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Leviticus 14:1-32; Cleansed!

09/04 Leviticus 14:1-32; Cleansed!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160904_leviticus-14_1-32.mp3

Completely Leprous and Clean (13:12-13)

Last week we looked at Leviticus 13, a chapter that describes in gross detail different kinds of skin disease, and how to identify if it is the kind of disease that makes one unclean and cuts one off from the community. Common characteristics of skin conditions that were considered unclean were those that appeared to be deeper than the skin, symptoms of a deeper problem, and those that spread, that didn’t go away or continued to get worse over time. One curious case that we didn’t look at in detail is in Leviticus 13:12-13.

Leviticus 13:12 And if the leprous disease breaks out in the skin, so that the leprous disease covers all the skin of the diseased person from head to foot, so far as the priest can see, 13 then the priest shall look, and if the leprous disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; it has all turned white, and he is clean.

How is it that when the disease breaks out and covers every inch of his flesh, he is clean? Isn’t that a clear case of ‘unclean’? Is that a typo? If a person cannot point to even one patch of healthy skin, that would seem to make him wholly unclean, but rather the verdict is ‘clean’ and he is welcomed into the community and into the sanctuary. This seems “a complete paradox to all save those who understand God’s mode of dealing with sinners” [CHM p.363]. C.H.Spurgeon said:

How many there are, who, as they come up here, are ready to confess that they have done many things which are wrong, but they say, “though we have done much which we cannot justify, yet there have been many good actions which might almost counterbalance the sin. Have we not been charitable to the poor, have we not sought to instruct the ignorant, to help those that are out of the way? We have some sins, we do confess, but there is much at the bottom which is still right and good and we therefore hope that we shall be delivered.”

“I do not know,” said Martin Luther, “when men will ever believe that text in which it is written Christ died for our sins. They will think that Christ died for our righteousness, whereas He died for our sins. Christ had no eye to our goodness when He came to save us, but to our badness.” A physician, when he comes to my house, has not an eye to my present health. He does not come there because I am healthy, but because I am sick and the more sick I am, the more call for the physician’s skill and the more argument does my sickness yield why he should exercise all his craft and use his best medicines on my behalf. Your only plea with Christ is your guilt. Use it, Sinner, use it as David did when he said, “Lord have mercy upon my iniquity, for it is great!” If he had said “Have mercy upon my iniquity, for it is little,” he would have been a legalist and would have missed his mark. But when he said, “Have mercy, for it is great!” he understood the Gospel riddle—that strange paradox at which Pharisees always kick and which worldlings always hate—the glorious fact that Jesus Christ came into the world “not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” [C.H.Spurgeon, The Cleansing of the Leper, no.353, Dec. 30, 1860]

Andrew Bonar writes “Is it not when a soul is fully sensible of entire corruption, …that salvation is nearest? A complete Saviour for a complete sinner?” [Bonar, p.234].

Consequences of Leprous Skin Diseases

Remember, the consequences of being pronounced unclean.

Leviticus 13:45 “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

And remember, there was little hope for the one pronounced unclean. The procedure for making that declaration was not hasty or subjective, but when it happened, it was devastating. Separation from family, from friends, from society, from the worshiping community. It was a living death. That makes it so surprising when we get to chapter 14

Leviticus 14:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, 3 and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person,

Leviticus 14 gives instructions for the day of his cleansing, when he is healed. Wait, what? We skipped a chapter. How did the leper get healed? What did he do? What treatments did he undergo? What medication did he take? Last chapter he is kicked out of the community, forced to live alone, to wear the label and declare himself unclean to anyone who would come near. Now he is healed. Did I miss something? If you are the one being declared unclean, don’t you want to know what you have to do to get healed? Don’t tell me what kind of ceremony I go through after I get healed, I want to know how I get healed. Leviticus has no cure. Leviticus identifies the problem. There is in fact nothing proscribed for the leprous person to do. The only thing a leper can accomplish on his own is making everything he touches unclean. In this passage describing the ceremony for pronouncing the leper clean, he is not the doer. Things are being done to and for him. He shall be brought to the priest. The priest shall go out of the camp. Notice, the diseased person has been excluded from the community, and is not permitted to seek out the priest himself. He is not permitted to enter the camp. The priest must go out to him. Remember, we are Christians, looking for glimpses of Jesus in Leviticus, because it is all about Jesus! Jesus our great High Priest does not remain in glory waiting for us to make our way to him. He comes to us when we are outsiders.

The Ceremony

Leviticus 14:4 the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. 5 And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. 6 He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field.

This is one of the most elaborate rituals in the Old Testament. It has some similarities to Numbers 19, where we find rituals for cleansing those who have come in contact with a grave or a dead body. That ceremony also uses cedarwood, scarlet yarn, hyssop, and living water. This connection to another ritual that purifies from contact with death makes sense, because the diseased person who is declared unclean is living in a state of separation as if he were dead. Why these things?

Possibly cedarwood because it is durable and long lasting. King Solomon “spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall” (1 Ki.4:33) as a way to refer inclusively to all plants from the greatest to the least.

A scarlet cord marked out Rahab and her house for deliverance in the destruction of Jericho. Scarlet yarn was used extensively in the construction of the tabernacle, and the uniforms for the priests, so it would be a connection with the sanctuary.

Hyssop was a plant used in the Passover to paint blood on the doorposts of the Hebrew homes. It was used in the covenant making ceremony at the foot of Mt. Sinai to sprinkle the people with blood (Ex.24; cf. Heb.9:19). In David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51 he prays:

Psalms 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Hyssop was used as a sponge to extend the sour wine to Jesus on the cross (Jn.19:29).

Fresh water, literally living water was water that had not been stagnant. Jesus referred to himself as the source of living water (Jn.4:10-11, 7:38).

The earthenware vessel, or clay pot was an ordinary container, basically made out of dirt. 2 Corinthians 4:7 speaks of holding a treasure in jars of clay as a way to describe the dust to dust frailty of our human existence.

I find this ceremony a bit funny. It reminds me a bit of some of the things my brother did to me when I was younger. “hey Rodney, hold these two wires… Stand right here on this X and pull this string… Hold this while I light the fuse”. Something tells me this is not going to end well. So you take these two live birds, and some red string, and a piece of wood, and a plant, and a bucked of water. And you kill one of the birds over the bucket and don’t forget to hold on to the live bird. Have you ever killed a bird? That’s messy! But don’t let go of the live bird. Now dip all the stuff in the bloody water. Yes, the live bird too. It’ll be fine. Now use the plant to sprinkle blood all over the guy, but keep holding on to the live bird that you dipped in the blood. Now take the live bird, make sure it’s really wet and bloody and let it go…

But even in this strange ritual we can see a picture of Jesus. Living water in a clay pot. Two birds; one clearly representing death, the other possibly picturing resurrection? Blood applied to a diseased person to declare him whole. Remember, all this is done to for the leper, and to the leper. He is not doing anything. He is passive. At the end of this he is pronounced clean.

Washing and Shaving

After he is declared clean, the person being cleansed becomes more involved in the ceremony. Up to this point he could do nothing. Now that he is declared clean he becomes an active participant in the ceremony.

Leviticus 14:8 And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. 9 And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.

There is a seven day process that includes laundry, shaving and bathing, and returning to the camp, but not going home yet. Shaving is often a sign of mourning or humiliation. Have you ever seen someone who shaved – all their hair – even their eyebrows? This would be especially shocking in a culture that is not to trim the corners of your beard. A man who shaved his beard and every bit of hair off his body would look a little like a newborn baby. Could this be a picture of new life after death, a new birth of sorts? Jesus said ‘you must be born again.’

The Eighth Day

Leviticus 14:10 “And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil. 11 And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the LORD, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 12 And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. 13 And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.

The eighth day is a day is a day of new beginnings. The former leper is now welcomed back in the camp, but not yet into his own home. First he must come before the Lord. The former leper who was excluded from the community is now brought in before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. The first sacrifice is a guilt offering, which we learned from Leviticus 5 makes restitution for an unintentional sin against the holy things of the Lord. We were created to bear the image of God and declare his glory, but the leprous skin disease has distorted the image of God in him. He must offer first a guilt offering. But this guilt offering is unique.

Leviticus 14:14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 15 Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand 16 and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the LORD. 17 And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. 18 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed.

This is similar to the ordination offering for the priests, from which some of the blood was applied to different body parts to cleanse their ears from listening to lies and slander, to cleanse their hands from doing wrong, to cleanse their feet from walking away from the Lord. The former leper was then anointed with oil on these same body parts, to set apart his ears to hear the words of the Lord, to do what he commands, to walk in his ways. He was anointed with the oil of gladness, free again to enjoy God’s presence.

Leviticus 14:18 …Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD. 19 The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. 20 And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.

These are the regular offerings made in the tabernacle or temple. The final 12 verses repeat the eighth day ritual for a leper who cannot afford three lambs. He can substitute pigeons or doves for two of the lambs, but the guilt offering must still be a lamb. The former leper is now fully welcomed back into fellowship with God and with other members of the community. He now no longer carries the stigma of unclean. Atonement has been made and he is clean.

Jesus and Leprosy

Jesus’ interaction with a leper is recorded in Matthew 8, Mark 1 and Luke 5.

Luke 5:12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (cf. Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45)

Remember, the priests had the responsibility to inspect and determine if a person was clean or unclean. They had no power to heal. This leper, full of leprosy, knowing his desperate need, entered a city to find Jesus. He recognized in Jesus something more than the priests. Jesus could heal. Jesus touched this diseased man, and with a word he immediately healed him. A man full of leprosy was transformed instantly. And then Jesus commands him to go get Leviticus 14 done. Go show yourself to the priests make the offering for your cleansing as a proof to them. As a witness, as a testimony to the unbelieving priests. I can just imagine a priest coming back from this encounter. ‘Where have you been, and what happened to you?’ He’s completely splattered in blood, and has a bit of a stunned look on his face. ‘You know that Leviticus 14 thing? Oh, you mean with the birds and the string and the wood and the water? Yeah… Wait, that’s for cleansing a leper… Yeah…’ They may have never used Leviticus 14 before. What is this a testimony of? When John sent disciples to ask Jesus ‘are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’

Luke 7:22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Cleansing of lepers was a sign that God had come down and the messianic age was unfolding. The system that could merely identify problems without offering any cure was coming to an end. The one who could get to the root of the problem and heal was now on the scene. Jesus is both all-powerful and full of compassion. He is both able and willing to heal. If you will come to Jesus acknowledging that ‘in me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing’ (Romans 7:18)

If you will repent of your dead works and believe in Jesus (Heb.6:1), if you will fall on your face and beg him ‘Lord, only you can make me clean’, Jesus will stretch out his hand and touch you right where you are, as you are, in all your filth and uncleanness, and even today, based on his finished work, he will say ‘I will, be clean’.

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

September 6, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:6; The Testimony Confirmed

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121125_1cor1_6.mp3

11/25 1 Corinthians 1:6 The Testimony Confirmed

1 Παῦλος κλητὸς ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ καὶ Σωσθένης ὁ ἀδελφὸς 2 τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν· 3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῇ χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ δοθείσῃ ὑμῖν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 5 ὅτι ἐν παντὶ ἐπλουτίσθητε ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν παντὶ λόγῳ καὶ πάσῃ γνώσει, 6 καθὼς τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐβεβαιώθη ἐν ὑμῖν, 7 ὥστε ὑμᾶς μὴ ὑστερεῖσθαι ἐν μηδενὶ χαρίσματι, ἀπεκδεχομένους τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ· 8 ὃς καὶ βεβαιώσει ὑμᾶς ἕως τέλους ἀνεγκλήτους ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 9 πιστὸς ὁ θεὸς δι’ οὗ ἐκλήθητε εἰς κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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– 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul opens this difficult letter to the church of God in Corinth with a note of extended praise. Paul is continually offering up thanks to God for the grace that God freely gave to the saints in Corinth. In this beautiful passage of thanksgiving, he lists 5 specific ways that God’s grace had been given to the Corinthian church, and then points them forward to the ongoing future grace of their faithful God. First, in verse 5, God’s grace was evidenced in that the Corinthian believers were enriched in every way; they were filled up with all the fullness of Christ, they were given every spiritual blessing, specifically in all word or speech or utterance, and in all knowledge or insight or understanding. In Jesus Christ, because of their relationship to Jesus Christ, they had been enriched in every way.

In verse 6 he looks upstream of this enrichment and looks to the source of where this enrichment came from – just as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.

It is so easy to float over the words on the page and assume that we know what is meant without taking time to interrogate the text. If God’s word is nutrient for our souls, if all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable (2Tim.3:16); if every word of God proves true (Prov.30:5), if we live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Mt.4:4), then we must dig in to the words on the page to find the nourishment our spirit craves. We must take time to meditate on the words of Scripture, and learn to put them under the bright lights of investigation, to interrogate the text, to ask questions to draw out the truth that they carry. As I prepared to teach this passage, I breezed over verse six as if I already knew what it meant. It wasn’t until I was reading an older commentary interacting with the text that I began to slow down and ask questions of the text. Exactly what is the testimony of Christ? In what way is the testimony of Christ confirmed in you? How is this sentence connected with the paragraph, and how is this a ground for giving thanks?

The Testimony of Christ

What is the testimony of Christ? To understand this, we need to examine the word ‘testimony’. What is a testimony? Testimony translates the Greek word ‘μαρτύριον‘. It is translated as a testimony or a witness. This is a legal term that comes from the courtroom setting. When you are presenting the evidence for deciding a case, you call in eyewitnesses to testify or give their testimony of what they saw and heard. The person giving their eyewitness account is a ‘μαρτυς’ or witness. The deacon Stephen and many of the Apostles of Jesus were executed because what they testified about Jesus was unpopular and dangerous. So the word ‘μαρτυς’, from which we get our word ‘martyr’ came to mean someone who sealed their testimony with their own blood. The word ‘μαρτύριον‘ referred to the content of what the ‘μαρτυς’ said, their testimony, their witness, or legal statement. This testimony, the content of what the witness said, became legal evidence for deciding the case.

So what is the testimony of Christ? This could be taken in two ways; what is the testimony of Christ – what did Jesus himself testify, or what is the testimony of Christ – what did others testify about Jesus.

What did Jesus testify about himself?

Jesus claimed to be the promised Messiah (Jn.4:26). He claimed to be the bread of life (Jn.6:35, 41, 48, 51) who would give his flesh for the life of the world. He claimed to be the light of the world (Jn.8:12). He claimed to be the great I AM (Jn.6:20, 8:58; 18:5-6, 8) who pre-dated Abraham, and that those who do not believe in him would die in their sins (Jn.8:24). He claimed to be the door of the sheep who will save those who enter through him (Jn.10:7,9). He claimed to be the good shepherd (Jn.10:11, 14). He claimed to be the resurrection and the life (Jn.11:25), and that those who believe in him will live. He claimed to speak prophecy to authenticate his claims (Jn.13:19). He claimed to be the way, the truth and the life, and the only way to the Father (Jn.14:6). He claimed to be the true vine in whom we must abide in order to bear fruit (Jn.15:1, 5).

Jesus said:

Matthew 18:3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mark 10:15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (cf. Lk.18:17)

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

Jesus claimed that his testimony about himself was valid because he knows where he came from and where he is going (Jn.8:14), but under law every testimony must be confirmed by two or three witnesses (Jn.5:31). Jesus bore witness about himself (Jn.5:31; 8:14, 18); John bore witness about Jesus (Jn5:32-36); The Spirit bore witness about Jesus (Jn.1:32-33; 15:26; Mt.3:16; Acts 5:32); The Father bore witness about Jesus (Mt.3:17; Jn.5:37; 8:18); the works of Jesus bear witness of Jesus (Jn.5:36; 10:25); the Scriptures bear witness about Jesus (Jn.5:39); the crowds bore witness about Jesus (Jn.12:17); the apostles would bear witness about Jesus (Jn.15:27; 19:35; 21:24; Lk.24:48; Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39, 41; 13:31; 22:15; 26:16). In Revelation, Jesus is called the faithful witness (Rev.1:5; 3:14).

What did others testify about Jesus?

John bore witness that Jesus is the light (Jn1:7-8) that Jesus pre-existed (Jn.1:15); that Jesus was filled with the Spirit (Jn.1:32); that Jesus is the Son of God (Jn.1:34); that Jesus is the Messiah (Jn.3:26-28). After his resurrection in Luke 24, Jesus commissioned his disciples to be witnesses of the prophecies fulfilled, that the Messiah should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness in his name should be proclaimed to all nations. In Acts 1, when the disciples chose a replacement for Judas, they said:

Acts 1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these men must become with us a witness to hisresurrection.”

On the day of Pentecost, Peter testified

Acts 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.

After healing the lame beggar, Peter testified:

Acts 3:15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. …17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…

When Peter and the other apostles were brought before the high priest and the council and all the senate of Israel, they testified:

Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

When Peter bore witness to the gentiles in Cornelius’ house, he said:

Acts 10:36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Paul testified in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch:

Acts 13:23 Of [David’s] offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. … 26 …to us has been sent the message of this salvation. …28 And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, …38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything 39 from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

The testimony of Jesus, what Jesus said about himself, what his witnesses testified about him, was that Jesus is God, the Son of God, the promised Messiah of Israel, who died for our sins, and God raised him from the dead. All who believe in him receive forgiveness of sins. This is the gospel message, the testimony about Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 2:1, Paul says that he proclaimed the testimony of God, which is Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Confirmed in You

Paul thanks God that this testimony about Jesus was confirmed in the believers in Corinth. ‘Confirmed’ means to be made firm or solidly grounded, to be legally valid and guaranteed. The author of Hebrews uses this word to point us to the certainty and validity of the message:

Hebrews 2:2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable [steadfast] and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested [confirmed] to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

In chapter 6 of Hebrews we are told:

Hebrews 6:17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, …

God’s word to us is good. It is legally binding, valid and guaranteed. The gospel message, the testimony of Christ is true, objectively true.

6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you–

In what way was the gospel message confirmed among the believers? How was this firm solid valid message shown to be solid and legally valid in them? We have only to look down a few verses to see how the testimony of God was confirmed in them. Paul says that this gospel that he preached, this testimony of Christ, this word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing. Paul says that the message of a crucified Christ is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. But to those who are being saved, to those who believe, to those who are called, this offensive foolish message is the power of God and the wisdom of God and salvation to all who believe. Paul’s testimony about Jesus was proved to be genuine and solid and legally valid because when he preached this foolish offensive message, some of the Jews and some of the Greeks were saved. They believed in Jesus. The message worked! It was confirmed that it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes! Some of the sexually immoral in Corinth, some of the idolaters, some of the adulterers, some of the homosexuals, some of the thieves, some of the greedy, some of the drunkards, some of the revilers, some of the swindlers in Corinth believed the message of the cross and were transformed! (1Cor.6:9-11) Those who believed were washed, sanctified, justified, filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Sinners became saints! The testimony about Jesus was confirmed among you. This is where the enriching in every way in verse 5 came from. Those in Corinth were enriched in every way, they experienced the fullness of God’s blessing, they experienced the riches of the grace of God freely given to them as the message of Christ crucified was proclaimed to them, and their blind eyes were supernaturally opened to see the light of the good news of the glory of Christ (2Cor.4:4), and they believed. The testimony about Christ was demonstrated to be solid and legally binding to all who believe when sinners in Corinth believed and were transformed. This is grounds for rejoicing! This is grounds for thanksgiving! Has the testimony of Christ been confirmed in you? Has the gospel, the message of Christ crucified, been shown effective in your life? Have you believed?

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

November 25, 2012 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 20:16 – Word #9 Uphold the Reputation of Others

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110911_exodus20_16.mp3

09/11 Exodus 20:16 Word #9 Uphold the Reputation of Others

We are studying the rules for God’s house, the standards for those he has redeemed and brought into a relationship with himself. We are to worship only him; we are to worship him in the way that he himself describes; we are to honor his name; we are to take time to enjoy him; we are to honor those he has placed in authority; we are to value the life he created; we are to honor our covenants as he honors his; we are to uphold the rights of those around us.

Today we look at commandment #9. This is primarily a command against the perversion of justice. God is righteous. He loves justice. He is truth. He hates the perversion of justice. In fact, Psalm 89:14 tells us that righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne or his rule. He expects us, his covenant community to reflect his truth and righteousness and justice in our interaction with one another under him.

Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

The wording of this command uses the language of the law-courts. It could be translated ‘you shall not commit perjury against your neighbor’, although the application is not limited to the courtroom. Listen to some of the applications of this command. Just a few chapters later in Exodus it says:

Exodus 23:1 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, 3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit. …6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. 8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear–sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

In a society such as Israel, the evidence of eyewitnesses weighed heavily in the establishment of truth. To find out what happened, you asked someone who saw it happen. If you were out to get someone, you could attempt to abuse the legal system to do harm to an innocent person. If you were angry with someone and wanted to do them in, you could charge them falsely with a capital offense and have them sentenced to death. There were, of course, some safeguards built in to the law to protect from this kind of misuse.

Deuteronomy 17:6 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

There must be more than a single witness to establish a case against someone. The witnesses must be cross-examined, and their testimonies must agree. The witnesses understood the gravity of their responsibility, because they would also serve as the executioners.

Deuteronomy 19:15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

So if you sought to do harm by bringing false accusations to court and it was discovered that your charges were false, the penalty that you sought against your brother was to be done to you. If you were trying to use the courts to murder someone, then you were to be executed. If you were seeking the payment of a fine, then you had to pay out the amount you were suing for. If our courts were to implement something like this, it would put a quick stop to many frivolous lawsuits!

Proverbs on False Witnesses

The wisdom book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the evils of false witnesses.

Proverbs 6:16 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

Proverbs 12:17 Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit.

Proverbs 14:5 A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.

Proverbs 14:25 A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.

Proverbs 19:5 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.

Proverbs 19:9 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.

Proverbs 19:28 A worthless witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.

Proverbs 21:28 A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears will endure.

Proverbs 24:28 Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.

Proverbs 25:18 A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.

God makes it abundantly clear that he cares deeply what we do with our words. God hates, calls an abomination, and will not allow to go unpunished, a false witness who breathes out lies and one who sows discord among brothers. This is a serious issue.

Silent Witness

What may be surprising is that this command also condemns those who keep silent when they ought to speak up.

Leviticus 5:1 “If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity;

A witness that refuses to testify and by his silence allows injustice to be done is as guilty as a false witness. Notice, witness is not what you do, but who you are. If you know the facts, you are a witness, whether you speak up or remain silent. You may be a good witness, or you may be an evil witness, but you are a witness.

Connection with the Third Command

This command is intimately connected with the third command. Being a witness has everything to do with establishing the character of a person. A false witness slanders the character of an upright person. A true witness helps to establish the true character of a person, whether to establish the guilt of the lawbreaker or to defend the good character of the righteous. Commandment 3 has to do with the slander of the name or character of God. Commandment 9 has to do with the slander of the name or character of a person created in the image of God. We are to actively defend and uphold the good name of those around us. We are to intentionally pursue the good reputation of our neighbor. This means refusing to use our words in any way that would tear down or undermine the character of another person, and this means not remaining silent when others engage in tearing down the good reputation of another, but speaking out in their defense.

We are His Witnesses

This should help us understand our role as God’s witnesses. In Isaiah, he says.

Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

We are, because of our relationship with God, witnesses to his character and nature. We may be a good reflection of God’s character, or we may be a poor testimony to who he is, but we are his witnesses. Witness is not something we do; witness is who we are. Jesus said:

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Our Character as Witnesses

Our character as his witnesses is, according to Jesus, tied directly back to how we treat one another.

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Paul in Ephesians 4 is praying for the unity of believers in the church, and contrasting their way of life with those who do not know Jesus. He tells us that as Christians,we must set aside or put away our old habits and way of life and to instead put on the new transformed life of the Spirit.

Ephesians 4:20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

We are to put away falsehood; instead we are to speak truth with our neighbors. And the reason he gives is that we are members one of another. He has been talking about the various gifts God has given his body the church to promote unity and to strengthen one another. Since we are mutually dependent on each other and organically connected to each other in this body he calls his church, we must deal honestly with each other. There is no sense lying to yourself! He tells us that the things that we say and the way we interact with one another can give opportunity to the devil. Did you ever consider that what you say could open the door for Satan to gain access to divide Christ’s body? He tells us to let no corrupting talk come out of our mouth but rather things that build up. Our talk can have a putrefying effect on the body, or our words can actually become the means of grace to our hearers! The power of the tongue is great both to do harm and to do good. We can spread infectious rottenness, or pour out the riches of undeserved kindness. We can build up with our words, which really gives grace.

In another ‘put off / put on’ passage, Paul again focuses our attention on what we say.

Colossians 3:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. …12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

So the old pattern of lying malicious slanderous talk that comes out of our mouths is to be replaced by a reflection of God’s compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with each others faults, extending undeserved forgiveness, and love. Instead of tearing one another down, we ought to be overflowing with thankfulness, our hearts saturated in the good news about Jesus so that we can speak and sing encouraging upbuilding gospel centered things into each others lives. Notice, in both of these passages, the new self is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. If that is true, then even the legitimate wrongs and faults we see in each other will be lovingly and privately addressed, with a view to reconciliation and transformation, rather than publicly pointed out with a view toward condemnation.

Jesus Slandered

And remember when you are slandered, even by your brothers and sisters, Jesus understands what it means to be injured by the words of false witnesses.

Mark 14:55 Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”’ 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree.

Jesus knew what it meant to be slandered, to be falsely accused, even to have his own friends turn against him. The Psalms reflect his heart.

Psalm 41: 6 And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad. 7 All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. … 9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

At the cross, Jesus even bore in his body the false accusations and slander we hurl at God. If we claim innocence from this charge, remember, Jesus said:

Matthew 25:40 … ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

To slander a brother or sister is to reproach God himself.

Romans 15:2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” (Ps.69:9)

Phillip P. Bliss, c.1875

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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

September 11, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment