That is unfathomable power!

Have you ever made something? I worked for a time in the engineering department of a manufacturing firm. When we were developing a new product, there were countless hours of meetings discussing the concept and planning the product. There was much thought and effort put in to the best design. There were sketches and conceptual drawings, calculations, reviews, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, more discussions, schematics, blueprints, fabrication drawings, solid modeling, prototyping, testing, reviews, more meetings, adjustments, revisions to the drawings, more testing, more meetings, lots of head scratching… And then there was the parts sourcing. What kind of materials should we use? How long will they last? Where can we get them? How much do they cost? Will they arrive on time? Can we get enough? How will we make sure the parts are correct? Once we have all the parts, how long will it take to build? Who has the skill and training to assemble it correctly? How do we make sure it works? Will it actually do what we designed it to do?

Imagine this kind of power! He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm! Some of our higher executives thought they had this power. They would march into the engineering department and demand: “I spoke, why isn’t it done yet? I commanded, why isn’t it in my hands?” The answer was often “You haven’t given us the proper resources to complete what you requested. We need more time, more money, better technology, more manpower.”

But think of this. God didn’t have anything outside of himself to work with! God didn’t start with any raw materials. Into nothing he spoke and something was immediately there at his command!

Power in Fulfilling His Purposes

We are told in verse 11 ‘the counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations’. This is in contrast to the counsel and plans of nations and people. Have you ever made plans that came to nothing? You spend time and energy and resources and you are excited and it just doesn’t happen the way you had hoped. Maybe it doesn’t happen at all. Your plans come to nothing. How often are your plans frustrated? How often are you frustrated? How fun is it to be around you when you are frustrated? Something comes up, things get interrupted, you run out of time, something doesn’t work out, someone you were counting on forgets or lets you down. Imagine, God is never, ever frustrated! There is never a plan God makes that doesn’t work out exactly the way he had planned. We get frustrated because we didn’t plan well enough, or we made plans based on inadequate information, or we were unable to carry out our plans, or our plans were contingent on someone else who didn’t do what we were depending on them to do. God runs into none of these problems; he has all knowledge and all wisdom, he has unlimited resources within himself, his plans are dependent on no one outside himself. God is not limited by any of the things that we are limited by. God has never ever had his plans frustrated. “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. ​The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” Our response ought to be fear of the LORD and awe filled worship.

Psalm 148 says:

Psalm 148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. 6 And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. 7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, 8 ​fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! 9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! 10 ​Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! 12 Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

He commanded, he established, he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Romans 4 describes God as the one who:

Romans 4:17 …—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

God calls into existence the things that do not exist. He creates something out of nothing.

Psalm 115:2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 ​Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

God does all that he pleases. Whatever he wants to do, whatever he wills to do, whatever he desires, that he does. There is nothing that God wants to do, wishes he could do, but is thwarted or frustrated in his plans or desires. We worship a happy God, not a frustrated God. He does all that he pleases and he is pleased with all that he does. This is what it means to be God. He has the right to do all that he pleases, and what pleases him is always what is best.

God says in Isaiah 45

Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. 8 “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. 9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’or ‘Your work has no handles’?

God does all that he pleases, and all that pleases him is right and good. God is the Creator of all things, and as Creator, he has the right over all his creation to do with it what pleases him. He can punish, and he can make alive, he is free to show his mercy or his justice. He is sovereign. He has authority to rule and govern his creation in the way that is right and best.

God Cannot…

We need to pause and clarify here. Is there anything that God cannot do? The Bible actually lists several things that God cannot do. Because God is truth, God cannot lie (Heb.6:18). Because God is good, he cannot be tempted by evil (Jas.1:13). Because God is all-wise, he cannot change his mind (Num.23:19; 1Sam.15:29). Because God is perfect, he cannot change (Mal.3:6). Because God is just, he cannot condone sin or let sin go unpunished (Ex.34:7; Prov.11:21). Because God is sovereign, he cannot fail to accomplish all his good purposes (Is.46:9-11). Because God is all glorious, he cannot share his glory with another (Is.48:11). Because God is God, he cannot deny himself (2Tim.2:13). God cannot act contrary to his own nature. God cannot be other than he is. None of these ‘cannots’ limit the power of God. To say God can act contrary to his own nature would be a weakness, not a strength.

Free

God can do more than he does. Creation has not exhausted his abilities. We could conceive of other things which God has the power to do, but that he has not done. Picture a bodybuilder with his wife who has given birth to their tiny baby. As he holds this fragile life in his muscular arms, he has enough power to crush this baby. The fact that he does not is not a limitation to his power. Although he can do it, he is not compelled to do all he is able to do. When we say that he can do it, we mean that he possesses sufficient strength and ability. Although he has the strength, he does not want to do it. We would even be right to say that he cannot do it, not because he lacks the strength, but rather because it is against his will and his desire. He wills to use his strength to protect the infant rather than to destroy it, and he cannot use his strength do do something that violates his own will and purposes.

Psalm 135:4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession. 5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 ​Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. 7 ​He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. 8 He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; 9 who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; 10 ​who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, 11 ​Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, 12 and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel.

God is omnipotent, or all-powerful, but God is also free, free to use his power in the way he chooses. “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does.” He is not obligated or bound in the way he uses his power by anything outside of himself. The only way we can say God is not free is when he has freely bound himself by his own word and promises.

Power to Sustain

God’s power and authority is seen in his creation, but it does not end with creation.

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Jesus is sustaining all things. Every sub-atomic particle is directly governed by God. Not one molecule in the universe is out of its proper place. God’s power not only created all things that are, but also sustains and maintains those things.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. …

Jesus is upholding the universe by the word of his power. He is ensuring that every orbit of every planet around every sun or star and every orbit of every electron around its nucleus is precisely in the course he intends for it. God actively and sovereignly sustains his creation. Speaking of his creatures, Psalm 104 says:

Psalm 104:27 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

God gives life, sustains life, and takes life away. Psalm 3 says:

Psalm 3:5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.

Do you consider that when you wake up? Every morning that you wake up, thank the Most High God that he sustained you through the night. He gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25). He is active, intimately involved in sustaining his creation. This should bring us freedom from anxiety. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

God vigilantly watches over the most insignificant of his creatures. This should not only give us freedom from fear and worry, but also clothe us with boldness for daring and dangerous advances of the gospel.

Psalm 118:6 ​The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom.8:31).

Romans 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Power to Redeem

God is able to bring something out of nothing, he is intimately active in sustaining, providentially preserving and protecting what he has created, and he is even able to conquer the hard hearts of his enemies and make them his own.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

God is demonstrating his power in the gospel.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. …24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The same God who spoke light into existence can create life in hearts that are blind toward him.

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

In Matthew 19, a young man approached Jesus asking what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus pointed out to him that he loved his possessions more than he loved God.

Matthew 19:22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a person whose heart is set on the things of this world to embrace God as his greatest treasure. “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are folly to him” (1Cor.2:14). The disciples recognized the impossibility for a person who is clinging tightly to this life to release his grip and reach out for God. Impossible, not so much because he cannot, but, like this rich young ruler, because he will not. Yet Jesus speaks hope for salvation, hope even for this rich man.

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God. God can open blind eyes to the beauty of the gospel. This is what the new birth is all about. God says I will “remove the heart of stone from from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you” (Ezek.36:26-27). This is great hope for evangelism even in the most unlikely places, even among the hardest people, for ‘what is impossible with man is possible with God’.

We should stand in awestruck wonder at a God like this. Our hearts should resonate with thanksgiving to our Almighty Sovereign. We should stand in worshipful fear at a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. We should enjoy the happy presence of a God who is never frustrated, who does all that he pleases. We should fearlessly obey this God in whose hands we are, and boldly go to the unreached peoples, confident that our God is mighty to save!

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

November 22, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communion With the Spirit

11/15 Communion With The Spirit ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151115_communion-with-spirit.mp3

We are looking at the primary thing that sets Christianity apart from all other religions, and that is who God is. God in the Bible reveals himself as Father, Son and Spirit, three distinct someones; yet the Bible is just as clear that there is only one true God who eternally exists. Christians have coined the word ‘trinity’ or ‘tri-unity’ to summarize this biblical teaching.

1 John 1:3 tells us:

1 John 1:3 …and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

And the benediction of 2 Corinthians 13 prays that:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

We have looked at our fellowship with the person of the Father, the person of Jesus the Son, and today we will be looking at our particular communion or fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit, why is he called that, and what is our unique relationship with him?

Again, this will be a broad overview. Entire volumes have been written on this subject, so think of this as a kind of primer to stimulate you to do your own study as you enjoy your relationship with this third person of the triune God.

The Holy Spirit

Why is the third person of the triune God called the Holy Spirit? First, we must say that the name ‘Spirit’ does not refer to his essence. The Spirit is not spirit in contrast to the Father and Son, who are material beings. No, the Bible teaches that God in his essence is spiritual, he is not physical, not subject to the limitations and confines of matter. The name ‘Spirit’ applied to the third person refers not to his essence (because all three share the same spiritual essence), but to his relation to the Father and the Son. The word ‘Spirit’ comes from the term ‘spirare’ to breathe; we recognize the root in the words ‘aspirate’ or ‘respiration’. The Old Testament Hebrew word Ruach means breath or wind. The New Testament Greek word for Spirit is Pneuma, which also means breath or wind. Jesus symbolized this when in John 20 he breathed on his disciples and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’

John 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Just as we say that the Son is begotten or eternally generated by the Father, so the Spirit is eternally spirated or breathed out or proceeds from the Father and the Son. More on this later.

In a similar way, the Spirit is called Holy, not because he is holy and the Father and the Son are not (because God in his essence is perfectly holy), but the Spirit is called Holy because his person is particularly responsible for producing holiness in us. Again, more on that later.

A Distinct Divine Person

In the Bible, the Spirit is called the Spirit of God (Gen.1:2; Mt.3:16), the Spirit of the Father (Mt.10:20), the Spirit of Christ (Rom.8:9, Gal.4:6; Phil.1:19), and the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7). Why do we believe that he is his own distinct person and not merely the spirit of another person?

There are several passages where the Holy Spirit is listed alongside the Father and the Son in a way that would be awkward and misleading if they were not three distinct but equal persons. We already looked at the benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14, which lists the Lord Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. Look also at the baptismal formula Jesus gives us in Matthew 28.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

This is one singular name, yet it is the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We can illustrate how significant this is by trying to insert something else in the place of one of the three. ‘Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the archangel Michael and of the Holy Spirit’, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach. Or ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the force or the power of God’. No, an angel or an impersonal force would be entirely out of place in this threefold name. The Holy Spirit is just as personally distinct and fully divine as are the Father and the Son. We see the same think at Jesus’ baptism, where the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, and a voice came from heaven addressing Jesus as ‘my beloved Son’.

Luke 3:21 …when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

In Luke 4, we see Jesus full of the Holy Spirit, and in verse 14

Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee..

If the Spirit is merely the impersonal power of God, this statement is redundant. He is not saying that Jesus returned in the power of the power.

When Ananias and Sapphira lied to the apostles about their giving, Peter confronted them.

Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit … 4 …You have not lied to man but to God.” …9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? …

The Holy Spirit is a person who can be lied to, and to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God. The Holy Spirit is God. Throughout the book of Acts we see the Spirit active in the daily life of the believers. In Acts 13,

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

…4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

The Holy Spirit responds to the worship of the Lord, and gives direction. He speaks, and he refers to himself as ‘me’ and ‘I’. He calls. He sends. He is a person.

John 14-16; The Spirit Sent

When we look at what Jesus says in John 14-16, we begin to see his relationship with the Holy Spirit.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Here we see Jesus asking his Father to send the Helper, the Comforter or Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls him another Helper. Jesus is about to leave his disciples. But he promises another Comforter, another of the same kind as himself. Jesus tells his followers that they know the Holy Spirit because he dwells with them. He will dwell in them.

John 14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Jesus has taught his followers the words his Father gave him to teach. The Father sent Jesus, and the Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name. The Spirit will bring Jesus’ words to remembrance. And the Holy Spirit will teach you all things. As Jesus was a teacher, so the Spirit will be a teacher.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

When we get to chapter 15, we see something different. Where in chapter 14, Jesus asked his Father to send the Spirit, Here in chapter 15 Jesus says ‘I will send the Spirit to you from the Father’. The Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Spirit is sent by both Jesus and his Father. The Spirit is here called the Spirit of truth, and he will testify or bear witness about Jesus.

In John 16 Jesus says:

John 16:5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Jesus again claims that he will send the Spirit to his followers. But they are filled with sorrow because Jesus is leaving them. Most followers of Jesus would trade anything to have the physical presence of their Lord Jesus with them. But Jesus says ‘it is to your advantage that I go away’. It is better, it is more profitable, it is preferable that Jesus go away. It is to your advantage. How can this be? The way Jesus would go away is to die on the cross as a substitute for our sins. As a result of his finished work for us, he would send the Spirit into his followers, not just to be with them, but to be in them. It was prophesied of Jesus that he would baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit (Jn.1:33). Listen to how Jesus describes the work of the Spirit.

John 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

The Spirit will convict the world. Jesus taught the multitudes, but very few believed in him. There will be an inward work of the Spirit that far surpasses even the preaching of Jesus himself. In the book of Acts, after the Spirit had come, Peter preached to the crowds, and ‘they were cut to the heart’ (Acts 2:37). They responded ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ and about three thousand received his word and were added to the church.

Jesus goes on:

John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit will guide the apostles into all the truth. Just as Jesus claimed to speak not on his own authority, but only what the Father told him to speak, so he says the Spirit will not speak on his own authority, but only what he hears. He will declare things that are to come. He will glorify Jesus, by taking what belongs to Jesus and declaring it to you.

So we learn from John 14-16 that the Spirit is a Comforter or Advocate, he will dwell in believers forever. He is the Spirit of truth, who will teach us all things, remind us of what Jesus taught, and guide us into truth. He will bring inward conviction to the world. He will bear witness to Jesus and glorify Jesus.

Communion With the Spirit

What else does the bible tell us about our particular relationship with the Holy Spirit?

We are invited to ask for the Holy Spirit.

Luke 11:13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The Spirit is given to us freely.

John 3:34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

The Spirit is poured out on us richly.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

The Spirit sanctifies or sets us apart to belong to God.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

1 Peter 1:1 …elect … 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

The Spirit gives life

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” … 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

2 Corinthians 3:6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The Spirit seals every believer in Jesus as his own.

2 Corinthians 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Spirit communicates God’s love to us

Romans 5:5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8 is packed with precious truth about the Spirit. The Spirit brings life and freedom.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

Believers walk according to the Spirit, live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit, and life in the Spirit brings about life and peace.

The Spirit dwells in every believer.

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

By the Spirit we are able to put to death the deeds of the body.

Romans 8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

We are led by the Spirit.

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

We have received the Spirit of adoption as sons. The Spirit bears witness that we are children of God. God’s glory is about to be revealed in us!

Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We have the firstfruits of the Spirit. We have a deep inward longing for the consummation of our adoption, when our bodies are redeemed.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

The Spirit helps us to pray. The Spirit himself prays for us.

The Spirit illumines God’s truth to us.

1 Corinthians 2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

The Spirit gives gifts to the church.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

The Spirit produces fruit in our lives and makes us holy.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Resisting, Quenching and Grieving

Although as believers the Holy Spirit will never leave us, there are some clear warnings against thwarting his work in our lives. Acts 7 is actually addressed to unbelievers.

Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Unbelievers resist the Holy Spirit by not taking to heart the Spirit breathed words of Scripture.

1 Thessalonians is addressed to believers.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

We can quench the Spirit by despising his truth. With that there is a warning to test the spirits to see if they are from God.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30 comes in the context of corrupting talk and bitterness among believers. These things grieve the Holy Spirit.

Worshiping the Spirit

Should we direct our worship toward the Holy Spirit? Is it appropriate to pray to the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is fully God, and therefore worthy of our worship and adoration. He is no less God than the Father or the Son, and no less worthy of honor and praise. We ought to recognize his unique work in us and thank him for it. We should take to heart warning from Jesus that we not blaspheme or speak against the Holy Spirit (Mt.12:31-32). This would imply that we are to honor the Holy Spirit just as we honor Christ. However, we should also take caution from the fact that nowhere in Scripture do we see worship clearly directed toward the Spirit. This is likely because the role of the Spirit is to bring us to Christ and to glorify Christ.

Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

We worship by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God sets us apart and makes us new and regenerates us and awakens in us a heart to worship God. We most honor the Spirit by responding to his conviction, by believing in Jesus, by putting to death the deeds of the flesh and walking with him in the freedom of righteousness that Jesus has purchased for us, by following his desire to draw attention to Jesus and glorify Jesus.

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

November 15, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communion with The Son

11/08 Communion With The Son; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151108_communion-with-son.mp3

We are taking some time to look at who God is as he reveals himself to us in his word. Our desire is to know God, to enjoy God, to worship God as he really is. We have seen the clear teaching of scripture is that there is only one true God, and that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God. We have seen that we are invited in to relationship, to fellowship, to communion with each of the persons of the one triune God.

1 John 1:3 …and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Last time we looked specifically at the Father, why he is called ‘Father’, and we looked just briefly at what our unique relationship or fellowship with the Father is to be. Today we will look specifically at the Son, why he is called ‘Son’ and what it means to have communion with the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Son of The Father

We have seen in John 1 that Jesus, the Word was with the Father in the beginning. He was God, fully divine, but he was with his Father as a distinct someone from the Father, who can refer to himself as ‘I’ and to the Father as ‘you’. He has always existed in relationship with his Father. Just as we saw last time that the Father is called ‘Father’ primarily because of his relationship with his Son, so also the Son is called ‘Son’ because of his relationship with his Father.

Jesus frequently described his relationship to his Father. Jesus spoke of his relationship with his Father in at least four main ways, as a relationship of union, communion, obedience and receiving.

Union

Jesus said ‘I and the Father are one’ (Jn.10:30); the Jews understood him to be ‘making himself God’ (Jn.10:33). In Jesus calling God his own ‘Father’ they understood him to be ‘making himself equal with God’ (Jn.5:18). Jesus said:

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Jesus communicates that to know him is to know the Father. Whoever has seen him has seen the Father. Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus. The Father dwells in Jesus and does his works in Jesus.

In Psalm 45, quoted in Hebrews 1, the Messiah who is anointed by God is referred to as God.

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Jesus is God, and his rule is eternal. Philippians 2 speaks of Jesus:

Philippians 2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

Jesus in his very essence is divine. He is equal with the Father. There is perfect unity and identity between the Father and the Son, such that Jesus can say “I and the Father are one”.

Notice that Jesus never said ‘I am the Father’. He did say “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”.

Communion

Jesus’ relationship with his Father is one of union and also of communion. Simply read through the gospels and pay attention to how many times Jesus prayed to his Father. Jesus was in constant communion with his Father.

Mark 1:35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Luke 5:16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

Luke 6:12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

In John 11, at the tomb of Lazarus

John 11:41 …And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Obedience

Jesus’ relation to his Father was characterized by union, communion, and obedience. In John 8, Jesus said: “I honor my father’ (Jn.8:49); we could say Jesus has eternally kept the fifth commandment. Jesus’ relationship with his Father was the ideal father – son relationship.

John 5:17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

…19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. …

My Father is working and I am working. I only do what I see the Father doing.

John 5:30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 5:36 … For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

I seek the will of the Father. I do the works the Father gave me to accomplish.

John 8:29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

John 18:11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Receiving

The Son’s relationship to the Father is one of obedience. It is also one of receiving gifts. Jesus described the relationship of a father to son as one of giving good gifts.

Matthew 7:11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

In Luke 1, it is promised of Jesus:

Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

John 3 says:

John 3:35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.

The Father gives all authority to Jesus.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

The Father gives sheep, people, to Jesus.

Jesus prays in John 17:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

The Father gives his love to Jesus. The Father gives glory to the Son.

John 5:20 …And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

The Father has given all judgment to the Son. The Father has given to the Son to give life. The Father gives to the Son so that the Son will be honored just as they honor the Father.

Eternal Generation

John 5 continues:

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 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. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

This is a staggering passage. Not only is it given to the Son to give life to whom he will, but it is given by the Father to the Son to have life in himself. Earlier in our exploration of who God is we saw that God has aseity or self-existence. He is not dependent on anything outside himself; he has life in himself. Here we see that just as the Father has life in himself, he has given aseity or self-existence to the Son. But lest we think that this was a gift given at a point in time, before which the Son did not possess self-existence or life in himself, we need only to turn back to the first chapter of John’s gospel. Speaking of the Divine Word who was in the beginning with God, he says:

John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

The Son has always had life in himself. Self-existence would not be self-existence if there was a time he received it from someone else. That would be dependent self-existence. But that seems to be exactly what John says here in chapter 5. Notice, however, the self-existence of the Son is exactly the same as the self-existence of the Father. Just as the Father’s self existence is eternal, so the self-existence of the Son is eternal and had no beginning, yet in some sense it is given by the Father to the Son. We are helped to understand this by the language of begottenness. The King James calls Jesus the ‘only begotten Son of the Father.’ C.S. Lewis writes:

We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set…

Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God, just as what man creates is not man.” [C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity]

The Nicene creed puts it this way:

We believe …in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” [Nicene Creed, 325]

Jesus is begotten not made; he is not begotten in time but eternally begotten; he is God of God, of one substance with the Father. The relationship between the Father and the Son is not a relationship that came about in time; it is essential to the nature of God. God eternally exists as Father, Son and Spirit. The Son is eternally begotten of the Father. The Son always relates to the Father as Father.

The Father is greater than I

This helps us to understand Jesus’ statement that ‘the Father is greater than I’.

John 14:28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

Jesus is delighted to return to the Father, having accomplished all that the Father sent him to do. The Father is greater than Jesus in the way that a father is greater than his son. A human father is not more human than his son, and God the Father is not more God than Jesus. Jesus and his Father are equal in essence (I and the Father are one); but Jesus is subordinate to his Father in relationship. A human father is greater than his son in that he has authority over his son. God the Father is greater in that his authority is essential to his role as Father. Jesus as Son is subordinate in relationship. Yet the Father gives all authority into his hand. It is a given authority. It is characteristic of a son to receive gifts from his father.

Communion with The Son

We have spent some time looking at the relation of the only-begotten Son to his Father. If “our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ,” what is our unique relationship with the Son?

If we look back at the benediction in 2 Corinthians, we see:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Grace, undeserved favor and kindness, is ascribed particularly to our Lord Jesus. We see in John 1:

John 1:16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus is the one through whom we experience grace. The Father did not die on the cross for our sins. God so loved the world that he gave his Son. The Father is our loving Creator. Jesus is our gracious Redeemer.

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

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 only begotten God at the Father’s side, who makes him known. Jesus is the Word who communicates with us what the invisible God is like. Jesus is the only way to the Father. But other than going through Jesus to get to the Father, do we have any direct relation to Jesus?

Come To Me / Believe in Me

Jesus invites us:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

John 5:39 …the Scriptures … bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

…37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. .

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

We must come to Jesus, believe in Jesus, believe that he is the I AM or we will die in our sins.

Pray to Me

Jesus invites us to pray to him.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Be With Me

Jesus says:

John 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

We are to know Jesus with the same intimacy that exists between the Father and the Son. Jesus is eager for a relationship with us. He says:

John 14:2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Jesus wants us to be with him.

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” … 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Jesus will make himself known to us. He, together with the Father, will make his home in us.

Abide in Me

In John 15, Jesus uses the metaphor of a vine.

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. … 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

We are to abide in Jesus, to remain connected to Jesus, in intimate fellowship with him, enjoying his love.

Be Friends of Me

Jesus says to us

John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

We are friends of Jesus. We are chosen and appointed by Jesus

Worship Me

We are to worship Jesus.

John 5:22 The Father …has given all judgment to the Son,23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

The Father intends for us to honor the Son just as we honor the Father. Jesus prayed:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Jesus desires that we be with him so that we can behold his eternal glory. Observe the scene in heaven around the throne giving worship to Jesus the Lamb.

Revelation 5:8 …the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

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

November 8, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment