PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 2:24-30; The Humility of the Messenger

06/13_Daniel 02:24-30 The Humility of the Messenger; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210613_dan02_24-30.mp3

Daniel and his friends are on death row, because king Nebuchadnezzar demanded of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans that they give him not only the interpretation of his dream, but he would test their authenticity by demanding they tell him the dream that he dreamed. Their response? “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand …no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (v.10-11).

Dependence

But Daniel knows the God who is Immanuel, God with us.

Daniel 2:16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel received what the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. Daniel was granted time to give the interpretation to the king. But Daniel didn’t depend on his own abilities and gifting. He sought mercy from the God of heaven. And he didn’t go it alone. He asked his friends to join him in prayer.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

Grace and Gratitude

But Daniel doesn’t rush off to Arioch with the good news. He sought mercy, because he knew what he deserved. As a sinner before God he deserved hell. God doesn’t owe us anything but justice, and we don’t want that. We want mercy and we want grace. We don’t want what we deserve; instead we want what we didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Daniel understood God’s mercy, so he pursued mercy with his friends in prayer. And because he really had a grasp on grace and mercy, because he really understood what he deserved, he responds to grace with gratitude. Those that think themselves entitled to good things in this life are more prone to take for granted God’s blessings and fail to give him thanks. But Daniel had a firm grasp on grace, and so his heart overflowed with gratitude.

Daniel 2:19 …Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel worships. Daniel received a gift he didn’t deserve, and he doesn’t fail to give God thanks and praise. He worships God for his character, and he gives him thanks for specifically answering his prayer.

Confidence and Compassion

Daniel 2:24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”

Daniel showed great confidence. But he also showed great compassion. He was confident in his God, in God’s answer to his prayer. He was bold to go before the angry and very furious king rather than run away from him, because he knew God had given him what the king required. But he was also compassionate. Remember what he prayed for? ‘Seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon’ (v.18). Now he asks; rather he commands the executioner not to destroy any of the wise men of Babylon.

Daniel could have played his cards differently here. He could have anticipated that his access to the one true God through prayer would arouse jealousy in the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans, and that jealousy could get he and his friends in trouble; maybe thrown in a lion’s den or into a fiery furnace. Daniel could have seized this opportunity to secure his unrivaled position. God had proved the wisdom of the wise men of Babylon bankrupt, and Daniel could have used this situation to secure the destruction of all the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans. He could have encouraged Arioch and the king to follow through with the threat; tear them all limb from limb and bury their houses in excrement. The God of the Hebrews is the one true God and all others are false deceivers.

But instead, Daniel shows compassion. He understands the character of God, that he is ‘slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). He is ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2Pet.3:9).

Daniel reflects the character of God here. The wise men of Babylon don’t deserve to be spared, but Daniel seeks to protect them, to extend mercy to them, to give them time to repent and turn to the one true God. He seeks to protect those who under Old Testament law deserve death.

Deuteronomy 18:10 There shall not be found among you …anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD….

Daniel understands that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rom.3:23); that he is really no better, that he too deserves the wrath of God. And this gives him compassion toward other sinners.

The Triumph of True Wisdom

Daniel actually commands the captain of the king’s guard to disobey the orders of the king. Nebuchadnezzar had given the order ‘and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed’ (v.12). Here in verse 24, Daniel commands Arioch ‘Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon.’ Daniel is the one with true wisdom, who is really in charge, even overriding the edict of the king.

We see the king whose spirit was troubled, who can’t sleep, who is angry and very furious, making unreasonable demands and reacting in irrational extremes. We see all the wise men of Babylon at a loss, confessing their own incompetence. We see Arioch flip-flopping, going to carry out the king’s command, but then taking orders from a captive of Israel in direct disobedience to the king.

And we see Daniel on death row, yet calm, cool and collected, answering with prudence and discretion, seeking and gaining audience with the king. Then in humble dependence, seeking God in prayer together with other believers, responding to God’s gracious answer first with worship and praise, then confident and bold, overriding the rash command of the king, requesting audience with the king to meet his demands with wisdom that can only come from the God of heaven.

Psalm 119:98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.

Arioch’s Power Grab

Daniel 2:25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.”

This was a risk for Arioch; if Daniel failed, he would be putting his own neck on the line. He was himself persuaded by the confidence and compassion of Daniel.

Notice how Arioch seeks to promote himself. In haste he goes before the king and claims credit; ‘I have found a man…’ Really it was Daniel who had questioned the urgency, interrupted the executions, and offered to interpret. But such is the nature of humanity, that we seek credit when no credit is due.

The King’s Demand Re-stated

Daniel 2:25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”

The king wants to be sure that Daniel is not just going to feed him a standard textbook interpretation from some dream manual. He wants to know if Daniel can meet his demand that all his wise men claimed ‘no man on earth could meet …only the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.’ ‘Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?’

Impossibility Affirmed

Daniel’s answer is shocking, and I imagine Arioch went deathly pale as he heard Daniel begin by answering ‘No.’ His jaw must have hung open as he saw the king’s rage begin to return.

Daniel 2:27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked,

Daniel affirms that what the wise men said was true.

Daniel 2:10 …“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, 11 …The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.

The king must have begun to seethe. ‘You delay my executions, you ask for time, and you come back with the same line that the rest of the wise men gave me?’ He may have shot a sideways glare toward Arioch who had just confidently presented Daniel as the answer to the king’s demand. Daniel admits his own incompetence, along with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

But God

Daniel 2:27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.

But God… When there is no human hope, God steps in.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, … 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 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—

We need to feel the hopelessness of our situation before we are ready to hear where hope can be found. None is righteous, no not one. Every mouth must be stopped (Rom.3:10, 19).

The Humility of the Messenger

Daniel wanted Nebuchadnezzar to recognize his hopelessness outside of God. There is no hope outside of God. Nebuchadnezzar was looking to his wise men, enchanters, magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers to give him what he needed. His focus now turned to Daniel, and Daniel deflected the king’s gaze from himself to God. No wise man can do this, but there is a God in heaven. He is the one to whom you must look. Don’t look at me. Look instead to God.

Where Arioch sought to grab some of the credit, Daniel refused to take any. He knew where hope was to be found, and it wasn’t in him. Daniel together with his friends sought mercy from the God of heaven, and when mercy came from the God of heaven, Daniel wasn’t about to interpose himself, as if he were the source of anything.

Daniel understood mercy. Daniel had received an undeserved gift, so Daniel first gave thanks back to God, and then Daniel showed appropriate humility before the king.

God in Heaven who Reveals Mysteries [Elah Shamayin Gelah Raz]

Daniel 2:27 …“No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.

God is the mystery revealer. God is the one who made known to the king what will be in the latter days, what would be after this, what is to be. God is history writer;

Isaiah 46:9 …I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 …I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

God can say with absolute certainty what will happen, even in the far distant future, because he is sovereign over history. He accomplishes his purpose; what he says he himself will bring about.

Liberal scholarship wants to attribute the accurate world history unfolded in Daniel to a nameless writer after the fact, at the time of the Maccabees, pretending to be Daniel and writing already completed history as if it were prophecy. But this is to deny the very character of the God who Reveals Secrets.

This is one way God shows us who he is.

Jesus gave this authentication to his disciples:

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am [he].

Authentication. Believe that I AM, I am God and there is no other, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done. I am telling you now, before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe that I AM.

We need to sit up and listen, because God is revealing to Nebuchadnezzar (and to Daniel, and through Daniel to us) ‘what will be in the latter days, what would be after this, what is to be.’ God is revealing something that spans history, up to the very end of time. The book of Revelation in the New Testament expands this vision;

Revelation 4:1 … I will show you what must take place after this.”

Not Anything in Me; Conduits of Glory

We are going to have to wait to get into the content of this dream.

Daniel 2:30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

Daniel wants to be clear; this is not about me. It is not my wisdom. It is not that I have more wisdom than anyone else. It is not that I am better than all your wise men. Listen to his tender hearted humility! God is simply using me as a conduit through which he can bring his truth to the world. We are nothing more than anyone else; mere conduits of God’s grace. May we always remember that we are only ever recipients of mercy, may he fill us with humble gratitude, and may he see fit to use us as conduits to bring his grace to a hurting and broken world.

***

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

June 19, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man

05/30_Daniel 02:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210530_dan02_1-16.mp3

Daniel chapter 1 tells the story of God’s grace even in the midst of trauma, oppression, exile. Daniel and his friends were ripped from their homes, taken hundreds of miles away to a pagan city, a city opposed to God, but we learn that God was still in control; that it was God who gave the king of Judah and the treasures of his own temple into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. We learn that in the face of pressures to conform, to assimilate, God gave Daniel and his friends grace and mercy, favor and compassion in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. And God gave these four youths learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. They resolved not to allow their hearts to become ensnared by the pleasures of Babylon, and their God-given wisdom proved ten times better than all their teachers.

Dream Interpretation and Dream Manuals

Chapter 2 moves the story forward with a demonstration of God’s wisdom in action, when the gifts of Daniel and his friends are put to the test in contrast to the wisdom of Babylon.

Daniel 2:1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.”

Dreams were considered significant, meaningful, communication from the gods. Not to be able to interpret a dream was considered a worse omen than even a dream which predicted unfavorable events.

We have discovered ancient dream manuals; the extensive Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, (668-627 BC) was discovered in Mosul, or Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria. This library contains over 1,000 Babylonian divination texts, including the 11 tablets of the Iskar Zaqiqu, a manual on interpreting dreams. These manuals catalog various dream symbolism and potential outcomes based on the records of the experiences of others with similar dreams in similar circumstances. The library pre-dates Daniel by 50 -100 years, and is representative of what would have been available to the various groups of Babylonian dream interpreters. This would have been part of the training of Daniel and his friends in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

Aramaic

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic…

This is a language cue. The text from this point to the end of chapter 7 was written in Aramaic, the common language of the world in that day. Up to this point Daniel wrote in Hebrew, and chapters 8 to the end are again in Hebrew, the language of the people of God. Chapters 1 and 8-12 address the concerns of Israel more specifically, while chapters 2-7 have a more universal scope.

The Confidence of the Chaldeans

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.”

The magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, the Chaldeans are confident in their ability to interpret dreams. They had studied the dream manuals and case histories of dreams, they were experts in the art of dream interpretation. They could look up any dream scenario and give an interpretation.

Daniel is so relevant to today. A simple internet search to find information on these ancient dream interpretation manuals, and the majority of things that come up are modern day versions. You can enroll in a course to teach you how to unlock your dreams, an online dictionary with ‘over thousands of skillfully interpreted dream symbols for people who want to access the deeper parts of their minds’, a dream interpretation manual ‘written by a scientist who has decades of experience and great expertise in dream interpretation.’ And of course, there are principles of Christian dream interpretation, a biblical dream dictionary, and prophetic training to unlock your dreams. We are still captivated today, even Christians, by the hope of accessing hidden wisdom.

The King’s Demand for Proof

The Chaldeans address the king with the appropriate formalities and respect, and ask to be given the contents of the dream so they can offer an interpretation. They are confident there is no dream they cannot interpret. But king Nebuchadnezzar throws them a curve ball.

Daniel 2:5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.”

King Nebuchadnezzar is asking for more than the interpretation of his dream. He demands that they give him both the dream and the interpretation. The consequences for failure are severe, the rewards are great, and the demand is resolute. Make known to me the dream and its interpretation.

Skeptical Demand for Evidence

There must be some misunderstanding. That’s not how this works. You tell us the dream and we tell you the interpretation.

Daniel 2:7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.”

Here we learn that Nebuchadnezzar is a skeptic. He wants proof. This is the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, probably not counting the year of his accession to the throne after the death of his father in 605 BC. These would have been the counselors to his father, likely older than him, and for whatever reason, he was suspicious of them, of their loyalties, of their abilities. He is going to test them. If they really are magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, in touch with the gods, then they ought to be able to tell him his dream. If they can accurately describe to him what he alone knows, then he can have confidence that their interpretation of the dream would also have a supernatural source.

Nebuchadnezzar is the opposite of the evil king Ahab of Israel, who preferred 400 prophets who told him pleasant lies over one prophet of YHWH who told him the hard truth; ‘I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil’ (2Chr.18:7). Nebuchadnezzar cared about truth.

The Admission of Incompetence

Listen to how the Chaldeans respond to this skeptic’s demand for proof.

Daniel 2:10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

They admit their own incompetence. They can’t bluff their way out of this one. In the face of this demand for evidence, they are empty handed. They resort to say that the thing is too hard, it is humanly impossible. They even appeal to his pride – no great and powerful king has asked such a thing. You need to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings and not ask such things. You ask too much of us; only the gods could grant your request, and we don’t have access to them. All the magicians, the sorcerers, the enchanters; the wise men of Babylon admit their lack of the required wisdom.

The wisdom of Babylon is ultimately bankrupt. Sorcery is bankrupt. Magic is bankrupt. Divination is bankrupt. Astrology is bankrupt. Over and over again we are shown the bankruptcy of this world’s wisdom, and yet we still run to it time and again as if we don’t know the one who is sovereign over all.

The Very Furious King

Daniel 2:12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

The king was furious with his deceiving wise men. But he was not just furious. He was very furious. He was not just very furious, he was angry and very furious. He had proved them all frauds. They failed to give evidence of ultimate supernatural access. He may have been thinking back on all the times they offered interpretations and counsel to his father Nabopolassar, and how they tried to explain their way out of circumstances not going exactly according to their predictions. He may have based his own decisions on their so-called wisdom in the past, and he was angry at being conned. He had entrusted them with the education of the best and brightest of his conquered peoples, and they had wasted three years worth of his lavish resources. “You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change…there is but one sentence for you… You shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.”

These were the experts, the Chaldean teachers. If the teachers are corrupt, their students likewise would be corrupted. All the wise men of Babylon, teacher and student alike, were to be destroyed.

God’s Favor and Daniel’s Wisdom

Daniel 2:14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed great wisdom to his executioner. In chapter 1 we were told that ‘God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs’ (1:9). Here it is not stated, but something happened behind the scenes to give Daniel favor and compassion now in the sight of Arioch the king’s captain. Arioch didn’t owe Daniel an explanation. He didn’t have to make the matter known to Daniel. In fact, he had every reason not to waste his time answering questions of the trainees. He had been given a huge task, and the king was in no mood to put up with delays in carrying out his orders. In fact this would entail personal risk. If he fails to carry out the king’s edict, he could expect the kind of punishment that he was commanded to carry out on others. Although God is not mentioned, he is evidently at work behind the scenes.

Where the Chaldeans approached the king with confidence in their own ability, Daniel approached the king with confidence in his God. Where the Chaldeans were treated with suspicion, ‘accused of trying to gain time,’ Daniel is treated with respect, granted the time he requests. Where the Chaldeans were helpless in the face of the king’s impossible demand, Daniel knew exactly where real help was to be found.

God Who Dwells With Man

Look back at the confession of the Chaldeans:

Daniel 2:10 …“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand… 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

The Babylonian gods may not dwell with flesh, they may be aloof and inaccessible, distant and devising, but the God of Israel is different. He is a God who dwells in the midst of his people (Ex.25:8; 29:45-46); who ‘will walk among you and be your God’ (Lev.26:11-12). The Chaldeans only knew their false gods. They didn’t know the one true God of Israel. Daniel is set to show them what God is really like.

The God of Israel is not only a God who will dwell with flesh, he will dwell in flesh. The divine Word who was with God and who was God, himself became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1, 14). He is God with us, Immanuel (Mt.1:23; 28:20).

God Who Knows Our Thoughts

The Chaldeans were right. There is not a man on earth who can tell you the secrets of your heart. Paul asks ‘who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). But in John 4, a man was at a well looking for a drink of water from a Samaritan woman. She went away and told everyone

John 4:29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” …39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” …41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Multiple times in the gospels we read:

Matthew 9:4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? (cf. Mt.12:25; Lk. 6:8; 9:47; 11:17)

Not even Satan knows our thoughts. No doubt, he has learned to guess well, but Jesus knows the thoughts of our hearts. And Jesus said:

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Jesus controls the future. He can tell what will happen before it happens so we know that he is the I AM, the one who writes history. The Old Testament test for genuineness of a prophet was 100% accuracy (Deut.18:22).

Christ In You

The God of Israel is a God who dwells with his people. Daniel and his friends had the Spirit of God with them to help them. But Jesus promises something even better for us. Jesus promised that the Spirit who dwells with you will be in you (Jn.14:17). Jesus said I and the Father, ‘we will come to him and make our home with him.’ (Jn.14:23). Jesus said ‘I am with you always’ (Mt.28:20). The riches of the glory of God’s mystery is ‘Christ in you’ (Col.1:27).

***

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

June 5, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 1:1-8; Train Up Your Children

05/09_Daniel 01:1-8; Train Up Your Children; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210509_dan01_1-8.mp3

Today is mother’s day, and we are in Daniel chapter 1, where we are introduced to four teens who have been ripped from their homes and transplanted into a society where they will be re-programmed to live and think as citizens of a country who is opposed to God and his ways. We are not told who Daniel’s parents were. We don’t know what kind of upbringing he had. But we can look at what the Bible does say about the essential nature of parenting, and I think we can safely infer some things about the upbringing of these four that we are introduced to here in the first chapter of Daniel.

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. 6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7 And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. 8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. …

Preparing Your Children to Live as Exiles

How do you prepare your children for captivity and exile? How do you get them ready to live as strangers and aliens in a land full of false gods and deceptive temptations? Let’s say that we could predict the future and could see that America and its leadership will continue to decline, and in five years, a foreign military will march in our streets, destroy our infrastructure, take our children captive, haul them away to re-education camps where they will be taught that it is absurd and naive to believe in the existence of God. How would you parent in such a way as to prepare them to live in a society whose very moral and spiritual fiber is opposed to everything you believe and hold dear?

Or if that seems too far-fetched, lets say that in five years America continues on unchanged, and your child goes off to high school or college, where they will be taught that it is absurd and naive to believe in the existence of God. How are you preparing them to live as strangers and aliens in a land full of false gods and deceptive temptations?

Remind Them Of Their Identity

First, lets look at their identity. Verse 6 gives us their names; ‘Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.’ If you are familiar with Hebrew names, you will hear the names of God; ‘El’ and ‘Yah’ in those names.

Daniel “God is my judge”

Hananiah “Yahweh is gracious”

Mishael “who is what God is?”

Azariah “Yahweh has helped” or “will help.”

We don’t put as much significance in a name, but these boys were given an identity. Every time they were called, they would be reminded of the nature and character of God. God is the ultimate and only judge, before whom we all will stand to give account. Yahweh is gracious; he is generous and gives good gifts to those who don’t deserve it. God is holy, unique, in a class by himself; who is what God is? There is no one like our God; he is most high over all. Yahweh will help; whenever we face difficulties or are in need, it is to him we must look. He is our only unfailing source of help.

Daily they were reminded of their identity, that they belong to God, that God is sovereign over all, that God is to be honored, that God is holy, unique, that Yahweh is gracious and that he will help all who call on him. Do you see how their parents were daily involved in reminding them of the character of God, and who they are in relation to this God?

In Babylon, their identity was stripped away. They were given new names, a new identity that replaced the names of the one true God of Israel with the gods of Babylon, Bel, Aku and Nebo. God is my Judge is renamed ‘Bel-belteshazzar’; Bel, protect his life! Yahweh is Gracious is renamed ‘Shadrach’; command of Aku the moon god. Who is what God Is is renamed ‘Meshach’; who is what Aku is? Yahweh will help is renamed ‘Abednego’; servant of Nebo or Nabu.

Parents Train Up Your Children

But these new names couldn’t erase the faithful training of faithful parents who faithfully taught them who God is, and their identity in relationship with that one true God.

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Parents, we are to know and love the Lord our God with heart and soul and mind and strength. We are to walk in his ways, and to non-stop train our children. Whenever you’re at home, talk about the Lord. Whenever you’re out and about, talk about the Lord. When you go to bed, when you get up in the morning, love him and keep his word in your heart and in front of your eyes.

The theological training of your children can’t wait until Bible college; that may be too late. And it can’t be handed over to the church; the church doesn’t tuck your kids into bed at night and drag them out of bed in the morning. The church isn’t often in your homes or on your vacations. The church simply cannot do in one hour on Sundays and maybe an hour midweek what it is your job as parents to do day in and day out.

Remember, training is not just passing on information. Your kids will learn from how you live, the choices they see you make, your attitude, the way you respond to circumstances. They will learn from what you do much more than from what you say.

Prepared for Sacrifice

Daniel 1:3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

The requirement of the king was among other things, that these youths must be without blemish. This is a term that is most frequently used in the requirements that both priests and sacrificial animals must be without blemish to be acceptable to God (Lev.21-22). What we offer to God must be our first and our best. What Nebuchadnezzar demanded was young men without physical defect, but this language connects us back to the sacrificial system. A lamb without blemish or spot is fit for sacrifice.

Parents, think about this. Are you preparing your children for sacrifice? Romans 12 uses this kind of imagery.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Are you teaching your children that they should expect the best in this life, an easy life, that they are entitled to blessings? Or are you teaching them that it is often costly to follow Jesus, but that it is worth it?

Circumstances for these families went as bad as could have been imagined. They lived under the reign of kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord. Jerusalem was given into the hand of the enemy. The temple was plundered. Their children were carried off into captivity; although we don’t know for sure, they may have been castrated in literal fulfillment of Isaiah 39:5-7. The hope of any grandchildren was lost. We aren’t told what happened to the parents, but it is likely they never saw one another again. Would this fiery trial come to them as a complete shock and surprise, as if something strange were happening to them (1Pet.4:12)? Would it cause them to doubt their faith and question the reality, the goodness, the power of their God?

Jesus promised us who follow him that ‘In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world’ (Jn.16:33), and he promises us his peace in the midst of adverse circumstances.

What are your expectations for your children? Is your heart set on the American dream, or are you preparing them to present themselves to God as living sacrifices? To endure suffering for the sake of his name?

Show Them Where True Joy Is Found

Sacrifice is difficult, so we must prepare them for suffering, but pleasures often prove more lethal than persecution. Don’t neglect to teach your children where true joy is found.

Daniel and his friends would face great temptations where it was expected they would indulge their flesh. ‘The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.’ This was the best available. They were far away from home, out of reach of all accountability. This would appeal to all their senses. And it seems no one else was resisting. How could they possibly stand up to this kind of temptation?

The best way to inoculate our children against temptation is to expose them to greater pleasures. Psalm 16:11 says

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore are found in the presence of God. Moses, in similar circumstances,

Hebrews 11:25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

The pleasures of sin are real, but they are fleeting. Worldly treasures are real, but they pale in comparison to the eternal reward, against which ‘all the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom.8:18).

The king of Babylon showed them what they had to gain by allegiance to him. He invited them to feast on the abundance of his house and to drink of his own wine. But listen to Psalm 36

Psalm 36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Is the Lord’s steadfast love precious to you? Savor the preciousness of God’s grace to you in the gospel daily, and it will put your mouth out of taste for the sweets of this world.

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! …

You have got to taste for yourself the sweetness of God. Our kids must see us drinking deeply of the river of his delights. And we must give them the opportunity to taste and see for themselves.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Teach them not to trust their deceitful desires (Eph.4:22); teach them where every truly good gift comes from.

The Wisdom of Humility and a Biblical Worldview

It seems that Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel were equipped with a comprehensive view of God’s sovereignty over all things, even the worst imaginable circumstances, and they trusted that he is judge, he is gracious, he is above all other gods, and he is the source of their help. They must have had a taste of something better, so they were able to resist the temptations that appealed to their deceitful desires.

But they had been selected because they were ‘skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace.’ This was greatly flattering. They were to be taught ‘the literature and language of the Chaldeans.’

… They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.

This was a huge boost to the ego, and an incentive to forget their pain and plunge themselves into learning and literature.

But all literature, every story, every song is leading somewhere, engaging the emotions, teaching something. Stories shape our world view. Can these four be immersed in the world view of the Babylonians without losing their own?

In verse 17 we read ‘God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom.’ God gave them the wisdom to learn what was taught, to discern what is true, and to hold fast to him.

They had been given the humility to know that what they knew was a gift from God.

Know, Love and Serve Jesus

Parents, teach your kids humility. Show them where true joy is found. Prepare them for suffering and sacrifice. Remind them of their true identity. Remind them whose they are. Prepare your children to live as sojourners, as exiles. This world is not their home. Entrust them to a faithful God who loves them more than you do and who is able to keep them.

More than anything else, here’s what I want for my kids. I want you to know and love and serve Jesus.

Know him, get to know him, enjoy being with him, be in constant communion, in communication, in relationship with him.

Love him; affections inflamed, not motivated by duty but by delight. Look! Look at the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ for you (Eph.3:18). We love because he first loved us (1Jn.4:19).

Serve him; spend your life to bring him glory and praise, to bring others into the joy of knowing him.

The order matters. I want your life and service to flow out of relationship and love, not out of obligation and duty. You have to know him and love him before you can offer any acceptable service to him.

***

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

May 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loving Discipline (Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12; Matthew 18)

06/28 Loving Discipline (Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12; Matthew 18); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200628_discipline.mp3

Last time we saw that Jesus teaches us to pray to God as our Father, that he is a good Father who is eager to see us walking in his image, resembling his character, carrying his DNA, and ultimately bringing glory to him. Jesus instructs us to seek the approval of our Father in heaven, and that he is eager to reward us.

The Revelation and Discipline of Jesus Christ

Today I want to look at the flip side of this. If you are familiar with the book of Revelation, you know above all else it is a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 1:5 …To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. Jesus has given to us a high and holy calling. And Jesus is coming back for us. Revelation begins with a vision of Jesus among his churches;

Revelation 1:12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

Jesus in all his awesome glory walking among the lampstands, his churches, and he addresses seven of these churches each with a letter. He tells them each something about himself, and he praises them for the things that he sees that please him, and he gives a word of warning and correction to those things that are not as they ought to be; he invites them to listen to what he says, and he promises his reward to those who respond to him. Addressing some problems he sees in the church in Laodicea, he says

Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Discipline probably isn’t what we want to hear. Discipline may sound unpleasant, and it is. But understand, discipline is rooted in love. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.’ ‘Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood’ says ‘those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’ Discipline is an expression of God’s love.

Wisdom Warns

Wisdom cries out:

Proverbs 1:22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 23 If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. 24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30 would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.

Wisdom warns the fool, scoffers who hate knowledge, who ignore wise counsel, who despise reproof. They will get what they wanted; they will ‘eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.’ There are natural consequences for rejecting discipline and correction.

Bad Examples

In the Old Testament we find some epic examples of fathers who failed to discipline their sons and the tragic consequences. The two sons of Eli were priests of the Lord at Shiloh.

1 Samuel 2:12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD. …17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD, for the men treated the offering of the LORD with contempt. …22 Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24 No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the LORD spreading abroad. 25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death.

It seems Eli had failed to train his sons, and they refused to listen to correction and reproof.

A man of God came to Eli with the word of the Lord:

1 Samuel 2:29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’

The sin of Eli was to honor his sons above the Lord God. How many people today elevate their children above the Lord? How many of us treat our children as kings and queens, princes and princesses? ‘You scorn my sacrifices …and honor your sons above me.’

Here’s what the ancient wisdom book says:

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

The word of the Lord came to young Samuel about Eli:

1 Samuel 3:13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.

God is holding the father responsible because he knew what his sons were doing, and he failed to restrain them.

In 1 Samuel 4, the two sons of Eli died in battle, the ark of the Lord was captured, and when Eli was given the news, he fell over backward, broke his neck and died.

Withholding discipline when discipline is deserved is hatred not love, and it ends in disaster and death. This is one large contributing factor to what is wrong and broken in our society and in our culture.

Proverbs 23:13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. 14 If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

Can this be abused and wrongfully applied out of anger and convenience, not out of love? Yes. Should we forsake the clear teaching of God’s word because some use it wrongly? No, we ought to check ourselves and our motives, seek godly counsel and get help.

The wise father says:

Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Jesus says ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’ Loving discipline is an expression of love.

Illegitimate Children

Look with me at Hebrews 12. Hebrews 12 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus who for joy endured the cross; it tells us to lay aside the sin that trips us up and to run the race with endurance.

Hebrews 12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

That, my friends, is what is called a rhetorical question. You can probably answer with a long list of names. There’s Johnny and Joey and Bobby and Billy and Betsy and Sue. They are obviously undisciplined. ‘What son is there whom his father does not discipline?’ This is a rhetorical question and the answer is meant to be ‘there is no son whom his father does not discipline!’ Fathers are to love their children, and one of the expressions of a father’s love is loving discipline. Our society is so far out of Biblical bounds that we can’t even recognize this as a rhetorical question and answer it rightly.

Hebrews 12:7 …For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

Your earthly father may have failed you. You may not have had an earthly father who disciplined you out of love for your good. You may not have had an earthly father in your life. The point of this is a contrast. The best of earthly fathers are at best imperfect and inconsistent, flawed and faulted. As I preach this, I am acutely aware of my own failures and shortcomings as a father. I am preaching as much to me as I am to you. But the point is that if we have respect for our imperfect earthly fathers, how much more should we gladly submit ourselves to the perfect Father whose discipline is always perfect, perfectly applied and always for our good?

Hebrews 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

Part of being a son is being disciplined. We don’t like discipline; it is painful, not pleasant. But if the Lord does not discipline us, we might rightly question if we are truly his sons at all. The gospel calls us to come just as we are, but the good Lord will not leave us as we are. He intends for us to reflect his own character. ‘I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!’ (Gal.4:19). The Lord disciplines us ‘for our good, that we may share his holiness.’

Some of the most terrifying words in all of Scripture are those words in Romans 1, that ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven’ in that ‘God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts’ (Rom.1:18,24,26,28). God gave them up to do what they wanted to do. God turned them over to the sin they chose. He gave them over; this is not loving discipline but judicial release to run unrestrained into the consequences of their own desires. This is not how God treats his children. If you are sinning and seemingly getting away with it, be terrified that you may be under his wrath. Ask him to adopt you into his family and to apply his loving discipline to you for your good. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’

Restorative Discipline in the Church

In Matthew 18, Jesus tells his followers that we need to turn and become like children in order to enter his kingdom, and he warns against those who would cause ‘one of these little ones who believe in me to sin.’ He tells us to deal severely with our own sin, and he shares the heart of the Father in leaving the ninety-nine to go out in search of the one sheep who goes astray. And then he says:

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Jesus teaches his followers that we are to have the heart of his Father in going after those who go astray, in order to bring them back to safety.

It starts with ‘If your brother sins against you.’ If your brother sins against you, go and tell somebody about it. Go tell lots of people about it, go look for sympathy, go put it on social media. Go ask for prayer. Go tell the church leaders about it. No, no, no. Now you are sinning against your brother who sinned against you. You are a gossip, a slanderer, a backbiter, a busybody, and that is sin.

If your brother sins against somebody you know, stand up for them and go tell him his fault. No, Jesus says ‘If your brother sins against you, you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.

And the goal is to heap on the guilt and really make him feel bad about what he did to you, to shame him, to make him pay. No, the goal is that he would listen, and you gain back your brother. The goal is reconciliation in sibling relationships. In love, in private, you and him alone, for restoration. And this passage goes on to command us to keep no record of wrong and forgive our brother who sins against us not seven times but seventy times seven.

Only if he does not respond to your private loving correction do you involve others. And then only one or two others. Keep the circle as small as possible. The goal is to go after the straying sheep, to gain back your brother or sister. The motive must be love and the goal must be safe return and restoration to the safety and care of the Good Shepherd.

Remember, just as in the immediate family so in the church family, discipline and correction is loving. To withhold correction and discipline when it is appropriate is to hate. When necessary, give it that way, and receive it as such.

Did you know that is what the Bible is for?

2 Timothy 3:15 …from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Scripture is given for reproof, correction, training. The goal is godly maturity and usefulness in Christ. It is for your good. You must acquaint your children with it. You must acquaint yourself with the Scriptures. And you should put them to use in your own family and in the family of God.

Three Applications:

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Eph.6:2-3).

‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Eph.6:4). Fathers and mothers, do not neglect loving discipline of your children in your home for their good.

Brothers and sisters, when a brother or sister reproves, rebukes, exhorts you, when you receive discipline from the Lord, rejoice, it is an expression of love. He is treating you as his own children. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’

***

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

June 29, 2020 Posted by | church, discipleship, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:7-8; Divine Guidance and Apostolic Regret

06/30_2 Corinthians 7:7-8; Divine Guidance and Apostolic Regret; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190630_2cor7_7-8.mp3

Paul had changed his travel plans. He had hoped to cross the Aegean from Ephesus to Corinth and visit them on his way up to Macedonia, and then again on his return trip down from Macedonia. <<MAP>>

2 Corinthians 1:15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. …23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. 2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Upon hearing some concerning news, he made an emergency visit, a visit which proved painful for him. He refused to make another painful visit, instead sending Titus ahead with a severe letter, and traveling north from Ephesus by land to Troas, where he planned to meet Titus and hear news of how they responded. But Titus did not meet him in Troas, so he continued on to Macedonia, where he was comforted by the coming of Titus.

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while.

Good News of Grief

Paul says that he was comforted by the God who comforts the depressed; by the comfort with which Titus was comforted by you. This is reciprocal comfort, reciprocal encouragement.

A Risky Letter and Apostolic Regret

Paul says something very interesting here; he wrote a letter that he regretted writing after he sent it. He took a risk. He was deeply concerned about them, and they hadn’t responded well to a visit, so he wrote a forceful letter. But after sending it off, he questioned, was it too much? Will it push them farther away? Things seem to be on the verge of falling apart. What if his severe letter pushes them over the edge? If this church falls apart, what will come of the advance of the gospel in the region of Achaia?

We get yet another glimpse into the real human struggles of an apostle. Led and empowered by the Spirit of God, he had to make hard decisions and afterward, he wasn’t confident he had made the right decision. I believe we get a glimpse here into what it means to be led by the Spirit. We tend to think only in categories of the mystical and supernatural, that they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” and “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go into Bithynia” (Acts16:6-7)

Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

God can and sometimes does lead in those direct clear ways. But there is also “even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest …So I took leave of them and went on” (2Cor.2:12-13). A gospel door was opened, but because of what was going on, I couldn’t take advantage of it and had to leave. Do we say that Paul was disobedient to the Spirit’s leading? Or was his ‘spirit not at rest’ also leading of the Spirit? Was there only one right answer? To stay may have meant fruitful ministry, but he chose to leave, and God brought his comfort to him in Macedonia.

Paul ‘wanted to come to you first …but …I refrained from coming again. …For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you.” (2Cor.1:15; 2:1). Acts records it this way “Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia…” (19:21). Paul has desires, and he wrestles with what will be best for them. He reasons and thinks and makes up his mind. He writes a letter and then begins to regret writing the way he did, wondering if that was best. Paul is empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, and yet he doesn’t always have a ‘word from the Lord’ on what he is supposed to do. The Spirit is growing in his heart an affection and care for the churches, he wants to serve and love and bless them, but he uses his God given wisdom to choose how to do that. He takes risks. Writing the severe letter was risky. It could backfire. They might misunderstand his intentions. And yet he makes a decision and prayerfully moves forward in ministry, trusting God to direct his steps.

The Revealed Will of God

It’s a very common question; how do I know what God’s will is in any particular situation. And it’s a good question, because we ought to be making it our aim in all things to please him (2Cor.5:9). We should be asking ‘what would the Lord want me to do? What would please him? What would glorify him? I think it’s worth taking some time to look at what the Bible has to say about God’s will and how to make decisions that please God.

On one level, this is a very easy question, because a quick search in bible software or a concordance will give you some very specific verses dealing with the will of God. Here’s one:

1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;

This is the will of God, your sanctification. You are set apart for God. Sexual immorality of any kind is inconsistent with who you are in Christ. This is clear. You don’t have to pray about if you should have an affair or go too far with your girlfriend, or indulge in pornography. God has said clearly that abstinence outside of a traditional marriage relationship is his will. But this doesn’t tell me what job I should take or what school I should attend or where I should live.

Or maybe it does. Is there wisdom here, that tells me that although this job pays more, it puts me in a position that exposes me to more frequent and more intense temptations to sin, and it would be unwise to put myself in those positions?

Here is another will of God verse:

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Usually those asking the question of how to determine the will of God are facing a life decision that will place them in very different circumstances. This verse doesn’t tell us which circumstances to choose, but rather what God’s will is in any and every circumstance. You can find joy in any circumstance. Never stop praying. In every circumstance give thanks to God. That is God’s will. If you choose A, find joy in it, give thanks for it, and never stop praying. If you choose B, find joy in it, give thanks for it, and never stop praying. The will of God is not necessarily choosing A over B or B over A, but in A or B or C or D to rejoice and stay connected to God and give him thanks.

Here’s another one:

1 Peter 2:15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Peter says that we should “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” God’s will is that we live lives of integrity that are above reproach, lives that bless others, so that the name of Christ is not reproached.

How to Do the Will of God

Ephesians 6 tells us how we are to do the will of God;

Ephesians 6:5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

This is addressed to servants, and the focus here is not what you do outwardly but where your heart is, what your attitude is like. This is a circumstance few would choose. A slave doesn’t get to make many choices; they are told what to do. And yet even in a situation of slavery, Paul says that they can do the will of God. The will of God defines how you serve a master. With a sincere heart, from the heart, with a good will, as to the Lord and not to man. God’s will reaches beyond what you do into the heart motivations of why and how you do it.

Discerning the Will of God in Every Situation

We still haven’t tackled directly the question of how to discern the will of God in any given decision. Romans 12 is an important passage for how to determine the will of God. And it begins with a ‘therefore’. It is built on top of the foundation of 11 chapters of gospel, of the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you [or encourage; Παρακαλῶ] therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In response to God’s mercy displayed in the gospel, that we all are sinners deserving of wrath, that none is righteous, no not one, but God gives us his own perfect righteousness as a gift to be received by faith, that God put his only Son Jesus forward as a propitiation, placing all our sins on him and pouring out his just wrath on him as our substitute.

That we have been justified, that we have peace with God, that we have received the Spirit as a guarantee. In view of God’s many mercies, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service, your spiritual worship, your logical liturgy.

The first point if you want to discern the will of God is to know the gospel well. Soak in it, marinate in it, enjoy it, savor it. Any attempt to live a life that pleases the Lord must be rooted in and grow out of the rich soil of treasuring the gospel.

The second point we see here is this. Refuse to be shaped by this fallen world system; don’t let the world press you into its mold. Don’t follow the patterns of thinking of a Christ rejecting world. If we want to please Jesus, we need to recognize that this world system is opposed to Jesus and his ways. He told his followers:

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus made it clear that his kingdom operates on principles that are upside down and out of step with this world. We must stop thinking in worldly categories if we want to please God.

Here is a simplistic example; (real world decisions are often more complex than this). You are contemplating two jobs. One pays more than the other. You want to live a comfortable life, you want to be able to afford the fancier car and enjoy the luxuries that money can buy, so you choose the higher paying job. It is not that your decision is wrong, as if you chose A and God’s will was for you to choose B. Rather, your reasoning was wrong. You were thinking according to worldly patterns. Maybe the lower paying job would be a better choice because it would free up time to spend with family and serve in the local church. Maybe there would be more opportunity to be a light for Jesus in one than the other. Or maybe the higher paying job would enable you to use your gifts and talents to earn more money so that you can give sacrificially to advance the kingdom of God in the world. In your thinking, in your reasoning, do not be conformed to this world system.

Instead, be transformed, be metamorphosed by the renewing of your mind. This is where marinating in the gospel, treasuring the gospel, being washed in the water of the word, comes in. Let God’s word transform your mental framework, your priorities, your deepest desires. Let God renew your mind.

The result of this is ‘so that by testing you may discern what is the will of God. This word ‘testing to discern’ [δοκιμάζειν] is a word that is used in the refining of precious metals; to test in order to demonstrate its genuineness, to prove. When a refiner puts the gold into the fire to prove it, he risks losing it all if it is false; and yet there is no risk for what he would lose is merely the imitation.

Here is how this works. As you treasure the gospel, as your heart and mind are transformed, as you pursue a life pleasing to God, you prove what is the will of God as a fire proves gold. You have a decision to make and so you consider what would advance the gospel, what would glorify God, what would be most pleasing to him. And then you have to do something. This testing, this proving, this involves risk. You have to take the next step. God’s will is good, it is pleasing, it is complete or perfect, it achieves the intended goal.

Paul made it his aim in all things to please the Lord. When circumstances arose, he applied his gospel sanctified common sense, and moved forward with what he though would most glorify God. He was human. He didn’t always claim to have a word from the Lord on a specific matter. Sometimes he felt regret, wondering if he had done the best thing. Sometimes he was discouraged. Sometimes he was depressed. He needed brothers and sisters to come along side him and encourage him. And yet he could move forward with boldness and humble confidence, knowing that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom.8:28)

***

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

June 30, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God All Knowing and Wise

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

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

The Good News of Omniscience

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

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

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

The author of Hebrews says:

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

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

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

God who Cannot Learn

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

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

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

God never makes a bad decision based on incomplete information.

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

God and ‘Chance’

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Aloof or Involved?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge of what Might Have Been

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

In Matthew 11, Jesus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foolish Wisdom of the Cross

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

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

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

Wisdom to the Praise of His Glory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 12:7-11; To Each a Manifestation of the Spirit

09/07 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 To Each the Manifestation of the Spirit ;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140907_1cor12_7-11.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν. 2 οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι. 3 διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.

4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα· 5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος· 6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. 7 ἑκάστῳ δὲ δίδοται ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον. 8 ᾧ μὲν γὰρ διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος δίδοται λόγος σοφίας, ἄλλῳ δὲ λόγος γνώσεως κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, 9 ἑτέρῳ πίστις ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι, ἄλλῳ χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων ἐν τῷ ἑνὶ πνεύματι, 10 ἄλλῳ ἐνεργήματα δυνάμεων, ἄλλῳ προφητεία, 1 ἄλλῳ διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, ἑτέρῳ γένη γλωσσῶν, 2 ἄλλῳ ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν· 11 πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἐνεργεῖ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, διαιροῦν ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ καθὼς βούλεται.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

We are dealing with a very controversial topic in this section of Scripture. Paul is answering a question about what it is that makes someone ‘spiritual’ and teaching about the distributions of various grace-gifts by the Holy Spirit. Paul lists gifts like healing, faith, miracles, tongues, interpretation, distinguishing of spirits, prophecies, and words of wisdom and knowledge. Some people believe that many if not all of these gifts have ceased and are no longer relevant or given in the church today. Others believe that they are fully in operation in the church, and that they personally possess one or more of these gifts. I am guessing that we have both positions represented here today. These issues were divisive in the church in Corinth, and they are divisive in many churches today. Much of this letter is written to confront the issues over which they were dividing, and to bring greater unity. Paul has some important things to say to us, if we are willing to listen.

Some of you may be clueless, this is the first you have ever heard that there are gifts that the Spirit gives to believers, wondering if you have any or where you can get some. Some of you may be curious, wondering which side I take on the issues. Some may be cautious, concerned that we are heading off the deep end and into craziness.

My goal is to submit myself to the text of Scripture, listening to what it says, believing it, and making an effort to adjust my life and practices accordingly. I want to keep the main thing the main thing, focusing on the clear things and admitting there are things that we just don’t know. I want to be honest about what is clear and about what is not so clear in the text, not overstating one side or the other. I want to be teachable, not with a head set in cement, thinking I know everything already, but eager to learn what God wants to teach us through his word. I hope you are eager to learn along with me.

In order to understand any passage of Scripture, we need to see it in its proper context. The context of 1 Corinthians is a church that is divided, and many of the issues they divided over centered around pride and self-seeking. They wanted to be thought well of, to seek status and to impress others. Paul tackles the issue of what makes one spiritual by starting with the basic biblical fact that no one believes in Jesus as Lord except the Holy Spirit has done a work in him first. Everyone who confesses Christ as Lord has been born of the Spirit, has God the Holy Spirit residing in him, and is therefore spiritual.

He then highlights the nature of the spiritual by pointing us to the character of the gifts as grace-gifts. They are unearned, undeserved freely given by a generous God. The gifts are sovereignly distributed by the one triune God. They are services, intended for the good of others, they are powerful workings energized by the power of almighty God.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

We could summarize what has been said so far this way:

Every believer is spiritual / indwelt by God the Holy Spirit.

Every believer is given the manifestation of the Spirit.

Every grace-gift is undeserved; no credit to the one who receives it.

Every grace-gift is intended for the common good.

Paul now goes on to enumerate 9 various gifts, redundantly stating that they all come from one and the same Spirit. Grace-gifts are manifestations of the Spirit, given through the Spirit, according to the same Spirit, by the same Spirit, by the one Spirit. They are all empowered and apportioned by one and the same Spirit. Paul’s emphasis is on the divine Giver who gives gifts to each just as he chooses. He lists 9 gifts here, a sampling of gifts to make his point that whatever gifts believers have all came from one and the same Spirit. This is the main point, and we would do well not to lose sight of the main point as we look at some of the other details of this passage.

Lists of the Gifts

Paul lists 9 gifts here, and another 9 at the end of this chapter. 5 of the gifts are common to both lists, and the other 4 are unique to each list, so in the chapter he gives us 13 gifts in all. As we look around the New Testament at some other listings of the gifts, we realize that of the 13, only 2 show up in the other lists. Word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, powers healings, miracles, distinguishing of spirits, helping, administrating, tongues, and interpretation of tongues do not show up in any of the other lists. Other things, like evangelists, shepherds, exhortation, generosity, leading, and mercy are not mentioned in 1 Corinthians. This should caution us against thinking that we have an exhaustive list of all the gifts. The gifts listed are merely examples held up to make a point, not intended for us to create a comprehensive list and then administer tests to see who has which gifts. Whose list do we use? Which gifts do we include? Which gifts are describing the same thing using different terms? It is at least possible that there are some grace-gifts that are not mentioned in any of the biblical lists. There is nothing wrong with taking a test to help you understand what gifts you might have, but realize that the unique equipping God has gifted you with may not fit into the neat categories the maker of the test came up with. And don’t think that until you can list which gifts you possess, you are useless and have no purpose in the church. Every believer has been gifted exactly as God intended, and countless believers use their various gifts very effectively and regularly to strengthen the church without having a clue what gifts they have or even that they are using gifts at all. This is Paul’s point in inserting some seemingly ordinary non-exciting gifts like helps and administration in amongst the more obviously supernatural and dramatic gifts. These plain everyday activities that are essential to the healthy functioning of the church are no less supernatural and Holy Spirit empowered than the flashy attention grabbing manifestations of the Spirit.

What Are The Gifts?

Another challenge we face in studying the gifts is that we don’t know exactly what they are or how they were used. We can try to piece together the data we are given in the text to better understand what the gifts were, but the truth is we don’t know for sure. John Chrysostom, who lived AD 347-404 in his comments on this passage wrote:

This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity hath produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more? [Homilies on First Corinthians. Homily XXIX, 1]

Chrysostom lamented that this passage is obscure because the things it describes were no longer happening in the church. If one who lived within 300 years of the apostles was aware of his own ignorance in understanding the gifts, how can we who live some 2000 years later assume that we know what they mean? We can look at what modern day Christians practice and identify by these biblical names, but it is not certain that what some today call prophecy or tongues or healing is necessarily the same thing that Paul referred to when he used those words to describe gifts in the early church.

Structure of the Passage

What can we say about these gifts? First, we can see some structure to the list that he gives. There are two different Greek words that are all translated ‘to another’ in this passage. One tends to mean another of the same kind, and the other can mean another of a different kind. The first two are paired, the next 5 are connected, and the last two are paired. The utterance of wisdom is paired with the utterance of knowledge, both speaking gifts, and the final two, various kinds of languages and interpretation of languages, are also speaking gifts. The middle 5 are all lumped together, with faith as a more general gift that may find expression in some of the other gifts, and then the two pairs, healings and miracles, and prophecy and distinguishing of spirits.

Word of Wisdom

What is the grace-gift identified as the word of wisdom? We can guess, or we can look around at current practice, but I believe we will be better served to look in the text to find our answers. Both wisdom and knowledge were buzzwords in Corinth. The word ‘wisdom occurs 17 times in 1 Corinthians; 16 times in the first three chapters, and then once in this verse. Looking back to the first section of this book, we see that ‘words of eloquent wisdom’ were prized in Corinth, and Paul draws a contrast between the so-called wisdom of the world that God will destroy, and the true wisdom of God in the seemingly foolish message of the cross. The message of Christ crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1:23-24). In chapter 2, Paul claims to impart to them a secret and hidden wisdom of God, things God has revealed to us through his Spirit (2:7-10). He says:

1 Corinthians 2:12 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.

The things freely given us by God, the secret and hidden wisdom that we understand through the Spirit, is that the Lord of glory was crucified. The word of wisdom is to ‘know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (2:2). Paul claims to impart this wisdom of God in words taught by the Spirit, which fits perfectly with what he says here about the grace-gift/service/working of the Holy Spirit in the utterance or word of wisdom. When Paul says in chapter 15 “I would remind you of the gospel …that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared…”, he is exercising the grace-gift of an utterance of wisdom. We could say that the word of wisdom is the God-given ability to understand and communicate the good news of Christ crucified so that Christ is perceived as the power and wisdom of God among those who are called.

Word of Knowledge

What is the grace-gift called the word of knowledge? Paul begins this letter:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge

This seems to be an affirmation that they possessed this grace-gift of the word of knowledge. This word ‘knowledge’ shows up 5 times in chapter 8, and then 4 times in the chapters dealing with grace-gifts. In chapter 8, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Paul points to their so-called knowledge which puffs up, knowledge of theological truth which frees the one with that knowledge to eat at an idol’s temple, thus by that knowledge destroying a brother for whom Christ died (8:11), and contrasts it with the way we ought to know, which is in truth being known by God, loving God, and building others up in love. We could conclude that the grace-gift of the word of knowledge is the God given ability to properly understand theological truth and humbly apply it in a way that others are built up in their relationship with God and their love for God.

Faith

What is the gift of faith? We can see from the entire New Testament that faith is believing in, trusting in and depending on God’s promises. We are saved by God’s grace as a gift, and we are saved through faith or relying on God, which itself is a gift from God (Eph.2:8-9). But that cannot be what Paul means here, because here he is looking at a specific grace-gift that is given only to some believers. He has already said in verse 3 that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit”, which is looking at the gift of faith given to ever believer. Here he is talking about distributions of various gifts, services, or activities, different manifestations of the Spirit given to different believers. So what is this additional gift of faith that goes beyond saving faith? Chapter 13 gives us a clue.

1 Corinthians 13:2 …and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

This seems to be an extraordinary Spirit enabled capacity to depend on God to remove major obstacles to the gospel. When we look at this in the context of manifestations of the Spirit given to each for the common good, we can see that the unshakeable confidence in God of one individual can be an encouragement and support to the entire body, stimulating the group to move forward with boldness and confidence.

Gifts of Healings

What are gifts of healings? Both words are in the plural, indicating that there may be multiple grace-gifts for different kinds of healings. Clearly in much of Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of the apostles recorded in Acts, physical healing of diseases, and healing of those oppressed by demons were central. We also see Matthew 13:15, John 12:40, and Acts 28:27 all citing Isaiah 6:9-10, which says:

Isaiah 6:9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

This indicates that one aspect of healing is healing of unbelief, where blind eyes see, heavy ears hear, and dull hearts understand, turn and believe in Jesus. Peter says:

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

This healing is comprehensive healing, spiritual and ultimately physical. There were occasions where Paul told a man crippled from birth to ‘stand upright on your feet’ and he was healed (Acts 14:10), there were occasions where handkerchiefs that had touched Paul were brought to the sick and ‘their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them’ (Acts 19:12); There was also occasion when Paul instructed Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Tim.5:23) and when Paul “left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus” (2 Tim.4:20). It seems clear that the gifts of healings did not ensure that everyone was always physically healed. So the gifts of healings may be diverse, including physical healings, healings from demonic oppression, healings from spiritual blindness, healings with a word, and healings through more natural means like medicines.

Workings of Powers

In workings of powers, both words are plural, again indicating that there may be varieties of powerful workings within this one classification of Spirit-gifting. The grammar of this phrase could be read as workings of powers in the sense of doing miraculous deeds, or it could be read as workings over powers in the sense of exercising authority over demonic powers. We could look to Ananias and Sapphira who fell dead at the apostles’ feet when they lied to the Holy Spirit, (Acts 5:1-11) or when Elymas the magician was seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith, and Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit rebuked him and he was struck blind (Acts 13:8-12)

Here in 1 Corinthians, where the people were seeking power and status, power primarily refers to the power of the gospel to save sinners. So workings of powers could include authority over hostile spiritual forces, workings of miracles, and a demonstration of the power of the gospel of Christ crucified to rescue sinners.

Prophecy and Discerning of Spirits

Prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues are the main subjects of the next chapters, so we will explore them more fully when we come to them, but for now we can say that prophecy is speaking something that God has brought to mind for the purpose of building up, encouraging or consoling others (14:3), and is to be subject to those with the gift of discerning the spirits. Paul says in 14:29, ‘let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said’. In 1 Thessalonians Paul instructs:

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

Various Languages and Interpretation of Languages

Again, there will be much more to say on the issue of tongues, but we can preliminarily define tongues as words of prayer or praise spoken to God, not always understood by the speaker, and requiring explanation to be understood by others. Paul defines it for us in 14:2

1 Corinthians 14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.

Empowered, Apportioned, Willed

11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Paul brings us back to the main point; there are various distributions of grace-gifts to different believers, but it is the same Spirit who powers them, and distributes them to individuals according to his own good purpose. There is a tendency to champion one gift above others, to claim a particular gift or type of gifts as evidence of advanced spirituality. Paul claims that every believer is energized by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to each individual exactly as he intends. They are given to us but not for us, they are given for his good purpose, and that purpose is for the common good. He does not grant gifts based on capability or performance, they are freely given, and they are given to whoever he wants to give them. We can claim no credit or status based on what we have been freely given, because grace is directly opposite to merit. We must rejoice in the unity of the one Spirit displayed in the diversity of gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

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

September 7, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 8:1-3; Love and Knowledge

02/16 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 Love and Knowledge; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140216_1cor8_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων, οἴδαμεν ὅτι πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν. ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ, ἡ δὲ ἀγάπη οἰκοδομεῖ. 2 εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἐγνωκέναι τι, οὔπω ἔγνω καθὼς δεῖ γνῶναι· 3 εἰ δέ τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν θεόν, οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.

1 Corinthians 8 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

In chapters 8-10, Paul tackles another issue brought to him by the church in Corinth. In chapter 7, he says ‘now concerning the matters about which you wrote’, and he addresses issues of relationships, marriage, celibacy, the divorced and widowed, remarriage and betrothal. Here in chapter 8, he begins ‘now concerning food offered to idols’, and he engages this topic at length through the next three chapters. In our effort to understand the details of the passage before us, it will be helpful to look at the background of this issue culturally, theologically, and historically, and to look at some of the conclusions Paul draws in chapter 10, so we can understand where he is going with his logic.

Cultural Background

First of all, the cultural background. Corinth, like much of the Graeco-Roman world, was a culture immersed in idolatry. Some of the deities that were revered in Corinth would include Chronos, Poseidon, the Sun, the Calm, the Sea, Aphrodite, Artemis, Isis, Dionysus, a tree, Fortune, Apollo, Hermes, Zeus, Asclepius, Bunaea, and others (R.Collins, 1999: 314, cited in BECNT, p.373).

Three distinct issues would face a resident in Corinth, and Paul addresses each of these: eating in the temple of an idol (8:7-13; 10:1-22); eating food bought in the market (10:23-27); and eating food in private homes of unbelievers (10:28-31).

The problem of idolatry was pervasive, because pagan religion was inextricably linked to every area of life. Civic and political life included emperor worship and idolatry. Each trade guild would typically be associated with a pagan deity, company parties would be held in the idol’s temple, and everyone employed in this trade would be expected to participate. Excavations at the Asclepion revealed multiple dining rooms and a large courtyard that could be used to host large banquets. Temple dining rooms could be rented out to commemorate weddings, birthdays, the birth of a child, coming of age parties, election victories, funerals, and the like (Kim, 1975, cited in BECNT p.348). Idolatry was even linked to sports; the Isthmian games hosted by Corinth included pagan sacrifices. If you went to the market to buy meat, it was likely to have been sacrificed to or dedicated to some pagan god. There was a fear that bad spirits would enter the body through food, so food was dedicated to a deity in hopes that that deity would protect the consumer from harmful spirits. Animals that were offered in these temples would end up in three places. Some of the meat was burned to the god. Some was given to the priests as their portion. If they had more than they could consume, they would sell it in the market. A portion was given to the person who offered the sacrifice, either to be eaten in one of the temple dining rooms for a celebration, or to be taken home and consumed with family and friends. This was a major issue for someone who believed in Christ, because a refusal to participate in a work party could cost you your job. A refusal to eat food served at an unbelieving friend’s home could end the relationship. A refusal to attend family celebrations would alienate you from your unbelieving family. This is the kind of dilemma facing the church in Corinth.

Theological Background

Now let’s look at the theological and historical background of this issue. The whole bible is clear that there is only one true God. The bible opens with the declaration that in the beginning God created all that exists.

Psalm 96:4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

When God gave his commandments to his people he said:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Throughout the history of Israel, idolatry was a problem. We might not realize how relevant this issue is to us today. I would guess that not many of us have an image that we worship or a temple that we visit. But idolatry extends beyond images to anything that takes priority over God’s absolute right to first place, whether family or pleasure or work or power or pride. God described his people as “They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways” (Heb.3:10).

Historical Background

When we come to the historical background of this issue in the church in Corinth, we find that it had already been settled. When the good news of Jesus was believed by non-Jewish people, the question arose as to what parts of the Jewish law must be followed for a Gentile to become a genuine follower of Jesus, particularly, must they be circumcised. The early church discussed this issue and affirmed that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. They wrote a letter to the Gentile churches stating:

Acts 15:28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

This decision was delivered to the churches in Gentile regions by Paul and Barnabas. That was Acts 15. In Acts 18, Paul arrives in Corinth and spends a year and a half preaching the gospel and establishing the church there. Certainly the issue of idolatry would have come up in a city like Corinth, and the Apostle certainly would not have withheld this decision from the Jerusalem church about this important issue. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians while he was in Corinth, and he wrote this:

1 Thessalonians 1:7 …you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

Corinth is in the region of Achaia. Paul, writing from Corinth, commends the believers in Thessalonica that they turned to God from idols. There is no such thing as turning to the one living and true God and continuing to worship idols. This is not a gray area, this is black and white. They had the decision of the Jerusalem church on it. It appears that the believers in Corinth were feeling the pressure of their culture and questioning this decision. They wrote to Paul giving their reasons why they felt that they could as Christians partake of food sacrificed to idols and attend social functions in the pagan temples. Paul could have simply hammered them with the Jerusalem edict and demanded that they comply. Instead he lays out careful reasoning to to lead them to the proper conclusion. We can see some of his conclusions if we jump ahead to chapter 10. He says in 10:7 “Do not be idolaters as some of them were…” and in verse 14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” He equates idolatry with making sacrifices to demons and says in verse 20 “..I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Addressing the question of meat of unknown origin, he says in verse 28 “But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it…”

Flow of Argument

Seeing the conclusions Paul draws, let’s back up and follow his argumentation through these chapters. Apparently the Corinthian logic ran something like this: “all of us possess knowledge” (v.1) that “an idol has no real existence” because “there is no God but one” (v.4), and we know that “food will not commend us to God” (v.8), therefore “all things are lawful” (10:23) so we have the right to eat whatever we want wherever we want. Paul starts by pointing out the inadequacy of knowledge without love (8:1-3). He reminds them that because there is truly only one God, we exist for him and must obey him (8:4-6). He warns that their behavior may destroy a brother for whom Christ died (8:7-13). In chapter 9, he uses himself as an example of what it looks like to lay down your own rights for the sake of the gospel and the good of others. In chapter 10, he illustrates the danger of idolatry from the Old Testament example of Israel in the wilderness (10:1-13). He shows the incompatibility of idolatry and the Lord’s supper (10:14-22), and he concludes with some practical instructions on how to handle different situations in pagan society (10:23-11:1).

Knowledge

Now that we seeing where he is going with his flow of thought, let’s back up and examine his first point about knowledge and love. He introduces the topic ‘now concerning food offered to idols’ and then he quotes the Corinthians, possibly a line from their letter: ‘we know that all of us possess knowledge’, and then he begins to interact with their assertion. The kind of ‘knowledge’ they claim to have may cause more harm than good. He says ‘this knowledge puffs up’. He has talked quite a bit about knowledge already in this letter. At the opening of the letter, he:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

He reminds them that any knowledge they do have is an undeserved gift from God. In chapters 1-3 he contrasts the foolish wisdom of this world with the powerful foolishness of the message of the cross. He points out that this is supernatural wisdom, revealed by God to the foolish, weak, low, despised nothings. God’s true wisdom is meant to humble us, not to puff us up. This word ‘puffed up’ is found in the New Testament 7 times, 6 of them in this letter (4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4). The Corinthians had a problem with pride. Their egos were over-inflated.

Paul says here that ‘knowledge puffs up, but love builds up’. Is Paul pitting love against knowledge? Is he promoting anti-intellectual ignorance? Love without knowledge? Heavens NO! You have to pay attention and think clearly and carefully to follow Paul’s logic in these chapters. In writing this letter he assumes that they will have to use knowledge. When Paul thanked God for their being enriched in knowledge, he was not joking. Knowledge is a gift from God. In verse 2, he says:

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

There is a way that we ought to know. He does not say ‘you should just turn off your brains and start loving people.’ No, the Corinthians ought to know, but in a different way than they did. Ten times in this letter, Paul asks the question ‘do you not know?’ and each time he is rebuking them for their ignorance of a basic truth of Christianity that they ought to know. In Ephesians 1:8, Paul says that God lavishes the riches of his grace on us ‘in all wisdom and insight’. When Paul prays for the Colossians, he says:

Colossians 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Fruitfulness comes in connection with an increase in the knowledge of God, not a decrease in knowledge. Paul’s concern for his unbelieving Jewish brothers is that:

Romans 10:2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Their danger was that they had a passionate love for God, but it was not according to knowledge. They were ignorant of the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ. Love without knowledge does not save. Paul tells Timothy that God

1 Timothy 2:4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Coming to the knowledge of the truth is equated with being saved. In Romans 1, the wrath of God comes on those who ‘exchange the truth about God for a lie’ (1:25). In the Old Testament, God says ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’ (Hosea 4:6; Is.5:13) and they have ‘rejected knowledge’.

Jesus was clear on this. He said:

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In knowing the truth, there is freedom. Knowing the truth comes from abiding in the word of Jesus.

Inflating Self or Building Others

Paul is not arguing for less knowledge and more love. It is not that they know too much, but they don’t know in the right way. Paul rebukes this knowledge that is characterized by pride. This kind of knowledge shows itself by an inflated ego, by a feeling of superiority, looking down on others. The goal of true knowledge is not inflating self but building others up. Paul will have more to say in chapters 12 and 14 about using our gifts, even gifts like knowledge, to build up others, to build up the body of Christ. He will have more to say about the essential nature of love, real selfless love that the Corinthians lacked, in chapter 13. In the issue of idolatry, Paul is bringing the Corinthian church back to first principles. The first and greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love God and love neighbor. Any participation in idolatry is a blatant failure to love God above all else, and as he will show in the rest of this chapter, participation in idolatry is a failure to love our neighbor for whom Christ died.

Know that You Don’t Know

The Corinthians asserted ‘all of us possess knowledge’; Paul warns

8:1 … This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.

The one who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. There is a self-confident knowing that Paul says is not yet knowing, and there is the way we ought to know, which is characterized by a humble awareness of our own weakness and limitations. Socrates said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Paul warned in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:18 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 Romans 11, he pushes us beyond the human limits of knowledge:

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?”

True knowledge is beginning to comprehend that God is incomprehensible, unsearchable, inscrutable. God is infinitely beyond what a finite human being could ever know.

Ephesians 3:17 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.

When we begin to know that the love of Christ goes beyond measurable dimensions, goes far beyond our knowledge, we begin to know as we ought to know.

8:2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Here again we see true knowledge defined by love. Loving God is set in contrast to thinking you know something. Paul is bringing them back to first principles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with heart and soul and mind and strength. Wisdom would be to start with the greatest command, the command to love God. To love God is to put him first in everything. So if the ‘knowledge’ of the Corinthians is allowing them to participate in idolatry, then that knowledge is really foolishness.

Known By God

The one who thinks he knows is contrasted with the one who loves God. This one is said, not to know God, but to be known by God. Why does he turn this around? Paul could have said ‘the one who loves God is the one who truly knows him’; but instead he says ‘the one who loves God is the one who is known by him.’ To be known by God is to belong to God, to experience his unmerited grace, to be chosen by him. In Amos 3, God says of Israel “You only have I known of all the families of the earth”.

Exodus 33:17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

All the people in a kingdom know their king. Some may love him and some may hate him, but they all know him. But to say that the king knows me is to say much more. In most kingdoms, very few could claim that they are known by the king.

Galatians 4:9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, …

The greatest thing is not that we know God. The greatest think is that he knows us.

2 Timothy 2:19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” …

For God to know us is sheer undeserved mercy.

Ephesians 2:3 … were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 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—

God loves us not because of, but in spite of what we are. It is undeserved favor. If anyone loves God, it is because he is first known and loved by God.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

This is a powerful antidote for idolatry. To know that the incomprehensible love of Christ has been lavished on me, to know that Christ loved me and gave himself for me, to know that I am known, intimately known and loved by the King of kings, stirs in my heart an affection for God, a deep love for God, a desire to put him first over everything else. This is not ‘I am under the authority of the Jerusalem decree, I am prohibited from eating food sacrificed to idols’; this is ‘I am known by God, loved by God! Wonder of wonders! How could I possibly give any hint that my allegiance or my affections are toward anything else besides God? Come what may, I will worship the Lord my God and him only will I serve.

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

February 16, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus Loves His Church

01/26/14 Jesus Loves the Church; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140126_loved-church.mp3

In the past weeks, we have been looking at what the bible has to say about the church. We defined ‘church’ as an assembly of Jesus-followers who believe and proclaim the good news about Jesus, that he is God, come in the flesh to die for our sins, that he rose from the dead and gives the free gift of eternal life with him to all who believe. The church is to be passionate about making disciples; the church follows Jesus and calls others to follow Jesus. The church is an assembly of people who devote themselves to the historic apostolic message, to the fellowship, to remembering Jesus by the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. We saw that God has gifted some in this assembly of Jesus-followers with the responsibility to lead, to feed, and to care for his flock as a shepherd cares for his sheep. We have seen that membership in this thing called ‘church’ is not like membership in a society or club, but more like members of a body, each a unique body part with its own function, designed to be a healthy, connected, functioning part of the whole.

Many people today are down on church. There is a tendency to want to be independent, autonomous, to be free. There is a distaste, distrust, and sometimes even disgust toward ‘organized religion’ (as if disorganized religion is to be preferred). Why do we need church? ‘I feel closer to God when I’m alone in the mountains or at home with my family’ (as if how I feel is the ultimate determination of what is best for me). I have deeper discussions about God and feel more connected and accepted with my friends on facebook or with my buddies at the bar than I do with the local church body (as if church is primarily about having my social and intellectual needs met). Many are dismissing the church as irrelevant or outdated, some are abandoning the church altogether because, after all, what really matters is a personal relationship with Jesus, right?

I want to take some time today to absorb some of the things the Bible says about the church, to feel what God feels about his church, to listen to how God talks about the church. I hope this will stir in us affections for the church and a commitment to the church somewhat like God’s affection for his church and his commitment to his church.

Matthew 16

We need to remember that church was God’s idea, not some power hungry corporate heads who wanted control and to get their hands in your pocketbook. Jesus is the one who said:

Matthew 16:18 … I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

There are some important things we can learn from this statement of Jesus. First, the church is founded on truth, supernaturally revealed truth. Jesus had asked his disciples:

Matthew 16:15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…

The truth of the identity of Jesus is foundational to the church.

Second, the church belongs to Jesus. He claims it as his own. Jesus is possessive about his church. Jesus says ‘mine’. The church belongs to Jesus. Acts 20:28 tells us that the church was purchased with the blood of God.

Acts 20:28 …care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

At the ultimate cost, he made the church his own.

Third, Jesus claims to be the one who will build his church. So when we express our negativity about the church, we are disapproving of the work of Jesus. Granted, there are many institutions that pass themselves off under the name of church that should not rightly be considered as legitimate churches of Jesus Christ, who do not believe in him or follow what he taught. And in every legitimate Jesus-following church there are problems yet to be addressed. But when we grumble and complain about the church, we are ultimately expressing our impatience and displeasure toward the one Architect and Master-Builder of the church. Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 … I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Fourth, Jesus promises to sustain his church. His church will be victorious. The gates of hell shall not prevail. It will not be overpowered. His church will withstand the test of time, the onslaught of Satan, the deception of false teachers, the lure of power and riches. Jesus promises that his church, his true followers, will stand. ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’

So in this one passage, we learn that the church is founded on the truth about Jesus, the church belongs to Jesus, the church is built by Jesus and the church is sustained by Jesus. It follows that to be negative toward his church is to be negative toward Jesus.

Ephesians 5

Let’s look at the book of Ephesians. Ephesians 5:22-33 is a section addressing the relationship between husband and wife, but it tells us much about the relationship between Christ and the church. It is for that reason that we look at it today. What can we learn about Jesus and the church from this passage?

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

First, in verse 23 we are told that Christ is the head of the church, his body. The relationship between Christ and his church is one of authority. Jesus is the head. He has all authority over his church. Verse 24 states this the other way. The church submits to Christ. The church is obliged to obey Jesus absolutely.

Second, also in verse 23, we see that Christ is the Savior of the church. There is a lot of talk in our day about a personal relationship with Jesus, and I understand what is meant by this. I am an American because I was born in America. But I cannot say that I am a Christian because I was born in a Christian family. There is no second-hand relationship with Jesus. I must become a follower of Jesus myself. That is unquestionably true. But this verse tells us there is more; that Jesus is the Savior of the church. Jesus came to save his church, as a collective whole, as a group. If we are part of this group called the church, we are saved. If we are not part of the church, we are lost. Of course, we know biblically that the way a person becomes part of Jesus’ church is that person is born again by the Spirit of God and justified through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and then identified publicly with the church through baptism. But Jesus’ purpose in saving individuals was not simply to save individuals and leave them as individuals, but to connect them with his body, that they would be a part of something bigger than themselves, that they would belong to the church. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the church.

Verse 25 tells us that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. There is a personal, individual sense where I can say that Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me”. This is how Galatians 2:20 puts it. But there is also a collective sense in which Jesus “loved the church and gave himself up for her” That is how Ephesians 5:25 puts it. We must not despise that which Jesus loves. We must not abandon what Jesus gave himself up for. If Jesus loved the church, we too should come to love the church. If Jesus died for the church, we should be unwaveringly committed to the church. “Jesus loved the church and gave himself up for her”.

Verses 26-27 give us the goal of Christ’s love and purchase of his bride the church.

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Jesus bought the church with his own blood in order to sanctify her, cleanse her and present her to himself in holiness and glory. Jesus intends to sanctify his blood-bought bride. He does this through the ministry of the word. That is why there is an essential emphasis in the church on biblical teaching and preaching. Cleansing of the church happens through the washing of water with the word. There is an emphasis on holiness, blamelessness, freedom from wrinkle or spot or defect. It is interesting that in the gospel accounts, Jesus only used the word ‘church’ twice. Once, in Matthew 16, where he said ‘I will build my church’ and again in Matthew 18, in the context of sin and seeking the lost and forgiveness and reconciliation. He instructs us when someone sins against us to pursue reconciliation first privately, then with two or three witnesses, then,

Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

In the two places Jesus mentions the church, one is his foundation, possession, and preservation of the church, and the other deals with the purity of his church in dealing with sin in her midst. Jesus puts a priority on the holiness of his church. His goal is to present the church to himself as a bride in splendor. This implies two things. One, that the church is imperfect now. There are wrinkles, spots, blemishes, dirt and grime. The church is not now perfect. So we should not be surprised and dismayed when we find that this is true. The church is in need of cleansing and washing because she is not yet perfect. But this also tells us that she will be perfect one day. Jesus accomplishes what he purposes to do. The church will be sanctified, purified, made holy. We can look forward with longing to that day, and we can participate in the process.

Guys, how many of you have a friend who dogs on your wife? Every time he comes over to spend time with you, he has something negative to say about her? Uh-oh, here comes the old ball and chain. She obviously doesn’t ever sweep with that broom; does she ride it? She spent two hours in the beauty salon, and it looks like all they gave her was an estimate. If I were married to her and she put poison in my food, I’d eat it! I love what she’s done with her hair; how does she get it to come out of her nostrils like that? If your credit card gets stolen, don’t report it; the thief is sure to spend a lot less than she does. Maybe if she ate some of that makeup she could be pretty on the inside. All joking aside, I don’t have any friends like that, and I expect you don’t either. If I did, they would quickly cease to hold the status of friend. They might even go missing. I know that my wife is not perfect. But you don’t insult someone’s wife and expect things to go well in your relationship. So many today claim to love Jesus but hate the church. That just doesn’t work. Jesus loves the church. He gave himself up for her. He will present her to himself as a glorious bride, perfected.

Verses 29 and 30 of Ephesians 5 tell us that the church is the body of Christ, and Jesus nourishes and cherishes her.

Ephesians 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

Nourish. Cherish. Feed, care for (NIV); provide for (CEV); carefully protects (AMP); pampers (MSG); tenderly cares for (NRSV). If this is how Christ treats his bride, we ought to value her, treasure her, treat her with the utmost care and respect.

Ephesians 1

Just a few more passages in Ephesians to see what God says about his church. Ephesians 1 talks about the riches of our inheritance that the Father gives to his adopted children.

Ephesians 1:18 …that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

God the Father put all things under the authority of Jesus. Jesus is head over all things; head over every rule, every authority, every power, every dominion, every name, now and forever. This Jesus, God has given to the church. Jesus, ruler of all things is the head of his body the church. The church is said to be the fulness of Jesus, who fills all in all. What an honored and privileged position!

Ephesians 3

Look over at Ephesians 3:10. Paul says that by God’s grace he is a minister of the gospel; he has the privilege of preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. He brings to light the hidden plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God. The eternal purpose of God is this:

Ephesians 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

What is made known? The many-faceted abundant textured variegated wisdom of God. The manifold wisdom of God is made known to whom? To the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. The wisdom of God is being made known to all the angelic hosts how? Through the church! The church is the stage on which God puts his manifold wisdom on display to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. We, the church, become the instrument through which God’s limitless wisdom explodes into view. The familiar, flawed, faltering church is what God uses to put his own wisdom on display.

Look down at the doxology in Ephesians 3:20-21

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The goal, the purpose, the chief end of everything is to glorify God. To him who is able, to him be glory in Christ Jesus. We would expect that God be most glorified in his Son Jesus Christ. But look what else it says: to him be glory in the church! God is glorified in the church! In the assembly of broken, messed up, imperfect, independent, rebellious sinners God is glorified. In the church that God purchased with his own blood, in the church that Jesus is building and sustaining, in the church that Jesus loved and gave himself up for, in the church that he is saving, perfecting, nourishing and cherishing, in the church over whom he is given as head, God is being glorified. Oh, may we begin to treasure the church as Jesus treasures his bride. Bring God glory by being a healthy, functioning, connected, unifying part of this marvelous mysterious thing called the body of Christ, the church! 

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

January 26, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment