Love Edifies: The Gender Questions

Exposition of 1 Corinthians
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1 Corinthians 14:33-40 ESV

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

 

Introduction

This morning we are finishing up our study through 1 Corinthians 14. These last 7 verses have everything to do with authority. We would do well to pay careful attention to what God has to say here. We live in 21st century America, where we have basically welded together the constitution of the United States with the Bible. Many Christians view the Christian life and the church in the same way that they view politics. We have on our license plates the phrase, “Live Free or Die.” You may not realize it, but the government under which you live radically shapes the way you read and interpret the Bible. You and I have grown up in a constitutional republic where we have the power and responsibility of voting and making our voice heard. Because of this we often times have an immediate allergic reaction to authority. Nonetheless, authority is at the very heart of Christianity.
Authority is at the very heart of the Gospel.
Authority is at the very heart of your Christian life and at the very heart of the life of the church. If you go wrong when it comes to authority, your whole Christianity will be out of whack. This is what we will be talking about this morning—authority in the church. You may remember from two weeks ago that Paul laid forth general guidelines for how the church is to go about exercising the spiritual gifts in a way which leads to the edification of the body. The fact is that the Corinthians were all exercising their gifts at the same time. There was no order or structure to their worship. Because of this no one was built up or edified. Paul laid forth basic guidelines to establish order and structure so that all may learn and all may be encouraged. Paul continues this discussion but focuses on the issue of authority. Without structures of authority there can be no order. This is true not only in the church but also in secular society. The job of a Policemen, for example, is to maintain public order. He does so by enforcing the law. There is no order or structure apart from clear authority.
 
1 Corinthians 14:33-35

33b As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

It goes without saying that this issue is just as, if not more, radio active in Christian churches than the issue of speaking in tongues. What Paul says is shocking to our modern ears. I have already addressed issues of gender roles in church back when were in 1 Corinthians 11. I am not going to be handling the issue in a broad, detailed way this morning. If you want more information on this issue I will direct your attention to the series of sermons I preached in 1 Corinthians 11. This morning I am only going to be speaking to the very specific situation which Paul is addressing here in 1 Corinthians 14. I will point out just a few things.
1. Many find this passage appalling because Paul seems to be laying forth sweeping general statements.
He says,  “women should keep silent in the churches,” “they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission,” “it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” This is truly like nails on a chalk board to we who live in 21st Century America. It sounds bigoted, patriarchal, misogynistic, and old fashioned. Many laugh this passage off saying, ‘We certainly have evolved and progressed beyond such sexist passages. One commentator, a highly respected commentator even among conservative evangelicals, tries to make the case that this passage wasn’t in the original text and is thus not binding on the individual Christian nor the church. His arguments have not convinced many conservative evangelical scholars, thankfully. I find this position to be beyond appalling.
2. Others believe that Paul is laying forth a general principle.
These verses come in a passage where Paul is laying forth guidelines for establishing order in the Corinthian church. You will remember this from last week. The Corinthians were disorderly about the exercising of the spiritual gifts, Paul told them that the people of God can’t be built up without order and structure, and then he lays forth this general statement as part of the order that he is establishing. In other words, many do not believe that Paul is addressing a specific situation here in these verses. Rather, he is laying forth a general guideline for how women are to conduct themselves in church without disrupting the order of the body in all circumstances. They would argue that Paul is saying that women shouldn’t speak in church, period. After all, when women speak it disrupts order and edification can’t happen.
Many churches will take this to the extreme and even prevent women from sharing prayer requests during prayer time, will keep women from teaching Sunday School and everything else. I disagree with this for one main reason. Paul has just, back in 1 Corinthians 11:5 and 10, 13, said that there is nothing wrong with a woman praying or prophesying so long as she does so with a symbol of authority on her head (vs. 10). I think it is pretty clear that Paul is not speaking about women praying and prophesying outside of church in 1 Corinthians 11, but in church. So Paul is not opposed to women speaking in church so long as they do so acknowledging male headship—understanding that they are under the authority of their husbands.
3. This, then, is the way I understand 1 Corinthians 14:33-36;
Paul is not saying that women should not speak in church, period!
Rather, what he says, I believe, is directly connected with what he just said in vs. 29 about weighing the truth content of prophesies. Paul has no problem with a woman speaking in tongues, praying, or prophesying. However, women should be silent when it comes to affirming a prophecy from God or rejecting it as unbiblical. The fact is that the weighing (testing, discerning) of prophecies—whether they are from God or not—is an expression, a function, of authority. To test a prophesy is to exercise authority. I believe that this is Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 14. You can imagine it. Imagine brother Billy Bob standing up and delivering a word from God. Imagine if Billy Bob’s wife then stood up and said, “That wasn’t from God. What you just said contradicts what God has said in His word.” What would that be? That would be a woman exercising authority over a man, a wife undermining the authority structure which God Himself has established. “The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church… Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:23-24). What did Paul say in 1 Timothy 2:12?

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”

A woman is not to teach or exercise authority over a man. I think it is safe to assume that some of the women in Corinth were undermining this clear authority structure which God has set up in the Scriptures or Paul would not have included this in his instruction. We already saw that this was a problem in the Corinthian church back in 1 Corinthians 11.
4. Paul is not telling women that they are to be mindless drones during the church service. No!
Women are to weigh what is being said. Women are to test prophesies with the word of God. How do I know this? Because Paul would not have said, “If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home” if they were to be passive in this process. What Paul is saying is that if a women has concerns about a prophetic word delivered at church, she should speak to her husband about it at home—she is not to make a public pronouncement for or against the prophecy at church. So it would be entirely correct for a woman to be disturbed by a prophecy at church and to go home and say, “Dear, I found what so-and-so said to be quite troubling because of this text, what are your thoughts?” So women are to weigh what is said. They are just to do so in a way which demonstrates submission.
5. Submission does not equal inferiority.
Although I already addressed this in detail back in 1 Corinthians 11, this always needs to be said when we talk about gender roles. Children are under the authority of their parents, citizens are under the authority of the government, employees are under the authority of their bosses, Jesus is under the authority of the Father, and the Spirit is under the authority of the Father and the Son (see 1 Corinthians 11:3). Are children inferior to their parents; are you less valuable than President Obama; are you inferior to your boss; is Jesus less valuable and worthy than God the Father? Of course not. Submission does not equal inferiority. We all have different roles. God has given certain roles to men and certain roles to women. We have a difference in role, but not in significance or value.
Could you imagine where SGF would be right now without the women in our midst?
We must value the women God has given us. While we affirm what God says in His word about women not teaching or exercising authority over men, we encourage women to take part in the ministry of the word to kids and to each other so long as it is done under the oversight of the elders. All of our Sunday School teachers below middle school are women. All of the teaching lessons for VBS are written by women. The women’s ministry in the church is directed by a woman. We must celebrate how God has worked through the women of SGF and would encourage young women to follow their lead.
1 Corinthians 14:36-40
Paul moves along and reprimands the Corinthians for their spiritual pride.

36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

1. Paul is clearly speaking sarcastically in vs. 36.
The Corinthians apparently thought that they were above the law. They thought that they had arrived at ultimate spirituality and thus thought that they had progressed beyond the need for authority and structure. They were acting as if they were the source of authority. They were acting as if they were above the law. You know, like slimy politicians who go to Washington and over time begin to think that they are an authority to themselves. Although they swear to protect and uphold the constitution, the law of the land, they believe that they know what works and what doesn’t and that the constitution can be undermined at their superior discretion. They see themselves as in a priviledged position, above the law. This is why we call them (sarcastically) “big brother.” This is where the Corinthians were.
They saw themselves as having a corner on the truth. You see, they were super spiritual. “We have the Spirit! Surely, the God’s authoritative word may be a good supplement for us, but we have a direct line to God through the Spirit.” Paul puts them in their place by reminding them that they did not come up with the Gospel, but that they received it from him. He reminds them that they are not in the place of authority to make up the rules as they go. We must always remember that the Spirit never works contrary to God’s word. The Spirit and the word always go together. The Spirit always leads and guides and comforts and encourages with the word and in accordance with the word.
Look at what he says in vs. 37-38.
He says that the person who thinks that they are so led by the Spirit that they are above the commandments of Christ are not to be recognized. In other words, they are not to be regarded as prophets or spiritual. Oh how we need to hear this truth. We do live in a day and age where many believe that they are not in need of God’s word. They do believe that they have reached spiritual maturity—they believe that they have graduated from the Bible. They have the Spirit! They have direct guidance from God. It is almost a mark of true spirituality when you become less and less dependent upon what God has said in Holy Scripture and more and more dependent upon what the Spirit says outside of Holy Scripture. But this isn’t genuine spirituality. Paul says, “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing are a command of the Lord.”
And here is the principle that we can take with us; true spirituality is not gauged by radical living per se, but by submission to God’s authoritative word and obedience to the commands of Christ. The Corinthians thought that they were spiritual because they had shaken off the shackles of order and structure. They thought that true spirituality was a “let go and let God” sort of a thing. Paul pulls his apostolic trump card and suggests to them that anyone who does not submit to his apostolic authority is not spiritual, regardless of how radical or passionate they may be. Let me give you two examples of what this looks like, one from contemporary experience and one from the bible.
1. Have you ever met a Christian who dates a non-Christian for evangelistic purposes?
You see, they feel that their evangelistic zeal puts them above simple obedience to the commands of Christ. A believer is not at liberty to date or marry an unbeliever, regardless of how he or she may feel about it, regardless of whether he or she feels led to do so, or regardless of how great and pure his or her gospel intentions may be. Growth in Christian spirituality is a growth into greater submission to the will of God as revealed in the word of God, not less submission.
2. The greatest example of this sort of a thing in the Bible is found in 1 Samuel 15.
Let me lay the setting for you before we take a look at the text. God sent a commandment to Saul by the prophet Samuel to destroy the Amalekites. Here is the exact commandment, “God and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (vs. 3). So Saul set out to fulfill the command of God delivered through the prophet Samuel. They rose up and defeated the Amalekites. Saul had his soldiers kill all of the Amalekites. However, Saul didn’t obey the command fully. He failed to kill both the king, Agag, and the best of the flocks and herds (vs. 9). God supernaturally informed Samuel of Saul’s failure to fully obey his orders and so Samuel went to go confront Saul. This is where we will pick it up.

13 And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” 14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” 15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.” 16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Speak.”

17 And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”

So why did Saul disobey God’s commandment?
His reasons seem to be so noble and spiritual. I am sure that many look at Saul and say, “What a spiritual man—wholly devoted to God. Sure, he didn’t fully obey the commandment of the Lord, but the reason he didn’t fully obey was so that he might give glory to God by offering Him the best of the flock.” Some would wonder why Saul didn’t say, “Now I see why you didn’t fully obey the commandment of God—you disobeyed in order to bring glory to His name by offering Him the best of the flock. How spiritual.” But how did Samuel respond to Saul’s “spirituality.” He cut him off and said, “Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me this night.”
Samuel goes on to tell him that God has rejected him as king because of his disobedience. God responded to Saul’s disobedience by rejecting him as king. Samuel’s words in vs. 22 are so important; “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” You do not set aside the word of God, the commandments of God, in order to seek some sort of a higher calling. True spirituality is evidenced through true heart obedience to the commandment of Christ. Now I know that some of you will say, “But I thought love was the true gauge of spirituality.” It is. But what is love? The greatest commandment! To love is to obey.
This is just what Paul is saying. He is talking to those who think they are spiritual, so spiritual that they are above the authority of God’s word  through the apostles. Paul says that if anyone is a prophet or spiritual he should recognize that what he says is the command of the Lord and that if anyone does not recognize this, he is not to be recognized. In other words, if anyone disregards Paul’s instruction, he is to be deemed a false prophet, unspiritual and immature. This should be good news for some of you.
I know that some of you look at yourselves and think that spirituality has to do with having a larger than life personality. You think that to be spiritual means that you are able to express passion for Christ. You look at yourself and you say, “I’m not spiritual at all.” But spirituality is simple. Do you want to be spiritual? Trust and obey. That’s it. Trust God. Trust His character. Trust His promises. Obey His word. Trust and obey. That’s it. But the average Christian thinks that true spirituality is always expressed through radical living and through larger than life passion. Sometimes it is evidenced this way, without a doubt. But this isn’t the hallmark for spirituality.
Spirituality is evidence through trust and obedience.
“What he says we will do; where he says we will go—never fear, only trust and obey.” You don’t have to be someone you aren’t to be spiritual. Just trust and obey. That’s it. Many don’t know how to handle false teachers on t.v. who whoop and holler and do all sorts of radical things. They are afraid to say that they are false teachers. I don’t have a hard time seeing through the shenanigans. This is very simple. Regardless of the veneer—regardless of their passion and fervor, if they do not submit themselves to biblical authority, they are not from God. This is just what John said in 1 John 4:6.
6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
The one who does not recognize or submit to apostolic authority—the authority of God’s written word—is not from God. God does not recognize him or her. The one who is truly spiritual, on the other hand, receives and submits to God’s most holy and authoritative word.
Now Paul concludes this long discourse in vss. 39-40 by encouraging them to earnestly desire prophesy and to not forbid speaking in tongues. Although the Corinthians were abusing this gift, he didn’t want them to throw it. You never throw out a good thing because someone is abusing it. The solution to misuse is not disuse but proper use (Sam Storms). He then closes by giving on last exhortation to exercise these gifts in a way that is decent and orderly—in a way that brings edification and not confusion.
Communion
As we transition to communion I want to remind you that everything that Paul has talked about in vss. 33-40 has to do with authority. Women are under the headship of their husbands. The church is under the authority of the Lord. The one who does not recognize the command of the Lord is not recognized by God. We Christians need to learn the importance of authority. Authority is at the very heart of Christianity. Authority is at the very heart of the Gospel. There is a reason why Jesus is called the King of kings and Lord of lords. So often our tendency in preaching the Gospel is only to offer Jesus—take Him or leave Him. I compare modern day Gospel preaching with the preaching of the Gospel in the book of Acts.
When Peter and Paul preached the Gospel in the book of Acts they did not throw Jesus out there as one option among many. They did not present the truths of who Jesus is and what He did without warning them of consequences of rejecting the Gospel. You see, the Gospel is Good News. And sinners are invited to come to Christ freely. However, the Gospel is more than a mere invitation to try Jesus. The Gospel is a divine mandate. This is the sort of thing we find in the preaching of the Gospel in the book of Acts and this is the sort of preaching we find on the lips of Jesus Christ.

John 3:18; Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

To reject the Gospel is to reject the command the King.
This is why the one who does not believe is condemned already. To reject the Gospel is to say “No” to the King of kings and Lord of lords. But the Good News is that this King died in your place. He took your sins upon Himself. God punished your sins in Jesus Christ while He was on the cross. Jesus took the full penalty of your sins. He died the death that you were supposed to die so that your sin debt might be paid for. This is what communion is all about. The bread symbolizes his broken body and the cup his shed blood which was the necessary payment to pay your sin debt. Now God commands you to repent of your sins and to receive His Son.
I plead with you, “Do not harden your heart.” Submit to King Jesus. Receive Him as Savior. Submit to Him as Lord. If you don’t know Christ, communion is not for you. Communion is for those who have repented of their sin and are believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Communion is for those who are rejoicing in so great a salvation. Communion is for those who have passed from death to live—for those who are “not condemned.” Thus it is a celebration because it is the reminder that our sins have been paid in full through the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary.
I have a few introductory items before we dive into the text.
1. I hope you notice that I haven’t skipped any verse in our study of 1 Corinthians 14.
We here at SGF believe that it is the responsibility of the church to preach the whole counsel of God’s word. We know that it is our propensity to favor the passages we like and to neglect the rest. To safeguard against this, we preach through books of the Bible chapter by chapter, verse by verse, line by line, word by word. I want you to note that I didn’t skip any one passage in chapter 14. 1 Corinthians 14 would be the easiest passage in all of the Bible to skip, because it is pumped full of controversial, radio active content. But we don’t skip passages because they are difficult, convicting, hard to understand, or mystical. We are committed—I am committed—to preaching the whole of God’s word. This is what you must expect when you come to SGF. We don’t lick our finger and stick it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. I preach whatever text comes next, regardless of how well I think it will or won’t be received.
2. I want to thank SGF for the freedom that I feel in handling the word of God from the pulpit.
Many pastors do not feel freedom in handling the word—they have to exercise great caution in how they say every little word. I don’t feel any constraint in the pulpit. I feel the freedom to preach, to the best of my understanding and ability, the text which is before me. I cannot thank the church enough for this. It really is a gift. I know that some of you come from a more charismatic bent and others from a more cessationist bent. I can say that I have had more conversations about the content of the sermons over the last few weeks than ever. I have thoroughly enjoyed these discussions. Many have shared areas of agreement, disagreement, have sought clarifications, and have shared other insights. Even when disagreements have been raised to some of the things that I have said, I have never felt like I have been attacked. This really does demonstrate the spiritual maturity of the body. I expect the people of God to disagree to a certain point over these debatable issues. Nonetheless, I truly do cherish the freedom that I enjoy in the pulpit here at SGF.
3. I hope that you have not missed the main point of this chapter.
Since the gift of tongues and prophecy are so radio active it is terribly difficult to go verse by verse through 1 Corinthians 14 without losing the main point. I have tried to make it as clear as I know how in each sermon. The main point of 1 Corinthians 14 is not that we develop an accurate view of the gift of tongues and prophecy. The gift of tongues and prophecy are not the main point of this chapter, they are just part of the furniture of the chapter. The main point is this; if you love the people of God you will want to build them up. The main point is that your main priority when you come to church should be to build up the body. We saw it last week from vs. 26, “Let all things be done for building up.” That is the main point. Church is not the place for you to be seeking personal, private edification—you can do that at home.
When you come to church you should be seeking to serve and to build others up with the gifts God has given you. Now we have had to look at the gift of tongues in detail because that is the gift the Corinthians were abusing, but the point of 1 Corinthians 14 is not about tongues per se, but about your whole attitude when you come to church—do you come to build up others or do you come to build up yourself?
Let it also be noted that Paul does not say this to the women, “If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask the elders after the service.” No. Men, when Paul says that you are the spiritual head of your home (Ephesians 5), he means it. You have a real responsibility before God to be the spiritual head of your home. It will not do for you to be a spiritual slacker.
Women, you must also be careful to never emasculate your husbands.
Trust God’s spiritual leadership through your husband. Those women who are either unmarried or married to an unbeliever, you should seek the counsel of the elders. Wives, don’t run around your husband by coming to the elders. But you say, “Jimmy, if you only knew my husband like I do.” Listen, I don’t have to know your husband. I know your husband’s God, and I know His intentions for you. I know that your husband’s God spoke through a donkey. Your husbands God used a man with a speech impediment to declare to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” He will supernaturally empower your husband to lead you aright. You have to trust God in this as He places you in the hands of your husband. Let me say this as well, if you want him to be a spiritual leader, you have to approach him as a spiritual leader. If you don’t affirm him and build him up—if you only harp on what he isn’t doing—you will ensure that he will never be a spiritual leader. But husbands you cannot expect your wife to submit to your leadership if you aren’t acting as a spiritual leader. If you only lead when she agrees and get angry when she doesn’t, how can you expect her to trust your leadership?
So many men are afraid of being the spiritual head of their homes because they know that they are not bible scholars. But men you must realize that spiritual leadership is not about how much you know. Spiritual leadership in the home has everything to do with, and this is the key word, initiative. So many men are intimidated by the idea of being the spiritual head because they are afraid that this means that they have to out smart their wives biblically and theologically. This is not so. Spiritual headship is not about having the correct answer or perfect insight and discernment on the spot. Spiritual headship is about taking initiative. When your wife seeks counsel or asks a question the question is this, Are you going to take it upon yourself to pray for wisdom, dig in the Scriptures, and seek counsel, or are you just going to say, “I don’t know” and leave it at that. Spiritual headship has everything to do with initiative. You don’t have to be a hard core theologian to initiate prayer with your wife or to lead her in prayer. You don’t have to be a theologian to make the kingdom of God and a personal relationship with Jesus a priority over everything else. You just need to take initiative.
~ Jimmy

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Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previoulsy he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
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The Cost of Forgiveness

 

How Can I Forgive …when it hurts so much?

 

1 John 2:12 (ESV)
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.

 
Forgiveness is a constant and pervasive theme in the Bible.
Apart from God’s forgiveness of our sins, we cannot be reconciled to Him. His provision of forgiveness, the means whereby He CAN forgive us, without also violating His own holiness and justice, is the mystery of the cross. God remains fully just and justice is done – even in His forgiveness, because the penalty has been paid. Justice and mercy meet in Jesus. He dies in our place (meeting justice) and thus the Father freely forgives without contradicting His own nature. What a wonder to behold. I confess it stuns me afresh every time I consider it.
What a God, who loved us so – that He would create such a plan to redeem us – and at what a cost!
That last statement of course is something we must consider regularly too. Forgiveness is costly. Many a person doesn’t want to forgive, until it seems as though it isn’t costly anymore. They want to wait until the sting of the offense is gone. Until it isn’t painful to forgive. Of course, if the Father had done that in our case – none of us would be saved. The Father had to be willing to let His Son endure the pain on our behalf, and the Son had to be willing to endure it Himself. Forgiveness is expensive. And what it costs to redeem a human soul is beyond the realm of our ability to see completely – except that it is never less than the death of the eternal Son of God.
We often talk about forgiveness being for the benefit of the sinner.
For our sakes, Jesus died – so that we might become His and be reclaimed from the bondage and penalty of sin. And, sometimes we talk of forgiveness in terms of the one offended. Haven’t we all been exhorted (and rightly so) that to fail to forgive is destructive to one who refuses. Bitterness ensues and an even greater harm (than the original offense) comes in the wake of unforgiveness. But our text considers a third aspect of forgiveness.
God has forgiven us for the sake of Jesus’ name.
If you are struggling with forgiveness toward someone today – I would like you to consider this for just a moment. Perhaps the argument that unforgiveness is harmful to you isn’t persuasive. Perhaps the argument that the offending person NEEDS forgiveness isn’t compelling either. But if those two have failed – then consider this: Beloved, we need to forgive for HIS name’s sake. In other words – that the world might see the extravagant, unsearchable, amazing wonder of His mercy and grace displayed through our willingness to bear the cost – that others might know what His forgiveness is like. Do it for Him. Forgive so that others might see Him displayed. For His name’s sake, forgive. Make Him known.

~ Reid

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Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.