PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Plan Before Creation

12/16 The Plan Before Creation ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181216_plan-before-creation.mp3

Christmas. The Incarnation. We looked at Jesus, the Son before the manger, the eternal only Son of God, who was sent to rescue us, made flesh to be with us. We looked at Jesus the light of the world, who entered into our darkness, who went under the shadow of death for us, who took into himself all our darkness, so we could enjoy the light of his presence.

All this was necessary, the incarnation was necessary, as a result of our sin, our rejection of God’s good rule, because we went astray, we went our own way. We created the need. We caused this. He made everything very good, and we messed it all up. What if…? Was the incarnation God’s response to our rejection? Was this God’s attempt to fix what we broke? Was Christmas an afterthought? Was this God’s plan B, the fallback plan just in case we blew it? Was God uncertain (as some teach) what would happen when he created man in his image to rule over his creation and placed them in the garden with but one restriction? Should we view this as a kind of insurance? We take out an insurance policy against something terrible that we hope never happens, but is possible. Should we imagine that the Father sat down with the Son and said ‘this whole creation thing could go terribly wrong. I hope not, but we need to be prepared, this is what it will cost us if it does. Was Christmas a contingency in case things didn’t go according to plan?

Christmas is a great time to recapture our wonder. Look at who God is, what he has done, and let your jaw drop. Stand in awe. Worship. Rejoice with joy inexpressible and filled with glory (1Pet.1:8).

God’s Unfailing Purpose

We could look at verses that tell us that God’s purposes are never frustrated, scriptures like:

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

And:

Isaiah 46:9 …I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

God always accomplishes his plans. God’s purpose is unchangeable (Heb.6:17).

2 Timothy 1:8-10; God’s Gift Before The Ages Began

Let’s look this morning at a passage that pulls together God’s unchangeable purpose and connects it with Christmas, and creates wonder.

In 2 Timothy, Paul is encouraging Timothy not to be afraid but to have courage even in the face of suffering because it puts God’s power and his purpose on display.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of 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, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Listen to Paul’s logic of courage in the face of suffering. Let’s just walk through this text together. Don’t be ashamed of me when I face suffering, and don’t be afraid to suffer yourself for the gospel. Share in suffering by the power of God, (because you can’t do it yourself; you need God’s power, and God’s power is available to you).

It is God who saved you and called you to a holy calling. God saved you. God saved you for this, and he called you to this. It is a holy calling to suffer for the sake of the gospel. God saved us, he called us, not because of anything he saw in us, not because of anything we did, not anything we would do; not because of our works.

If not because of anything in us, then why? God saved us and God called us because of his own purpose and grace. It is God’s own purpose. Not of the will of flesh or of the will of man (Jn.1:13). God’s purpose for us is gracious; we don’t deserve it. We didn’t earn it. It was nothing in us. God freely chooses to give it. Our salvation, our calling is rooted in God’s will, God’s purpose and is God’s gift to us. It is unearned, freely given; it is grace.

Notice where we get God’s gracious gift of salvation? Every good gift comes to us in Christ Jesus. We have no good outside of him. God’s purpose, God’s grace, God’s salvation, God’s holy calling come to us as a gift packaged in Christ Jesus. ‘I want salvation, but I’m not sure I want Jesus.’ There is no salvation outside of Jesus. All God’s blessings come to us only in Christ Jesus.

Notice when this gift comes to us? This will blow your mind. God gave us his own purpose and grace, this salvation, this holy calling before the ages began, before time eternal. How are we given grace before we need it? How are we given God’s grace before we even exist? But that is what this text says! Do you see what this means? Before God created man, before God created anything, he had a purpose. He had a plan. And that purpose had you in mind. This was no insurance policy! This was the plan, his purpose. God intended all along to give you grace! Revelation (13:8) tells us that before the foundation of the world, our names have been written in the book of life of the lamb who was slain. The lamb slain will be the focal point of our worship for eternity! And that means that you would need grace. You would be undeserving. You would forfeit all your rights. God would have no obligation to you whatsoever, and yet he would freely give you grace. The salvation of sinners by grace in Christ Jesus was no plan B. God’s purpose to graciously save sinners in Christ Jesus was established before the eternal ages. This simply boggles our finite human brains! Before God created, before we rebelled, God who is rich in mercy, gave us his own grace.

Do you see Christmas in verse 10? God’s purpose, God’s grace, this salvation purposed and given before time began has now appeared. It is now put on display in the appearing, the advent, literally the epiphany of our Savior Christ Jesus. The gift that God gave before the ages began, the gift of his only Son was brought to light, put on display, made manifest at a point in time in history, when Jesus appeared.

Look at what this gift accomplished. This gift of God in Jesus abolished death. Death has been rendered impotent for those who are saved by Jesus. He has taken the sting out of death. He took sin, our sin into himself. Eternal life, incorruptibility is brought to light through the gospel. The gospel, the good news of Messiah Jesus, God’s eternal Son, become flesh to take our death and give us life is now on display, being proclaimed. God’s eternal purpose has now unfolded before our eyes.

Paul says all this to Timothy to give him courage in the face of suffering. God has saved us. He has called us to a holy calling. Our performance didn’t earn it, and our failure to perform can’t take it away. It was given to us according to God’s eternal purpose, before we existed, and it is now put on display. By God’s grace, the death we earned has been rendered impotent to harm us. We can take courage, even in the face of suffering, because Jesus took our ultimate suffering, and now nothing, not even physical death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.8:39).

This is a holy calling, and we can be confident even in the face of suffering because it is ours as a gift from before eternity began.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of 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, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

In chapter 2 Paul says:

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, …3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

This grace that God gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began is able to strengthen you to endure. In verse 10 he holds up his own suffering as an example.

2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Paul is in chains, but the word of God is not bound. Paul is willing to endure anything so that God’s elect may obtain this salvation.

Christmas was the public display of God’s gracious plan before creation. God’s eternal gift was put on display in a manger, and then on a cross. And we are invited to participate in passing this good news on.

Ephesians 1; God’s Purpose to Bring Praise to His Glorious Grace

I’d like to look at another passage that points us to God’s plan before creation, and gives us insight into his aim, his end goal. In Ephesians 1, Paul gives extended praise to God for his gracious eternal purpose to bless us in Christ.

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,

Do you hear God’s purpose, God’s plan for the fullness of time? God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. In his great love, God predestined us for adoption according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace. We have redemption, forgiveness, according to the riches of his grace lavished on us. He made known the mystery of his will according to his purpose, his plan for the fullness of time, (there is his plan before the ages began); and this plan he set forth in Christ (there again is Christmas). All this is according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. God’s purpose is never thwarted. He works all things according to the counsel of his will.

We see in many places that the glory of God is the ultimate purpose of everything. All creation is meant to bring glory to God.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, ‘the glory of the Lord shone around them’ (Lk.2:9) and a multitude of the heavenly host were praising God, saying ‘glory to God in the highest’ (Lk.2:14). The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God’ (Lk.2:20).

We were created for his glory. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But Ephesians is even more specific. The eternal purpose of God in our rescue is ‘to the praise of his glorious grace’. Not just the praise of his glory, but the praise of his glorious grace. We were chosen before the foundation of the world to be to the praise of his glorious grace. Before God created anything, God purposed in himself to save sinners through the sacrifice of Jesus. Does that blow your mind? Before man was ever created, long before man sinned in the garden, God purposed to become one of us and to pay for our sins with his own blood! O the riches of his glorious grace! Undeserved kindness toward undeserving sinners.

Moses and Glory and Grace

When Moses boldly asked the Lord ‘please show me your glory,

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.

God’s glory is seen in the riches of his grace and in his freedom to extend it to whomever he will. In the next chapter,

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.”

God’s glory is displayed in his mercy and grace, his abundant love and faithfulness, his forgiveness of sinners who deserve his wrath.

God’s plan A was to display the glory of his grace according to the riches of his grace. The righteous older brother didn’t need grace; the wayward prodigal’s only hope was undeserved grace. Our sin provided the stage on which the glory of God could be seen most clearly.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

God gave us his grace in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and now, in the fullness of time, he has has put on display his glorious grace through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. God has sent to us his only Son. This was the plan even before sin entered the world through one man. This was his purpose even before creation. This was his desire, to put on display his glorious grace.

It is one thing to know this. Have you received it? Have you received his grace? Have you welcomed his grace, his gift, have you allowed it in, to shape you, to make you new? Have you allowed his grace to capture your wonder, your amazement? Receive it!

Let your jaw drop. Wonder. Be amazed. Worship. Allow his grace to sustain you.

***

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

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December 17, 2018 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:17-19; Making Plans and the Promises of God

11/19 2 Corinthians 1:17-19; Making Plans and the Promises of God ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171119_2cor1_17-19.mp3

2 Corinthians 1:14 …—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

Paul had changed his travel plans more than once. Paul is answering the accusation that he makes his plans lightly, according to the flesh. How does Paul make his plans? How should we make plans? And how ought we to answer those who seek to discredit us?

How Paul Makes Plans

In verse 15, Paul speaks of his will or his purpose; ‘I wanted,’ or ‘I purposed to come to you first.’ Here in verse 17, he uses forms of this word purpose three more times; ‘This my purpose therefore was not in lightness or fickleness toward you; or what I purpose is it according to the flesh that I purpose?’ Paul’s purpose, his will, his resolve is being questioned. He answers that his purpose was not by the lightness toward you. He uses the definite article ‘the‘ probably referring to the word he had heard they had used of him. Paul is fickle; he vacillates. My plans toward you are not by the vacillation you accuse me of. This word translated ‘vacillating’ literally means light as opposed to weighty. We might say his plans are up in the air, being tossed back and forth. Paul starts by addressing the alleged lightness of his plans, and he brings us back around at the end of verse 20 to the glory of God, glory in the Old Testament being weightiness or heaviness; gravity. Paul’s plans are not unsubstantial or fluffy; rather they are designed to draw attention to the weightiness of God.

