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

The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Corinthians 8:9

12/04 The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Cor.8:9 ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161204_poverty-grace-christ.mp3

Last week we looked at a great Christmas/Thanksgiving verse at the end of 2 Corinthians 9.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

This week I want to turn back a chapter to 2 Corinthians 8, where we find another wonderful Christmas text.

2 Corinthians 8:9 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.

Remember, the context of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is Paul reminding and encouraging the Corinthians to give generously to the collection for the poor saints that he is taking to Jerusalem. He mentioned this in his first letter to this church (1 Cor.16:1-4) and he also mentions it in Romans 15:25-28, writing from Corinth in AD 57. Here in 2 Corinthians he takes two chapters to exhort the Corinthians toward generosity to their Jewish brothers and sisters who are in need. Paul begins this section in chapter 8 by encouraging them with the example of the churches in Macedonia.

God’s Grace Given

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 of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

Paul uses the word ‘grace’ to describe this gift. He uses the word ‘grace’ 18 times in 2 Corinthians. 10 of those times are concentrated in these two chapters on giving. Paul sees generosity and giving as an act of grace, rooted in the grace of God toward us and blossoming into a full display of grace that extends out from us who have experienced God’s grace in acts of grace toward others. Grace, remember, by definition is an undeserved kindness, a gift, unmerited, unearned, freely given. He describes what happened in Macedonia as ‘the grace of God that has been given among the churches.’ The generosity of the believers in the region of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea Paul recognizes as the grace of God. The fact that they gave, and the way that they gave, was evidence that demonstrated that they were recipients of God’s grace. Later in this chapter Paul refers to their giving to this special project as ‘this act of grace.’ But here, he is talking about God’s grace extended undeservedly to the Macedonian churches that resulted in their wealth of generosity. Remember, we love because he first loved us. We give because to us God has abundantly given. The Macedonians gave because they were first recipients of God’s abundant grace.

Grace Under Pressure

First Paul describes their circumstances. He says they were ‘in a severe test of affliction.’ They were undergoing persecution. They were in the middle of a trial. On Paul’s first visit to Macedonia (Acts 16-17), he and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi and then asked to leave. In Thessalonica, the jealous Jews incited a mob and set the city in an uproar. Not finding Paul, they dragged Jason and some other local believers before the city authorities, accusing them of treason against Caesar, and proclaiming another king, Jesus. Paul and Silas were sent off by night to Berea, but the Jews from Thessalonica followed them there and agitated and stirred up the crowds, so Paul was sent off to Athens in Achaia. Although what kind of persecution they were now suffering is not specified, it is described as ‘a severe test of affliction.’ Verse 2 goes on to describe their situation as ‘their extreme poverty.’ We are told in Acts that ‘when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go’ (Acts 17:9). Whatever their specific circumstances, they were ‘in a severe test of affliction’ and they were in the depths of poverty.

Unquenchable Joy

But their circumstances did not define their attitudes or their actions. Do you let your circumstances determine how you respond? How you act? Your attitude? Are your emotions controlled by how others treat you? The Macedonians, in the middle of severe affliction, had a superabundance of joy. This is not natural; this is supernatural joy, joy that is not dampened by any outside influence. This is the joy Jesus promised to bring to his followers.

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Begging for the Grace of Giving

The Macedonians had unquenchable joy in Jesus. And under severe pressure their joy combined with their extreme poverty like vinegar and baking soda to overflow in a wealth of generosity. Do you want that kind of joy? Would you like that kind of single purposed sincerity and bountiful liberality to come out when you are under pressure? When you are pressed and stretched? Verse 3 tells us that

2 Corinthians 8:3 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 of taking part in the relief of the saints—

They gave more than they could afford. They gave voluntarily. Willingly. Their abundance of joy had to find an outlet; it had to express itself. They begged for the privilege of giving. Literally, ‘after much urgent request they begged us the grace and the fellowship of the service to the saints’. They considered the privilege of giving beyond their means an undeserved favor from God. It was grace, and it was fellowship. Partnering with God in his care for his own, and partnering with the suffering saints in Jerusalem, sharing in their sorrows and spreading joy. Paul says:

2 Corinthians 8:5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

This generosity from suffering saints was beyond what they had hoped. They didn’t only give of their finances. They gave of themselves. They didn’t just write a check. They were personally invested. Their gave themselves first to the Lord. They recognized that they had been bought with a price. They understood that they belonged to Jesus. And so they delightfully offfered their very selves to God and to the service of the saints. What an example from the Macedonian churches!

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. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul now encourages the church in Corinth also to abound in this grace. He is careful to make it clear that this gift is voluntary. There is no obligation. This is not a command. It is an invitation; an opportunity. As the Macedonians begged to be involved, you also abound in this act of grace. And then he holds up Jesus as the reason.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 8:9 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.

You know. This is not something new. You already know about the grace of our Lord Jesus. Paul reminds us of the good news we already know. He turns our attention back once more to Jesus. He is encouraging an act of free grace toward those who desperately need the help but didn’t earn it or do anything to deserve it. He reminds us that we can only give like that because we have already been on the receiving end of that kind of gift. Jesus freely extended his favor to those who did nothing to earn it, but desperately need it. Before you can ever hope to extend grace to others, you must first experience the grace that comes from Jesus.

Riches to Poverty for You

This is what that grace looks like. ‘that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.’ What does it mean that Jesus was rich? Jesus prayed to his Father in John 17

John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus had glory in the presence of his Father before the world existed. He was eager to return to that glory. Jesus said in John 6:

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus came down from heaven. He left his glory to come down and do the will of his Father. He goes on to say:

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Jesus claims to be the only one who is from God, the only one who has seen the Father. In John 8 he sets himself apart as the only one who is from above, who is not from this world.

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

This is Christmas. Jesus left his glory and came down to this earth. John began his gospel this way:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

The Word was glorious in the presence of his Father. He is distinct from his Father, in relationship with his Father, and equal to his Father. He possesses all the characteristics of his Father. He is the Creator of all that is. He was rich.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

He became poor. He became flesh. He became what he was not. He became one of us. As the only Son from the Father he pitched his tent among us. He became poor. This is grace!

Why? Although he was rich, yet he became poor. Why? It was for your sake. For your benefit. For you!

Philippians 2 spells this out.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, being rich, existing eternally in the form of God, equal with his Father, became poor. He emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men, in human form. Being rich, he became poor. He humbled himself even to death, even death on a cross. Because Christmas is really all about Good Friday. Jesus became poor for your sake. He became human for your sake, so as a human he could take your place on the cross.

Bringing You Riches by His Poverty

But it doesn’t stop there!

2 Corinthians 8:9 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.

By his poverty you become rich. This is undeserved grace! How do we become rich by his poverty? The riches may not be what we would think. Jesus, addressing the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3 says:

Revelation 3:15 [to Laodicea] “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Their opinion of themselves was that they were rich and in need of nothing, but God’s perspective says that they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. But to the church in Smyrna he says:

Revelation 2:9 [to Smyrna] “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) …

Like the churches in Macedonia, you may be in desperate poverty and undergoing persecution, but you are abundantly rich in joy. True riches come from Jesus.

Ephesians 1 says:

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,

If we are in Christ, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Every spiritual blessing! Paul prays:

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Our eyes must be opened to know the riches of his glorious inheritance! The benefits purchased for us by Christ are immeasurably great. Ephesians 2 says:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Grace immeasurable! Grace rich and free. Resurrecting life transforming grace! Peter says:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

New birth. Born into an inheritance. All the riches of Christ belong to us.

2 Corinthians 8:9 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.

Christmas is about grace. The grace of the Lord Jesus. Christmas is about Jesus, who was rich in glory in the presence of his Father, who emptied himself by taking human form; who became poor, humbled even to the point of being executed as a criminal. He did this for me! Christmas is about the greatest gift. God the Son was born in Bethlehem so that he could be crucified outside Jerusalem so that I could experience unshakeable joy in the riches of his grace.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

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

December 5, 2016 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 1; The Whole Burnt Offering

04/17 Leviticus 1; The Whole Burnt Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160417_leviticus-1.mp3

Context of Leviticus

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

To understand Leviticus, we need to understand the context. In the Hebrew text, Leviticus begins with a conjunction, ‘and’, linking it with Exodus. God’s people were slaves in Egypt. God rescued his people from Egypt with an awesome display of his character and power. He set them free and blessed them and brought them out. In spite of their grumbling, he brought them to the foot of Mount Sinai, where he entered into a covenant agreement with them, he would be God to them, and they would be his people. But in the middle of his instructions to them, they committed spiritual adultery and went after other gods. They forfeited any claim to a relationship with him. But Moses prayed for them and God graciously forgave them. He took them to be his own people, and they built him a tent as he instructed so that he would live with them in the middle of their camp.

The Tabernacle

In John 1 we are told

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The word ‘dwelt’ could literally be translated ‘tabernacled’ or ‘pitched his tent among us’. Jesus is the greater tabernacle, God’s presence with us. The Tabernacle was the place of divine revelation and divine worship. It was the place where God spoke to man, and where man approached God in acceptable worship. In Exodus, God had spoken to the people of Israel from the top of Mount Sinai out of thunder and lightning and thick cloud and smoke and trumpet blast, and the people were terrified (Ex.19:16-19; 20:18-21). Here in Leviticus, God’s glory cloud has filled the Tabernacle and his glory cloud was on the Tabernacle by day and fire by night, and God spoke to Moses from the tent of meeting.

The tabernacle was a tent structure. At its heart was the most holy place, a room inside of the tent that housed the ark of the covenant, a gold plated box containing the covenant documents, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God, God’s commandments. This box had an elaborate gold cover called the atonement cover or mercy seat. A heavy curtain separated this inner room from the rest of the tent, the holy place, where the altar for burning incense, the table with the bread of the presence, and the branched lamp stand with 7 oil lamps stood. Surrounding this tent structure was a courtyard surrounded by 7.5 foot high tent walls with an entrance on the east side. In the courtyard between the entrance to the courtyard and the entrance to the tent stood the bronze altar of burnt offering and a bronze basin for washing. The altar was about 7.5 feet square and about 4.5 feet high, with a bronze grate and the associated pots and shovels and forks and firepans.

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

Outline of Offerings

Chapters 1-7 of Leviticus describe 5 different kinds of offerings. Chapters 1-5 focus on the offerings from the perspective of the worshiper who brings an offering to the Lord’s tent. Chapters 6 and 7 focus primarily on the responsibilities of the priests in these offerings.

The first three offerings, the burnt offering, the grain offering, and the peace offering, are all said to be ‘a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD” (1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9; 3:5, 16). These three offerings are voluntary. Leviticus 1-3 do not give occasions for when a burnt, grain or peace offering must be given. It merely says ‘when anyone brings…’, where in chapters 4-6, dealing with the sin and guilt offerings it says ‘if anyone sins …he shall offer…’. Those offerings have specific occasions and are obligatory, and they are not said to be ‘a pleasing aroma’; they are a way to deal with specific offenses.

The bronze altar in the tabernacle courtyard was called ‘the altar of burnt offering’ because this was the primary type of offering. The peace offering was to be offered on top of the burnt offering (Lev.3:5), so a burnt offering was a prerequisite to a peace offering. A burnt offering and a peace offering were to be offered to the Lord by the priests every morning (Lev.6). Burnt offerings were offered in combination with sin offerings, peace offerings, and grain offerings for the ordination of the priests (Lev.9). Burnt offerings combined with sin or guilt offerings were offered for certain types of purification, and a burnt offering was to be offered on some of the feast days along with other offerings.

The Burnt Offering in Genesis

The burnt offering or whole burnt offering was not something new to the people of the Exodus. All the way back in Genesis 6 God destroyed all mankind with a flood because “the earth …was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Gen.6:12), but he showed grace to Noah and preserved him and his family through the flood. When they disembarked,

Genesis 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.

Noah offered a burnt offering to the Lord. The offering didn’t change mankind; before the flood ‘all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth’ and after the flood ‘the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth’. But the pleasing aroma of the burnt offering changed God’s attitude toward man’s sin, and he promised never again to destroy the earth with a flood.

Back in Genesis 22, God said to Abraham:

Genesis 22:2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

God did not intend for Abraham to sacrifice his son. This was a test of Abraham’s obedience, of his love for the Lord.

Genesis 22:9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

God provided himself a lamb for the burnt offering. But Abraham demonstrated that he loved the Lord more than anything. He was willing to give to the Lord that which was most precious to him.

So when God gave instructions for the burnt offering, this was something that would have been familiar to the Israelites.

Costly Offerings

This chapter breaks down into three sections, based on what kind of animal is being offered as a burnt offering. Verses 3-9 give instruction for offering an animal from the herd, verses 10-13 are for animals from the flock, and verses 14-17 are for birds. With this breakdown, God was making provision for everyone to approach him. If you were of average means, you could bring a lamb. Even the very poor could afford a bird. But if you were wealthy, you could offer a bull. It was not the offering that mattered, it was the heart of the worshiper. And the offering was to be costly. In the ancient world, you couldn’t go through the drive thru and order a ¼ pounder completely detached from where it came from. You couldn’t swing by the local supermarket and pick up a pound of hamburger neatly wrapped in plastic. Meat was a luxury item, and it was costly. Even for a farmer, to offer his best bull or best sheep was truly a sacrifice. As David said “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” (2Sam. 24:24). For any but the very very poor to offer a bird would communicate that their relationship with the Lord was not important to them.

Leviticus 1:3 “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish.

10 “If his gift for a burnt offering is from the flock, from the sheep or goats, he shall bring a male without blemish,

Offerings from either the herd or the flock were to be males without blemish. This was to be the best, the most valuable animal. For Abraham to offer his only son was the most costly gift he could give.

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Peter contrasts the inestimable worth of the blood of Christ with the temporary triviality of silver and gold. Romans echoes Abraham in pointing to the value the Father places on his own Son.

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?

God the Father gave Jesus up for us all. This is the greatest of all offerings, and it is the offering God made for us!

The Purpose of the Offering

The purpose of this offering is clearly stated in these verses:

Leviticus 1:3 …He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. 4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

The goal is to be accepted before the LORD, to experience God’s favor. This happens through making atonement. The sacrifice removes the effects of sin or uncleanness. This is clearly an instance of substitution. The goal is to be accepted, and he lays his hands on the head of the animal, and the animal is accepted for him. In Leviticus 16:21, the laying hands on is accompanied by confession of sin and the sins are put on the head of the animal. The act of laying hands on the live animal’s head is a symbolic act of identification. This is not something you can have someone do for you. You must personally lay your hands on the head of your animal, so that before God it is identified with you, and it gets what you deserve. And this is an act of faith, believing what God said that ‘it shall be accepted for him’.

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

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

We come to be in Christ Jesus through faith, depending on his word and sacrifice for us. To lay hands on the animal literally means to press into, to lean on, or to put weight on. We must lean into Christ, to place our full weight on him, trusting that he is able to bear up under the weight of our sin.

Our Sin Nature

Notice that the burnt offering makes atonement, but it does not make atonement for specific sins. It is a preliminary offering, and it is more general. Specific instances of sin are dealt with by the sin offering and the guilt offering. Each offering pictures a specific aspect of Christ’s sacrifice. None of them is complete without the others. To gain a full understanding of the cross, we must look at all of the offerings. Often we feel guilty for a specific sin we have committed. I did something I know does not please the Lord, or I failed to do something I know the Lord asked me to do, and my conscience is troubled. The burnt offering shows me that this bad fruit grows up out of a corrupt root. Jesus said:

Matthew 15:18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

My sinful actions are symptoms of a deeper problem. They are evidence of a corrupt heart.

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

Jeremiah tells me:

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

It is a precious truth that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1Pet.2:24); specific sins, individual sins. And this we will see in the guilt and sin offerings. But it is an equal treasure that “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2Cor.5:21). Jesus did not just take our individual sins. He became sin for us. He attacks the root of our sinfulness and gives us a new heart. When we lean into Jesus, we confess that we are sinful by nature, that our sin runs deeper than mere outward actions, that it comes from the core of our very being. And yet there is hope! It shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

Participant or Spectator?

Notice the part of the worshiper in the sacrifice. There are specific roles assigned to the worshiper and to the priests. We are a spectator society. We pay good money to sit on uncomfortable seats and watch other people do things we wish we could do. The sacrificial system was not like that. The worshiper is actively involved. This is very hands-on. Notice the things the worshiper does in the sacrifice. The initiation of the sacrifice comes from the worshiper. No one came knocking on his tent door reminding him that he was due to make a sacrifice. It says “when any one of you brings an offering to the Lord”. Certainly the Holy Spirit stirs the conscience and convicts of sin, but the worshiper must choose the proper animal and bring it to the sanctuary. The worshiper lays his hand on the head of the live animal.

Leviticus 1:5 Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 6 Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, 7 and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8 And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; 9 but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

The instructions for animals from the flock are the same. Offerings of birds are simplified only because the bird is smaller. After pressing his had on the head of the animal, the worshiper slits the throat of the animal. The priests catch the blood in a container and splash it against the altar. The blood is given by God to make atonement, and the altar is holy, so the priests serve as a buffer between the worshiper and the holy things. The worshiper skins the offering, and cuts it into pieces. If you have ever done anything like this, you know it is a bloody, messy, labor intensive task. I don’t think it is possible to butcher, skin and quarter an animal without being virtually immersed in its blood. Here is real identification with the sacrifice. Here is a sober realization that the wages of sin is death. I selected this animal to be my substitute, I led it to the sanctuary, I placed my hand on its head, confessing my sin, I slit its throat, I peeled back its skin, exposing its flesh, and cut it up into pieces. I am now covered in its blood. Covered in its blood. It is this gory imagery that inspired some of the great hymns, like this one written by William Cowper in the late 1700’s:

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains…

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away…

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die… (William Cowper, 1731-1800)

A Godward Offering

The unique thing about the whole burnt offering is that the whole animal went up in smoke. No part was held back. No part went to the priest, no part went to the worshiper. All was consumed in fire on the altar. All of it was for the Lord, a pleasing aroma. This first and foundational of all offerings is an entirely Godward offering. The attention is entirely on making a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Jesus’ sacrifice was first of all a sacrifice to God.

John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

John 8:29 “… I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

John 18:11 “…shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Jesus’ sacrifice was a sacrifice of obedience, an expression of love to his Father.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

As Jesus gave himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God, so we too are to walk in love.

2 Corinthians 5:9 …we make it our aim to please him.

This is our example, full obedience, sacrificial love, holding nothing back. The picture is a whole burnt offering ascending in smoke to God.

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

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

April 18, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, 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

1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Natural Inability and Spirit Transformation

05/05 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 Natural Inability and Spirit Transformation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130505_1cor2_14-16.mp

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

14 Ψυχικὸς δὲ ἄνθρωπος οὐ δέχεται τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ θεοῦ, μωρία γὰρ αὐτῷ ἐστίν, καὶ οὐ δύναται γνῶναι, ὅτι πνευματικῶς ἀνακρίνεται· 15 ὁ δὲ πνευματικὸς ἀνακρίνει τὰ πάντα, αὐτὸς δὲ ὑπ’ οὐδενὸς ἀνακρίνεται. 16 τίς γὰρ ἔγνω νοῦν κυρίου, ὃς συμβιβάσει αὐτόν; ἡμεῖς δὲ νοῦν Χριστοῦ ἔχομεν.

1Cor 2 [ESV2011]

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

We will focus our attention on verses 14-16. An overview of Paul’s flow of logic will help us see where we are in this passage

1:10-13 The Corinthians are dividing and quarreling, boasting in seemingly wise and popular human leaders; this is not in line with the gospel

1:13-17 The gospel is the message of the cross, of Christ crucified

1:18 This message divides all mankind absolutely into only two categories; us who are being saved and those who are perishing.

1:19-25 God has destroyed the wisdom of the wise; The wise, powerful, noble of this age have rejected the gospel as foolishness

1:26-31 God chose to save those who are foolish, weak, low, despised, the nothings so that no one would boast in his presence

2:1-5 The messenger fit the message, coming in weakness, fear, and much trembling with the simple message of Christ crucified to allow for a demonstration of the power of the Spirit

2:6-9 The cross is God’s hidden wisdom, and the rulers of this age didn’t understand it

2:10 God has revealed the hidden wisdom of the cross to us through the Spirit.

2:11-13 Only God’s Spirit can comprehend and communicate God’s hidden thoughts

2:14-16 The person without the Spirit is both unwilling and unable to receive the gospel; the person who has received God’s Spirit is enabled to understand the gospel and be transformed by it.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Natural / Spiritual

The natural person is here contrasted with the spiritual person. The natural person (literally the soulish person; ψυχικός) is the person without the Spirit of God. The spiritual person is the person who has the Spirit of God. Throughout this passage Paul has dismantled the categories of the Corinthians, who wanted to be exalted, to be thought wise, sophisticated, popular. Paul appealed to them “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… that there be no divisions among you” (1:10). He made it clear that the cross of our Lord Jesus divides all people into two categories; those who are perishing and us who are being saved. On the one side are the wise, the scribe, the debater of this age, the powerful, the noble, the rulers of this age who are being brought to nothing, whom he here categorizes as ‘natural’ or ‘soulish’. On the other side, there are those who believe, those who are called, the foolish, the weak, the low and despised in the world, the nothings, those to whom the message of Christ crucified is God’s power, those who are mature or perfect or complete in Christ, those who love him, those to whom God has revealed the wisdom of the gospel through his Spirit, those who have received the Spirit, whom he categorizes as ‘spiritual’ (πνευματικῶς).

We often use this term spiritual to refer to those who have achieved a higher level of spirituality, or those who are self-righteous and holier-than-thou. This idea of a spiritual elite who have advanced beyond the ordinary Christian flies in the face of everything Paul has said so far. Paul does not use the term this way. There are only two categories, those who have received God’s Spirit, and those who have not. So the ‘spiritual’ in this passage refers to all believers; those who have received God’s Spirit, as opposed to the ‘natural person’ those who do not have God’s Spirit.

The Natural Person Not Willing to Accept (2:14a)

Paul tells us that the natural person, the person without the Spirit of God, does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. The things of the Spirit of God, in the context are the things freely given us by God (2:12); the things God has revealed to us through the Spirit (2:10); what God has prepared for those who love him (2:9); the secret and hidden wisdom of God (2:7); the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified (2:2). This is the only message Paul preached. Christ crucified was scandalous, offensive and foolish to Jews and Greeks, but to the called, to those who believe, this same message of the cross became the power and wisdom of God. This is the message that the natural person does not accept. They will not accept it. And Paul gives us the reason the natural man does not accept the message of the cross; ‘for’, or because, they are foolishness to him. This is what he has been saying all along. “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1:18). To the person without God’s Spirit, the cross makes no sense, and who believes something that makes no sense? Only a fool believes something that is silly or absurd, so the natural person not only refuses to believe, but concludes that those who do believe are fools. Paul will address this conclusion in a moment.

The Natural Person Not Able to Understand (2:14b)

But first he goes on. He adds ‘and he is not able to understand’. The person without the Spirit of God is not able to understand the gospel. This flows logically out of what he said back in verse 12; “We have received …the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God”. Without God’s Spirit we are unable to understand the cross. Many people react against this, because it doesn’t sound fair to us. If a person is not able to believe the gospel and so they are perishing, (which is what this text says) then how can God hold them accountable for something that is outside their ability? That seems unreasonable. It will help if we can see that there are different kinds of inability. There is what we could call neutral inability, and what we could call guilty inability. An illustration might help us understand. I am not able to fly. I cannot fly because I was not designed to be able to fly. I don’t have wings. If God demanded that I fly, which is contrary to the way he designed me, then this would be unreasonable. It is not my fault that I don’t have wings. Now let me describe a different kind of inability, guilty inability. A drunk driver was unable to keep his car under control. He swerved into an oncoming vehicle and killed everyone in that car. He was incapable of keeping his car under control, (that is why he should not have been behind the wheel); his inability was entirely his own fault, and we would all agree that he should be held accountable for his inability. That is guilty inability. This is the kind of inability that the bible declares that all of us have. We ‘by our unrighteousness suppress the truth… we did not honor God as God or give thanks to him, but became futile in our thinking and and our foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, we became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images… we exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator… we did not see fit to acknowledge God’ (Rom.1:18-28). We, ‘who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds’ (Col.1:21). We ‘were dead (totally incapable of responding to the gospel) in our trespasses and sins, in which we once walked’ (Eph.2:1-2). We, who were created to worship God, became drunk with our own self-centeredness. We were given wings, we were designed to know God and enjoy fellowship with God, but we bent those wings to an evil purpose, and we are guilty for our resulting inability to fly. The natural person is not able to understand the good news, because it is spiritually appraised. Only when we receive the Spirit of God can we perceive the cross as God’s power and God’s wisdom for our salvation.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

The Spiritual One Judges All (2:15)

The spiritual person, one who has received the Spirit of God, judges all things, but he is himself to be judged by no one. The same word that is translated ‘judge’ twice in verse 15 is translated ‘discern’ at the end of verse 14. This word shows up in Luke and Acts in the context of a trial to examine the evidence. It means to scrutinize, investigate, interrogate, to examine with a view to either approve or condemn. The things of the Spirit are spiritually judged; the person with the Spirit judges all, but is himself judged by none. The person without the Spirit is not equipped to rightly evaluate the gospel. The person with the Spirit is able to rightly evaluate all. Paul, someone who has the Spirit, condemns the rulers of this age for their guilty ignorance and unbelief. But when someone who does not have the Spirit concludes that a believer in Jesus is a fool, his evaluation is not valid, because he is not qualified to pass judgment on spiritual issues.

This verse has often been ripped out of context and abused to mean something it was never intended to mean. Spiritually arrogant people who think they have attained to greater spirituality than the rest of us quote this verse to show that the spiritual insight they have attained is revealed to them by the Spirit and we don’t understand it because we are not spiritual enough. If you agree with them, they consider you ‘spiritual’; if you disagree, you are not. If you try to evaluate or critique their insight, they might appeal to verse 15 and claim that they are exempt from being judged by anyone. From what we have seen so far, it is clear that this is a gross distortion of what this passage was intended to mean.

In many places we are encouraged to humble ourselves, to submit to one another, in love to gently rebuke one another and hold one another accountable, to test every truth claim and reject anything that does not align with scripture, to contend earnestly for the gospel, to be teachable, to receive correction and learn from it. Often we will even find ourselves rebuked and challenged and convicted by unbelievers.

Isaiah 40:13 (2:16a)

Paul supports his assertions that the person without the Spirit will not receive and can not understand the gospel with a quotation from Isaiah 40:13.

1 Corinthians 2:16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

Only the Spirit searches the depths of God; only the Spirit of God comprehends the thoughts of God. Isaiah 40 is a passage that declares the incomparable unfathomable greatness of our God.

Isaiah 40:13 Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel? 14 Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?

The assumed answer to all the rhetorical questions in Isaiah 40 is ‘no one’. No one is like God. No one compares to him. His understanding in unsearchable. That makes Paul’s concluding statement in 1 Corinthians all the more shocking. He answers Isaiah’s rhetorical question this way:

1 Corinthians 2:16 Who has understood the mind of the Lord…? …But we have the mind of Christ.

The Mind of Christ (2:16b)

Who has understood the mind of the Lord? The Spirit searches the depths of God. We have received the Spirit that we might understand the things freely given us by God. We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God. We preach Christ crucified. We have the mind of Christ. All believers who are indwelt with the Spirit of God have the mind of Christ. This is not a privilege for the elite few. This is the common possession of all believers. What is the mind of Christ? Philippians 2 spells it out.

Philippians 2:2 …being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

We who are indwelt with the Spirit of God have the mind of Christ. What is the mind of Christ? It is not divisive privileged elite secret wisdom. It is not merely an understanding of the cross. It is being shaped by the cross. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. God from all eternity emptied himself, humiliated himself, became man, was executed as a common criminal, putting our interests above his own, demonstrated the epitome of love, totally devoid of selfish ambition or conceit.

If we have the Spirit of God, if we have understood the mind of the Lord, if we have the mind of Christ, then we will be characterized by a deep sense of humility. We will live in humble prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God. Selfish ambition, pride, conceit must die. Self-centeredness must die. We will be others centered, characterized by a humble willingness to lay our own ambitions down for the good of others. We will be characterized by love; a rugged relentless self-sacrificial pursuit of the good of others. We will live for others, and we will lay down our lives for others. Our lives, our hearts, our attitudes, our actions will begin to be shaped by the cross. We have the mind of Christ!

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

May 5, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 2:8-20; Peace Among Men of Good Pleasure

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121223_peace-among-men.mp3

12/23 Advent: Luke 2:14 Peace among Men

We are looking at the statement the angelic armies made praising God in response to the good news proclamation of the birth of the eternal Son of God. The glory of God had not been seen for hundreds of years, since the glory had departed from the temple, and suddenly, into the darkness of the Judean countryside, the glory of the Lord blazed around a group of unsuspecting shepherds.

Luke 2:8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

The announcement of the angel was a gospel announcement. The angel heralded good news of great joy. The word used here is where we get our word evangelize [ευαγγελιζω] – which is to proclaim the good news. ‘stop fearing; see, I evangelize you’ or ‘I preach the gospel to you’. This gospel good news extended even to a group of nameless shepherds out in the wild. The good news is good news about a person. This is a birth announcement; the city of king David has become the birthplace of another greater King. The angel attributes three titles to this baby; Savior, Christ and Lord.

God our Savior

God is seen as Savior throughout the Old Testament.

2 Samuel 22:1 And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. 2 He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 3 my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.

This title implies that we are in trouble and helpless and need to be rescued or saved from something or someone. The Psalmist, reflecting on Israel, says:

Psalm 106:21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt,

God says in Isaiah 43

Isaiah 43:3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. …

Isaiah 43:11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.

In Isaiah 45, he says:

Isaiah 45:21 …Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior;

In chapter 49 and chapter 60 he says:

Isaiah 49:26 …Then all flesh shall know that I am the LORD your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Isaiah 60:16 …and you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

God said to the prophet Hosea:

Hosea 13:4 But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior.

So when the angel proclaimed the good news of a savior born, this would point to YHWH God come down in strength to rescue.

Christ

The angel announced that he is Christ. Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. Christ, or Messiah, is a title that means the anointed one. In the Old Testament, anointing with oil was part of the coronation ceremony to set someone apart for a particular position of authority. Kings were anointed. Priests were anointed. Prophets were anointed. The hope of Israel was the promise of this coming anointed one, the great Prophet who would speak in truth the words of the Lord, our great High Priest who would reconcile God to man, the coming King who will rule justly and shepherd his people. The angel pointed to Jesus as this coming anointed one, the hope of Israel, the great and final Prophet, Priest and King.

The LORD

The angel proclaimed that this baby born in Bethlehem is Lord. Back in verse 9, we are told that this angel is an angel of the Lord. The angel is a messenger sent by the Lord. The Lord is the sovereign one, who rules over angels. Also in verse 9, we are told that the glory of the Lord shone shone around them. The glory of the Lord is the brilliant radiance of the manifestation of God’s presence. The baby in the feed trough is the sovereign one who sent this angel with this message, whose glory was illuminating the Judean hillside. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this word Lord is the word used to translate the tetragrammaton YHWH, God’s personal name. In Luke 3, John is said to fulfill the prophesy of the one who prepares the way for YHWH, the Lord to come.

Luke 3:4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (cf. Mt.3:3; Is.40:3)

The baby born in Bethlehem is the divine Savior, the Anointed Prophet, Priest and King, YHWH in the flesh.

Great Joy

The gospel message is a message of joy. The content of the evangelism of the angel to the shepherds is ‘great joy’. This is a message that our pursuit of happiness can end here. God is bringing true soul satisfaction to the human race. This is a message of fulfillment, of deep delight. There is reason for celebration. Longing and hoping and waiting have blossomed into joy. Great joy!

Luke 2:10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Ar this proclamation of joy, the heavens ripped open and the heavenly hosts unleashed their worship.

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

We focused last time on the first part of their praise: glory to God in the highest. God’s glory is primary. To glorify God is why we exist, why everything exists. God’s glory comes first. True joy comes when we get this right and begin to live our lives to the glory of God. The second part of the angels praise corresponds to the first. Glory in the first corresponds to peace in the second. In the highest corresponds to on earth. God corresponds to men of good pleasure. In the highest glory to God; on earth peace among men of good pleasure.

Peace

This is a staggering scene. The multiplied hosts of heaven. These are military terms. The armies of heaven appear in battle array. We are told what they say, but not how they said it. It could have been in song, it could have been shouted, it could have been chanted in military cadence. The infantries of heaven appear to declare peace on men. What is this peace they declare? We can quickly identify what it is not. Jesus said:

Mark 13:7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. (cf. Mt.24:6; Lk.21:9)

So the peace that Jesus brings is not a military peace or the absence of wars, at least not at his first coming. Nor is it peace in relationships among people. Jesus said:

Luke 12:51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (cf. Mt.10:34)

Jesus promised his followers:

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.”

So the peace that Jesus brings is peace in the midst of tribulation. Not national peace (not yet) and not interpersonal peace (not yet), but peace in him. The peace Jesus brings is other-worldly peace.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

The apostles testified of peace through Jesus Christ. Peter said to the Gentile household of Cornelius:

Acts 10:36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),

And then he went on to describe the life, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus, and he concludes

Acts 10:42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The peace we have through Jesus Christ is peace with God, the forgiveness of our sins. This peace comes as a gift to everyone who believes in him. In the book of Romans, after explaining the concept of sinners being counted by God as righteous not because of their own works but because they trust in Jesus, it says

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The peace that Jesus brings is peace in our relationship to God. We were weak, helpless, ungodly sinners, enemies of God and fully deserving of his just wrath. But because Christ died for us, we can have peace with God. This reconciled relationship with God produces great joy.

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. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Men of Good Pleasure [ευδοκια]

To whom does this peace come? If we are right in defining the peace as peace with God, a reconciled relationship, then not everyone experiences this peace. The testimony of Jesus and the Apostles is unified that this peace comes to everyone who believes in Jesus, and only to those who believe in Jesus. This is not universal peace, because not everyone will believe. This phrase of angelic praise qualifies the peace. The second phrase of the angels has been translated in different ways in our English translations.

KJV and NKJV: …and on earth peace, good will toward men.

MSG: …Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

NCV: …and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God.”

NLT: …and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

ESV: …and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

NASB: …And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

HCSB: …and peace on earth to people He favors!

NIV: …and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

GW: …and on earth peace to those who have his good will!”

WYC: …and in earth peace be to men of good will

The Greek literally reads ‘and on earth peace in men of good will or of good pleasure’. What does it mean to be a person ‘of good pleasure’? Does this mean that God is pleased with the performance of some people, so he gives them his peace? This option is excluded on the grounds of the teaching of the rest of the New Testament:

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

2 Timothy 1:8 …God 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

There was only one man who ever totally pleased God with his life:

Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (cf. Mt.12:18; 17;5; Mk.1:11; Lk.3:22; 2Pet.1:17)

The clear teaching of the New Testament is that peace with God comes to those who don’t deserve it, who didn’t earn it, to those who simply believe the promises of God. The well pleasing life of Jesus is credited to the account of those who embrace Jesus as their King.

Looking at other places this word translated ‘good will’ or ‘good pleasure’ shows up might help get a clearer picture of what is meant here. Luke uses this same word in chapter 10

Luke 10:21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (cf. Mt.11:25)

Jesus rejoices in the gracious will and good pleasure of his Father in hiding things from the self-righteous and revealing them to the humble. The same word shows up twice in Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Ephesians 1:9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

This word points to the mystery of the good pleasure of God’s will. It is God’s gracious purpose. On earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. This is good news of great joy to undeserving sinners! This is good news to these humble shepherds. To you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord! This message came to some shepherds. It did not come to Herod the Great, not to Caesar Augustus, not to the scribes and pharisees, not to the religious leaders, not to the Jewish High Priest, but to some shepherds who were out watching over their flocks at night. God’s grace, his undeserved favor is extended to sinners.

…“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (Lk.10:21)

This message of peace with God is the gospel of great joy that will extend to all the people.

Response

Notice the response of these simple shepherds to this gospel presentation.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

These shepherds heard the good news. They talked to one another. They resolved to go see. They went with urgency. They were given a sign. They checked it out. They tested the message. They found things exactly as the angel had predicted. The message of good news was confirmed. So they made the message known. They told everybody! Good news of great joy for all the people! To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. All who heard wondered, marveled. Some treasured. Some pondered. The shepherds returned glorifying God.

Good news has been proclaimed to you. Jesus came for you. The shepherds provide us with a great example of how to respond to the gospel. Be like the simple shepherds. Hear the gospel. Believe the gospel. Make the gospel known. Give glory and praise to God for the gospel. This is the sure path to genuine joy.

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

December 23, 2012 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment