PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Devoted To Prayer

01/04 Devoted To Prayer; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150104_devoted-to-prayer.mp3

As I began my readings for the new year, a word in Acts 1 intrigued me. It is translated ‘were devoting themselves to’

The Greek word behind the English ‘devoted to’ is [προσκαρτερέω proskartereo]. Here is how some of the dictionaries define it:

[Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries]

G4342 προσκαρτερέω proskartereo (pros-kar-ter-eh’-o) v.

1. to be earnest towards

2. (to a thing) to persevere, be constantly diligent

3. (in a place) to attend assiduously all the exercises

4. (to a person) to adhere closely to (as a servitor)

[from G4314πρός pros (pros’) prep.1. forward to, i.e. toward and G2594 καρτερέω kartereo (kar-ter-eh’-o) v.1. to be strong 2. (figuratively) to endure]

[Thayer] – Original: προσκαρτερέω; Transliteration: Proskartereo; Phonetic: pros-kar-ter-eh’-o

– Definition:

1. to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one

2. to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing

3. to continue all the time in a place

4. to persevere and not to faint

5. to show one’s self courageous for

6. to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly

This is a strong word. It appears only 10 times in the New Testament. What is it that the early believers were devoted to, what were they earnest toward or constantly diligent or steadfastly attentive to; what is it they gave their unremitting care to? As we evaluate the successes and failures of a past year and look forward to a new year and seek to re-prioritize and re-purpose for the new year, it would do us well to look to what the early church was passionately committed to. Twice we find this word connected to another word. In Acts 1:14 and in Acts 2:46 we find the word translated ‘devoted to’ with the word [ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon], which is translated ‘together’ or ‘with one accord’ or ‘with one mind’

[Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries]

G3661 ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon (hom-oth-oo-mad-on’) adv.

1. unanimously

[adverb from a compound of the base of G3674 and G2372]

Whatever it is that the early church was unanimously constantly diligent and steadfastly attentive to, is probably important for us to resolve to devote ourselves to as well.

Let’s look at some of the verses, see if we can pick up some themes, and think together about what we should do about it.

Acts 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

The early believers unanimously constantly diligent in prayer. Acts 2:42 adds three things to prayer.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

They were earnest towards the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayers.

Acts 2:46 has both of these words together.

[ESV] Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

It comes through more clearly in the Lexham English Bible, another literal translation.

[LEB] Acts 2:46 And every day, devoting themselves to meeting with one purpose in the temple courts and breaking bread from house to house, they were eating their food with joy and simplicity of heart,

They unanimously gathered to meet together in public, and they gathered in homes to break bread and to eat together. The next verse is telling.

Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

As the early church was passionately committed to these things, God was saving people and connecting them with the growing church. There seems to be a connection between the unanimous devotion of the believers and the fruitfulness of the gospel in their communities.

Here is why the Apostles appointed others to oversee the charitable activities of the church:

Acts 6:2 …“It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. …4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The same word is used in Romans 12 and Colossians 4.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

So we see repeatedly that the early church devoted themselves to prayer. We also see that they devoted themselves to preaching and hearing the word, to breaking bread, to fellowship, to eating together. If these are things the early Christians were earnestly and unanimously devoted to, these are things we to ought to be faithfully passionate about.

Why These Things?

But why have the followers of Jesus throughout history been committed to hearing and teaching the word, to table fellowship with the believers, to remembering Jesus in the breaking of bread, and primarily to prayer? What is it about these things that captured the heart and the attention of the church? What is it about prayer that is so clearly foundational and central to the Christian life?

Prayer

First, what is prayer? Simply put, prayer is our communication with God. When we address God with worship, with thanksgiving, with confession, with requests, that is prayer. Prayer is our side of communication with God. Jesus had much to say about prayer. He exhorted his disciples to pray, he taught them how to pray (and how not to pray), he told them parables about prayer, and he modeled for them a life devoted to prayer.

Prayer, the way Jesus taught it, is humbling. If you think of the four aspects of prayer, worship is telling God how awesome he is, that he is greater than all else, including me. Worship is telling God all the things I admire about him, most of which are not true of me, and those things that are true of me in some degree are true in me only in an imperfect and flawed reflection of who he is. Worship is turning my attention away from me an to God, paying attention to him, celebrating and enjoying him for who he is. Confession is agreeing with God about the perfect standard and acknowledging how far I fall short of that standard. Thanksgiving is looking at the good things he gives that I don’t deserve and couldn’t earn and expressing gratitude as a humble recipient of great and glorious gifts. Requests are an expression of my need and his overwhelming generosity, of my emptiness and his fullness, of my brokenness and his wholeness, of my lack and his infinite supply. Being devoted to prayer means being constantly humbled in his presence.

And yet the privilege of prayer is amazing beyond comprehension. I can approach the all holy God in prayer because he so loved me that he gave his only Son to die in my place, pay my price, and purchase me as his own prized possession. Jesus opened to me the way of prayer through his own blood. I have been forgiven and cleansed and made new, and I can stand before him as a saint, a holy one. I have been adopted into the family of God, and can now address him as Father. He has taken me into his confidence, and I can address him as Friend. I have been granted bold access to the throne of grace. That is a humbling amazing reality that I am reminded of when I pray.

Prayer is our necessary connection to Jesus. Jesus used the metaphor of a vine with branches. He said:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

We must stay constantly connected to Jesus in order to be alive and to bear fruit. The circulatory system must carry away waste and deliver nutrients to the branch and or the branch will die. We are to pray as if our life depended on it, because it does! We are to be devoted to prayer. A branch disconnected from the root will not last long. Prayer is to be as natural and constant as breathing; taking in life giving oxygen, exhaling to carry away dangerous waste. Our connection with Jesus is directly related to our life and fruitfulness. A Christian who is not constantly connected with Jesus will not grow or produce fruit.

The Apostles,

Acts 1:13 …Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

These men had been with Jesus. When Jesus had called them to follow him, they gladly left everything. They enjoyed being with him. They had spent time with Jesus. Jesus had poured into them, invested in them, spent time with them. He taught them, trained them, answered their questions, calmed their fears, assuaged their doubts, prepared them for the future. When Jesus told them that he was going away, ‘sorrow filled their hearts’ (Jn.16:6). They wanted nothing more than to be with Jesus. They longed to spend time in his company, being part of what he was doing, remaining connected. Jesus said:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. …24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus was crucified and his disciples scattered. But he rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples. Their hearts rejoiced and no one could take their joy. Before Jesus ascended bodily to the right hand of his Father, he said

Matthew 28:20 …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We abide in Jesus, we maintain that intimate connection with Jesus through prayer, through worship, confession, thanksgiving and requests. We depend on him. Apart from him we can do nothing. If we abide in him and his word abides in us, we will bear much fruit.

The Word

Our side of the communication is called prayer. God’s side of the communication is called divine revelation, and this happens primarily through the preaching and hearing of the word. This is why we see an unswerving commitment to the proclamation of biblical truth among the followers of Jesus. We want his word to abide in us. Jesus said to the religious leaders,

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The Apostles were Jews who had heard the Scriptures read all their lives. But they had met Jesus, and he created in them a new appetite for God’s word. When Jesus appeared to his disciples,

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

Because we have been with Jesus, because we have experienced him as the Word made flesh, we have a new appetite for Jesus, a hunger for his words. We want to hear him speak. His words are life and they are light. We are to be devoted to, steadfastly attentive to the Apostles’ teaching.

The Gospel

The early followers were devoted to the breaking of bread. Jesus broke bread and said ‘do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk.22:19). Remembering Jesus by breaking bread is a way to keep our eyes fixed on the gospel. We must not lose sight of the gospel, the good news that Jesus died to save sinners. Jesus took bread.

1 Corinthians 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus intended for us to remember him by breaking bread together. The early church was constantly diligent to break bread together. We too, should be devoted to the breaking of bread whereby we remember Jesus and keep our focus on the gospel.

Table Fellowship

The early church was devoted to fellowship. They ate together. They took food with joy and simplicity of heart. They ate at one another’s homes. Why eating together? The Corinthian church was rebuked for the way they ate together, each one going ahead with his own meal, not sharing and not waiting for one another. The purpose is not food, the purpose is building relationships. Eating together with joy and thankfulness is a way to build relationships. Having a meal together is a way of loving one another, and it can be a way to care for the needy. Discipleship, as Jesus did it, happened through the daily routines of life, walking, talking, traveling, fishing, eating, spending time caring for broken hurting people. The early church was devoted to table fellowship because our vertical relationship with God must bend outward to other people. Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

The early disciples were earnest toward eating together as an expression of love. We too must be devoted to fellowship with other believers.

Devoted to Unity in Community

The early church was unanimous in their devotion to fellowship, breaking bread, the word and prayer. These were not only individual exercises. They were together devoted – praying together, listening together ‘with one accord’, eating together, ‘house to house’. The early church was devoted to unity in the context of community. They were together in public, and they were together in their homes. The early church valued one another. Their relationship with Jesus found expression in their attitudes and actions toward one another.

Hindrances to Unanimous Devotion

Why aren’t we devoted to the same things that the followers of Jesus passionately committed themselves to? What keeps us from being earnest toward the things of Christ? If we can identify some of the things that prevent our devotion to Christ, we can begin to weed them out and cultivate a deeper devotion to the things that we are called to be devoted to.

We live in an individualistic society. Our culture does not encourage us to spend time face to face with other human beings, interacting, doing things together, caring for one another, being involved in the lives of others. We have been trained with a consumer worldview, where we ask the question ‘what can I get out of this’ and ‘how does this benefit me’ rather than, ‘what can I give’ and ‘how can I benefit others?’ If we can root out the individualism and self-focus that prevents us from living in genuine community with others, we will be more free to devote ourselves to these things.

Sin clearly will hinder us from being devoted to the things of Christ. When we fill our souls with counterfeit food, we ruin our appetites for that which gives life. Our desires need to be transformed. We have an empty gaping hole in our souls, and we seek to cram it full of stuff to satisfy our longings. We need to unpack the junk so that we can recognize that our true longings can only be satisfied by a relationship with God. When we crowd our lives with busyness we are simply being pulled in too many directions to be devoted to anything. When we fill our lives with noise, it drowns out any opportunity to listen to his voice. We need to take a hard look. Some things may have to go so that we can devote ourselves to prayer, to the word, to the gospel, to love.

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

Advertisements

January 4, 2015 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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

Church Leaders

01/19/14 Church Leaders Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140119_church-leaders.mp3

We have been looking at the church, the assembly of Jesus-followers, the blood-bought possession of our Lord Jesus, those who acknowledge him as King, who proclaim the good news that Jesus was crucified for sinners, those who make disciples, those who gather together to devote themselves to the apostolic teaching, to the fellowship, to remembering Jesus through the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.

We looked at church members; that every believer is a member who belongs to the body of Christ, a body part intended to be a connected, healthy, functioning part of the body, each uniquely equipped and enabled to function as a vital part of the body of Christ.

Today I would like to look at those parts of the church body who have leadership responsibilities. What is the relationship between leaders and the rest of the body, and what are the responsibilities of the body to their leaders? What does God expect of leaders in his church, and what should we expect of them? We will look at a number of biblical passages to piece together what it should look like to be a leader in the church.

Pay Careful Attention

Paul addresses the elders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20. He prepares them for his absence, and charges them:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Feel the weight of responsibility laid on the leadership of the church. Wolves are coming. Fierce wolves who will not spare the flock. The responsibility of the leaders of the church is that of a shepherd with a flock. It is imperative that they be alert, diligently persevering in watchfulness. Pay careful attention. First, pay careful attention to yourselves, because he says that it is from among your own selves that men will arise distorting and dragging disciples away. I must keep vigilant watch first over my own heart so that I am not veering off course. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock. Leaders are to watch over the sheep that have been entrusted to their care. Notice the gravity of this responsibility: care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. If God paid the ultimate price for his church, he would expect us to guard his bride with no less passion and commitment. Notice also where this responsibility comes from. This is no man-made authority; there are no self-appointed leaders. The Holy Spirit has made you overseers. This is a responsibility given by God, and recognized by his church. In this verse we see the care of the triune God for his church. The church was purchased with the blood of the Son, the church belongs to the Father, and the Holy Spirit establishes and enables leaders to care for and protect the church.

Feed my Sheep

After his resurrection, Jesus entrusted Peter with responsibility over the sheep.

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Notice well, the sheep do not belong to Peter. Jesus claims them as his own. Jesus says they are ‘my sheep, my lambs’. Jesus entrusts Peter with their care; feeding and tending. The leader who loves Jesus first of all will be sure to keep his sheep well fed.

The Priority of Prayer and the Word over Physical Needs

As the early church grew, tension arose between the physical and spiritual needs of the followers of Jesus. Acts 6 records how they addressed some of these issues.

Acts 6:1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

People began to complain, to grumble, to murmur, and the focus of attention of the leaders was being diverted to address their grievances. Notice, by the way, that it was not the widows themselves who were doing the grumbling. Others complained on their behalf. The apostles said ‘it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.’ Pure religion, James tells us, is to visit orphans and widows (James 1:27). But here we see the priority of the spiritual over physical needs. Prayer and the preaching of the word must not be neglected or interrupted. So they appointed deacons to address complaints and meet physical needs, Spirit-filled men, wise men, men of good reputation. This freed the apostles to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

Paul tells Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

Preaching and teaching is hard work. It is critical work. It must be a priority in the church. In 1 Timothy 3, a passage we will look at later that outlines the necessary character of church leadership, Paul refers to “the church of the living God” as “a pillar and buttress of the truth”. Truth must be defined, defended, and held to tenaciously. The word must be taught.

Equipping the Saints

Look with me at Ephesians 4. God poured out his undeserved grace on each part of his body to fulfill the purpose he designed for each one.

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

…11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Here he clearly defines the goal of church leaders. The purpose of gifted leadership in the church body is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Pay close attention to what this is saying: who is doing the work of the ministry? The saints, the body of Christ, every believer is doing the work of the ministry. The work of the ministry is not delegated to a few professionals. The work of the ministry is the work of the body of Christ, functioning together in unity, each member doing its unique part.

By his grace, God has given gifted leadership to his church to equip the saints. The role of leadership is primarily one of equipping. Equipping the saints for the work of ministry. This word means to mend, to restore, to perfect, to fit or frame together, to prepare, to perfectly join together. Equipping for growth in the body, equipping for unity, equipping to know Jesus better, equipping for maturity, equipping in Christ-likeness, equipping to detect and resist false teaching, equipping for love. Equipping for the work of the ministry. Every saint, every follower of Jesus is a minister, called to do the work of the ministry. You and I are ministers, servants, intended to serve others for the glory of Christ. The main purpose of those gifted to lead is to equip every believer for the work that they as a part of the body of Christ are called and gifted to do. Think of this as the base where you are issued equipment, where you assemble for tactical training, where you receive marching orders, where you are prepared to be sent out on mission. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

In 1 Corinthians 14 as Paul lists the gifts, he repeatedly emphasizes that the gifts are given for the building up of the church.

1 Corinthians 14:3 …one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 …one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 … so that the church may be built up. 6 … how will I benefit you …? …12 …strive to excel in building up the church. …17 … but the other person is not being built up. …19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others …26 … Let all things be done for building up. …31 … so that all may learn and all be encouraged, …40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Each part of the body is functioning properly when each part is all about building up the whole body in love.

Selfish Shepherds of Israel

In the Old Testament,God incriminated the selfish leaders of Israel for not doing what they were called to do.

Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Notice on what grounds he accuses these greedy shepherds. They do not feed the sheep. They feed only themselves, they eat the sheep, they use the sheep for their own benefit. They fail to strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strayed, or seek the lost. They have failed to protect the sheep from predators, becoming predators themselves. They rule with force and harshness. God will judge these shepherds. They will be held accountable.

10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

God himself will shepherd his people

11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out … and gather them… And I will feed them … 14 I will feed them with good pasture,… There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. …19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? …22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. …23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. …

27 …And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 … they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, … 30 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.”

God will seek for and rescue, gather and feed, give rest, bind up, strengthen, bring back, deliver, protect.

Servant Leadership

Jesus is the good shepherd. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything a shepherd was meant to be. Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). Jesus instructs his disciples to follow his example.

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.”

Leadership in the church is not about position or power or prestige. Leadership in the church is not about being served; leadership in the church is defined by self-sacrificial service for the good of others.

Qualifications for Leaders

That is why we find the character qualifications for leadership in Christ’s church.

1 Timothy 3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

In his instructions to Titus, he adds:

Titus 1:7 … He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Leaders in the church must be men of character, men who have proven themselves responsible, men who are sound in doctrine, men who are selfless, eager to serve. Leadership in the church is not at all about what you can get; rather it is all about what you can give.

Shepherd the Flock

Peter says this to the leadership in the churches.

1 Peter 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Peter tells the leaders to shepherd willingly, eagerly, as examples; not under compulsion, not for shameful gain, not in a domineering way.

He tells those who are younger be subject to the elders; and he tells everyone to be clothed with humility toward one another. Church leaders are to shepherd God’s flock as under-shepherds responsible to the chief Shepherd, the one to whom they will ultimately give account.

Obey, Submit to, and Pray for your Leaders

The author of Hebrews gives instruction to the church.

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In this passage he points to the responsibility of the leaders to keep watch over your souls, and he reminds that they will have to give an account. In light of this weight of responsibility of leadership, He commands all of us to be continual in worship, to do good, to share, to obey our leaders, to submit to them, and to pray for them; to make their job pleasant and not painful. He reminds us that God is the great shepherd of the sheep; and God is the one who ultimately will equip you with everything good so that you can do his will. By his unmerited grace, he sees fit to equip the saints for the work of the ministry through the instrumentality of church leaders. God himself is the one who through Jesus Christ will work in each one of us that which is pleasing in his sight. 

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

January 19, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:10-16; Marriage and Divorce

11/17 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 Marriage and Divorce; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131117_1cor7_10-16.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

10 Τοῖς δὲ γεγαμηκόσινπαραγγέλλω, οὐκ ἐγὼ ἀλλὰ ὁ κύριος, γυναῖκα ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς μὴ χωρισθῆναι —11 ἐὰν δὲ καὶ χωρισθῇ, μενέτω ἄγαμοςἢ τῷ ἀνδρὶ καταλλαγήτω — καὶ ἄνδρα γυναῖκα μὴ ἀφιέναι.12 Τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖςλέγω ἐγώ, οὐχ ὁ κύριος· εἴ τις ἀδελφὸς γυναῖκα ἔχει ἄπιστον, καὶ αὕτη συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτοῦ, μὴ ἀφιέτω αὐτήν·13 καὶ γυνὴ εἴ τις ἔχει ἄνδρα ἄπιστον, καὶ οὗτος συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτῆς, μὴ ἀφιέτω τὸν ἄνδρα.14 ἡγίασται γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ ὁ ἄπιστος ἐν τῇ γυναικί, καὶ ἡγίασται ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄπιστος ἐν τῷ ἀδελφῷ· ἐπεὶ ἄρα τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν ἀκάθαρτά ἐστιν, νῦν δὲ ἅγιά ἐστιν.15 εἰ δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος χωρίζεται, χωριζέσθω· οὐ δεδούλωται ὁ ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἡ ἀδελφὴ ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις, ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ κέκληκεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θεός.16 τί γὰρ οἶδας, γύναι, εἰ τὸν ἄνδρα σώσεις; ἢ τί οἶδας, ἄνερ, εἰ τὴν γυναῖκα σώσεις;

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband11 (but if she does, she should remainunmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Today we find ourselves in a challenging passage of 1 Corinthians. Paul is answering questions he had received from his church plant in Corinth. The verses we are studying address issues of marriage, divorce, and re-marriage. There was a teaching that had become popular in Corinth that Paul refers to in verse 1; “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. Paul, as a good shepherd, responds ‘it depends’.

In verses 2-5 he addresses married people, and he says that if you are married, it is good for you to enjoy sexual intimacy. Coming to Christ does not mean that you abandon your existing relationships in a pursuit for greater spirituality. In fact, depriving one another within marriage is sin.

In verses 6-7 he holds up his desire that, in light of the present distress, all would be content in singleness with its advantages for gospel ministry that he will outline later in this chapter. But he acknowledges that not all have received the same gifting, and God’s gifting is decisive rather than his preference.

In verses 8-9 he addresses the unmarried and widows. He may have in mind specifically widows and widowers, or he may be addressing more broadly those who are presently not married, whether single, widowed or divorced. His advice to them is that it is good to remain as they are, but if they are not gifted for celibacy then they must marry.

In verses 10-11 he addresses the married, specifically marriages where both husband and wife are believers.

In verses 12-16 he addresses another category of married people, those marriages where the husband or wife has come to Christ, but the spouse has not.

In verse 25 and following he will take up issues concerning virgins, those who have never married.

The Teaching of the Lord and of Paul

Let’s look at what Paul has to say to believers who are married to believers.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

We know that he is addressing marriages where both husband and wife are believers in these verses, because in the next verse, he addresses a different group (the rest), specifically those who are married to an unbeliever.

He differentiates his instructions to the two groups by saying to the first that the charge comes not from him but from the Lord; where to the rest he says ‘I, not the Lord’. It is very important that we do not misunderstand what he is saying. Down in verse 25 he will say:

1 Corinthians 7:25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

Some have wrongly interpreted these statements to mean that Paul is differentiating between divine revelation and his own personal opinion, between inspired and uninspired Scripture. There is no such thing as uninspired Scripture! All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. As God’s word, all Scripture is authoritative. Paul, as an apostle of our Lord Jesus, was commissioned by our Lord Jesus to instruct his church, and what Paul, controlled by the Holy Spirit, taught was no less authoritative than what Jesus himself taught. Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16) categorizes Paul’s letters as Scripture. In verse 17, Paul will say of his instructions:

1 Corinthians 7:17 …This is my rule in all the churches.

Jesus’ teaching is authoritative in all the churches. Paul’s teaching is also authoritative in all the churches. What he is doing is simply distinguishing between things that Jesus himself spoke to directly, and things that Jesus did not speak to, but by the Holy Spirit equipped his Apostles to address. At the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians, the gospels had not yet been compiled, but there was a body of memorized sayings of Jesus that the churches held dear, to which Paul would be referring here.

The Command of the Lord to the Married

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Paul is saying, in the context of the question of the Corinthians about it being good for a man not to touch a woman, that his command, based on Jesus’ own command was that the wife should not separate from her husband and the husband should not divorce his wife. It is not spiritual for a husband and wife to abstain from sexual intimacy in marriage, and it is not spiritual for them to terminate the marriage by separation or divorce. To do so would be to disobey the clear command of Jesus. Jesus’ clearly brought us back to the original intent of marriage as one man and one woman made one flesh by God for life. Jesus taught:

Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (cf. Mark 10:8-9)

Jesus taught that divorce was allowed and regulated because of the hardness of our hearts (Mt.19:8; Mk.10:5). Sadly, that hardness of heart still exists. Paul is aware that wrongful divorce among believers does happen. His instruction to believers divorced from believers is clear. Remain unmarried or be reconciled. The background for Jesus’ teaching is Deuteronomy 24. This is the passage the Pharisees appealed to as their scriptural basis for divorce. It will be helpful to look back at that passage to help us understand the context of Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching.

Deuteronomy 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Much of the debate in Jesus’ day revolved around the meaning of the phrase ‘some indecency’. The rabbi Shammai taught that ‘some indecency’ was limited to fornication or immorality. That is the only legitimate ground for divorce. The rabbi Hillel, on the other hand, taught that ‘some indecency’ meant that a man could divorce his wife for anything that displeased him, like if she burned his meal or if he found another woman more attractive than his wife (Adams, p.64). Rabbi Hillel with his broad understanding of ‘some indecency’ was closer to the actual meaning of the phrase. In the chapter immediately preceding, instructions are given to the Israelites to go outside the camp and bury their excrement, so that the Lord would “not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you” (Deut.23:14). This is the same phrase used in chapter 24 of the grounds used for divorce. So the immediate context demonstrates that ‘some indecency’ is much wider than sexual immorality. But both of these rabbis and their schools of thought missed the point. Deuteronomy 24 is not about what constitutes legitimate grounds for divorce, but rather regulates a current practice that was out of control for the protection of the woman. If a man divorced his wife for ‘some indecency’ and she remarried, he could never have her back again, even if her second husband died. Protection and restraints are put in place because of the hardness of human hearts. The passage says that she is defiled by the second marriage, which implies that the reason for the divorce was not legitimate. This fits Jesus comments on this passage in the gospels.

Jesus’ teaching was that divorce on illegitimate grounds did not free a person for remarriage. He clearly states in the gospels that the husband who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mt.19:9; Mk.10:11; Lk.16:18); the divorcing husband causes the wife to commit adultery (Mt.5:32); that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Mt.5:32; Lk.16:18); that the woman who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mk.10:12). However, in Matthew’s account, Jesus states that the only legitimate exception was sexual immorality, in which case the divorce would be legitimate (5:32; 19:9).

Paul’s reiteration of Jesus’ teaching is crystal clear.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Believers must not divorce. If, due to hardness of heart, they do separate, they have only two options open to them: remain unmarried, or be reconciled to their original spouse. Even in the exceptional case of adultery, (which Paul doesn’t address here) believers are permitted, but never required, to divorce; rather the goal is repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation. Believers have God’s word to guide them, God’s Holy Spirit living inside them, and God’s church to counsel and correct them. They have everything they need to find healing and hope and help for difficult circumstances and broken relationships. Because our broken relationship with God was reconciled through the blood of Jesus, we now have access to the power of the gospel to reconcile our relationships with one another.

Remain with the Unbelieving Spouse

Paul goes on to address a situation created by the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. As the good news penetrates the darkness of this world, it reaches into homes. Sometimes a husband and wife will hear the gospel and they will both reject it. Sometimes they will both embrace the gospel and together become followers of Jesus. But sometimes one will reject the gospel and one will become a follower of Jesus. What is to be done in these situations? It seems the counsel in Corinth was ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’. If the higher spirituality was celibacy, and even married believers were being encouraged to abstain or divorce, then for a believer to have intimacy with an unbeliever would certainly defile them. In chapter 6, Paul warned against a believer joining with a prostitute.

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

Paul will warn in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This clearly forbids a believer from entering into a marriage relationship with an unbeliever, or even dating an unbeliever. But if we apply this to existing marriages where one spouse becomes a follower of Jesus and the other does not, we might wrongly conclude that the best thing for the believer to do is to terminate the marriage. This is not Paul’s counsel. Instead he says, if possible, remain as you are.

1 Corinthians 7:12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

The gospel transforms us. A believer is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come. New ways of thinking and feeling and acting. A new heart, new desires. New convictions. This total transformation can cause tension in a marriage. The believer is never to sin, compromise conduct or violate conscience to keep a marriage together. However, the believer is never to use the gospel as an excuse to get out of a marriage. If the unbeliever is willing to put up with the gospel transformation in their spouse, and consents to continue the marriage, the marriage must continue. Paul’s reason goes like this:

Because They are Made Holy

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

This seems confusing at first read. We know that salvation is not transmitted from one person to another. Christianity is not genetic. A child is not a Christian because he is born to Christian parents. A child becomes a Christian when he puts his faith in Jesus and becomes a follower of Jesus. A husband does not become a Christian because his wife converts to Christianity. He must himself trust Jesus and be born again. If we read ahead it becomes clear that Paul is not talking about salvation here. In verse 16 he asks:

1 Corinthians 7:16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So the salvation of the spouse is desired, but in no way assured. The holiness he is talking about is not the holiness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. This holiness is holiness in the sense of ceremonial cleanness or uncleanness. In the Levitical laws, if an Israelite, who is part of God’s people, came in contact with a dead body, they would become unclean (or contaminated), and they would have to go through the appropriate process to become clean or holy again (Lev.21:1). The thinking would go like this: If I, a believer who has been cleansed by the blood of Christ, come into intimate contact with my unbelieving spouse, whom the Bible says is dead in their trespasses and sins, wouldn’t I become contaminated or defiled? No, Paul says, it is more like the altar in the tabernacle; whatever touched the altar became holy or set apart to God (Ex.29:37). He uses children as an example. If your children have not yet become followers of Jesus, do you cut off relationship with your unbelieving children because they may contaminate you? Or do you invest in them with the longing to see them become followers of Jesus? How much more should you invest in your unbelieving spouse! Because of their relationship with you, they are set apart, and God is at work! Peter gives instruction to wives with unbelieving husbands.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

If the Unbelieving Spouse Separates

Paul’s instruction to those with an unbelieving spouse is ‘if at all possible, remain as you are’. But that is not always possible.

15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So here Paul deals with real life situations. The believing spouse is to do everything in his or her power to make the marriage work, short of sinning. But in this case both parties do not have everything they need to resolve difficulties. The unbeliever may not be willing to listen to the word of God or the counsel of the church, and the unbeliever does not have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work within. The unbeliever may choose to end the marriage. In this case, Paul commands the believer to cooperate with the divorce. In this situation, the believer is not enslaved. This would imply that the divorce is legitimate and the believer now has the freedom to marry a believer. This does not mean that they should remarry, but only that they may. Paul’s counsel in this entire chapter is that, if possible, it is best to remain as you are. His instruction to the separated believers in verse 11, that they must remain unmarried or be reconciled, is not repeated here. Instead he says that the believer divorced from the unbeliever is not enslaved. Paul has told us that this new situation is outside the scope of Jesus’ teaching on divorce in the gospels. His instructions are an application of the principle of peace found in Romans.

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

If you are married to an unbeliever and they are willing to live at peace with you, then stay. If they are hostile toward you and toward the gospel, let them leave.

His last statement brings hope as well as freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? If the unbeliever is willing to stay, they may very well, as Peter indicates, be influenced by the gospel transformation they see in you, and ‘be won without a word’. There is hope. But ultimately there is freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? Salvation is from the Lord. None of us can save anyone. We may be used by God as instruments in the salvation of another, but God alone is the one who saves. We as followers of Jesus are under obligation to live lives consistent with the gospel. We are called to communicate the gospel. But we are not held accountable for anyone’s response to the gospel. And I should not be so arrogant to think that I am the only instrument God has at his disposal to reach any particular lost person. God is in control and I can trust him. 

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

November 17, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Spirit Revealed Wisdom

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

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

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

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

1Cor 2 [ESV2011]

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

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

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

God’s Hidden Wisdom

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

Hidden Wisdom Revealed

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

The Spirit

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

Called by the Spirit

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

The Depths of God

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

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

We have Received the Spirit

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

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

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

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

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

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

Understand the Things Freely Given

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

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

Spiritual with Spiritual

13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 1:17-18; The Power of the Word

02/24 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 The Power of the Word; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130224_1cor1_17-18.mp3

17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

18 Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν. 19 γέγραπται γάρ· Ἀπολῶ τὴν σοφίαν τῶν σοφῶν, καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν τῶν συνετῶν ἀθετήσω. 20 ποῦ σοφός; ποῦ γραμματεύς; ποῦ συζητητὴς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου; οὐχὶ ἐμώρανεν ὁ θεὸς τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ κόσμου; 21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔγνω ὁ κόσμος διὰ τῆς σοφίας τὸν θεόν, εὐδόκησεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος σῶσαι τοὺς πιστεύοντας. 22 ἐπειδὴ καὶ Ἰουδαῖοι σημεῖα αἰτοῦσιν καὶ Ἕλληνες σοφίαν ζητοῦσιν·23 ἡμεῖς δὲ κηρύσσομεν Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον, Ἰουδαίοις μὲν σκάνδαλον ἔθνεσιν δὲ μωρίαν, 24 αὐτοῖς δὲ τοῖς κλητοῖς, Ἰουδαίοις τε καὶ Ἕλλησιν, Χριστὸν θεοῦ δύναμιν καὶ θεοῦ σοφίαν.25 ὅτι τὸ μωρὸν τοῦ θεοῦ σοφώτερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐστίν, καὶ τὸ ἀσθενὲς τοῦ θεοῦ ἰσχυρότερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

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.

The believers in Corinth were in danger of undermining the power of the gospel by their division; Paul had heard reports of their quarreling and wrote to address this issue. They were caving to our human tendency to elevate a human leader or teacher to almost a divine status deserving of allegiance. They were buying in to the cultural wisdom of their day, trying to gain status or prestige by the teacher they identified with. When Paul wrote to the Galatian churches, he told them

Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

The messenger is not as important as the integrity of the message. Human messengers will come and go, but ‘the word of the Lord stands forever’ (Is.40:8; 1 Peter 1:24-25). Paul’s solution to their divisions was to bring them back to the gospel; to remind them of the simplicity of the good news that they had believed.

The Word of the Cross

Paul claims that he was sent to preach the gospel. This passage gives us a clear picture of what Paul believes is the core message of the gospel. Gospel means good news. Paul’s primary responsibility was to announce a victory. The war had been won. The enemy had been defeated. Good news! In verse 17 he says that he was sent to preach the gospel in a way that avoided sophistry so that the cross of Christ not be emptied of its power. He is claiming that the power of the gospel is the cross of Christ. He says as much in Romans 1:16.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Paul declares that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, regardless of ethnic distinctions. He says that he is not ashamed of the gospel because many people would think that it is a shameful message. Instead, the gospel is the power of God for salvation. In the context of Romans 1, salvation is rescue from God’s righteous wrath against my God-belittling ways. In Romans 3, salvation is being:

Romans 3:24 …justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

Here in 1 Corinthians he tells us that the gospel is a simple message centered on the cross. The cross of Christ is the power of the gospel. In verse 18 he describes the gospel as ‘the word of the cross’. This is in contrast to the ‘words of wisdom’ in verse 17. It is not wisdom words that have power, it is cross-words. The gospel is a cross shaped message. He says that the word of the cross is the power of God to us who are being saved. In verse 21, he tells us that the message is foolish, but it is a message that saves those who believe. This saving is contrasted to not knowing God; so being saved is related to knowing God, to being in relationship with God. Salvation is rescue from a life lived in separation from God, outside a relationship with the living God. Down in verse 23 he expands on what it means to preach the gospel. He says ‘we preach Christ crucified …Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’. In chapter 15, he comes back to the gospel message and reminds the Corinthians of the gospel he preached, the gospel that is saving them. This is the content:

1 Corinthians 15:3 … that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

The gospel was the announcement that Jesus died and was buried; that he died and was really truly dead; and that he was raised and appeared to many; that he is alive and that it has been undeniably proven that he is really and truly alive. But the gospel is not merely the facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel is the fulfillment of prophecy. The gospel is the focal point of all of biblical history. The Messiah died and was raised in accordance with the Scriptures. This was no accident, no surprise, no new direction in the plan of God. This had been the grand design of God through the ages. The promised one had come to die. The Christ died and was raised as the final fulfillment of God’s plan. The good news also answers that most important question ‘why?’ Why did the Christ die? Why did God’s perfect sinless King, whose rule would never end, die? Christ died for our sins. He died as a substitute. He took our place. He died for us. He paid the price for our sins. The wages of sin is death, and he died for us.

So the good news or the gospel is the power of the cross of Christ, the power of God in the word of the cross, the foolish preaching that saves believers and brings them into a relationship with God, knowing God. Preaching the gospel is preaching Christ crucified, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. That Christ died for our sins and is now alive. Any so called gospel message that is not anchored in the cross, in the death of Christ as a substitute for sinners is an empty message and it is not the Christian gospel.

No Third Category

We are told here that the cross divides all of humanity into two categories; those who are perishing and those who are being saved. There is no third category.

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.

Some of you right now are in the process of destroying yourselves. You will choose to resist the gospel and reject what Jesus did for you. The cross is too bloody – it’s offensive. The gospel is too simple. There must be more to it. The gospel is too easy – just believe? The gospel is too free – by grace alone? There must be something I have to do, something I must contribute. I simply cannot believe that Jesus did it all. If this describes you, you are perishing. Proverbs says:

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man,

but its end is the way to death. (also Proverbs 16:25)

Jesus spoke of only two categories in the final judgment:

Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 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. …41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. …46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Jesus said:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

In John 3, where Jesus spoke of his coming crucifixion, he said:

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. …36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

The cross divides all men absolutely. There are those who believe and those who do not believe. There are those who are being saved and those who are perishing. Where are you?

Why is the Word of the Cross Folly

Paul says that the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing. What does he mean that the cross is folly? We who are so familiar with the cross as the symbol of Christianity, who adorn our buildings and our pulpits and maybe even our living rooms with the cross, who hang the cross around our neck or from our ears will probably miss what the cross would mean to someone living in the first century. Picture this; a huge mural on the front of our church building depicting the horrors of the Nazi prison camp at Auschwitz. Imagine wearing a miniature silver replica of a gas chamber around your neck. What if you had an image of the electric chair printed on your favorite t-shirt? What if we erected a noose and gallows atop the steeple on our building? Why in the world would we do that? That’s just sick! These images might begin to capture for us the emotional impact that the cross would communicate in the first century.

The cross was an all too familiar symbol of crime and capital punishment and ruthless Roman rule. The cross was a gruesome and shameful form of public execution, where the criminal was torturously executed, suspended bloody and naked for all to see; a graphic reminder of what happens to those who commit heinous crimes or go against Rome. Crucifixion was not talked about in polite society. For Greeks and Romans the mere thought of crucifixion was repulsive and repugnant. But Christians claimed that their God had become human and had been crucified by Rome. They claimed to worship a crucified hero. This makes no sense. The hero is the guy who is strong, fights hard and conquers against all odds; not the guy who is weak and gets himself captured and killed. The cross is a symbol of helplessness, powerlessness, weakness, a symbol of the ultimate loser, the most despised outsider. To align yourself behind a crucified leader would be to declare ‘I am on the losing team, and I am a loser’.

Archaeologists discovered ancient graffiti in Rome depicting a man standing at the foot of a cross. On the cross was the figure of a man with the head of a donkey. Below the caricature is scrawled ‘Alexamenos worships his god’. This is the way that Christianity was perceived in that culture. This is the foolishness of the cross. To those who are perishing, to those who have not had their eyes opened to the beauty of the cross, the word of the cross is folly.

The Word of the Cross is the Power of God

But to us who are being saved, the word of the cross is the power of God. What does this mean? How is the word of the cross the power of God? In verse 21, he says that ‘in the wisdom of God …it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe’. In verse 24 he says that Christ crucified is ‘to those who are called …Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’. God chooses to use the seeming foolishness of the message of the Jesus Christ crucified to save those who believe, those whom he is calling to himself. In Romans 10, Paul outlines the sequence of evangelism as sending, preaching, hearing, believing, calling on the name of the Lord and being saved, and he says:

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Faith comes from hearing the word of Christ, hearing the word of the cross. If we think back to Genesis, back to the creation account, we see that God’s word has creative power. God said ‘let there be… and there was… let there be… and it was so’. We see this creative active life giving power of the word of God all through the book of Acts. The apostles prayed for boldness to speak the word (4:29). They testified and spoke the word of the Lord (8:25). And the results are described like this:

Acts 13:49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.

Acts 19:20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

It’s as if the word of the Lord has a life of its own. It was spreading, increasing, and prevailing mightily. Listen to what Paul tells the Ephesian elders that the word of God’s grace has the potential to do:

Acts 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Paul will never see these men again. He entrusts them to God and his word. The word of his grace is able! In 2 Corinthians, Paul makes the connection between the effective word of God in creation and in us as new creations; he says:

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

The gospel is the power of God for salvation; the word of the cross is the power of God. Faith comes from hearing. Luke records for us a beautiful instance of this happening on the river banks near the city of Philippi. He says ‘we sat down and spoke’ and:

Acts 16:14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

They spoke. The Lord opened her heart. The powerful word of the cross creates new life and faith in the heart of the hearers. Faith comes through hearing. There is creative power in the proclamation of this message. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Paul says a few chapters later:

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

This is why Paul says that he did not preach the gospel with words of eloquent wisdom. The word of the cross is the power of God. We dare not empty the cross of saving power by dressing it up, watering it down, altering it in any way. We must not be ashamed. We must pray for boldness to plainly proclaim the powerful good news.

Power to those who Are Being Saved

But does the power of the cross of Christ end with salvation? I believe the gospel and now I have eternal life. I have been saved. But this verse says that the word of the cross is the power of God to us who are being saved. In chapter 15 he says:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.

We are being saved by the gospel. In believing the gospel, there is a once for all decisive finished act;

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

And there is also a present continuing aspect of the gospel. How is the power of the cross now at work in us who are being saved? An illustration might help. Your home is on fire. You are sound asleep in your bed, oblivious to the danger. Suddenly a fireman crashes into your room, shakes you from your sleep, and announces ‘your house is on fire – come, I will get you out’. You believe him, and he picks you up, wraps you in his fireproof coat, puts his oxygen mask on you, and carries you in his strong arms. You are depending on him, and you are now in his care. You have been rescued. But you are not out of the house yet. He will carry you through the door and along the smoke-filled halls and down the stairs, or out the broken window and down the ladder. You are being saved. How is this power of the cross at work in us who are being saved?

The power of the cross is at work freeing me from slavery to sin.

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

…14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

The power of the gospel gives me everything I need to live a godly life

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

The power of the cross is awesome resurrection power

Ephesians 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know … 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,

The power of the gospel is the power of the Holy Spirit in you enabling you to know and experience the love of Christ for you

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. 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 power of the cross sets us free to live for the glory of Jesus

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Is the power of the cross at work in you today?

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

February 24, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:7a; No Grace-Gift Lacking

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121202_1cor1_7a.mp3

12/02 1 Corinthians 1:7a No Grace-Gift Lacking

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 is thanking God for the grace of God at work in the believers in Corinth. Although there were many serious problems to address, although much was not right in the church in Corinth, although there were serious sin issues and doctrinal issues, there was still much to thank God for. Paul begins this difficult letter by thanking God for the evidences of grace that he observed in this wayward church. First, he thanks God that they were enriched in Christ in every way, especially in all words and all knowledge. Their minds had been enlightened. They had perceived the truth of the gospel message and believed. Then he thanks God that this fullness, this being enriched in all things, comes from the testimony of Christ, the witness Jesus bore of himself; the witness borne by the apostles about Jesus, the good news that God the Son became human, that he lived a perfect life, that he died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was raised from the dead, that he is King. This testimony of Christ was confirmed, made sure, shown to be firm and legally binding in the Corinthians. They believed the foolish message of the cross, and they were transformed by it. Although they were not yet what they ought to be, they were no longer what they once were. As Paul says in Romans 8:16

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

The good news about Jesus was demonstrated genuine among the believers in Corinth.

Not Lacking in Any Spiritual Gift

Next on his list of evidences of God’s grace at work in Corinth is verse 7; ‘so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift’. This will be the focus of our attention today. Paul thanks God that his grace is evident in their lives in that they lack no spiritual gift. What does it mean to lack, and what is a spiritual gift? And why would we spend so much time looking at just a few words?

Words Mean Things

God has spoken, and he has used words to communicate truth to his people. He has preserved his word through the centuries so that we can live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Words mean things. If we want to know what God says to us, we need to pay attention to the words he uses to communicate to us. Today we are going to take some time to look carefully at two of the words used in this phrase. Part of my job as a pastor is to preach, to proclaim God’s truth in the power of the Holy Spirit so that God is glorified and your life is transformed. Part of my job as pastor is to equip you, the saints, for the work of the ministry, to give you the tools you need to do the things God has called you to do. Think of it this way. This is a jar of baby food, and this is a little baby spoon. The food is already ground up really small. Somebody else has done the work of chewing. Somebody else uses the tools – the spoon to get the food into your mouth. You almost passively receive. Now picture a big thick juicy delicious steak. Here is a fork and a steak knife. I’m going to cut off some small bites and give them to you so you can get a taste for what is really good. But you are watching how I hold my fork and how I use my knife and you are learning. The goal is not to stay dependent, not to stay on a baby-food diet. The goal is to learn to enjoy food yourself. The goal is for you to learn to use the tools and dig in to God’s word on your own, with your family, with your friends and co-workers, maybe leading a bible study, being prepared to do what God is calling you to do. My prayer is that both things are happening. You are being fed. Your souls are being nourished with the pure milk of God’s word. But you are also watching, learning how to use the tools, becoming equipped to dig in to God’s word yourself. Here are some tools. This is an English dictionary. This is not where word meanings come from. What words mean comes from how the words are used in a culture, in a society. The dictionary listens to how a culture uses words and then tries to record what it hears. As the way the culture uses words changes, the dictionary has to catch up and publish a new version. The way people use words determine what they mean. So to find out what a word in the bible means, we need a different tool. We need to be able to see how a word was used by biblical authors so that we can start to hear how they used words in their culture and hear what they meant by what they said. This tool is called a concordance. It is an alphabetical catalog of every word in the bible and lists every verse that uses a given word. We can use it to get to know how the biblical authors used a word and what they meant by it. It also helps to know that our English bible is a translation from a different language. A good concordance will help you get behind the translation to get a taste of the original language. With a good concordance you can get at the original word behind the English translation and find every place that word was used, even if it is translated by a different word in English.

Spiritual Gifts

7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift,

What is a spiritual gift? There is one Greek word that is behind the translation ‘spiritual gift’ in our English bibles. ‘Charisma’ [χαρισμα] is derived from the Greek word for grace [χαρις] ‘charis’. This same word is translated twice in Romans 5:15-16 as ‘free gift’, and again in Romans 6:23

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The concept of grace, as we have learned, is diametrically opposed to any sense of earning or deserving. Grace is the polar opposite of works. Wages are set over against the free gift of grace. As Paul says in Romans 4:4

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift [literally: ‘according to grace’ κατα χαριν] but as his due [literally: ‘according to debt’; that which is legally or justly owed κατα οφειλημα].

And he says again in Romans 11:6

Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

There is no possible way to combine grace and works in salvation. If I work for or earn or contribute even a small percentage, then it ceases to be a gift, it ceases to be grace. In 2 Timothy 1:9 he points to God,

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

So the concept of spiritual gifts has at its root the concept of grace; a gift freely given and not in any way earned or deserved. We could translate it a ‘grace-gift’. At the heart of this concept is the free gift of eternal life, the gift of sins forgiven, the gift of reconciliation, the gift of a full, rich, satisfying relationship with God that is guaranteed to you for eternity, purchased for you by the blood of Jesus on the cross.

Gifts that Differ

This concept is expanded later in Romans and in Corinthians to include the various gifts God gives to his church to create a fully functioning body. In Romans 12, Paul uses the metaphor of one body with many members that differ in function, yet are inextricably interconnected as one body.

Romans 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:…

And he goes on to list some of the various grace-gifts God has given to his church; prophecy, service, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, mercy. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul points to the grace-gift of singleness and self-control. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, he addresses the issue of grace-gifts in the church in Corinth at length. He says:

1 Corinthians 12:4 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.

Here we are given some definition on what these grace-gifts mean. In the trinitarian formula ‘the same Spirit, …the same Lord, …the same God’, our word ‘grace-gift’ is placed in parallel with two other synonyms; they are varieties of service or ministry, and varieties of activities or energies. Grace-gifts are God-enabled service, God energized activities. Grace-gifts are here said to be God-empowered, and they are said to be a manifestation of the Spirit. This is why the word is often translated ‘spiritual gifts’; they are gifts of grace that come from the Holy Spirit. The ultimate goal of these grace-gifts is for the common good. They are given by the Spirit of God for the good of the church, the body of Christ. Peter exhorts us:

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

So a spiritual gift or grace-gift is a concrete evidence of God’s grace that is given, not earned or achieved, it is an expression of divine energy, not human potential or effort, it is an act of service which promotes the common good, not for selfish gain [NIDNTT vol.3, p.703]

Not Lacking

Paul thanks God that the Corinthian church is not lacking in any spiritual gift. What does it mean to lack? This word is used in Luke’s gospel in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. He ‘squandered his property in reckless living’.

Luke 15:14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

That’s our word for ‘lacking’. He describes what he lacked. It says in verse 16

Luke 15:16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

And then he says that his ‘father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!’ The lack was a desperate shortage of something essential to life. When he returned as a beggar to his father, he was freely given more than he could have imagined.

There was a young man who came to Jesus asking what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus pointed him to the commandments.

Matthew 19:20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”

This man had not murdered, committed adultery, stolen, borne false witness, he had honored his father and mother, and claimed even to love his neighbor as himself. And yet he still sensed that he was coming up short. Something was missing. So he asked Jesus ‘what do I still lack?’

Mark 10:21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Jesus tells him he lacks one thing. One thing is lacking for eternal life, but Jesus gives this man three commands; he tells him to go sell, to give, and to come follow. But he says one thing is lacking. Is it one thing or three? I think he is saying ‘get the stuff out of the way that is preventing you from doing the one thing. One thing is lacking: come, follow Jesus.

Paul points in Romans 3 to the one area in which we all lack or fall short.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

He spent chapters one and two outlining how all men are without excuse because although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images. They brought God down to the level of a created being, a man or lower. All have sinned. All are under God’s judgment because all have failed to give God the glory that is his due. We come up lacking in giving God glory. He lays out the remedy in the next verse.

Romans 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

To lack is to have a shortage of something essential, whether on a physical level, lacking the basic necessity of food; or on a spiritual level, coming short of giving God his rightful glory, being distracted and missing the one essential thing to come, follow Jesus.

Thankful for no lack of Grace-Gift

Paul thanks God for his grace shown to the Corinthian church in that they did not lack in any grace-gift. This is the flip side of what he said in verse 5

5 that in every way you were enriched in him…

In every way they were enriched in him; in no way did they lack any grace-gift. This would include first of all the God-given gift of justification, forgiveness of all sin, the free and undeserved gift of eternal life in full soul-satisfying relationship with Jesus.

It would also include those various gifts of God’s grace given to his church to create a fully functioning body. They as a church are not lacking in any grace-gift. If they were not functioning as a healthy group of believers, which from the rest of this letter we know they were not, it was not because God was withholding something that they needed. They, like us, were enriched in Christ in every way. They were not lacking in any spiritual gift. They may have taken God’s generous gifts distributed according to his good purpose and prided themselves that they were superior to others who had different gifts. They may have used their gifts in self-serving ways rather than using their gifts to build up the body. They may have overemphasized the more spectacularly supernatural gifts and undervalued and neglected the more essential nuts and bolts gifts that were critical for the unity and health of the body. They were misusing, even abusing the gifts that had been given by God for their good. But even in this Paul finds reason to thank God. The fact that they were misusing the gifts of God meant that they had indeed been given gifts by God. God had extended grace to sinners in Corinth, they had received the free gift of eternal life, and God was at work in them. They certainly lacked in character. They lacked love. They lacked humility. But God was doing a great work. And there is reason to rejoice, because what God begins, he will see through to completion.

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

 

December 2, 2012 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 34:10-27; The Covenant Re-Made

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121007_exodus34_10-27.mp3

10/7 Exodus 34:10-27 The Covenant Re-made

Moses has asked God to show him his glory. Moses was asking that God take sinful rebellious disobedient Israel back as his own people. He was asking that he forgive their sins and take them to be his treasured possession. That is a huge request, a bold request, an unlikely request, but it was based on God’s revelation of his own character. God said that he is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, not letting the guilty go unpunished. Moses is boldly asking God to extend his grace and forgiveness to wayward Israel, and to give him proof of his promised presence, and to restore the sinful people to their previous privileged position. In this passage, God is answering ‘yes’. We are going to look at how he answers.

Remember, when Moses asked God to show him his glory, God explained how he would show him his glory, but before he did, he instructed Moses:

Exodus 34:1 The LORD said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. 3 No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” 4 So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone.

This takes us right back to chapter 19, where God was first inviting the people into covenant with him. The covenant documentation must be remade. There is no experience of the glory of God, no enjoying of the presence of God outside of a covenant relationship with him. They broke the covenant. The covenant relationship must be renewed in order for God to take them to be his inheritance. This is what we see in this chapter. God is agreeing to take Israel back as his people, but only on his terms. This is like those software installation programs that require you to accept the terms and conditions or they don’t let you install the program. Either you accept the terms or you don’t go any further. But God’s terms are not endless pages of legal mumbo-jumbo. God is very clear and concise in laying out his expectations of his people. But the first thing he communicates is what he will do for his people.

I Will Do Marvels

Exodus 34:10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. 11 “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

This is amazing in light of where we are in Exodus. God had delivered the people from slavery in Egypt by 10 mighty acts of judgment. He had decimated the world superpower, bringing Egypt to its knees. Even the wise men of the Egyptian court said:

Exodus 10:7 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?”

Now God is saying ‘I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation… It is an awesome thing that I will do with you.’ As if the deliverance from Egypt, the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, was not an awesome thing! God is promising to do even greater things than these! Hold this thought, because I’d like to come back to these verses again before we end today.

An Exclusive Covenant

God says he is making the covenant. He is the one who establishes the terms of the agreement. He is King. He determines what must be. He says ‘Observe what I command you this day.’ These are the boundaries that define the relationship. Without these requirements there is no relationship. There is only broken covenant.

12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. 17 “You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

Here God is restating his first two commandments.

Exodus 20:3 “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…

God is bringing his commandment home to the people who have so recently embraced idolatry, made a golden bull and worshiped the works of their hands. He reiterates that he is a jealous God (20:5); not the petty jealousy of wounded pride, but holy jealousy out of love for the people he is taking to be his own. Not only does he say that he is a jealous God, but he claims that his name is Jealous. Jealousy is one of his defining characteristics. This is exclusive jealousy, righteous jealousy, because there is no blessing outside of a relationship YHWH whose name is Jealous. This covenant relationship is an exclusive covenant. When you enter into the covenant of marriage, you vow to forsake all others and to be faithful only, exclusively to your marriage partner. You can’t take that vow before God and then turn around and enter into another marriage covenant with someone else. It is exclusive. The same is true for this covenant with God. God is saying that a covenant with him is incompatible with entering into covenant relationships with any of the idolatrous people of the land. God was alerting the people to the danger of becoming unequally yoked with unbelievers (2Cor.6:14). It may seem innocent at first, but it leads to idolatry and God views idolatry as adultery. From God’s perspective, idolatry is equivalent to your wife sneaking out on your honeymoon and prostituting herself with other men. This is valid cause for white-hot holy jealousy, pursuing purifying jealousy. This is the passionate jealousy that says ‘I love you, and I want better for you than that.’ Understand, God’s requirements are not oppressive burdens that prohibit pleasure, but rather are for our protection so that we can experience and enjoy his blessing.

The Feasts and Rest

Next, God reminds his people of his appointed feasts and rest.

18 “You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib, for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt. 19 All that open the womb are mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. 20 The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty-handed. 21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. 22 You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end. 23 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. 24 For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.

Here God reminds the people of his requirement that they feast. This is his mandatory demand that they celebrate. Remember what the people did with the golden calf? ‘they sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play’. They wanted a party. God is reminding them, ‘I want you to celebrate, I designed you to enjoy my presence, I require that you to rest and be refreshed and enjoy the relationship we have. I am providing, no, demanding that you take time to enjoy your relationship with me. What I offer is so much better than the cheap counterfeits you try to find satisfaction in.’

The Feast of Unleavened Bread was connected to Passover. It was a memorial feast, a feast to remember God’s past faithfulness to them. This is a feast commemorating what the Lord did for you in bringing you out of Egypt. In this, God exerts his ownership over all his people. God redeemed the people from Egypt. He bought them. They belong to him. He owns them. The redemption of the firstborn is a reminder that God has rights over his people. We are his possession. We are his.

The Sabbath was one day out of seven to rest and remember and worship and enjoy. Even at the busiest times of the year, the most demanding times, he requires that his people rest and celebrate him.

The Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Ingathering were two celebrations related to God’s provision for his people; the firstfruits, or Pentecost; and then the final harvest at the end of the season. Attendance at these feasts is not optional; it is mandatory.

And with this is the promise of God’s sovereign protection. You don’t have to worry that while everyone is away worshiping me that someone is going to sneak in and steal your stuff. ‘I will drive out your enemies. I will enlarge your borders. I will protect and care for my people.’

25 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover remain until the morning. 26 The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

God demands purity and perfect obedience to his laws. God asks for the first and the best, because we reserve the first and best for the one we love the most. I will save the first and best for the love of my life. If I always keep the first and best for myself, I am showing that I love myself more than anyone else. God requires that we demonstrate with our possessions that he has first place in our hearts, that we love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength; not with our words only, but with our lives, with our possessions. This is not because God is needy and hungry and broke, looking to us to provide his needs. This is evidence of our affections for him. This is evidence that in our hearts we are keeping the covenant we have made. This would provide a regular opportunity to check my heart and my motives. If I am grudging and grumpy and stingy toward God, then that shows me that my heart is not in the right place; that my heart has abandoned the covenant. If I am joyful and eager and generous toward God, that is evidence that my affections are in line with the covenant relationship.

Words Written

27 And the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”

God tells Moses to ‘write these words’. God has a strange fixation with words and writing. God invented words. In the beginning God spoke. God gave us the gift of communication. God speaks to us and God speaks with us. And God is not satisfied with oral tradition, that is open to the interpretation of the storyteller, open to distortion and manipulation and change. God demands that his words be put in writing. God uses words to communicate clearly with his people, and he gives us his words in writing, so that is not dependent on our memory or the memory of the storyteller. We can look at the word written and know. We are not left to guess or to wonder. We can read the written words and know where we stand. It is black and white. This covenant between God and his people was not a vague fuzzy sort of relationship. He puts it in writing. He will hold us to it. We agreed and he will call us to account. And he expects us to hold him to it. He made a covenant with us and put it in writing, and we should know it and love it and call him on it to be faithful to his covenant.

God is fanatical about words. God thinks his words are important.

Psalm 138:2 …for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

God’s word is powerful.

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

God thinks his words are true.

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (cf. 2Sam.22:31; Ps.18:30)

God’s word will endure.

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Jesus said:

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

God’s word is penetrating

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s word written is able to save.

2 Timothy 3:15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Jesus says that God’s word gives and sustains life

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

God is so fanatical about his words that he named his only Son ‘The Word’.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

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

Hebrews tells us how God spoke.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

At the end of Revelation we see Jesus show up again.

Revelation 19:13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.

The New Covenant

God takes his word very seriously. We should too. That’s why I want to look one more time at verse 10 of Exodus 34 before we close.

Exodus 34:10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. 11 “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

We see these words being fulfilled in the book of Joshua, as the people enter the promised land and conquer their enemies. But I think it is bigger than that. I think it points ahead to the New Covenant that God makes with us. “I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation.” What is more marvelous than God becoming flesh, being born of a virgin, living a perfect human life, taking upon himself the sins of the world, dying in our place, and getting back up from the dead! “And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. Whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life. Jesus comes to make his home in you. This is an awesome thing that he is doing with you! Are the people around you seeing the relationship you have with Jesus? Are the people among whom you are seeing the work of the LORD? That it is not you working but him at work in you? God promised to drive out the enemies. Our enemies are not Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perrizites, Hivites and Jebusites. Our enemies are things like lust, anger, pride, idolatry, unbelief, self-centeredness, self-sufficiency, evil desires, envy, lies, greed, discontent, bitterness, unforgiveness. Do you see God driving these enemies of your soul out of your life? Are those around you seeing the work of the LORD? Is it an awesome thing that he is doing with you?

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

October 7, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 33:7-17; The Undeserved Grace of God’s Presence

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120902_exodus33_7-17.mp3

09/02 Exodus 33:7-17 The Undeserved Grace of God’s Presence

God had rescued out of slavery a people for himself. He had demonstrated his mighty power over their enemies. He demonstrated his provision and care for them in the wilderness. He entered into a covenant relationship with them, to be their God and take them to be his people. He promised to give them the greatest blessing imaginable; he promised he would be with them. But they had been unfaithful even before they had received the written terms of the agreement. They abandoned their promise to ‘have no other gods before’ him and to ‘not make for yourself a carved image …[to] not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God’ (Ex.20:3-5) Now, he said “I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” (33:3). He said “You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you.” (33:5). He would fulfill all of his promises, but he would not be with them. The people perceived this, not as a blessing, but as a disastrous word. There can be nothing more fulfilling, nothing more satisfying, nothing that nourishes the soul, there is no greater blessing than the presence of God. God promises that he will fulfill all his promises but he will remove his presence from his people. This is rightly seen as disastrous, for there can be no greater emptiness than the absence of God, so the people

strip themselves of their ornaments and go into mourning. But there is a glimmer of hope. God says ‘So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you’. This is the parent telling the rebellious child to sit in the corner and wait while I cool down and decide what the punishment will be. Will it be justice, swift and severe, or will he again show mercy? God had already proposed that he consume the people and start over with Moses (32:10). Moses pleaded with God that he not totally destroy them, and ‘the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people’ (32:14). Now, the Lord says he will send his angel with them, but he will not personally accompany them, in order to protect them from the absolute holiness of his presence.

Verses 7-11 describe the interim situation, building suspense and leaving us hanging as to what the answer will be to what God will do with his disobedient people.

Exodus 33:7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

Contrast in Tents

Remember, back in chapter 25, God had said “let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (25:8). And he proceeded to give seven chapters worth of elaborate detailed instruction about this tabernacle, or tent of meeting, that would provide a central worship location for the whole camp of Israel. This was to be an ornate and highly decorated tent, made of the finest richly colored materials, embroidered with gold, fitted with furniture of gold and silver and bronze, with a whole order of priests, also adorned in elaborate outfits, set apart to make offerings for the people and bring them into the courtyards of God’s palace to enjoy meals in his presence. But now nothing of this has been made. The people by their sinful actions have forfeited the presence of God. Now, instead of an elaborate tent fit for a king, we are simply told that Moses pitched the tent outside the camp, far off from the camp, and called it the tent of meeting. No details, no decoration, no furniture. Just a simple tent. Not in the middle of the camp of Israel, but outside the camp, far off from the camp. No Levites and priests to guard and serve in God’s palace; just Joshua, from the tribe of Ephraim (Num.13:8,16), to stand guard over this simple tent. No sacrifices where they could find forgiveness, but only a fearful expectation of judgment. No entering into his courts with singing, instead each would stand at his own tent door and watch and worship from afar.

Consequence of Sin

This was a dramatic illustration of the consequences of sin. God would not dwell with this people. He could not stand to be among them. He would distance himself from this people. His tent would be far off from the camp. The people of Israel would not have God as their center. Instead any one of them who would seek the LORD must leave Israel behind and go out to the wilderness to find him. Israel was intended to be a light to the nations, God’s own people, so that any outsiders who would seek God must come in to Israel to approach this God. Now God is outside, and Israel must go out if they will have any dealings with him.

Respect for Leadership

We see here the attitudes of the people toward their leader changing. Remember when the people assembled against Aaron with their demand that he make them a calf? They said ‘as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him’ (32:1). There was no respect, no recognition that this was God’s chosen leader, no acknowledgment that God had called him and was using him as their mediator; they were ready to set him aside and choose their own leader. Now they were beginning to recognize and respect his position of authority. Whenever Moses would go out to the tent they would rise out of reverence. When they saw that God was meeting with Moses, they would rise up to worship God.

The Word of God

Moses’ authority was not because he was in some way better than them. He himself felt inadequate for the task, and when God called him said ‘who am I that I should …bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ (3:11); he even said ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else’ (4:13). Moses’ authority did not come from his natural abilities or from who he was at all; God said ‘I will be with you’ (3:12). Moses’ authority was recognized because God would speak to him. In fact, we are told ‘the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.’ We cannot take this to mean that Moses saw the face of God, for later in this very chapter Moses records God as saying ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live’ (33:20). Being face to face with the invisible God (Col.1:15; 1Tim.1:17; Heb.11:27) is a way to express that this conversation was up close and personal, that Moses had lost nothing of the privileged intimacy he had experienced in the glory cloud on Mount Sinai. Notice the text does not say that Moses looked at God or that the LORD looked at Moses face to face, but that he spoke to Moses face to face. God’s word is always of utmost importance. It is what God says that takes priority. And this is what gave Moses authority with the people. They recognized that God spoke to him, that God gave him his word. What an awesome treasure we hold in our hands today! The very word of God written; his communication with us.

Friendship with God

What an awesome privilege! To be in the presence of the invisible God. To hear his voice. For the God of the universe to call me ‘friend’!

Psalm 25:14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.

This friendship was denied to the Israelites, who had no reverence for God and broke his covenant. They were kept at a distance. Jesus invites us back into friendship with him. He says:

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

‘You are my friends if you do what I command you.’ Friendship with God means obeying his commands. Our problem is we are disobedient. We are rebellious. We do not have a proper fear of God. We, like the Israelites, are quick to run after other gods, to worship other things, our hearts are inclined to love other things more than God. That is why Jesus laid down his life for us. We needed someone to pay the debt we owe for dishonoring God. He died for us even when we didn’t deserve it. He died for us while we were still hostile toward him. He loved those who hated him. This is the kind of love Jesus demands from his followers. To understand this is transformational. None of us deserve to be loved. So when Jesus tells us to love one another as I have loved you, he is saying that we must love those who have done nothing to earn our love. We must love in a way that costs us something. We must love even those who are hostile toward us. We must actively pursue the good of the other. We show ourselves to be his friends when we understand how he loves and seek to love others like we have been loved by him. This comes not from extra human effort, but as a result of experiencing what it is to be loved by God when we deserve just the opposite. What a privilege to be invited into friendship with Jesus!

Moses’ Dependence on Grace

God is speaking to Moses as a friend, but has distanced himself from the rest of the people. He invites the people to demonstrate their repentance ‘that I may know what to do with you.’ Here we get in on one of these conversations in the tent.

12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

God had told Moses that he would send an angel but would not go personally with the people. Moses argues that God must go with the people or nothing else matters. Moses is acknowledging his utter dependence on God and his own inability to lead without God. Moses is calling on God to make good on his word. You have said ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ God has shown Moses favor or grace. Moses didn’t deserve this. Moses makes his plea based on the fact that God had given him grace. The request? ‘Please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.’ Because you know me and have extended undeserved grace to me, I want to know you, I want to know your character, your ways, so that I can continue to receive undeserved grace. Moses is saying ‘I didn’t deserve it, I don’t now deserve it, and I won’t ever deserve your favor. I want to grow in relationship with you so that I continue to experience your undeserved grace, because that’s what you’re like.’ And he adds ‘consider too that this nation is your people.’ They have been recipients of your undeserved grace. They don’t deserve it now, but will you still grant them your favor?

God responds ‘My presence will go with you and I will give you rest’, but it seems the ‘you’ here is singular. My face will go with you Moses, and I will give you individually rest. This is not good enough for Moses. He is not content to have God’s promise for himself individually, he wants God’s presence with the whole people. This is almost an ultimatum. You have told us to go, but we are not going anywhere without the promise of your presence with us. See how Moses inextricably connects himself with the people: me, us; I, I and your people; us, we, I and your people.

Evidence of Grace

Moses asks the question: what is the evidence of your grace in my life? You say you have shown us undeserved favor. What is it that shows that we are different from every other people on the face of the earth? The evidence of grace, this favor that is not deserved, is God’s presence. Moses is beginning to understand the heart of God and he is learning what it means to pray according to the will of God. The exodus event was intended as a way for God to get glory (14:4, 17) for his great name. It was a way to preach the greatness of God so that many would acknowledge him as the only true God and come to him. God’s promise to Abraham was ‘I will bless you …so that you will be a blessing. …and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ (Gen.12:2-3) and ‘in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed’ (Gen.22:18). Moses had already leveraged this in his prayer in chapter 32; he asked ‘why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’ (32:12)? God’s reputation among the nations is at stake. His question here is ‘how shall it be known,’ because the point of God’s taking a nation to be his own treasured possession is to put the riches of his grace on display for the nations to see. God’s people enjoying God’s presence with them as a result of his undeserved grace proclaims the glory of God like nothing else. What awesome encouragement to the worst of sinners that they too can find forgiveness when they turn to God if this hard-hearted rebellious people, so quick to turn away, were extended his grace when they repented. See God’s response to this prayer:

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.” 

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

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 30:17-21; Furniture in God’s Tent – The Bronze Washbasin

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120520_exodus30_17-21.mp3

05/20 Exodus 30:17-21 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Bronze Washbasin (38:8; 40:30-32)

We have been studying this section of Exodus where God describes how he, a holy God, will dwell with his sinful people. He described his throne room, where he would rule his people from over his covenant; and outside his throne room, his table, always full, his lampstand, always lit, and his incense, always fragrant; then in the courtyard, his grill, always burning, and now, finally, his washbasin.

Exodus 30:17 The LORD said to Moses, 18 “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, 19 with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. 20 When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. 21 They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.”

And in chapter 40, we see this basin put in place.

Exodus 40:30 He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing, 31 with which Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 32 When they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, as the LORD commanded Moses.

What was this basin for? What did it mean?

This basin was a reservoir designed to hold water. It was to be used for washing. Whenever they enter God’s tent, or approach God’s grill, they are to wash. This would serve a very practical function. Remember, the whole foundation of our ability to approach a holy God was the blood sacrifice of a substitute. Animals were slaughtered, blood was collected and applied, meat was butchered, prepared, and grilled. This was a messy, bloody process. The need for frequent washing is obvious. Of course, the whole point of sacrifice was the death of an innocent substitute in place of the guilty sinner to pay the price for sin; it all pointed to Jesus, the once-for-all final substitutionary sacrifice who takes away our sins.

Washing for Purification

When we think of washing, we think primarily of cleanliness and sanitation for health reasons. We wan to kill germs and prevent the spread of bacteria. That is indeed part of it. Especially in Leviticus, we see this idea of washing for purification and cleansing from various causes of uncleanness. We see that God’s laws were designed for the good of his people, for the health of his people, often in very practical ways. Proverbs picks up this idea of washing for cleanliness and takes it as a metaphor for moral and spiritual health.

Proverbs 30:12 There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth.

How often have you had a big dirty smudge on your face and you didn’t even know it? Our own opinion of ourselves is often quite far from the truth. You can have sterilized hands but a wicked heart.

Isaiah begins his book by looking past the physical rituals in the temple to the spiritual realities that they are designed to illustrate.

Isaiah 1:11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. … 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

God is saying that the hands of his people are full of blood and need to be washed – not literal blood of animals, but the guilt of evil deeds, the neglect of justice, the oppression of society’s weak.

When Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees over the issue of ceremonial washing, he taught that:

Matthew 15:18 …what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

Jesus, like Isaiah, pointed to the root of uncleanness, not physical but spiritual, not unwashed hands but wicked hearts, evil thoughts, destructive words.

Washing hands and feet is a picture that points us to our deeper need for cleansing our guilt before God. This is what Pilate was attempting to do when he turned Jesus over to be crucified; what he did was not just. He felt guilt.

Matthew 27:24 … he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

Proper Hospitality

But cleansing was not the only purpose for washing. To understand this more fully, we need to think back several thousand years and try to understand a little about the culture of the middle east. There was a very important social aspect to washing. The primary mode of transportation was foot travel. Roads were dusty. People wore sandals. Washing feet was part of Abraham’s hospitality in Genesis 18.

Genesis 18:3 and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

If you’ve ever been on a long hike, you know how refreshing it is to dip your sore feet in some cool water. Even in many homes today, guests are expected to take their shoes off at the door before coming in. Washing feet would be an invitation into the home to relax and enjoy fellowship. Failure to provide a guest with water for washing would be a deep insult, equivalent to saying ‘you stay outside; you are not welcome in my home’. When Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to his house to eat, that is exactly what he did. He offered no water for washing. This social insult is the background for Jesus’ teaching that he who is forgiven much loves much.

Luke 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. …

Simon is appalled that Jesus would allow this woman to touch him, because she had quite a reputation in the city. Jesus responds:

Luke 7:44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus accepts the hospitality of a repentant sinner. God , by providing a basin in the courtyard of his tent for washing was extending hospitality, inviting the priests to refresh themselves, to come in to his presence and enjoy fellowship with him.

Jesus Washes Feet

Washing feet was not a pleasant duty. It often fell to the lowest of servants. There was another occasion when Jesus sat down to eat and no one had extended the hospitality of foot washing. It was his final meal with his own disciples. A common topic of discussion with them was which one of them was the greatest (Mt.18:1; 20:21; 23:11; Mk.9:34; 10:37; Lk.9:46; Lk.22:24-28). Apparently, not one of them was willing to stoop to perform the unpleasant and menial task of footwashing.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

There is stunned, awkward silence, until he gets to Peter.

John 13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Peter apparently thinks this is a test. First, he refuses to allow Jesus to wash his feet, to which Jesus responds that washing is a prerequisite to fellowship with him. Peter then responds that he would like a full bath. Jesus points to the fact that he is completely clean, except for his soiled feet.

Justified – Sanctified – Glorified

This is very instructive for us. Jesus is drawing a distinction between the once-for-all cleansing that does not need to be repeated and the regular need for cleansing due to interaction with the world. It is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin (1Jn.1:7). The robes of the saints are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev.7:14). This never needs to be repeated. But our feet become soiled from walking in this world. We need to be regularly washed with water. There is a distinction in the tenses of salvation. I have been saved; I am being saved; and I will be saved. The bible uses all these tenses; the past, present and future to describe salvation. The past tense looks at justification – ‘since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom.5:1). That is the past once-for-all completed never to be repeated or revoked declared not guilty never to be on trial again salvation. Then there is the process of being saved; the day to day continual battle with sin called the process of sanctification. Finally there is the future final salvation, by which we will be transformed to be like Jesus when we see him face to face. That is our future glorification. Justification, sanctification, and glorification; past, present and future salvation.

Means of Sanctification – The Word

This hand and foot washing is the washing of sanctification. In Ephesians 5, in the teaching on marriage that is to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and his church, we are told:

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.

‘Christ …gave himself up for her’ – that is the past once-for-all justification. ‘That he might sanctify her’ – that is the ongoing process of salvation in the daily battle with sin. ‘presenting the church to himself in splendor’ – that is the final future phase of salvation; glorification. Today we are looking at the present process of salvation, the sanctification process. Jesus is right now in the process of sanctifying his bride the church. We see in these verses the means of our cleansing: the washing of water with the word. The primary tool for our cleansing is God’s word. The water for washing that is in the basin is the word of God. Why do we preach from God’s word every Sunday, why do we sing biblical truth, why do we teach bible studies, why do we encourage daily bible reading both individually and with families, why memorize bible verses? Because it is the word of God that sanctifies.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s word is potent! God’s word is powerful! God’s word has the power to penetrate past the outward actions and right into the thoughts and intentions of the heart. God’s word gets at the very root of our sin problem; our won wicked hearts. James talks about this sanctifying effect of God’s word in our lives.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Danger of Not Doing

The implanted word is able to save your souls. The present process of sanctification in the life of the believer is advanced through hearing; through receiving the word of God. The ongoing salvation process is producing in us the righteousness that God requires through the regular repeated application of God’s cleansing word. But James goes on to warn us that there is a danger of deceiving ourselves.

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James warns that a common self-deception is that hearing is good enough. I showed up to church this week. I’ve done my bible reading for today. I’ve checked the boxes. Don’t deceive yourself! Hear, yes. Read, yes. But use it! Put God’s word into action in your life. Be a hearer and a doer. Apply the living word to your heart and let it wash and transform you. Take action! It is fascinating that James likens listening to the word with looking in a mirror. Do you know what the bronze basin in the tabernacle courtyard was made of?

Exodus 38:8 He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting.

The high quality polished brass that the women used for mirrors was the material that was used to cast the bronze basin for washing. No longer look at your natural face in a physical mirror, but look into the soul-reflecting mirror of God’s word. But don’t look only. Do something about it! When you look in a mirror and see you have grime on your face, don’t walk away and forget about it. Wash it off! When you look into the perfect law of liberty that tells the truth about the condition of your heart, don’t walk away without applying his cleansing word to your heart. When you see that your desires are in bondage to sin, apply the gospel truth of Christ’s victory at the cross and walk in the freedom he purchased for you.

Grace and Response

We tend to emphasize the grace of God to the exclusion of our necessary response. We rightly focus on the finished work of Jesus for us, but we wrongly neglect the gospel truth that his finished work is the foundation and basis for our response. The bible is clear that our works contribute nothing to the finished work of Christ. The bible is also full of commands for action.

1Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Philippians 2:12 …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Passionately pursue holiness, because God is at work in you to sanctify you. The foundation must be in place. The foundation is Jesus’ totally complete, finished, justifying work on the cross as your substitute. Without depending on that completely, relying, trusting, believing, you have no foundation and no hope. But once this foundation of faith is in place, the appropriate response must follow. Having been justified as a gift by grace, having the promise that you will be finally glorified, knowing that God is presently at work in you by his Spirit and through his word, pour strong effort and energy into your sanctification. Take Colossians as an example. Verse 5 begins with ‘therefore’, pointing back to the foundational finished work of Christ.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 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.

Read and apply the truth of God’s word to your own heart condition. ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another.’

Remember what Jesus said when he finished washing his disciples’ feet?

John 13:12 …“Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. … 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

As you apply God’s truth to your own heart and life, then carefully, lovingly, with genuine care and concern, with all humility and with much prayer, serve one another by applying the cleansing water of God’s word to wash away the daily dirt that we accumulate from our interaction with the world. And remember,

James 1:19 …my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…

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

May 20, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment