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2 Corinthians 2:14; God’s Triumph in Christ

04/08_2Corinthians 2:14; God’s Triumph in Christ ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180408_2cor2_14.mp3

2 Corinthians 2:14. We are coming to the heart of the letter, the meat of what Paul wants to say. He wants them to understand the true nature of Christian ministry; what it means to be a minister of the gospel. It is not what they think. Corinth is enamored with power, prestige, persuasive speech, popularity. This is not the nature of Christian ministry.

Overview of the Introduction

So far, in the introduction to this letter, he has blessed God who, in the midst of affliction brings comfort, in order to comfort others who are sharing in the sufferings of Christ (1:3-7). He explained (1:8-10) the afflictions they experienced in Asia, afflictions so severe they despaired of life itself, but this was to wean them from self-sufficiency and cause them to rely completely on God. He invites his readers to help him by prayer (1:11). He appeals to his own clear conscience, that in all of life he follows as a ruling principle the grace of God. And he looks forward to that final day when the church will boast in their apostle, and he will boast in them (1:12-14). He defends his changing travel plans in this light, that his goal was to extend them grace, and that God’s gracious answer to us is always yes in Christ. He anchors their hope in the concerted operations of the Father, Son and Spirit in securing our acceptance (1:15-22). He tells them that his decision not to visit them earlier was for their joy, to spare them; and his letter was to communicate his abundant love for them (1:23-2:4). In the context of his seeking to spare them a painful visit, he urges them not to cause further pain to the individual who had repented of his sin, but rather to forgive, comfort, and re-affirm your love for him (2:5-10). He warns that the enemy is always on the offensive, and unforgiveness is a favorite foothold (2:11). In 2:12-13 he lets them know of an opportunity; an open door in the Lord for preaching the gospel, but because of the turmoil in his spirit, he said goodbye and headed on to Macedonia to find his co-worker. He doesn’t come right out and say it, but it was the Corinthian church that was the cause of his unrest. He had sent Titus to Corinth to help work things through, and to bring news of their response to his previous letter. He loved this church so deeply, that he couldn’t take full advantage of a gospel opportunity because he was emotionally torn over this church.

The Missing Thanksgiving

What comes next is quite unexpected. We would anticipate a scolding for their causing a missed gospel opportunity in Troas. We would expect a stern rebuke for their self-centeredness and insensitivity to God’s work.

Instead, in verse 14 he gives thanks to God. “But thanks be to God.” This is the missing thanksgiving from the introduction of the letter. That would have been a glaring omission to anyone familiar with Paul’s letters. Normally, he introduces himself, he addresses his readers, he asks God’s grace and peace to be on them, and then he thanks God for them. But in 2 Corinthians, he omits the thanksgiving, and instead blesses God who brings comfort in afflictions.

For this thanksgiving, he uses the normal word for ‘grace’ in the sense of freely given gratitude to God. Instead of anger and frustration over a missed opportunity, Paul’s heart overflows with thanksgiving to God.

The Roman Triumph

And the content of this thanksgiving is even more shocking. He does not thank God for what he is doing in his readers, but rather what God is doing in and through his apostles. And he uses a startling picture.

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

The triumphal procession was very well known in the Roman world. Ancient Greek and Roman literature record over 300 of these triumphs The returning victorious general whom the senate had granted the right to a triumph entered Rome standing on a high, two-wheeled chariot drawn by four horses.

Josephus describes the triumph for Vespasian and Titus after their victory in the Jewish war.

and when they had put on their triumphal garments, and had offered sacrifices to the gods that were placed at the gate, they sent the triumph forward, and marched through the theatres, that they might be the more easily seen by the multitudes.

5. Now it is impossible to describe the multitude of the shows as they deserve, and the magnificence of them all; …and all brought together on that day demonstrated the vastness of the dominions of the Romans; for there was here to be seen a mighty quantity of silver, and gold, and ivory, …and did not appear as carried along in pompous show only, but, as a man may say, running along like a river. …The images of the gods were also carried, being as well wonderful for their largeness, as made …[of] very costly materials; and many species of animals were brought… The men also who brought every one of these shows were great multitudes, and adorned with purple garments, all over interwoven with gold; … Besides these, one might see that even the great number of the captives was not unadorned, while the variety that was in their garments, and their fine texture, concealed from the sight the deformity of their bodies. But what afforded the greatest surprise of all was the structure of the pageants that were borne along; for indeed he that met them could not but be afraid that the bearers would not be able firmly enough to support them, such was their magnitude; for many of them were so made, that they were on three or even four stories, one above another. The magnificence also of their structure afforded one both pleasure and surprise; for upon many of them were laid carpets of gold. There was also wrought gold and ivory fastened about them all; and many resemblances of the war, and those in several ways, and variety of contrivances, affording a most lively portraiture of itself. For there was to be seen a happy country laid waste, and entire squadrons of enemies slain; while some of them ran away, and some were carried into captivity; with walls of great altitude and magnitude overthrown and ruined by machines; with the strongest fortifications taken, and the walls of most populous cities upon the tops of hills seized on, and an army pouring itself within the walls; as also every place full of slaughter, and supplications of the enemies, when they were no longer able to lift up their hands in way of opposition. Fire also sent upon temples was here represented, and houses overthrown, and falling upon their owners: … Now the workmanship of these representations was so magnificent and lively in the construction of the things, that it exhibited what had been done to such as did not see it, as if they had been there really present. On the top of every one of these pageants was placed the commander of the city that was taken, and the manner wherein he was taken.” [Flavius Josephus: The Jewish War. VII. 3-7]

One author describes: “The part of the procession which entered the city ahead of the triumphator’s chariot gave the spectators an idea of the victory. Not only were spoils of war carried along – weapons, gold, silver and jewellery – but also pictures of battle-scenes, of towns conquered, and boards with the names of the peoples subjugated. …White oxen, to be sacrificed to Jupiter, were brought along. The procession marched to a flourish of trumpets. …Aromatic substances were also carried. The chained prisoners, the most prominent of whom were as a rule killed in the dungeon before the sacrifice was made to Jupiter, walked right in front of the triumphator. …The chariot was followed by the Romans who had been liberated from slavery, wearing the pileus of the liberti. The soldiers, wearing laurel-wreaths on their heads and singing songs deriding their commander, brought up the rear. [Versnel, 1970, p.56-57, 95; cited BECNT p157-8]

Josephus continues: “6. Now the last part of this pompous show was at the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, whither when they were come, they stood still; for it was the Romans’ ancient custom to stay till somebody brought the news that the general of the enemy was slain. This general was Simon, the son of Gioras, who had then been led in this triumph among the captives; a rope had also been put upon his head, and he had been drawn into a proper place in the forum, and had withal been tormented by those that drew him along; and the law of the Romans required that malefactors condemned to die should be slain there.

God Triumphs Over Us

This is the background of Paul’s jarring thanksgiving:

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

God takes center stage. God is the conquering general. God is the one the parade is for. God is worthy. The triumph is to recognize him, giving thanks and praise to him.

But where is Paul and the apostles? Where does Paul see himself? Over this there has been much debate. Does Paul see himself as a soldier in God’s army, who helped him to win the battle? This is how Tyndale translated it ‘thankes be vnto God which alwayes geveth vs the victorie in Christ;’ and the King James followed: ‘which always causeth us to triumph in Christ’. There is a big question if that is even a legitimate translation linguistically or grammatically, and that hardly fits. The apostles didn’t help God win the victory.

Does Paul see himself as a defeated enemy, conquered by God, displayed as a trophy of war, being led to his execution? As troubling as that sounds, that fits the evidence much better. Paul was an enemy of the cross. In his own words, “I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Gal.1:13) until Jesus conquered him on the road to Damascus while he was “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1).

Paul describes the apostolic ministry in 1 Corinthians 4

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. …13 …We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

And in 2 Corinthians 4 he says:

2 Corinthians 4:8 We are afflicted… perplexed… 9 persecuted… struck down… 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

This was the Corinthian problem. They viewed the ministry and the Christian life as a triumph; they expected to ‘have all they want …to become rich …to become kings and reign’ (1Cor.4:8), and they expected a leader who was powerful and polished, a man of status who carried himself well, a rhetorical genius, a victorious general. Instead, Paul comes “in weakness and in fear and much trembling,” “I …did not come …with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Cor.2:1-3). Paul is not the victor. He has been conquered by Christ. The NIV translates it this way: “who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession”

How the Victory was Won

Paul has been captured, and God’s power is displayed in his weakness (2Cor.12:9). And he is being ‘exhibited …like men sentenced to death’ (1Cor.4:9). In some ways, Paul’s life and testimony is like a pageant or a portrait being carried along, a vivid mural displaying the triumph of Christ over his enemies.

Right here in the context (v.11), there is a reference to the war between Satan and God; we are not to be ignorant of his designs and outwitted by Satan. We are to defeat him by forgiving one another.

We must keep in mind how Jesus won this victory.

Colossians 2 is the only other place in the New Testament where this word ‘triumph’ is used. Paul warns there:

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

And then he talks about Christ, and how we are united with Christ.

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

God triumphed over Satan and the demonic hordes, he disarmed them of their ability to accuse us by ‘forgiving us all our trespasses, by nailing it to the cross.’ God triumphed over his enemies, he put them to open shame, by allowing Christ to be ‘despised and rejected by men …as one from whom men hide their faces’ (Is.53:3). He canceled the record of debt that stood against us by nailing it to the cross.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; … 6 …the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. …10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; …

God triumphed over his enemies in Christ, by having Christ put to death in the place of rebels and enemies against him. And he took an enemy like Paul and transformed him and put him on display as a trophy of his grace. And he ‘showed him how much he must suffer for the sake of his name’ (Acts 9:16). And through people like Paul he ‘spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere’

Paul, as he loves to do, seems to mix his metaphors. He is a captive conquered by God in Christ, he has died with Christ, yet he is raised with Christ and his life is a mural displaying God’s triumph; and in his sufferings, he becomes an incense bearer in the triumphal procession; he spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere. Fragrant herbs must be crushed or ground or burned to release their sweet smell.

And he thanks God that it is so. God is worthy to be praised, because God is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere through the weakness and afflictions of his apostles. Paul’s passion is to make Christ known everywhere, and if he must be crushed to release this sweet odor, then thanks be to God! This is what authentic Christian ministry looks like; this is what authentic Christian ministry smells like.

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

April 10, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Self-Control like Jesus

08/20 The Spirit’s Fruit; Self-Control Like Jesus Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170820_self-control-like-jesus.mp3

Self Control. The Fruit of the Spirit is self control. What is self control? Why do we need it? Do we need it? How do we get it?

What is self control? The Greek word is engkratia [ἐγκράτεια ]. It is a compound of two words [ἔν] which means ‘in’ and [κράτος ] which means power or strength. Engkratia points to an inner strength, an inner mastery, a command or control of self.

The Problem of Powerlessness

There is a negative of this word in the New Testament with the negative ‘a’ prefix [ἀκρασία] that means a lack of power or mastery, lack of self control. This opposite word shows up in places like Matthew 23:25, where Jesus says:

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Self indulgence is this word powerlessness or lack of self-control. The Pharisees looked good on the outside, but they lacked this inner strength of character.

It shows up in 1 Corinthians 7:5 warning married couples not to deprive one another of marital intimacy

1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another, …so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

He says a few verses later

1 Corinthians 7:9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

This inner strength word often but not always refers to the power to overcome sexual temptation. In a 2016 Barna research study, nearly half of young adults said they come across porn at least once a week—even when they aren’t seeking it out. Temptation is real, and it is more available than ever before. About 27% of Christian men and 6% of Christian women said they seek out porn at least once or twice a month. 14% of pastors and 21% of youth pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn. We desperately need this inner power, this fruit of self control which is produced by the Holy Spirit.

The negative adjective [ἀκράτης] shows up in the list of evils in 2 Timothy 3 that characterize so much of our society.

2 Timothy 3:2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

This lack of inner strength, this problem of powerlessness, is part of our society, and sadly is part of the experience of too many followers of Jesus.

The Hope of Victory

The Bible is clear.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

First, the Bible is clear that pride is precarious and no one should think of himself as exempt from or above temptation. Spiritual pride is lethal.

Second, temptation is common. Everybody experiences temptation. It is part of the human experience. This takes away one of our favorite excuses, that my struggle is extraordinary and unique. You are clearly not tempted as intensely or as frequently as I am. If you were, you would fall too. No, temptation is common to us all.

And third, God is faithful. Notice where the Apostle goes for hope in the face of temptation? He doesn’t go inside. He doesn’t say ‘You’re not that kind of person that falls like that. You shouldn’t stoop to that kind of behavior. You’re better than this – don’t let yourself give in because you’re better than that. No, in fact, that’s the kind of spiritual pride he warns against. He says everybody faces temptation, and nobody is above failure, but God is faithful. He turns us away from confidence in self and points us to the unfailing character of God. By the way, self control is not the same thing as self confidence or being self sufficient or self reliant. In another place Paul says ‘we put no confidence in the flesh’ (Phil.3:3). Don’t believe in yourself. You will fail. Put your confidence in God who will never fail.

1 Corinthians 10:13 …God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God is faithful. He will not permit testing above your ability. Are you being severely tempted? You have access to the power that can overcome that temptation. God is faithful. With the trial he will make the escape so that you have the ability to endure. The power is not within you. God is faithful. God provides the escape and the ability to endure. It is yours to resist, to stand firm, to endure, but it is God who supplies you with all the power necessary to successfully stand.

Idols and What We Treasure

Let’s understand this verse in its context; this is the conclusion of an argument, not against sexual temptation, but against idolatry. The next verse gives the conclusion:

1 Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Paul speaks to sexual temptation in chapters 6-7. Chapters 8-10 deal with idolatry. In Corinth the idolatry was literal pagan temples and restaurants that served meat sacrificed to the idols in these temples. There was tremendous social pressure to do what everyone else was doing, to be invited, to be included, to show up and feel part of things. We all are tempted to idolatry. Idolatry can be anything we value, anything we honor. Our idol is whatever we treasure most. The Corinthians were tempted to treasure social status, acceptance, a sense of belonging; they were tempted to value these things above Jesus. They prized their knowledge, their theological understanding more than a relationship with God. They treasured their God given freedoms more than they treasured the God who gave them these freedoms.

In Chapter 9 Paul uses himself as an example of surrendering rights, God given rights, good things, for the sake of the gospel. Paul is willing to sacrifice his rights, his freedoms.

1 Corinthians 9:12 …Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

Paul understood that even rights and freedoms and good things can become idols if they are held too tightly. What Paul treasured as the one thing of surpassing worth was Jesus, knowing him, being found in him, seeing him glorified as others enter into a relationship with Jesus. In verse 22 he says:

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Then he uses an athletic metaphor to help us understand what he is getting at.

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

In the Isthmian games held near Corinth, all the Greek city-states competed. There was great pressure to take home the honor of a victory for one’s city. There was a goal. There was a prize. There was one thing. And here Paul brings in this idea of self-control. Every contestant exercises self control in all things. There is inner strength. There is discipline. The one thing is rigorously maintained as the one thing, and that means denying competing desires. Athletes love ice cream and lounging around in fuzzy slippers and jammies all day as much as the next person. But the athlete has his eyes on the prize, and that means letting go of lesser desires. Winning athletes exercise amazing levels of discipline and inner strength to keep the main thing the main thing and to set aside those lesser things that would entangle and get in the way of the prize. But we look forward to hearing ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ from the King of kings. How much more should we use this inner strength to keep focus and move toward the goal? I do not run aimlessly. I keep the prize always in view. I do not waste punches. I specifically target those things that would compete with the primary desire. My body is my slave that I lead around to pursue the one thing. This is what inner strength looks like. The ability to set aside competing desires so that we can focus on the primary desire.

Then he concludes in chapter 10 by saying that we must be on guard against pride and temptation. God will supply the strength to endure. So flee idolatry.

Temptation, Opportunity and Desire

For temptation to be successful, there are three things that must come together. The temptation must combine with desire and opportunity to be effective. I have a deep love for cookies, In the middle of the night it suddenly comes to me that I need a cookie. I am tempted to sneak down to the kitchen to steal a cookie. But if I find there are no cookies in the cookie jar, the temptation is empty. There is desire and temptation but no opportunity. If the next day, there are cookies in the jar, and I walk through the kitchen and see them, the desire is still there; I love cookies, and the opportunity is there, the cookie jar is full, but I’m busy with other things and it doesn’t cross my mind to take one, I have desire and opportunity, but I am not tempted to steal a cookie. On the other hand, I might walk by the cookie jar and see the cookies and be tempted to steal one; The temptation and the opportunity is there, but if my desires have changed, I won’t steal a cookie. If last week I ate so many cookies that I threw them all up, I may no longer have a taste or desire for cookies. Temptation we have little control over. Jesus encourages us to pray ‘lead us not into temptation’ (Mat.6:13)

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

We have little control over the urge or inclination. We have little control over the opportunity. I can go around asking everyone to stop baking cookies because I have a cookie problem. But at some point the opportunity will be there and I will be tempted. I believe the key to victory is in our desires. It is true that people do what they want. People will do what they want when presented with the opportunity. If I love cookies, if I want to eat cookies, then when I have the opportunity to eat a cookie I will do what I want. If I want to sleep in, I will sleep in. If I want to not be fired or fail my classes, then I will drag myself out of bed, brush my teeth, get dressed and go to school or work. What is it that I want more? That is what I will do.

Jesus taught us to go after our desires. Jesus said to the religious:

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and [without inner strength].

The focus of law is on conformity to measurable standards. But Jesus is after our hearts. The law says do not murder, but Jesus says do not be angry with your brother (Mt.5:21-22; 1Jn.3:15). The law says do not commit adultery, but Jesus attacks our desires and says do not lust in your heart (Mt.5:27-28). Jesus says

Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

If we only put locks on our phones and computers that keep us from looking at certain things, but our desire is still for those things, at some point we will be presented with the opportunity, and we will fall to temptation. People do what they want to do. We can lock up a criminal and remove his opportunity, but if his desires have not changed, when he gets out he will do what he wants.

Changing Desires

So how do desires change? How do we gain this inner strength to set aside lesser desires to pursue the one desire? The one thing must outweigh everything else. All our desires must be overshadowed by a superior desire. What is that one thing? This is where it gets dangerous. We must replace our desires with the right thing.

Lets say I have a problem with anger. I blow up, lose it, get out of control, and verbally and maybe even physically hurt the people around me. I begin to see I have a problem and I go to get counsel. The counselor tells me to identify the triggers, the things that make me angry and avoid them. Don’t put yourself in those situations where you get angry. That’s great. Remove the opportunity. But what if it’s my wife that makes me angry? ‘Get a divorce.’ What if its my kids that make me angry? Do I get rid of them? That’s bad advice. I will never be able to avoid every situation that might trigger my anger. So I go back to the counselor. She gets my wife to take a video of me the next time I get angry and lose it, and the counselor plays it back to me and says ‘look at what a fool you made of yourself. See how idiotic you are acting? And your outburst doesn’t stop the person from pushing your buttons. In fact they may be pushing your buttons intentionally just to see you blow.’ It works. I don’t want to look like a fool. I don’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of pushing my buttons. So I change. I have replaced my anger with a different desire. But its the wrong desire. Now I want to have the upper hand. I don’t want anyone to control me. I don’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of pushing my buttons. I want to be perceived as better. I change, I have less outbursts of anger, but I become proud, condescending, aloof, spiteful, vengeful. I don’t get mad, I get even. You see, it matters what you replace your desires with. If they are replaced with wrong desires you may go from bad to worse.

Desiring God

How do we change in a healthy way? How do we get mastery over our desires and what is the one thing that pushes out all lesser desires?

Look at Jesus. In Matthew 4, he was in the wilderness, and he had been fasting for 40 days and nights. He was literally starving.

Matthew 4:3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Jesus had the desire. He was hungry. He had the opportunity – as the Son of God he had the ability to speak anything he wanted into existence. He was tempted. Satan himself was doing the tempting. But Jesus has true inner strength. Look at what he says:

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Do you see what he does? He has a legitimate desire. In his case he had a desperate need. He was hungry. But Jesus says “I have something better. I delight in the voice of my Father more than my taste buds delight in food. He has a greater treasure than food; a greater treasure than life itself. Jesus treasured his relationship with his Father more than life itself. He desired his Father’s glory more than his own.

When temptation, desire and opportunity combine (and they will), you must have the weapon of a superior desire sharpened and ready. Jesus is treasuring his Father. He has been spending time meditating on his Word. He has been enjoying communion with his Father in prayer. He has been tasting and seeing that the LORD is good, so that when temptation came, he was able to compare it with what he had already been enjoying and turn it down flat. God is faithful.

Hebrews 12 tells us:

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

What competing desires, what sins, what good things, are getting in the way of the one thing? Do you want the one thing enough that you are willing to lay secondary desires aside? If you don’t think you have the strength, cry out to Jesus for help. God is faithful. He will perfect your faith.

What is your one thing? If you don’t have the one thing clear, you will be aimless and make little progress. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Look to Jesus, who endured the cross, who rejoiced to obey his Father, who lived (and died) to bring him glory. Fix your eyes on Jesus, taste and see that he is good, experience that he is better, allow him to be your one desire.

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

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

1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Clothed to Inherit The Kingdom

06/07 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 Clothed to Inherit the Kingdom; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150607_1cor15_50-57.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

50 Τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομῆσαι οὐ δύναται, οὐδὲ ἡ φθορὰ τὴν ἀφθαρσίαν κληρονομεῖ. 51 ἰδοὺ μυστήριον ὑμῖν λέγω· πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα, 52 ἐν ἀτόμῳ, ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ, ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι· σαλπίσει γάρ, καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐγερθήσονται ἄφθαρτοι, καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀλλαγησόμεθα. 53 δεῖ γὰρ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀθανασίαν. 54 ὅταν δὲ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀθανασίαν, τότε γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ὁ γεγραμμένος· Κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος. 55 ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ νῖκος; ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον; 56 τὸ δὲ κέντρον τοῦ θανάτου ἡ ἁμαρτία, ἡ δὲ δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος· 57 τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις τῷ διδόντι ἡμῖν τὸ νῖκος διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 ​“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul continues to respond to the questions ‘how are the dead raised? With what kind of body to they come?’ (v.35). These were not questions out of curiosity to gain information. They were incredulous statements to make the idea of the resurrection look ridiculous. These were the questions of the fool of the Proverbs, who ‘says in his heart ”there is no God”’ (Ps.14, 53), These questions were rooted in the premise that perishable corruptible flesh is incompatible with eternal life and immortality. Paul agrees with their premise, but their conclusion that belief in the resurrection is absurd does not follow.

So far in verses 36-49 he has looked at the power of God who is the one who gives to everything its body. He has drawn from the creation narrative days 3, 6, 5 and 4, looking at botany, biology and astronomy to demonstrate that whatever the environment, God has proven himself more than capable of providing a body suitable for that environment.

He used the illustration of seeds to demonstrate that although there is organic continuity with what is sown, there is also radical discontinuity. What springs up from the ground is a radically transformed version of what was planted in the ground.

He draws the contrast between what is perishable, dishonorable, weak, and controlled by the soul or natural person, to what is imperishable, glorious, powerful, and controlled by the Spirit. He draws the contrast between the first Adam who was given natural life, is from the earth, made of dust with the last Adam who gives spiritual life, and is from heaven.

Inheriting the Kingdom

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Paul draws our attention to this next phrase by saying ‘this I say to you’, and he addresses us with the endearing term ‘brothers’. He says ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’ This it seems, together with the Greek belief that matter is evil and the goal is to be freed from a material existence is what the Corinthians were basing their disbelief in the resurrection on. They didn’t seem to question the continuation of the immaterial part of man, but they scoffed at the idea of a physical, material resurrection. Paul says, it is true, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The phrase ‘flesh and blood’ points to the weakness, the frailty, the fading temporary characteristics of humanity. The kingdom of God is eternal. Our current bodies are not fit for eternity. The kingdom of God is where God is king. These bodies are not designed to handle the revealed presence of God. Our eyes are not designed to be able to look directly at the sun without being irreparably damaged. These mortal bodies are not capable of beholding the glory of the Lord.

Notice, Paul uses terms of inheritance. Flesh and blood cannot inherit. An inheritance cannot be earned. It is not deserved. It is given. It is given by a father to a son. The inheritance goes to the heir, someone in the family. That is why Jesus told Nicodemus:

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. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

You must be born from above. You must be born of the Spirit, born into the family to become a rightful heir to the kingdom of God. The perishable cannot inherit the imperishable. What good would it do for someone subject to death, decay, disorder, and decomposition to inherit something that lasts forever? Paul agrees, that it is nonsense for the perishable to inherit the perishable. But that does not lead him to the conclusion that there is no bodily resurrection.

We Shall All Be Changed

1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Paul says ‘look!’ again emphasizing what he is about to say. This is a mystery; something that was concealed, hidden in ages past, but God has now made it known to us. We shall not all sleep. In verse 6 he mentions that some of the 500 witnesses had fallen asleep, in verse 18 he talks about those who have fallen asleep in Christ, and in verse 20 he points to Jesus as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. To fall asleep is a metaphor for the death of a believer. Jesus used this metaphor to speak of his dear friend Lazarus. Sleep is temporary, and people wake up from sleep. Here he declares ‘we shall not all sleep.’ Not every believer will die. Paul spells this out in more detail in his letter to the Thessalonian church as he speaks to them about those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

We shall not all sleep. Some believers will be alive, will be left until the coming of the Lord. Most will fall asleep and will be resurrected, but some will be raptured. Some will still be living when Christ returns, and they will be caught up together with the resurrected in the clouds. Not all will sleep, but whether alive or asleep, we shall all be changed. Flesh and blood is not able to inherit the kingdom of God, so we must undergo a transformation. This transformation will happen instantaneously. This is no gradual slow process over time, like a seed slowly pushing its way up through the earth and developing stem and leaves and flower and fruit. In the smallest amount of time imaginable we will be completely transformed. John says:

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We will be transformed by seeing Jesus. We will be like him. We will bear his image. When he appears we will be like him. This will happen to the dead and living at the last trumpet. Trumpets were used to give signals in battle. Leviticus 25 tells us that a loud trumpet was to be sounded throughout the land to signal the year of Jubilee. Zechariah 9:14 speaks of the Lord appearing and sounding the trumpet.

When that trumpet sounds, we will all be instantaneously changed. The dead will be raised imperishable and we shall be changed.

Further Clothed

1 Corinthians 15:53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

This perishable mortal body cannot come into the presence of the King without being radically transformed. We must put on imperishability and immortality. The word here for ‘put on’ is a word commonly used for putting on clothing. This ties back to verse 37, where he talked about the bare kernel, the naked seed. We are not changed by becoming less than we are, and what we are is not discarded and something new is put in its place, what we are is further clothed. Paul will talk more about this in 2 Corinthians 5.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

We long, not for some disembodied existence, but to be further clothed. We long to put on our heavenly dwelling. Clothing was a symbol of status and was linked to the inheritance. Remember the special robe that Jacob gave to his favored son Joseph, or think of the prodigal son who was clothed in the Father’s best robe. This was partly to cover his shame and disgrace, but it meant much more. It demonstrated that he was welcomed back, not as a servant, but as a son, with all the rights and privileges of a son, given a right to the inheritance. These concepts of being clothed and being given the inheritance are closely linked. This clothing metaphor continues into the next verse.

Death Swallowed Up

1 Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

At the resurrection, at the last trumpet, when the perishable and mortal is clothed in the imperishable and immortal, then the Scripture in Isaiah 25:8 will be fulfilled.

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

He will swallow up death forever. Death is swallowed up in victory. This is what verse 24 talked about

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” …

The last enemy, death, will be swallowed up by life so that God may be all in all. The miserable consequences of the fall will be undone, engulfed by an unstoppable life.

He quotes Hosea 13 as a taunt

1 Corinthians 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Death is a powerful force. By a man came death (v.21); in Adam all die (v.22)

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Death is painful and death is powerful. Death conquers everyone. But death is being robbed of its victims. The lethal venom is neutralized and the painful stinger is removed. How?

1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

The wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23). Death is painful and terrifying because of sin. We have sinned against a holy and righteous God and we will stand before him and give an account. The power of sin is the law. The law actually fuels sin. Romans 7 helps us to understand this.

Romans 7:7 … if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

The power of sin is the law. Sin seizes an opportunity through the commandment to bring death. The law is good, but

Romans 7:13 …It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

Sin produced death through the law. Galatians tells us:

Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, … 23 … we were held captive under the law, imprisoned …

Death stings because of sin, and sin uses the law as a powerful force to capture us and keep us under its power.

Victory Given Through Jesus

How do we escape from under this captivating power? How is it that death has lost its sting and its victory?

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is nothing we can do. We are imprisoned, captive, slaves to sin and subject to death and the wrath of God. We cannot escape. We are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are helpless and hopeless. God gives us the victory. It is a gift. It is his prerogative to give. It is free and undeserved. This is the good news that saves us, the good news Paul started this chapter with – ‘that Christ died for our sins’. ‘We preach Christ crucified’ (1:23).

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Romans tells us

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,

God gives us the victory over sin and death. It is free, unmerited generous kindness. It is the riches of God’s marvelous grace. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. There is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12). No one comes to the Father except through Jesus (Jn.14:6).

God freely gives us the victory over sin. Romans tells us

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. …14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. …17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. …22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Thanks be to God that we are no longer slaves to sin. We are no longer under its power, the power of the law.

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We have died to the law. We are released from the law which held us captive. We are set free to bear fruit for God, to belong to Christ.

Because Jesus has taken the sting out of death for us, we can now say with Paul

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. …23 …My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Because God has given us the victory, to die is gain. We have boldness to face death with courage.

2 Corinthians 5:8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Thanks be to God. All the credit for this rescue from sin and death goes to God. He planned it, he effected it, he brought it about, he gave it to us as a gift. All thanks, all worship, all praise must be directed toward God. He is the one who gives us the victory, victory over death, victory over sin, freedom from the power of the law. And he is the one who will bring us the ultimate victory of the resurrection, where death is swallowed up in eternal life. He will cause this bare kernel to burst out of the ground totally transformed, incorruptible, immortal, glorious.

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

June 7, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Romans 6; Resurrection Power

03/31/13 Romans 6; Resurrection Power Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130331_resurrection-power.mp3

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything! The same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us today. Romans 6:4 tells us that ‘Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father’, and the rest of Romans 6 tells us that the resurrection of Jesus has implications for us today in how we live our lives. Listen to Romans 6:4-5

Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The resurrection of Jesus is where we as followers of Jesus find the power to live our lives. Let’s look at this passage, at the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, and at what this means for us today.

Raised by the Glory of the Father

Romans 6:4 says that Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. This is a unique expression, probably not what we would expect. We might expect him to say that Jesus was raised by the power of the Father, but what does it mean to say that Jesus was raised by or through the glory of the Father? The glory of God is the outward manifestation of the splendor and power and greatness of God that causes us to be in awe and wonder. Romans is all about God’s glory.

Romans begins by condemning us, who suppress the truth about God, his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature (1:18-20). We did not honor God as God or give him thanks, but instead exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images (1:21-23). We were meant to reflect the glory of God, to bear his image, to put on display his invisible attributes, in the way that Jesus described:

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

But we all fail to do this properly.

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

Abraham, who did not work but trusted in a God who justifies the ungodly (4:5), is held up as an example of faith that brings glory to God.

Romans 4:20 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.

In Romans 8, we look forward to being restored to the glory for which we were created, the glory of properly reflecting God’s image in such a way that he gets all the glory (Rom.8:17-30).

In Romans 11, Paul interjects this doxology:

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

In Romans 15, he points to practical ways to live life to bring glory to God (Rom.15:5-9), and he closes the book with this doxology:

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

We were created to reflect God’s glory. In our self-seeking, we failed to glorify God with our lives. Jesus came to defend the honor of his Father and restore us to our proper place in his creation, to bring glory to God. Jesus took our sins, paid the ultimate price to demonstrate the greatness of God and the magnitude of our dishonor toward God, and was raised by the glory of his Father so that we too might walk in newness of life.

Where we are in Romans

In order to understand this passage properly, we need to locate it in the argument of the book of Romans. Paul has demonstrated in chapters 1 and 2 that although we were designed to reflect God’s glory through our righteous lives, we have miserably failed to represent him well. Both Jews and non-Jews have failed to live up to the standard they had been given. Jews believed that they could bring glory to God by keeping the law. But history proved this was impossible.

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.

In the middle of chapter 3, we are introduced to a different kind of righteousness, a righteousness not our own,

Romans 3:22 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,

This is a righteousness that comes to sinners as a free gift from God based on the price paid in full by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.

Chapter 4 shows that this gift of God’s own righteousness to all who believe is not contrary to, but connected with the Old Testament examples of Abraham and David.

Chapter 5 revels in the fact that the peace we have with God through this gift of God’s righteousness counted to sinners who believe is so unshakeable that no trial, no sin, not even death can now separate us from God. Chapter 5 concludes by pointing to the fact that the law was brought in to demonstrate our sinfulness by increasing our trespasses, and this dark soil of our sinfulness was the very place where God’s free grace could thrive.

Romans 6

So the question we find at the beginning of chapter 6 flows out of this truth.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

If the grace of God is magnified by the black backdrop of my sin, then I should increase my sinning to the glory of God, right? Paul’s answer to this is the strongest possible negative.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

It is important to see what Paul does not say. This would be the perfect opportunity for the apostle to set us straight on our misunderstanding of God’s free grace, and say ‘no, no, no, God’s grace only comes in to play when you are really trying your hardest to be good. God’s grace is not really free; it only comes to those who are doing everything they can do.’ But he doesn’t say that. If after reading Romans 1-5, we are seriously tempted to ask this very question that Paul anticipates, that is evidence that we are on the right track; we are understanding him and grace properly. God’s grace really is free, and it really does thrive in the sick soil of human sin.

Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

But for us to purpose to continue in sin in order to magnify the glory of God’s grace would actually detract from the transforming power of God’s grace. That is the truth he takes us to in Romans 6.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The fact that Paul points us to is that we who are believing in Jesus and receiving the free gift of his righteousness are not only forgiven of all our sins and declared righteous before God (that is what he has taught so far in Romans) but also that the power of God’s free grace in our lives means that we have died to sin. When we believe, we are united with Christ, and that extends to his death and resurrection. Baptism is what Christians do to show that they are trusting in Jesus, following Jesus, obeying Jesus. Water baptism is a picture of what has happened to us spiritually. We are baptized into Christ Jesus, or immersed into Christ Jesus. We become connected with Jesus, united with Jesus, saturated with Jesus. We are united with him in his death, and we have the hope that one day we will be united with him in a resurrection like his. What this means for us right now is that we have died to sin, so we cannot be at home with it. We were buried with him in order that we too might walk in newness of life. This is the life Jesus pointed to when he said:

John 10:10 …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Since we have died to sin, and since we will be raised with Christ, we can today live a different kind of life, because God’s grace triumphs over our sin. He continues in verse 6:

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

God’s grace has broken the power of sin in my life. The mass of my sin is brought to nothing. I am no longer enslaved to sin. I have been set free from sin. Sin’s ultimate power is death, and Jesus conquered death by dying and being raised from the dead. The power of sin and the power of death have been crushed by Christ on the cross. Because I am united with Christ, the me I used to be is crucified and gone. If we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. We look forward to the day when we will be raised from the dead and live with him for eternity. His death killed our sin. His resurrection promises our resurrection. This truth breaks the power of sin in our lives.

Imperative follows Indicative

His question was ‘should we continue in sin’, and his answer was an emphatic no, and he gave solid theological reasons; our union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.

So far this is all theological truth. Paul is telling us what has happened to us when we believed in Jesus. He hasn’t told us to do anything yet. That comes next. But it is essential to see that everywhere in the Bible our action is the fruit of theological truth. The imperative always flows out of the indicative. The Bible lays out the indicative, the facts, the truth of who we are in Christ, of what Jesus has done for us, and then, in response to that we are given the imperatives, the commands, how we are to live our lives. We see this throughout the New Testament; for example, in Ephesians we are given three whole chapters of who we are in Christ before we are told to do anything. Then we get three chapters of what that truth should look like in action. Even in the 10 commandments, the imperative follows the indicative; he starts this way:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

All Christian action is rooted in and flows out of the theological truth of what God has done for us. Here is our action that flows out of the truth of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and our being united to him by faith.

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

First, we are commanded to believe the theological truth. I don’t feel very dead to sin. Most days, I feel that sin still has a lot of power over me. But that is not the gospel truth. The good news is that Jesus died for me, and the sinful me died with Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead and because I am united with him by faith, I too will certainly be resurrected to be with him forever. First, I must believe the truth God tells me, that in Christ I am dead to sin and alive to God. Because this is true, I can rebel against sin. I can reject its authority in my body. I can refuse to obey sin’s passions. I can refuse to offer my body parts, my eyes, my ears, my hands, my mind, my heart as tools to do evil; instead I can take this body that has been given new life as a free gift from God, and present my body back to God and the parts of my body as tools to do what is right. I can do this because of my unity with Christ in his death and resurrection. I am no longer under the power and authority of sin. I am no longer under the power and authority of the law, which increases sin and presents everyone guilty before God. I am under the reign of God’s free grace, and this is what it looks like to be ruled by God’s free gift of grace. Those who are under the reign of grace take up the gospel and the power of the resurrection and do battle with sin.

If

As we close, I want to draw your attention back to a very important little word that shows up in verse 5 and in verse 8. That word is ‘if’.

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. …8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

This ‘if’ is crucial. ‘If’ asks a question. Is this true of you? If you have not been united with Jesus in his death, you will not be united with him in resurrection. If you have not died with Christ, you have no reason to believe that you will ever live with him. You only have a fearful expectation of the judgment and wrath of Almighty God against your sin. How are we connected with Christ, united with Christ in his death and resurrection? We only need to look back through Romans to see:

Romans 3:24 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.

We receive the gift of God’s grace by faith.

Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 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,

We stop working and believe.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

We obtain access into grace by faith. We receive. Believe. Depend. Trust. What evidence can we expect to see as we live resurrection lives standing in the grace of God and rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God? We will be:

Philippians 1:11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

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

March 31, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 34:10-27; The Covenant Re-Made

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121007_exodus34_10-27.mp3

10/7 Exodus 34:10-27 The Covenant Re-made

Moses has asked God to show him his glory. Moses was asking that God take sinful rebellious disobedient Israel back as his own people. He was asking that he forgive their sins and take them to be his treasured possession. That is a huge request, a bold request, an unlikely request, but it was based on God’s revelation of his own character. God said that he is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, not letting the guilty go unpunished. Moses is boldly asking God to extend his grace and forgiveness to wayward Israel, and to give him proof of his promised presence, and to restore the sinful people to their previous privileged position. In this passage, God is answering ‘yes’. We are going to look at how he answers.

Remember, when Moses asked God to show him his glory, God explained how he would show him his glory, but before he did, he instructed Moses:

Exodus 34:1 The LORD said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. 3 No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” 4 So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone.

This takes us right back to chapter 19, where God was first inviting the people into covenant with him. The covenant documentation must be remade. There is no experience of the glory of God, no enjoying of the presence of God outside of a covenant relationship with him. They broke the covenant. The covenant relationship must be renewed in order for God to take them to be his inheritance. This is what we see in this chapter. God is agreeing to take Israel back as his people, but only on his terms. This is like those software installation programs that require you to accept the terms and conditions or they don’t let you install the program. Either you accept the terms or you don’t go any further. But God’s terms are not endless pages of legal mumbo-jumbo. God is very clear and concise in laying out his expectations of his people. But the first thing he communicates is what he will do for his people.

I Will Do Marvels

Exodus 34:10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. 11 “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

This is amazing in light of where we are in Exodus. God had delivered the people from slavery in Egypt by 10 mighty acts of judgment. He had decimated the world superpower, bringing Egypt to its knees. Even the wise men of the Egyptian court said:

Exodus 10:7 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?”

Now God is saying ‘I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation… It is an awesome thing that I will do with you.’ As if the deliverance from Egypt, the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, was not an awesome thing! God is promising to do even greater things than these! Hold this thought, because I’d like to come back to these verses again before we end today.

An Exclusive Covenant

God says he is making the covenant. He is the one who establishes the terms of the agreement. He is King. He determines what must be. He says ‘Observe what I command you this day.’ These are the boundaries that define the relationship. Without these requirements there is no relationship. There is only broken covenant.

12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. 17 “You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

Here God is restating his first two commandments.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…

God is bringing his commandment home to the people who have so recently embraced idolatry, made a golden bull and worshiped the works of their hands. He reiterates that he is a jealous God (20:5); not the petty jealousy of wounded pride, but holy jealousy out of love for the people he is taking to be his own. Not only does he say that he is a jealous God, but he claims that his name is Jealous. Jealousy is one of his defining characteristics. This is exclusive jealousy, righteous jealousy, because there is no blessing outside of a relationship YHWH whose name is Jealous. This covenant relationship is an exclusive covenant. When you enter into the covenant of marriage, you vow to forsake all others and to be faithful only, exclusively to your marriage partner. You can’t take that vow before God and then turn around and enter into another marriage covenant with someone else. It is exclusive. The same is true for this covenant with God. God is saying that a covenant with him is incompatible with entering into covenant relationships with any of the idolatrous people of the land. God was alerting the people to the danger of becoming unequally yoked with unbelievers (2Cor.6:14). It may seem innocent at first, but it leads to idolatry and God views idolatry as adultery. From God’s perspective, idolatry is equivalent to your wife sneaking out on your honeymoon and prostituting herself with other men. This is valid cause for white-hot holy jealousy, pursuing purifying jealousy. This is the passionate jealousy that says ‘I love you, and I want better for you than that.’ Understand, God’s requirements are not oppressive burdens that prohibit pleasure, but rather are for our protection so that we can experience and enjoy his blessing.

The Feasts and Rest

Next, God reminds his people of his appointed feasts and rest.

18 “You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib, for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt. 19 All that open the womb are mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. 20 The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty-handed. 21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. 22 You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end. 23 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. 24 For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.

Here God reminds the people of his requirement that they feast. This is his mandatory demand that they celebrate. Remember what the people did with the golden calf? ‘they sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play’. They wanted a party. God is reminding them, ‘I want you to celebrate, I designed you to enjoy my presence, I require that you to rest and be refreshed and enjoy the relationship we have. I am providing, no, demanding that you take time to enjoy your relationship with me. What I offer is so much better than the cheap counterfeits you try to find satisfaction in.’

The Feast of Unleavened Bread was connected to Passover. It was a memorial feast, a feast to remember God’s past faithfulness to them. This is a feast commemorating what the Lord did for you in bringing you out of Egypt. In this, God exerts his ownership over all his people. God redeemed the people from Egypt. He bought them. They belong to him. He owns them. The redemption of the firstborn is a reminder that God has rights over his people. We are his possession. We are his.

The Sabbath was one day out of seven to rest and remember and worship and enjoy. Even at the busiest times of the year, the most demanding times, he requires that his people rest and celebrate him.

The Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Ingathering were two celebrations related to God’s provision for his people; the firstfruits, or Pentecost; and then the final harvest at the end of the season. Attendance at these feasts is not optional; it is mandatory.

And with this is the promise of God’s sovereign protection. You don’t have to worry that while everyone is away worshiping me that someone is going to sneak in and steal your stuff. ‘I will drive out your enemies. I will enlarge your borders. I will protect and care for my people.’

25 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover remain until the morning. 26 The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

God demands purity and perfect obedience to his laws. God asks for the first and the best, because we reserve the first and best for the one we love the most. I will save the first and best for the love of my life. If I always keep the first and best for myself, I am showing that I love myself more than anyone else. God requires that we demonstrate with our possessions that he has first place in our hearts, that we love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength; not with our words only, but with our lives, with our possessions. This is not because God is needy and hungry and broke, looking to us to provide his needs. This is evidence of our affections for him. This is evidence that in our hearts we are keeping the covenant we have made. This would provide a regular opportunity to check my heart and my motives. If I am grudging and grumpy and stingy toward God, then that shows me that my heart is not in the right place; that my heart has abandoned the covenant. If I am joyful and eager and generous toward God, that is evidence that my affections are in line with the covenant relationship.

Words Written

27 And the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”

God tells Moses to ‘write these words’. God has a strange fixation with words and writing. God invented words. In the beginning God spoke. God gave us the gift of communication. God speaks to us and God speaks with us. And God is not satisfied with oral tradition, that is open to the interpretation of the storyteller, open to distortion and manipulation and change. God demands that his words be put in writing. God uses words to communicate clearly with his people, and he gives us his words in writing, so that is not dependent on our memory or the memory of the storyteller. We can look at the word written and know. We are not left to guess or to wonder. We can read the written words and know where we stand. It is black and white. This covenant between God and his people was not a vague fuzzy sort of relationship. He puts it in writing. He will hold us to it. We agreed and he will call us to account. And he expects us to hold him to it. He made a covenant with us and put it in writing, and we should know it and love it and call him on it to be faithful to his covenant.

God is fanatical about words. God thinks his words are important.

Psalm 138:2 …for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

God’s word is powerful.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

God thinks his words are true.

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (cf. 2Sam.22:31; Ps.18:30)

God’s word will endure.

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Jesus said:

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

God’s word is penetrating

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s word written is able to save.

2 Timothy 3:15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Jesus says that God’s word gives and sustains life

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

God is so fanatical about his words that he named his only Son ‘The Word’.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was 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.

Hebrews tells us how God spoke.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

At the end of Revelation we see Jesus show up again.

Revelation 19:13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.

The New Covenant

God takes his word very seriously. We should too. That’s why I want to look one more time at verse 10 of Exodus 34 before we close.

Exodus 34:10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. 11 “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

We see these words being fulfilled in the book of Joshua, as the people enter the promised land and conquer their enemies. But I think it is bigger than that. I think it points ahead to the New Covenant that God makes with us. “I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation.” What is more marvelous than God becoming flesh, being born of a virgin, living a perfect human life, taking upon himself the sins of the world, dying in our place, and getting back up from the dead! “And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. Whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life. Jesus comes to make his home in you. This is an awesome thing that he is doing with you! Are the people around you seeing the relationship you have with Jesus? Are the people among whom you are seeing the work of the LORD? That it is not you working but him at work in you? God promised to drive out the enemies. Our enemies are not Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perrizites, Hivites and Jebusites. Our enemies are things like lust, anger, pride, idolatry, unbelief, self-centeredness, self-sufficiency, evil desires, envy, lies, greed, discontent, bitterness, unforgiveness. Do you see God driving these enemies of your soul out of your life? Are those around you seeing the work of the LORD? Is it an awesome thing that he is doing with you?

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

October 7, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment