Studies in I Peter
"How to be happy, though Suffering"
I Peter Chapter 1
- (I Peter 1:1) The Scattered Aliens
- (I Peter 1:1,2) The Choice of God
- (I Peter 1:2) Obedience and Sanctification
- (I Peter 1:3) Born Again to A living Hope
- (I Peter 1:3,4) An Unfading Inheritance
- (I Peter 1:5) Protected by Gods Power
- (I Peter 1:5) A Salvation Revealed in the Last Time
- (I Peter 1:6,7) Joy In Trials
- (I Peter 1:7) Praise and Glory and Honor
- (I Peter 1:7) The Revelation of Jesus Christ
- (I Peter 1:8,9) The Salvation of Your Souls
- (I Peter 1:10-12) The Prophets Served You
- (I Peter 1:13-16) Results of Salvation
- (I Peter 1:17-19) Conduct Yourselves in Fear
- (I Peter 1:18,19) A New Way of Life
- (I Peter 1:20,21) Your Faith and Hope Are in God
- (I Peter 1:22) Obedience to The Truth
- (I Peter 1:22,23) Fervently Love One Another
- (I Peter 1:23) You Have Been Born Again of Imperishable Seed
- (I Peter 1:24,25) The Word of the Lord Abides Forever
I Peter Chapter 2
- (I Peter 2:1-3) Long for the Pure Milk of the Word
- (I Peter 2:4,5) Living Stones
- (I Peter 2:5) A Spiritual Priesthood
- (I Peter 2:5) The Service of the Spiritual Priesthood
- (I Peter 2:6-8) The Precious Stone or the Rock of Offense
- (1 Peter 2:9) Proclaiming Gods Excellencies
- (I Peter 2:9) Darkness to Light
- (I Peter 2:10) The People of God
- (I Peter 2:11,12) The Conduct of Strangers and Aliens
- (I Peter 2:13,14) For the Punishment of Evildoers
- (I Peter 2:13-15) For the Lords Sake
- (I Peter 2:16) Act as Free Men
- (I Peter 2:17) True Nobility
- (I Peter 2:18) With all Respect
- (I Peter 2:19-21) Heavenly Credit
- (I Peter 2:20,21) In His Steps
- (I Peter 2:21-23) Christ the Righteous Example
- (I Peter 2:21-23) Trusting the Father
- (I Peter 2:24,25) Jesus Himself Bore Our Sins
- (I Peter 2:21) In The Same Way, You Wives
I Peter Chapter 3
- (I Peter 3:1,2) In The Same Way, You Wives
- (I Peter 3:3,4)The Hidden Person of the Heart
- (I Peter 3:5,6) Old Time Women
- (I Peter 3:7) You Husbands
- (I Peter 3:8,9) Lets All Be Harmonious
- (I Peter 3:8,9)"Dont Get Even; Get Ahead"
- (I Peter 3:9) Inherit A Blessing
- (I Peter 3:10-12) A Thousand Sacred Sweets
- (I Peter 3:12) The Face of the Lord
- (I Peter 3:13-15) Even If You Should Suffer
- (I Peter 3:15-17) A Checklist for the Suffering
- (I Peter 3:17) Suffer for Doing what is Right
- (I Peter 3:18) Christ Also Died
- (I Peter 3:18) Made Alive in the Spirit
- (I Peter 3:18) Spirits in Prison
- (I Peter 3:18-20) In the Spirit He Made Proclamation
- (I Peter 3:19,20) The Patience of God
- (I Peter 3:20) Immersion Now Saves You
- (I Peter 3:21) Appeal to God For A Good Conscience
- (I Peter 3:21,22) The Appeals Process
- (I Peter 3:21) Immersion Saves Through The Resurrection
- (I Peter 3:22) Who Is This Jesus?
I Peter Chapter 4
- (I Peter 4:1,2) Arm Yourselves For This Purpose
- (I Peter 4:1,2) Suffering And Sin
- (I Peter 4:3-5) The Desire of the Gentiles
- (I Peter 4:5,6) The Quick and the Dead
- (I Peter 4:6) That They May Live
- (I Peter 4:8) The End of All Things
- (I Peter 4:11) Glory and Dominion
- (I Peter 4:12,13) Do Not Be Surprised At The Fiery Ordeal
- (I Peter 4:14) The Spirit Rests On You
- (I Peter 4:15,16) Suffering As A Christian
- (I Peter 4:16) The Name Christian
- (I Peter 4:16-18) The Judgment of God
- (I Peter 4:17) Obeying the Gospel of God
- (I Peter 4:19) Entrust Your Soul
I Peter Chapter 5
- (I Peter 5:1,2) The Need For Leadership
- (I Peter 5:2) Shepherd the Flock of God
- (I Peter 5:2,3) The Motive of Elders
- (I Peter 5:5) Clothed With Humility
- (I Peter 5:6,7) Under the Mighty Hand of God
- (I Peter 5:8,9) Your Adversary, The Lion
- (I Peter 5:10,11) What God Can Do
- (I Peter 5:12-14) It Is Written
- (I Peter 5:12) The True Grace of God
- (I Peter 5:12) Stand Firm
- (I Peter 5:13,14) Greetings!
- (I Peter 5:14) Peace In Christ
The Scattered Aliens
Oh, how the early church suffered. Those early Christians were whipped, scourged, and mocked by the Jews. Thrown out of synagogues, removed from their native society; their blood stained stones which hastened their exit from this world. Later the Roman Empire began its persecution, and our brothers fled to the refuge of the catacombs, or died on martyrs stakes. Yes, they suffered. And to a portion of this suffering first century church, the apostle Peter writes:
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia ..." (I Peter 1:1). What a mournful picture this creates, "scattered aliens." Yet this is inspired terminology for the first century church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and each of these terms has a meaning which the twentieth century church would do well to consider.
The twentieth century believer needs to recognize that he also is an alien. If he doesnt feel like an alien, he is too much at home in the world and is in need of a deeper desire to be a friend of God, which will make this world his enemy.
And each twentieth century
Christian needs to be a spreader of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
and willing to "scatter" to accomplish that great and
The Choice of God
Brave men. The best men. Choice men! "Out of all these people 700 choice men were left handed each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss." (Judges 20:16). Brave men. The best men. Choice men. Chosen from the ranks.
Thats what Christians are: Choice men, chosen from the best the world has to offer. To certain of these, those in the Roman provinces of Pontus, Galitia, Cappadocia. and Bithynia, the venerable apostle Peter writes: "who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure." (I Peter 1:1,2)
The scattered aliens suffered in
the first century. But they suffered in confidence, aware of the
full grace and peace of God. They knew they were choice men in
the Lord, called according to His infinite knowledge.
Obedience and Sanctification
1500 years of Old Testament sacrifices prepared the nation of Israel - and through them, all mankind - for the one-time offering of Jesus Christ. The blood of countless sacrifices was sprinkled around the altar, which sat in front of the temple in Jerusalem, and the blood of hundreds of calves and goats was sprinkled on the mercy seat in the most holy place. Sprinkled blood, splattered all over those lustrous altars.
Furthermore, the old covenant itself was inaugurated with sprinkled blood, as the writer of Hebrews attests: "For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you. And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood." (Hebrews 9:19-21).
This literal sprinkling of literal blood set the stage for the spiritual - the real and true "sprinkling" of Jesus blood. After Jesus died on Golgotha, His blood was physically shed. But while the blood of His flesh soaked into the ground, His "spiritual blood" - His true blood - was now available for spiritual cleansing. Thus, Jesus entered a spiritual, non-physical tabernacle - "not of this creation" (Hebrews 9:11) - with His spiritual, non-physical blood. And as those vessels of the first covenant were sanctified by sprinkled, physical blood, so the spiritual things - the church and heaven - are sanctified by Jesus sprinkled spiritual blood. "Therefore it was necessary for the copies [the physical tabernacle and its implements] of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves [the church and heaven] with better sacrifices [the sprinkled spiritual blood of Christ] than these." (Hebrews 9:23).
The One who makes the "spiritual blood" operative in the "spiritual covenant" is the Holy Spirit. Under the physical covenant, "the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled" sanctified for the cleansing of the flesh. But because the new covenant is spiritual, the Holy Spirit performs the unseen, non-physical actions. Thus Christ Himself was sanctified by the Holy Spirit - "who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God". The sanctification afforded under the new covenant is when that same eternal Spirit sprinkles the spiritual blood of Christ on the heart of the believer. In immersion, then, "our hearts [are] sprinkled clean from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22).
Peter, with all this in mind, greets the brethren in what is now northern and western Turkey, "who are chosen ... by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood." (I Peter 1:2).
In immersion a person:
Born Again to a Living Hope
If you were to turn your radio dial to one of the "religious broadcasting stations", you would hear "born again, born again, born again." And not one in a thousand of those on radio, or on TV for that matter, will teach what the inspired word of God says about being "born again." The anathemas of God will ring down upon their heads.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," says Peter "who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (I Peter 1:3). So, scripturally, how is one born again? Do we find anyone in the inspired record kneeling down and "inviting Jesus" into his heart? Do we find the apostles preaching that their hearers need to pray for Jesus to come in and take control of their lives?
A person can only be "born
again" as he in repentance is immersed in water by the
authority of Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins, and to
receive the indwelling Spirit. Peter, who first spoke this truth,
emphasized it in opening his first epistle. The Father, he said,
"caused us to be born again to a living hope through the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
An Unfading Inheritance
In earthly terms, it makes a difference what family you are born into. Before modern tax codes went into effect, a man could pass his farm or his business on to his son or daughter, as it is written, "House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers." (Proverbs 19:14). Thus, what an honor it would be to be part of the family of God, to have Him as a Father, and what a glorious inheritance it would be. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again, to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." (I Peter 1:3,4).
These are not small or insignificant words - we have been born again to obtain an inheritance. Consider some of the qualities of this inheritance, and marvel at its great value:
This is a marvelous inheritance.
God is to be blessed because He gives it to us. God has caused us
to be born again that we may obtain it. God has implanted a
living hope in our hearts that we may reach it without faltering.
Protected by Gods Power
In the past ages, when God spoke to the fathers in the prophets in many positions and many ways, He demonstrated His power in physical visible ways. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone. He parted the Red Sea. He filled Solomons temple with the cloud. The horses and chariots swung low for Elijah. Even Jesus Himself performed miracles to demonstrate that He was the Son of God, both in the flesh, and in His bodily resurrection from the dead.
But the greatest demonstrations of Gods power were not physical, and were not in any sense visible. In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul spoke of "the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe." (Ephesians 1:19). This power, said he, is "in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ,"
Note that no one actually saw Jesus rise from the dead. He was seen after His resurrection, but the actual demonstration of the power, which raised Jesus was invisible. Similarly, the apostles saw Jesus lifted off the earth and received by a cloud, but His actual ascension to the throne was not and could not be seen with the physical eye. The two greatest demonstrations of Gods power can be perceived only by the eye of faith.
When we were immersed into Christ and turned to the Lord, that same great power was exerted. Again Paul, speaking this time to the Colossians, says that we have "been buried with Him [Christ] in immersion, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working God, who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:12). In this way Christians are raised up with Christ and seated with Him on the throne (Ephesians 2:6); and the same non-visible power exerted in Christs resurrection and ascension was exerted when we were born from above. But for that power to be operative, we must have faith - we must have the mental picture of Christ risen and ascended - in Gods working, when we obey Him in immersion.
Gods great power operated in raising Christ and seating Him on the throne. His great power functioned in raising us individually from the dead and seating us (by faith) with Christ. But that same awesome power continues to infuse the brother who truly walks by faith who truly continues to hold before him the image of Christ in glory. "I pray," said Paul, "that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know...what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe." (Ephesians 1:18, l 9). This power is not visible, that is why Paul prayed that our spiritual eyes might be opened.
This power, then, is:
This is what Peter had in mind
when he wrote to those first century Christians who were to
receive the unfading inheritance, "who are protected by the
power of God." (I Peter 1:5).
A Salvation Revealed in the Last Time
When the word salvation is mentioned there is a tendency among brethren to think of salvation of the soul. But when the apostle Peter speaks of "a salvation ready to be revealed at the last time." (I Peter 1:5), there is more involved. Salvation, and its synonyms, redemption and deliverance, have actually had increasing meaning attached to them by God.
Blessed indeed, then, is the child
of God who is "protected by the power of God through faith
for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." Keep
Joy In Trials
This very title sounds as if it had been lifted from the well-known passage in James: "Consider it all joy, my brethren," he said, "when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." (James 1:3). But it actually comes from I Peter: "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (I Peter 1:6,7).
God expects the Christian not only to endure trial, but to "greatly rejoice" during these distresses. To be able to have such joy generally requires an attitude adjustment on our part. And to make such an attitude adjustment on our part requires some very good reasons as to why we should make this alteration.
If the Christian can refocus his
thoughts during times of distress, returning his mind to these
great and powerful points brought forth by Peter, he will be able
to greatly rejoice. It is imperative that we have joy in living,
that our faith may indeed be found to result in praise and glory
and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. And that, brethren,
is what it is all about.
Praise and Glory and Honor
A Christian greatly rejoices in trials. The reason he does so is that he knows that his faith is like pure gold - it can stand the test of fire, whereas fools gold or false faith withers in the furnace of testing. The child of God who walks in truth welcomes the challenge; knowing the great value of his true faith, he is anxious for this world to see those of false faith falter when they must leave the strutting of the parade ground and face the full fury of combat. The Christian greatly rejoices in trials.
Another reason the Christian rejoices in trial is that the genuineness of his faith - refined through testing - will be "found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (I Peter 1:7). The brother of Christ who has the proper attitude about his life wants everything he does to glorify God, so it is the highest possible source of joy for him to know that his tested faith gives praise and honor and glory to the Almighty, and that these are mutually returned to him at the Lord second coming.
Praise and glory and honor rise to
God when the Christian perseveres in joy. And praise and honor
and glory are granted to the faithful brother at Christs
return. It is worth "going for." "Just do
The Revelation of Jesus Christ
The positive results of our faith according to Peter will be praise and glory and honor "at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:7). Jesus is hidden now from the view of mans eye; He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, "who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see" (I Timothy 6:16). But someday soon He is going to be revealed, and when He is, the following events will occur:
But those of us who walk by faith
through the fires of earthly trial find praise and glory and
honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. "Though you have
not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now,
but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible
and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the
salvation of your souls" (I Peter 1:8,9). It is worth
whatever a man must go through to have that happy outcome at the
revelation of Jesus Christ.
The Salvation of Your Souls
Jesus asked two great questions: "For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26)? These questions simply point out the great value of each persons soul, and correspondingly the great value of those spiritual truths connected with the salvation of each soul.
When we see all that God has done
to save us, it should produce a corresponding vibration within us
to be saved. The words of Peter, addressed to those of us whose
faith is being tested, are thus very encouraging. Focusing our
attention on Jesus and what He has done to carry us through, he
writes: "You greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full
of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of
your souls" (I Peter 1:8,9).
The Prophets Served You
It has been well-said that redemptions song is one the angels cannot sing. Of all Gods creatures, man and man alone is in need of and the recipient of salvation. Of this great salvation Peter writes: "As to this salvation the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things into which angels long to look" (I Peter 1:10-12).
These points stand out:
To the only wise God and King
eternal we offer praise and thanksgiving for having revealed to
us His great salvation and for the Spirit-inspired gospel which
has been preached to us from the pages of His holy word.
Results of Salvation
Since you are the possessor of salvation what should you be doing? The apostle Peter, having emphasized, in a multitude of ways the greatness of this salvation, begins a list with the word therefore. The Holy Spirit then working through Peter, has drawn some conclusions for us. He says, "Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober [in spirit], fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written You shall by holy, for I am Holy;" (I Peter 1:13-16).
Let us carefully consider these items which the Holy Spirit has noted:
Having been regenerated in the
waters of immersion, and having had his sins washed away therein
through the blood of Christ, the child of God is ready to follow
the instructions of the Holy Spirit in grateful obedience.
Because he has fixed his hope on Jesus return, he willingly
tackles any challenge this life has to offer. Is this what
salvation has produced in you?
Conduct Yourselves in Fear
Conduct has to do with how a person carries himself, his manners, his deportment. Most people tend to act differently in the enclosure of their back yards than they do at formal weddings. The individuals conduct varies according to the circumstance and to the others the human being perceives to be present. Peter draws on this characteristic to exhort the disciples of Christ to be holy in all their behavior: "And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each mans work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay [on earth]; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (I Peter 1:17-19). These points are worthy of consideration:
Each Christian needs to remember
just how valuable and important he is; knowing the great value of
Gods sacrifice for him, and knowing that the Father is now
carefully watching him, the child of God needs to conduct himself
in fear, so that the Father will applaud his performance, instead
of frowning in disapproving judgment.
A New Way of Life
At the Wilson household, there are some things we just dont do. We dont, for example, use "cuss words." And if one of the smaller children uses a word be picked up from somewhere, we explain, "We dont use words like that at our house. Its not our way of life." On the positive side, there are some things we always do. We always pray before every meal. We explain, "At our house, we always pray before we eat. Its our way of life."
In the good old U.S. of A., people can choose their life-styles; they can easily choose their way of life. They can follow "the American dream," pursuing thick steaks, soft beds, and back yard swimming pools. The question is, is their choice of life-style in harmony with Gods word?
Every society in the history of man has essentially chosen to go their own way. They refused to have God in their knowledge any longer; "they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (Romans 1:21). Thus plunged into darkness, they easily became materialists, and set the value of silver and gold above things in the spiritual realm. Peter works on placing the value of the spiritual above the material: "You were not redeemed with perishible things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (I Peter 1:18,19).
The Christian needs to recognize that the value system of his forefathers was futile. In becoming a child of God, he becomes a part of the household of God; and in this way of life, there are certain things we do in this house, and there are certain things we dont do in this house.
The obedient children of God live
holy lives. They have a new way of life they learned from Jesus,
and have set aside the futile value system and way of life
inherited from fleshly forefathers.
Your Faith and Hope Are in God
Satan is at work. The subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle pulls of this world tug away at the heart of the believer. The child of God, then, wants to "fix [his] hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:13). No longer ignorant, he is to be holy as his heavenly Father is holy, knowing that he was set free from Satans snare and brought into a new way of life by the precious blood of the very Lamb of God Himself. When each Christian understands how important he is to the Father, and the commitment the Son made on his behalf, he will be renewed in the spirit of his mind, and be moved to continually upgrade his performance.
Peter throws in another reminder: "For He [Christ] was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God" (I Peter 1:20,21).
God has done great things for the
sake of those who will believe in Him through Jesus Christ, whom
He raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of power.
Let us respond to Gods offering by having faith and hope in
Him, and in being holy as He is holy.
Obedience to the Truth
The word of God is very concerned about truth. Luke opened his gospel account with these words: "It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:3,4). Jesus Himself was "the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). And the aged John would write, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth" (III John 4). And this is important truth: where a man spends eternity rests on this truth.
But why this emphasis in the word of God on truth? "Because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). "For many walk, of whom I often told you," intoned Paul, "and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18). There are those who will lie to others - deceiving and being deceived themselves - about the truth of the word of God. In fact, there are so many false prophets pointing people down the broad way that leads to destruction that few find the narrow way which leads to eternal life.
So Peter would write: "Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls " (I Peter 1:22). There are some important points connected with Peters statement.
There is only one way of salvation revealed in the pages of the word of God. Uniformly, the following occurred:
Any other means men might propose
are lies. Those who would speak of sins forgiven in sprinkling,
or in "accepting Jesus into your heart" are false
prophets, and those who listen to them still have unpurified
souls. Purify your souls in obedience to the truth!
Fervently Love One Another
Love and truth go together. In our society, there is a counter tendency, however, to say that: if you love someone, you do not tell them the truth (specifically, "unpleasant truth"). But people make life decisions on what they perceive to be truth. And if a person does not know the truth, he is going to make the wrong decision. Thats why in the Bible, love and truth go together. "But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). "Love ... does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth" (I Corinthians 13:6). And to our passage from I Peter, "Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again " (I Peter 1:22,23).
The following points should be considered:
Have you personally followed up on
this reason for your purification? Were you immersed into Christ
expecting some sort of "fire insurance," and continued
living the same uninvolved, selfish life? Re-read this section of
the word of God, and with fervor, throw yourself into the
activities of the church of the living God.
You Have Been Born Again of Imperishable Seed
"Born again" is one of those phrases which has been used so much and so badly that it has lost much of its meaning. But Biblical being "born again" is such a powerful concept that we must not let its hackneyed use in the world strip from our sensibilities its wondrous scope and application. "You have been born again," Peter reminds us, "not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God" (I Peter 1:23).
Praise God for His imperishable
seed! "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by
the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the
first fruits among His creatures" (James 1:18). And what a
powerful and permanent birth this is in contrast to the
transitory nature of birth in the flesh. We have been born again
"through the living and abiding word of
The Word of the Lord Abides Forever
Its party time! A son has been born in the big house, ensuring the continuation of the lineage, and that there is an heir to the property. Joy in fleshly birth. Joy in the birth of another who bears the image of Adam. But what kind of birth is this in comparison to spiritual birth? What kind of birth is this which imparts the image of Adam in comparison to a birth which "stamps" the image of Christ - "second Adam from above" in its place? (See I Corinthians 15:44-49.) What kind of birth is this from "perishable" seed as contrasted to that which is from "imperishable" seed?
ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS,
AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS;
THE GRASS WITHERS,
AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,
BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ABIDES FOREVER.
And this is the word which was preached to you" (I Peter 1:24,25)
"And this is the word which
was preached to you." You who have heard and obeyed the real
truth of the gospel need to fall on your knees and praise Him for
the grace, which brought His eternal word and eternal life to
Long for the Pure Milk of the Word
The fleshly man has a hard time grasping the importance of the eternal. While he may pay lip service to the pull of the upward call of God, his life testifies that things of the flesh and glories of the flesh are more important to him, where he and his family spend their time and their money - particularly when it comes to choosing between two immediate alternatives - is a good indication.
But the word of our Lord, which has been preached to us, abides forever, and eternity entreats us to lay aside the pettiness connected with an earth-life mentality. "Therefore putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect for salvation if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord" (I Peter 2:1-3).
These characteristics of the flesh need to be put aside. They are all the result of a short-term mind set, and emphasis on the flesh or the glory of flesh. Instead of these, the child of God is to:
But the apostle is careful to put
out a warning, a challenge. "If you have tasted the kindness
of the Lord," he says, each person needs to stop and
carefully consider his salvation. He needs to test himself and
examine himself to see if he is in the faith (II Corinthians 13:5). If then
we have tasted of the kindness of the lord, it should be
evidenced in our putting aside the malice and related weaknesses
of the flesh, and longing for the pure milk of Gods word.
How do you stack up?
Just the other evening while driving down the interstate, I was awestruck by the appearance of two complete, full-span rainbows. The light of the late August afternoon was just right; the burnt out grasses of the summer were a warming gold, the alfalfa fields and trees lush green, and the brilliant pillars of the inner rainbow seemed to vibrantly beckon the viewer into the very courts of heaven as they gently floated over the peaceful mountain valley.
But how much more splendor does our Lord Jesus possess! The brilliance of His majesty, the vibrancy of the life which is found in Him, and the peace which flows from the kindness of His mercy produce a sense of awe and reverence in the spiritual believer, which the most majestic of earthly rainbows could not touch. In this mood, awe and wonderment, our stranger and pilgrim upon the earth peers tremblingly through the pillars of heaven to Him who sits upon the throne, who suffered on this pilgrims behalf, and who rose to glory to justify this same pilgrim. "And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:4,5).
This spiritual building - this
living temple for the habitation of the living God - is formed
from the finest construction materials available. The cornerstone
is the choice and precious Son of God Himself, but the rest of
the building consists of us as Christians. Each of us must
recognize our great worth, and praise God that He brought us
forth from death to be living stones in this permanent and
A Spiritual Priesthood
Day after day those priests stood, clad in special priestly garb offering sacrifices at the altar in front of the temple. A lamb for the morning oblation, a lamb for the evening oblation, wave offerings, heave offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings, grain offerings, sin offerings, new moons, festivals, Sabbaths - all these were observed in tiring round after round. But did those sacrifices take away sins? No! "But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year after year" (Hebrews 10:3). The yoke of the law produced the consciousness of the weight of sin, which lays broadly across every man and womans back.
But - praise God - He sent Jesus as the perfect one-time offering for all. "Sacrifice and offering You have not desired," it was prophesied as words of the Christ, "but a body You have prepared for Me" (Hebrews 10:5). "By this will [established at the death of Christ] we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10).
This offering of Christ produced true forgiveness of sin, and provided the great transition from the physical realm to the spiritual realm. Note carefully the inspired words from the pen of Hebrews author: "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:11,12). Jesus shed His blood physically upon the ground, but the blood, which He offered in the true holy place, heaven, was spiritual blood! And we, brethren, "have confidence to enter the holy place [spiritual] by the blood [spiritual] of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh" (Hebrews 10:19,20).
In this new and living way, called Christianity, each child of God is a priest. "You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood" (I Peter 2:5). But do we offer up the fat of rams, or trample the courts? Note that the "house" in which the believers function is a "spiritual house." Those who have turned to the Lord "offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:5).
What a superior system to that of the old and imperfect covenant! Those sacrifices could never make the one who served perfect in conscience. But in the new and living way, through the living and abiding word of God, we come to a living Stone, being living stones ourselves, offering up spiritual sacrifices as spiritual priests.
So, my priestly friend, how
spiritual are you, really? Do you really offer those sacrifices
of praise? Do you really do good and share? Is all you do done in
service to the Lord Jesus? There are no unspiritual priests in
The Service of the Spiritual Priesthood
Two words are important: worship and service. Old covenant worship was in Jerusalem, and occurred when the non-priest presented himself to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem. Old covenant service was the activity of the priest in presenting offerings and sacrifices to the Lord. Hence the people of Israel collectively worshipped and served God. And if the hearts of the worshipers were not right, then the offering of sacrifices was in vain (see Isaiah 1). Acceptable service thus flows from worship.
But worship under the new covenant is not in Jerusalem, nor in any other physical location - it is internal; it is in Spirit and in truth (John 4:20-24). Just as old covenant service of the priests flowed from the worship of the people, new covenant service is derived from new covenant worship. Rather than flowing from people to priest, new covenant worship moves from external to internal. Worship is in spirit; in service the body is offered as a living and holy sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Worship is the internal devotion of the individual; service is the outward expression of that which flows from within. If the heart is not right, then that which is offered externally is in vain. "To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15).
Let us consider, then, five acts of service - spiritual sacrifices of a spiritual priesthood, which are misnamed worship in denominational, unscriptural terminology
Worshipping in spirit and truth -
internally and continually - results in spiritual service -
external actions - from a spiritual priesthood. This is what is
acceptable to God. "You also as living stones are being
built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up
spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ"
(I Peter 2:5).
The Precious Stone or the Rock of Offense
Children of God are to come to Christ as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God" (I Peter 2:4). In Gods blueprint, drafted in the writings of the Old Testament, plans for a spiritual building were detailed, including the laying of a valuable cornerstone. In Gods way of doing things, this is an important point.
"For this is contained in Scripture: Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed" (Isaiah 28:16).
This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very cornerstone (Psalm 118:22), and A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense (Isaiah 8:14), for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed" (I Peter 2:6-8).
Do you believe, or do you
disbelieve? The precious value is for you if you believe. But if
you disbelieve, demonstrated by your disobedience to the word,
you are headed toward your appointed doom.
Proclaiming Gods Excellencies
What does God really want from man? This by the way, is a very important question. Man, interested in buying and selling, eating and drinking, planting and building, marrying and giving in marriage tends to ask about what man really wants from God. But man needs to remember that he is the created, not the Creator, and that the clay is to serve the potters purpose. "For by [Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth. visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created by Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16).
God has sent forth His Son into the world to select out of this world those of a true and honest heart. As the living Stone, Christ became neither the choice and precious cornerstone for those who would believe, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense for those who are disobedient to the word, whose end is according to their deeds. "But you," says Peter to those first century brethren, "are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for Gods own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" ( I Peter 2:9).
Note then what God has done for those who turn to Him. He has made us:
But for what purpose has all this
been done? Listen carefully to these words: "that you may
proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light." So how is the proclaiming going?
Darkness to Light
This is the great summary statement of the Bible "God is light" (I John 1:5). Jesus came in the flesh meeting us in the flesh, to raise our spirituality as we follow Him through the cross to His bodily resurrection and His ascension to glory. Jesus in glory is the communication of all there is about God, "the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature" (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus in glory is a bright shining light: "His face was like the sun shining in its strength" (Revelation 1:16). The message of the scripture is "to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6). This is the great summary statement of the Bible: "God is light."
The children of God, then, are appropriately called "children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). These are those who have heard the message of God through Christ, of life "in His Son" (I John 5:11). "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it" (John 1:4,5). Children of light have comprehended "the whole message of this life" (Acts 5:20).
We, by faith in the Son of God, in being immersed into the family name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, "are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for Gods own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (I Peter 2:9). This is the great summary statement of the Bible: "God is light." And this concept of from darkness to light is the great underlying theme of the Bible.
We have been set aside also to
proclaim the excellencies of this One who called us out of
darkness into this marvelous, marvelous light! Again we ask, how
is the proclaiming going?
The People of God
It is not always so easy to see things as they ought to be seen. One of Satans techniques is to make the insignificant seem important, and to devalue that which is of great importance. In worldly terms, it is comparatively easy to understand what it means to be a nobody, and suddenly become somebody - the "rags to riches" story. But to be anybody spiritually, and to suddenly, by Gods power, become a somebody spiritually - the world shrugs its shoulders and says, "Who cares?"
But those who have eyes to see and who have ears to hear know. They not only understand, but they go a step further and proclaim the excellencies of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. In praise and thanksgiving they appreciate the power and care of the heavenly Father, "for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (I Peter 2:10).
Proclaim His excellencies!
Proclaim His excellencies! Fill the earth with the news of His
love and mercy!
The Conduct of Strangers and Aliens
So Christians are the people of God. They are a separate and distinct race, separated from the world, separated in a sense from the sons of men. Not of this world, we are exhorted by Peter: "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God on the day of visitation" (I Peter 2:11,12).
What follows from this in Peter's first epistle essentially are specific instructions on what to do in keeping our behavior excellent among the Gentiles. But there are some key points in this launching pad for the missiles to follow:
Remember the urging of the Holy
Spirit to upgrade our behavior. Keep your behavior excellent
among the Gentiles. Conduct yourselves as sons of God, as
strangers and aliens on earth.
For the Punishment of Evildoers
God did not intend for the Bible to be stuck in a glass showcase. The word of God is not to be boxed up in storage, brought out only for special occasions. The teachings about righteousness, sin, and the judgment to come are not to be heard only by a select few in weekly meetings. On the contrary, "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3). In this gift of the revelation of Gods will, we hold the key to understanding everything about life. Life, among other things, includes teaching governments how they ought to govern.
"The manifold wisdom of God," says Paul, "might now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 3:10). Gods wisdom is not limited to the basics of salvation; His wisdom is manifold, multi-faceted. Furthermore, His wisdom is to be made known to rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. The church is not to be silent; the church is not to content itself with a dialogue among its members. The church is to make the manifold wisdom of God known so well that it reaches even to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This wisdom, among other things, includes teaching governments how they ought to govern.
Children of God, then, are to submit "to a king, as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right" (I Peter 2:13,14). The following points are worthy of consideration:
Government is by Gods design
a minister of justice. In the manifold wisdom of God, the church
is to make this known throughout the world. This teaching,
accompanied with prayers, entreaties, and petitions, will do what
can be done "for kings and all who are in authority, in
order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness
and dignity" (I Timothy 2:2).
For the Lords Sake
In the Lords way of doing things, there is no such things as submission to God apart from submission to other people. "The Son of man did not come to be served," said the Lord Himself, "but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). And "be subject to one another in the fear of Christ" (Ephesians 5:21).
So, under the general heading of keeping our behavior excellent among the Gentiles, we are not surprised to find these words from Peter: "Submit yourselves for the Lords sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men" (I Peter 2:13-15).
It is not easy to know when to
tell people to beware of the leaven of the Herodians, and when to
step out and calmly meet your executioner. It is not easy to know
when to say that we must obey God rather than men, or to appeal
to Caesar, or to joyfully accept the seizure of our property.
Prayer for wisdom must be made in each case, and in all humility
we must act properly for the Lards sake.
Act as Free Men
These great words from Patrick Henry ring yet in our ears: "Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of freedom? Forbid it, Almighty God I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" There beats within the breast of each man a desire for freedom, a desire to function without oppression, to build, to dream, to accomplish, to profit. And a deep desire to follow the will of God. Though humanism may rot the core of the human race, though false religion may misdirect mens efforts and moralities, though creeping socialism may weaken a people and make them increasingly dependent upon a paternal central government, and though the jackboot may break the faces of those unwilling to yield to tyrannys more subtle pressures, there are always those who have the inner desire to be responsibly free.
But what is this political freedom in comparison to the spiritual freedom of those found in Christ? In Gods way of doing things, those blessings which accrue to us in the physical realm are designed to serve as pointers for the blessings which we receive in Christ. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).
Knowing this, the words of Peter have more impact: "Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God" (I Peter 2:16).
Free men are energized and
enthusiastic. They act with intelligence and initiative. They
have goals and hopes and dreams. They are responsible and
righteous; they are charitable and compassionate. Act as free
The child of God is really not of this world. He has been crucified to the world, and the world to him. He has set his sights on things in the heavenly places rather than on things of this earth; his citizenship is in heaven. Because of his noble-mindedness, he is not in competition with those who are still thoroughly suffused with Adams stamp, and he can conduct himself with something that might be called a spiritual noblesse oblige. To this special group of people, this royal priesthood, the Holy Spirit has given instructions how to carry ourselves while on official business among the worlds peoples: "Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king" (I Peter 2:17).
Praise God for choosing us to carry out His mission! Praise Him for giving us instructions as how to carry on. Praise Him for causing us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection from the dead, that we might act with the noblesse oblige befitting those who truly are children of the King!
noblesse oblige - (French)
With all Respect
If you seriously intend to win anyone to the Lord, you must be a good example. The thrust of this section of I Peter is taken from the statement that each child of God is to keep his "behavior excellent among the Gentiles" (I Peter 2:12). It is for that reason the Christian honors the king and honors all men.
The thought continues: "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable" (I Peter 2:18). One of those men who is to be honored is a master.
One of the more difficult tasks for denizens of earths spiritual deserts is to be submissive. Mans nature, taken from our first father, Adam, is rebellious. God commanded: Adam rebelled. And those who have borne Adams image have long since continued to kick and kick and kick against legitimately established authority. Compounding the problems that those who now stand in positions of earthly authority are less than perfect themselves, and often have reached for power because they are inwardly tyrants.
In one of the great paradoxes of Gods way of doing things, the way He appealed to the hearts of men was to become a servant Himself. Thus it was that our Lord Jesus Himself "took the form of a bond-servant" (Philippians 2:7). If the Christ, then, who did not come to be served but to serve, should become a bond-servant, how much more should we.
In a world of rebellion and
complaining, one who performs his tasks with efficiency,
effectiveness, and respect is a rare individual. He stands out as
a light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. As our
Lord Himself said, "Let your light shine before men in such
a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father
who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
The life of a servant could he hard. Think of the indentured servants who came to America, working seven years for who knows what kind of master, until they could earn their freedom. Think of a kitchen servant in a lords house, or a servant man constantly having to put up with one of the kings musketeers. Yet as Christians, those who thus served were to be submissive and respectful to the unreasonable as well as the good and gentle for the Lords sake. "For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps" (I Peter 2:19-21).
God has placed each of us in the
body just as He desired (I Corinthians 12:18). Some of us may be
placed as servants or slaves, and may receive extremely unjust
treatment at the hands of earthly masters. Let us bear up and
endure patiently, for this finds heavenly favor.
In His Steps
So you are a Christian. You have been born again to a living hope by your participation in Jesus death, burial, and resurrection when you were immersed by His authority for the remission of your sins. You have joyfully entered into what the word of God calls "the new and living way which He inaugurated for us" through His death. So what is your purpose as a Christian? So what do we all have in common as partakers of the Holy Spirit in truth? Suffering!
This is one of the truths of scriptural Christianity - suffering! It contrasts greatly with much of the lying propaganda being shoved at the masses by what can best he described as televangelists, clever wolves in sheeps clothing. Titles such as Jesus Wants You Well, and How to make the Lords Blessings Work For You abound. But if you will only turn the pages of Gods word, and leaf through until you locate I Peter, here you will find your true purpose in life: "But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps" (I Peter 2:20,21).
Brother or sister in Christ, do
what is right, and do not run from the suffering which comes with
it. The beloved apostle Paul spoke of his purpose in life:
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my
flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church)
in filling up that which is lacking in Christs
afflictions" (Colossians 1:24). He also
spoke of his earnest desire to know Christ, "and the power
of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being
conformed to His death" (Philippians 3:10). Let us arm
ourselves for this purpose.
Christ the Righteous Example
This is the age of the anti-hero. Satanic rock musicians, morally bankrupt movie stars, and HIV infected sports figures are passed before the American public in an endless parade, creating the impression that this is the best the world has to offer. But meet Jesus Christ, a true hero, a man who performed righteously under the most rigorous pressures, who delivered the goods when crunch-time came.
"Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (I Peter 2:21-23). Just words on paper? Try any one of these on for size:
Jesus Christ is the ultimate hero.
His performance is so far above any other individuals that
it is hard to grasp really how great He is. But His righteous
example stands before us challenging us in a positive way,
encouraging us through our trials and difficulties letting us
know that we too can entrust ourselves to Him who judges
Trusting the Father
Be honest now! Do you really have no fear of death? Do you have no concerns about sickness, or plagues? Are you ever anxious about your family, or the economic condition of the country? Be honest now.
Jesus Christ came as an example for us. He suffered, so that we might know that it is necessary for us to suffer also. When He was reviled, He did not revile; when suffering, He uttered no threats; and He did so that we might through Him learn a very important lesson. And that lesson is that we can trust the Father.
Pay attention again to these words: "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (I Peter 2:21-23). The key to Jesus outstanding performance is that He trusted the Father.
We need to trust the Father also. But we need to learn the following from Jesus to increase our trust in true ways, and not in psychosomatic "hype":
We can learn to entrust ourselves
to the faithful Creator if we also develop a lifestyle of
reliance on scripture and prayer. But do not wait until the last
moment; it is too late. Just as the Son Himself learned
obedience, you and I learn obedience through the things we
suffer. The time to learn is now not later!
Jesus Himself Bore Our Sins
It is a great and important truth that no man can stand before God and justify himself. The vast multitudes of this earth are going to chance it," they say. What a horrible gamble to take, especially when the outcome is known. "Now we know that whatever the Law says," the apostle Paul informs us "it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God" (Romans 3:19).
Sin is a reality. It cant be measured, or boxed up and stored away. But it is real, none the less, and greatly affects every human being gracing earths surface. Through sin, each man becomes accountable to God, "Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). Again, as the apostle speaks in another place: "But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe" (Galatians 3:22).
To Jesus we must turn. Without Him we have no hope of heaven. Without Him we have no opportunity to stand justified on Judgment Day. But, praise God, "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls" (I Peter 2:24,25).
- Believe the testimony of scripture concerning Jesus (Acts 16:31)
- Repent (Acts 2:38)
- Confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9,10)
- Be immersed for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16)
Jesus bore your sins in His body
on the cross. Do not neglect to obey His gospel, and to continue
to follow Him by functioning in His church.
In The Same Way, You Wives
Suffering, unfortunately, is a part of life this side of glory. We have, said Peter, "been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example to follow in His steps" (I Peter 2:21). Servants then, were to patiently endure suffering from an unreasonable master, and this patient endurance finds favor with God.
In that setting, the Holy Spirit of God speaks to wives: "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior" (I Peter 3:1,2). Wives are to be submissive to their husbands, and in this submission there can be a number of sources of suffering
In life there are more sources of suffering by far than the three listed above, but these three are common. Many a young woman has had difficulty adjusting to married life because it requires patient endurance; it requires physical, mental, and spiritual toughness which many women did not develop in their formative years because they grew up in too soft a lifestyle. And while they are developing the qualities of chaste and respectful behavior under the headship of their husbands, they suffer.
But... let them not become embittered in their suffering. Men suffer also, but in different ways. Suffering is a major part of earthly existence. Christ suffered also, and we have been called for this purpose.
Let us move forward in joy, in
hope of our resurrection from the dead, and understanding what
life with one another is in Christ.
The Hidden Person of the Heart
The all-wise and all-knowing heavenly Father surely knew what He was doing when He made us male and female. In the home, in the work place, and in the church of the living God, theres a challenging vitality in the complementary roles of masculine and feminine which God has injected into our living and being. If man is the head, certainly woman is the heart.
So women received some special instructions, as those who are to exhibit chaste and respectful behavior toward their husbands: "And let not your adornment be external - braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God" (I Peter 3:3,4).
So, ladies, quit worrying so much
about your makeup, and do a makeover where it counts, in the
hidden person of the heart.
Old Time Women
Having established the proper adornment befitting a lady of spiritual means, the apostle Peter speaks of classy ladies from the old times: "For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear" (I Peter 3:5,6).
Those were quite the ladies in those days when they went shopping, they were looking for good characteristics to add to their character wardrobe. They "hoped in God," you see, and were anxious for their new pieces of clothing to please Him.
Those old time women patiently
endured some rough times and some rough things but their names
went down in the register of Gods hall of fame. Let the new
creation women outshine them, and exceed them all!
All right, you husbands. Sit up and listen. Wives have had six straight verses I leveled at them. You ought to be men enough to take one: "You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered" (I Peter 3:7).
What a verse! This one verse of scripture has done more to truly liberate women than any of the so-called "liberation movements." In this section of scripture, the Holy Spirit establishes the true spiritual equality of the sexes and places woman firmly on her queenly pedestal.
This side of glory, life is a
struggle. "And not only this, but also we ourselves, having
the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within
ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the
redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23). Lets make
the struggle a bit easier and more of a joy by sharing together
as God intended husbands and wives to share.
Lets All Be Harmonious
Wives are to exhibit chaste and respectful behavior. Husbands are to live with their wives in an understanding way. Both are to work on what Peter calls the hidden person of the heart, the inner man (or inner woman, if you prefer). In all the struggle of living, it is the intention of the wise and loving heavenly Father for Christian men and women to enjoy life together, and live in a way which brings glory to the name of Jesus.
"To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing" (I Peter 3:8,9). This summary not only indicates how husbands and wives should conduct themselves, or how various members of individual families or of the body of Christ should behave toward one another, but it really shows how the child of God should carry on all interpersonal relations - employee-employer, slave-master, student-teacher. "Let all be harmonious," says the Spirit of God.
Sharing is where joy is. Life does
not consist in abundance of possessions, but in honestly shared
relationships. These qualities are worth developing in your home,
church, and other personal contacts. Let all be harmonious.
"Dont Get Even; Get Ahead"
"Dont get even; get ahead!" These words, accompanied by a chuckle, are intended as a spoof on the basic Biblical principle of non-retaliation. But they are true words, if you understand what it really means "to get ahead."
God wants His children - in their families, in their employment, in their recreation, in their assemblies - to live in peace and harmony. "To sum up," says the apostle Peter, "let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing" (I Peter 3:8,9). In Gods paradoxical way of doing things, the way to "get ahead" is to be the kind of person who does not "get even." The way to the resurrection is always through the cross.
It truly is more blessed to give
than to receive. When, in the course of human relationships, it
becomes necessary to take action, let that action be one of
giving a blessing. And when you give a blessing, it comes back
multiplied, and you experience a positive, joy-filled life.
"Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed
down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your
lap. For by your standard of measure it will he measured to you
in return" (Luke 6:38). Give a blessing!
Inherit A Blessing
The message of the New Testament is centered about what it calls the promise. The message of the Old Testament, according to the New Testament, is centered about the mystery. Both the promise and the mystery refer to Christ in the Spirit - Christ in you, the hope of glory; the indwelling Holy Spirit for the Gentiles. Follow us while we attempt, in the short space following, to use this to bring out the grand truth of Peters words; "You were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing" (I Peter 3:9).
Dont read past the
significance of Peters words: "You were called for the
very purpose that you might inherit a blessing." We, as
Abrahams sons and Sarahs daughters, have received the
blessing of Abraham, the promised Holy Spirit.
A Thousand Sacred Sweets
Gods great blessing is His Spirit in the inner man. We, through Christ, have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. And from this spiritual foundation flow multitudes of inner blessings for Gods children during the years of our earthly sojourns. As the songwriter put it, and put it well, "The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets before we reach the heavenly fields, or walk the golden streets."
Listen, then, to the apostle Peter: "Let him who means to love life and see good days refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. And let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil" (I Peter 3:10-12).
The Father in heaven does not want His children to live a life of misery and heartache, a life of back-biting and constant friction. Even though we may be afflicted and ill-treated, dressed in sheepskins and goatskins, living in mountains and caves and holes in the ground, the Almighty has still made provision whereby we might love life and see good days.
There you are: four simple steps
to have the best possible life on earth. Go for it!
The Face of the Lord
There is a smart way to live, and there is a foolish way to live. Peter calls the latter "your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers" (I Peter 1:18). In general, this former way of life consisted of strife, cursings, insults, and general malice tinged with selfishness. But the smart way to live is to be "harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble in spirit." In this way the child of God ends up with the best this life has to offer, and inherits the blessing of the eternal measure of Gods Spirit in glory.
But in order to love life and see good days, each Christian must implement some systematic procedures to control his tongue and direct his body. The Lord offers both a blessing and a curse: "For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil" (I Peter 3:12).
God really stands with those who
are anxious to live harmonious, righteous, brotherly, sympathetic
lives. But the Christian who still insists on the selfish, futile
way of life has an enemy in God. The message is clear: clean up
your life, and God will bless you.
Even If You Should Suffer
One thing each Christian should remember is that he is a bond-servant of God. As a servant by choice, he is willing to be used of God whenever, wherever, and however the Almighty needs him. And sometimes God needs to use one of his bond-servants as a flaming example to the world.
Jesus, for example, told the rebellious city of Jerusalem, "I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth" (Matthew 23:34,35). Yes, Lord, you say, send prophets and wise men to Jerusalem. Have them be persecuted and put to death, that it may be clearly shown that she is guilty of all righteous blood. May Your will be executed, Almighty God.
Then the Lord sends you to Jerusalem as one of those to be put to death. What is your response?
"And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts" (I Peter 3:13-15).
The Father is carefully watching
over His sons and daughters and His ears listen attentively to
their prayers. So who can harm the child of God who does good?
But even if you should suffer, how blessed you are.
A Checklist for the Suffering
The book of I Peter is all about suffering. And its all about maintaining faith and a good attitude when persecution comes. So if you havent suffered, and dont plan to suffer persecution, dont bother to read and study I Peter. But if "perhaps" you may suffer in the future, then consider these words from the apostle:
"And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (I Peter 3:14-16).
This is a Spirit inspired
checklist of how to handle yourself under the suffering of
persecution. Use it over and over, so that when strong
persecution comes, you automatically follow down God's list.
Suffer for Doing what is Right
In spite of what our humanistic "situation-ethicized" generation is subject to, there is still right and wrong. A man who does wrong knows he did wrong; his conscience condemns, regardless of the loudness of his proclaimed innocence.
The Christian is repeatedly warned not to violate his conscience. Keep "faith and a good conscience," Paul told Timothy, "which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith" (I Timothy 1:19). "Keep a good conscience," Peter has warned us, "so that in the thing in which you are slandered those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame" (I Peter 3:16). There is still right and wrong.
"For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong" (I Peter 3:17).
Pain, persecution and passing of
time are hallmarks of earthly existence. Recognize them for the
short-term parameters they are and focus your attention toward
the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who brings His reward with
Christ Also Died
"If then I am a wrongdoer," said Paul, "and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die" (Acts 25:11). Pauls sense of justice allowed him to say that if he were guilty of capital crime, he was worthy of capital punishment. "But," he added, "if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar." Due to vestiges of justice still somewhat present in the Roman system, Pauls appeal to Caesar was granted. But the inspired record shows that Paul received much more injustice from the system than justice.
So how did men like Paul, Peter, and other first century Christians respond to suffering unjustly? They reminded themselves of this great truth: For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (I Peter 3:18).
Christ suffered ignominy in order
to bring us to God. We must take up our crosses daily, and, with
joy, follow Him. He died for sins, once for all.
Made Alive in the Spirit
God injected Jesus into the world to move man from the physical to the spiritual. The gripping story of the life of Christ is designed by the Almighty and Omniscient to rivet mans attention at the cross, to gently draw his vision and interest upward. The result, then, in the language of Paul, is that "we look - not at the things which are seen - but at the things which are unseen" (II Corinthians 4:18).
More details: A spiritual Christ, in one manner of speaking, is of a higher order than a physical Christ. "Though we have known Christ according to the flesh, we know Him thus no longer" (II Corinthians 5:16). "Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God" (Romans 6:9,10). The point of Paul in both epistles is that the resurrected, glorified Christ is in all respects superior to His condition during the years He subjected Himself to an earthly sojourn.
Further weight is added to the significance of Christ in the Spirit by the conclusions Paul applies to us. "Therefore," he says in II Corinthians, "Even so, consider," he says in Romans. Great and powerful applications are derived from the principle that Christ has ceased in the flesh, and has been brought to life in the Spirit. "Therefore," says Paul, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature" (II Corinthians 5:17). Gods creative power, exerted in bringing a totally new creature into existence, is predicated on a Christ who has become spiritual. "Even so, consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). The child of God is to consider himself as already resurrected in Christ, obviously built on the concept of a Christ whose earthly existence has ceased, and who is now the radiance of the Fathers glory.
With this background, Peters words take on greater significance, and serve as a source of encouragement to the sufferer: "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust in order to bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit" (I Peter 3:18).
Rejoice then, you who follow -
suffering - in the footsteps of Christ. You have indeed been born
of the Spirit, born again to a living hope through the
resurrection of Christ from the dead. Christ also suffered and
died for the sake of others, but was made alive by the same
Spirit He has now placed in you as a guarantee of your own
resurrection on the last day.
Spirits in Prison
What happens when you die? Do you rest in peace in the great unknown? As a pre-figure to immersion, Noah and his family were saved from the waters of the Flood, and those who were taken were said to be "spirits in prison." What is this prison, and what happened to Noah?
Noah and his family were delivered
by the ark from this prison. You can be delivered from this
prison yourself by being immersed into the body of Christ, and by
remaining faithful to the Lord. You will be immersed - either in
water voluntarily, or in fire involuntarily. Your choice!
In the Spirit He Made Proclamation
This is one of the most difficult statements in the Bible to honestly understand. Christ was "made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah" (I Peter 3:18-20). Did Jesus actually preach to those who perished in the Noachian Flood after He died and went to Hades? Did He give them a second chance?
The key words here are "made alive in the Spirit," as contrasted to Christs being "put to death in the flesh." The general thrust of the word of God is that Jesus, the revelation of the glory of God, existed in different stages so that the essence of God can be communicated to spiritually interested men.
It was not the Christ who was dead
who made proclamation to the spirits in prison; it was the Christ
who was alive in the Spirit. In Noahs day, He spoke as the
Spirit of Christ in Noah, warning them of the Flood to come.
Today He speaks from heaven through His spirit-inspired word,
warning of judgment to come.
The Patience of God
God should have torched off this place down here long ago. But, in His own words, He is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth" (Exodus 34:6). Thus it was that He patiently preached repentance through Noah for 120 years, while the ark was being built, to those disobedient and unrepentant spirits whose bodies perished in the Flood. In the Spirit, "He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark" (I Peter 3:19,20).
Those days of Noah stand as a warning to every generation of man to inhabit the earth. God had implanted a conscience in man, and man rejected the strivings of Gods Spirit. "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless, his days shall be 120 years" (Genesis 6:3). This 120 years is apparently the time when the patience of God kept waiting during the construction of the ark. And what did God have to be patient with for those years?
God should have torched the earth off then, but He is patient, and He had a plan. Through Noah, the Spirit of Christ preached to them, and when they did not repent, He "did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly" (II Peter 2:5). Thus, "Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8).
"For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the Flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark" (Matthew 24:37, 38). They had no spiritual interests, their thoughts were fixed upon earth and thus on evil; and when the proclamation of a preacher of righteousness did not change the disobedient, the patience of God ran out!
But, because of the construction
of the ark, "a few, that is, eight persons were brought
safely through the water" (I Peter 3:20). Though the rest
of the world be corrupt, God is willing to save the few who will
listen to His preachers of righteousness. Enter into the church
of Christ by immersion, and you will be brought safely through
Immersion Now Saves You
Salvation is always a great and important issue. The vast bulk of earths population in Noahs day did not think it was important - there were "important" things like buying and selling, planting and building - until the floodgates of the sky were opened and the fountains of the great deep burst open. When the rain dumped, salvation became the only issue. And by then, it was too late. So, "a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water" (I Peter 3:20).
"And corresponding to that, immersion now saves you - not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience - through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 3:21). Immersion is obviously a salvation issue. There are vast multitudes in todays world who dont think so, even among most so-called Christian leaders; but when the heavens turn to fire and the judgment of God begins to rain down upon them, it will be too late. But, first, a word or two of important background information:
Now, in the passage here in I Peter 3, immersion is the antitype, the real thing. There are those who try to maintain that immersion is a figure or type based on this passage, but the reverse is emphatically true. God used the devastation of the planet and the salvation of Noahs household as a type to point to immersion as the antitype
Just as the old world was destroyed, and a new world - fresh and clean from corruption - was brought forth, so also the old man of sin is destroyed in immersion, and a new creature is brought forth. Just as Noah and his family were brought safely through the water, so also immersion now saves us.
The blood of Jesus saves, and no
one can be saved apart from Jesus blood. Faith saves, and
no one can be saved apart from faith in the risen Christ. Grace
saves, and no one can be saved apart from the grace of God.
Immersion saves, and no one can be saved apart from the immersion
described in the New Testament. And, since God has chosen to make
all of these operative at immersion in Jesus name for the
remission of sins, let those who would challenge that remember
the Flood of Noahs day.
Appeal to God For A Good Conscience
The great themes and grand spiritual truths of the Bible do not interest the fleshly human being. The promise and glory are vaguely boring to the man whose eyes are focused on the ground. Type and antitype elicit a vacant stare from the woman whose attention is fixed on the mating game. So the Father of all spirits, loving communicator that He is, implanted a conscience in all the race of men.
When a man steals - anywhere on earth, in any civilization - his conscience unceasingly nags at him. When a man commits murder - anywhere on earth, in any civilization - his conscience tears him to shreds. When a man bears false witness anywhere on earth, in any civilization - his conscience rips gaping holes in his concentration. When a man commits adultery or covets - anywhere on earth, in any civilization - his conscience shakes the finger of accusation continually before his face.
Some men respond by searing their consciences, shearing them off and cauterizing them so they will bother no more. Some men lose their sanity in trying to bear their loads of guilt. Some resort to the quick fix and quicksilver of psychiatry. Some try drinking or drugging their way to some sort of stupefied oblivion. Some angrily blame everyone or someone else. Some devise false religions. Some try to justify themselves. But some, praise the Lord, turn to God on His terms.
To these lovers of truth, God has arranged an orderly sequence of events so that they may have confident assurance in Gods ability to perform what the word says that He will do.
The truth-seeker, the one whose
guilty conscience has caused him to seek the favor of the Lord,
has found the fountain of purity in the blood of Christ. Now he
must make his personal appeal for a clear conscience by the means
which God has specified: "Immersion now saves you not the
removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good
conscience" (I Peter 3:21).
The Appeals Process
A conscience is a terrible thing to sear. Those who cauterize their consciences end up liars and hypocrites, working for Satan as they introduce demented doctrines into the world. But the honest man who is willing to let his conscience condemn his wrongful actions is driven to seek relief in the arms of Jesus at the court of heaven. Here he praises God as he finds there is a process by which he might make an appeal to the Governor of the universe for clemency.
Using the physical deliverance of Noahs family from the ravages of the Flood as a springboard, the apostle Peter writes, "And corresponding to that, immersion now saves you - not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience - through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him" ( I Peter 3:21,22). Immersion is the conscience-stricken individuals appeal to the great God for mercy and a good conscience!
Immersion now saves you. It is the
means by which God reaches beyond the mere physical cleansing of
the flesh and purifies the soul. In immersion, the one who
believes the gospel is saved as he contacts the blood of Jesus
Christ in immersion, blood as of a Lamb unblemished which
cleanses the conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Immersion Saves Through The Resurrection
In some sectors of the Restoration Movement, there is a subtle tendency to overemphasize the crucifixion of Christ over the resurrection of our Lord. Far be it from me to de-emphasize the cross, and the blood which Jesus the Lamb shed in His death upon the tree. Far be it from me also to fail to put the emphasis that the word of God puts on the glorious resurrection of Jesus. "Christ Jesus is He who died," writes the apostle Paul, "yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us" (Romans 8:34).
How can the crucifixion be subtly overemphasized? It works like this:
But... what must be destroyed is always less important than what must be built! "Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (II Corinthians 5:17). Christ crucified took away the certificate of debt and decrees which were hostile to us, but Christ resurrected and glorified ushered in the power of the new man as a new creation, strengthened with power through the Spirit in the inner man.
Hence it is written:
"Immersion now saves you
through the resurrection of
Jesus Christ" (I Peter 3:21). What vistas
this opens up! The great thrust of immersion is not so much that
the old man of sin is buried with Christ, but that a new creature
comes forth in the likeness of Jesus resurrection.
"Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to
God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). "If then
you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the
things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of
God" (Colossians 3:1).
Who Is This Jesus?
There was a time when Jesus was a crying baby lying in a manger. There was a time when Jesus was a twelve year-old boy asking questions of the learned doctors of the Law in the temple. There was a time when Jesus was a strapping young man who stepped forth from the crowd to be immersed by John in the Jordan. There was a time when Jesus stretched forth His arms on the cross, and in the agony of death triumphantly cried out, "It is finished". There was a time when the resurrected Jesus would say to Mary Magdalene, "I have not yet ascended to the Father." All of these were Jesus. But who is Jesus?
Jesus "is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him" (I Peter 3:22).
Praise God for the greatness of
Jesus! Praise God that our immersion now saves us by the
resurrection of this Jesus. If this Christ is for us, who can be
against us? This is truly a great salvation found only in sharing
in the resurrection of this Jesus, the Most Exalted One.
Arm Yourselves For This Purpose
Nobody likes to suffer. In fact, many fleshly activities are honestly or dishonestly designed to alleviate suffering or increase comfort. But...even the great Lord Jesus, the One to whom angels and authorities and powers were subjected, had to suffer. Of the non-inspired writers, perhaps William Penn said it best:
No pain, no palm
No thorns, no throne
No gall, no glory
No cross, no crown
"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (I Peter 4:1,2). In Gods way of doing things, because sin has entered the world through Adam and spread as a vicious cancer to affect and eventually infect all men, the pain indeed precedes the reward of the palm branch. No suffering, no reward. No sacrifice, no resurrection. Since Christ had to suffer while He walked in the flesh, we who follow in His footsteps are privileged to suffer also. "Arm yourselves for this purpose," the Holy Spirit says.
The key to success in any endeavor
is the proper mental pre-disposition and laying in necessary
preparations. The scripture forthrightly warns each of us of our
coming suffering, and tells us to arm ourselves for this purpose.
Suffering And Sin
It is interesting that God should make a connection between suffering and ceasing from sin. The apostle Paul, for example, in speaking of his own desire to attain to the resurrection of the righteous, desired to know "the fellowship of [Christs] sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Philippians 3:10). Those who truly hope to be resurrected to life on the last day will want to fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law - to continue in sin no longer. But the only way the body can be brought into such subjection is through suffering. As Peter says, "He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (I Peter 4:1,2).
In suffering the bodys weakness is graphically displayed - Mankind in general trusts that he perceives, rightly or wrongly, to be strong. A young mans glory is his strength; he sometimes foolishly believes that his strength will allow him to bull his way through any problem. But suffering emaciates and destroys portions of the body, and the person who has truly suffered recognizes that this tent in which our spirits are currently housed is a fragile, filmy, vapor-like thing indeed.
Suffering produces the one hope - The one hope of the Christians calling is his resurrection from the dead. The kind of suffering first century Christians experienced stripped away any hope that might have been fixed on earth, and produced a clear desire to experience the transformation of a suffering body into conformity with the body of Christs glory.
Suffering produces an appreciation and respect for others who have suffered - A person who has been laid open with a lashing of "40 stripes save one" can certainly respect a man like Paul, who had experienced these whippings five times. To those of us who have never suffered thusly for the gospel, these words seem ethereal and distant.
Suffering produces a deeper appreciation and respect for Jesus - To have suffered, and to appreciate others who have suffered deeply for the cause of Christ, leads directly to the exaltation of the One who suffered most.
Suffering clarifies the issues. My
appeal that earths treasures and pleasures might make is
exposed by suffering as a shimmering sham. The personage of Jesus
is exalted as the experiences of suffering bring into clear focus
His greatness, and produce the honest desire to please Him who
paid the ultimate price for the sufferers soul.
Peters words are true: He who has suffered in the flesh has
ceased from sin. The rest of the time he lives in the flesh he
lives no longer for the lusts of men, but to do the will of God.
The Desire of the Gentiles
The Gentile lifestyle does not impress God. Of course, the Jews didnt particularly impress God either because of their hypocrisy, so that the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles because of them. But the general superiority of the Jewish life style in the New Testament era is noted in the words of Paul to Peter in Antioch of Syria: "We are Jews by nature, and not sinners from among the Gentiles" (Galatians 2:15). Christians suffering in the flesh cease from sin, no longer living for the lusts of men but for the will of God, are obviously living a life that is superior to the Jews, and vastly superior to that of those loathsome Gentiles.
"For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you; but they shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead" (I Peter 4:3-5).
The key word here is desire. There can be a big difference between what a person should do and what he really wants to do. And what a person really wants to do, when given the opportunity, thats what he will do. Some men, for example, when out of town on a business trip, "step out" on their wives. Some preachers drink alcoholic beverages with their dinners on airplane trips, where they think no one will see them. As Jesus excoriated the Jews in the temple one time: "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father" (John 8:44). That is why James warning is so strong: "Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
The solution is to change desire. Sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties (isnt it amazing how up to date, relevant, and 20th century this list is?), and abominable idolatries (our idolatries are more subtle in modern times - we worship ourselves as humanists) were our desires in the past. The implication is that these are our wishes no longer. Suffering has exposed these desires as being worthless, and the lusts of men have been left behind.
When your desires have changed - when you have no desire to carry out those lusts - then you do not run with the Gentiles no matter how much pressure is put upon you. Of course, they are surprised that you dont participate; then, because their consciences start to bother them, they begin the name-calling routine.
But the suffering Christian has
seen that this earth and pleasing men has nothing to offer. He
lives - His desire is - for the will of God, and as one of those
who is truly living, to give a good account to Him who judges the
living and the dead.
The Quick and the Dead
The quick is an old King James English expression meaning those who are living. The word of God is greatly concerned about life and death about the quick and the dead. Indeed, from the opening passages in Genesis to the closing paragraphs of Revelation, this is the great theme of the Bible. "From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat," God told Adam, as recorded in Genesis, "for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17). 66 books later, Revelation is still on the theme: "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14).
Therefore it is not surprising to find life and death interwoven into Peters first letter. Speaking of the Gentiles who malign Christians when they dont run with them into sinful practices, he writes: "But they shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God" (I Peter 4:5,6). Who are the quick, and who are the dead?
God is ready to judge both the
quick and the dead. The question is: are you ready to be judged?
Are you quick, or are you dead?
That They May Live
"Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," spoke the Lord through His prophet Ezekiel, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23). The Father of the spirits of all flesh, who lovingly and intricately works to form each mans spirit and to fashion each mans body, has not performed such work with the desire of seeing it burn in the fires of hell. But, if a man does not turn from his wicked ways to the lord, then burn he shall.
God has a way of warning men of their fate - the gospel. God has harbingers who move through out the land with the message of Gods impending judgment upon their lips - preachers of the gospel. Gospel preaching always includes the information that the retribution of God awaits those who do not know Him, and who do not obey the gospel. As Simon the Sorcerer told the apostle Peter, after Peter rebuked him, "Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me" (Acts 8:24).
Thus, "For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God" (I Peter 4:6). God is ready to judge the living and the dead, so the loving Father has sent His message and His messengers into the world to proclaim His righteous judgment.
Praise God! The law of the Spirit
of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and
of death. The gospel has been preached for this purpose, that we
may excitedly live in the Spirit!
The End of All Things
This earth is not going to go on forever. Man is not going to physically pollute himself off the planet, nor is some atomic holocaust going to bring on the dread of a sterile nuclear winter. This earth will end when Jesus speaks the word, which will shake not only the earth but the heavens also, and this whole physical creation will vanish just as suddenly as it first sprang into existence at the bidding of the Almighty. It will end when Jesus descends from heaven with a shout with the voice of the archangel - and with a blast from the trumpet of God.
"The end of all things is at hand," Peter warned them in the first century AD. The nearness of the end always puts what a person needs to be doing in the proper perspective. Here is the inspired list of things to be done in the present, preceded by the powerful and tell-tale word, "therefore":
The end of all things is at hand.
Use this list as your checklist during the final countdown.
Glory and Dominion
Jesus is worthy of praise. The great spiritual picture book of Revelation gives us powerful and repeated scenes declaring the praise - worthiness of the Christ. "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain," responded tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of the heavenly host before the throne, "to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing" (Revelation 5:12). The created things in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea say, "To Him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever" (Revelation 5:13). And the redeemed from every nation cry out, "Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb" (Revelation 7:10). Yes, Jesus is worthy of praise, and He is worthy of praise forever and ever.
But when shall this praise begin? And how shall this praise be offered? For Christians this praise begins now! "Behold," says Paul, "now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2). And how shall this praise be offered? Peter has emphasized that the end of all things is at hand, and has given a checklist of instructions for the saints to carry out. The saints of God are to be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer, to keep fervent in their love for one another, to be hospitable, to employ their gifts in serving one another, to speak the utterances of God, and to serve one another in the strength which God supplies. These are to be done, he says, "so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 4:11).
In one manner of speaking, it is comparatively easy to assemble with the saints on the first day of the week and offer up to Him a number of hymns of praise. But, while this is to be done, some of the "weightier" matters of glorifying God are not to be neglected. It is interesting how loving and serving God is never separated from loving and serving men. "The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen" (I John 4:20). And our Lord Jesus, after expressing the great commandment that we should love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, said this: The second is like it, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself "(Matthew 22:39).
It is greatly significant that God should be glorified through Jesus Christ when a Christian exercises sound judgment, and keeps a sober spirit for prayer. A person may say he glorifies God, but if he is not fervent in his love of the brethren, or if he is not hospitable to the saints without complaining, he is lying. An individual who wont serve is no glorifier of God, nor is he who will not speak the utterances of God. These are to he done, says the Holy Spirit, "so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
Jesus is indeed worthy of praise
and glorification. But we cannot yet join the four and twenty
elders to cast our crowns before Him who sits on the throne of
the Lamb (Revelation 4:10). We cannot
yet lift our voices in glory with the myriads and myriads who
sing of the worthiness of the Lamb who was slain. But we can
think, love, serve, pray, and preach for the glory of God through
Jesus Christ, "to whom belongs the glory and dominion
forever and ever. Amen!" (not Revelation, but I Peter 4:11).
Do Not Be Surprised At The Fiery Ordeal
A surprise is something truly unexpected. A surprise party, a surprise gift, a surprise hug - these are delightful and unforeseen. But there are also what are called unpleasant surprises - broken pipes and a flooded basement money stolen or embezzled the loss of a child in an accident. These can be more difficult to bear because of the unexpected nature of the blow.
"Forewarned is forearmed," is an old saying Peter has told us as a forewarning to arm ourselves for the purpose of suffering. After encouraging us with these words, "The end of all things is at hand," he then comes back to his theme of preparing us for the suffering to come, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation" (I Peter 4:12,13).
"Do not be surprised," says the Holy Spirit through Peter. Suffering on earth is not to be some unexpected tragedy, which overwhelms the child of God; rather, it is the expected norm for which each Christian must spiritually and mentally prepare himself.
The Christian is not surprised at
the fierceness of the battle in the trenches. Rather, he is to
prepare for the test, and rejoice in the testing process. He is
to listen to the voices of victory calling him upward, and join
in the great celebration of triumph in glory.
The Spirit Rests On You
God can bless in a material way, but the blessings of God are not always material. In fact, Gods blessings may come to the individual in the midst of material depravity, when his poverty and wretched condition force him to look at the spiritual realm. "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," says Paul, "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).
The whole purpose of God in His dealings with the human race has been to move him off his material dead center, and to implant in him the ability to see that which is not seen with the physical eye. The first acceptable "anointed one," King David, for example, was a swash-buckling, sword-carrying commander of men who sawed his enemies into pieces and burned them in brick kilns. But the true Messiah was not a soldier or a king in an earthly sense at all, as He personally reassured Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). And it was on this very point that those whose minds were focused on earth stumbled; when Jesus was not a fleshly Messiah, they rejected and crucified Him. "Therefore," said Jesus to the rulers and elders in Israel, "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it" (Matthew 21:43).
Other than a small remnant of Jews who turned to the Lord, the kingdom was given to those from the ranks of the Gentiles who were of a mind to seek for spiritual blessings rather than for something earth-centered. Christ in the flesh never came to the Gentiles, as He Himself explained, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24). But Christ in the Spirit would come to the spiritually-minded Gentiles, and this would be the greatest of all spiritual blessings. The apostle Paul explains: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree - in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:13,14).
The apostle Peter draws upon this great truth to encourage the brethren to whom he is writing. Speaking of the fiery ordeal of suffering which comes upon those of the faith, he writes, "If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (I Peter 4:14). The indwelling Spirit is the great blessing; He is such a great blessing that the fact that He rests upon the suffering Christian greatly overshadows any disgrace or pain that being reviled for the name of Christ might bring.
Are you spiritual enough to he
reviled for the name of Christ? Are you spiritually minded enough
to recognize the great blessing of the indwelling Spirit? Have
you focused enough on those things, which cannot be seen to look
upon the Spirit of glory and of God resting upon you while you
suffer for the cause of Christ?
Suffering As A Christian
One time I picked up a hitch-hiker who claimed to be a priest of the Druids. This young man had rejected Christianity, he said, because it pictures life on earth as "a vale of tears." Unfortunately, the earth is not merely pictured as a vale of tears; it is a place of suffering and heartache, a place of pain and disease, a place of crime and punishment, a place of war and greed. And none of us is untouched by these tentacles.
So it is not so much a question of suffering, it is a question of what a person is going to suffer for. "By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God" (I Peter 4:15,16).
One of the best laid principles in scripture is that whatever you dish out, you get dished back to you in return. Speaking more eloquently, Jesus said, "By your standard of measure, it will be measured to you" (Matthew 7:2). Let us consider some of the suffering, which might then come upon a Christian who falls into the wrong kind of "dishing out":
The child of God should not be a participant in these forms of behavior. But if he in all honesty suffers - not for doing wrong, but for simply being a Christian - he is not to be ashamed. If he is imprisoned unjustly, if his good name is besmirched in the community, instead of feeling the shame, which someone justly experiences in being an evildoer, the believer is to glorify God
This is an example of the wisdom
and encouragement of the Lord in handling adversity. Dont
let it get you down; face it with rejoicing!
The Name Christian
If anyone suffers as a Christian," says Peter, "let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God" (I Peter 4:16). The name of Christian is obviously quite significant to God, and it is the name in which an individual glorifies God.
When the church of God began on the Jewish feast of Pentecost in 30 A.D. as recorded in Acts 2, all the followers of the Lord Jesus were Jewish. Even when the Samaritans (who were of ancient, Israelite stock) were added, the church was regarded as merely a sect of the Jews who believed their founder to be raised from the dead and therefore the promised Messiah; thus those of this sect of the Jews were known as disciples of Christ. But when large numbers of the Gentiles began turning to the Lord in Antioch of Syria as recorded in Acts 11, they could no longer be regarded as merely a branch of Judaism. As the Greek text indicates, at the instigation of Barnabas and Saul, "the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch" (Acts 11:26).
Isaiah had prophesied the message of salvation reaching the Gentiles (the nations). "For Zions sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalems sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning. And the nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will designate" (Isaiah 62:1,2). It is clear that he also prophesied the giving of a new name to Gods people, a name designated by the very mouth of God. This new name is the name Christian, which means "pertaining to, belonging to, of Christ."
The name for Gods people is not Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, Evangelical, Lutheran, Pentecostal, or any of a host of man-made denominational names. The Holy Spirit is very clear: "if anyone suffers as a Christian, in that name let him glorify God."
But just because an individual calls himself a Christian, that does not mean that he is one. Since the name Christian is a name, which God has designated by His own mouth, it may only be used as God uses it. According to the Almighty One, what are the means by which a struggling human being may proudly wear this great name? The steps in the scripture are crystal clear:
Upon his immersion in Jesus
name, the new creature is joined as a bride to her husband, and
now wears the name, which only He can bestow. If anyone suffers
as a Christian, in that name let him glorify God.
The Judgment of God
How do you help someone who is experiencing suffering and pain to go through it with the proper attitude? The primary means by which trial is overcome is by a constant focus on the reward. Note what our Lord Jesus used to pull Himself through the suffering and shame of His crucifixion and associated events: "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). Only the prospect of certain and commensurate reward can give the mind the strength it needs to overcome adversity with rejoicing.
Continuing on his theme of exhorting brethren in the midst of their suffering, the apostle Peter again writes: "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?" (I Peter 4:16-18). Implicit in this passage is the reward for the one who glorifies God as a Christian, and the subsequent righting of wrong in the ultimate judgment of God. Consider:
These thoughts are intended to
encourage the sufferer. The recognition of the terrible anguish
the Christian escapes in the next life by experiencing difficulty
in this one makes it possible to face any persecution on earth
with joy. It is with difficulty that the righteous is saved.
"And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved,
what will become of the godless man and the sinner!"
Obeying the Gospel of God
Most moderns speak of the gospel as something simply to be believed. Not so the word of God, however. Both Peter and Paul speak of obeying the gospel, and they both speak of that obedience in connection with the onrushing judgment of God.
Peter says, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?" (I Peter 4:17). And Paul speaks thusly, referring to the appearance of Jesus at His second coming, being "revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction" (II Thessalonians 1:7,8). The penalty for not obeying the gospel is the retribution of God, eternal damnation.
So how do you obey the gospel? Obedience always involves action; obeying the gospel is going to require motion on the part of the believer. And note two major points:
So what is it about the gospel a person could obey, and be granted forgiveness of sins through Jesus blood in that obedience, and be granted the Holy Spirit? The scripture answers that question from the time the gospel of Jesus Christ was first preached. The question was asked. "What shall we do [which implies obedience]?" The answer was two-fold: 1) Repent, and 2) Be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit would be received (Acts 2:37,38).
Both the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ and the granting of the Holy Spirit are accomplished when the individual obeys in being immersed in water. As the writer of Hebrews put it, "having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22). "There are three that bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the three are in agreement" (I John 5:8). These three bear witness and agree at the point of immersion!
To obey the gospel of God, you
must be immersed for the express purpose of having your sins
forgiven, and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Dont
stand before the judgment bar of God, and have to answer this
question by your eternal future experience: "What will be
the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
Entrust Your Soul
You say you trust God. You have confessed Christ as Lord, have been immersed into His name for remission of your sins, and you are trusting Him to carry you through the valley of the shadow of death. The Almighty, however, is not content that we simply affirm our faith and our confidence in His power; He puts us through a "fiery ordeal" that we might learn not to trust in ourselves but in Him who raises the dead. "Therefore," says Peter, "let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right" (I Peter 4:19).
Suffering has an important
purpose. It is the mechanism through which the child of God
really learns how dependable and faithful His heavenly Father is.
It is the mechanism in which "lip service" becomes
"life service." Do what is right; entrust your soul to
God. He wont let you down.
The Need For Leadership
The more intense the crisis, the greater the need for leadership. In times of peace and domestic tranquillity, it is comparatively easy to command an outpost. But in the face of sudden attack, then leadership must be decisive, organized, able to pull the troops together to work as a unit, have qualities which will cause men to follow, and must lead in the right direction.
So it is in the church of Christ. When the general crisis of suffering sets in, then each congregation must be led by spiritual men who can help their brethren maintain their forward movement in faith. "Therefore," says the apostle Peter, "I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you" (I Peter 5:1,2). Peter lets these men identify with him as he draws them to him with these words, "as your fellow elder." But his exhortation is strong, "shepherd the flock of God."
But what is an elder? While various denominations have all sorts of ideas and traditions about elders, it is critical that we let the scriptures speak.
God gives us men in our local
congregation who are truly elders, spiritual men who can lead in
the crisis of suffering.
Shepherd the Flock of God
Peter was a personal "witness of the sufferings of Christ" (I Peter 5:1). He was in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. He was in the courtyard of the High Priest when Jesus was condemned. What Peter particularly saw of the beatings of Jesus during the night, or of His carrying the cross through town to Calvarys summit, or of His agony in death, we do not know. We do know, however, that he was a "witness of the sufferings of Christ."
As a fellow elder in the Lords church, and as one for whom the sufferings of Christ were indelibly impressed, Peter exhorts the elders in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia to "shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight..." (I Peter 5:2). If the elders of those flocks were not effective pastors or good bishops, then the suffering of Christ for the lives of those in the aforementioned Roman provinces would have been eventually in vain; without good leadership, the flock of God cannot survive. How does an elder shepherd and exercise oversight?
Shepherd the Flock
We pray that God will give us
faithful men who will take on the challenge of learning to
shepherd and to exercise oversight.
The Motive of Elders
People naturally tend to operate on the basis of "whats in this for me?" The mother of James and John, for example. approached Jesus at one time, requesting that her sons might sit at Jesus right and left hands in the kingdom. When the other apostles heard that this request had been made, they were upset, presumably because those were the positions they wanted for themselves. But Jesus called them together and exhorted them in these words: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28).
These words are the crux (pardon the expression) of Christianity - to serve rather than to be served, and to give our lives for others. Our Lord led by example; those who would lead the local flock of God must certainly follow in His steps. Elders must listen to these instructions from a fellow elder and inspired apostle Peter: "Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock" (I Peter 5:2,3). The apostle makes these interesting contrasts:
These are men who are internally motivated, who lead because they love. They themselves will suffer greatly in following in the footsteps of Christ; they will stand with the Pauls of today, and with them light the wild beasts in todays equivalents of Ephesus of old. They are not motivated by special privileges or "perks" or increases of salary.
Rather, these words pull them
upward: "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will
receive the unfading crown of glory" (I Peter 5:4).
Clothed With Humility
"Team! Team! Team!" is the emphasis of every successful coach. The coaching staff works with each individual on the team to help each to maximize his own potential. But the members must cooperate with the staff; there is no room for "hot-dogging" or putting other members of the team down. It takes teamwork to achieve great and difficult goals, and there are no greater or more difficult goals than those accomplished by local congregations in their offensive advances and defensive stands against the forces of evil.
After giving some specific instructions to the coaching staff, the elders, the apostle Peter then exhorts the team: "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (I Peter 5:5). The team members need to ponder these points of advice:
The team needs to remember that
they are the local outpost of the Lord and engaged in a war to
extend the boundaries of the kingdom of God. The seriousness and
nature of the battle is such that there is no room for pride,
demonstrated by an unsubmissive spirit. Younger men are to be
subject to their elders, and all brethren are to be clothed with
Under the Mighty Hand of God
To the unbelieving, God is nowhere around. The Almighty, in His wisdom, operates behind the haze of human activity and the events of "nature." The Midianites turned their swords upon one another in the days of Gideon, and a wall fell upon 27,000 Arameans in the time of Elijah. To the unbelieving, God was nowhere around. But to those who had eyes to see, it was the hand of God who guided the events for the victory of His people. And it was a mighty hand. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you" (I Peter 5:6,7).
God is opposed to the proud. But
He extends grace and lovingkindness to those honest hearts who
truly submit to His revealed will, and who are willing to be
found faithful, doing the work the Lord places before them. They
can cast all their anxiety upon the Almighty in the calm
assurance that He cares and is active on their behalf.
Your Adversary, The Lion
Thoughts of the suffering Christians experience in this world were never far from Peters mind. After encouraging the brethren to cast all their anxiety upon the Lord, the needle on his thought meter swung back to the suffering and persecution which is the lot of the committed in this present evil age. He speaks these words: "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world" (I Peter 5:8,9).
Brethren, let us not pretend there
is a lion in the streets when there is not one. But let us not
pretend there is no lion roaring around the edge of the camp of
the saints, seeking to devour the weekend straggling. Let us be
sober, committed, faithful, alert, and firm, carrying out our war
safely under the banner of the cross.
What God Can Do
"Its all mental." So say those who coach in the arenas who exhort on the playing fields, and who discipline and encourage on the practice grounds "Its all mental." You can have great physical ability, but if you do not have mental toughness you will cave in under the stress of intense competition. "Its all mental." No one can compete successfully in the games without a vision of victory, and a sense of joy and reward.
So also those who run the endurance course of Christ "Its all mental." If the devouring lion deceives the runner. or his roars scare him off course, the competitor has not run successfully. "Its all mental." If the pain and the length of the race, or the constant pounding required in the conditioning discourage the racer, he quits the team. "Its all mental." If for some reason the participant feels like he lacks the skills or ability necessary to make a good showing, he slinks away before he can be what he considers to be "embarrassed". "Its all mental." If there is no reward, why try?
"Its all mental." Note then these Spirit-inspired words to the team: "And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen" (I Peter 5:10,11). These true words are designed to help the fellow partaker of the sufferings of Christ see the actual conditions of this race so that he can make the mental adjustments necessary to be an effective part of the all-star team of the ages. "Its all mental."
God is able to help each Christian
overcome every mental battle he might have in this tremendous and
exciting eternal race. God has provided all the elements
necessary for a positive, sense-of-victory mentality, even to the
point of perfecting each player, confirming his membership on the
team, strengthening him, and establishing him in his position.
Its all mental, and to Him be dominion forever and ever.
It Is Written
The servants of God have spoken. And they have written. In fact, what is permanent is what has come down to us in written form. These are the words, which shall never pass away.
So how does a poor ignorant fisherman do in the writing department? I marvel when I read these pages in the word of God. It takes me approximately one hour to write each one of these little commentaries, and the words of Peter and Paul and others are by contrast generally dictated. I fuss over each phrase; yet the words off the top of the apostles heads are infinitely more sublime. The Holy Spirit was guiding their work and words, to be sure; yet it is clear that each in a sense earned the right to speak as he spoke, and to write as he wrote.
Listen, then, to the dosing of Peters first letter: "Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ" (I Peter 5:12-14).
The servants of God have spoken.
And they have written. In fact, what is permanent is what has
come to us in written form. These are the exhortations and the
testimonies, which shall never pass away.
The True Grace of God
We are saved by faith through grace, and by the grace of God we stand. "I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!" (I Peter 5:12). This whole epistle on victory in suffering is, by the words of the one who wrote it, on the true grace (not a false grace) of God. Note some of this epistles thousand points of grace:
- Be obedient children, holy like the Holy One who called us.
- Fervently love one another from the heart.
- Abstain from malice and fleshly lusts.
- Submit to every human institution.
- Be submissive to your masters.
- Wives, be submissive to your husbands.
- Suffer for the sake of righteousness.
- Elders, shepherd the flock of God in submission to the Chief Shepherd.
- Younger men, be subject to your elders.
- All are to be clothed with humility.
All of these acts of submission and humility are carried out through the grace of God we "are protected by the power of God." It is the "God of all grace" who "will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish" us. He is the giver of all abilities; all flows from His willingness to overlook our weakness and supply our need.
Who can fail to fall on his knees
before this God of all grace - this Author and Exponent of true
grace. From Him flow all unmerited favors: blessings, gifts,
strength, and sustenance. To Him be glory and dominion forever.
Everything in life is shaky or sound. It is firm or it is faulty. "The firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, The Lord knows who are His, and Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness" (II Timothy 2:19). There is nothing wrong with the Lords foundation; it is firm. Christians are exhorted not to be flaky shaky; rather they are to be found sound, nesting on this foundation, as Peter says, "I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying to you that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!" (I Peter 5:12). This is the conclusion of Peters letter; he wrote of the fiery ordeal and the grace of God for one purpose, that Christians might stand firm!
The events of this life can shake Christians. War, persecution, famine, and disease can singly or in combination devastate an individual who is not as firm as Job in his faith, who cannot say with that great example of suffering and patience, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). The writers of the New Testament concur with Peter that each child of God must do his part in strengthening himself so that he can stand firm in the grace of Christ
The earnest desire of the Holy
Spirit is for believers to stand firm in the one faith delivered
once for all. Those who fail to do so will perish.
"Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land" (Proverbs 25:25). There is something refreshing to the human soul in greetings. Especially when you love someone, when your soul is closely knit to his, then the longing of the soul is greatly cheered by greetings. "She who is in Babylon, writes Peter through Sylvanus, "chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love" (I Peter 5:13,14).
Greetings from loved ones, from
brethren in Christ, and from a far country are very encouraging
and needed within the body of Christ. Lets learn to greet
one another deeply, honestly, and with the love of Christ.
Peace In Christ
"My peace I give to you," said Jesus (John 14:27). The peace of Jesus is a peace, which can only be possessed as a gift. Man on his own efforts or in his own way can never possess this peace. When man tries to produce peace, he produces a perverted form of Jesus peace, and Jesus peace is "not as the world gives." The peace the world offers is a shimmering mirage, a false security which always lays just beyond the horizon. Peters closing in this letter, as well as his beginning, is a prayer for true inner peace for the persecuted brethren of Asia Minor: "Peace be to you all who are in Christ" (I Peter 5:14).
Peter opened his letter with a prayer of peace
for the brethren, and he closed it with a prayer for peace for
the brethren in Christ Jesus. This peace is obviously to be
earnestly sought by the individual, and a constant topic of
prayer among all the saints.