PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

God All Knowing and Wise

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

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

The Good News of Omniscience

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

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

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

The author of Hebrews says:

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

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

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

God who Cannot Learn

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

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

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

God never makes a bad decision based on incomplete information.

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

God and ‘Chance’

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Aloof or Involved?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge of what Might Have Been

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

In Matthew 11, Jesus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foolish Wisdom of the Cross

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

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

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

Wisdom to the Praise of His Glory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 12:14-26; Belonging to the Body

1 Corinthians 12:14-26 ~ 20140928 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

09/28 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 Belonging to the Body; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140928_1cor12_14-26.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

14 Καὶ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα οὐκ ἔστιν ἓν μέλος ἀλλὰ πολλά. 15 ἐὰν εἴπῃ ὁ πούς· Ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ χείρ, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος; 16 καὶ ἐὰν εἴπῃ τὸ οὖς· Ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ ὀφθαλμός, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος· 17 εἰ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα ὀφθαλμός, ποῦ ἡ ἀκοή; εἰ ὅλον ἀκοή, ποῦ ἡ ὄσφρησις; 18 νυνὶ δὲ ὁ θεὸς ἔθετο τὰ μέλη, ἓν ἕκαστον αὐτῶν, ἐν τῷ σώματι καθὼς ἠθέλησεν. 19 εἰ δὲ ἦν τὰ πάντα ἓν μέλος, ποῦ τὸ σῶμα; 20 νῦν δὲ πολλὰ μὲν μέλη, ἓν δὲ σῶμα. 21 οὐ δύναται δὲ ὁ ὀφθαλμὸς εἰπεῖν τῇ χειρί· Χρείαν σου οὐκ ἔχω, ἢ πάλιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῖς ποσίν· Χρείαν ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔχω· 22 ἀλλὰ πολλῷ μᾶλλον τὰ δοκοῦντα μέλη τοῦ σώματος ἀσθενέστερα ὑπάρχειν ἀναγκαῖά ἐστιν, 23 καὶ ἃ δοκοῦμεν ἀτιμότερα εἶναι τοῦ σώματος, τούτοις τιμὴν περισσοτέραν περιτίθεμεν, καὶ τὰ ἀσχήμονα ἡμῶν εὐσχημοσύνην περισσοτέραν ἔχει, 24 τὰ δὲ εὐσχήμονα ἡμῶν οὐ χρείαν ἔχει. ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς συνεκέρασεν τὸ σῶμα, τῷ ὑστεροῦντι περισσοτέραν δοὺς τιμήν, 25 ἵνα μὴ ᾖ σχίσμα ἐν τῷ σώματι, ἀλλὰ τὸ αὐτὸ ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων μεριμνῶσι τὰ μέλη. 26 καὶ εἴτε πάσχει ἓν μέλος, συμπάσχει πάντα τὰ μέλη· εἴτε δοξάζεται μέλος, συγχαίρει πάντα τὰ μέλη.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Paul is answering questions the Corinthians had asked about what defines spirituality, and how spirituality relates to specific spiritual gifts. They were seeking power and status and position. They wanted to be thought well of by others.

Paul reminds them in verses 1-3 of the basic Christian truth that every genuine follower of the Lord Jesus has the Spirit of God and is thus spiritual.

In verses 4-11 he emphasizes the diverse distributions of distinct gifts all coming from the one triune God. Gifts are given to every part of the body, so no one is ungifted or unspiritual. Every believer has been sovereignly, supernaturally equipped to play a divinely ordained role in the function of the body. And gifts are given not for the building up of any individual, but for the common good.

In verses 12-13, he introduces the analogy of the body and grounds it in the theological truth that every believer has been baptized in one Spirit into one body. Every follower of Jesus, every dependent of Jesus has been baptized in the one Spirit into the one church, the body of Christ. Diverse backgrounds have drunk of the one Spirit.

In verses 14-26 he fleshes out the metaphor of the body, making three main points that every believer is a necessary part, that no believer is independent of other parts, and that extra respect should be shown to the less presentable parts.

Principle

First, he states the principle:

12:14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

Ears, eyes, nose, mouth, brain, nerves, bones, tendons, muscles, tissue, hands, feet, liver, lungs, kidneys, heart, stomach, intestines; the body consists of many parts. No part is unnecessary. No part is able to function independent of the others. Each part, each organ, each limb is inextricably interconnected and interdependent with all the other parts.

I Do Not Belong

He addresses the issue of a body part that feels it does not belong.

15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

The metaphor is humorous. Each part is given a voice. I’m not sure how the foot or the ear can talk without sending the message through the nervous system into the brain and out the mouth, but Paul is picturing the foot complaining. “I am down here at the bottom, in the dirt. It really stinks down here. I have to bear the whole weight of the rest of the body. I’m clumsy and run into things, and it really hurts. I step in things and it stinks. The hand is so much more coordinated. It is way up there in a much more pleasant environment doing really interesting stuff. It can grip and twist and squeeze and scratch and snap and wave and shake and feel. It gets to have interaction and communication. When there is an itch, it can scratch it. The hand is in. I’m out. I don’t belong.

Or the ear to the eye. I don’t have lids to protect me, I can’t move on my own, or focus on things near or far. The eye can even express emotion, display joy, create tears, communicate annoyance or intensity. To see color and texture and movement and depth must be amazing. The eyes are in. I’m out. I don’t belong.

Does the feeling of not belonging make it any less a part of the body? If it says that it is not a part, does that disconnect it from the body? The foot cannot choose to disconnect itself from the body. Ironically, it would be dependent on the very hand it is jealous of to pick up a saw or an ax and sever it from the body, something the brain under normal circumstances would never allow the hand to do.

The idea of a self-aware and self-conscious comparing and complaining part of the body is humorous and absurd, and that is the very point Paul uses this illustration to make. The body is one and functions as one. When there is running to be done, the feet and legs and hips all move together to perform the action. When there is something to be picked up, the hands and arms and back and legs all cooperate to accomplish the action. The parts are not self-conscious of their individuality and distinction from the other parts, envious of the other parts. The body is one and moves as one under the direction of the one head, empowered by the one spirit. When we begin to think about our own importance or unimportance in comparison to the rest of the body, the possibility of doing anything truly Christian is gone (Morris, p.172).

It is interesting that the foot does not compare itself with the eye, and the ear does not compare itself with the hand. Chrysostom notes that ‘we are prone to envy those who surpass us a little rather than those who are patently in a different class’ (Morris, p.171).

Monstrosity of a One Member Body

Paul develops this illustration further based on the different functions of the different parts.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?

Picture the monstrosity of a body that was all eye. Even Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc. has arms, legs, and a mouth in addition to his one big eye. It would be difficult to animate a whole body that was only eye. The idea of a whole body that is nothing but ear is absurd. The different functions are highlighted. Maybe seeing is more important than hearing or smelling, but all those senses together make up our experience of the world around us, and any lack would be a deformity and a deficiency. If the ear got its wish and morphed into an eye, the body would lack a very important sense.

Sovereign Wisdom in the Design of the Body

18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

Again, God is honored as the divine mastermind behind the creation of the body. In verse 6 we were told that God empowers the various gifts, in verses 7-10 that the gifts are given by God through the Spirit, in verse 11 the Spirit apportions to each one individually as he wills, in verse 13, we were all made to drink of one Spirit. God arranges the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose. There is divine sovereign wisdom and purpose in the arrangement of the members of the body. For one body part to envy another or for one part to consider itself as out of place or not belonging is to say that God made a mistake in his arrangement of the individual parts.

If all were a single part, where would the body be? A drawer full of tongues or ears or eyes would be very disturbing. That is not a body.

We can apply this principle to local churches. It is just as freakish and bizarre for any local church or denomination to choose its favorite gift and make up a body of all tongues or all brains or all hearts. That is not a body.

I Have No Need of You

Paul now moves his focus from the part that feels unimportant and that it does not belong, to the part who feels overly important.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

Now we have the eye looking down on the hand. Again we have the absurdity of individual self-aware self-conscious body parts competing with one another. Just as inconceivable as a body part excluding itself from the body because doesn’t feels like it belongs, so it is unthinkable for a body part to arrogantly proclaim that it is self-sufficient and independent of the other parts. The function of the eye is amazing. It can perceive and identify something a mile away. It can discern shapes and colors and distance. The eye can see. But have you ever gotten a grain of dirt or a piece of sawdust in your eye? The hand becomes a very valuable asset to the eye. Imagine getting up one morning and stumbling in to the bathroom to put in your contact lenses. The hand says to the eye, ‘so you don’t need me? Good luck with that!’ Try getting the tiny lenses out of the little plastic case with the screw on lids and into your eyes without the use of your hands. No individual member can have such an over-inflated opinion of itself that it disregards or discards other members of the body. The head is undeniably important. It is more important to the life of the body than the feet. The body can live longer without feet than it can without a head. But that does not give it permission to say to the feet ‘I have no need of you’. No part of the body can say to any other part of the body ‘I have no need of you’.

Honor the Unpresentable Parts

22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require.

Some parts of the body we consider weaker or less honorable or unpresentable. The word translated ‘seem to be’ and ‘we think’ was used back in 1:18.

1 Corinthians 1:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

In 4:9-13 the word is used to describe the seeming foolishness, weakness, and disrepute of the apostles. It is also used in 8:2.

1 Corinthians 8:2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

The word ‘weaker’ or weakness has been a theme in this letter. In 1:25 he says:

1 Corinthians 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. … 27 …God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

In chapter 8 he uses this word to describe the consciences of those who were being stumbled.

1 Corinthians 8:11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

And in chapter 9

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

In 4:10, he uses the words ‘dishonorable’ and ‘weak’ to describe what the Apostles seemed to be in comparison to the status seeking Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.

There are some body parts that we keep hidden. And rightly so. Some body parts are not intended for the public eye. They are weak, dishonorable, unpresentable. But these parts are indispensable. Literally, the text says we ‘surround these with superabundant honor’. They are treated with superabundant modesty. It seems Paul’s language is pointing to the parts of the reproductive system. These parts are best kept hidden, but they are indispensable for the propagation of future generations. In athletics, these parts are surrounded with extra protection and padding.

Paul is making the connection with the weak, dishonorable, unpresentable people in the body of Christ. Some people are socially awkward. Some people lack tact and social graces. Some people have a tendency to put their feet in their mouths or speak before they think. Some people are destitute and in desperate circumstances. Some people suffer from mental illness. Some people are weak or sick. In the world, these are the people that would be subject to ridicule, they would be held up and made a spectacle of, they would be the brunt of jokes and gossip. But not so in the church of God. God chose the foolish, God chose the weak, God chose the low, the despised, the nothings, so that no one might boast in his presence (1:27-29). At the cross, God turned social norms upside down. He conquered power with weakness, he took away guilt by being shamed, he decimated the wisdom of the world with the foolishness of the cross. The world gives great honor to the most presentable people. But in the church of Christ, we are to surround with superabundant honor and modesty and protection our unpresentable parts. We are to give the greatest care to the least of these, care and protection that the presentable parts do not require. Jesus said:

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. This turns appearance on its head. Some of the presentable parts are dispensable. The hands are presentable. But you can live without your hands. You can’t live without your lungs or your heart. Some of the unseen, ugly things are vital, and the visible attractive things although important and necessary, can be done without. The things that you see in the church, the people that are up front and presentable, are not the most essential part of the church. We have hidden parts of the body, the heart and soul and guts who keep us alive, prayer warriors who pray fervently for me and for the leadership of the church and for each individual member, people who wage spiritual warfare in their closets. And I don’t even know who you all are, but I thank God for you, and we could not go on in effective ministry as a church without you. We have those with the gift of generosity, and I don’t know who you all are, but you pay the bills and pick up the slack and continue to make ministry possible. There are those with the gift of helps, who come alongside others, who assist and encourage and share the burden behind the scenes. There are those who love numbers and use calculators and spreadsheets to balance checkbooks and pay the bills on time. There are those who fix toilets and vacuum carpets and straighten chairs hang drywall and dig ditches and take out the trash. There are those who visit sick people and make a meal and pray on the phone with a friend in need and just spend time with someone who is hurting. One day I will be dead and gone and I pray this church will find another shepherd who is obedient to Jesus, faithful to God’s word and loves God’s people, and you will go on in effective ministry. Some of the up front presentable parts are replaceable, but the things that go on in the guts of the ministry are indispensable.

Purpose of Unity; Mutual Care, Suffering, and Rejoicing

24 …But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

God gives and empowers the gifts, the Spirit apportions to each one individually as he chose, God composed the body in exactly the way he intended. God sovereignly, wisely composed the body so that the parts that were inferior, that come behind, lack, or are inferior receive superabundant honor. God’s purpose for mixing the members of the body together in this way is unity. That there be no division in the body. Paul started the letter by saying:

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

The opposite of division is unity expressed mutual care. The word here is actually being worried or concerned about basic needs. Each member is to have the same care for one another. Philippians says:

Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by 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.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

The opposite of division is unity expressed in mutual suffering. If one member suffers, all suffer together. If on the way to the bathroom to put in your contact lenses in the morning, you smash your toe into the bed frame, you don’t stop and think to yourself, ‘that must have really hurt. I bet my little toe is hurting right now. I think I will come alongside that toe and try to bring comfort and encouragement. How can some of the other members of my body come alongside that toe and help to bear the burden it is suffering?’ No, you probably crumple to the floor writhing in pain clutching that toe. Your whole body has become one pulsating painful throbbing toe. Your whole body experiences the pain together with your toe. This is not something you should do, it is who you are. It is simply the natural result of being one interconnected body. When one part of the body suffers, all suffer together. If one part of the body is injured and the rest of the body feels no pain, something is very wrong with the body.

The opposite of division is unity expressed in mutual joy. If one member is honored, all rejoice together. If you run a race and win, your hand doesn’t go sit in the corner and pout, feeling jealous that the feet are getting so much honor and praise. The hand receives the high five and rejoices together with the success of the whole body.

Unity is expressed in mutual care, mutual suffering, mutual rejoicing. The opposite of division is not equality. The opposite of division is unity in the midst of inequality and diversity.

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

September 28, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Spirit Revealed Wisdom

04/28 I Corinthians 2:10-13 Spirit Revealed Wisdom; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130428_1cor2_10-13.mp3

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

6 Σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις, σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου οὐδὲ τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου τῶν καταργουμένων· 7 ἀλλὰ λαλοῦμεν θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ, τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην, ἣν προώρισεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων εἰς δόξαν ἡμῶν· 8 ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἔγνωκεν, εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν, οὐκ ἂν τὸν κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν· 9 ἀλλὰ καθὼς γέγραπται· Ἃ ὀφθαλμὸς οὐκ εἶδεν καὶ οὖς οὐκ ἤκουσεν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἀνέβη, ὅσα ἡτοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν.

10 ἡμῖν γὰρ ἀπεκάλυψεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ γὰρ πνεῦμα πάντα ἐραυνᾷ, καὶ τὰ βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ. 11 τίς γὰρ οἶδεν ἀνθρώπων τὰ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὸ ἐν αὐτῷ; οὕτως καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐδεὶς ἔγνωκεν εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ. 12 ἡμεῖς δὲ οὐ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ κόσμου ἐλάβομεν ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα εἰδῶμεν τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ χαρισθέντα ἡμῖν· 13 ἃ καὶ λαλοῦμεν οὐκ ἐν διδακτοῖς ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας λόγοις, ἀλλ’ ἐν διδακτοῖς πνεύματος, πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες.

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.

Paul is addressing problems in the church in Corinth. Primary among their problems was their divisiveness over who followed whom. This divisiveness was rooted in a prideful desire to be thought wise, so Paul addresses head on the issue of wisdom. This word ‘wisdom’ appears 51 times in the New Testament, 16 of those are in these first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. That is over 31% of the usage of this word ‘wisdom’ concentrated into this section. Out of the 20 times the adjective ‘wise’ is used, half of them are right here in these first three chapters. The Corinthian believers are enamored by what is popular, what is fashionable, what is considered wisdom in the world. Who, after all, wants to be thought a fool? Who wants to be set aside, rejected, considered irrelevant? We all naturally seek the approval of others. But Paul puts this wisdom in an eternal context. What the world considers wise and sophisticated when viewed from the eternal perspective is only so much rubbish on the trash heap of yesterday’s news. From God’s perspective man’s wisdom is doomed to pass away. Worse yet, the rulers of this age who are pushing their wisdom are doomed to pass away (2:6). God has set himself against man’s wisdom. He says ‘I will destroy; I will thwart (1:19); I will make it foolish (1:20); I will shame the wise (1:27); I will bring it to nothing (1:28) so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1:29).

God’s Hidden Wisdom

God says that man’s wisdom has failed to know the one thing that is most important. Man’s wisdom is bankrupt in achieving the one thing that really matters; the one thing that will matter for all eternity. The world did not know God through wisdom (1:21). Man’s wisdom can never lead to a right relationship with our Creator. So the foolishness of God is wiser than men. God’s wisdom has not been discovered by the investigation of man; eye has not seen. God’s wisdom has not been discovered by paying careful attention to what can be known in the world; ear has not heard. God’s wisdom cannot be uncovered by the power of human reason; it has not entered into the heart of man. God’s wisdom is beyond all human capacity to find out. Not because it is too tricky or complex or confusing; but because it is too foolish, too simple, to basic for it to possibly be the thing that leads us into a right relationship with our Creator. What is this secret wisdom that God decreed before the ages, that God prepared for those who love him? What is this divine wisdom that shames the wise and brings to nothing the things that exist so that no one may boast in the presence of God? It is the folly of what we preach. It is the message of the cross, of Christ crucified, the gospel. The thing that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, the thing that God decreed before the ages for our glory and has prepared for those who love him is the cross where his own Son was sacrificed as a substitute. The wisdom of God is the scandalous message of a crucified King.

Hidden Wisdom Revealed

This was hidden in the Old Testament. God had revealed enough so that Adam or Abraham or Aaron could understand that they were sinful and separated from God, and that God was the only one who could save, and trust that God would somehow provide a substitute that could make satisfaction for sins. But now the cross is a historical event. The apostolic preaching of Christ crucified for sinners is recorded for us clearly in the New Testament. And yet many still do not believe. The cross of Christ is still hidden wisdom. There may be some here this morning to whom the bible is still a closed book. It is just another piece of religious literature that teaches moral principles of being nice to others and obeying the golden rule. It is a religious rule book of things God expects his people to do. They miss the good news of the gospel. Others understand clearly the facts of the gospel and could even communicate them clearly to others. But to them Christ crucified is not attractive, not compelling, it holds no power. How can this be? It is because ‘to us God has revealed them through the Spirit’. How is it that the foolish message of a crucified Messiah suddenly becomes the power and wisdom of God that saves believers? How is it that the gospel becomes to us the best news we have ever heard or will ever hear? How is it that the cross becomes not just a historical event that we believe took place long ago, but a power that begins to transform us from the inside out? No credit can go to us for our superior wisdom or insight, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. To us, us who are being saved as opposed to those who are perishing, to us whom God chose in order to shame the wise, to us who are mature or perfect, who have been given God’s wisdom, in contrast to the rulers of this age who in their ignorance crucified the Lord of glory. To us God has revealed; God took the initiative. I would never have experienced the power of the gospel unless God had unleashed it on me. This is something hidden that only God could make known. How does this happen? How does God reveal the gospel to us? Verse 10 tells us that God reveals the good news of the gospel to us through the Spirit.

The Spirit

So far in this letter, Paul has said much about God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the 31 verses of chapter 1, Paul has mentioned ‘God’ 20 times and ‘Christ’ or ‘Christ Jesus’ 17 times. In 2:4 Paul turns our attention to the work of the Spirit, and in 2:10-14, he mentions God’s Spirit 6 times in 5 verses. The way Paul preached the gospel in Corinth was in demonstration of the Spirit. God revealed the wisdom of the cross through the Spirit.

Called by the Spirit

This answers a question that has been developing from the beginning of the book. Back in 1:2, Paul said that we were called to be saints. In 1:9 he said that God called us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In 1:24, the foolish message becomes to those who are called Christ the power and wisdom of God. In 1:26 we are instructed to consider our calling. How were we called? In what way do we receive the divine summons to be saints? How does the Father call us into the fellowship of his Son? Here we see the answer. God calls us into fellowship, into a relationship with himself through the revelatory work of the Spirit. The difference between those who are perishing and us who are being saved is that we were those who were perishing until God revealed to us the gospel through his Spirit. In 1:21, we are told that ‘it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.’ How did I come to believe a message I considered foolish? The message of Christ crucified, that which we once perceived as foolish, offensive, even scandalous, now we see as God’s power to save us. This is the work of God the Spirit. So we begin to see that God the Father, Son, and Spirit were at work to bring about our salvation. God the Son was crucified as a substitute for my sin, carrying out the wise plan that his Father decreed before the ages. God the Holy Spirit opens my blind eyes and renews my dead heart so that Christ crucified becomes the source of life, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption (1:30). D.A. Carson, in his excellent little book on 1 Corinthians, writes “if we should express unqualified gratitude to God for the gift of his Son, we should express no less gratitude to God for the gift of the Spirit who enables us to grasp the gospel of his Son” (p.52).

The Depths of God

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.

Paul gives us a human analogy to help us understand. I wonder what some of you are thinking right now. As far as I can tell, you are fully engaged with the text of scripture that we are studying, eager to grow in your relationship with Jesus. But only you know what you are really thinking about. Your body might be here, but your spirit might be planning out lunch, more interested in the game this afternoon, hoping that by God’s grace we might finish early today. Only your spirit can know your own thoughts, unless you choose to reveal them. In a similar way, God’s Spirit is the only one who can fully comprehend God’s thoughts. This analogy only goes so far, though, because our human spirit is a subset of our being, a part of us that makes up the whole. God’s Spirit is not a subset or part of who he is; God’s Spirit is a person in his own right, as this passage shows, a thinking, feeling, willing person distinct from the Father. He comprehends, searches, and reveals. He interacts with the Father and the Son, and with us. He is not to be confused with the Father or the Son, yet he is fully divine, God the Holy Spirit. As God, he fully shares the Father’s thoughts, even the depths of God. The depths of God, in this passage, refers to the hidden, secret, mystery wisdom of God, the wisdom that God decreed before the ages, what has not entered into the heart of man, what none of the rulers of this age understood, what God had prepared for us, this God has revealed to us through his Spirit. The depths of God, that he would crush his only Son, who would bear our sins in his body on the tree, who would become sin for us, whom the Father put forward as a propitiation by his blood. The depths of the hidden wisdom of God, God has revealed to us through his Spirit.

We have Received the Spirit

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.

We have received. We, us who are being saved, us to whom God has revealed his hidden plan to rescue us through the crucifixion of his Son, we who are called by God’s Spirit into fellowship with his Son, we have received the gift of the promised Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as a believer in Jesus, a follower of Jesus who has not received the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 makes this abundantly clear.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. …14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

If we belong to Christ, we have received the Spirit of God. Ephesians tells us:

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

We have received, as a gift, not the spirit of this world, not the spirit of the rulers of this age who are doomed to pass away, but the Spirit who is from God.

Understand the Things Freely Given

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.

‘That we might’ is a purpose statement. The purpose of the Spirit being given is ‘in order that we understand’. The implication is clear. Had we not received the Spirit of God, we would never comprehend the things freely given us by God. What are the things freely given us by God? Jesus. God gave us his only Son. And in him we have forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, justification, all the good gifts of grace freely given to us. Without the gift of the Spirit, we would never understand the death of Jesus as our Lamb offered by the Father to take away our sin.

Spiritual with Spiritual

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.

Paul is coming back around to defend his manner of preaching. If God is destroying and thwarting and bringing to nothing the wisdom of this world, then it would be utterly foolish to try to imitate the wisdom of this age or employ the methods of this age or to emulate the popular and powerful of this age who are being brought to nothing. They are all ignorant of the one thing that really matters, the one thing of eternal significance, the only way to have a right relationship with the Lord of glory. So let go of the world’s methods, the world’s approval. Embrace the rich depth of the wisdom of God in the offensive message of a Messiah crucified for our sins. Speak it simply, speak it plainly, allow room for a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Refuse to employ manipulation of any kind. Refuse to tamper with or adjust the message in any way.

How do I know that I am using words taught by the Spirit? Is this some mystical experience where God’s Spirit takes control of my mouth and supernaturally communicates through me? It could be that, but I think there is a simpler way to understand it. The Spirit that we have received is the same Spirit that breathed out the Scriptures and carried along the biblical authors. The sure way to use words taught by the Spirit is to use his words written in the Scriptures. We see Paul giving us an example of that in this passage. He quotes the prophets, he refers to the writings, his mind is so saturated with scripture, that he thinks and speaks in biblical categories. And if all of Spirit inspired Scripture points to Jesus Christ and him crucified, then our speaking should be saturated with Jesus and centered on the cross, and it should be spoken with a deep humility and gratitude knowing that I was a lost, ignorant sinner, and God’s Spirit awakened my dead heart to experience the transforming power of the gospel.

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

April 28, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Hidden Wisdom

04/21 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 Hidden Wisdom; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130421_1cor2_6-10.mp3

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

6 Σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις, σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου οὐδὲ τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου τῶν καταργουμένων· 7 ἀλλὰ λαλοῦμεν θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ, τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην, ἣν προώρισεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων εἰς δόξαν ἡμῶν· 8 ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἔγνωκεν, εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν, οὐκ ἂν τὸν κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν· 9 ἀλλὰ καθὼς γέγραπται· Ἃ ὀφθαλμὸς οὐκ εἶδεν καὶ οὖς οὐκ ἤκουσεν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἀνέβη, ὅσα ἡτοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν. 10 ἡμῖν γὰρ ἀπεκάλυψεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ γὰρ πνεῦμα πάντα ἐραυνᾷ, καὶ τὰ βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ.

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.

Paul is addressing divisions in the church in Corinth. They were caught up in the pursuit of popularity, wisdom, a desire to be in the inner circle of truly enlightened spiritual ones. They wanted to be on the right team, following the right teacher, seeking the approval of men. The pride that lay at the root of these divisions was what had blossomed into so many other problems in this church.

Up to this point in his letter, he has pointed them to the foolishness of his methods and his message. In 1:17, he says he refused to employ ‘words of eloquent wisdom’ in order to avoid emptying the cross of power. In 1:18 he declares that the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing. In 1:19-20, he argues from the Scriptures that it was God’s intention to destroy the wisdom of the wise and make foolish the wisdom of the world. In 1:21 since God cannot be know through human wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe in the foolish message that we preach. In 1:23 he calls the content of his message, Christ crucified, a stumbling block and folly. In 1:26-31 Paul points to the foolishness of the believers in Corinth to demonstrate that God chose foolish, weak, low, despised nothings in order that no human being could boast in his presence. In 2:1-5, he points to his own methods as weak; knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. He avoided lofty speech or wisdom, plausible words of wisdom, wisdom of men.

All this could lead one to the conclusion that Paul was anti-intellectual, that wisdom is bad, that Christianity is only for the uneducated, and that we should avoid ever learning anything. This would be to totally miss Paul’s point, so he clarifies in this passage that the wisdom that we as followers of Jesus have access to is truly wisdom, wisdom far superior to anything this fallen world could ever achieve. He says that it is permanent and not doomed to pass away. He says that it is hidden mystery wisdom that not all have access to. He says that it is God’s wisdom, not human, and that it originated before the ages, not recently. This wisdom is intended to bring us glory, not shame. And this wisdom is spiritual wisdom; it comes from God’s Spirit, not human sources.

1 Corinthians 2:6 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.

If we look carefully through Paul’s discussion of the foolishness of his message, we begin to see that he was indeed pointing to a superior wisdom. He claims in 1:17 that the gospel of the cross of Christ is power. In 1:18, the word of the cross is the power of God to us who are being saved, in contrast to those who are perishing. In 1:21, it was God’s wisdom to save those who believe in this seemingly foolish message. In 1:24 to those who are called, Christ crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and then he says that the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men. In 1:30, we see that God made Jesus our wisdom, so that we can boast in the Lord. In 2:1, what Paul brought to them was nothing short of the testimony of God, but he delivered it in such a way as to leave room for the demonstration of the Spirit and power, so that our faith would be squarely seated in the power of God to save and not in any human method or messenger.

Deeper Wisdom for the Mature?

Here in verse 6, he claims that wisdom is what he speaks among the mature. What is this wisdom, and who are the mature that he speaks it to? Many have seen in this passage a level of deeper Christian doctrine taught exclusively among those who had advanced to a level where they were able to receive it. If this is true, Paul is stroking those who have attained this higher level, and saying that he has deeper wisdom for them. This cannot be. This would fly in the face of everything he has said so far. He appeals to them ‘that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment’ (1:10). If he is now categorizing some of the elite few among them as the ‘mature’ and privately disclosing to them the deeper doctrines of the faith, then this would be contributing to and even creating the very divisiveness and pride and disunity that he is seeking to dismantle in this letter.

Among the Perfect (v.6)

So who are the ‘mature’ that he speaks wisdom to? So far in the letter, Paul has divided all of humanity into two categories; those who are perishing and us who are being saved. The word translated ‘mature’ points to the end or goal, that for which we were designed, the completion or fulfillment. It is sometimes translated as ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’. Remember how Paul addressed the Corinthian believers in the beginning of this letter. He said they are those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints. He gives thanks that they have been given God’s grace in Christ Jesus, they have been enriched in him in every way, the testimony about Christ had been confirmed in them, they were not lacking in any grace gift, they were waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, they are being sustained by Jesus to the end, they will be presented guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, and they have been called by God into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. This is a description of someone who is complete, lacking nothing, who has been brought into the relationship for which they were designed. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

This does not mean they have no room to grow. Paul will begin to address their immaturity in the very next chapter. But here he is looking at their position in Christ in contrast to the wise, the scribe, the debater of this age, the rulers of this age, who are being brought to nothing. Don’t envy or imitate the wise, powerful and popular, because they are incomplete. And don’t look down on your brother or sister in Christ because he or she is complete.

In 2:10, God has revealed these things to us through the spirit. In 2:12, ‘we’ are those who have received the Spirit from God. In 2:14-16 the contrast is drawn between the natural person without the Spirit of God, and the spiritual person who has the Spirit of God. So the mature or complete or perfect are those who have God’s Spirit as opposed to those who do not.

True Wisdom (v.6)

What is this wisdom that he speaks among the perfect? Is this some deeper doctrine? Paul has one message, and one message only. His message is the good news of the cross of Christ, the word of the cross, preaching Christ crucified, knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. This is the secret and hidden wisdom of God, this is the wisdom of God and the power of God to save those who believe. This is what the rulers of this age failed to understand, or else they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Secret and Hidden Wisdom of God (v.7)

How is Jesus Christ crucified for sinners secret or hidden wisdom? It seems that everyone who has heard the name of Jesus knows that he was executed outside of Jerusalem on a Roman cross. How is this a hidden, mystery wisdom? To understand this, we need to know what the bible means when it talks about mystery. A mystery is not something deep or complex or mystical or incoherent. A mystery is something that was hidden, not able to be figured out by humans, but has now been revealed by God and made known. We see this at the close of Romans.

Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

The mystery was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed. The revelation of the mystery is in the gospel and in the preaching of Jesus Christ. It has been made known through the prophetic writings. This is what Jesus did for his disciples in Luke 24

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

…44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Notice that the disciples are rebuked for being ‘foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken’. They were so self-centered and hard-hearted that they could not get it. And for that they were held responsible. They should have been tender hearted and eager to believe, but their self-focus had blinded them to what was written in black and white. Jesus had to open their minds to understand the Scriptures. He had to show them that the prophetic writings were all about him. He said the same to the unbelieving Jews.

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. … 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

They were blind to the fact that their own Scriptures so clearly pointed to Jesus. Their problem was unbelief. They refused to come to Jesus to receive eternal life. It was a mystery to them, it was hidden, not because it was too hard to figure out, but their own unbelief had blinded them to the plain truth. In their hard hearts they were unwilling to see.

But this is only one side of the truth. We must also say with Jesus:

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

God hid these things from the wise and understanding. This was his gracious will. Paul says here:

1 Corinthians 2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

They did not understand, and in their ignorance they crucified Jesus, and their failure to understand was culpable, because it was willful ignorance that refused to believe. So they crucified the Lord of glory.

The Lord of Glory (v.8)

This is the most exalted title for Jesus we find in all of the bible.

Psalm 24:7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! 9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is this King of glory?

The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!

Who is the King of glory? It is YHWH, the LORD. Jesus is here called ‘the Lord of glory’. He is identified with YHWH, God’s covenant name in the Old Testament. He is the one to whom all glory belongs. And in their unbelieving ignorance, they crucified their God who had come in the flesh to save them.

For Our Glory (v.7)

This wisdom of God, this secret and hidden wisdom about the Lord of glory, God decreed before the ages for our glory. We, who are the weak, the foolish, the low, the despised, the nothings, we are destined for glory. God created us in his image, to reflect and display his glory. God predestined or fore-ordained the crucifixion of his only Son Jesus before the ages, before the creation, before the fall, to restore to us the glory we were designed to display. Paul wants to be clear that this wisdom of God in the crucifixion of Jesus is no plan B, no patch to try to make the best of an unexpected bad turn of events. This wisdom of God is the same ancient wisdom that was in place before God spoke the universe into existence This is another way of saying what Romans 8:29 says, that we were “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” and “those whom he justified” through faith in the crucified Jesus “he also glorified”. The crucifixion of Jesus was decreed before the ages for our glory, to conform us into the image of his Son.

As It Is Written (v.9; Isaiah 64:4)

Paul references a passage in Isaiah to demonstrate the hidden nature of God’s salvation. This verse in Isaiah comes in the middle of a prayer for mercy and confession of sin. A few lines earlier it says:

Isaiah 63:17 O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.

And then he says:

Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—

He says

Isaiah 64:3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

God’s salvation is unexpected. God’s people look to him for mercy, for help, for forgiveness, for judgment on their enemies. Our God is a God who answers in astonishing ways. Awesome things that we did not look for. No eye has seen – no one has first hand knowledge to predict how God will save. No ear has heard – no information was passed down to communicate in exactly what way God would save. The heart of man has not imagined – there is no possible way for us to deduce how God in his wisdom would rescue his people. ‘Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down’, and who would have ever anticipated that God would indeed rend the heavens and come down, born as a human to an unwed mother away from home, with no room in the inn, placed in a feeding trough for a cradle? Who would have foreseen that God in the flesh would be abandoned by his friends, rejected by his own people, handed over by them to their enemies who found him innocent and yet caved to the pressure of his people who demanded his execution? Who could imagine that he would conquer his enemies by crying out ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Lk.23:34)? Who would have expected the mountains to quake at his presence as he bore the wrath of his Father against our sins and breathed his last, crucified in our place as a dangerous criminal? Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me! ‘Tis mystery all, the Immortal dies! Who can explore his strange design? (C.Wesley, And Can It Be). This is a story only God could write. This hidden wisdom of God no man could anticipate. But God has revealed the word of the cross in a way that it comes to us not as foolishness but as the power of God for salvation. This he has done in us through his Spirit.

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

April 21, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:26-29; Calling that Excludes Boasting

03/10 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 Calling that Excludes Boasting; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130310_1cor1_26-29.mp3

26 Βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς· 27 ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά, 28 καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα, ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ, 29 ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 30 ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐγενήθη σοφία ἡμῖν ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις, 31 ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται· Ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω.

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

Addressing Problems with the Gospel

Paul is dealing with the problems in the church in Corinth. The first on his list is division. Division is tearing apart the body of Christ, fracturing and splintering the church of God by quarreling, not over serious doctrinal issues, but over personalities and preferences. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, he appeals for unity, that they all agree, or say the same thing, that they be united in the same mind and same judgment. And he applies the good news of the cross to heal these divisions. He reminds them of the gospel that had brought them into this relationship with God and with one another. He takes them back to the cross. We can learn so much from his approach. Problems in the church are often a result of a misunderstanding of or a misapplication of the gospel. If we go back to the gospel and let our crucified Lord shape our thoughts and emotions and words and actions, many of the problems that we face will be resolved.

The Corinthians were seeking status by aligning themselves with a particular teacher or leader within Christianity. Some followed Paul, the one who first brought the gospel to Corinth. Some followed the eloquent and passionate Apollos, the powerful preacher from Egypt. Some followed Cephas, or Peter, the primary spokesman of Jesus’ twelve. Some felt they were spiritually beyond the need for any human teacher and claimed they followed Christ directly. All this is rooted in pride and a desire to feel superior to others. Paul undercuts all of this by bringing them back to the clear simplicity of the gospel, that Christ was crucified for you.

This is the simple message he preached, and this simple message divided the world into two groups; those who are perishing and us who are being saved. There are not four or six or eight groups. The cross of Jesus divides all people into only two categories.

Crucifying Pride

Paul confronts their desire to be thought wise by pointing to the fact that it had been God’s wise intention all along to frustrate human wisdom and save people through what seemed a foolish, scandalous method. Wonder of wonders, God saves those who believe the foolish message of the cross. Believing by definition is giving up any reliance on self and depending on, trusting in another. Believing is the polar opposite of pride.

Pride is such an insidious disease. It is ironic that even in a group of fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, even among Jesus’ own disciples, pride tended to creep in. Who is the greatest? This seemed to be a persistent problem that Jesus had to address on more than one occasion.

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Pride is out of place among believers. Believers are those who acknowledge they are helpless, weak, unable to fix their situation and are trusting in another, in humility receiving a gift. You can’t even enter God’s kingdom unless you enter like that. Jesus prayed like this:

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. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (cf. Matt.11:25-27)

Paul has told us in verses 18-25 that it was God’s wise intention to undermine human wisdom by saving people using a foolish message, the message of a crucified Messiah. Now he tells us that God undermines human wisdom by saving foolish people. Make no mistake about it, this is insulting. This is demeaning, degrading, and offensive. And it is meant to be. Paul is intending to strip away the pride of his readers so that we would begin to see the cross more clearly, and to see each other in the light of the cross. And yet, to soften the blow, Paul comes along side us and includes himself in this category. Paul calls us his brothers.

Calling and Choosing

Paul instructs his fellow believers in Corinth to consider your calling. What does it mean to be called? In verse 24 he says that the gospel, the message of Christ crucified is to those who are called, Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God. There he says ‘to those who are called’; here he says ‘consider your calling’. What is this calling? Do you get a telephone call? Do you hear the dinner bell calling you to dinner? Are you called to a specific job?

Let’s see what we can learn from this passage about what Paul means when he says ‘called’. First, this calling cuts across ethnic barriers. In verse 23, he says the cross is folly to Gentiles and a stumbling block to Jews, but to the called, both Jews and Greeks, it is power and wisdom. We also see that this calling changes things for the one who is called. What was foolishness and scandalous now becomes the power and wisdom of God. It seems this calling creates a new category. Before, the categories were Jew or Gentile. Now, the categories are ‘those who are perishing’ and ‘us who are being saved’. The ones who are being saved in verse 21 are those who believe, and in verse 24, the same group is referred to as those who are called. So ‘the called’ and ‘those who believe’ and ‘us who are being saved’ are all ways of referring to the same group. If we jump back to the introduction of this letter, verse 2 tells us that the church of God is made up of those who are called to be saints. This calling cuts across ethnic barriers; it creates a new category, ‘those who are called’ is another way of saying ‘us who are being saved’ or ‘those who believe’.

After inviting the Corinthians to consider their calling, he goes on to describe God’s choosing. Not many wise, not many powerful, not many of noble birth, but God chose what is foolish, God chose what is weak; God chose what is low and despised, even the nothings. The calling of the Corinthians is here connected with God’s choosing.

Have you ever wondered why in response to the same preaching of the gospel one person is moved to tears, broken over their sins and desperate for a Savior, and they cry out ‘what must I do to be saved?’ while in the very same room, having heard the very same message, another person walks away totally unmoved. Someone else may walk away angry or offended. What makes the difference? Is it the passion of the preacher? The eloquence of the delivery? The rigor of the logic? No. Is it the upbringing of the hearer? From this and many other passages, it seems the Bible’s answer is that God’s call makes the difference. As Luke puts it in the book of Acts, “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). In 2 Corinthians, Paul compares this to God’s act in creation when he says:

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

In Romans 8, Paul describes those who love God, those to whom all things work together for good, as those who are called according to his purpose. Then he places this calling at the center of God’s saving work, preceded by predestining and foreknowing, and followed by justifying and glorifying. Jesus said ‘all that the Father gives me will come to me’ (Jn.6:37) and he said to the Jews who did not believe in him “you do not believe because you are not part of my flock’ (Jn.10:26). Peter points us to “the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pet.2:9).

Not Many

Paul invites the Corinthians to consider their own calling as evidence that God destroys the wisdom of the wise and makes foolish the wisdom of the world by saving those who believe.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

He says that God did not call many wise or powerful or noble. He does not say ‘not any’ but ‘not many’. There was Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue (Acts 18:8), and Sosthenes, the next ruler of the synagogue (Acts 18:17; 1Cor.1:1). There was Gaius Titius Justus, probably a wealthy Roman, who owned a house next door to the synagogue, and opened his home to host the new church (Acts 18:7; Rom.16:23; 1Cor.1:14), there was Erastus, the city treasurer (Rom.16:23), whose name has been discovered in an inscription on a pavement in Corinth. None were excluded simply because they were wise, powerful or noble. But not many of those believed. The majority of the church in Corinth was made up of former idolaters, sexually immoral, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunks, foul-mouths, and extortioners (1Cor.6:9-11). Many were slaves. Most were from the lower classes. And yet even among them there seemed to be a desire to be thought well of. Paul invites them to look at the purpose of God to confound the wise and then to look around.

James confronts the same kind of problem. The churches he addressed had a tendency to treat with preference those who were rich and well dressed over those who were poor and shabbily clothed. James says:

James 2:4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

God has chosen the poor in this world. We see this so clearly in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was frequently criticized by the religious leaders for who he spent time with. Mark records:

Mark 2:15 And as he reclined at table in his [Levi’s] house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus says that he came to call sinners, and sinners came. It seems that Jesus was continually surrounded by the weak, the sick, the outcasts, the demon possessed, the desperate, the despised, the needy, the nobodies of society. “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus rebuked the chief priests and elders in the temple, who refused to believe in him.

Matthew 21:31 …Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

The religious leaders were rebuked and held accountable for their unbelief, for their rejection of Jesus. Not many were called. Jesus said “how difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Lk.18:24). But he also said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Lk.18:27). Even they were not beyond the reach of God’s grace. Even among them, a few humbled themselves, became like little children, acknowledged their sin and their need and received the free gift. The rich man from Arimithea, Joseph, a respected member of the Council (Mt.27:57; Mr.15:43; Lk.23:50; Jn.19:38), and the Pharisee Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews (Jn.3:1; 19:39) became followers of Jesus. Even Paul himself, a Pharisee trained under Gamaliel, God knocked to his knees and called him to follow.

Nothings Nullify Things that Are

Paul says:

27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

God chose the foolish, weak, low and despised, even nothings. God shamed the wise, shamed the strong, brought to nothing the things that are. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). This is the kind of God we worship, a God who can take nothing and make something beautiful out of it.

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

God brought something out of nothing with his word. And it was very good. The rougher the raw material, the more impressive the accomplishment of the Artist. So God delights to take nothings, zeroes, the low and despised and create trophies of his grace. When Jesus was told that his dear friend Lazarus was ill, he said

John 11:4 …“This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Jesus intentionally delayed two days before going (Jn.11:6), and then he tells his disciples:

John 11:14 …“Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Jesus waited until his friend had been dead four days so that everyone would see that his voice, his call, creates life in the dead.

We are told in Romans 4 that Abraham,

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. 18 In hope he believed against hope, … 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

That is a great definition of faith; being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised. He believed in the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. He grew strong in his faith and gave glory to God. That is what this is all about. That is what we were created for. We are designed to give glory and honor and praise to our great God. We glorify God because God is the only one worthy of glory.

Ephesians tells us:

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins …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– …7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The goal of God’s call to the nothings, the goal of God’s gracious gift of life to those dead, the reason God excludes our works, the reason it pleased God through the folly of what is preached to save those who believe is so that he gets all the glory, so that he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace, or, as Paul concludes here:

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

When we boast as if we have done something commendable, we rob God of the glory that he alone deserves. To God alone be all the glory!

Response

Consider your calling brothers and sisters. So what do we do with this truth? How do we respond? First, this should create in us a humble amazement. God called me out of darkness and into his marvelous light! Why me?

Remember the context. Paul is dealing with divisions and quarreling. Let this truth shape how you view one another. We naturally categorize people into losers and winners; drop-outs and the educated; well dressed and shabby; rich and poor; those who have it together and those who just can’t get it together. Let the good news of the cross shape how you view others. God levels pride and lifts up the downcast. The cross places us all on level ground. Look around you today and wonder at those God has called saints!

This truth should result in humility and boldness. Take heart; no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. The most horrific sinner and the most hardened Pharisee can both be transformed by the call of God. What is impossible with men is possible with God. God calls into existence things that do not exist.

All this is to the glory of God. God is the one who saves, so God gets all the glory. I can take no credit for my own salvation. All glory goes to God alone.

How do You Know?

Consider your calling. Have you been called? How do you know?

Have you felt the weight of your sins? Have you felt the seriousness of your sins before a holy God? The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and righteousness and judgment.

Have your eyes been opened to the light of the glory of the gospel in the face of Jesus Christ?

Have you believed? Have you put your faith only and completely in the finished work of Jesus? If you are feeling the weight of your sin and you see Jesus as your only hope then cry out to him today.

The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are his children. This is the call of God.

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

March 10, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment