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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 1:11; Multiplied Prayer for Multiplied Thanksgiving

10/29 2 Corinthians 1:11; Multiplied Prayer and Multiplied Thanksgiving; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171029_2cor1_11.mp3

Today we look at the subject of prayer. In 2 Corinthians Paul offers no thanksgiving for the Corinthian church; but invites the Corinthians to bless God with him for God’s work in their apostle. He also offers no prayer for his readers; but he invites them to pray for the deliverance of their apostle.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

To make this passage read more smoothly in English, the translators have broken it up into shorter sentences, but in the original verse 11 is not an independent sentence. It continues the thought of the previous. It begins with a participle; some translations render it ‘as’ [NET] or ‘while you (also) join in helping…’ [LEB, HCSB].

Working Together With God

This is an amazing statement. Paul has just said that the affliction that so utterly burdened them beyond their ability to cope and caused them to despair even of life was so that they would rely not on themselves but on God who raises the dead. This resurrecting God delivered them from a deadly peril, and he will deliver. They have set their hope on God alone that he will deliver. No dependence on self. All dependence completely, exclusively on God alone, and you also. Even you, working together (with God) on our behalf by prayer. What in the world is Paul saying? God alone is their hope. God alone rescues. And the Corinthian church works together with God to bring about this rescue?! This is staggering. This seems contradictory. God alone saves. God alone brings deliverance. And you work together with God to bring about this deliverance. God works alone, but he often works in answer to prayer.

This word translated ‘help’ is a big word. It is a compound word. The first prefix of this word means ‘with or together’. The second prefix means ‘under, beneath, or through’. The root of the word is ‘toil or work’. Working together under; laboring or toiling underneath with. When I look at this word, I get the picture of Moses in Exodus 17.

Exodus 17:8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

Aaron and Hur labored underneath with Moses. In another sense, Moses labored underneath with Aaron in and all the fighting men. This story gives us an insight into prayer. Prayer is hard work. What is more exhausting, what is more draining, what is more difficult? Standing, holding a stick in the air; or wielding a sword in battle against an enemy all day? I think it is fair to say that Joshua or any one of his fighting men burned more calories that day than Moses, Aaron and Hur combined. But we don’t read of Joshua growing weary. We read of Moses growing weary. You see, prayer is hard work. It is wearying work. It requires help from others who come alongside. If you have ever entered into the serious work of prayer, you understand. Think about it. How many of you have fallen asleep while doing manual physical labor? How many have fallen asleep while attempting to pray? Prayer is labor.

C.H. Spurgeon writes about this passage “I find that in the original, the word for, “helping together,” implies very earnest WORK. Some people’s prayers have no work in them, but the only prayer which prevails with God is a real workingman’s prayer—where the petitioner, like a Samson, shakes the gates of mercy, and labors to pull them up rather than be denied an entrance! We do not want fingertip prayers, which only touch the burden— we need shoulder prayers—which bear a load of earnestness, and are not to be denied their desire. We do not want those dainty runaway knocks at the door of mercy, which professors give when they show off at prayer meetings, but we ask for the knocking of a man who means to have, and means to stop at mercy’s gate till it opens and all his needs shall be supplied! The energetic, vehement violence of the man who is not to be denied, but intends to carry heaven by storm until he wins his heart’s desire—this is the prayer which ministers covet of their people!” [Sermon No. 507, May 3, 1863]

We see Jacob, in weakness, his hip dislocated, clinging to God.

Genesis 32:26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Jesus taught his followers

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Jesus invites us to ‘keep bothering him’, to ‘beat him down by our continual coming’, to ‘cry out to him day and night.’

Jesus tells another parable in Luke 11

Luke 11:5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

Jesus invites us to impudence, to persistence in prayer.

Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

An Example of Earnest Prayer

Paul tells the Corinthians that they also are laboring together under God on our behalf by prayer. God’s deliverance and future deliverance come to him by means of the prayer of the churches. We see this very thing happen in Acts 12.

Acts 12:1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.

Peter is in trouble. James had already been beheaded. Peter was next.

Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Earnest prayer. Fervent prayer. Intent prayer. The feast of unleavened bread lasted seven days. We don’t know how many of those days Peter was imprisoned. This might have been a seven day prayer meeting. The church had something serious to pray about.

Acts 12:6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.

God waited until the last possible moment.

Acts 12:11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

These believers were gathered together laboring together under God in prayer on behalf of Peter. God rescued Peter in response to their prayers. This resulted in great joy. The servant girl Rhoda was so overjoyed, she left Peter locked outside while she ran in to tell the others.

Prayer and Need

This is what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 1:11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

When whole churches labor together under God in prayer on our behalf, it results in many giving thanks on our behalf for the grace granted through many.

There is a request that goes out horizontally. Pray for us. This is not the only place that Paul asks for prayer. In Romans 15 Paul says:

Romans 15:30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.

To the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 5:25 Brothers, pray for us.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,

And to the Ephesians:

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

To the church at Philippi,

Philippians 1:19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

And to the church in Colossae:

Colossians 4:3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—

And to Philemon

Philemon 1:22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

Paul was not ashamed to ask for prayer. He knew his own weakness and his need for help. This was the primary evidence of his own salvation. In Acts 9, when God humbled Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, when God sent Ananias to heal him, the main evidence of his transformation was ‘for behold, he is praying’ (Acts 9:11). Paul was praying; he began to acknowledge his dependence on God alone. He was no longer relying on himself.

Allow me to quote Spurgeon again: “Why God has been pleased to command us to pray at all it is not difficult to discover, for prayer glorifies God, by putting man in the most humble posture of worship! The creature in prayer acknowledges his Creator with reverence, and confesses Him to be the giver of every good and perfect gift; the eyes are lifted up to behold the glory of the Lord, while the knees are bent to the earth in the lowliness of acknowledged weakness. …prayer… is the most humble, and so the most fitting to set forth the glory of the perfect One as it is beheld by imperfect flesh and blood. …in their very essence, all truthful confessions of personal fault are but homage paid to the infinite perfections of the Lord of hosts. …Moreover, the act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is no small blessing to such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favors without compelling us to pray for them, we would never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of needs, a catalog of necessities, a request in forma pauperis, an exposure of secret wounds, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. I believe that the most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty, and always depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and therefore the use of prayer, because while it adores God, it lays the creature where he should be—in the very dust. ” [Sermon No. 507, May 3, 1863]

Multiplied Thanksgiving

To the proud Corinthian church, who were looking for a celebrity to follow, someone who had it all together, Paul holds up his weakness and need. Paul wants the Corinthians to know that it is not him who is strong, but Jesus. It is not him who is self-sufficient, but all sufficiency is in Jesus. He is not independent, but dependent, utterly, hopelessly, helplessly dependent on God alone. For righteousness, he depended on God alone. For rescue from present circumstances, his hope was in God alone. For future resurrection and eternal life, he depended on God alone. It is not his strength, his credentials, his capabilities he holds up, but his weakness. He is dependent on God, and he is dependent on their prayers for him.

Pray for me. The request goes out to many. Many prayers go up to God for him. The grace comes down to rescue him. The report goes out that God has delivered him. Now many faces are turned to God in thanksgiving for him.

Thanksgiving reverses the degeneration of sin described in Romans 1

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Paul invites the Corinthians to give evidence of their own transformation in thanksgiving to God. He invites them to partner with him in his dependence on God as they labor together for him in prayer so they can join him in blessing God as they see and experience the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we are able to comfort those who are in all affliction. Through his abundant affliction, Paul seeks to multiply prayer so that thanksgiving is multiplied, to the glory of God.

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

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October 30, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Love Like Jesus

05/28 The Spirit’s Fruit: Love Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170528_love-like-jesus.mp3

We are looking at the fruit of the Spirit. Or, we could say, this is a study on holiness, on Christian character, on godliness. The fruit of the Spirit is the character that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a believer. This is not something I can work hard to produce in my life; this is something that I am completely dependent on God the Spirit to produce in me. I can do things to cooperate with the Spirit in his work in me, and I can do things to frustrate and delay his work in me, but the fruit of the Spirit is in contrast to the works of the flesh. I cannot produce the Spirit’s fruit with my own effort. I must depend on him, trust him, rely on him to make this happen in my life. It is fruit that the Holy Spirit of God alone can produce.

Fruit Different than Gifts

The fruit of the Spirit is contrasted against the works of the flesh. It is also contrasted with the gifts of the Spirit. Gifts are optional, fruit is mandatory. Every believer is given gifts by the Spirit, but no gift is mandatory. You don’t have to have the gift of tongues or teaching or prophecy to be a genuine believer. No believer has all the gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:11 tells us that ‘the Spirit apportions [the gifts] to each one individually as he wills.’ But you do have to have the fruit. In the middle of Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians, at the end of chapter 12 he says ‘And I will show you a still more excellent way.’ And then in chapter 13 he says that gifts without character are worthless, empty and count for nothing. Chapter 13 is the famous ‘love chapter’ where he encourages us to pursue love as the ‘more excellent way’ than gifts. Then in chapter 14 he continues with specific instructions on the gifts of the Spirit, that they must be used out of the Christian character of love. We will come back around to 1 Corinthians 13 in a few minutes.

Gifts are outward; manifestations of the Spirit, actions. Fruit is inward; character. The actions can be manufactured or counterfeited. Fruit grows out of a relationship with Jesus. In talking about fruit and works, Jesus said:

Matthew 7:20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So according to Jesus, someone can be manifesting the gifts of the Spirit and not have a genuine relationship with Jesus. But fruit will grow out of that relationship.

Fruit Different than Personality

And notice carefully, gifts are plural, fruit is singular. You may have two or three or five gifts of the Spirit, and your gifts will probably be a different combination than mine. But we don’t look at the fruit that way. We don’t say, out of the nine things listed here in Galatians 5, I only have these three fruits. I have some of the fruits, and you have some of the other fruits, and so as a body of believers we’ve got them all covered. No. That is how the gifts work, but that is not how the fruit works. It is fruit. Singular. It is one symmetrical fruit. Listed in this passage are nine characteristics of this one fruit, but it is one fruit. Either all nine characteristics are true of you (at least in some beginning degree), or the Spirit is not producing his fruit in you. The whole fruit of the Spirit is evidence that you are a genuine believer. This sets the fruit of the Spirit apart from human personality.

You know some people that are just bubbly and happy-go-lucky and are a boost to be around. They might not know Jesus, but that’s just who they are. But they may not have much self-control, or they’re a bit short on faithfulness. Then there are others, who are very patient and gentle, but they just seem a bit down, often depressed. Or others who are very self-disciplined, self-controlled, faithful to the Lord, they know what needs to be done and they get it done, but they may not be very gentle or kind in the process. Don’t get in their way. That’s not the fruit of the Spirit.

You may read the nine traits of Spirit produced character and you may feel that you’re just naturally one or two or five of them, but that’s not what we are talking about. This fruit is not natural. This is supernatural fruit; Holy Spirit produced fruit. And the Spirit produces character, balanced whole character in believers.

Fruit Grows

We could think of this many faceted character as a diamond. It is one diamond, but it has many sides, many facets. Or as light through a prism; it is one thing, light, but if we put it through a prism, we see the spectrum of individual colors that make up the light. But Paul chooses to illustrate this as fruit, because fruit is organic. It grows. And it takes time. Fruit isn’t produced overnight. A fruit tree has a dormant season. It appears dead. But it is growing. Even in the winter, it is getting strong, going deep. Fruit is produced slowly, gradually, imperceptibly. But it is growing. And it produces after its kind. An apple tree will inevitably produce apples. That’s what it is and that’s what it does. The Spirit produces this kind of Christian character. Inevitably. If you have been born again by the Spirit of God, he will bring about this fruit in your life. Slowly, often imperceptibly. With long quiet seasons of dormancy. But unfailingly.

Love Commanded

Today we are looking at the first facet of the Spirit’s fruit; love. Love is not randomly chosen to head the list. Love is central. When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment,

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Paul said:

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

James says:

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

When Paul exalts fruit as more essential than gifts, he points us to love. He says:

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. …

Love Defined

What is love? Paul’s description is helpful; it tells us some things love is (some of them we find in this description of the fruit of the Spirit); it is patient and kind, it rejoices with the truth; it bears all, believes, all, hopes all, endures all. And he tells us some things it’s not. Love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing. It never stops.

Not Hunger Love

Tim Keller was very helpful in my thinking on this. He lays out two things love is not that help protect us from our culturally conditioned ideas of love. He says that love is not need love or hunger love; and love is not tolerance [Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, April 26, 1998; The Fruit of the Spirit- the Character of Christ; John 13:1-21; Logos]

He says “In the world, there is something people call love that is really hunger. Hunger says, ‘I love you,’ which means, ‘You make me feel good about myself. You fill me up. You make me feel like I’m significant. I want to own you. I want to have you. I want you to make me feel like a real individual. I want you to help me become myself.’ That’s hunger. Think about this. If you go up to a beautiful fruit tree and you’re absolutely full, how do you enjoy it? You say, ‘Look at it. It’s beautiful.’ You might take some cobwebs off, or an old, dead leaf, anything that detracts from its beauty. How are you appreciating it? For what it is in itself. But if you come in front of a beautiful fruit tree and you are ravenously hungry, … you are very attracted to the fruit tree in a completely different way. You don’t care. ‘Oh, I love that fruit tree. I’ll strip it. I’ll rip it. I’ll break it. I don’t care.’ You see, I don’t love it for itself; I love it as a commodity. I love it for what it’s going to do for me.” This is not the kind of love that is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit comes from fullness, not from hunger and need.

Not Tolerance

He also says that true biblical love is not tolerance. “’If I see somebody hurting themselves and I don’t love them that much, I don’t know them that much, I’m tolerant.’ Think about this. The less I love somebody, the more tolerant I am if I see them doing things that seem to be hurting themselves. But the more I love somebody, the less tolerant I am. …’I want to shake them. I want to say, ‘can’t you see? Don’t you know what you’re doing to yourself? You’re becoming less and less yourself every time I see you.’ I’m not angry because I hate them; I’m angry because I love them. If I didn’t love them, I’d walk away. Real love stands against deception. Real love stands against lies that destroy.”

Biblical Love

So what is this love that is fruit produce by the Holy Spirit in us? How do we define it? We need to look to God’s love to see what love truly is. God’s love is self-giving.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world [God loved the world in this way], that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God’s love is love that gives sacrificially for the good of the other. Jesus says to his followers in John 13:

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.

And then again in John 15:

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

So Jesus holds himself up as the standard of the love that he commands in his followers. Jesus himself is to define love. And then he says:

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Self-sacrificial self-giving love, costly love. Jesus love is not need love or hunger love. He does not love us for what he can get from us. He does not love us because there is something appealing or attractive about us. His love sees our ugliness, our sin, our filth, and loves us. Neither is Jesus’ love a tolerant love. Jesus does not look at us in our sin and say ‘I love you and I am content to leave you just the way you are.’ No. Jesus intends to change us. To wash us, to cleanse us, to forgive us, to set us free, to transform us, to make us new, to create something beautiful in us. Jesus’ love is a purging purifying sanctifying cleansing transforming love. Listen to Ephesians:

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

Love is a willing self-sacrificial love.

Ephesians 5:25 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.

Love is willingly self-giving for the good of the other. Even joyfully self sacrificial (as we’ll see next week).

How the Fruit of Love Grows In Us

If that is what this kind of love is, and I look at myself and see that there’s not much of that there, then what do I do? Maybe I thought of myself as a loving person, but mine is really a selfish self-serving needy love. Maybe it’s a tolerant anything goes love. How can I see God’s self-giving love grow in my life? Remember, it is fruit. Fruit produced by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The fruit is produced when it’s not me but Christ living in me. But how does that happen? This kind of life is lived by faith. By dependence. By believing. I begin to love like this when I look with faith to Jesus and see how he loved me. He loved me and gave himself for me. Is it really that simple? Look to Jesus? Yes! When you look to Jesus in faith, and make it personal, it changes everything!

Love Displayed

Jesus, the Son of God, God the Son, loved me? Why? What is there in me to love? What in me is praiseworthy? What do I have to offer? What need does he have that I can satisfy? He loved me not because I could meet some need of his, but because he wants to meet all my needs? He knew me, he knows everything about me, and yet he loves me? He sees my heart, he sees my failures, he knows my flaws, and yet he loves me?

This love that he has for me, what did it cost him to love me? He loved me and gave himself for me. He loved me and laid down his life for me. He took all my sin on himself and paid the ultimate price. He took all my guilt and shame. He was betrayed by a friend because he loved me. He was silent before his accusers because of his love for me. He patiently endured the mocking the spitting, the beating, the ridicule because he loved me. He stretched out his arms and opened his hands to the nails because of his great love for me. He forgave his executioners because he loved me. He endured the wrath of his Father against my sin because he loved me. He loved me at infinite cost, all for my good.

His love is determined. He is determined to deal with my sin. He is determined to make me a new creation. And he pursued me when I was uninterested. While I was his sworn enemy, hostile toward him, he loved me. He loves me and refuses to give up on me. Even though I continue to stray, continue to blunder and fail, he refuses to give up on me. He loved me and gave himself for me. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Look to him. Receive his love for you. Believe it. Treasure his love. Know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Eph.3:19). Allow his love for you to fill all the empty neediness in your heart to overflowing. Then step out in the bold confidence of one who is unfailingly unquenchingly securely loved and love others. Love those who are unlovable. Love those who are unresponsive. Love those who will not reciprocate. Love those who have offended you. Love those from whom you have nothing to gain. Love sacrificially. Open yourself to being hurt. Give of yourself in love for the good of others.

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

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Works vs Fruit; Galatians 5

05/21 The Work of the Spirit and the War Against the Flesh [Galatians 5:13-21; 24-26]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170521_works-vs-fruit.mp3

Today we begin a series on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. I believe this will be very practical and helpful, and I would invite you to be praying with me that God the Holy Spirit would be at work through his word to produce his fruit in the lives of his people for his glory.

~prayer~

Paul is in anguish over the Galatians. He is astonished that they are deserting Jesus and turning to a different gospel. These Gentiles are being pressured to submit to the Jewish law. Paul is fighting to preserve the truth of the gospel, the good news that we are declared right before God not by keeping the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. The Christian life is not me attempting to live up to some standard, but Christ living in me, a life lived “by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal.2:20). Paul is eager to embrace the freely given grace of God, and he understands that if righteousness could come through the law then Christ was crucified in vain.

Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ

He says in chapter 3

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—

The Christian life is begun by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. I hear with desperate dependence the good news proclaimed that Christ was crucified for me. The Holy Spirit is at work in me so that as I hear the gospel I trust not my abilities but Christ alone. The Spirit works this in me. Having freely received the Spirit through faith, is it now up to my flesh to finish the work he began in me? Of course not! If the beginning of the Christian life is a work of the Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, so the continuance and completion of the Christian life is all a work of the Holy Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Sanctification by Grace through Faith in Christ

Paul says in Galatians 4

Galatians 4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Paul’s longing is that Christ would be formed in them. Christ – himself – formed in you. Christ – who lives in me. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This is no human effort. Paul’s heart is that they would live in complete daily dependence on the Spirit in them to produce the character of Christ in them.

In chapter 5 he warns not to fall away from grace, to turn from the freely given gift of God who is at work in us by his Spirit, in order to attempt to obtain righteousness by our own effort.

Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

We do not work, we eagerly wait. We wait for the hope of righteousness; a confident assurance of a righteousness that God will bring about in us. We trust. We depend. We believe. Through the Spirit. By faith. We wait. It is not our effort. Not what we do or don’t do that “counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” It is not me working, but faith working. Dependence on God is at work, and it expresses itself in love.

Freedom to Want

In verse 13, Paul warns against misusing this freedom we have in Christ, our freedom from the law, in a way that allows the flesh to gain traction.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are set free in Christ to fulfill the law by serving one another through love. So many misunderstand freedom as a freedom from any authority. Rather freedom in Christ is freedom from the tyranny of a cruel slave-master to be back under the good and right authority of the God who is love. It is a freedom at the heart level. We are no longer under debt and an obligation to live up to the standards of the law. Instead we are freed to do what we want. We are set free at the level of our desires. We are set free from the suicidal desires that compelled us to pursue things that destroy; we are set free at the heart level to hunger and thirst after the things that truly satisfy.

War of Desires

Paul warns:

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Life by the Spirit is war. There is war outside and war within. Paul warns; if you bite and devour one another, watch out; our fleshly desires stir us up against one another. If we follow the flesh (and often we do) we will be biting and devouring each other.

But as believers in Jesus, we have been given the Holy Spirit of God. We still have the old nature, the flesh. And our sinful flesh will not just roll over and admit defeat. It will not go down without a fight. So we have a war on our hands; a war within. It will be long – lifelong. It will be messy – there will be casualties. But we are assured of victory – the outcome is certain. We battle a decisively defeated foe. The flesh was defeated at the cross. If we are in Christ, if we have identified with him in his death and resurrection, the victory has already been won. Jesus conquered sin and death and hell on the cross. And my flesh was crucified with him on that cross.

By flesh the Bible doesn’t mean physical bodies. Our bodies are not inherently evil. Our physical bodies will be resurrected glorified. We will enjoy a sinless existence in our physical bodies in the presence of God for eternity. God created Adam and Eve with physical bodies in the garden and he said it was all very good. Our bodies are not the problem. The flesh is the problem. By the flesh, the Bible means that fallen part of us that desires other things more than God. It is that part of us that wants to be our own master, determine our own destiny, live for our own glory, be our own god. As believers, we now have the Holy Spirit living within, and we now have competing desires. The flesh has its desires, and the Holy Spirit brings with him his desires, and these two are in conflict. The Holy Spirit desires to magnify Jesus above all.

These competing desires ‘keep you from doing the things you want to do.’ We are in a battle. But who is the you? You are either giving in to the flesh, biting and devouring one another, or you are led by the Holy Spirit, free from the law, through love serving one another. So who is the you? What is your identity? Do you embrace the flesh, with its passions and desires, or do you embrace the Spirit, and allow him to transform you? This is a big deal.

Works of the Flesh

In verse 19, he moves from talking about the desires of the flesh to the works of the flesh.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The flesh manifests itself. There are fifteen words that divide into four categories here. The first three words have to do with sexual sin; sexual immorality, sexual impurity, uncontrolled lust. Then there are two words dealing with religious pursuits; idolatry and sorcery. The flesh makes an idol out of just about anything; family, relationships, work, success, kids, power, reputation. Sorcery is an attempt to gain control by manipulating the spiritual realm. The next 8 are relationship words. And most of these are in the plural; they have multiple manifestations, they may take multiple forms. Enmity – hostile feelings and actions; strife- contention and discord; jealousy – an envious rivalry; fits of anger – bursts of temper; rivalries – selfish ambitions; dissensions – uprisings or controversies; divisions – creating factions; envy – ill will or spite. Most of these are inward attitudes and feelings, attitudes of the heart. The last two, drunkenness and orgies, have to do with excess; excessive drinking, excessive feasting or partying. The desires of the flesh display themselves in works of deviant and destructive sexuality, dark religious practices, self-centered and damaging relational dynamics, and excessive overindulgence.

Recognize, this is a big deal. This is a warning. Paul says ‘I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.’ So this is a salvation issue. If you have embraced the desires of the flesh, if your life is characterized by the works of the flesh, if there is no battle between flesh and Spirit, then you may not know Jesus. But don’t be discouraged; if you are not winning the battle all the time, if you are still struggling against the same sins. The fact that there is a battle going on and you are convicted over your sins is a good sign.

We could look at Jesus’ story of the prodigal and see these fleshly desires manifesting themselves in the works of the flesh. The prodigal idolized money and freedom from all authority and sinful pleasure. He indulged in sexual immorality, excessive drinking and partying.

We could look at his unforgiving older brother and see enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy.

These are the normal outworkings of the flesh. But when the Spirit comes in, then there is war.

Of course we could look at the father in the story and see the fruit of the Spirit on display; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We will look at these characteristics in the coming weeks.

How is the Fruit of the Spirit not a list of moral virtues? (070218)

We need to understand how the lifestyle of the morally upright around us fits in to this overall picture. We acknowledge that many that don’t know Christ personally live lives that we would describe as ‘good’; they are kind, patient, faithful, gentle, self-controlled, they exercise patience, they are peace loving, they show love to others, and they seem happy. Does this mean that the Spirit is at work in their lives? Is this evidence of the Holy Spirit, and should we conclude that people who live this way must be justified believers, because Jesus says ‘by their fruits you shall know them’? In fact we probably can think of people we know that do not follow Jesus that we would say have more of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives than we do. Do we have biblical categories in our minds to fit these facts into? Or does this confuse us and cause us to question and doubt?

Let’s look at what Jesus said:

Matthew 7:16-20 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Now that sounds pretty clear-cut. If you can see the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life, then they must be O.K. with God, right? If they are loving, kind, good, gentle, patient and self-controlled, then they must be on the right track. Be careful not to jump to conclusions before you’ve read the whole passage. Let’s keep reading and see what Jesus says next:

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So, apparently there will be people who on the surface appear to have it all together; even people who sincerely feel that they have it all together, who will be very surprised on judgment day. They will say things like ‘but Jesus, we acknowledge you as Lord; we believe in you’. And Jesus says, ‘no, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’. They will say ‘but we did that; we prophesied, we even cast out demons in your name; we did many mighty works in your name’. So they were doing good works. They were performing great acts of love. And not just that; there were supernatural things going on. Prophecies were being given; people were being delivered from evil spirits. Obviously the Spirit was at work in their lives. But on this ground they were not welcome in heaven. What was it that they lacked? Jesus says the critical thing is not what you do; it’s who you know. Jesus says ‘I never knew you. You may have done some amazing things. You may be the most loving, kind, generous person around, you might have even done these things in the name of Jesus, but we had no relationship. I never knew you.’ And Jesus sends them away and calls them ‘workers of lawlessness’. How can he say that when they were doing good works? In God’s eyes all their love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control were filthy rags in his sight. Their good works were valueless because they didn’t stem from a relationship with Jesus.

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Contrast Works and Fruit

Notice the flesh is always working, striving, exerting effort to attain its unwholesome desires. The Spirit grows fruit. It is an organic thing. It is not manufactured. If the right seed is planted, the right plant sprouts up. Whatever kind of tree it is, that is the kind of fruit that will be produced. There are ways to encourage and enhance fruitfulness; preparing the soil, watering, fertilizing, pruning. But ultimately the fruit is determined by the nature of the tree. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in keeping with his nature.

Notice also, the fruit of the Spirit is singular, where the works of the flesh are plural. There are various and disjointed manifestations of the fleshly desires. But the Spirit produces wholeness, integration, integrity. This is one fruit. It has different sides, different aspects; but it is one. It is one multifaceted fruit.

And take encouragement here. If you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit of the living God living within you.

Romans 8 tells us

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.

And he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1Jn.4:4). And he who is in you is greater than your flesh. God wins! He will be victorious in your life. If the Spirit is there, he will produce his fruit in your life. He will not fail. If God could take the one who was crushed down under the weight of the sin of the world and raise him up to life again, he is fully able to overcome your fleshly desires and produce the satisfying fruit of the Spirit. Christ will be formed in you!

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

May 22, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Glorify God

01/22 How to Glorify God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170122_how-to-glorify-god.mp3

Last week we looked at the primary purpose of the church and of each of us as followers of Jesus. We exist, according to Ephesians 1, to the praise of his glorious grace, to the praise of his glory, to the praise of his glory (Eph.1:6, 12, 14). As the Westminster Shorter Catechism begins “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (1647). Romans 15 tells us that we are ‘to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,’ so

Romans 15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Angelic beings in Isaiah 6 declare

Isaiah 6:3 … “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The Psalmist declares

Psalm 86:12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

In Psalm 106 as in Romans 1, sinners are condemned because:

Psalm 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

Philippians tells us that one day

Philippians 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Peter tells us to so use our gifts, in dependence on God,

1 Peter 4:11 …—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Cornithians tells us

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Jesus tells us to

Matthew 5:16 …let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

We exist for the glory of God. We are meant to glorify God. The glory of God is to be our chief aim, our primary purpose. If this is true then some questions must follow. What is the glory of God? And how do I glorify God?

The Glory of God and Spiritual Blindness

First, what is the glory of God? If my primary purpose is to glorify God, then I need to understand what I am aiming for. If we don’t have a grasp of a biblical definition of God’s glory, then we won’t have a clue how to live for the glory of God. We must perceive the glory of God in order to live for the glory of God. And this is spiritual work that requires supernatural help. We are told in 2 Corinthians 4 that

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

So there is a spiritual blindness upon unbelievers to prevent them from seeing God’s glory in Christ. This blindness requires a sovereign act of God to overcome.

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.

Sovereign God, open our eyes that we may behold your glory in the face of Jesus!

The Glory of God; Light and Weight

I see in scripture, mainly two aspects to the glory of God; light and weight. This passage in 2 Corinthians speaks of the light of the good news of the glory of Christ; the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. The book of Revelation tells us that

Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

God’s glory is compared to light, radiance, brightness, shining, brilliance, display. God’s glory is the shining forth of who he is, the brilliant display of his character and nature, the radiant brightness of his being. It is an outward appearance or making known of his invisible being and personality.

In the Old Testament, we see another aspect of God’s glory. The Hebrew word for glory is ‘kabod’, and it literally means heaviness or weightiness. Remember back to Leviticus 9, when the tabernacle was complete, the priests were set apart, the people were gathered, and Aaron the first high priest was to offer the first sacrifices to God in the holy tabernacle. At the end of chapter 9, Aaron had offered the sacrifices,

Leviticus 9:23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

And then we read in chapter 10, that in the midst of this awesome moment, two of Aaron’s sons did something God had not commanded and offered strange fire before the Lord. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them.

Leviticus 10:3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

God is to be taken seriously. God is not to be trifled with. God is sanctified, holy, set apart, in a class by himself, utterly unique and unparalleled. The weightiness of God’s character must be revered.

In the Exodus, Moses and Aaron went to the Pharaoh of Egypt declaring ‘thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go…’ (Ex.5:1),

Exodus 5:2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

Back in Exodus 3, from the burning bush, God had told Moses,

Exodus 3:19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.

After God wrecked Egypt, after the Pharaoh had commanded them to leave, but before they crossed the Red Sea, God gave Moses instruction and said:

Exodus 14:4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” … (also 14:17,18)

‘Who is YHWH, that I shold obey his voice?’ ‘I will get glory over Pharaoh… all shall know that I am the LORD.” God will be taken seriously. God will be seen as significant. He will be feared and respected, seen as weighty. He will be glorified in all the earth.

Glory is light and weight; God’s glory is the brilliant display of the weightiness of his character.

How We Glorify God; Drink and Do

So if we are meant to glorify God, and glory is the brilliant display of the weightiness of his awesome being, how do we glorify God? How do we promote and advance the glory of God? How do we live lives that glorify him? We understand what we are to be about, both as individuals and as the church. How do we go about it?
I’m going to give you a simple, easy to remember way to glorify God in your life. Drink and Do. It’s that simple. Drink and Do. What do I mean by that?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” in his book Desiring God, John Piper points out that we glorify God by enjoying him forever.

Think of a pristine mountain spring, high in the alps, untouched, perfect. Its water is clear and cool. It bubbles up of its own and will never run dry. How do you glorify the spring? By taking your ten cent grocery store bottle of water you carried on the hike and pouring what is left of it into the spring, to contribute to it? Or do you glorify the spring by getting down on your knees beside the spring, putting your parched lips to the water and drinking deeply? Do you glorify the spring by laying down in the grass and listening to the melody of its babbling? To glorify the spring is to enjoy the spring. Allow the spring to satisfy your thirst. Be envigorated by the cool water. Regain strength to hike back down the mountain and tell others what a treasure you discovered. To glorify God is to enjoy God, to drink deeply of God, to allow him to satisfy your deepest longings, to receive strength from him for the journey, to tell others about the pleasure you receive from him.

Listen to the prophet Isaiah

Isaiah 12:1 You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. 2 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORDGOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. 6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Glorify God in thanksgiving. Glorify God that because of Jesus, his anger is turned away. Glorify God by depending on him, trusting in him, allowing him to free you from all fear. Draw sustenance with joy from his limitless supply of salvation. Glorify God by calling on his name for help in times of trouble. Make his name known. Sing his praises. Shout! Sing! Publish abroad his all satisfying greatness.

Listen to the Psalms:

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 36:8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

There is a warning here. If you are filled up with other things, you won’t enjoy the life giving water. When my kids aren’t hungry for the home-cooked meal on the table, we begin to diagnose the cause. When did you last eat? What did you eat? When they have been snacking all afternoon on chips and candy and soda, they are not going to be hungry for real food. We cram our lives full of activity and media and amusement and general busyness and stuff, and we wonder why we don’t have an appetite for spiritual things. We can stuff our souls so full of things that don’t fulfill us, that there is no room for the only one who can satisfy.

Listen to Jesus:

Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Glorifying God means drinking deeply of God, going to him with your thirst, with your longings, finding enough, more than enough to satisfy in him. Glorifying God means to drink from him with joy.

Doing and Not Doing

I said glorifying God means drinking and doing. Let me clarify what I mean by ‘do’ and what I do not mean by ‘do’.

Allow me to switch analogies. The vacuum cleaner salesman comes to your door. He’s selling the latest model of Kirby, and he is out to convince you that it is the best vacuum ever made. If you were able to go to his house, you had better find two things. First, you’d better find a clean carpet, and second, you’d better find a Kirby in his closed. If you found a Hoover, you’d call him a hypocrite. That’s the first point. Don’t try to sell a product you haven’t tried or don’t believe in. Drink first.

But this is to clarify the second point, what I don’t mean by ‘do’. If the vacuum salesman comes to your door with his Kirby, and he shows you how great it is, but then he begins to tell you that he has actually made some modifications to his vacuum, that he has shortened the hose to increase the suction, that he has replaced the motor with a more powerful and longer lasting one, and that he took a grinder to the metal casing to make it lighter, you would not say he is glorifying the vacuum by his improvements and modifications. Instead he is pointing out the flaws in the design and trying to fix them.

Or back to the mountain spring. You do not glorify the spring by taking pilgrimages carrying gallons of tap water on your back to contribute to the spring. That is not what I mean by ‘do’. We cannot contribute anything to God except our need, and an opportunity for him to show himself strong.

What I do mean by ‘do’ is this. If you are not thirsty you will not enjoy the refreshing water. You must come thirsty, come needy, come desperate. The depth of your appreciation for the fountain will be directly proportionate to your awareness of your own need. Many of us need to do. Do something. Go on a hike. Get thirsty. Many of us need to do. Try to live a holy life. Try to love your neighbor as yourself. Try to put the needs of others ahead of your own. Try to convince others of their need for Christ. As you do, you will become acutely aware of your desperate need, your inability, and it will drive you back to the only source of life giving water, and you will drink more deeply.

Prayer, Bible, Sermons

Let me connect this to prayer. Prayer is an expression of need and dependence on God. If you are not aware of your need, you will not pray. Desperate people pray. Even those who say they do not believe in God will pray when they sense the sheer hopelessness of their situation. Many Christians seek to improve their prayer life. Instead, attempt to raise children that want to love and follow Jesus. Seek to be content with what you have. Pursue unity with someone you disagree with. Attempt to proclaim God’s word every week. Live with character and integrity. Give biblical counsel to someone who is struggling. Love your wife like Christ loved the church. Refrain from speaking poorly of others. Seek to be a blessing to a person in need. Be a good employee and don’t grumble or complain. Have your neighbor over for dinner. Walk on water. As you do, you will begin to perceive more acutely your desperate need for God. You can’t do it on your own. “Apart from me you can do nothing” Jesus said (Jn.15:5). Begin to do, and it will drive you to drink deeply of the limitless resources in God.

We can connect this to listening to sermons and bible reading. If there is a lecture offered on the relationship of diet to the growth of cancer cells you may be curious and listen. You may have a general sense of the importance of healthy eating, and you may not have anything better to do at that time. You may enjoy the delivery of the presenter, or be mildly annoyed by his accent, or think that his visual aids are not very well done. You may lose interest and begin to think about what’s for dinner and wonder if it will give you cancer, and wonder if this will make you late for it. Would it be rude to get up and leave before it is over? But if your child has been diagnosed with cancer, you will be listening in a whole new way. Your desperation will create in you an attentiveness that nothing else can. As we become aware of the devastating disease of our spiritual need, our spiritual helplessness and hopelessness, our ears will be eager to hear from God.

Expect Great Things; Attempt Great Things

William Carey, a missionary to India, known as the father of modern missions, preached a sermon in Nottingham England in 1792, encouraging involvement in foreign missions. His points were “Expect great things from God; Attempt great things for God.” God is glorified when we expect him to do great things, because we see that he is great, and believe that he is able to do great things. God is glorified when we come to him as the all satisfying source and expect him to be more than enough to slake our own thirst and give us the strength to carry water down the mountain for others. God is glorified when we attempt great things for him, things that are beyond us, things that require him to show up in awesome and glorious ways so that it is evident to all that he alone deserves the praise for the great thing he has done.

Attempt great things for God. In the attempt, you will see acutely your need. Develop a spiritual appetite – by doing. Drink, and do, and drink some more.

Allow your need, your thirst, your lack to demonstrate and display the weightiness of God, the rock solid substantial-ness of God; let God be glorified as you drink deeply from him and attempt great things for him.

1 Peter 4:11 …—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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

January 23, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 16; The Scapegoat

10/02 Leviticus 16; Day of Atonement (2); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161002_leviticus-16.mp3

Last week we began to look at Yom Kippur, the great Day of Atonement. We saw the danger of approaching God, illustrated graphically in chapter 10 by the death of the two sons of Aaron who approached God in a way that he did not command. Aaron the high priest is warned not to come into the Holy place any time, but only at the proscribed time in the proscribed way. Aaron was to bring his own sacrifices, a bull for a sin offering for himself and a ram for a burnt offering for himself. Aaron was to take off his usual elaborate high priestly garments, bathe, and put on simple linen garments, taking the posture of a humble servant. The congregation was to present their offerings, two male goats for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. Aaron was to cast lots to determine between the two goats, one for YHWH, and the other for Azazel. Then Aaron was to sacrifice first his bull as a sin offering for himself, and bring its blood with a cloud of smoke from incense inside the veil and sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat 7 times. Then he was to go out, kill the goat for the people’s sin offering for YHWH, take its blood inside the veil, sprinkle its blood on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat, then sprinkle blood in the holy place outside the veil, where the altar of incense, the lamp stand, and the table of bread were. Then he went out to the bronze altar of burnt offering in the courtyard of the tabernacle and smeared the blood of both sin offerings on the horns of the altar and sprinkled the blood 7 times on the altar.

After this is completed, the other goat from the congregation is presented before the LORD.

Leviticus 16:20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

What is this other goat? We passed over this other goat last week so that we could come back to it today.

The congregation was to bring two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. The destiny of each of the two goats was determined by lot. One goat was to be sacrificed on the altar and its blood presented in the most holy place; the other will be sent away bearing the sins of the congregation out into the wilderness. These are two parts to the picture of atonement, the one securing forgiveness through blood sacrifice, the other bearing away the burden of guilt never to be seen again.

Let’s go back to verses 5-10 to see what we can learn about this second goat.

Leviticus 16:5 And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. …7 Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering, 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

There were two male goats brought by the people for a sin offering. These two goats were distinguished by lot, and we know that ‘the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD’ (Prov.16:33). So we could say that the LORD chose between these two goats, one for himself and one for Azazel.

The one for the LORD was offered as a normal sin offering, following the procedures from chapters 4-5. But in chapters 4-5, different animals were offered for people with differing roles in society. A bull was to be offered for the sin of the priest, a ram for a sin of the whole congregation, a male goat for the sin of a leader of the people, a female goat or lamb for the sin of an individual, and allowance was made for two turtledoves or pigeons for the poor, or even a grain offering for the very poor. And the blood was handled differently. For the sin of the priest or the whole congregation, the blood was to be sprinkled on the curtain separating the holy place from the most holy place, and applied to the horns of the altar of incense. For the sin of a leader or a common person, the blood was put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard. The sin offering of the priest on the day of atonement was a bull as specified, but its blood was brought behind the veil and sprinkled directly on the mercy seat. The sacrifice for the whole congregation was to be a male goat rather than a ram, and its blood was also brought behind the veil and sprinkled directly on the mercy seat, as well as in the holy place and on the altar of burnt offerings. This was the goat of the people chosen by lot to be their sin offering to the LORD.

The Live Goat for Azazel

Leviticus 16:10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

We don’t know exactly what the Hebrew word ‘Azazel’ means, so the ESV and other versions leave it untranslated. Leviticus 16 is the only place in all of Scripture where this word appears, so it is difficult to determine exactly what it means. Older versions attempt to translate the word, something like ‘the goat that is driven out’ or ‘scapegoat’, pointing to its function, that it is sent away. It is possible that Azazel is a proper name, either a personal name, or a place name. In the tradition of second temple Judaism the goat was led to a specific rocky precipice in the Judean wilderness and pushed backward off the cliff. But there would have been no one place in the wilderness wanderings where this goat was taken. It could be a personal name, the name of a demon, where the sins of the people are figuratively returned to their source. The very next chapter (17:7) warns against the people making sacrifices to goat demons in the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 32, Moses recounts:

Deuteronomy 32:17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded.

When the kingdom was divided after the death of Solomon, in 2 Chronicles 11:15 we read Jeroboam “appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat idols and for the calves that he had made.” Isaiah refers to judgment on Babylon and the nations that will become wild places where wilderness animals will dwell and the satyrs or wild goats will dance and cry out (Is.13:21; 34:14). Revelation picks up on this imagery:

Revelation 18:2 And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.

So it is possible that Azazel is the personal name of a demonic entity, but if so, the goat for Azazel would not be understood as a sacrifice to the Azazel, but rather a means of returning the sins of the people back to his doorstep.

However we understand this word, what is to be done with this goat is clear. It is presented alive before the Lord. Atonement is made over it, to send it away into the wilderness. This process is described in verses 20-22

Leviticus 16:20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

Aaron is to place both his hands on the head of the live goat. For other sacrifices one hand was placed on the head of the animal, making identification between the worshiper and the animal, but this is the only animal where he is told to place both hands on its head. All the iniquities of all the people of Israel, all their transgressions, all their sins are placed on the head of this goat. Iniquity is a term for perversity or moral evil; transgression is a word for willful acts of rebellion; sin is an inclusive word for all sins in their totality. All these words are plural, indicating all sins of every kind, committed by all the people, even the priests, in all places, all are placed symbolically on the head of this animal, and it bears them away to a deserted place.

It is interesting to note that Aaron has made two trips into the holiest place with blood to make atonement, and has worked his way out through the holy place and back out into the courtyard. The language used in verses 16-19 is making atonement not only for the priests and the people, but also for the place to cleanse it.

Leviticus 16:16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. …18 Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. 19 And he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.

Notice, also the direction of the cleansing. It begins with blood applied to the inner sanctuary, then out into the holy place, then into the courtyard. We could view this goat as a garbage truck. The house is swept clean, starting with the innermost sanctuary, out into the front room, then out into the yard, and all the filth is poured into the garbage truck that hauls it away to the garbage dump, never to be seen again.

This goat is not a sacrifice in the normal sense of the term. It is a living goat, and it is not killed. No blood is taken from this goat. The goat is presented before the LORD, but then it is banished from the presence of the LORD. Aaron goes into the holiest place, out through the holy place, out into the holy courtyard, where he transfers all the accumulated guilt to the head of this animal, and then this animal is led out of the courtyard, out through the camp of the holy priests immediately around the tabernacle, then out through the clean tribes who surround the tabernacle, then finally, out into an unclean place, outside where sickness and disease and death must go, far away from the presence of the LORD. This is where all the sin is carried by the live goat. The one who led the goat away and released it in the wilderness must wash his clothes and bathe before he is permitted to return to the camp.

Jesus the Sin Bearer

A strange ceremony about a goat for Azazel. How does this point us to Jesus? In John 1, John

John 1:29 …saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Jesus is the one who takes sin away.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,…

Jesus carried our sins away. Look to the suffering servant of Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

…6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

…8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?

…11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Jesus is the one on whom all our transgressions were laid, He was taken away, cut off, he bore the sins of many.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus became sin for us. Jesus is the one who can make all these Old Testament statements a reality.

Psalm 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Isaiah 38:17 … but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.

Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Jeremiah 31:34 …they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Micah 7:19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Jesus is the one who carries our sins out of sight, hidden behind his back, buried in the depths of the sea, removed from us as far as the east is from the west, never to be remembered. What a treasure! He has carried all my sins away!

Our Part

Let me ask, what is our part in all of this? What is our position? Where are we? This text is very clear. We are outside! Our High Priest is inside, cleansing the sanctuary of all our sins, making confession for all our sins over the head of the substitute. He is to be alone in the tent. We, for whom he is making atonement, are outside! He transfers our guilt on to the substitute, all our iniquities, all our transgressions, all our sins. He sends the sin bearer away into the wilderness. The ones for whom he does this are outside. This is all done for them. They don’t do anything! They are not even present! What is our part? Look at verse 29.

Leviticus 16:29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.

This concluding section gives the role of the congregation on the day. Notice, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you. The role of the people is to grieve over their sin and to do no work. To do nothing. To rest. Solemn rest. Serious rest. Rest in the work of another. On this day shall atonement be made for you. The high priest does all the work. The people are to do no work. Five animals, two sin offerings, confession of all the sins of all the people, two burnt offerings, two trips into the most holy place, burning incense, sprinkling blood, smearing blood, he does all the work. The people are to rest.

Jesus, our great High Priest, finished once for all the work of atonement. He carried all our sins away. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1Pet.2:24). He gives the gift of eternal life to all who will find their rest in him. Our part is to depend on the work of another. He does all the work. It is ours to rest in him.

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

October 4, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 6:14-23; The Priests Grain Offering

06/19 Leviticus 6:14-23; The Priests Grain Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160619_leviticus-6_14-23.mp3

We are in Leviticus 6-7, a section which deals again with the five sacrifices introduced in chapters 1-5.

Leviticus 1-7

A. Instructions for the People     B. Instructions for the Priests

The Burnt Offering (ch.1)               The Burnt Offering (6:8-13)

The Grain Offering (ch. 2)              The Grain Offering (6:14-18)

                                                    The Priest’s Grain Offering (6:19-23)

The Peace Offering (ch.3)

The Sin Offering (4:1-5:13)            The Sin Offering (6:24-30)

The Guilt Offering (5:14-6:7)         The Guilt Offering (7:1-10)

                                                        The Peace Offering (7:11-36)

                                              Summary (7:37-38)

Where chapters 1-5 deal with the five offerings primarily from the perspective of a worshiper who brings his offering to the tabernacle, chapters 6 and 7 deal with these same offerings (with one additional offering which we will look at today) primarily from the perspective of the priest who is making the offering. Chapter 1 begins with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when any one of you brings an offering to the Lord…’ Chapter 6 begins with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘command Aaron and his sons, saying…’

A Bloodless Offering

The grain offering is unique among the offerings as it is the only offering that is not a blood sacrifice. Leviticus repeatedly reminds us of our sins, our sinful nature, even our unintentional sins, sins of omission, sins of neglect; and that the wages of sin is death. Leviticus teaches us the horrific gruesome outcome of our failure to follow God, our failure to worship, failure to honor God as God. The wages of sin is death and blood must be shed, but Leviticus also teaches us that God has provided a way for our sins to be dealt with, a way for sinners to live in the presence of a holy, just and righteous God. He has provided a way for an innocent victim to die in the place of a guilty sinner. This of course points us to the message of the cross, the good news of Christ crucified, that while we were his enemies Christ died for us, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.

The Work of Our Hands

But what about this grain offering? As we saw in chapter 2, the grain offering is an offering of fine flour. This would require seeds to be sown, fields irrigated, weeds removed, crops protected from wildlife, the mature grain to be harvested, wheat separated from the chaff, and the kernels of grain ground fine into flour, sifted to ensure consistency. The grain offering could be presented as raw grain, or it could be presented as baked or grilled or fried cakes. It was always to be accompanied by oil pressed from olives, and the aromatic resin frankincense, and salt, The grain offering is the work of our hands.

A Tribute

Also as we saw in chapter 2, the grain offering, or ‘minha’, was a tribute offering. We see this same word used in Judges and Samuel and Kings to express a tribute offered to a conquering king. In Judges 3, the Lord strengthened Eglon, king of Moab, who together with the Ammonites and Amalekites defeated Israel. The people of Israel were subservient to Moab for 18 years, and they were required to bring a ‘minha’, a tribute offering to the Moabite king. In 2 Samuel 8, when David conquered Moab and Syria, the surviving Moabites and Syrians became servants to David and brought him tribute ‘minha’. In 2 Kings 17, Israel was defeated by Assyria and Hoshea king of Israel was allowed to continue to rule as a vassal king, but was required to pay tribute ‘minha’ to Assyria. Hoshea was later imprisoned for treachery because he stopped paying the ‘minha’ tribute.

It was common for a defeated king to enter into a treaty with the conquering king where he would bring a regular quantity of grain or produce to express loyalty, allegiance, and fidelity to the king, and to acknowledge his debt to the king for their very life and existence.

This is the cultural context of the grain or tribute offering. God was the conquering King. He had defeated the Pharaoh of Egypt and purchased for himself a people. He demonstrated his supremacy over the gods of the Egyptians. He freed his people to serve and worship him.

When David brough the ark of God’s covenant with Israel into Jerusalem, they sang:

1 Chronicles 16:28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering [minha] and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; 30 tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. 31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”

A Voluntary Offering

The interesting thing about this grain or tribute offering in Leviticus 2 is that it is voluntary. It is ‘when anyone brings a grain offering…’ God is a great King, he owns all, and we owe to him all that we are and all that we have. It is our due to him, but he invites us to come, to come gladly, to come freely, to come as often as we wish, with as much as we desire. We joyfully confess our allegiance to our great King. We eagerly affirm our faithfulness to him.

The Priests Portion of the Grain Offering

Leviticus 2 gives instructions to the worshiper. Leviticus 6 gives instructions for the priests in how to handle the grain offering. Chapter 2 gives details on the different ways the grain can be prepared, the frankincense and oil and salt that is required in its preparation, and the leaven that is not permitted on the altar. Chapter 6 reads:

Leviticus 6:14 “And this is the law of the grain offering. The sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD in front of the altar. 15 And one shall take from it a handful of the fine flour of the grain offering and its oil and all the frankincense that is on the grain offering and burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 16 And the rest of it Aaron and his sons shall eat. It shall be eaten unleavened in a holy place. In the court of the tent of meeting they shall eat it. 17 It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their portion of my food offerings. It is a thing most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering. 18 Every male among the children of Aaron may eat of it, as decreed forever throughout your generations, from the LORD’s food offerings. Whatever touches them shall become holy.”

Leviticus 6 focus on the responsibilities of the priests in the offerings. It picks up where chapter 2 left off. The priest is to take whatever has been brought by the worshiper, and present it to the Lord in front of the altar. Then he is to take a handful of the grain offering, together with all the frankincense, and thow it into the fire on the altar of burnt offering. This portion would go up as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Everything but that handful would then become food for the priests. Paul picks up on this in 1 Corinthians 9, where he argues for the right of those who preach the gospel to be supported by those they serve.

1 Corinthians 9:13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

This instruction in chapters 6 and 7, although dealing specifically with the priests responsibilities, would have been read to and known by all the people. Anyone bringing an offering would not be surprised when only a portion of the grain he brought was burned and the rest went to the priests to be eaten. God made this explicitly clear; “I have given it as their portion of my food offerings.” This is God delcaring in the first person what he intends to happen with this offering. This is “decreed forever throughout your generations, from the LORD’s food offerings”. God makes clear and communicates plainly and openly what he intends to be done with the offering. The bulk of it is to go to feed those who are serving in the temple.

But this does not mean that they are free to do what they please with it. They are not permitted to take the flour home, bake leavened bread, and share it with their family and friends. Because it is presented at the altar, and a portion of it is burned on the altar, it is most holy, literally ‘holy holy’ or ‘a holy of holies’. This grain offering is set apart, and consequently is to be treated with great care. Only Aaron and his sons, blood descendants of Aaron, only males, only those who are ceremonially clean and permitted to enter the Lord’s courtyard are allowed to eat. It must be eaten in the courtyard of the tabernacle or temple; none of it is to leave the area. It is holy food to be eaten in a holy place. And it is to be eaten unleavened. It may not be baked with leaven. Twice it is empasized that leaven is not to be used. We saw when we looked at chapter 2 that leaven throughout scripture is consistenly a symbol of the sin of pride, which puffs up. There is to be humility in the Lord’s presence.

The Priests Grain Offering

Verses 19-23 introduce an offering that was not mentioned in the first 5 chapters.

Leviticus 6:19 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 20 “This is the offering that Aaron and his sons shall offer to the LORD on the day when he is anointed: a tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a regular grain offering, half of it in the morning and half in the evening. 21 It shall be made with oil on a griddle. You shall bring it well mixed, in baked pieces like a grain offering, and offer it for a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 22 The priest from among Aaron’s sons, who is anointed to succeed him, shall offer it to the LORD as decreed forever. The whole of it shall be burned. 23 Every grain offering of a priest shall be wholly burned. It shall not be eaten.”

This is a grain offering, but it is specifically a grain offering offered by the high priest. It is different in almost every way from the voluntary grain offering of the worshiper in chapter 2. The anointed priest is to offer a regular grain offering twice daily. This is a mandatory offering. And there is one specific way in which it is to be prepared. The amount is specified, and the times which it must be offered are specified. God is very specific in the way he is to be worshiped by those who serve him. As we learn from Exodus 29 and Numbers 28, this grain offering of the high priest was to accompany the twice daily whole burnt offering of a lamb. Every morning, a lamb was to be slaughtered, and the whole lamb would go up in smoke to the Lord. With that lamb, this baked grain offering would go up in smoke as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Then, every evening, another whole lamb would be offered, and with it this baked grain offering. As we learned in verses 12 and 13 the fire on the altar was never to go out. Continually, day after day, morning and evening, a sacrifice was buring on the altar. And on top of that sacrifice was placed the unleavened bread. Unlike the grain offering that came from the people, this grain offering from the high priest was not to be eaten by anyone. Its entirety was to go up in smoke as a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

The high priest was required morning and evening to express his complete allegiance and devotion to the Lord. He was to acknowledge God as King. The work of his hands, morning and evening, was to be placed on the altar and given over completely to God.

Jesus is our Great High Priest

Remember, as the author of Hebrews reminds us over and over, Jesus is our great High Priest. Jesus is the one who expressed his complete and perfect allegiance to his Father. He said in John 8:29 “I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” Even when Jesus stood trial before an earthly high priest who was flagrantly violating the law, Jesus perfectly obeyed his Father. Jesus,

Philippians 2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus is our great High Priest, who was entirely devoted to his Father, who offered up the work of his hands completely to God.

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

Jesus was a fragrant offering, a pleasing aroma to his Father. Jesus was the perfect grain offering. This gives a new depth of meaning to the familiar line in the Lord’s prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. I need Jesus daily. I need communion with Jesus daily.

We are a Royal Priesthood

Remember too, that we are a royal priesthood.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Having been purchased with a price, we are created for good works, works we are intended to live in.

Peter says:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Be amazed at this! Revel in this! You and I are a royal priesthood! We have been made eligible to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ! We belong to him! We are his treasured possession! It is our privilege to proclaim the excellencies of him!

Lord, teach us how to do that this week. Teach us how to offer up spiritual sacrifices to you, the work of our hands. Give us boldness and opportunity to proclaim your excellencies because you are worthy!

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

June 23, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 2; The Grain Offering

04/24 Leviticus 2; The Grain Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160424_leviticus-2.mp3

We are in Leviticus 2, the second of the 5 offerings. The first three offerings, the burnt offering, the grain offering, and the peace offering, are voluntary offerings, and they are each said to be “a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD”. The last two, the sin and the guilt offering, are required to be offered when anyone sins. The whole burnt offering, we saw, was a foundational offering, dealing not with specific sins, but with our sinful nature. It was a costly offering, and it was a completely Godward offering, the entire animal (except for the hide) going up in smoke as a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

Jesus said to the religious leaders in John 5

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.

All these offerings together, the whole sacrificial system, points us to Jesus, and his once-for-all sacrifice for us.

Tribute

This second offering is unique among the offerings, in that it is not a bloody offering. No animal is involved. It is a grain offering. This offering is called in Hebrew a ‘Minhah’, simply a gift. This kind of gift often expresses gratitude, reverence, homage, or allegiance. This was often a tribute offering. In Genesis 32, when Jacob was returning to his homeland and his brother Esau, from whom he had stolen both birthright and blessing, who had wanted to kill him, was coming out to meet him with 400 men, he sent a ‘minhah’ ahead of him

Genesis 32:20 …For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.”

This was a gift intended to appease, to gain acceptance. In Genesis 43, when Jacob reluctantly agreed to send his youngest son to the leader of Egypt who had interrogated his other sons and was holding one prisoner,

Genesis 43:11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. …14 May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin.

This was a gift to a powerful leader intended to gain a favorable outcome.

When we come to the time of the Judges, we see Israel subservient to other nations, and in Judges 3 a ‘minhah’ is sent from Israel to the king of Moab. In 2 Samuel 8, when David conquered the Moabites, they became David’s servants and brought him ‘minhah’.

It was common for a defeated king to enter into a treaty with the conquering king where he would bring a regular gift of grain or produce to express loyalty, allegiance, and fidelity to the king, and to acknowledge his debt to the king for their very life and existence. We might think of it as a sort of tax; in exchange for peace and security, they offer a percentage of their income to the king who rules over them. This is a good way to think of this offering, but this grain offering is not mandatory, it is voluntary.

Leviticus 2:1 “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it 2 and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 3 But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the LORD’s food offerings.

This was a tribute to the conquering King. This was a gift to express loyalty, allegiance, faithfulness to the King. This was a recognition that we owe our very life and existence to the King. God has conquered our enemies, he has broken our own rebellion and resistance, he rules over us with peace and justice. God owns all, but he allows us to keep a portion of what we produce for our own needs. God demands our allegiance. Yet this offering is voluntary. It is a way to freely express our loyalty to our King.

How and How Much?

There were different ways that were acceptable to make this offering. All used fine flour, the best of the best, the choicest of the grain, consistently and carefully ground very fine. The fine flour could be brought raw, as flour. Verses 1-3 give instructions for an uncooked grain offering. The fine flour could be prepared as bread. Verses 4-10 give instructions for three categories of cooked grain offerings; verse 4 says “When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering” it can be brought as loaves or wafers. Verse 5 says “And if your offering is a grain offering baked on a griddle”; verse 7 says “And if your offering is a grain offering cooked in a pan.” There is no requirement given of what kind of grain offering to bring when. There is freedom for the preference of the worshiper, and for the means of preparation available to the worshiper.

Notice also, no quantity is specified. Should I bring a quart? A bushel? A truckload? Two loaves? Ten? A thousand? Bring as much as you wish. Jesus said:

Luke 6:38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

I know this can be frustrating for some. How much should I give? Am I giving enough? How much do most people give? Is it still ten percent? Gross or net? I want to know where I stand. You are not under compulsion. You are to give freely, cheerfully, liberally. When we recognize how much, how very very much we owe to God, how much we have been freely graciously given, giving back to him becomes not an obligation or a debt but a delight.

Where Does It Go?

But where does my gift go? It is brought to the priests, and they offer a handful of it as a memorial portion to be burned on the altar as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. The remainder belongs to the priests. This was God’s way of providing for the needs of the priests. It is called most holy, or literally ‘a holy of holies’, which meant that it was set apart, and only for the priests to be eaten only by them, only in a holy place. Your offering is given to God, and God in turn uses that offering to care for those who are in his service. Paul applies this principle to Christian workers in 1 Corinthians 9.

1 Corinthians 9:13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

He says in 1 Timothy 5:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

It is quite flattering, by the way, to be likened to an ox treading grain.

What to Bring and What to Leave Out

Although there was freedom in the quantity and method of preparation, there is also very specific instructions on what is to be brought and what must be left out. As we said, this was a grain offering, and it was to be the best of the best, fine flour. Regardless of the preparation, it was always to be offered with oil, and it was always to include frankincense. Never was it to include leaven of any kind, or honey, and it was always to include salt.

Oil in the Scripture is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, and joy. This is to be a Spirit filled offering, not a fleshly offering. It is to be a joyful offering, not a reluctant offering.

Frankincense is an aromatic resin. It was an ingredient of the incense that was to be burned on the altar of incense in the holy place every morning and every evening. No incense for common use was to be made like it. It was set apart for God. All the frankincense on the grain offering was set apart to God. The portion of the grain offering that was burnt on the altar of burnt offering included all the frankincense. It was wholly set apart and devoted to God. Frankincense, you will remember was among the gifts the Magi brought to honor the child Jesus. Frankincense was symbolic of holiness, total Godward devotion.

In chapter 5, we will see that for the sin offering, no oil or frankincense is to be included. A sin offering was not a joyous occasion, sin had been committed, and an offering had to be made to deal with the consequences of sin.

Never was the grain offering to include leaven or honey. In Matthew 16 Jesus warns his disciples to watch out for the leaven of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and Herod, which he says in Luke 12 is hypocrisy, to appear different than you are.

In Matthew 13, Jesus:

Matthew 13:33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

This is in the context of parables about weeds sown by an enemy among good seed that is then allowed to grow together until the harvest, about a mustard seed that grows so large it even provides a nesting place for the evil birds who snatch away gospel seeds, and a net in the sea that gathered fish of every kind, to be sorted in the end good from bad.

Leaven is what we would think of as a sourdough start, a piece of the old dough that contains microorganisms that eat the sugars and convert them into bubbly gasses which puff up the bread. Leaven is that which inflates or puffs up, it is pervasive and affects all it touches. Honey refers not only to honey from bees, but to any sweet nectar, like that from fruits. This too can have a leavening effect. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:

1 Corinthians 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Leaven is boasting, malice, evil, in contrast to sincerity and truth. No leaven is ever to be burnt on the altar. Verse 12 clarifies, because the offering of firstfruits in Leviticus 23 allows leaven. Leaven is allowed in that offering, but the leavened bread is never to be burned on the altar.

Salt is a required part of all grain offerings. Three times in three different ways in verse 13, salt is emphatically not to be left out of the offerings. Salt has the opposite effect of leaven, actually counteracting leavening influences, stopping the fermentation process and acting as a preservative. Salt was also used in judgment, placed in the ground it would prevent anything from growing. It is called ‘the salt of the covenant with your God’. Salt pointed to the permanent, lasting, eternal character of the covenant.

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus calls his followers ‘the salt of the earth’. In Mark 9, in the context of warning against the dangers of sin and encouraging us to take drastic action against sin in our lives, he says

Mark 9:49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

We are told in Colossians 4:

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

All our conversations are to have a preserving, not a corrupting effect. All our conversations are to be gracious.

The Work of Our Hands

So what is the grain offering? The grain offering is the work of our hands. The soil is worked, grain is planted, watered, harvested, threshed, ground fine, cooked or prepared in various ways, presented. In this we acknowledge that God has rights over all, that all that we have is only that which he first gave to us.

Jesus in the Grain Offering

But is there more here? How does this offering point us to Jesus? This is not a bloody offering; it is a bread offering. In John 6, Jesus said:

John 6:48 I am the bread of life.

Jesus said:

John 6:32 …my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Some have seen in the grain offering a picture of Jesus in his humanity. Jesus humbled himself. Jesus in his humanity is perfectly humble. There is no trace of leaven of pride or hypocrisy, no trace of malice or evil. Jesus is full of grace and truth. Everything he said was seasoned with salt. His whole life was a pleasing aroma to his Father. It is interesting to note that in verse 4, it is to be loaves mixed with oil or wafers smeared with oil. Oil is to be mixed in with the grain to form the dough. Jesus’ human body was prepared for him by the Holy Spirit. But at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit came to rest on him. Jesus said:

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit for ministry. The word for ‘smear’ is ‘mashak’, literally ‘anointed’; the verb from which we get ‘messiah’. Jesus was tested by the devil, as if in an oven, and he refused to do anything to please himself. In John 6, where he claimed to be bread from heaven he said:

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

Jesus, as the perfect man, submitted himself in perfect obedience in all things to the will of his Father. And all his works were perfectly pleasing to the Father. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.3:17; 17:5). Where Adam, when tested, brought sin and corruption into this world, Jesus perfectly obeyed in all things.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

But why, in verse 6 is the grain offering to be broken in pieces? Some suggest this would allow the bread to burn better in the fire. Jesus, on the night he was betrayed,

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

The grain offering that is burned on the altar is called a ‘memorial’, literally a reminder or a remembrance offering. The grain offering was a reminder that God is the provider of all, and it was an offering to remind God to be faithful to his covenants and treat the worshiper with grace. Breaking bread was a normal daily activity that ministered to both physical and social needs within the context of a meal. May we come to know him more fully in the breaking of the bread (Lk.24:35).

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

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just and Righteous

02/21 Just and Righteous; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160221_just-righteous.mp3

We have been looking at the character of God, specifically at the goodness of God, his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures. We defined mercy as God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress; grace as God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment, God’s love, which is his special favor toward his people. Today we will look at God’s justice and righteousness, which is his goodness expressed by rewarding each one according to his work, and treating the righteous and the wicked distinctly (Bavinck, p.206, 215).

In Exodus 33, when Moses asked to see the glory of God, God replies:

Exodus 33:19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

In the next chapter God proclaims his character.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.

There seems to be dissonance in this verse. We might be inclined to replace the comma with a full stop in the middle of verse 7. We like to hear about a God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” But it might make us squirm a bit, and it is clearly contrary to our cultural climate to finish the sentence. We might not be so bold as to take out our black highlighter and strike the words from the page, but our voice might trail off, a bit embarrassed, and mumble the last lines under our breath. But we must finish the sentence! We want to know God, not as we wish for him to be, which would be to form a god after our own image, and worship and serve the created thing rather than the Creator, but we want to know God as he truly is, as he reveals himself to be. And he revealed himself to Moses as a God “who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquities of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

God is just. God is righteous. God will not let sin go unpunished. God will by no means clear the guilty. We might naturally recoil at this idea, or be embarrassed by it. We might feel a bit like the child of a father who easily loses his temper and flies into a fit of rage. The child is embarrassed by the actions of his father, especially if an outburst happens in front of his friends, but he loves his father and tries to downplay his imperfections, drawing attention rather to his better qualities. But to feel this way is to reveal that we misunderstand God’s justice, God’s righteousness, God’s wrath. To view God this way is to impose the limitations and imperfections we see in sinful creatures on the perfect and sinless Creator. We should not be embarrassed by God’s righteousness, or try to explain away his wrath. Rather we should delight in the justice of God, as an aspect of God’s goodness, because God delights in his own justice.

The Lord Delights in Justice and Righteousness

Listen to how the Bible speaks about God’s justice and righteousness.

Psalm 33:5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Psalm 97:2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Isaiah 5:16 But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.

Jeremiah 9:24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Hear this: the Lord loves righteousness and justice. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. The Lord of hosts is exalted in justice. The Lord delights in practicing justice and righteousness. God’s justice is a grounds for our boasting. God delights to reward each one according to his work. God is exalted in his treating of the righteous and wicked differently, as they each deserve.

Notice also, how justice and righteousness are coupled with his steadfast love. God’s justice and righteousness are not the opposite of his grace, mercy and steadfast love, they are not contrary to or in tension with his other attributes. Rather, God’s justice and wrath, and his love, mercy, and grace, rightly understood, are in perfect harmony.

Justice and righteousness are a positive expression of God’s goodness. To clarify this, it may be helpful to imagine a god who had no concern for justice, who was soft on sin and tolerated evil, who allowed the wicked to prosper and the upright to be persecuted. When we see images of persecution and slavery, of racial inequality and child prostitution, drug lords and terrorists, when we see wicked men prey on the innocent and helpless without consequence, our hearts cry out with the Psalmist “how long O Lord?”

Psalm 94:1 O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! 2 ​Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! 3 O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? 4 They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. 5 They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage. 6 They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; 7 ​and they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.”

The Psalmist sees injustice and cries out for the Judge of the earth to repay to the arrogant proud wicked evildoers what they deserve; he cries out for the God of vengeance to shine forth.

Many times in Scripture, we see God pouring out on his enemies what they deserve as a ground for worship

Revelation 19:1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39-43; Revelation 11:15-18; 16:4-7; Psalm 96, Psalm 98, etc.)

That God is just, that he punishes evil is grounds for worship. That God does what is right, that he rewards the righteous and punishes evildoers is something to rejoice in.

The Judge of All The Earth

In Genesis 18, God came down to give promises to Abraham and to punish Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 18:17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

The Lord is revealing his own just and right dealings with these wicked cities as an example for Abraham to learn justice and righteousness. He is teaching him to keep the way of the Lord by modeling his own righteousness and justice.

Genesis 18:20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

The Lord does not fly off into a fit of uncontrolled rage. The outcry was great and their sin was grave, so he investigates. He goes down to see.

Genesis 18:22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Abraham understood that the Lord is the Judge of all the earth. And as judge, he must do what is just. Abraham understood that it is unjust to sweep away the righteous with the wicked, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, to treat the righteous and wicked in the same way. For the sake of 10 righteous people God would spare the entire city. In the next chapter, we see the angels seizing Lot and his wife and his two daughters by the hand and bringing him out and setting him outside the city. The angel said “escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.”

Peter holds this episode up alongside Noah and the destruction of the ungodly world with a flood to demonstrate that

2 Peter 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,

The Judge of all the earth will do right. He differentiates between the righteous and the wicked, giving to each what he deserves.

God Repays Each According to his Deeds

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

The Lord does not judge based on appearances. He searches the heart and tests the mind, he judges every man justly. Jesus says

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.

Peter says to the church,

1 Peter 1:17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed … 19 …with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Our Father judges impartially according to each one’s deeds. Paul spells this out in Romans. In chapter 1, he says that in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, because the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. In chapter 2 he says:

Romans 2:2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

God shows no partiality. God is a righteous judge, and his righteous judgments will be revealed on the day of wrath, when he renders to each one according to his works.

The Soul Who Sins Shall Die

In Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31, God clarifies a misunderstanding of his people when he said that he will visit “the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me” (Deut.5:9). There came to be a proverb ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ (Jer.31:29; Ezekiel 18:2), implying that God punishes innocent children for the sins of their fathers. This, indeed would not be just. But fathers need to realize that they set patterns for generations to come. There is a tendency for children to follow in the footsteps of their parents, and the children will not be able to excuse their sins because of the bad example of their parents. God says:

Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. 21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

Ezekiel 18:29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. As we have seen, God is good, he is inclined to extend undeserved mercy and overwhelming grace. He is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands [of generations].’ He prefers to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin. He invites us to turn and live!

The Good News of God’s Righteousness

But if God is just and righteous and will by no means clear the guilty, if he must treat us as our works deserve, if he must punish sin, then that leaves us all in a whole heap of trouble, doesn’t it? Yes, that’s the point of Romans 1 and 2, that ‘every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God.’

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

We return to the tension we felt in the beginning. How can God be merciful and gracious, abundant in steadfast love, inclined to forgive iniquity, transgression and sin, yet he is just and will by no means clear the guilty? How can God forgive, and yet repay each person according to what he has done? This is the power of God and the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel that addresses the problem for us of the wrath of God.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are 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.

God’s righteousness. Righteousness given to believing sinners by grace as a gift. We are all guilty. To get what we deserve is to experience hell. But if we will cry out to God for mercy, if we depend on the work of another, we can be given a gift we do not deserve. We can be declared righteous as a gift through the redemption and propitiation of Jesus. Jesus became our substitute. He took my place, and I take his place. All my sin was laid on him, he became sin for me, and God’s righteous wrath was propitiated, satisfied, in him. My sin got what it deserved; death. I now get what Jesus’ perfect obedience earned; the declaration of righteousness, and the reward; eternal life. Notice the concern to demonstrate God’s justice and righteousness.

Romans 3:25 …This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded…

God’s own justice does not allow him to merely pass over sins. God’s righteousness is upheld both in punishing the evildoer in the person of the Lamb of God who became sin for us, and in rewarding the righteous, as I now come to be in Jesus through faith and enjoy his inheritance.

We see this same emphasis on God’s justice in 1 John 1:9.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we turn and agree with God about our sin, his justice is satisfied, because we see sin as it really is, as an offense that must be punished, and he is just to forgive and cleanse us, because the punishment has been poured out on Jesus. This is no mere outward declaration. It changes us. If we are cleansed from all unrighteousness, then we are righteous. We are born anew, given a new heart, given the Holy Spirit, and we begin to hate what God hates and to love him above all else. The Spirit begins to bear fruit in us, and God, who searches the heart will give to us according to the fruit of our deeds.

May we praise God for his justice! We don’t want a God who doesn’t take sin seriously. A God who is soft, compromising, inconsistent is not worthy of our worship. The cross of our Lord Christ is a public demonstration of both the justice and mercy of our overwhelmingly loving God.

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

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:19-24; The Love and Grace of Jesus

07/19 1 Corinthians 16:19-24 The Love and Grace of Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150719_1cor16_19-24.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

19 Ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τῆς Ἀσίας. ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἐν κυρίῳ πολλὰ Ἀκύλας καὶ Πρίσκα σὺν τῇ κατ’ οἶκον αὐτῶν ἐκκλησίᾳ. 20 ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀδελφοὶ πάντες. ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ. 21 Ὁ ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ Παύλου. 22 εἴ τις οὐ φιλεῖ τὸν κύριον, ἤτω ἀνάθεμα. Μαράνα θά. 23 ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ μεθ’ ὑμῶν. 24 ἡ ἀγάπη μου μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Greetings

Paul is giving final greetings to the Corinthian church. He passes along personal greetings from three different groups, he admonishes them to greet one another, and he gives them his own greeting. This word ‘greeting’ means to embrace, to salute, to wish well, to welcome, to receive joyfully. Literally it means to draw to oneself. This is a personal relational concept. If a friend is traveling to a place where you once lived, you might ask them to say hello to your friends there or to give them a hug for you.

The first greeting is from the churches of Asia. This would include the churches in Pergamum, Thyatira; Sardis, Smyrna; Philadelphia, Laodicea; Colossae; and the church in Ephesus, where he is writing from. With the exception of Ephesus, the majority of the believers in these other churches had likely never been to or met anyone in the church in Corinth. But their faith in Jesus had made them brothers and sisters. There is a fellowship, a camaraderie even among Jesus followers who have never met one another. United by a common love for the Lord, they find themselves in a close knit family, many of whom they will never meet this side of eternity. Paul began this letter by addressing ‘the church of God in Corinth, …those called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:2). Here he is sending a brotherly greeting from many of these fellow saints in Asia.

He also sends greetings from Aquila and Prisca and the church in their house. Unlike many in Asia, Aquila and Prisca knew personally those in the church in Corinth. In Acts 18, when Paul first came to Corinth, he met this couple, who had recently relocated to Corinth because they had been evicted from Rome. They shared the same tent making trade with Paul. After 18 months, they left with Paul and traveled to Ephesus. It was in Ephesus that they met Apollos, and it was Priscilla and Aquila who took Apollos aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. Apollos was then sent off to Achaia and taught the believers in Corinth. So there was a close connection and relationship between the Corinthians believers and Priscilla and Aquila. Paul says in his greeting in Romans 16:3-4 that Prisca and Aquila are fellow-workers who risked their necks for his life. Aquila and Prisca, now living in Ephesus, used their home to host the believers. They must have had some wealth, to be able to have a home suitable for hosting the gatherings of the church. The church that met in their home also sent sent much greetings in the Lord. It is the Lord Jesus who unites believers and brings them into relationship with himself and with one another.

The third greeting comes from ‘all the brothers’. This is a greeting from Paul’s co-workers, which would include Apollos and Timothy, among others.

Christian Unity

Then Paul exhorts them to greet one another with a holy kiss. A holy kiss was an appropriate greeting for holy people, or saints. Culturally the kiss was a way to show honor and respect, a way to demonstrate friendship and reconciliation. In that culture it was a kiss on the cheek, a way of greeting that is still practiced in middle eastern countries today. We might bring this into our culture as a holy handshake or a brotherly embrace.

This would have been a difficult command for the Corinthians to obey. Most of this letter is addressing divisions in the church, divisions of a party spirit over this or that teacher, divisions on issues of morality, divisions over issues of conscience, division between those of different social status and wealth, divisions over what was culturally appropriate behavior, divisions over what gifts marked them out as more spiritual, even doctrinal divisions over such a central issue as the resurrection. Paul says, regardless of race, regardless of ethnic background, regardless of social status or class boundaries, regardless of what party you belonged to, regardless of gifting, you are to warmly and affectionately greet one another.

This is a practical expression of good theology. Paul preached Christ crucified for sinners. So whether wise or foolish, whether powerful or weak, whether of noble birth or of lower class, despised, or nothing, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All together deserve death, and all alike need a rescuer who will pay the price for sin and bring them into a right relationship with God. At the cross, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal.3:28); “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col.3:11). As Paul said in chapter 12

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

There is one body, and it has many members. Whatever lines we may have divided along before, we are now one in Christ. We have received the same Spirit and we have been made one in Christ.

Colossians 1:20 and through [the Son] to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Paul’s Signature and the Pseudapigrapha

Paul then gives them his own greeting.

1 Corinthians 16:21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.

If we had the original letter to look at, we would notice a change in the handwriting in these last lines. Most letter writing was done as dictation to a trained writer or amanuensis. We find this at the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Romans 16:22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.

Tertius served as Paul’s writer for his letter to the Romans. But the final greetings were in the distinctive personal handwriting of the apostle, and by this he gave his approval to the final draft of the letter. Paul said to the Galatian churches:

Galatians 6:11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Already, deceivers had attempted to lead the believers astray, even writing letters in the name of Paul. Paul writes to the Thessalonians:

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

He closes that letter with

2 Thessalonians 3:17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.

You have probably heard some of the nonsense about writings being removed from our New Testament at a council by a Roman emperor. There are other writings in existence from the early centuries, claiming to be Scripture. They are known as pseudapigrapha, a term that means false writing, because they were heretical writings that falsely claimed to be written by an apostle or an important person in order to gain a wide acceptance. The church recognized these as forgeries attempting to lead astray, and the church never accepted these. The church didn’t need the help of an emperor to discern the genuine from the false. Paul warns the church to be on guard against these forgeries, and he takes the practical measure of giving them a sign of genuineness in his own hand.

Love Jesus or Go To Hell

Paul’s personal greeting at first seems a bit shocking.

1 Corinthians 16:22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!

He uses the word ‘anathema’. In Romans 9:3 he says that if possible, he would wish himself to be accursed if that could bring about the salvation of his fellow Jews. In 1 Corinthians 12:3 he says that no one who has God’s Spirit can call Jesus accursed. To the Galatians he says:

Galatians 1:7 …there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 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. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Here he says ‘if anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.’ Love is the greatest command.

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Love for God is the greatest command. Love is the more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is the more excellent way, and love is what the Corinthian church lacked. They were divisive. They were proud. They thought themselves better than others. They did not love enough to discipline a wayward brother. They loved gain and pleasure more than they loved other people. They cherished their own rights over the eternal well-being of other believers. Paul warns them to flee from sexual immorality (6:18). He reminds them

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

He says that although I have rights, and

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. …22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Paul warns ‘flee from idolatry’ (10:14). He warns that we cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons and that we dare not provoke the Lord to jealousy (10:21-22). He says:

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Love for God seeks to bring glory to God and to seek the good of others as higher than ones own good.

Here he does not use the great word ‘agape’. Here he uses what is in some contexts synonymous, what is in other contexts a lesser word ‘phileo’, the word for friendship love, for warm affection. At the end of the gospel of John, after Peter said that he was willing to die with Jesus and then after he denied even knowing Jesus three times, the risen Lord came to Peter and asked ‘Simon do you love me sacrificially more than these?’ Peter said ‘yes Lord, you know that I love you affectionately. Jesus said to him a second time ‘Simon, do you love me sacrificially?’ Peter replied ‘yes, Lord, you know that I love you affectionately’. Jesus said to him a third time ‘Simon, do you love me affectionately? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time ‘do you love me affectionately?’. Peter responded ‘Lord you know everything. You know that I love you affectionately’.

We aspire to love the Lord our God selflessly, sacrificially, with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. But we so often fall short. Peter was made excruciatingly aware of his own shortcomings. But he had a strong affection for Jesus. Paul says here, ‘If you don’t have a strong affection for Jesus, you will go to hell’. In chapter 15 he warned them of the danger of not standing firm in the gospel, of not holding fast to it, of believing in vain. This is a strong wake up call. If we do not have a love and affection for Christ that begins to overrule our other desires, then we may be accursed.

Maranatha!

1 Corinthians 16:22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!

Paul pronounces an anathema, then Paul says ‘Maranatha!’. Maranatha is an Aramaic word that means ‘come Lord!’ Throughout this letter Paul has reminded the Corinthians that God is the ultimate judge, and we will all stand before him on that day. This is an exclamation, a prayer full of hope. Maranatha! The Lord is coming and he is the great judge, he will bring justice, but his coming is salvation to all who are trusting in him.

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 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.

The Psalmist warns:

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The coming of Jesus is both a curse and a blessing. It is a curse to those who have rejected him, to those who are perishing, but it brings abundant blessing to those who are trusting in him, to those who are being saved by him.

Grace of the Lord Jesus

1 Corinthians 16:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

Paul reminds them of grace. His prayer is that the grace of the Lord Jesus would be with them. Grace is God’s undeserved favor and kindness. Grace by definition is unearned and freely given. The fact that we are not accursed, the fact that the coming of the Lord is something we long for, the fact that we have a strong affection for Jesus, all this is evidence of God’s rich and powerful grace. God gives us what we don’t deserve. God extends his transforming grace to his enemies, and it changes us. The gospel is a message of grace. It has nothing to do with earning or deserving. It is simply and totally God’s freedom to give good gifts to those who could never earn it.

Usually, we think of grace as coming from God the Father. But here Paul specifically says that this is the grace that comes from the Lord Jesus. Jesus is continually giving us his grace.

Paul prays for the believers in Corinth that the grace of Jesus would be with them. As a believer we need his grace with us every moment. We are never done with grace. We never outgrow his grace. We never come to a point when we begin to deserve. We never earn. We are eternally dependent on his grace. We are forever those who receive. Salvation and the Christian life are all of grace.

Love

1 Corinthians 16:24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Paul’s closing word to them is a reminder of his love for them. This is a church that he loves. These are people he cares deeply for. He has confronted sin, he has corrected error, he has challenged their thinking, he has commanded them to run from sin and pursue holiness. He has rebuked and even insulted and shamed the Corinthians. But throughout he has affirmed his love for them. All this is seeking their good. He is laboring for their eternal joy. He loves them. His love is with them in Christ Jesus. It is all because of Jesus. His love for them is an expression of the grace of Jesus. We love because he first loved us. The final word is Jesus.

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

July 19, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:58; Labor in the Lord is not Vain

06/14 1 Corinthians 15:58 Labor in the Lord is not Vain; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150614_1cor15_58.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

58 Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί, ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, ἀμετακίνητοι, περισσεύοντες ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ κυρίου πάντοτε, εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ κόπος ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔστιν κενὸς ἐν κυρίῳ.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

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. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: 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 to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Today we finish 1 Corinthians 15 and look at verse 58. This is a very encouraging verse. This verse is a command with a promise. It is a command to be something and to do something. It is a command of character and behavior. And it is character and behavior based on a promise, based on knowing something.

Character Commanded

How many of us want this kind of character to define us? What do people think of you? How do people describe you? When a friend is telling someone about you, what adjectives do they use to describe you? When you meet someone, and they say ‘oh, you’re so-and-so. I met your friend the other day. They said you were…’ What do you want to hear them say? Would they say you are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord? Do you hope that is what they would say?

This is a command of character. This is a command to be a certain kind of person. This should give us hope. Some might say, well, I’m just not that kind of person. That’s just not how I am. But according to this, you can change! You are not stuck! You can be different than you are. Your character is not a fixed entity that you were born with and can do nothing about. You can be better than you are. You can grow and learn and change, and Paul will tell us how.

Imperative follows Indicative

This is a command, a command to be a certain way, and it is a command based on a promise. It is a command based on truth. We find this sort of thing all over the Bible. You can observe this pattern in much of the teaching of the New Testament. When you find a command, look around to see what that command is built on. We can see that in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Before God says ‘thou shalt’ and ‘thou shalt not’, he makes this statement:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (cf. Deuteronomy 5:6)

The commands are based on and rooted in a statement of truth. The imperative (or command) follows the indicative (or statement of fact). Another way to say this is that exhortation follows information. I am going to inform you of truth, which I believe will shape the way you live. We see this all the time in advertising. The little sidebar pops up on you screen that says ‘one rule for a flat tummy’ or ‘three foods that fight cancer; click here to find out more’. There is something you need to know, the information, the secret, that will change your behavior, so that you can attain the goal, the promise.

This verse begins with ‘therefore’. And whenever we see the word ‘therefore’ we should look to see what it’s ‘there for’. This is the last verse of 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection. Paul is teaching truth to combat error that will shape behavior. Let’s look back over the chapter.

1 Corinthians 15 Outline

In verses 1-7 he reminds us of the gospel message, with an emphasis on the fact that the historical resurrection of Jesus is essential to the gospel message, evidenced by a substantial crowd of eyewitnesses.

In verses 8-11 Paul holds himself up as an eyewitness and an example of the power of resurrecting grace which produces a transformed life.

In 12-19; he points to the negative consequences for those who preach and those who believe if the resurrection were not historical.

In 20-28 he holds up Christ as the new representative of mankind who undoes what Adam did and brings resurrection where Adam brought death.

In verse 29 he argues for the incoherence of the practice of baptism if there is no resurrection.

In 30-32; he argues for the incoherence of Christian sacrifice and suffering if there is no resurrection.

Verses 33-34 we find another imperative demonstrating the negative consequences of unbelief in resurrection on a person’s morality. He warns them not to be deceived, and says that because the resurrection is true, you need to ‘wake up from your drunken stupor and stop sinning’

In verses 35-41 he answers objections to the natural implausibility of a resurrection with evidence of the power and creativity of God as seen in creation.

In 42-49 he comes back to the contrast between our representatives Adam and Christ; where we have borne the fallen image of Adam, we are destined to bear the image of our new representative, Christ.

In 50-53 he argues for the necessity of resurrection transformation to enable us to participate in the kingdom of God.

In 54-57 he demonstrates the prophetic necessity of the resurrection.

And finally in verse 58 he gives concluding imperatives; because the resurrection of Jesus is an historical fact and our resurrection is a certain future event that God will bring about, we should live a certain way.

It matters what you believe. What you believe will impact the way you live. If you claim to believe something but there is no evidence of that belief working itself out in your character in everyday life, it is legitimate to question whether you truly believe what you claim.

Brothers, Beloved

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul addresses his readers as brothers. Earlier he addressed them as fools. Actually, in verse 35 he quotes the questions of ‘someone’ and he responds to that hypothetical ‘someone’ who asks those questions with ‘Fool!’ because those questions were motivated not by a desire to learn but by an effort to make belief in the resurrection look silly. They were the questions of the fool in Proverbs who says in his heart ‘there is no God’. But here he refers to his readers as brothers, siblings, not subordinates or underlings, but equals. And he calls them ‘my beloved’. We are dearly loved. This is a command, but it is a command clothed in gentleness and compassion. He genuinely cares about us and he communicates that to us. The command is rooted in love, a desire to bless, to do good to us, to help us to find joy and fulfillment.

Be Steadfast, Immovable

This word gives the idea of firmness, steadiness, being settled. Paul used this word in chapter 7 talking about the resolve of a single man who chooses not to marry.

1 Corinthians 7:37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.

This same word also shows up in Colossians 1 in a similar context to this one.

Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

We are to continue in the faith, stable and steadfast. Interestingly the word for ‘shifting’ is the positive verb form of the negative adjective translated here ‘immovable’. It means to be unmovable, not moved from its place, firmly persistent. We are not to be moved from the hope of the gospel. We are to be firmly persistent in the good news.

This is the same idea that he expressed with different words at the beginning of this discussion on the resurrection.

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.

He began the discussion with an ‘if’. There is a danger of not remaining in the gospel, not holding fast the word. Now he concludes the section with a loving exhortation to be settled and unmovable.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

It seems the Corinthians were in danger of allowing the culture and the beliefs they were surrounded by to sweep them off their sure footing in gospel truth. They were wavering on the foundation truth of the bodily physical resurrection. Paul exhorts them to remain anchored and to stand fast on the truth that they had believed.

Abounding Always

This character, being steadfast, immovable results in action. A person of character acts in ways consistent with that character. A person whose foundation is firmly rooted in gospel truth will abound in the work of the Lord. They will super-abound. They will overflow. Not occasionally, not sometimes, but always. Beyond measure, abundantly. What do they super-abound in? What do they do? What is the work of the Lord?

The Work of the Lord

Most simply, the work of the Lord is the Lord’s work. It is what the Lord does. What is it that we see the Lord doing? What is it that he tells his followers to join him in doing? In Mark 1, Jesus said

Mark 1:38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Jesus came from the the Father in order to preach the gospel of God, telling people to repent and believe the good news.

Jesus says in Mark 10:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (cf. Matthew 20:28)

Jesus came to serve. Jesus came to give his life a ransom. In Luke 19 Jesus tells us:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

The work Jesus came to do was to find and rescue lost people, to serve, to give his life, to proclaim the good news.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said “I will build my church”. Jesus is all about building his church, one sinner at a time.

What did Jesus tell his disciples to do? In John 6, Jesus encouraged people to seek not the temporary but the eternal. Some listening asked him a question:

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

The work of God is to believe in Jesus. First things first. We must understand the simplicity of the good news. We must come to Jesus ourselves, with childlike faith. Trust in Jesus. Rely on Jesus. Depend on Jesus for eternal life. Without this kind of relationship with Jesus, nothing else is possible. You cannot call yourself a follower of Jesus if you have not come in simple dependence on him.

For a person who comes to Jesus in childlike faith, what is the work he invites us to join him in? In John 20:21, Jesus says to his disciples “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” In Matthew 28:19 Jesus says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, … 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” In Luke 24 and Acts 1 he calls them to be his witnesses, to testify of him and “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Lk.24:47).

It seems clear that those who have been rescued by Jesus are to join him in his work of seeking and saving the lost by proclaiming his good news to everyone. Paul said in chapter 1 that “Christ… sent me… to preach the gospel” (1:17) and “we preach Christ crucified” (1:23). In chapter 2 he said that we are “servants through whom you believed… I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. …We are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (2:5-6, 9). In chapter 9 he says “you are my workmanship in the Lord (9:1). He says “we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (9:12). He says “I have made myself a servant of all that I might win more of them… I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel” (9:19, 22-23). In chapter 10 he says “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved.” (10:33). In 14:12 he uses this word ‘super-abound’; “strive to excel (or super-abound) in building up the church”. He envisions an unbeliever entering the orderly worship service of the church and “the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” (14:25). In chapter 16 he says:

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am.

What is that work of the Lord other than joining him in seeking and saving the lost, proclaiming the good news, making disciples of all nations, building up his church?

Labor Not In Vain

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul changes the word in the last phrase. He said ‘the work of the Lord’ – whatever it is that you undertake to do, what you are occupied with, what you are busy about. Here he says ‘your labor’ – toil, trouble, pain, sorrow, weariness; it carries the idea of beating one’s breast with grief. This is intense labor united with trouble and sorrow. Paul described his ministry in chapter 4:

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, … We are weak, … we [are held] in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Sometimes following Jesus is just plain hard. Doing what Jesus calls us to do, being people of character as Jesus calls us to be, is hard. It is labor, it brings trouble, it is wearisome, it is toil. Sometimes you just want to give up. Sometimes you wonder ‘is it worth it?’ This is where strong encouragement is necessary.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

In the Lord your labor is not empty, worthless, vain. In what way could our labor be in vain, and how is it not in vain in the Lord? Paul started this chapter on the resurrection warning that the gospel should not be believed in vain. Paul says that the gospel saves unless we believe in vain. To believe the gospel in vain would be to believe it in such a way that it is worthless and does not accomplish its intended effect; it does not save. This, in the context, would mean shifting away from the hope of the gospel, not holding fast to the gospel message. In verse 2 Paul uses a synonym to the word translated ‘vain’ in verse 58. he uses the same word four times in this chapter and nowhere else in the book. In verse 10 he says:

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

God extended his grace to Saul, and it was not in vain. God’s grace always accomplishes what he sends it to do. God’s grace transformed an enemy of Jesus into the man who risked everything and went to the ends of the earth to make Christ known.

Paul uses this word twice in verse 14

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

If the resurrection didn’t happen, then Christ’s death accomplished nothing and preaching the gospel is worthless and believing the gospel is worthless. It is an empty and impotent message if it is not true. But because it is true, proclaiming the message of the cross is never a waste. Because God is in the business of seeking and saving the lost, of bring life to the dead, transforming sinners into saints, and because God chooses to do his work through the unlikely means of our weakness and foolishness so that he gets all the glory, we can be confident. Because these bodies will be raised and transformed, what we do in these bodies matters. As he said in

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

And

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

All glory to God. All honor and praise and thanks be to God.

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

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

June 14, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment