The Epistle of Christ
- March 8, 2014
- Pensive Doubting Fearful Heart. How Great Thou Art. Be Thou My Vision
- Psalm 70
- Nothing is glorious like our God is glorious. He is glorious in holiness. His splendor can not be fully declared by any created thing, but of all created things there is one thing that most fully declares the glory of God. This is called Christ's Epistle. It is the letter that God has written about himself to declare in it his might, his love, his ineffable glory. God's church is this letter. Of all things in this universe, we are able to declare God's greatness. This comparison extends even to God's word.
- Why am I preaching on this:
- This is my hope for this church, to see Christ fully formed in you. To see us be an epistle to the greatness of God's glory. This happens only one way. Though men are apt to seek in in many ways, one way alone is correct, and that correct way is what I wish to describe by way of flavor not technique.
- NT Text:
- 2 Corinthians 3
- OT Text:
- Job 32:6 - 33:7
Job 32 - 33
- On Monday we began talking about why the heart must go beyond the words
We see a great example of this in the person of Elihu in the book of Job
- Summarize Job: Job's righteousness, God's testing, Job's friends.
Job had begun to call into question God's goodness, wisdom, and justice.
- Job 34:9 9For he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God.’ ESV
All of Job's friends try to correct him, and are unable to do so.
Job 2:11 11Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. ESV
- Notice in this list of friends the lack of Elihu
- Job, chapters 4-32, the bulk of the book, contains a back and forth debate between Job and his friends that leads nowhere, like so many of are religious arguments do.
- They did this so badly, that God rebukes them after he finishes rebuking Job. (chapters 38-42)
- Job 42:7 7After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. ESV
- Job 2:11 11Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. ESV
However, what Job's friends say is accurate in the content of their words, so much so that they are quoted as scripture in the New Testament
- Job 5:13 (Eliphaz) 13He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end. ESV
- 1 Corinthians 3:19 19For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” ESV
Elihu is the sole character in the book of Job that is not rebuked by God. Why? What is different about Elihu?
- Listen to the flavor of Elihu's speech. It is completely different than anything that comes before it in the book of Job. Read Job 32:6 - 33:7
- It is not his doctrinal correctness.
- It is his heart. His unction, his anointing, his Spirit filled-ness.
This happens when we try to preach a correct sermon, pray a correct prayer
- If you try and help someone else, and only use correct words
- If you try to preach sermons, and you only use correct words,
- If you try to pray and only use correct words,
- You're making the same mistake that Job's friends are.
- Look how they are corrected in the end of the book of Job.
- Job 42:7–9 7After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer. ESV
If you say my words are correct:
- Are your words more correct than theirs? Look what correct things they say. So correct that God records them in his book of Scriptures for all his people to read until the end of the age. That's how correct what they said is.
- That's never happened to you. You have never said anything that is so correct that God pens it down in Scripture to be read by all Christians.
- And yet for all their correct sayings God rebukes them for not speaking what is right. "For you have not spoken of me what is right" and again he repeats it, "for you have not spoken of me what is right" (vs 7, 8)
- Their words were considered empty, powerless, vain, lifeless, not salty, Paul, I believe would say, "having an appearance of Godliness but denying its power2 Tim 3:5."
And then you turn to Elihu. And Elihu is completely different. It's not because the content, the correctness of the words, is different, but because his heart is so different. It's a picture of a unction:
- I'm about to speak, and the words that I'm about to speak, are from God on high, listen to me and I will speak on God's behalf. There's no doubt in his mind whether or not he's going to correct Job, not because his words are his own and he is picked them carefully, but because God has given him words.
- He is like a well of water, a spring of water capped and dammed, the pressure building and building and building until he overflows forth words, living words from God, like life giving water.
See in Elihu's speech:
- Job 32:18–20 18For I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me. 19Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst. 20I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. ESV
His words are God-oriented not man-oriented
- Job 32:21 21I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person. ESV
- Job 33:3 3My words declare the uprightness of my heart, and what my lips know they speak sincerely. ESV
- Job 33:33 33If not, listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.” ESV
- Job 33:6–7 6Behold, I am toward God as you are; I too was pinched off from a piece of clay. 7Behold, no fear of me need terrify you; my pressure will not be heavy upon you. ESV
His words cut
- Job 33:12 12“Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man. ESV
And his words bind up
- Job 33:32 32If you have any words, answer me; speak, for I desire to justify you. ESV
- Let Elihu serve as an example of why the heart must go beyond the words.
- What is this difference? Bearing this in mind, turn to 2 Cor 3.
2 Cor 3
- Read 2 Corinthians chapter 3
In this chapter, we see amazing things.
- A letter: A letter written not in stone or with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of human hearts.
- Veils: A veil on Moses' face and veils on human hearts and how both of those veils are now removed in some.
- Glory: The glory that was of old compared to the glory that is now. And how the current glory so outshines the old that the old has come to have no glory at all.
- Christians: How Christians are become partakers of this exceeding glory.
- Spirit and Christ: Their ministries in these glorious things.
Why? Why are these topics spoken of here?
- The sub-points of 2 Corinthians chapter 3 are so big and full and rich, and sometimes so confusing, that we forget what the context is. We can't see the point anymore because our minds are fully on the sub-points, and we forget the sub-points are there to support the main point. What is the point being made in 2 Cor 3?
- Before we can get to that question we must talk at least in part about these sub-points.
Writing materials: stone, ink, human hearts (vs 3)
Stone represents the law
- Exodus 24:12 12The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” ESV
Ink also probably represents the lawJer, and speaking of it as ink seems to call to mind to the impermanence of itHeb.
- Jeremiah 36:18 18BaruchJeremiah's scribe answered them, “He dictated all these words to me, while I wrote them with ink on the scroll.” ESV
- Hebrews 8:13 13In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. ESV
but I wonder if the reference to ink doesn't include all of the scriptures as a whole including the letter that Paul is currently writing in ink. But ink is not very much focused on in the chapter.
- 3 John 13 13I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. ESV
Human hearts written by the Spirit of the living God.
- Ezekiel 11:19 19And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, ESV
- Ezekiel 36:25–27 25I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. ESV
- Jeremiah 31:33–34 33For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for 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.” ESV
- Stone then must not only represent the law but the hearts of all people who remain under the dispensation of that law. Stone representing both the law and a condition of having a stoney heart. To bring the two metaphors of stone together, the stoney heart is the heart that still exists under the law of stone--what is called the ministry of death, carved in letters in stone instead of on human hearts where the Spirit writes the law in believers.
- Stone represents the law
- Introduced in verse 13, the veil is on Moses' face.
- Exodus 34:29 29When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. ESV
- Exodus 34:33 33And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. ESV
- And then in the next verse, the veil is on the heart of the people or on the eyes of the people. Why did the veil switch places? The veil was on Moses and now the veil is on the people.
- The reason Moses wore a veil was because the people's hearts were veiled, and so they couldn't look with unveiled eyes on Moses so Moses veiled his face because the people's hearts were veiled.
- A surpassing glory, this is why we turn so often to this chapter, to see what Paul says about the surpassing glory (vs 7-11) and our part in it (vs 18).
- The Old Testament had glory had such glory. It had so much glory that Moses his face shown. They had the glory of the heavens being bowed, and the heavens .... Will
- Exodus 19:16 16On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. ESV
- Exodus 19:18–19 18Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. ESV
- Exodus 20:18 18Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off ESV
- Exodus 34:29 29When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. ESV
- But there is a glory in the NT that surpasses all of that, so all of that in comparison to the glory of the new covenant has no glory at all because of the glory that so surpasses it. (vs 7-11)
- And this is Paul's way of declaring as strongly as can be declared the glory of the new covenant, by comparing it to the glory of the old represented by Sinai which represents all the glory of the old testament, not just Sinai itself.
Look at all our most famous preachers, speaking of the glory of God, where do they turn, probably Isaiah 6, the year king Uzziah died. Paul says that this is nothing compared to the glory of God which is being revealed now.
- Isaiah 6:1–5 1In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” ESV
- Like a river gorge compared to the Grand Canyon
- Isaiah 6 is like a pond, and whatever it is he is talking about is like the ocean.
How is this possible?
- Because Jesus reveals the glory of God on a cross, the glory of God sending his Son down and showing us himself in a way that the old covenant could never reveal.
- Christ outshines everything because he reveals to us who God is. He is the great revealer of God. He is the exact image and representation of his Father, so if you've seen Jesus you've seen the Father, if you've heard Jesus you've heard the Father, if you know Jesus you know the Father. Jesus outshines Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah, John the Baptist and all others.
- Yet this is not the glory that 2 Corinthians 3 is focusing on directly. It is focusing on something else.
- There's a different point here. The context of the chapter is Paul asking, do you need me to give you a letter of recommendationvs 1? Do I need to put together some sort of resume. Do I need someone to write a letter of support to bring to you so that people might know who I am?
- His opening point in this argument is this: I do not need to recommend myself to you, and others do not need to recommend me to you because I have a letter of recommendation already. And this letter of recommendation is glorious, and its that letter of recommendation that has glory.
- That is the ocean, that is the glory. And he compares the glory of that letter of recommendation to the letter that God wrote his church in the OT on a tablet of stone requiring Moses' face to be veiled.
- That's the pond...
- Now what is this letter of recommendation.
- 2 Corinthians 3:2 2You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. ESV
- It is the church of Corinth itself. The recipients of the letter that Paul is writing. The believers of the church of Corinth are Paul's glorious letter of recommendation.
- Jesus Christ, whose glory outshines that of the Old Covenant, has himself changed the people of Corinth from death to life through the ministry of Paul such that they reflect his glory.
Paul didn't do it, Paul was a part of it and minister of it.
- Moses didn't directly, fully write the Torah, God did. But Moses was used as a minister of it. He was the tool in the hand of God the instrument of its being written by God to the people of God. The OT is a letter from God to us that we might read it and know him.
- Believers are a letter written by God, through the instrumentality of men, to speak to men about God in a more full way than could ever be done under the old covenant.
That's an incredible point.
- Lord, if these words are true, teach them to us.
Take the glory of old. Take Isaiah, take Moses, take the Red Sea Crossing, take the walls of Jericho coming down, and David's triumph over Goliath. Take the creation of God in 6 days. Take the glory of God filling the tabernacle and temple and driving out the priests with his presence. Take all of it and compare it to the glory of Christ. His glory is greater in this, he was obedient to the point of death and he rose again victorious over all his foes. It is a surpassing glory. And it is the glory that you are supposed to shine forth into the world as his ambassadors. He shines the glory of his Father as his Father's ambassador. Likewise, Christ's church is to shine forth Christ's glory as his ambassadors. We are the Epistle of Christ to the world. God has written us as a letter, as stories to be told, with a glory that surpasses the entirety of the old covenant.
- 2 Corinthians 5:20 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. ESV
- John 13:35 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ESV
- They will know that you are sent from me when they see your love for one another. I will give you a love straight from my heart to yours that you're going to be able to share. And the world, when it sees that love will know something about me. In this, you will be my epistle, my letter to the world, in your love for one another.
Hear this! You are called to be a letter that is so full of the glory of God that people will know more about God in seeing you than they can know about God from the law.
- Indeed, all prophecy will pass away. God's church never will, it remains forever.
- 1 Corinthians 13:8 8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away
- That is staggering. It's glorious and its humbling.
- Christian, beloved of God; have you been that today. Will you be that today? Plead to God, for his heart to be formed in you that you, in love, might be a reflection of his glory here on earth and forever in heaven.
- Stop working
- What are we going to do? Have a bake sale, are we going to minister to the homeless, what are we going to do to fulfill this mandate to be the glory of God to the world. STOP, stop running around in circles, get on your knees and ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit, because you can't do this. You cannot take one step towards doing this. This is not able to be done by man.
- Hebrews 4:10–11 10for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. ESV
- If that's a mystery look at Elihu. Look at Job's friend's working, and look at Elihu striving to enter God's rest and have Job enter God's rest. It is different, it is so different. It tastes different, it looks different, it is the glory of God compared to the correctness of man.
- Becoming this glory is not a work we can do by ourselves. It cannot be done by man. If there is anything in Christianity that you did, that you accomplished, that you can take any credit for; it is not the holiness that God requires of you.
What is a pastor?
- If a Christian is a letter written by God to the world, what is a pastor. A pastor is a minister to that letter, to help that letter show off its glory, the glory of God to the world.
And that is why Paul is writing this, because he is an apostle for them, a minister for them, a worker with them for their joy2Cor 1:24. That they might have this glory, and that it might shine forth.
- 2 Corinthians 1:24 24Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. ESV
- 1 Corinthians 3:5–7 5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. ESV
- 1 Corinthians 3:21–23 21So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. ESV
What are your brothers and sisters in Christ?
- If God is well pleased in you, then be well pleased in one another.
- Don't let another's works nor lack of works distract you from this.
What are you.
- When God saved you he put in you a fire in your heart. Picture a dormant volcano. There is a fire underneath that volcano. The pressure from it build and builds but no fire pours forth into the world because it is blocked by dirt. 100s of yards of dirt, weight tons and tons of weight down on that fire blocking it, but the pressure is building.
- Picture Paul up on top of that dormant volcano with a pickaxe, digging down saying I'm going to remove these rocks and stones that the pressure that is already there might be birthed into the world. He goes down underground to stoke that fire and increase its heat until it is his glory to see that fire built by the Holy Spirit erupt into the world. That is what a minister is, a stoker of fire and a remover of rocks so that that fire built by the Holy Spirit not born by the minister but the minister is a worker with the volcano a worker with the church until the church spews forth erupts forth the fire into the world. Now that's the fire that has been put in you as a Christian. That is the fire that is there already or you are not a Christian.
- But that fire isn't being birthed into the world right now in an overflow. You see that overflow in Paul, in David, in the saints of old. Where is your overflow.
- If it isn't there. That pressure, that thirst, that hunger has to increase until it erupts. Those rocks must be removed until the glory is seen and made manifest.
- Another analogy for this is the analogy of streams of water bubbling up to eternal life. An underground spring that feeds Old Faithful.
- All who are born of Christ are this way, he has put in them rivers of living water, deep underground streams that bubble up to this very end: to show off the glory of God into the world.
- Do you have a hunger. Do you thirst. Do you know the weight of needing God to do a work in you.
Why did I start with Elihu and Job.
- Here's what I'm saying, if you are not that geyser, if you are not that volcano, you are not a Christian. There has to be a reality to this in you. You might not see it and still be a Christian, but if there is no evidence of it, you have no real evidence of your new heart of your being a Christian.
- Now that geyser will not always be overflowing.
- Dormant Christian doesn't mean you are not a Christian.
- Look at Elihu, he overflowed. Look at Job's friends, they said lots of correct words.
- Now who are you? Are you going to be Elihu today who overflows God into the world and the glory of God into the world because of the excess that he has put into such that you erupt into this world with glory?
- Or are you going to say correct things about God?
- Read Elihu's speech and how he is about to erupt because of what Job's friends are not doing. What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing?
- That's not what God has called you to, you are being merely correct.
Galatians 4:19 19my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! ESV