Jesus and James and Oaths

‘Or what I purpose is it according to the flesh that I purpose?’ In Paul, the flesh is frequently contrasted to the Spirit. Are plans made according to fleshly human wisdom, or are they made by the guidance of God’s Spirit? Numbers 23 says:

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

It would be merely human wisdom that would make plans and say yes, yes, and then change to no, no.

Why the double yes and the double no? This is actually an echo of what Jesus said in Matthew 5.

Matthew 5:33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Literally, Jesus says ‘let your word be Yes, yes; No, no.’ Jesus is not teaching that we can never take oaths; rather he is saying we ought to be plain and straightforward with what we say. In Matthew 23:16-22 Jesus gives us a clue as to the background of what he says. He lets us know that the Pharisees were saying:

Matthew 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’

This was a way to make it sound like you were taking an oath but to leave yourself an out. It is this kind of oath taking that was intended to deceive that Jesus is against. A simple yes should suffice. To make it emphatic, he allows a ‘yes, yes.’ James picks this up.

James 5:12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Paul’s words match James here exactly; ‘the yes, yes and the no, no.’ It seems that Paul is being accused of making a firm promise, He spoke the ‘yes, yes I am coming to visit’ and turned that into the ‘no no.’ ‘Yes, yes I care about you; No, no you’re not important to me.’ Paul says the Yes, yes and the No, no. His words sound strong, but they are wind. He doesn’t mean what he says. We can’t believe what he says. He’s not to be trusted. He’s fleshly.

How do you answer an accusation like that? His character is being undermined. It was true that he changed his plans. How do you defend the sincerity of your words, in a letter, with words?

God’s Faithfulness and God’s Son

Paul points them to the faithfulness of God. ‘As surely as God is faithful.’ Paul swears by the faithfulness of God; he draws attention to God’s faithfulness, he puts God’s faithfulness on center stage. His own faithfulness is derivative and dependent on God’s own prior faithfulness. He can be faithful only because God has been unwaveringly faithful to him.

‘But faithful is God, because the word of us to you is not yes and no.’ Paul here makes a play on words. He refers to the Logos, the Word from John 1:1. The content of Paul’s preaching, Paul’s word is the Word made flesh; Jesus Christ and him crucified. ‘The word from us to you is not yes and no, because Jesus was not yes and no’

He makes this explicit in the next verse; ‘For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed.’ Our word is not yes and no, because Jesus, the incarnate Word is not yes and no. Our proclamation, our word is the Word, and our proclamation of the Word must match the character of the divine Word made flesh.

‘For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed.’ The emphasis here is on God; ‘For the of God Son Jesus Christ.’ Jesus is God’s Son.

This is the only time in 2 Corinthians that Jesus is referred to as the Son of God. And packed into this little phrase is the gospel. In Romans 1:9, Paul can summarize the gospel as ‘the gospel of his Son.’ When Saul was converted, according to Acts 9,

Acts 9:20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

God made this promise to David:

2 Samuel 7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.

God promised David that he would be a Father to one of David’s sons, who would be a king forever. Jesus, son of David is the only begotten Son of God. God loved the world in this way, that he gave his only Son; he sent his preexistent Son into the world; we must believe in the only Son of God (Jn.3:16-18)

Romans 8:3 For God … By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

This identity as the Son, we see is connected with something troubling if we look back to 2 Samuel 7

2 Samuel 7:14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.

This coming Son of God is a suffering servant, we learn from Isaiah, who suffers for our iniquities, not his own. Jesus was the Son who always did what pleased the Father (Jn.8:29); “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.17:5; cf.3:17). The beloved son imagery is a thread that runs through the story of the Old Testament, from the righteous Abel killed by his brother, the promised son Isaac to be offered as a sacrifice, Jacob who must flee for his life, the favored son Joseph sold by his brothers into slavery, even to chosen Israel, who suffered in bondage before being rescued. This all points to Jesus, the beloved Son, well pleasing to his Father, who is betrayed, rejected, crucified, made to be sin for us. In Corinth, Paul determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1Cor.2:2).

Paul’s Plans and the Grace of God

Paul had said back in verse 12 that he conducted himself with the simplicity and sincerity that comes from God; that he conducted himself not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God. Here he unpacks what it means to live and make plans by the grace of God.

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes.

‘God’s Son Jesus Christ, who in you through us was proclaimed, through me and Silvanus and Timothy’. The Corinthians heard the message of the Son of God through the testimony of these three witnesses; Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. Christ came to be in them, dwelling in their hearts through faith because Christ was proclaimed through these faithful servants. They did not come in power and persuasive speech, but their lives were shaped like Jesus, suffering, rejected, imprisoned, mistreated, beaten. This is what it looked like to live by the grace of God. God’s grace comes to us in the form of a crucified Jesus. God’s grace is communicated to us through the proclamation of his suffering servants.

1 Corinthians 1:20 …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. …23 but we preach Christ crucified, …25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The Corinthians wanted strength and poise. But God’s grace comes in apparent weakness and foolishness. Yes I am coming to you in strength; no I am weak; yes I have a powerful message; no it is the foolishness of Christ crucified.

The Yes of God

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.

Jesus did not become yes and no. In him the Yes has come to be. God’s yes has come into existence in Jesus. Things are not always as they seem. Jesus was despised and rejected. He came to his own, but his own did not receive him (Jn.1:11). Is there any room for him in the inn? No. He was betrayed by a friend, arrested, falsely accused, mistreated, condemned, crucified. Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews? NO! My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? A resounding ‘NO!’ But it is in this No that God’s yes to us is concealed. God said no to Jesus so he could say yes to us. Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me. God said No to Jesus, so he would never have to say No to us! Jesus took the no, the disapproval, the wrath of God for us. Jesus endured the no of his Father so that we could enjoy his yes. In him the Yes has come to be! As many promises of God as there are, the Yes is in him!

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

November 19, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:15-16; Confidence and Double Grace

11/12 2 Corinthians 1:15-16; Confidence and Double Grace ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171112_2cor1_15-16.mp3

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

Change in Plans

Paul’s travel plans had changed. In 1 Corinthians 4:19, he mentioned sending Timothy to Corinth, and he says “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills.” At the end of 1 Corinthians, he says

1 Corinthians 16:5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.

This plan didn’t happen. Timothy sent word to Paul that the Corinthians didn’t respond well to 1 Corinthians. Paul changed his plans and made an emergency visit to Corinth. This proved to be a difficult confrontation, a ‘painful visit’ (2Cor.2:1). Paul then returned from Corinth to Ephesus.

His plan, as he states here, was to complete his ministry in Ephesus, sail to Corinth, continue up through Macedonia to receive their collection, then stop again in Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem with the collection. Instead, when he received news that things only got worse in Corinth after his painful visit, he sent Titus with a ‘severe letter’ (2Cor.2:3-4). Now, writing to them from Macedonia after meeting Titus, he is aware that some are questioning his integrity and his spirituality. How can he really be spiritual if he’s not in tune enough to lay out godly travel plans? Paul here communicates his heart, what he wanted to do, and why he changed his plans and did what he did. The specifics of why he changed his plans don’t come until the beginning of chapter 2, but he begins by grounding their confidence in the faithful character of God in the gospel.

Confidence

Paul begins by saying ‘Because I was sure of this.’ Sure of what? ‘And persuaded by this’ or ‘and in this confidence.’ What was Paul confident of? Look back at verses 12-14.

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

Paul is confident in the testimony of his own conscience. He is sure that he lived with simplicity and sincerity, that he lived by the grace of God. He is supremely confident in the gospel, that it will accomplish its intended purpose, both in him and in the Corinthians, ‘that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.’ The gospel will bring both he and they into the presence of the Lord, where their only boast will be a boast in the amazing grace and faithfulness of God. Paul’s confidence is not in the fickle Corinthians, nor on his own personal reliability in making his plans under the sovereign purposes of God. Paul’s confidence is squarely on the power of the gospel and the faithful character of God.

Second Grace; Help on the Journey

2 Corinthians 1:15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea.

Paul’s purpose, based on his confidence in the gospel, was to come to Corinth first in order that they might have a second grace. What does this mean, ‘in order that you might have a second grace?’ Clearly, this second grace is related to the two proposed visits, the first on the way to Macedonia, and the second returning from Macedonia. This language sounds similar to Romans 1

Romans 1:9 …I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

We might read 2 Corinthians in light of this passage in Romans, and read into it a desire to impart grace to them to strengthen them by an apostolic visit. But the language of Romans is quite different from the language here in 2 Corinthians. Actually, the language of Romans 15 is closer to the language of 2 Corinthians than Romans 1.

Romans 15:23 …since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

This word ‘to be helped on my journey there’ is the same word translated ‘have you send me on my way’ in 2 Corinthians 1:16. This is also what we saw in 1 Corinthians 16:6 of ‘helping me on my journey, wherever I go,’ as well as 1 Corinthians 16:11, of ‘helping Timothy on his way in peace, that he may return to me.’ It seems there was a practice of churches partnering with the apostle or his co-workers in his ministry by sending them forward on their way, funding their travel and providing for their needs as they went out to advance the gospel.

No Obstacle to the Gospel

We also understand that Paul did not receive payment from the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 11 he says:

2 Corinthians 11:7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

Paul refused to allow the Corinthians to pay him. The culture in Corinth was a patronage culture, where a wealthy benefactor could sponsor a slave and grant him his freedom, but that freedman would now be obligated to his patron to give honor. A wealthy patron could also hire a scholar to teach, and the more he paid, the more prestigious an education he could claim. Paul refused to play into this cultural climate, refusing to take any payment for his teaching, refusing to become indebted to anyone.

In 1 Corinthians 9, he said:

1 Corinthians 9:11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? 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 refused to put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. In Corinth, receiving payment for preaching the gospel would imply that it was a message only for the wealthy who could afford to pay, and would put the gospel out of reach of the average Corinthian. He went on:

1 Corinthians 9:14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. 15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.

…18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Many in Corinth took offense at his refusal to allow them to support him. But here Paul desired to offering them double grace.

Double Grace

What does Paul mean by this second grace? They had experienced God’s grace when they received the gospel. Grace is the polar opposite of earning, as we learned in Romans 4.

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,

Wages are not reckoned according to grace but according to debt. Grace and wages have nothing to do with one another. Wages are earned. Grace is undeserved, freely given. The gospel is the message that God’s favor cannot be earned. No amount of good works can indebt God to us that he must pay us back. God’s righteousness comes only as a gift freely given to those who are unrighteous and undeserving. We cannot merit it; another paid the price in full. Grace is God’s loving and God’s freely giving. When we begin to understand grace, when we begin to see God for who he is, when we see ourselves as we are, we begin to recognize that all of life is grace. Every breath is a gift we do not deserve.

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,

Our salvation from the wages of our sin is all of grace, and every moment is grace, but what does Paul mean here by a second grace linked to a double visit? It cannot be that they experience salvation a second time.

This second grace must be linked to the sending forward of the apostle. Verse 16 spells this out in three movements. Paul’s desire was that ‘through you he would travel through to Macedonia’ His language indicates that his travel to Macedonia would happen through or by means of the generosity of the Corinthians. This was to be his first coming to them and their first grace. ‘And again from Macedonia to come to you.’ This was the second movement. ‘And by you to be sent forward to Judea.’ This was the third movement, and the second grace, to send him forward.

Paul did not allow churches to pay him for his services, but he did allow them the grace of providing for the advance of the gospel as he left them to travel on. This understanding sees grace not as grace to be received, but grace to be given. The Corinthians had received all of God’s grace toward them in the gospel. Now they had been set free from the earning – obligation – debt cycle to freely give.

The Grace of Giving

Paul uses this word ‘grace’ in this sense unmistakably in reference to the collection for Jerusalem in 1 Corinthians 16.

1 Corinthians 16:3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift [grace] to Jerusalem.

The collection the Corinthians make for the poor saints in Jerusalem in called ‘your grace’. They will carry your grace to Jerusalem.’

In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul talks more about this grace of giving.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor [grace] of taking part [fellowship] in the relief of the saints—

God’s grace was given and they begged for the grace of fellowship in the service to the saints. Notice this grace of giving is an expression of God’s grace given to them.

2 Corinthians 8:6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. …9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

The collection of money is referred to as ‘this grace.’ And it is grounded on knowing the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God’s grace is the initiating grace that births in us a grace toward others. We have received freely that which we did not deserve at great cost to Jesus. We then are set free to freely give, not in order to earn anything, but out of the eager overflow of what we have freely received. We are ‘set free to meet the needs of others, because God has met our needs in Christ’ [ESVSB note]. God’s grace is a transforming grace. It births grace in us toward others. This is the confidence Paul had in the gospel, that it creates grace in the lives of those who have been transformed by God’s free and undeserved grace. Paul’s confidence was not in the Corinthians, but in God’s transforming grace, that creates grace in all who have truly received his grace, to see his grace freely proclaimed to more and more and more people.

Giving for the Glory of God

2 Corinthians 8:19 …as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.

This grace is ultimately for the glory of the Lord himself. We do not give to get. We do not give to get recognition or praise. We do not give to get rewards or status. We give only, exclusively to give glory to God. Our giving brings glory to God because our grace in giving is birthed in us in response to his grace freely given to us. Freely you have received, freely give (Mt.10:8 KJV).

2 Corinthians 1:15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea.

What is your confidence in? Your faithfulness? Someone else’s faithfulness? Or is it in the gospel alone?

Do you consider giving to advance the gospel an obligation? A burden? Or a grace?

Have you been set free to give to the needs of others because God has met all your needs in Christ?

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

November 14, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 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

Exodus 17:1-7; Testing and Being Tested

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110501_exodus17_1-7.mp3

05/01 Exodus 17:1-7 Water from the Rock

Intro:

God has come to the rescue of his people. They groaned and cried out because of their slavery in Egypt. God promised to bring them out from under their burdens, to deliver them from slavery, to redeem them with mighty acts of judgment, and to take them to be his own people. God ruined Egypt and laid the pride of the Egyptians low, but he preserved and cared for his people. The presence of the invisible God was demonstrated to them in the visible form of a column of fire and cloud. He caused the army to pursue, and when there was no possible escape, he made a path for his people in the middle of the sea. He emboldened their enemies to follow, and he crushed them under the waters. Three days into the wilderness, and there was no water to drink. God tested his people, and when they came to Marah, the water was bitter. The people grumbled, and God made bitter waters sweet by the application of a tree. One month into the wilderness, and they were running out of food. The whole congregation grumbled, wishing to be back enjoying the good life of Egypt, rather than starving to death in the wilderness. God responded to their grumbling with abundant provision; quail for meat and bread for each day covering the ground. He gave them a day of rest each week, where their souls could be refreshed in God. God is testing his people to see if they would be obedient or not.

Here in chapter 17, we see God again testing and training his people, teaching them about himself, and they respond by putting God to the test.

Exodus 17:1 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

My Perceived Needs

The people are following the cloud-fire manifestation of God as he leads them in the wilderness. Each day they are gathering and eating bread from heaven that God supernaturally provides. God again guides them to a place where there was no water. They have seen God turn water to blood, part the sea and cause dry land to appear; God has turned bitter water sweet, and he has created bread for them out of nothing in the desert. Now they are thirsty. They can’t see any water. So they protest against their leaders. Again they grumble. They are controlled by their own perceived needs. They are entirely self-centered. The world should revolve around me, even God should revolve around me. God should hurry to respond to my every demand. Doesn’t he love me? Everything else takes second place to what I feel that I need right now. Good is defined by what I think I need, when I think I need it.

God has already stated that he is testing his people. He is proving them. He has shown decisively that he is for them, on their side, fully capable of defeating their enemies and providing for their every need. God has good in mind for his people, but the good God has in mind is sometimes different than the good we think we need. ‘I’m thirsty and I want a drink.’ God says ‘I can use your thirst to create character in you, character that is much more valuable than what you think you need right now. You have a physical need that is real and it is urgent. But you have a spiritual need that is just as real and even more urgent that I want to address. Do you trust me?’

Instead of trusting God, the people make their demand. “Give us water to drink. Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to kill us with thirst?” They are not walking by faith in a God who has over and over and over proven himself faithful. They are not trusting God to provide for them. They are not willing to allow God to refine them and develop character in them. They are not willing to allow God to be God and determine what is best for them. They are not loving God more than their own needs. They lack faith and patience and joy. They are not humbly making their request to God. They refuse to depend on God and instead make demands of God.

Putting the LORD to the Test

Moses asks the people “why do you test the LORD” and verse 7 concludes by Moses naming the place ‘quarreling and testing’ because they tested the LORD by saying “Is the LORD among us or not?” The people need to be tested by the LORD because testing demonstrates the areas in which they need to grow and change and be transformed. Testing reveals the character flaws that desperately need attention. But God is perfect. He has no character flaws. He cannot improve. God does not need to be tested. By their complaining and grumbling, the people are implying that God is failing to take good enough care of them. He must not be loving, or he would provide for their thirst. Maybe he is not powerful enough to give them water to drink. He is not faithful to meet their needs today like he did yesterday. He is not wise enough to lead them to the right places. By their grumbling they are putting God on trial, forcing him to prove himself to them. God’s character is being questioned, and they sit as judge to see if God will live up to their expectations or not. They are attempting to manipulate God to get him to perform for them, to blackmail him into doing whatever they ask.

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses is giving God’s commands to his people. Love God with all heart and soul and might. Do not forget the LORD who has delivered you. Fear the LORD your God and serve him only. Do not go after other gods. Do not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah (v.16). Jesus quotes this passage from Deuteronomy when tempted by the devil to force his Father’s hand and make him prove himself (Mt.4; Lk.4). We are not to put the LORD to the test, because he does not need to be tested. He needs to be trusted. We need to be tested. We can put our confidence in his proven character and promises that when he tests us it is for our good.

Moses’ Self-Interest

Moses doesn’t do much better than the people he is supposed to be leading.

Exodus 17:4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

Moses is demonstrating that he is also looking out for his own interests. He is afraid for his life. He is not trusting the LORD. God tells him to stop following the people and start leading them.

Exodus 17:5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Moses Strikes the Rock

Moses is instructed to take the staff of God with which he had struck the Nile river and caused it to flow with blood, and he is to strike the rock, and water will come out of it. Moses follows the instructions. Numbers 20 records a very similar event, but toward the end of the wilderness wanderings. In that event, Moses is told to speak to the rock and it will bring forth water. Moses arrogantly disobeys and strikes the rock twice, and disqualifies himself from entering the promised land. What is the big deal? God said that Moses and Aaron rebelled against his command, that they did not believe in him or uphold him as holy in the eyes of the people. The big deal is that the rock was only to be struck once. Paul gives us a hint on the bigger picture in 1 Corinthians 10.

1 Corinthians 10:1 I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, (Ex.16) 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. (Ex.17; Num.20); For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

The Rock was Christ

They drank from the spiritual Rock, and that Rock was Christ. Moses is an actor pointing to a bigger reality, and when he strays from the script and makes up his own lines, he does violence to the message that the drama is meant to communicate. The Rock was Christ. The Rock was to be struck once, but only once. The word here translated ‘strike’ in the majority of its uses in the bible means to kill. It shows up a couple times in Isaiah, clearly talking about Jesus:

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

The Rock was Christ, smitten by God, once for all.

Exodus 17:6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Moses is to take the same staff that brought judgment on Egypt, the same staff that made the river Nile flow with blood. In Exodus 4:20 and again in verse 9 of this chapter, it is called ‘the staff of God.’ God says ‘I will present myself on the rock and you shall strike the rock.’ The staff of God’s judgment coming down on God the Son, the sin-bearer. This was to be done in the presence of the elders of Israel. In Matthew’s account of Jesus on the cross, he records:

Matthew 27:41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him

The elders of Israel were witnesses of the Rock being struck to give life to the people.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Living Water

When Jesus spoke to a sinful Samaritan woman beside a well, he said

John 4:10 … “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John records:

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

Jesus said:

Matthew 26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Is the LORD among us or not?

God knows our true need. He hears our self-centered grumbling and diagnoses our heart condition and provides himself as the cure. Jesus addresses our true need, our need for our sins to be forgiven.

In the face of irrefutable evidence, God’s people put God to the test. Supernatural rescue from Egypt, the visible pillar of fire to guide, bread from heaven that was at that very moment meeting their needs, and the people question “is the LORD among us or not?”

John sent his disciples from prison with a similar question for Jesus:

Matthew 11:3 … “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Is the LORD among us or not? Is there evidence? Is Jesus Emmanuel, God with us?

John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Rock was Christ, smitten by God, once for all. Believe and have life in his name.

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.  

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

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 3:16-22; God Knows

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100704_exodus03_16-22.mp3

7/4 Exodus 3:16-22 God Knows

3: 7 Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 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. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

God made himself known to Moses. He told him that he has compassion on his people. He has seen, he has heard, he knows, and he has come down to deliver them. He is sending Moses to deliver them. Moses asks the question ‘Who am I?’ God clarifies that it is not who you are, Moses, that makes a difference, but who I am. So Moses asks God ‘Then who are you? Tell me your name. What are your credentials?’ God gives him the verb ‘to be’, He says I AM THAT I AM; I am the uncaused cause; I am the only independent being in existence, the self existent source and ground of all that is. I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. I am the same God now that I was then. I am the same God who made the magnificent promises to the patriarchs, and I will keep those promises because I AM. I am that I am, and I am to be remembered in this way throughout all generations.

Now that God has revealed something of who he is to Moses, he clarifies his instructions. He had told Moses

10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Now he tells Moses to go and gather the elders of Israel. this is the first time in the bible that we hear of the elders of Israel. Genesis 50:7 talks about the elders of Egypt, but Israel had no need for structured leadership. Up to this point in their history, Israel was merely a family with promises that God would make them into a great nation. Now, during their 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God had taken them from an extended family of 70 people, to a nation that is a national threat to Egypt, organized with elders. Moses is to go to these elders, gather them as a group, and declare these words to them:

16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

Moses is to reiterate what is said of God in 2:23-24 and what he said to him in 3:7-9 that he has seen and heard, he knows, he cares, he remembers his covenant, and he is doing something about it. Moses is to introduce God as ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.’ God wants the people to be reminded that he is the same God who made promises to the patriarchs and is now fulfilling those promises.

God tells Moses to tell them this: “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt.” This would be a mixed message to anyone. Imagine you are having a hard time with someone at work and God says to you “I have observed you and what has been done to you.” God knows what has been done to me – that’s good! But he’s also observed me. He knows how I’ve responded to the pressure. He’s seen me at my absolute worst. He knows every thought I’ve thunk and every motive of my heart. That is a sobering thought, is it not? It’s a sobering thought, but it is also a freeing thought. I have nothing to hide because I can hide nothing. God knows everything I’ve done, he knows all my sin. He sees my heart even more clearly than I do myself. He knows me more intimately than anyone else, and he loves me! Do you realize how freeing that is? I don’t have to put on pretensions or wear a mask and pretend to be someone I’m not. We have one who knows the good, the bad, and the ugly, and he still pursues us in relationship. This does not mean that God doesn’t care how we think or feel or act, or that we can continue to sin that grace may increase. No. God is a holy God. But he knows that we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1) and we cannot improve ourselves. He knows he is buying ‘damaged merchandise – used – as is’ and he has counted the cost that he will expend in time and labor and most importantly the blood of his own dear Son to wash us and heal us and restore us to mint condition and present us to himself as a people for his own possession, zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).

God says to Moses, tell the elders:

16… “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

God is making a promise to his people. The word translated ‘promise’ is simply the word ‘said’, the same word that is found throughout the creation narrative; ‘and God said let there be… and there was’. For God to speak is to promise. If God said, then what he said is as good as done. Tell them “I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt”. In verse 7, God said that he had seen their affliction. Now he says he is going to bring them up out of the affliction of Egypt. Affliction has its purpose in the plan of God. Joseph named his son Ephraim, because, he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Gen.41:52). Jesus said:

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

God does not promise his people a trouble free existence from this point on. He does not promise them exemption from all affliction. They will continue to have their share of affliction. But the affliction of Egypt has served its purpose, and God will now bring the people up out of the affliction of Egypt. He will bring them to the land. God had promised to give his people the land:

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. …7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Genesis 13:14 The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

Genesis 15:18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

Genesis 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

[to Isaac] Genesis 26:3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

[to Jacob] Genesis 28:13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Genesis 35: 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”

Genesis 48:4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’ …21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers.

Genesis 50:24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

God is promising to bring his people out of the land of affliction and to the land of six enemy nations. This would not be easy. God was preparing his people from the very beginning for what they would face. There would be plenty of obstacles to overcome, but God promised to accomplish what he had promised if they relied on him. This was a good land, described as ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’, a land abundantly overflowing with blessing.

What comes next is an amazing promise that God gives to encourage Moses. Moses has questioned his qualifications for the responsibility of representing God to the people. Then he questioned who it was that he was representing. If I go to the people and they ask who it was that sent me, what should I tell them that your name is? Moses has gone out to the people once before, thinking they would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand (Acts 7:25). Now, 40 years later, Moses is apprehensive about going back. Moses doubts the reception he will receive with the people who rejected him before. God gives Moses a staggering promise. Verse 18 says “And they will listen to your voice.” How can God say that? How can God know how the people will respond? This God, this one who says I AM, I am the ground and source of existence, I cause to be all that is, this God guarantees to Moses the future actions of free moral agents. God says to Moses, I am sending you, and I can tell you exactly how the elders of Israel will respond. How can he say that? This same God who is acting in Moses life to send him is also moving in the lives of the elders of Israel to prepare them to hear Moses and his message.

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

Not only will they listen, but they will go with you to Pharaoh. God gives Moses the script. When you and the elders of Israel go to the king of Egypt, this is what you are to say:

The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’

Moses and the elders of Israel are to ask politely for a week off. We’ve been slaving for you for 400 years. Can we please have time off for religious reasons? YHWH, the God of the Hebrews has met with us. Adam and Abel and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob sacrificed to YHWH. We have neglected to sacrifice to our God for the last 400 years. We will go out into the wilderness where we won’t offend your people or your gods to sacrifice to YHWH our God. This is a very reasonable request. According to ancient Near Eastern customs, the Pharaoh should have respected their request and allowed them to perform their required religious duties (Enns, p.107, fn.34). But God is seeking an occasion against this king of Egypt, as he makes clear by his prediction of what will happen, again another stunning statement of his sovereignty, and a gracious preparation for his people to brace themselves for what is coming.

19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.

I am asking him to do something so reasonable and so modest that his rejection will demonstrate the depth of the hardness of his heart. God knows the future response of this pagan king to a question that hasn’t been asked yet. God knows exactly what it will take to break him and cause him to surrender. It will take more than military might or political power to move this king. It will take the divine intervention of a sovereign God. Moses, remember when you went out and saw the Egyptian striking down the Hebrew and you had compassion and were moved to intervene and strike down the Egyptian? I have compassion on my people, and I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt. It will take a mighty hand, and I am that hand. I will strike Egypt with all the wonders I will do in it. After that, he will let you go. I will work marvelous, surpassing, extraordinary things, things that are beyond anyone’s power to do. This word was used only once before, in Genesis 18:14 when God is answering the doubts of Abraham and Sarah over the promise of a son in their old age. “Is anything too hard (wonderful) for the LORD?” God is setting the stage for an epic display of his awesome power through the ten plagues. The Exodus is all about God and his glory. Listen to the first person pronouns: I know… so I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it.

And there’s the promise. Then he will let you go. You go to Pharaoh. He will not listen. I will strike Egypt with all (not some but all) of the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. What precision of prediction! What clarity of purpose! What encouragement of ultimate victory in spite of repeated setbacks! After that he will let you go. Rescue! Salvation! Deliverance at last! The Pharaoh will let you go. But that’s not all. God does exceeding, abundant, beyond all that we can ask or imagine.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

God is not merely going to rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt. He says “you shall not go empty”. God has a perfect plan. For shortsighted me, it would be good enough just to escape. Then I’d have to figure out how to make it out there. But God is going to provide for the needs of his people. He is going to bless them beyond what they could possibly conceive. And he promises this up front, so that when it happens, they can marvel at how awesome this God is. God says ‘I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. That’s a remarkable statement. This is a people who is so fearful and resentful that their government could tell them to throw the Hebrew babies in the river and they would obey. Now God says ‘I will give you favor in their sight’. They’ll give you anything you ask for. God’s sense of humor is beautiful. The mighty Pharaoh’s plan was frustrated by a handful women. Two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah who feared God. Moses’ mother, who creatively obeyed the king’s command by placing her baby in the Nile in an ark, and the Pharaoh’s own daughter, who raised his arch-enemy under his own roof. Now, God says you are going to plunder the Egyptians. But not because you were victorious in battle. I will get the victory and your Hebrew women will plunder the spoil. The most powerful nation of the world willingly, voluntarily plundered by women and children!

Paul prays for us that we would understand how lavish God is:

Ephesians 1:18 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

God is awesome beyond our capacity to comprehend, he knows the end from the beginning, he holds the future in his hand, and he blesses his people far more abundantly than all that we ask or think! God has given us everything in Jesus.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

21 And I will give this people favor …you shall not go empty,

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

July 4, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 2:11-15; A Deliverer Rejected

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100516_exodus02_11-15.mp3

5/16 Exodus 2:11-15 A Deliverer Rejected

We’re in the second book of the bible, Exodus. In Exodus, we’ve seen God at work keeping his promises to his people. God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that he would bless them and make their name great and multiply them abundantly. Exodus begins by seeing the blessing of God in the multiplication of the people of Israel in Egypt. But the blessing of God often comes at a cost. God’s blessing on the people of Israel was perceived as an internal threat to the national security of Egypt. The Pharaoh took action to get this threat under control. He appointed taskmasters to oppress the people severely to break their spirits and reduce their population. But instead, “1:12 …the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they were spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.” So the Pharaoh took the head midwives into his confidence and commanded them to kill all the boys that were born to the Hebrews. But these two women, Shiphrah and Puah, feared God and disobeyed the Pharaoh.

1:20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.

So, rather than reducing the population as planned, the population continued to increase, with even these barren women now having children of their own.

1:22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.

God moves in mysterious ways. The response we see to this decree is that an unnamed Hebrew family from the tribe of Levi have a baby boy. The mother recognizes the creative goodness of God in this new life, and hides him for three months, then, in faith, she throws him into the Nile herself – in his own personal ark waterproofed with pitch, and sets her daughter to watch over him. The daughter of the wicked Pharaoh happened to come down to the Nile to bathe just at that place, and happened to see the ark, and she just happened to have pity on him and chose to disobey her father rather than drown this Hebrew boy in the river. She adopted him to be her own son, and hired his own mother to nurse him for her. So this evil Pharaoh is foiled in his plan by two God-fearing Hebrew midwives, a Hebrew mother and her young daughter, and his very own disobedient daughter. So this mother who walked by faith in God ends up being payed out of the evil Pharaoh’s treasury to nurse and train and care for her own condemned baby boy during the formative first years of his life. After three or four years of pouring herself and her faith and her history and her God into this boy, she brought him to the Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. Maybe we should all have that mindset when we train our children. We have but a short time before we must turn them over to the pagan world empire, so it is urgent that we do everything within our power to train them up in the way that they should go.

10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

I’m sure that when she entrusted him to the Pharaoh’s house, she entrusted him to God, and never ceased to pray for him. Now the narrative jumps ahead forty years.

2:11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

In this passage, we see Moses transition from favored position of prince in the royal courts of the greatest nation in his world to condemned criminal exile hiding in the wilderness. Twice in verse 11 Moses identifies himself with ‘his people’, the Hebrews. He went out to his people… he saw and Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. There is no question where Moses’ allegiance lies. Stephen fills in some background details for us in his sermon in Acts 7:

Acts 7:22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

He was highly educated in the most advanced center of education in his day. He was mighty in words and deeds. He had a promising career ahead of him. Josephus was a Jewish historian that lived AD37-100. If what Josephus records is accurate, the princess who adopted him was Thermuthis, who had no children of her own and hoped that Moses might one day ascend to the throne. Josephus also records an story of Moses as an Egyptian military leader, leading a victorious attack on the Ethiopians. Whatever the true details of these unknown forty years, Moses could easily have embraced his life as Egyptian royalty and ignored his connection with the slave people. He could have turned a blind eye to the sufferings of his people and held on to his position of power and his life of ease. But a mother’s training leaves a lasting impression. Forty years later he takes action to identify himself with his people and alienate himself from the Egyptians who raised him. Understand, Moses personally had nothing to gain and everything to lose by this move. The writer of Hebrews attributes his actions to faith:

Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

It was by faith he chose to identify himself with the people of God. He abandoned the wealth of Egypt as ‘fleeting pleasures of sin’. We can imagine what kind of sinful pleasure might have been available to him, but it could be as simple as what James tells us:

James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Moses knew what was right. He knew what the Egyptians did was wrong. For him to turn a blind eye to unjust suffering and continue to enjoy the benefits of Egypt would have been sin. So in faith, he acts. Faith is trust in the promises of God. God had made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Maybe Moses studied the prophecies of his people and did the math and knew that the time of their slavery was coming to a close. So in dependence on God who is always faithful to keep his promises, he acts.

He went out, he looked, and he saw. The verb ‘he went out’ ( auy yatsa’) is the verb that is used throughout the Old Testament to describe how God brought out the Israelites from Egypt. Here Moses in his own exodus goes out from the Egyptians to his people. “He went out to his own people”.

The verb for ‘he looked’ and ‘he saw’ ( har ra’ah) is the same one that is used in 2:25 and 3:7, 9 of God looking on or seeing the affliction of his people. Just as God would look on his people with compassion and act, so now Moses was looking on the burdens of his people and acting out of compassion. He was not disinterestedly observing from a safe distance. He was investing himself in the situation of his people and doing so at great personal risk to himself.

In Acts 7, Stephen gives us a helpful summary of the Exodus history and even some insight into the thoughts of Moses in this event:

Acts 7:17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, …

Genesis 15:13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

Acts 7:17 …the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. 23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

Moses understands that God has raised him up to bring salvation to his people. He is defending the oppressed and standing up for slaves who are being wronged that have no voice. Later in Exodus when God gives Moses his laws he says this:

Exodus 21:20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. …23 …you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Moses is acting as avenger and bringing justice to a cruel and hopeless situation. I’m not saying that what Moses does here is without fault, or that it was the wisest action, but it was right for him to take action and defend the oppressed. (cf. Isaiah 59:14-16)

11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

There is something in these verses that doesn’t come through very well in our English translations. The word describing what the Egyptian was doing to the Hebrew slave is the exact word that describes what Moses did to the brutal Egyptian taskmaster. Moses saw an Egyptian beating to death a slave, so he beat to death the Egyptian. He saw an Egyptian striking down a Hebrew, so he struck down the Egyptian. What was being done to the helpless slave, he, coming to his rescue, did to the taskmaster. God was giving salvation to the Israelites by his hand. This was indeed a huge act of faith, a David against Goliath move, as he was one man against a powerful nation. I’m not sure what Moses was expecting to be the next step. Maybe the Israelites would rally behind him as their leader and they would fight against the Egyptians. Maybe he expected that God would do a miracle as he stepped out in faith. I don’t think he was planning on what happened.

13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

Again Moses uses the same word that was used in verses 11 and 12. Why are you striking down or beating to death your brother? To Moses it was not an ethnic thing. It was not the Israelites against the Egyptians. It was right against wrong. When an Israelite mistreated another Israelite, that was just as wrong as when an Egyptian mistreated an Israelite. Moses here acts as judge – one of the roles in which he will serve Israel in the wilderness – and he makes a determination of who was in the wrong and confronts him about it. Moses was seeking to make peace between his people. Moses knew that killing an Egyptian would not win him any points with the Egyptians. But he was not expecting the response that he got from his own people.

14 …“Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”…

Moses expected that his people would see what God was doing and embrace him as their deliverer. Stephen tells us:

Acts 7:25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.

Instead of welcoming their deliverer, the Hebrews reject his rule over them. Their question is rhetorical – who made you a prince and a judge over us? But the answer is God. God was giving them salvation by his hand. But they did not understand. Moses came to do good to his people. Instead, they accuse him of intending them harm. Moses is afraid, probably very confused. As he expected, Pharaoh heard and was after his head. This is the second time Moses was under sentence of death from this Pharaoh. The first time he was protected by his parents, then adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Now he runs, a condemned criminal exiled in a strange land. Born of the Hebrews, raised by the Egyptians, now rejected by both. He had nowhere to lay his head. He flees to the wilderness.

I’ve often heard it said that Moses missed his cue and jumped the gun. He was not supposed to do what he did and that’s why it turned out so bad. But throughout this passage, God is persistently keeping his promises, and from our perspective, things seem to be going from bad to worse. But God has his good purposes and is moving things according to his plan. Moses spent four years under the training of his mother, then 36 years under the training of Egypt, and God wanted him to spend the next 40 years of his life under his schooling in the desert. Moses needed to understand that to lead God’s people does not mean glory and praise, but often rejection and criticism and a wilderness experience. Moses needed to feel what it felt like to be an alien and stranger looking for a home. He needed to learn what it meant to lean not on his own strength and wisdom, but entirely on God who guides and gives strength. Moses needed to learn humility and dependence and patience and God taught him those things and more in the next forty years seemingly on the shelf. We can take heart when we end up in the wilderness, because God does have a purpose and he makes no mistakes.

But we can’t miss the connection with Jesus. Moses was another sign to point us to Jesus. Moses himself pointed to this:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers––it is to him you shall listen–– …18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

Moses, like Jesus, was preserved from a maniacal tyrant who was afraid of any threat to his power and had all the baby boys executed. Moses tried to make peace among his brothers. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to bring peace. Moses came to his own people and was rejected as their leader. John’s gospel says of Jesus:

John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens 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.

This is exactly the point Stephen is making to the Jews in his farewell sermon. There is a historical pattern that Israel rejects the deliverers that God sends. Stephen continues:

Acts 7: … 35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’––this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.

Stephen began with Joseph, who was rejected by the patriarchs and sold, moves through Moses rejected by his people, and on to the prophets, where he makes application to those who are about to stone him:

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. 52 Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The whole story of Moses is meant to point us to Jesus. Just like Moses’ rejection by his people was not a surprise to God, So the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish people and his reception by a people who were outside the covenant community was all part of God’s plan. It was foretold by the prophet Isaiah that Jesus would be:

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

But we do not have to reject him. John goes on:

John 1:11 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.

We can receive him. We can believe. We can become children of God. We can be born of God.

 

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

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

1 Peter 4:17-19; The Reason for Suffering

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090614_1peter4_17-19.mp3

06/14 1 Peter 4:17-19 The Reason for Suffering

4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Intro: Peter is writing to encourage the saints in suffering. The ultimate purpose of humanity is to bring glory to God, as Peter stated at the end of verse 11:

1 Peter 4:11… in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

And suffering is a stage on which we can most eloquently magnify our great God and Savior. In verse 16 he tells us ‘if anyone suffers as a Christian… let him glorify God in that name’.

Peter has warned us against a wrong response to suffering: don’t be surprised. We are not to be surprised because Jesus prepared us for suffering by his teaching, and because we know what suffering is for – just like precious metals need the impurities to be burned away in the furnace, so our faith must be tested in the furnace of affliction to prove its infinite worth. Martin Luther put it this way:

“When faith begins, God does not neglect it; he lays the holy cross upon our back in order to strengthen us and make our faith mighty.” Luther, p.192

We are warned against a wrong response: suffering is not unusual – expect it. Then he gives us the desired response: suffering is fellowship with Christ – delight in it! The weightiness of intimacy with a God who is glorious beyond our comprehension far outbalances any temporary pain that we must endure.

In verses 17-19, Peter gives us reason for our sufferings, and he brings us comfort by drawing inferences from our situation, and finally he concludes with a summary directive for how we are to live in light of this truth. He says:

17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

+The Reason for our Suffering

He starts with the word ‘For’: Peter is giving us reason for suffering. We might ask ‘what is going on in the world? Why are God’s people suffering and evildoers are going unpunished?’ Peter’s answer is that we suffer as Christians because it is time. Take courage and be faithful to endure, because even the timing of the trials is God’s own appointment and does not come from our enemies. We live in God’s appointed season for judgment. Judgment -(krima) is not necessarily condemnation (katakrima); this can be a judgment that results in good or bad evaluations. The results could be approval, or discipline, or condemnation.

Our God is described as a consuming fire:

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

And no one will be untouched by his consuming fire.

Isaiah 33:13 Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might. 14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”

When I read that, I assumed it was a rhetorical question, with the expected answer ‘no one!’. But then I read the next verse and found Isaiah’s inspired answer:

Isaiah 33:15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, 16 he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure. 17 Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar. 18 Your heart will muse on the terror: “Where is he who counted, where is he who weighed the tribute? Where is he who counted the towers?”

‘Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings? He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly’; in a word, only he who is clothed in the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ! Our eyes will behold the king in his beauty! What a thought! And our heart will muse on the terror – where is he? Where is he? But for the grace of God, that is where I would also be.

Believers are strengthened and purified by God’s refining fire. Sins are being eliminated, holiness is being developed and trust in God increases.

It is time for judgment to begin from the household of God

Peter has told us that we as the church are:

1 Peter 2: 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ

And although this is a privileged position, it is also a vulnerable position. We see in scripture a pattern for God’s judgment to begin within his own house There are three passages that Peter probably has in mind: Jeremiah 25, Ezekiel 9 and Malachi 3

In Jeremiah 25 – (God tells disobedient Judah that he is bringing Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon against them to judge them for 70 years. Then he will punish the king of Babylon for their iniquities.)

15 Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.” 17 So I took the cup from the LORD’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the LORD sent me drink it: (notice where he starts) 18 Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day;

(then he goes on to list the other nations; Egypt, the Philistines; Arabia, and finally down the list to Babylon; he says:)

26… And after them the king of Babylon shall drink. 27 “Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.’ 28 “And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: You must drink! 29 For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the LORD of hosts.’

30 “You, therefore, shall prophesy against them all these words, and say to them: “‘The LORD will roar from on high, and from his holy habitation utter his voice; he will roar mightily against his fold, and shout, like those who tread grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. 31 The clamor will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD has an indictment against the nations; he is entering into judgment with all flesh, and the wicked he will put to the sword, declares the LORD.’

God will judge the nations, and he begins with his own people. In Ezekiel 9, God is pouring out his wrath on the rebellious people of Israel and he commands

Ezekiel 9:5 And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house.

God being infinitely holy cannot condone sin; even his own family stands under his judgment. He proves himself impartially just in correcting the sins of his own. In Malachi

Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. 6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed….

God begins by purifying his house, then he moves to judge the evildoers. But there is a distinction; he goes on:

Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.

Remember, the suffering of the Christian is not God’s vindictive wrath, but his fatherly discipline.

1 Corinthians11:32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews makes this abundantly clear:

Hebrews 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

He goes on to contrast the discipline of God with our physical parents:

Hebrews 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

+Comfort and Caution from the Implications

17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

This is an argument for fearful joy. It is fearful to think about the end of those that reject the good news of Jesus. It is fearful to think of the pain we experience in the refining fire and think of those for whom it is not redemptive but vindictive. And yet there is a sense of comfort and joy knowing that we will only endure the beginning of what will make an end of God’s enemies

He describes the ungodly as ‘those who do not obey the gospel of God’. Notice he does not say ‘those who do not believe’, but ‘those who do not obey’. The gospel is not only a set of facts to be believed. It is a God to be obeyed. We obey the gospel of God by coming to him on his terms and submitting to his authority. The good news is that there is one God, and there is one way for us to find favor with him – through the great exchange at the cross of our sin for the righteousness of Jesus Christ:

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

The good news is God himself; that we will be brought into the consuming fire of his absolute holiness and our eyes will behold the king in his beauty! That our senses will be ravished by the one who is ultimately satisfying and we will bask in the radiance of his glory and gladly worship at his feet.

Peter draws from the wording of Proverbs when he says:

18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

The righteous – no one is righteous on their own – he is speaking of those who are counted righteous in Jesus Christ, because their sins are washed away by his blood and they are given his perfect record of righteousness. These righteous, Peter says, are ‘scarcely saved’. They are saved, but it is with extreme difficulty. This does not imply that there is a question as to the outcome – whether those who trust in Christ will be saved or not; all who trust Christ will be saved, but it will not be without persevering through great difficulty. The great reformer John Calvin described it this way:

“But when he says, that a righteous man is scarcely saved, he refers to the difficulties of the present life, for our course in the world is like a dangerous sailing between many rocks, and exposed to many storms and tempests; and thus no one arrives at the port, except he who has escaped from thousand deaths. It is in the meantime certain that we are guided by God’s hand, and that we are in no danger of shipwreck as long as we have him as our pilot.” ~John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Peter

Saving sinners is probably the most difficult and personally costly thing God has ever done. To overcome justice with mercy at the cost of his own beloved Son was infinitely more than we will ever be able to appreciate. Forgiving sinful man left a question mark on God’s righteousness that could only be removed by the blood of an infinite and holy sacrifice. If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?

Hebrews 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The author of Hebrews goes on to encourage his readers based on their joyful endurance of suffering

Hebrews 10:32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

+Concluding Directives

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

A main theme of the entire letter summarized here – Christians do not suffer accidentally or because of the irresistible forces of blind fate, but we suffer according to God’s will. The world is not out of control; God is working out his plan in our lives. Peter explicitly states this because suffering is not normally perceived as God’s will. Because this is true, because we know that suffering is purifying for us, it must affect the way we suffer. We are commanded to ‘entrust our souls‘ to God. To entrust is to hand over something of value to the care of another. Paul said to Timothy

2 Timothy 1:12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

Our future salvation is secure if we have placed it completely in the hand of him who is able to save, who made us and everything out of nothing, and has engaged his faithfulness in his promises to us! We have no ability in ourselves to preserve our souls. We place ourselves securely in his strong hands and relinquish control. Notice God’s name in this passage: ‘a faithful Creator’ God’s authority as universal judge rests on his role as creator of all people; the one who created the world is also sovereign over it. Not a ruthless sovereign, but a faithful Creator – God is faithful to his people and to his promises. He who created the universe out of nothing by his word surely knows how to care for those that he created. We can have confidence in his ability; and confidence in his faithfulness.

Our part is: ‘while doing good’ We trust God to care for our souls and we keep on doing what we know is right; living in such a way that ‘they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation’ 1 Peter 2:12; living to ‘proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light’ 1 Peter 2:9; serving ‘by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ’.

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

June 14, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 4:1-6; Victory Through Suffering

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090510_1peter4_1-6.mp3

05/10 1 Peter 4:1-6 Victory through Suffering

1 cristou oun payontov sarki kai umeiv thn authn ennoian oplisasye oti o paywn sarki pepautai amartiaiv 2 eiv to mhketi anyrwpwn epiyumiaiv alla yelhmati yeou ton epiloipon en sarki biwsai cronon 3 arketov gar o parelhluywv cronov to boulhma twn eynwn kateirgasyai peporeumenouv en aselgeiaiv epiyumiaiv oinoflugiaiv kwmoiv potoiv kai ayemitoiv eidwlolatriaiv 4 en w xenizontai mh suntrecontwn umwn eiv thn authn thv aswtiav anacusin blasfhmountev 5 oi apodwsousin logon tw etoimwv krinonti zwntav kai nekrouv 6 eiv touto gar kai nekroiv euhggelisyh ina kriywsin men kata anyrwpouv sarki zwsin de kata yeon pneumati

Peter is encouraging suffering believers that it is worth it to suffer for Jesus’ sake. Suffering is the pathway to victory in the Christian life. There is no need to fear, because Jesus also suffered and he was ultimately victorious. He will ensure that we who are suffering for him will be brought victoriously to God. The rescue of Noah and his family illustrates the triumph of Christ and the preservation of his people. We looked at the goal of Jesus in his death as our substitute to bring us to God:

3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, …

And we ended up last time with a view of Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father having conquered every spiritual power by his resurrection from the dead.

21 …through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Peter now goes on to draw practical instruction for us:

1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

We are at war. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are at war. You are in a war with sin. Happy Mother’s Day! Here’s how I’m going to tie this passage in with Mother’s Day. My mother recognized the battle that is raging for my soul and she engaged in the war. She wore out a pair of knees praying for me and my siblings. And during some critical years in my life when she saw the spiritual forces of temptation and sin that were seeking to destroy me, she did battle every morning. She would get up before school and fix my breakfast, and then, while I sat to eat, she would take up the Sword of the Spirit and read me a Proverb – whether I liked it or not. This passage deals with how to obtain victory in the war with sin. So, although this would probably not be my first choice of a passage for Mother’s Day, this is where we are in our study of 1 Peter, and I think that it has some important things that we need to know as we wage war for our souls and for the souls of our children.

Peter is drawing instruction from the example of Jesus, and he puts it in military terms.

1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

The military metaphor for the Christian life is common in Paul’s letters:

Romans 13:12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

2Corinthians 6:7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;

2Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…

1Thessalonians 5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

Here, the weapon we are to take up in our spiritual battle is a mindset, a resolve or intention. Peter has given us a similar idea in:

1Peter 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober–minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

This is something we decisively do. We are to arm ourselves with this way of thinking. That means that we need to study, to ask ‘what was the mindset of Jesus?’, and ‘how practically can I resolve to think the same way?’

Here, the mindset we are to have is the mindset of Jesus toward suffering.

Luke 9:44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”…51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem….53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

Jesus was resolved to go and suffer.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus knew that suffering was a necessity. He had his mind set on the things of God, in contrast to Peter, who was setting his mind on the things of man.

John 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour‘? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

Jesus kept his purpose in mind.

Luke 22:42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Jesus was willing to set aside his own preferences for the will of God.

Hebrews 12:2 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.

Jesus looked past the suffering to the ultimate goal.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

The suffering was once. It had a definite end, and there was a good purpose.

1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

We arm ourselves with the resolve to suffer the way Jesus suffered, recognizing the purpose of God in our suffering, knowing that it is the plan of God and it is necessary, knowing that our suffering will be short, that it is the pathway to glory and it will result in victory over sin.

Peter gives us great encouragement here. He tells us that ‘whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin’. Peter is not holding out the possibility of sinless perfection; there are too many clear passages of scripture that rule that out (1Ki.8:46; Pr.20:9; Ecc.7:20; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:8). What he is saying is that someone who has resolved to obey God even when it means physical suffering is engaged in a mindset where obedience is even more important than our desire to avoid pain. We must abhor sin so much that we would willingly suffer for righteousness – like Jesus did. When we come to this place – where there is no more enjoyment left in sin – then we are done with sin. We will no longer live for sin. We will stumble. But we have made a clean break with sin. We live for a higher purpose. Peter draws the contrast in verse 2:

…whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

We are no longer driven by human passions. Peter has already told us:

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

We are no longer motivated by what motivates the rest of humanity. Our fleshly cravings lead us in many different directions to find satisfaction. We now have a single unifying goal. We live for a higher purpose. We live for the will of God. Our driving purpose and passion is what God wants, not what we want. Our desires fall in line with his desires.

…whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

The Psalmist expresses the thought well:

Psalm 119:65 <TETH> You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word. 66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. 68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. 69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; 70 their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. 71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. 72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Peter goes on to give us reasons for our willingness to suffer for righteousness.

3 The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

Parties, alcohol and sex. A shameless lack of personal self-restraint; trying to satisfy the inward cravings in things that leave you empty. If I become a Christian, will I have to give up _______? I’d like to follow Jesus, but I’m not sure I’m ready to give up ______. Stop filling your mouth with gravel and come to the living water and drink, drink, drink. You’ve wasted enough time and energy and life in pursuit of worthless things. Don’t spend any more days building future regret. Social parties, drunkenness and sexual gratification – Peter concludes his list with ‘lawless idolatry’ – worshiping, pursuing, loving something that is not God, pouring out your affections on anything beside God. Stop wasting your life! Wherever you are today, the time that is past was more than enough. Don’t continue in it; don’t look back; don’t go back. It’s all idolatry.

4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;

Your old friends are shocked at the change in you. The community is offended that you no longer participate in the status quo. There has been a clean break from your old lifestyle. You no longer plunge with them into the torrent of pleasure seeking. This is the word that described the prodigal’s living in Luke 15:13. The word is ‘a-sotia’ [aswtiav] – the negative of saving. They plunge into everything that is devoid of any saving quality. When you refuse to join them, they defame you. The word here is literally ‘blaspheme’ – they slander your name, and insofar as you are following Christ, they are blaspheming God himself. No-one slanders God’s holy name and escapes punishment. Peter goes on:

5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

Just as Peter has pictured our salvation as ‘ready to be revealed’…

1 Peter 1:5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

…So the One who is to be the Judge of all mankind stands ready to call all people to give account for every careless word:

Matthew 12:36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,

The living and the dead is a way to say that no one is excluded. Those who slander and persecute the believers will give account to the Judge. Even the dead cannot escape the final judgment. Peter takes his phrase ‘the living and the dead’ and expands on it to give further encouragement to us to persevere.

5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

Your former friends do not understand the change that has taken place. It is a continual surprise why you no longer join them in their fun. ‘Come party with us!’ From their perspective you are missing out on a great deal of enjoyment and you have nothing to show for it. Christians die just like everybody else and they end up as worm food pushing up dandelions just like everyone else. ‘You say you have received new life. What’s the great advantage of following Jesus? You give up all the fun and have nothing to show for it in the end.’ This is why the good news was preached (past) to those who are dead (present). People who heard the gospel and believed it, are now dead, and according to human judgment – in the flesh – they are just dead; they wasted their life; but according to God – in the spirit – they have real life – eternal life. Those who received the gospel are not just dead – they are the ones who have real life. Even though the immediate result of receiving the good news is condemnation and disapproval in the eyes of the world, the ultimate result is eternal salvation.

-summary

Jesus has suffered for sins once in order to bring us to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. Resurrected, he is now seated at the right hand of God with angels, authorities and powers having been subjected to him. Since he suffered in the flesh and conquered sin once for all, our battle with sin is a battle against a defeated foe. We can fight against sin by taking the attitude of Jesus toward suffering – we can resolve to face the suffering that comes to us knowing that it is the will of our loving father and it is for our good. We know that it is temporary and will soon be replaced by inexpressible joy. And we know that our suffering is the pathway to joy and will result in victory over our sins. We no longer live chasing our own desires; we live the rest of our few short days pursuing the will of God. We’ve wasted more than enough time already chasing pleasure in things that don’t satisfy. We are slandered by our old companions who feel condemned when we refuse to join them in wasting life. The judge stands ready and everyone will answer to him for how they spent their life. Believers who have died already and seem to have gotten nothing for their faith have been brought successfully to God and are enjoying their reward. It is worth it to suffer for Jesus’ sake! Life is our reward. Peter has quoted Psalm 34:

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! 10 …those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.’ 11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. [1 Peter 2:3; 3:10-12]

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

May 10, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 3:13-17; Suffering the Pathway to Blessing

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090419_1peter_3_13-17.mp3

04/19 1 Peter 3:13-17 Suffering the Pathway to Blessing

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Last time we were in Peter we saw him quote Psalm 34 and encourage us in our pursuit of life and joy to pursue the favor of God by righteous living. The abundant life that Jesus promised is a life lived in relationship with God; within the parameters of God’s rules. We want the eyes of the Lord to be on us and his ears open to our prayers. We don’t want his face to be against us. But the standards are high. We are to control our tongues – something James tells us is humanly impossible. We are not merely to avoid evil, but to actively do what is good, to seek peace and vehemently pursue it. This kind of righteousness is clearly beyond our grasp, and Peter is well aware of this. He has highlighted the fact that we were chosen by God ‘to be a people for his own possession, that we might proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (2:9). It is only possible because we have become recipients of God’s mercy. It was ‘according to his great mercy he caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1:3). When we live this way, we demonstrate that it is God’s resurrection power at work in our lives and not our own strength, so that the glory and praise goes to God and not to us.

2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Peter in these next verses addresses the issue of when Christians suffer for doing what is right. He tells us that ultimately, no lasting harm can come to someone who is living in the favor of God. Any suffering we do experience in this life is merely a pathway to blessing. Practically speaking, there are things we are not to do and other things we are to do when these circumstances come. Negatively, we are not to fear or be troubled. Positively, we are to set apart the Lord Jesus in our hearts. We are to be prepared to give reason for the hope that is in us, living in the fear of God with such integrity that those who slander us will be ashamed.

Peter starts with a rhetorical question: who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? In 2:14 Peter has pointed to good government that is sent by God to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. If we do what is good, we should have nothing to fear. Here we are described as ‘zealous for what is good’. Titus 2:14 tells us that he redeemed us…

Titus 2:14 …to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

More than avoiding evil, more than grudgingly doing what we know we ought, we are to be passionate and fervent for what is good. There is to be an intensity that characterizes our pursuit of good. We should have a burning desire to do what is right. In our relationship to our government, in our relation with our employer, in our relationship with our spouse, in our relationship with one another, we are to be zealous for good. How do you zealously pay your taxes and enthusiastically obey the speed limit? How do you zealously submit to a stupid boss? This is where an understanding of the bigger picture is essential. You don’t submit to your boss for the sake of your boss or the company. You don’t obey the government for the sake of the government or the country. We submit to and obey every human institution so that the reputation of God in our community is seen to be excellent and praiseworthy. We can be fervent and passionate about putting the glory of God on display through our relationships with those around us. If that is our goal, no-one can frustrate it. Yes, there may be those that seek to destroy what we are doing, but if we are truly seeking God’s glory and not our own, by God’s grace we can maintain a positive attitude in spite of whatever men do to thwart us. In fact, opposition provides a platform on which to elevate God’s glory even more. It is not surprising to find someone working hard and doing a good job when their boss is treating them well and acknowledging their hard work. But if someone continues to work diligently and cheerfully in order to make their abusive egotistic ungrateful boss look good, that is nothing short of supernatural.

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.

Suffering for doing what is right is not the norm. Good government does not punish good citizens. But, if you believe in absolute truth and Jesus as the only way to God, you may be seen as subversive and a threat to society. In fact, if you are really zealous for what is good, you might feel hostility from those who are apathetic toward justice. Your fervent passion for righteousness is intimidating to those who are excelling at mediocrity. The world does not hate benevolence in itself, but when good is done in the name of Christ, it arouses vehement anger. The bible is clear that in the world we will have difficulty.

But as Jesus said: Matt. 5:6,8,11-12

Matthew 5: 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. … 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. … 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Peter has used two different words for blessing; in 1:3 the focus was on God as the source of blessing, the word here concentrates on the happy result. This is not merely a good feeling, but a deep sense of joy when one looks on life from the perspective of God. Indeed, the present suffering is not a sign of punishment, but of God’s favor both now and in the future.

First, Peter gives us what we are not to do in response to suffering for doing good; ‘have no fear of them, nor be troubled’. Literally, this phrase is ‘do not fear the fear of them’. Jesus taught us:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Peter has been very clear that we are to fear God alone. We may be inclined to fear those that threaten us, but we are to consciously calculate the impact of their threats and their ability to carry it out and compare it to God. Then we can exclaim ‘I will not fear; what can man do to me?’ (Heb.13:6). ‘Neither be troubled’ – we are not to be upset, agitated, disturbed or shaken. This refers specifically to emotional turmoil. He has already instructed wives in 3:6 to ‘do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.’

Verse 15 gives the positive; what we are to do instead. This is the main thought of the verse: ‘in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy’. Peter is quoting from Isaiah 8:12-13

Isaiah 8:11 “For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.

He has already referenced this passage in 2:8 in reference to Christ as the stone of stumbling. Here again, he makes explicit his belief in Jesus as the YHWH of the Old Testament. ‘The LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy’; Peter adapts to read ‘in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy’. Jesus is the YHWH of the Old Testament. Jesus is to be sanctified, set apart, regarded as holy. This is the same word we find in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name” or “may your name be treated as holy or reverenced”. Jesus is the Holy One of Israel. Jesus is the sovereign Lord, the one who reigns supreme over all creation. That is the objective fact. Jesus is Lord. The question we are to ask is ‘have we acknowledged him as such?’ Have we bowed the knee to his sovereign demands? Is Jesus our fear and our dread, or are those who threaten us? Who causes us to tremble? In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Jesus is King. Do we own him as our only absolute authority? Have we bowed our hearts to him? Specifically in suffering, do we surrender to him as ultimately in control of our painful circumstances? Do we really believe that it is Jesus, and not our enemies, who is truly in control of our circumstances? And do we believe that he is holy, doing only what is right and good in bringing these trials to us? In the midst of suffering unjustly, can we bow to his sovereign hand and say:

Job 1:21 … The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Now Peter describes for us what will naturally flow from the authority of Christ in our lives. As we joyfully surrender to a higher authority, the hope in us will be so apparent that it will elicit questions from unbelievers.

15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;

Hope is the defining characteristic of the Christian life. Hope is what we were born again into; (1:3) According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope’. Hope is the first command that is given in this letter; (1:13) ‘Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ’. Our hope is fixed firmly in grace and firmly on God (1:21) ‘who through him are believers in God … so that your faith and hope are in God.’ Hope is what the unbelieving world notices. Hope is what we are called to give reason for. The hope of the believer must be so noticeably different from that of the uncertainty and fear of the world around that unbelievers are driven to find out why. What is the reason for the hope that is in you? This question assumes that there are reasonable solid intellectual grounds for the hope of the gospel. The truth of the gospel is objective public truth that can be reasonably defended in the public arena. Christianity is rooted in indisputable objective historical facts centered around the person of Jesus. And we all are to be prepared to give defense of that hope – at any time to any one. Martin Luther put it this way:

“We must here acknowledge that Peter addresses these words to all Christians – clergy and laity, male and female, young and old – of whatever state or condition they may be. Hence it follows that every Christian should know the ground and reason of his faith, and he should be able to maintain and defend it where it is necessary.” (p.158)

And he goes on to discuss this key part of the reformation, to get the scriptures into the hands of every believer. This is not to say that every believer must become an expert in philosophy and apologetics. But every one of us should know what we believe and be able to explain why we believe it – at any time and to any person.

Peter goes on to describe how we are to defend what we believe. This has been widely misunderstood. ‘yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience’; literally, ‘with humility or meekness and fear’. These are primarily Godward attributes. We are to fear God and God alone, so the ‘respect’ is first respect or reverence or fear toward God. Meekness or humility also describes our relation to God. A proper view of the gospel throws out all pride. As Peter has said ‘Once you were not a people; …once you had not received mercy; …but now you are God’s people; … now you have received mercy’ (2:10). There is nothing in us that is better than any unbeliever. The difference – the only difference – is that we are sinners who have been shown mercy. Out of reverence for God and his ultimate authority, out of humility that we were sinners deserving of judgment and are no better than those we speak to – it is out of this humble Godward attitude that we give reason for the hope that is in us. This is the same attitude that Paul promotes his Gentile readers to have toward Jewish unbelievers in Romans 11:

Romans 11:18 do not be arrogant… If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you… 20 They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast though faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe… 30 Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.

Do not become proud but stand in awe. God has shown mercy to you. He may also show mercy to them. Having a good conscience – this is your personal integrity before God. We live under the watchful eye of God in everything we do, so we must confess our sins to him and maintain a clear conscience. Fear of God, humility before God, and nothing to hide must define our tone and attitude when we speak to others on behalf of God.

The purpose of our defense is now given:

16 …so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

This is a different purpose than the one stated in 2:12

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

There the purpose is that the unbelievers would turn and give glory to God. And it is different from the purpose of the wife in submitting to her unbelieving husband in 3:1

…so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives…

There again the purpose is the conversion of the unbeliever. The silent testimony of the wife’s conduct may win the unbelieving husband to Christ. But here the purpose is different. The conversion of the unbeliever is not the only possible outcome. There are some that will persist in unbelief right up to the day of judgment. They will be put to shame by God himself and forced to admit the goodness of your behavior as a testimony against them. Notice, they are reviling ‘your good behavior in Christ’. Any behavior that is truly good is done ‘in Christ’ – by his power and through his Spirit. There is no good behavior that is truly good outside of Christ. That is why the ‘good deeds’ of unbelievers are considered ‘filthy rags’ in God’s sight:

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Peter concludes ‘For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.’ There is a blessing attached to suffering for your good behavior in Christ. The promised presence of God both now and forever is yours if you are in Christ. However, there is suffering for doing evil. Peter has already addressed the possibility of Christians suffering because they have violated laws in his instructions to slaves in 2:18-20

20 For what credit is it if, when your sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

But he is saying more than that here. It is better to suffer now at the hands of persecutors for doing good and enjoy eternal fellowship with God than it is to suffer at God’s hand on the day of judgment for doing evil. It is better to suffer for doing good because that is a powerful witness to unbelievers, bringing them to faith in Jesus, or to shame in the presence of God on that day.

‘It is better… if that should be God’s will…’ Literally ‘if the will of God should will it’. God’s will is supreme, even in suffering. Any suffering that comes to a believer was filtered through the loving hand of God, and it is ultimately for my good.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.

We can take great comfort in this, that our suffering is designed by the affectionate hand of our creator to do us good. There is no random occurrence in the universe. There is purpose. There is order. God is ruling in this world. Even Satan must obey his command and can go no further than God allows. God has given you new birth to a living hope, he is keeping your inheritance in heaven for you, and by his power he is guarding you for it. Necessary trials prove the tested genuineness of your faith so that it will result in praise and glory and honor and joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. (1:3,5,6-8)

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

April 19, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment