II Peter, Chapter 3, Part 2

II Peter 3:1 – This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.  In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,

In this section of his second letter, you can sense the urgency and gravity that Peter feels as he earnestly writes to the believers in Asia Minor.

Narrow Path

Notice that these true believers have sincere or pure minds.  This indicates that they are still true believers, walking on the narrow path that leads to eternal life.  They have not been polluted by the false teachers/prophets mentioned at length in chapter two.  As we saw in that chapter, Peter took the time to thoroughly warn Christians about false doctrines of licentiousness that would eventually lead them to apostasy.

But that is not the only snare that Satan has set for believers. 

Peter also senses danger for the church in the guise of scoffers. A scoffer is someone who jeers or mocks; who treats something with contempt.  They attempt to cast doubt or derision on something, based on their own reasoning or opinion. 

Jude 18 –They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”

In this particular case, scoffers are people who mock the promises that God has made to his children.  In so doing, they attempt to undermine the faith of the believer. 

But Peter isn’t about to let that happen.  He is going to refute the false, faith destroying opinions of these ignorant people. 

Because there are scoffers in every generation (including ours), it is crucial that we listen to the wise council of Peter.

II Peter 3:2 – that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior though your apostles,

Peter wants to stir up the minds of Christians to remember the words of prophesy given to believers in both the Old Testament (the law and prophets) and the New Testament (doctrines included in the gospel message given through the apostles).

Notice that Peter joins together the prophets of old and the apostles of that day, confirming the continuity of scripture.  Though there were numerous prophets and apostles who spoke over a span of hundreds of years, they spoke consistent doctrines and promises. 

It is vital that we remember and meditate on the promises of God delivered through these messengers, so that scoffers do not derail us from the true gospel message. 

II Peter 3:3 – knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.

It should be noted that we have no way of knowing how long this period of time will last.  It could be over before you finish reading this blog, or it could still be continuing long after your great grandchildren are old and gray! 

The term ‘last days’ refers to the final period in human history.  We often refer to this as the Gospel Dispensation or the Age of Grace.  It began when Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and it will end with his return to earth (also known as his second coming).

Here’s what we do know:  Scoffers are present throughout the era of the last days, which means we can expect to encounter them, if we haven’t already.

Here is something else we know:  Like the false teacher, the scoffer is motivated by a craving to indulge in their own sinful desires. 

For a moment, picture a sinner who comes face to face with the reality of God.  He discovers that God is pure and holy, and He desires for us to be like He is.  To accept and follow Christ is to embrace a life of holiness. 

I Peter 1:15-16 – … as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”.

But the sinner is more in love with his sin than he is with God.  He does not want to be restrained by what he perceives as the limitations of godliness and holiness.  So… what will he do now? 

This particular sinner might become a scoffer.  In order to avoid the truth, he will constantly try to pick it apart and prove that it is not true.  He will dismiss every point that he cannot fully understand.  He will find things that he cannot explain and use it as an excuse to deride the whole gospel.  He will boldly proclaim the truth to be a lie; he will deem the gospel worthless or despicable.  He will persuade himself that that the gospel is spurious. 

If he can convince himself that is the case, he has the liberty to cast the gospel aside and follow his evil propensities.  Sadly, his opposition to the truth began and ended in his own lusts.

II Peter 3:4 – They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?  For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

Here is one of the doctrines that scoffers love to revile – the second coming of Jesus.  When Jesus returns to earth, he is going to judge the world in justice and righteousness.  Those who are found in Christ will receive rewards.  Those who have rejected Christ will be judged and punished. 

We can instantly see why the scoffer desires to blaspheme the doctrine of the second coming.  Remember, he or she wants to continue wallowing in their sin.  If they openly acknowledge that Jesus is going to return and judge the wicked, then they must admit their actions are wrong, and they need to repent.  However, scoffing at the idea of the return of Christ sears their conscience and allows them to keep on sinning.  

The argument presented by the scoffers goes something like this:

When the prophets of old foretold the return of Christ, they expected these events to occur any day (imminently).  But nothing happened.  They died and were buried long, long ago, but nothing changed.  The world just keeps spinning on and on

Our own forefathers spoke of the same promises.  They kept the words of the prophets alive in their generation, but they too are dead.  And nothing has changed.  The world continues as it always has.

Since the days of creation, the course of nature has gone on steadily.  Day after day, month after month, year after year the sun rises and sets.  Spring follows winter.  The tides ebb and flow.  People are born and people die.  Nothing has changed.

Where is the evidence that Christ would return?  Show it to us!  Where is the fulfillment of the promise? It is never going to happen!

These are the views of the scoffer.

To make matters worse, scholars think that some Christians of that day had taken it upon themselves to predict an exact date/time for Christ’s return.  When that date passed by without anything happening, scoffers seized the opportunity to claim God’s promise had failed.

Let’s take a look at their claim.

First, we notice that they do not deny that God made a promise to return.  There is way too much evidence and too many witnesses of that promise in both the Old and New Testaments to deny its existence.  So instead of denying the promise, they mock it.  They scorn it.  They argue against it.  This demonstrates a much higher degree of contempt than simple denial.

Their actual argument is this:  If Jesus was going to return to earth, he would have already done it by now.  According to the scoffer, if there had been any truth or certainty to that promise, we would have seen some evidence or sign of his coming by now.  But there is no such evidence.  The world has remained unchanged for thousands of years; therefore, God either cannot or will not return as he promised. 

Obviously, their claims are sketchy at best.  Simple human reasoning tells us that just because something has not yet happened, does not mean it won’t happen at a future date.

But we don’t want to use human reasoning to defend our beliefs.  Here’s why: The second coming of Jesus is the crowning event/denouement of the plan of salvation.  When Jesus returns, he brings justice and righteousness to all things.  The wicked are judged.  Death, the final enemy, is defeated.  The righteous inherit eternal life and begin the next phase of our existence.  All loose ends are tied up.  Everything is perfectly finished.  If Christ never returns, these things never take place.  Clearly, the significance of the second coming cannot be over stated.  So we don’t want to use changeable, imperfect human reasoning to defend it.  We want to use the infallible word of God – which is exactly what Peter does!

II Peter 3:5-6 – For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.

The phrase ‘deliberately overlook’ once again stresses the fact that the scoffer did not arrive at their conclusion by reason or sober judgment.  They stubbornly choose to ignore the truth so they can continue in their sinful ways.  They will eventually find out that being willfully ignorant does not justify them.

Peter begins his rebuttal with a clear fact:  Despite the claims of the scoffer, things have NOT remained unchanged since the beginning of creation.

Creation was disrupted by the flood during the days of Noah.  God swept away a whole world of ungodly men during that destructive event.  If God was willing and able to destroy the wicked in the flood, why does the scoffer refuse to believe he will do so again, at his second coming?

Indeed, Peter is going to rehearse the events of the flood to show what God has done in the past.  These facts should convince/persuade men to believe that God is fully capable of destroying the world a second time, and indeed he will do so at his final return, just as he promised.

In the book of Genesis, we find reference to a vast unformed collection of materials and elements which are collectively called water.  The earth itself was formed from/out of this water by the powerful, creative words of God (Genesis 1:1-2). 

During creation, God divided the waters according to his wisdom.  Some were stored in the heavens (what we know as the atmosphere or first heaven), some were gathered together into the seas (leaving dry land) and some was stored in the ‘great deep’ (Genesis 7:11). 

Genesis 1:6-8 – And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”  And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse.  And it was so.  And God called the expanse heaven.  And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And there they stayed, allowing life to flourish on earth. 

However, the wickedness of man increased to such a level that the world was entirely filled with violence and sin.  At that point, God demonstrated his wrath and mighty power by releasing the repositories of water and allowing the earth to be destroyed by the flood waters, as he promised he would do:

Genesis 6:17 – For behold, I [God] will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven.  Everything that is on the earth shall die.

(See also Genesis 6:7, 6:13, 7:4). Thus, the scoffer cannot claim that the earth has continued since creation without change.  Neither can he claim that God is incapable of destroying it.  His argument against the second coming of Christ has been demolished!

II Peter 3:7 – But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

This might be a good time to comment on the word “heavens”.  Scripture speaks of three different heavens.  The first heaven refers to the atmosphere of the earth.  The second heaven refers to what we would call ‘space’; it entails all of the stars, planets, etc.  The third heaven is the place where God dwells.  When Peter says the heavens are stored up for fire/destruction, he is not referring to the place where God dwells. 

Through the word of God (scripture), Peter has just proved that there was a major change in the heavens and the earth during the days of Noah.  This change came solely as a result of God’s word and will.  The earth and the laws of nature have no power or stability of their own.  They go on day after day, year after year because God wills it to be so.  He created them.  He sustains them.  He established their laws of operation.  He alone controls them.

By his word he created them; by his word, he destroyed them with the flood.   Thus, the foolishness of the scoffer is readily apparent. 

The scoffer and the Christian alike should also take note that a second total destruction has already been decreed for the earth.  The same powerful word of God that destroyed the world by water will also destroy it by fire.

Like the flood, this future judgment is tied to the destruction of the wicked.  Obviously, it is yet to come; we do not know when it will occur.  It may or may not happen within our generation or lifetime.  But come it will, just as surely as the flood did, because God always keeps his promises.  He does what he declares he will do.

Isaiah 66:15-16 – For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.  For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the Lord shall be many.

Therefore, the Christian should never believe the lies of the scoffer.  Rather, we place our faith in the immutable promises of God.  We do not need to fear the future; we only need to remain faithful to our loving heavenly Father, who keeps us safe within the secret place of the Most High (Psalms 91:1-8).   At the perfect time, he will deliver his saints and destroy his enemies.

II Peter 3:8 – But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

This is the second point of rebuttal given by Peter to the claims of the scoffer. 

The opinion of the scoffer is that if God was going to return, he would surely have done so by now.  They imply that too much time has passed between the promise and the fulfillment; God has forgotten or neglected the promise of his return.  In God’s neglect, the world continues on and on as it always has. 

But Peter again points out that their human reasoning is faulty.  God is not trapped in space and time as humans are.  He transcends time. For him, nothing is past or future, but all things are present.  He existed before he created time, and he will live eternally after he brings time to an end. 

Psalms 90:4 – For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.

No measurable duration of time has any bearing on the eternity of God.  Therefore, God’s actions cannot be judged according to our understanding of time.  While a thousand years is far, far past the limits of our fleshly existence, it is nothing to God, for he is eternal.

Even believers sometimes get impatient as we wait for God to fulfill his promises.  Peter provides a good reminder for us that God’s hidden purposes will be accomplished perfectly; he is not bound by our measurement of time.  

Conclusion:  God is willing and able to fulfill all of the promises he has made to YOU, even if it’s been a long time in coming!  Don’t give up!  Don’t let your faith waiver!

Habakkuk 2:3 – For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay.  

Did you catch what God said to Habakkuk?  The appointed time for fulfillment of God’s promise would surely come!  Though it takes awhile, wait for it!

What promise are you claiming? 

  • Are you praying for one of your children?  Don’t give up- wait for it! 
  • Are you looking for revival to break out in your community?  Don’t give up- wait for it! 
  • Do you want to see miracles? Don’t give up- wait for it… it will surely come!  

II Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

All of us can probably recall a time when someone made us a promise, but then either broke it or forgot it.  When this happens, we begin to make assumptions about why they failed to keep their promise.  We might think they changed their mind/plans, or they forgot their promise to us, or perhaps they do not have the ability (time, resources, money, authority) to complete the task.  In the case of humans, any of these assumptions may be true.

But no such assumption can be made in the case of God.  He has not failed or forgotten to do anything.  The true reason for any perceived delay is the patience and goodness of God.  In his great mercy, God delays judgment in order to afford mankind more time to repent, and thus prevent their own eternal judgment/ruin.

Ezekiel 33:11 – Say unto them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn you, turn you from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Although God does not desire the death of the wicked, it will eventually happen if they do not repent.  God has appointed a day to judge the world in righteousness and he will keep that appointment. 

Scripture says the return of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, when people are asleep and secure, not expecting him to come (Luke 12:39-40).   Therefore, the wicked should not wait to repent.

The same thought is expressed in the parable of the 10 virgins, where five women are unprepared for the sudden (yet long awaited) return of the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13).  Therefore, Christians should be diligently looking for the return of Christ.  This includes you and me. 

Every day we have on earth is another day to add Christian graces to our lives, to do good works, to become more like Christ, to share the gospel, to praise and worship our redeemer, to exercise faith, to encourage a brother/sister or to grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God.

Each one of us need to consider the return of the Lord as an imminent event.  If we relegate it to sometime far in the future, we will tend to become slack in our service for God.

Let me offer you some encouragement

Peter says that in the last days, scoffers will come.  They mock the promises of God.  They will try to undermine your faith, and get you to doubt God’s promises too. 

Don’t fall prey to their false and flawed reasoning.  Use your shield of faith to stop their fiery darts of unbelief and doubt.  If you are waiting for God to fulfill a promise he made to you, stand strong.  Here are some practical things you can do to combat doubt: Repeat that promise or scripture over and over; keeping it fresh within your heart.  Pray over it.  Rejoice over the answer/victory, even though you haven’t seen it yet.  Declare that scripture over your life or the lives of your children.

Remember, God spoke the world into existence.  There is power in speaking his word over yourself and your children!

Let me offer you some relief:

As a Christian, you don’t need to fear the return of the Lord.  Every sin you have committed has been cleansed and forgiven through the blood of Christ.  Satan will try to tell you otherwise…he will constantly bring to your remembrance past mistakes and failures.  When that happens, chase him off with your spiritual sword – the word of God! 

Quote scriptures that speak of your forgiveness and acceptance through Christ.  If you stand up to Satan, he will flee from you (James 4:7)!

Let me offer you some strength:

You are on planet earth for a reason; you have a purpose in life.  Every day that you wake up is a new day to fulfill that purpose.   Whatever God has called you to do, do it with all your might!

Don’t be one of the five foolish virgins – work diligently each day for the glory of God, and look for his return.  He will be back for you before you know it!

 

II Peter, Chapter 2, Part 2

II Peter 2:10 – and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.  Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,

Here in chapter 2, Peter is warning true believers against false teachers. 

As we noted in our last post, it is likely that Peter is referring to a heretical sect known as the Nicolaitans:

  • These people claimed to be Christians, but they abused the laws of grace, even to the point of denying that Jesus was the Messiah who died on the cross. 
  • They also claimed to have ‘secret’ spiritual wisdom which they received through mystic revelation.  This was supposedly given to them, and no one else.  Their actions caused divisions within the church body.
  • They introduced false doctrines into the church.  This was not done blatantly; instead they introduced their own opinions here and there until they succeeded in twisting the truth.
  • Peter describes them as greedy.  They gave smooth convincing sermons designed to take money from honest believers who wanted to support the gospel.
  • Peter describes them as licentious.  Their behavior was unrestrained by law or morality and characterized by abuse of freedom.  Their sin had no boundaries and basically taught that ‘anything goes’.  (I can see where that would be a popular doctrine!)

In short, they intentionally perverted religious truth in order to open doors of licentiousness and sin for themselves and anyone they could convince to join them.  Sadly, there are still false teachers in the world today!

Our last post ended with Peter assuring us that God has punishment in store for these wicked people.

Peter now builds upon that topic.  Not only does God punish the wicked in general, he especially punishes heretics and seducers, who add the ‘lust of defiling passion’ to their corrupt doctrines and false teachings.  Not only are they teaching evil, they are living it for all the world to see, while still identifying themselves Christians.

They live for the indulgence of their carnal appetites, following the desires and inclinations of their own minds.  Since their minds are filled with thoughts of sin and worldly pleasure, they will relentlessly pursue those things without restraint. 

This is the opposite of the true believer, who renews his mind in righteousness (Romans 12:2) and keeps a diligent guard on the thoughts that enter his mind. 

2 Corinthians 10:5 – Casting down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;  

You are the gate keeper of your own mind – God allows each one of us to choose what we will allow our minds to dwell on.  As you are deciding what to think about, keep this in mind – the seeds you plant in your mind will come to fruition in your actions (James 1:13-15).  So be careful what you think about!

As if that were not enough, false teachers also hate authority.  In our study of I Peter chapter 2, Peter admonished believers to submit to those that God has placed in authority over us, such as kings, magistrates, governors, etc.  God has placed them there for our good – to punish evil and maintain order.  As we respect and obey them, it brings glory to God and removes any reason that the heathen have for slandering Christianity.    

However, these vain false teachers do not respect authority of any kind.  Because they desire unbridled freedom of all kinds, they rebel against authority in the government, the church, the family and ultimately against God himself.  Their ultimate goal is anarchy.

I can’t help but compare this passage of scripture to some of the events taking place in our nation today.  We seem to have areas where people have thrown off the restraints of government, society and police, resulting in pockets of anarchy.  One thing we can do is to pray, asking God to send revival into these areas.  If these rebellious people will accept Christ as Lord, he will change their hearts and minds.  

II Peter 2:11 – whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.

This verse is actually the second half of the thought expressed in verse 10, which describes the false teachers as people who rebel against all authority, especially that of the civil government.  In their bold and scornful rebellion, they curse, imprecate and judge the government officials in authority over them.

Peter now contrasts their actions with those of the angels:

There is evidence in scripture to show that angels do not mock, blaspheme, reproach, judge or otherwise rail against others, even when they are zealously engaged in the work of God. 

An example of this is referenced in Jude 9-10 as well as in Jewish tradition, where the archangel Michael contended with Satan for the body of Moses.  During their encounter, the only words spoken by the angel were simple, truthful and straightforward – ‘The Lord rebuke you’.   There was no use of harsh or violent language.  The angels did not presume to judge or condemn their adversaries.

Here is the point Peter is making: Angels are higher in knowledge, dignity and power than human beings.  Therefore, it would be more appropriate for angels to speak judgmentally against the magistrates/rulers of this world than it would be for men to do so.  Yet, angels don’t do that.  They always show respect and dignity toward those God has placed in positions of civil authority.  Angels recognize that God has sanctioned that authority and they, as servants of God, respect it.

But these false teachers are senseless brutes – they speak blasphemy and judgment against those who have their authority from God.  We might say they rush in where angels fear to tread, and they rail against things they don’t understand (the purposes of God in granting authority to certain people). 

Scripture does not give us a full account of what was said by these foolish men.  We only know that they spoke presumptuously and wickedly against authority.  Our assumption is that the people of Peter’s day knew the specifics of the situation.  We can also assume that Holy Spirit wanted to call our attention to the bigger picture here – that false teachers exhibit a lack of respect for authority, always leaning towards anarchy. 

II Peter 2:12-13a – But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. 

Let’s stop and talk about wild boars for a minute.  Except for older males, wild boars travel in groups.  They are swift, nocturnal, unpredictable and aggressive.  They are omnivorous (they’ll eat anything – plants, meat, garbage, etc).  The males average around 200 pounds, although many larger animals have been documented. 

These animals are extremely destructive.  They love to root, trample and wallow.  In the process of doing so, they destroy crops, forests and property.  They prey on or compete with native species such as rodents, deer, birds, snakes, frogs and lizards. 

They also spread disease to both animals and humans.  There are more than 24 diseases that people can get form wild boars including hepatitis E and tuberculosis. 

Now, suppose that a large wild boar was loose in your neighborhood.  What would that be like?  Remember, that animal is wild and aggressive.  You can’t tame it.  You can’t train it.  You can’t reason with it.  It’s unpredictable and aggressive.  It’s only goal in life is to fulfill its desires – eat, destroy and reproduce. 

It will attack and destroy wildlife and pets.  It will ruin your lawn/garden, your landscaping, your fruit trees and any crops the farmers are growing.  Not only would it be dangerous because it is aggressive, it carries disease.  If an animal like that was wreaking havoc in your town, it wouldn’t be long before animal control was called in to capture and kill it. 

Peter is saying that licentious false teachers/prophets are like wild boar.  They ignore their God given ability to restrain their behavior and desires.  They want to be wild, throwing off all restraint or authority in pursuit of their base fleshly desires (money, sex, power, drunkenness, entertainment, etc).  They don’t care who they hurt or destroy in the process.  They infect unsuspecting believers with their diseased doctrine and practices.  In the end, they will be destroyed – their behavior will eventually lead to both moral and spiritual death.   

The ironic thing is this – these people are all about casting off authority because they don’t want to be restrained or bound by law and society.  But by rebelling against the authority sanctioned by God, they place themselves under the bondage of their own evil passions.  So either way, they wind up being ‘captured’ – they will serve a master of some kind. 

Those who serve a master earn wages. 

We are all familiar with ‘wages’ – money earned by performing work.  In a sense, all people are earning eternal wages.  Those who serve God are laying up treasures in heaven, while those who serve Satan (or themselves) are laying up torment/punishment in hell. Recompense may or may not come in this life, but it is guaranteed in the next.  The justice of God guarantees it. 

II Peter 2:13b –They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime.  They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.

Most sinners wait for the cover of secrecy or night to indulge in sinful pleasures.  But these false teachers are so bad, they have cast off even that light fetter.  They defy all decency by openly and shamefully practicing wickedness in a place and manner that all can see.   

These vile sinners are like blots or blemishes.  Picture it this way:  You are wearing a brand new, pure white, silk shirt to a party.  Turns out, the host of the party is serving BBQ wings.  You pick up a really saucy wing and – oops – your shirt isn’t white anymore!  What a shame; the spot ruins the shirt.

In the same way, the actions and beliefs of false teachers are a scandal and a disgrace to the true spiritual church of Christ, which should be (and one day will be) without spot or wrinkle.

Furthermore, our translation says they revel in their deceptions, while the King James Version says they ‘sport themselves with their own deceivings’.  Not surprisingly, the Greek word means to live delicately or luxuriously.  In other words, they take advantage of their views/doctrines to live in rebellion and luxury.  They indulge in their most corrupt passions under the guise of Christianity.  In fact, they even look forward to the Christian feasts as an occasion to indulge (1 Corinthians 11:17-22).

What could be worse?  They clearly blaspheme God and slander salvation by their words and deeds.

II Peter 2:14 – They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.  They entice unsteady souls.  They have hearts trained in greed.  Accursed children!

‘Eyes’ is a figurative expression often used in scripture.  In this case, it refers to the mind/disposition of man.  For example: 

  • Bountiful eye refers to a person of kindly disposition (Proverbs 22:9). 
  • Haughty or lofty eyes refer to a spirit of pride (Psalms 131:1). 
  • Lowly eyes refers to a person who is humble (Luke 18:13). 
  • Sharpening of the eyes refers to anger (Job 16:9). 

In this case, eyes full of adultery refers to idolatrous inclinations.  Peter tells us their desires are insatiable.  Your translation may say ‘cannot cease from sin’.  This does not mean that they do not have the natural mental ability to stop sinning.  Neither does it mean that they are physically incapable of ceasing to sin.  Rather, it means that they are so corrupt that they will certainly always sin. 

And they don’t like to sin alone.  They try to involve as many people as possible in their false doctrines which promise carnal pleasures and liberties.  Christians who are not deeply rooted in their commitment to Christ are in danger of being beguiled (baited or entrapped) by these deceivers.

Peter refers to these wicked people as accursed children.  This either means they brought a curse with them wherever they went, or that they deserved to be cursed.

I Peter 2:15-16 – Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.  They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

The right way refers to the narrow path of righteousness that Christians tread in this life (Matthew 7:13-14).  This path leads to peace, blessing and eternal life.  False teachers and prophets have left the narrow path and proceeded to follow Balaam down the wide road.  This road leads to sin, torment and eternal death.

Remember Balaam son of Beor (or Bozor)?  He is most famous for having a conversation with his own donkey, but there is a whole lot more to his story.  You can read the whole account of Balaam in Numbers 22-25. 

Without explaining the entire story of Balaam (we don’t have time), let’s look at how he compares to the false teachers/prophets that Peter is warning his flock about.

One – Balaam professed to be a religious leader or servant of God, but that is very questionable.  He was planning to do great harm to the nation of Israel by accepting a lot of money to curse them.  So too, false teachers were professing to be Christians, but causing great harm in the church.

Two – Balaam was greedy and covetous.  He knew full well that God did not want him to go with the Moabites to curse Israel, but he went anyway because he wanted the honor and fortune that King Balak was going to give him.  (Balaam’s tendency to avarice is clearly evident throughout the entire narrative.  You will see it if you go back and read the account in Numbers).  He preferred rewards of this life over the blessing of God.  The false teachers of Peter’s day were also willing to disobey God in order to receive earthly rewards.

Three – Inciting others to licentiousness.  The culmination of Balaam’s story is this:  Although he desperately wanted to curse Israel so he could get paid, God would literally not allow him to do it.  (In fact, he verbally blesses them instead.)  So he does the next best thing –he reveals to the King of Moab how to get Israel to curse itself.  And – you guessed it- he did it through licentiousness. 

Balaam instructed the Moabites to throw a great feast and invite Israel.  There was plenty of alcohol, food and false idols.  The beautiful young women of Moab came to the feast ready to party and soon the whole affair turned into a great orgy in which the false gods of Moab were worshipped by the Israelites.  As a result of their actions, God severely punished them. 

This brings up an interesting question:  Have we avoided the snares of false teachers only to curse ourselves?  Are we doing things contrary to the word of God?  Are these things blocking the Lord’s blessing from our lives? 

For instance, are you harboring unforgiveness towards someone?  Are you with holding tithe and offerings from the Lord?  Has Holy Spirit clearly spoken to you to do something for him, but you refuse like an obstinate child?  All of these things can block God’s blessings from you.  

II Peter 2:17 – These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm.  For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.

Imagine for a moment that you are in the midst of a desert.  You are out of water.  It is extremely hot.  There is no relief from the relentless sun.  You are sweaty and exhausted.  Your mouth is like sandpaper and your lips taste like salt.  As time passes by, you are getting closer and closer to death.

But suddenly, you crest a sand dune and way off in the distance you see a well!  Relief and joy flood your spirit because that well promises relief and life to you.  You struggle to get through that last mile and reach the well.

Now suppose you uncap the well, only to find that it is dry.  Imagine what that would feel like.  You would despair and give up hope.  You are closer to death than you have ever been because the well did not deliver what it promised – water.

In the same way, sinners are seeking relief from sin.  They are in a desert of death and despair.  They are looking for life, and they turn to the church to find it.  But what if they are not met with a true Christian teacher or pastor?  A false teacher is like that dry desert well – they promise relief from spiritual death, but they can’t deliver (Jude 12-13).  Those seeking the refreshing truth of the gospel are disappointed.  Their spiritual journey has just gotten more difficult, instead of easier.

Here is Peter’s point: False teachers offer doctrines that seem wonderful.  According to them, you can have your cake and eat it too.  You can be a Christian but live as sinful a life as you like.  But that is not true.  Their vain, empty promises are like wells without water or rain clouds without rain.

Peter also assures his readers once again that God is going to punish these wicked people.  Utter darkness denotes a place of future punishment (Matthew 8:12) which God has prepared for those who choose this path. 

So here’s the really important question:  If a sinner came to you as a well of spiritual life, would you be able to give them the water of salvation?

John 7:38 – He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.

In the gospel of John chapter 4, Jesus speaks to the woman at the well about the living waters of salvation.  In John chapter 7, Jesus says that if we are believers, the precious Holy Spirit lives within us and is like a mighty river of water that brings healing and salvation to those who need it. 

If you are a Christian, you have this water.  What you need to do is learn how to use your bucket to draw out that water and present it to others by sharing the gospel message.

II Peter 2:18-19 – For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.  For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

‘Those who are barely escaping from error’ refers to new Christians.  Having turned to Christ, they have just recently escaped from sin and death.  This puts them in a very dangerous place – they have probably only recently broken off many of their old habits and there may be a strong desire to relapse into old ways. 

At this point, if they receive sound doctrine to help them grow in grace, they will become rooted and grounded in Christ and go on to bring forth a spiritual harvest for the kingdom of heaven.

But if they come across a false teacher speaking words of folly and boasting, they could be in real trouble.  These teachers deliberately present their erroneous doctrines with fancy words in a pompous manner, hoping to allure or ensnare unsuspecting believers into their false beliefs.  Specifically, they promise Christianity with unlimited indulgence in carnal appetites and unrestrained freedom/liberty.  

Let’s talk about freedom for a moment.  Sin makes you a slave to darkness and evil.  You have no way of breaking out of the cycle of servitude to it.  Every person under the bondage of sin will reap the same reward – death. 

However, true Christianity promises and delivers freedom from sin.  Hallelujah!  By breaking the yoke of darkness from your life, it gives you the freedom to choose Christ; you can choose to live a holy life as a son or daughter of God.  You can choose to become a steward in the kingdom of heaven, reaping rewards of life.  This is true freedom:

John 8:35-36 – The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The freedom of the false teachers is different.   They define freedom as the absence of needless restraint and/or the strict/narrow limits of religion.  But this is not freedom – it is licentiousness which in reality, is slavery. 

Here’s why:  Whatever a person submits to (greed, lust, desire for power, etc) is truly his master – he is enslaved to it.  So in casting off restraints, they place themselves back under the chains of their passions and desires.  Thus, the promise of freedom from false teachers results in bondage again to sin; all sin results in servitude and slavery.

Here is some good news:  Christians can prevent falling prey to their tactics by seriously attending to their own personal holiness and working to add Christian graces to their lives.

II Peter 2:20 – For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

The unstable souls (verse 14) who come under the destructive influence of false doctrines will find themselves in a worse position than before they were saved. 

By coming to Christ, they gained additional wisdom and knowledge of God that sinners do not have; they have first hand experience of the true saving grace of Christ. 

Knowledge always carries the burden of responsibility.  Each person is responsible for the level of knowledge of God that they have.   By again becoming entangled in the things of the world, they will now be judged on an increased level of knowledge, which will result in a more severe judgment that what the ignorant will receive (Luke 12:47).

II Peter 2:21 – For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

When the apostle uses the word ‘better’ here, he is making a comparison.

On the one hand, we have sinners who have always been heathens, being in ignorance of the gospel message, and being ignorant of the law of sin. 

But on the other hand we have sinners who were once heathens, but then came to a knowledge of the grace of Christ Jesus.  They knew what it was like to have the freedom to choose Christ.  They heard the gospel message, understood sin, and knew they were saved by grace. 

To have a knowledge of the truth and then turn away from it is considered the greater evil.  Those who were always ignorant of the truth have less culpability than those who knew the truth and yet sinned against it.

II Peter 2:22 – What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

Here Peter calls upon the wisdom found in Proverbs (26:11) and Jewish tradition.

This is a proverb we recognize and easily understand.  Pigs don’t change their natures.  They have a desire to wallow in the mud.  Even if they clean themselves, it is only a temporary measure.  They will soon return to wallowing in the mud because their nature has not changed. 

So far, so good.  This makes perfect sense in the case of the pig.  But when we seek to apply this proverb to the spiritual realm, we get major difference of opinion amongst scholars. 

The debate centers around this: 

Did the person in question ever really have a true change of heart/conversion experience? 

Those who believe the person really DID have a change of heart/conversion (became a Christian) must, by default, believe that people can fall away from the faith.  They can ‘back slide’ or lose their salvation if they willfully choose the ways of sin.

Those who believe the person DID NOT really have a true change of heart/conversion must, by default, believe that the person was never saved (became a Christian) to begin with.  Therefore, like the pig, they will return to sin.  The logical conclusion to this belief is that those who do truly accept Christ will never ‘back slide’.  Therefore, you can never lose your salvation, once you truly accept it. 

This issue is a divisive one, which scholars in our generation continue to hotly debate.  You can decide for yourself which opinion you think is correct. 

But the real bottom line is this:  No church is completely pure.  No church is without people and thus no church is without sin or faulty doctrine of some kind.  It is the duty of each individual Christian to guard against false beliefs that lead to unrestrained behavior (licentiousness).  As we work towards personal holiness (I Peter 1:15-16), and purposefully add Christian graces to our lives, we can rest assured that Holy Spirit will keep us safe from falling away from grace.  There is no need to fear. 

But woe to those who lead others astray for their own gratification! 

Let me offer you some encouragement:

As we mentioned earlier, God gives each one of us the ability to control our minds.  You can’t stop random thoughts of sin from popping into your mind.  But you can control what you allow to stay there! 

What should the minds of holy people be dwelling on?  The apostle Paul gives us the answer here:

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I encourage you to dwell on these things, because if you do, you will avoid a lot of sin and temptation!

Let me offer you some relief and strength:

As we mentioned earlier, all Christians have the ‘living water’ of God in our lives.  In other words, you have the same gospel message that Billy Graham, Charles Finney and others had. You have access to the same Holy Spirit power they had.  

All you need to do is get comfortable sharing that water with thirsty souls.  It’s not a matter of having a PhD in divinity.  It’s not a matter of getting a bullhorn and standing on the corner condemning random people to hell.  It doesn’t have to include every book of the bible and take an entire day.  It does not have to be confrontational.

It’s simply a matter of being ready to share what God has done for you with people who are hurting.  Is one of your coworkers going through an illness or a marriage problem?  Offer them support and prayer.  Just a little kindness can open the door for you to share what a difference Christ has made in your life. 

Sharing the gospel can be a gentle, peaceful, well received experience.  You don’t have to fear it!  Just look for ways to mention Jesus in your daily conversations.  You might be surprised how easy it is to share your faith!

II Peter, Chapter 2, Part 1

II Peter 2:1 – But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

At the end of chapter one, Peter spoke about prophesy as proof of the truth of the Christian religion/gospel message. 

BUT (notice it’s a big but) not everyone who claims to be a prophet is a true messenger of God.  Just as there were false prophets under the Jewish dispensation, there will be false prophets and false teachers in the Christian church.  Rather than prophesying by divine inspiration, they prophesy and/or teach from their own vain imaginations, and they ensnare and corrupt many.

One source of false teaching during the second century was Gnosticism.  Gnosticism is difficult to define exactly because it has many forms that vary widely.  It is a topic that could be studied for months on end, and still not fully understood.  Obviously, we can’t do an in depth study of it in a short post.  So for our purposes, we are going to look at some very basic ways to define it.

In general, we can define it as a mystic belief system that combines certain Christian ideas (particularly that of redemption through Christ) with speculations/imaginings/opinions of men derived from a medley of sources (Buddhism, Platonism, Greek or Jewish philosophies, religions, theosophies or mysteries). 

For example, all Gnostics believe in the essential separation of matter and spirit, with matter being the source of all evil.  Now that may not sound like a big problem on the surface.  After all, Christians also believe that the spirit is separate from the flesh.  We believe that mankind is fallen and has a sinful nature.   

But look where the subtle lie of the Gnostic leads you:  Human flesh is matter, so by default it is evil.  Since God cannot have any direct contact with evil (matter), then the incarnation of God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is inconceivable.  Therefore, the incarnation and the true human life of Jesus never took place at all; consequently, his suffering and death on the cross cannot be real (according to the Gnostics). 

See how their vain speculations twist and pervert the gospel message? 

Another belief common among Gnostics is that they have secret spiritual knowledge obtained by mystic revelation, which other believers do not/cannot understand.  Based on this alleged ‘superior knowledge’ they try to form sects or divisions within the church which exclude ordinary believers.

Pretty soon the body is divided with one part being faithful to the gospel message, and another part believing some far out or twisted interpretation of the gospel based on secret mystical revelation.  And you see the danger here, right?  A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Now, let’s take this one step further.  There was a particular sect of Gnostics who called themselves Nicolaitans.  I am sure you have read about them in scripture.  This group professed to be Christians, but they advocated ideas which abuse the doctrine of grace. 

Grace is the divine favor of God towards man; the mercy of God (as opposed to his justice), and any benefits his mercy imparts such as love, pardon, divine favor, etc.

As we well know, Christians still sin, but because of grace God forgives us when we make mistakes or break his laws.  All we need to do is truly repent and confess our shortcomings.  Under the genuine doctrine of grace, we can be assured that God will see our repentance and forgive us.  

The Nicolaitans, however, twisted the doctrine of grace.  They attempted to introduce a false freedom or licentiousness (behavior unrestrained by law or morality, characterized by abuse of freedom, excess, surpassing boundaries) into the church.  Basically, they subtly reasoned that ‘anything goes’ for the Christian, because no matter what they did, God would forgive them because of grace.  

There can be no doubt that this was a false doctrine:

Romans 6:1-2 – What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer in it?

Their false teachings seemed to particularly contradict the laws set down by Holy Spirit at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.  As you recall, the Jerusalem Council freed Christians from observing the hundreds of laws/traditions observed under the Old Covenant.  Basically, the church was bound to abstain from idol meats and sexual sins. 

The Nicolaitans so twisted the message of grace, it appeared to Christians that they could, and even should, eat meat sacrificed to idols during pagan feasts.  These feasts frequently ended up in orgies which the false teachers also labeled as permissible through grace.  Thus, these false teachers introduce evil doctrine and practices into the church by perverting the true words of God.  All this is done through a myriad of twisted reasoning and vain speculation, supported by ‘secret’ truth.

Now that we have at least a basic idea of false teaching, lets discuss the idea of ‘bringing in destructive heresies’.

Heresy can refer to either an opinion that is in opposition to established doctrine, or the sect that promotes these beliefs (like the Nicolaitans).  Normally, people who have doctrinal differences split off from a group to form a new organization.  But in this case, they stayed within the church, creating divisions within Christianity by the introduction of subtle lies and deceptions into true doctrines.

Interestingly, the Greek word translated ‘bring in’ literally means to ‘lead in by the side of others’.  In other words, they did not openly renounce the gospel.  Rather, their false beliefs were like a poison added to the gospel with cunning and craftiness, which would be fatal to the spiritual life of those who believed it.

But scripture assures us that false teachers who sow crops of heresy will eventually reap a harvest of swift destruction. 

As true Christians, we need to make sure we are never caught up in heresy.  

Christians in every generation should always be on guard against false doctrines.  The more familiar you are with the bible, the easier it will be for you to spot a lie or the half truth of a false teacher.  If you are listening to a teacher and something they say feels wrong to your spirit, don’t ignore it.  Stop right there.  Pray for Holy Spirit to pinpoint the problem.  Search the word.  Root out the lie.  In this way, you can protect yourself from false teaching.

II Peter 2:2 – And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.

We need to make a very important point here:  Heresy is NOT honest error.  It is the intentional perversion of religious truth designed to open doors of licentiousness and sin for those who believe it. 

Why are these false doctrines so enticing?  How is it possible that they can lead ‘many’ astray?  The answer is simple:  They allow people to have their cake and eat it too. 

These people call themselves Christians, and thus try to lay claim to all the vast and wonderful promises of God without the holy living that God truly requires.  In their belief system, there is no need to control your lustful desires or to restrain yourself in any way. There is no need to work at adding Christian graces to your life, or to become more like Christ, or to love your neighbor as yourself, or to live a holy life, or to endure persecution for the sake of the gospel.

Sadly, heresy brings disgrace, calumny and defamation to Christianity.  Because of it, the name and doctrine of Christ will be open to the reproach of the very people who need it the most.  Even true Christians will be misrepresented as hypocrites and the gospel message is reduced to a bad joke.  Thus, people like the Nicolaitans bring blasphemy upon the name of Jesus and the gospel message. 

II Peter 2:3 – And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words.  Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

We have an example of this in the bible – Judas Iscariot!  Notice, he identified with the apostles, but in reality he was a friend of the devil.  The narrative of the woman with the alabaster box reveals that Judas was very greedy:

John 12:5-6 – Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?  This he [Judas] said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bore what was put therein. 

Peter is saying that all false teachers are the same – they are greedy.  They are looking for money to fund their indulgent lifestyles and in order to get it, they will lie and deceive.

So on the one hand, there are devout Christians who are willing to give everything (including their money) to the cause of Christ.  On the other hand, there are false teachers who devise smooth and artful speeches designed to deceive believers into giving them money.  The outcome is obvious.   This has often been described as ‘fleecing the flock’, or treating believers as merchandise, which can be sold for profit. 

Sadly, this still occurs.  I think we can all recall public figures who sell healing or prosperity to true believers by using deceitful reasoning. 

Peter not only warns us of the existence of these practices, he warns us about the judgment they bring.  From the beginning, God has promised to pour out his wrath and indignation on the wicked.  Although those punishments were predicted long ago, they are not impotent or asleep; they are alert and active, hurrying to overtake those who deceive God’s children. 

Notice that Peter is slowly and methodically building up an airtight case against false teachers.  By showing what they do and what their final outcome will be, he gives true believers the strength and wisdom to reject their enticing teachings.   

II Peter 2:4 – For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

Peter now continues to give further proof that the wicked will be punished.  He is going to give us three separate examples: the angels, the world during the time of Noah and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. 

The ANGELS

Angels were created as holy, and they had the experience of actually walking in the presence of God.  Although we don’t know the exact details, we can discern that through their own choice/free will they rebelled against God. 

As a result of this sin, they were punished – cast down to hell and held in chains of darkness, reserved for the final judgment.  That is where they are right now.  The darkness that binds them is so dense and so strong that it cannot be broken.  They cannot deliver themselves, nor can they be delivered by others.  At the final judgment, they will forever (permanently) be excluded from the presence of God. 

Peter’s point is this:  If God did not spare these angels from judgment, he will not spare false teachers either.

II Peter 2:5 – if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;

The WORLD

We have all read the story of Noah and the ark (Genesis 6-7).  We know that the world had rejected God and become corrupt and sinful:

Genesis 6:5 – And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Because of their rebellion against God, he brought upon them swift destruction in the form of the flood.  Like the judgment of the angels, there was no possible way for these people to deliver themselves or be delivered by anyone else.  

Notice that the numbers did not make a difference to God.  Though the unrighteous were numerous, they were all slain.  Though the righteous were but a few, they were well protected by God.    

Peter’s point is this:  If God did not spare great numbers of sinful antediluvians from judgment, he will not spare the wicked false teachers either. 

II Peter 2:6 – If by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

SODOM and GOMORRAH

This is the third example of God’s punishment of the rebellious and wicked.  Again, we are familiar with the story.  Sodom and Gomorrah were so corrupt, God couldn’t even find ten righteous people within the city (Genesis 18:23-28)!

Because of their rebellion against God, he brought upon them swift destruction in the form of fire and brimstone, which burned them into ashes.  Like the angels and the antediluvians, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were incapable of saving themselves, or being saved by others. 

The only exception was Lot and his family, the only righteous people in the city.  We note that God spared those who serve him; he postponed the destruction of the city until they moved to a place of safety.

Peter’s point is this:  The awful and final judgments that came upon the rebellious and licentious people of Sodom and Gomorrah are plain proof of divine condemnation.  Unlike man, God judges fairly and equitably.  If the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were not spared for their rebellion, neither will the false teachers of Peter’s day. 

The angels, the antediluvians and the people of Sodom were incapable of saving themselves.  No one could save them from the wrath of God either.  The same will be true of false teachers.   

II Peter 2:7-8 – and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);

There are several observations we can make from this passage.

  • We know that Noah and his family as well as Lot and his family were saved from the destruction which overtook those around them.  This demonstrates how God makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked (Psalms 91). 
  • As bad as Sodom was, there was still at least one righteous man in it.  God does not leave himself without a witness in even the vilest and most wicked places (I Kings 19:18).  Maybe sin prevails in your place of employment or your school.  You may be tempted to leave that place, but stop for a minute and carefully consider your position. 

Is it God’s will for you to leave?  Or is this an opportunity to let your gospel light shine even brighter so that others may see your good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:16)?   

  • The scripture says that Lot was vexed/wearied/burdened by the unrestrained sin and excessive wickedness of the people of Sodom.  If you think about it, that is a really incredible statement and it reveals a lot about him. 

How many of us are desensitized to sin because we rub shoulders with unbelievers every day?  Do we cringe if we hear cursing, or are we so used to it that we don’t even notice it anymore?  When people around us are proud to have taken advantage of others, are you grieved by their sin, or do you simply not care?  We could give many more examples, but the point is this:  Lot held God’s laws in such high esteem, that he was grieved or burdened by the sin around him.  He was actually wearied by it.  Are we grieved by the sin we see every day?  What does that say about us?

  • Furthermore, Lot lived in the midst of a culture that accepted extreme licentiousness as the ‘norm’.  Yet, as long as he lived in Sodom, he maintained his integrity and personal holiness.  What about us?  Are we more influenced by our culture or God’s word?

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

We can take comfort in knowing that God has a perfect and exact knowledge of both the righteous and the wicked. 

THE RIGHTEOUS – First, let me offer you this word of encouragement: You can be sure that every good work you have done has been seen by our Father and he delights to bless you both in this life and the next. 

We can also be sure that God is not only able to deliver his children from trials and temptations, he fully understands the best way to do it.  He sees a way to do it, even if we do not; he can deliver in ways we never thought possible. 

  • He can send angels to assist us. 
  • He can remove or destroy our enemy. 
  • He can give us earthly friends to strengthen us. 
  • Or, he can completely deliver us from trouble by taking us to heaven.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – … God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.

THE WICKED – It may seem as though the wicked escape from trouble, but that is an illusion.  Sin carries its own penalty in this life and punishment will reach its maximum fulfillment in hell.  There will be no escape from the judgment of God.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Are you in a trial that seems like it has lasted forever, and still has no end in sight?  I think we have all been in that position from time to time.  In these situations, we should follow the example of King David.  The Bible says he ‘encouraged himself in the Lord’:

1 Samuel 30:6 – And David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.

When you are in the midst of a long trial, all you need to do is begin to read the word.  The Bible is filled from cover to cover with testimonies of how God loves his people.  He parts the sea for them.  He slays entire enemy armies in the dead of night.  He opens prison doors.  He provides water from rocks.  He makes axe heads float.  The list goes on and on and on…  Keep reading the word until it really sinks into your spirit that God loves you with an everlasting love and is going to make you victorious and deliver you, one way or another.  Let your faith rise up and grasp the victory!    

Let me offer you some relief and strength:

False teachers and prophets appear in every generation, including ours.  Satan would love to ensnare you in a lie and make you ineffective in the kingdom of heaven.  But we can avoid that trap by listening to Holy Spirit, knowing the word, and by testing the word that teachers/preachers give.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.  

Just because someone says they have a word or revelation from God does not make it so; we must listen to their word to see if it lines up with scripture and bears witness with our spirits.  If we seek the wisdom of God on these matters, he will be sure that we are not fooled by false teachers.  

II Peter, Chapter 1, Part 3

II Peter 1:10 – Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

In our last post, we looked at the Christian graces that Peter encouraged his readers to cultivate in their lives.  These included virtue, knowledge, self control, patience, godliness, brotherly concern and love.

Christians who exhibit these traits will not fail to be fruitful in the kingdom of heaven.  Christians who lack these things are ‘blind’ – their eyes and hearts are focused on this world, rather than spiritual things.  At best, the cares of this life choke out any fruit they might have produced in the kingdom of heaven.  Worst case scenario, they could fall away from their faith entirely.

Because of this (therefore), Christians need to be diligent to ‘confirm their calling and election’.   What does Peter mean by that? 

Election means ‘divine choice, the predestination of individuals as objects of mercy and salvation; the Christian community as a whole (the elect)’. 

God has elected or chosen to offer eternal life to all of mankind through his plan of salvation.  As you know, this plan consisted of God sacrificing his Son on the cross to make atonement for our sin.    

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Notice that redemption is available to everyone (the world, whosoever).

God not only elected to make redemption available, he also calls us to it.  In other words, Holy Spirit calls or draws sinners to himself by bringing conviction for sin, and offering redemption through the blood of Christ. 

At that point (when we feel that call/conviction), God gives us a choice – we can reject his offer and continue in sin/death, or we can accept his offer and allow Jesus to be Lord of our life. 

Those who have accepted Jesus as Lord should continually be growing in their Christian walk and becoming more and more like Christ (II Corinthians 3:17-18).  Specifically, we should expect to see growth and development of the Christian graces in our lives.    

Now, let’s switch topics for a minute. Our new topic is 5th grade science. 

Question: What is a barometer?

Answer: It is an instrument for determining the weight or pressure of the atmosphere, and hence for judging probable changes of weather.

(If you got that right, be sure to reward yourself!  For some of us, it has been a LONG time since fifth grade!) 

Anyway, you can’t physically see the pressure of the atmosphere, can you?  But you can see how it changes the level of mercury within a barometer.  And based on the measurement/changes, you can estimate what the weather is going to be. 

In this passage, Peter is referring to a ‘barometric confirmation’ of our faith.  We can’t see our Christianity with our physical eyes.  But we can determine or measure its progress in different ways.  If our actions correspond with our profession of faith (if we see a steady growth of the Christian graces in our lives), then we can confirm or assure ourselves that we are true believers in Christ.  This is also a confirmation of our faith to others.

This was very important for the Christians of Peter’s day, because there were many false teachers infiltrating the church, trying to lure Christians into false beliefs.  But the ‘barometer of confirmation’ assured believers that they were in a true relationship with God.  They could have peace of mind about this matter; they were not tormented by doubts that the false teachers tried to plant in their minds.

This is still a good tool for us today.  There are still false teachers running around.  There are churches that meet every week and exercise religious rituals, but are not part of the true family of God.  One way to confirm to yourself that your Christianity is real is to look at your graces and check their progress.    

Peter assures his readers that if the graces are growing, we can be confident in our faith.  If we diligently practice the growth of these in our lives, we will not fail in our walk with God.      

In summary:  Election is of God; only he made the plan of salvation and only he carried it out.  Calling is also of God – he calls men to himself via Holy Spirit.  Our works cannot ever earn our salvation.  Our calling and election do not depend on good works or virtue; but good works/virtue (Christian graces) are evidence of the calling and election we possess.

II Peter 1:11 – For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Here, the apostle speaks of an entrance.  What kind of an entrance is he referring to?

He likens the believer’s entrance to heaven to the entrance of a victorious Roman general into his home city.

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible describes the Roman ritual this way:

On such occasions the general was usually clad in a rich purple robe, interwoven with figures of gold, setting forth the grandeur of his achievements; his buskins were beset with pearls, and he wore a crown, which at first was of laurel, but was afterwards of pure gold.  In one hand he had a branch of laurel, the emblem of victory; and in the other, his truncheon.  He was carried in a magnificent chariot, adorned with ivory and plates of gold, and usually drawn by two white horses. (Other animals were also used: when Pompey triumphed over Africa, his chariot was drawn by elephants; that of Mark Antony, by lions….)

His children either sat at his feet in the chariot, or rode on the chariot horses. To keep him humble amidst these great honors a slave stood at his back, casting out incessant railings, and reproaches; and carefully enumerating all his vices, etc.  Musicians led up the procession, and played triumphal pieces in praise of the general…

Next followed carts loaded with the spoils taken from the enemy, with their horses, chariots, etc. These were followed by the kings, princes, or generals taken in the war, loaded with chains. Immediately after these came the triumphal chariot, before which, as it passed, the people strewed flowers, and shouted Io, triumphe!

Wow!  That would be quite an entrance into one’s home city, wouldn’t it?  While it sounds exotic to us, it was a familiar ritual to all of the people under the Roman Empire, whether they were Christians or not.  They may or may not have personally witnessed it, but they knew about it.

Peter draws a parallel between the coming home of a triumphant Roman soldier and the coming home/entrance to heaven of a triumphant Christian soldier.  Those who fully embrace Christ in their lives, as evidenced by the adding of the Christian graces, can expect to receive a very warm and victorious entry into heaven!      

Did you know that scripture speaks of 4 different classes of people? 

  • There are some who are opposed to Christ (infidels or heathens).  They will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 21:27). 
  • Others are said to be close to the kingdom of heaven, inferring that they will eventually make a decision for Christ (Mark 12:34). 
  • There is a third group who are ‘saved by fire’ (I Corinthians 3:15), meaning that they have no good works or growth added to their salvation.  An example of this would be someone saved on their deathbed.  
  • Finally, there is a group who will experience an abundant entrance into heaven.  These are fruitful Christians who are daily growing in Christ.  They will not only experience a warm welcome into the kingdom, but a more ample reward for eternity.  

Which group are you in?

II Peter 1:12 – Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.

Because these truths are so important, Peter is going to take every opportunity to remind believers of them.  This is reflective of his work as both an apostle and a pastor.

Pastors do reveal new truths to their congregants.  The truth was always there in scripture, though they may not have noticed it or understood it. 

But the majority of the pastor’s labor is spent in reminding people of well known truths that they have not yet implemented in their lives.  Let’s be honest – sometimes truth can be lost in the midst of living daily life; reminders to holy living are necessary for us all. 

Thank the Lord for pastors who never grow weary in coaching their flock to victory in their Christian race! 

For our part, let’s make sure we are ‘coachable’… that we allow God to impact/change our lives through the teachings and guidance (reminders) of our pastor.  If we work with our pastor instead of against him/her, we will benefit greatly (Hebrews 13:17). 

II Peter 1:13-15 – I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by the way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.  And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Essentially, Peter tells his readers that as long as he is on earth, it is his duty to spur them on to a diligent performance of their Christian duties and to keep a careful eye on spiritual matters.  Again, this is the duty shared by all apostles and ministers of Christ.

Peter probably feels this duty more acutely than ever, as he senses that he is nearing the end of his earthly life.  Soon, he will be martyred (crucified) for Christ, as Jesus revealed to him:

John 21:18-19 – Verily, verily, I say unto you, when you [Peter] were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall dress you, and carry you where you would not.   This spoke he [Jesus], signifying by what death he [Peter] should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said unto him, Follow me.

When people sense they are coming to the end of their lives, they often focus on what they consider to be the most important things in life.  They may share memories with you, reveal family secrets or give you some of their special possessions.  They will often try to mend relationships or express their love towards family and friends. 

Peter is approaching the end of his earthly life, and it was a really unusual life!  Consider what we know about the apostle Peter:  He saw the miracles of Jesus.  He witnessed the transfiguration.  He heard the teachings and understood the parables.  He walked on water.  He was at the first communion.  He was schooled in the Old Testament law, then after spending three years with Jesus, he came to an understanding of how the Law was fulfilled in Christ.  He was a first hand witness as the New Covenant was ushered in to replace the old.  He spent time with Jesus after his resurrection.

Amongst all the tremendous and miraculous things that he learned in life, what did he find most important?  Assuming he was speaking to Christians, what did he want to emphasize/to highlight/to continue to call to our remembrance?  What did he want us to keep in the forefront of our minds?

Faith in Christ, and the necessity of experiencing and practicing the graces/virtues of the Christian life, until we are called to heaven.   

This is important because believers who are established in the truth will not be shaken by the winds of false doctrine.  And nothing can give greater comfort in the closing moments of life than to know that we have faithfully followed/served Jesus and sought his glory. 

Had Peter lived in our day, he would probably have written multiple best selling Christian books.  He could have filled many of them with the wisdom and knowledge he gained from spending time with Jesus. 

Instead, Holy Spirit chose to preserve for us just two rather short letters.  And through the power of the Spirit these letters accomplish Peter’s goal – to serve as a reminder of the important doctrines of Christianity, preserved as a reference for future generations of believers.

In verses 16-18, Peter refers to the transfiguration of Christ which was witnessed by himself along with James and John.  The account of the transfiguration can be found in Luke 9:28-36 and Matthew 17:1-9.  It is too long to copy into this post, so please take a moment to read it before continuing on. 

II Peter 1:16 – For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made know to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty,

Before and after the coming of Jesus, mankind has worshipped false gods and created false religions.  Fueled by Satan, these gods spring from the evil of men’s hearts and imaginations.  They were frequently contrived to please and gratify men’s desires with the eventual goal of deceiving and perverting their judgment and conduct.  And they have been very successful.  Passed on from generation to generation as truth, entire cultures have been enslaved to evil and darkness.  

Most false religions have their origins shrouded in mystery with one or maybe two witnesses, along with one great appearance or alleged miraculous sign.

Unlike false religions, the gospel message of Jesus Christ is the true council of God.  It is the genuine and infinitely wise plan of a loving Father who has made a way of salvation through his Son. It was never done in secret or shrouded in mystery.  Through the preaching of the gospel and the working of miracles, the power and coming of Jesus have been clearly revealed to anyone who will listen.   

The coming of Messiah was long predicted in scripture; it began immediately after the fall (Genesis 3:15).  The promise can be traced all through the Old Testament and into the New.  All along the way, God gives us ample evidence that he is carefully watching over his plan to bring it to pass at the perfect moment.  When the time was right, the prediction/promise of the coming of Messiah was fulfilled when Jesus Christ came to earth, born of a woman.  

The power of Jesus was clearly manifested while he was on earth.  The miracles he performed bore witness to the truth of the gospel message.  And the truth of the gospel message is this:  Only the power of Jesus is able to save to the uttermost all sinners that come to God through him.  Nothing but the blood of Christ is able to wash away all guilt and sin. 

There were hundreds if not thousands of witnesses to the power and resurrection of Christ, but Peter was witness to a special manifestation of the divinity of Jesus during the transfiguration.     

II Peter 1:17-18 – For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

Again, Peter is drawing on the evidence of his eyewitness account to proclaim the validity and truth of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, which in turn validates the gospel message. 

As Peter, James and John witnessed the glory and divine majesty of Jesus, they also heard God honoring his Son:

Matthew 17:5 – While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you him.

God himself confirmed that Jesus was the long promised Messiah by bestowing honor and glory upon him.  Honor refers to the statement of God and glory refers to the light of Christ’s countenance.  The three apostles were both eye witnesses and ear witnesses of this event.  It was not a vision or a hallucination.  It was a real experience.   

The statement ‘this is my beloved Son’ declares that without question Jesus was the promised Messiah.  Because that is true, everything contained within the Law (represented by Moses) and the Prophets (represented by Elijah) regarding the Messiah applies to Jesus. 

It also means that all future prophesy concerning the Messiah (his return to earth, his defeat of Satan, his 1000 year reign, etc) are also true and we can have the utmost confidence that these events will occur as prophesied at their appointed times.   

Because God the Father loves Jesus, he also loves all those who have faith in Jesus.  Because God the Father is pleased with Jesus, he is also pleased with all those who have faith in Jesus.  In fact, it is ONLY through faith in Jesus that we can be accepted by God and become his adopted children.     

As a final note, the mountain on which this occurred is not definitely identified, though tradition names the location as Mount Tabor.  This mountain was not holy in and of itself; rather it had relative holiness – any place where God is, is holy (Exodus 3:4-5).  Therefore, this was a holy place at the time the transfiguration occurred. 

II Peter 1:19 – And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

We – Christians.

Have the prophetic word – Prophesies that related to the Messiah.

More fully confirmed – The three apostles (Peter, James and John) had seen/heard the transfiguration of Jesus and bore witness that Jesus was the Messiah.      

However, the Holy Scriptures are also a witness – a more fully confirmed witness.  Here is why: 

The prophesies about Messiah are found throughout the Old Testament.  They are very numerous, given by different individuals, at different times, and by their sheer number they provide a stronger proof of truth than a single manifestation (the transfiguration), no matter how clear and glorious the manifestation was.

These prophesies were recorded (preserved in writing), so that they remained unchanged and could later (hundreds of years) be compared to the events that actually occurred.  By making this comparison, a sound judgment could be made (by anyone) about the identity and work of the Messiah.

Because these prophesies were numerous and given well in advance of the events of the transfiguration, hearers of the word can be sure that there was no secret collusion by the apostles to artificially make Jesus the Messiah.  In other words, they did not make up the events of the transfiguration just to fool people into believing in Jesus was the Messiah.  There were many other proofs that testify of this truth.

You will do well to pay attention to – All Christians should study or pay close attention to these prophesies, because they provide the evidence/confirmation that our belief in Jesus is not vain.

As a lamp shining in a dark place – The prophesies act as a light source that illuminated the identity and work of the Messiah before he came to earth (when our understanding was darkened).  Although they did not give perfect light or perfect understanding of the Messiah and his work, they enabled us to see/understand/confirm things which would otherwise be invisible or hidden to us.    

Until the day dawns – There is a comparison here between a lamp shining in darkness and the morning light.  When you see things by a lamp shining at midnight, your vision is somewhat obscured.  While you get a general idea of what you are looking at, you can’t see all the details.  However, when the light of day dawns, things become illuminated and the details become clear.

In the same way, Old Testament prophesies gave us a limited view of the Messiah, but now that Jesus has actually come, the truth shines like daylight, fully making the gospel clear.  

Let’s consider an example.  In Isaiah 42:1-9, we find a really complex prophesy concerning the Messiah.  Feel free to examine the entire passage, but we are just going to take a quick look at one verse:

Isaiah 42:7 – To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

People who lived during the time of Jesus could have looked back at this passage from Isaiah and compared it to what they knew about Jesus.  Did Jesus open the eyes of the blind?  Obviously, the answer is yes!  In fact, Jesus almost certainly healed the eyes of many, many more blind people than the New Testament mentions. 

And Jesus not only opened physical eyes, he opened spiritual eyes/understanding as well.  (This is the part that was probably obscured until Jesus actually came). Those who had their spiritual eyes opened believed on him as Messiah and they were set free from the prison of sin and death.   

So, we see that there were prophesies that were only partially or incompletely understood by people before the Messiah came.  However, after Jesus actually came to earth and completed his mission, those prophesies were brought to light or made more clear by the actual events they referred to.

Here is something for your consideration:  There are still prophesies yet to be fulfilled concerning the second coming of Christ!  In our day, we have an obscured understanding of the book of Revelation, portions of Daniel and other prophetic books.  We know enough to understand the basics – Jesus has promised to return.  He has promised to take his faithful followers to heaven.  He has promised a final judgment for Satan and sin.  He will rule for 1000 years on this planet. 

But we obviously do not have a clear understanding of how or when these things will take place.  They will only be fully understood as their fulfillment gradually unfolds.

II Peter 1:20-21 – Knowing this first of all, that no prophesy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophesy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

In other words, biblical prophesies did not originate in the minds of the prophets themselves.  They were not the opinions, the inventions or the ideas of man.  They originated in the mind of God and they were imparted/given to the prophets by Holy Spirit so they could be communicated to mankind.

 Likewise, the prophets did not prophesy according to their own will.  In other words, they did not choose the time or place of receiving.  They simply yielded to the Spirit of God, when he moved upon them.

Clearly, they did not write by their own authority.  The words that were recorded carry the authority of Almighty God.  Therefore, we should be careful to heed what they wrote. 

This is true for ALL OF SCRIPTURE (not just the prophesies).  This is why Paul tells us that ALL scripture is profitable for doctrine, instruction, reproof, correction and instruction (II Timothy 3:16). 

Finally, it should be noted that many scholars find a secondary interpretation of verses 19-20. 

Some interpret these verses to mean that no prophesy in the scriptures should be fully understood of only the persons and events to whom the speaker/prophet first intended, for holy men of God were moved by Holy Spirit to speak words which signified a deeper meaning than what was revealed on the surface. 

For example, Psalms 2 was written by King David.  It speaks of him ascending to his earthly throne.  However, it is considered a messianic Psalm – meaning it also prophetically refers to Jesus eventually ascending to his throne.

Scholars believe that when David wrote Psalms 2 he was under the influence of Holy Spirit and that he believed he was writing only about himself.  He did not understand that Holy Spirit was also revealing a future and greater fulfillment of his words in relation to Jesus.

Let me offer you some encouragement and some relief:

It is always good for us to stop and examine our Christian faith once in a while.  It helps us have confidence that we are on the right track and that we have not become stagnant in our walk with Christ.

I encourage you to take a fair look at your Christian graces.  Are you growing in them?  Have you seen growth in your spiritual life in the last six months?  The last year?  If so, then carry on!  If not, speak to the Lord about your situation.

Let me offer you some strength:

Have you read the book of Revelation?  Did you understand it all?  Me neither! 

But here is the exciting news – even though these prophesies are obscured right now, they will one day be clear.  For now we can rest in the knowledge that if God brought about a fulfillment of the prophesies concerning the coming of the Messiah, he will also fulfill the prophesies that relate to his return!  In fact, we may live in the generation that sees them completely fulfilled.  How exciting would that be!

 

II Peter, Chapter 1, Part 2

II Peter 1:5 – For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,

In our last post, we noted that the fountain of all spiritual blessings is the divine power of Jesus, who was both God and man.  From him we receive everything that is necessary for preserving, improving and perfecting godliness and life (both physical and spiritual).

This is the ‘reason’ that Peter mentions in verse 5.  In other words, because God has provided these abundant, valuable and costly blessings through the death and resurrection of his Son, we ought to take advantage of them.

In fact, we are to make every effort to use or partake of these blessings.  What does it mean to make every effort?

It means that we should set our desire upon it – Generally speaking, humans will pursue the things they desire.  If your greatest desire is to own a sports car, then you will pursue that car.  You will look at them online, or in the show room.  You will know what kind of engine the car has, what amenities are available, what kind of special tires are best, etc.  You make a space for it in your garage.  You will begin to save money or look at a loan in order to get this car.  No matter how long you have to wait, you won’t give up, because you desire that car.

Christians need to have this same desire for spiritual godliness in our lives.  If we desire to have greater knowledge of God, we will pursue it.  We will read his word, study it, pray over it and put it into practice.  We will ask the Father to reveal the hidden things of his word to us.  We will sacrifice time previously spent on worldly things in order to get greater knowledge of God.  In other words, we will pay a price to have it just like you would pay a price for a car.  And we will never give up, no matter how long we have to wait.

Think of it as a goal.  We often have goals in the natural realm.  Why not in the spiritual realm as well?

 It means that we should make choices that agree with it – Let’s suppose in the physical realm you want to be a marathon runner.  I personally have never been a runner, but I know some people who are.  They make choices consistent with their goal.  If you offer them a piece of pie, they will turn it down, because they only want to put nutritional food into their bodies, to help them reach their goal.  These people will pay hundreds of dollars for a pair of running shoes.  They could buy less expensive shoes, but they don’t – they buy the shoes that give them the best chance of succeeding in the sport of running.  Instead of staying up all night, they get eight hours of sleep, because that choice is consistent with their goal of running 26 miles all at once time.  

In the same way, we need to make choices that agree with the spiritual principles we are striving for.  If you want an increased knowledge of God, then look at the choices you are making.  What are you reading?  What are you watching?  What do you talk about?  How much time are you spending on godly instruction or prayer?  What are you meditating on? 

Are the choices you make in your daily life setting you up for success or failure of your spiritual goals?    

It means that effort and persistence will be required – People who want to run a marathon must, well, run.  If it is sunny and beautiful outside, they run.  If it is snowing and 25 degrees, they run.  If it is a holiday, they run.  After work, when the rest of us are sitting on the couch, they run.  You get the picture, right? 

They don’t start out running 26 miles, do they?  They go as far as they can, then each day or week they increase that amount.  They steadily and persistently work up to their goal of 26 miles.  They fail, but they don’t give up.  They put the failure behind them, and get back to work.    

Spiritual success comes the same way.  It is not instantaneous; it is developed over time with effort and persistence.  You can’t give up after one day, and still expect to know all about God.  And when you run into a setback, you can’t give up.  Put it behind you and get back in the race!

Now that we understand more about how to take advantage of the opportunities God has provided for us through the sacrifice of Christ, let’s take a look at some of the godly traits (aka spiritual graces) that Peter recommends we pursue.

Supplement your faith:  Faith in Christ (salvation) is the starting point of all spiritual matters, for every person.  Peter confirms this in 1:1 where he asserts that we all have “like precious faith” in Christ.  But after that, you should supplement or add spiritual graces to your life.  You can pursue any of the spiritual graces that Peter mentions in any order

You can even pursue multiple goals at one time.  The overall meaning of this passage is that Christians should strive to posses and/or exhibit all of these things in our lives.  The order in which we add them will depend upon our individual circumstances and the prompting of Holy Spirit. 

Let’s examine the meanings of these spiritual graces:

VIRTUE:  Virtue is defined as manly strength or courage, bravery, daring, valor.  This refers to the courage and boldness that is necessary it maintaining the principles of Christianity.   We see virtue exhibited all through the bible.

  • Virtue, along with Holy Spirit, sustains and strengthens our faith during times of testing, trial and persecution (like Abraham or Stephen). 
  • Virtue gives us the ability to share the gospel with unbelievers, even when they reject the message (like Isaiah or Paul).
  • Virtue allows us to stand up for truth in a culture that is deceived by sin (like Lot or the apostles).
  • Virtue allows us to do the right thing or the different thing, when everyone else is ‘following the crowd’ (like Joseph or John the Baptist).

For me personally, I always find Psalms 18 to be a very virtuous portion of scripture.  It seems to just breathe boldness and confidence into me when I read it.  I particularly love verse 30:

Psalms 18:30 – This God – his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

Think about that… the world takes lies and calls them truth, and they try to shame anyone who does not agree with them.  But you and I not only know the real truth, we know that eventually, that truth will be manifested to everyone. 

We know, without a shadow of doubt that the things God has spoken WILL come to pass.  Doesn’t that give you courage/virtue to stand up for what is right, even if others disagree?  In our society, virtue is much needed!  

KNOWLEDGE:  Knowledge is clear perception of fact, truth or duty; that which is gained by instruction, learning, enlightenment or experience.    

What do we know about God and his ways? How do we know it?

Knowledge of God and his ways can be obtained by reading and/or studying the Bible.  For instance, Isaiah tells us that God heals:   

Isaiah 53:5 – But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

So, by reading or studying the bible, we can know or have a clear perception of the fact that God heals. 

Knowledge of God and his ways can be obtained by hearing the testimony of others.  For instance, you can talk to people in your own church or family who have been healed by God.  They can show you the doctor’s report or the x-ray that gave a diagnosis of cancer.  They will tell you how they prayed for healing.  And they will certainly tell you the story of how God miraculously and completely drove cancer from their body.  You can also tune into many Christian programs and hear the same kind of testimonies.     

So by hearing the testimony of reliable witnesses, you can obtain the knowledge that God heals people.

Knowledge of God and his ways can be obtained by having a personal experience with Him yourself.  Perhaps you are the one who got a diagnosis of cancer from the doctor.  Perhaps you are the one who sought healing through prayer, and the one who was miraculously healed by the power of God. 

By experiencing the power of God for yourself, you learned about healing; you have a clear perception of truth because of what you went through.  This is often called experiential knowledge, and it is some of the most powerful understanding you can get.  

Knowledge of God and his ways can be obtained by revelation.  There are some truths that God reveals directly to us.  A good example of this was when God gave the apostle Peter a vision of a sheet lowered from heaven that contained all types of unclean animals.  God then told Peter to eat, but Peter refused saying he would never eat anything that was unclean.  God responded by saying that Peter had no right to call something unclean that God had declared was clean. 

Acts 10:28 – And he said unto them, You know that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God has showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

You can read the vision in its entirety in Acts chapter 10, but the gist of the matter is that God gave Peter a direct revelation of truth – that Gentiles were to be included in the plan of salvation. 

Revelations often come in dreams or visions, and they must be weighed carefully.  As a general reminder, no revelation of God will contradict his written word. 

II Peter 1:6 – and knowledge with self control, and self control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,

In the life of a Christian, everything is to be confined within proper limits.  We are not to indulge our passions beyond the boundaries established by God.  This includes passions and tendencies that are clearly evil (for example, sexual sins) as well as things that may not seem terribly evil, but can result in harm (over eating, intoxication). 

SELF CONTROL:  Self control is restraint exercised over one’s self; restrained or moderate indulgence, moderation of passion.

Basically, self control is your ability to say ‘no’ or ‘that’s enough’ to your own desires. 

For instance, we know that God has created sexual intercourse as a blessing for both men and women.  But God has also set limits on that pleasure.  It is only to be enjoyed in a marriage relationship between one man and one woman.  In any other context, it is sin (adultery, fornication, rape, pedophilia, etc). 

Let’s suppose that you went to Cleveland to see your favorite sports team.  You and your friends find your way to your seats where you immediately discover that you are sitting next to someone of the opposite sex, whom you find to be sexually attractive.    

Most people of the world would immediately try to parlay that attraction into some kind of an encounter.  This is not surprising – according to the world’s thinking, anything goes.  If it feels good, do it.  Hedonism reigns.  True freedom is the absence of any restraint. 

However, the Christian mind has been renewed by the word of God.  We understand that true freedom is not the absence of restraint.  Freedom is the ability to choose light (life) over darkness (death).  True freedom is the ability to enjoy the pleasures God has given us within the context he established.  There are no destructive consequences when we enjoy pleasure this way.  However, any other indulgence results in sin, and sin can never result in life; it can only produce death, even though it includes a momentary pleasure or thrill.   

Let’s consider another example: the consumption of alcohol.  Christians often argue over whether alcohol is a sin or not.  I am not here to give you my opinion on that subject; you need to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

However, I can tell you that drunkenness or over indulgence in alcohol is a bad thing.

Ephesians 5:18 – And be not drunk with wine, in which is excess; but be filled with the Spirit… 

Think of it in this context:  Drunkenness is a gateway to sin.  When you are drunk, you lose your inhibitions and you do/say things that you would never ever consider doing/saying otherwise.  Many of these actions are overtly sinful, or they cast aspersions on you and your gospel witness.  They can be avoided by simply exercising self control and keeping yourself from becoming drunk.  

The bottom line is that self control should be a grace grown and exercised in every avenue of the Christian life – what we wear, what we say, how much we eat, how we conduct business, etc.  

STEADFASTNESS/PATIENCE: The act or power of calmly or contentedly waiting for something; forbearance, uncomplaining endurance.  To be firmly fixed or established, steady, resolute; not fickle or wavering.

We need an element of patience (steady, resolute, unwavering commitment) as we grow/strengthen/acquire the other Christian graces.  For example, as we already discussed, if we want knowledge of God, it comes by reading the word, study and prayer.  Knowledge is not obtained instantly.  We acquire it over time and thus it requires patience in order to get it.  

Patience plays a similar role in the acquisition of all other Christian graces, and so it is very important.

But, as you know, patience involves so much more than just the acquisition of Christian graces.  God often allows trials, tribulations and periods of waiting into our lives in order to promote spiritual growth in us. 

Patience (forbearance, uncomplaining endurance) is often paired with faith.  Both will be required as we righteously suffer under trials.  In circumstances like these, we must have a conscious submission of our will to the will of God, trusting that he is working all things out for our good.  When we do, we will reap a bounty rewards.  Let me explain.   

Let us suppose, for example, that you are experiencing some headaches.  Eventually, you go to the doctor who finds a lump or cyst of some kind in your skull.  He says the situation looks bad and he prepares you for the worst case scenario.  His office schedules a scan for you in about 90 days.   

This is a situation that calls for patience as well as faith.  First, you must acknowledge that God has allowed this trial into your life, and so he wants to accomplish something in your life through it.  For this reason, you choose not to wallow in self pity, complain about the unfairness of the situation, curse God, blame others, etc. 

Instead, you opt for patience.  You decide to seek God and allow him to shape your life.  You begin to read scriptures about faith and healing.  You have the elders of the church anoint you with oil and pray for you.  You spend time in God’s presence daily, actively praising him and drawing close to him.  You give a positive confession of faith to all of your family and friends.

Eventually, after the 90 days, you have the scan and the doctor says the lump is still there and it must be drained.  You don’t give up on healing; you continue to trust in the Lord and maintain a patient attitude.  Once the cyst/lump is drained, the doctor tells you that the results are actually negative – you are going to be fine!

Your trial is now over.  What work did God accomplish through your patience?

  • Before this trial, you had educational knowledge that God heals, because you read it in the scriptures.  Now, you have experiential knowledge – you personally have experienced a healing touch from Jesus!  This is a whole new level or depth of knowledge that cannot be acquired any other way than through patient experience.
  • You now have a testimony of the power of Jesus that you can share with everyone you know.  Don’t be surprised if this testimony opens up doors for you to share the gospel with people.
  • You are a witness of God’s power to the doctors, nurses and all of the medical professionals who treated you. 
  • You know that God has not only healed you, but walked with you through the very valley of the shadow of death. And you know that he was faithful to you.  This builds up your faith and puts you in a position to do even greater things in the kingdom of heaven. 

 What else does patience do?

Patience gives you the ability to keep praying for your loved one to turn their life around and surrender to Christ, even when you don’t see an immediate change.

Patience gives you the ability to bear offences from others, as they try to mature in spiritual matters. 

Patience gives you the ability to inherit the promises of God:       

Hebrews 6:12 – That you be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  

Get yourself a generous helping of patience – you’ll be glad you did!

GODLINESS:  Strictly speaking godliness means worship and reverence for God; it suggests a blend of fear/respect mixed with love. 

But the true sense of the word is actually much fuller than that.  Godliness is demonstrated by growing more and more into the divine likeness of Christ and demonstrating Christian graces such as knowledge, submission, gratitude, obedience, affection, veneration, etc.   

It is interesting to note that godliness is another Christian grace that is often paired with patience – nothing promotes patience under trials like godliness (frequent true spiritual worship of God), while in turn, godliness produces patience in us.

II Peter 1:7 – and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

BROTHERLY AFFECTION: Zealous or tender attachment; settled pervasive good will and love towards fellow Christians.

The bible speaks of a peculiar affection amongst Christians.  We are brothers and sisters in the family of God.  In a perfect spiritual family, all the members cherish, support and build each other up.  They love each other, provide for each other, teach each other, and correct each other.  They comfort one another during difficult times and rejoice with each other during happy times.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

John 13:35 – By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.

The caveat is that Christians are not perfect.  If we were, then brotherly affection would simply exist as a part of our faith.  But since we are not, brotherly affection becomes one of the Christian graces that we need to work on.   Sometimes it is truly work to love those who are different than you are, but the effort is well worth the rewards in peace, unity and love.

LOVE:  A feeling of strong attachment, preeminent kindness or devotion to another; affection, tenderness, strong liking or desire. 

Christian love or charity is too big and too valuable to be confined within the church.  It must be extended outside the walls of the building to mankind in general.  Remember, God loved the world (every single person on earth) so much, that he sent Jesus to die for all of us.   

It is our Christian duty to reach out to the lost and exhibit the love of Christ to them, so they might turn from their sin and become part of the family of God.  Let me clarify – this is not an option.  We are commanded to do it:

Mark 12:31 – …You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.  

How do we accomplish this?  In my opinion, loving the lost is not some big, complex, highly planned event.  Rather, it is a series of small interactions that take place over time.  It means loving the unbeliever every single day, in some manner (uh-oh… sounds like we might need patience). 

It’s a matter of knowing precisely how our Father wants us to exhibit his love and compassion to that particular unbeliever who has been abused by Satan.  If we follow the promptings of Holy Spirit, he will show us the way to demonstrate that love in each case (sounds like we will be needing knowledge).

It’s a matter of overlooking minor irritations and even outright attacks, so that the gospel can be spread to those who are in darkness (sounds like we’ll be using self control).

Of course, overlooking faults and loving the unlovely is not for the faint of heart.  You might have to take several attacks before the unbeliever is stunned by your godly reaction to them; they probably haven’t witnessed ‘turning the other cheek’ before (sounds like virtue will be required). 

Scripture says that a tree is known by its fruit.  When we cultivate Christian virtues into our daily lives, they won’t remain hidden.  They will be seen by the lost.  They will give us the opportunity to tell people why we are so different.  How much godliness is evident in your life right now?

I Peter 1:8 – For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter makes an excellent point here… that these qualities ought to be constantly increasing in our lives.  In other words, there is no point at which we can say we ‘have arrived’ or that we have 100% of patience, or godliness or knowledge, etc. 

The Christian graces are things we constantly strive for.  Sometimes we will miss the mark.  But the important thing is that we make continual progress, and that we use what we already have.  If we consistently do those two things, we are assured that we will bear kingdom fruit.  We will show the world that we truly know Jesus Christ.

In fact, when we practice these virtues, we will come into a fuller, more advanced and intimate knowledge of Christ.  We will live vigorous, active practical Christian lives and we will be very fruitful in the works of righteousness.  This kind of fruit brings glory to God. 

As we said in our introduction, false teachers were a problem for the churches in Asia Minor at this time, which is part of the reason that Peter wrote this epistle. 

The false teachers were certainly ineffective and unfruitful in leading people to knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Nothing they did or said produced fruit in the lives of the people around them.  In fact, upon further examination in chapter 2, we find that the fruits they produced are actually the opposite of the virtues we have just discussed! 

II Peter 1:9 – For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Scripture makes it plain that holiness of heart and life are a natural consequence of being a Christian.  Growing in the Christian graces is a reflection of a normal and healthy Christian life. 

On the other hand, an absence of growth in the spiritual graces should be considered a warning sign or a symptom of disease in the life of a Christian.  Holy Spirit works in the life of every believer to constantly make them over into the image of Christ.  If this is not happening, there is a problem – and it is a problem the person himself has caused.

The word in this passage translated ‘nearsighted’ literally means ‘winking’ or ‘closing the eyes against light’.  It implies voluntary action; the nearsighted Christian is willfully or voluntary blind to the true fullness/outcome of his faith.   

Whereas a normal Christian has his eyes focused on God, heavenly things and the eventual outcome of living a life of righteousness, the nearsighted Christian has his heart and mind focused on this world.  He cares more for the things of earth than he does for the things of heaven.  In a best case scenario his Christian fruitfulness is choked out (Mark 4:19).  In a worst case scenario, he has grieved Holy Spirit and he will fall away from the faith.   

Such a person can be described as forgetting that they were cleansed from sin and made a new creature in Christ.  If he could remember how he was set free from his own sinful state, he would show greater diligence and effort lest he should again fall a slave to sin.

It is vitally important that we are consciously pursing Christian graces.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Let’s suppose you plant two peach trees.  One, you leave alone – you do absolutely nothing to it.  The second one you fertilize, prune, water, etc.  In the end, which one will produce the best fruit?  Obviously, the one you invested time and effort into.

In the same way, we need to purposely cultivate Christian graces.  We need to work hand in hand with Holy Spirit to increase the spiritual qualities that will result in an increased knowledge of God. 

I encourage you to take an inventory of your spiritual graces.  Find out where you’re at and decide where you want to be.  We all have areas of our lives that need work!

Let me offer you some relief:

Odds are good that if we do an assessment on our own spiritual graces, we will find multiple areas that need work.  But don’t let that overwhelm you.  Start by consulting Holy Spirit.  Ask him where you should begin the process.  He is there to lead and guide you into all truth; he will set you on a clear path to change. 

And you don’t have to change all at once.  If you make small changes consistently over time, it will result in big differences.

Let me offer you some strength:

Most people hate to change.  But you can embrace change much more easily, if you consider the reward at the end of the change.  

For example, you might want to lose weight because you are going to see friends you have not seen for a long time.   Making the changes necessary to lose the weight (and sticking with them over time) will be tough.  But if you keep reminding yourself of the goal, it will give you strength to stay on course.

In the same way, if we keep our eyes fixed on our eternal, heavenly life, it will remind us to stay the course here on earth.  If we know that we can gain an increased knowledge of God by pursuing spiritual graces, we will have plenty of strength to make the change.

 

 

  

  

II Peter, Chapter 1, Part 1

INTRODUCTION:  There was a period in early Christian history when doubt was cast upon the authorship of this letter.  Because the style of II Peter is very different from that of I Peter, there were some who felt the epistle was a fake.  

However, closer examination confirms that Peter is the author. 

  • In II Peter 1:1, the author identifies himself not merely as Peter (the name given to him by Jesus), but also as Simon – the apostles legal name, given to him by his parents at the time of his circumcision. When used together, this name indicates none other than the apostle himself. 
  • In II Peter 1:16-18, the author claims to have been present at the transfiguration of Christ.  Since only 3 disciples were present with Jesus at that event (Peter, James and John), this is further confirmation that Peter is the author of this letter.  
  • In II Peter 3:1, the author speaks of this as being his second letter.  Again, this points to Peter as the author of this second epistle bearing his name. 
  • In II Peter 1:14, the author indicates that Jesus had predicted a certain type of death for him.  This is consistent with what Jesus spoke to Peter in John 21:18.

Despite the fact that the styles are different, all of the internal evidence leads to the overwhelming conclusion that the apostle Peter is the true author of this gospel.

Further doubt was cast upon this book’s authenticity because it was not specifically mentioned by the earliest Christian writers.  However, this fact can be accounted for by the lateness of the letter’s appearance and the fact that it was not addressed to any specific local church (which would have widely distributed the letter).

The church as a whole has accepted this book as a valid part of the canon of scripture for at least 1700 years.  Despite a few isolated complaints, we can have the utmost confidence that Holy Spirit moved upon the apostle Peter to write this letter and that it is a valid part of the word of God.  As such, it is useful for doctrine, instruction and edification of all Christians.

WHEN AND WHERE:  Peter’s first gospel was written around 60-64 AD.  Since his death is recorded as occurring around 67-68 AD, we can narrow down the time of writing to 64-67 AD, with most scholars leaning towards an early time frame of 64-65 AD.  According to Jewish tradition, Peter lived the last 10 years of his earthly life in Rome.  Therefore, both of the books bearing his name were very likely written at that location. 

WHO:   According to Peter himself (II Peter 3:1), the second letter is written to the same group of people as the first letter – the Christian churches in Asia Minor, made up of both Jews and Gentiles.

WHY:  The second letter from the apostle is a warning to believers against false teachers and other ‘seducers’ who make promises of great liberty in Christ and thus convince or beguile Christians into sin and licentiousness (excessive abuse of freedom, sensual or  immoral conduct).  Essentially, false teachers were instructing believers that ‘anything goes’, because grace covers all.  We know this to be false (Romans 6:1-2), but it was a problem back then.  Indeed, this false viewpoint makes an appearance in other generations as well; even in our own lifetimes a message of ‘sloppy grace’ has been endorsed by well known ministers. 

In this letter, Peter refutes these false teachings and gives a strong reminder of the certainty and nearness of final judgment. He encourages Christians to grow in grace, rather than live close to sin.

II Peter 1:1 – Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

As we mentioned in the introduction, Simon was his Jewish name.  It was given to him on his admission to the old covenant by circumcision of his flesh. 

But he is also Peter, the name given to him as he was admitted to the new covenant by circumcision of the heart, through faith in Jesus Christ.

When taken together, these names demonstrate the great spiritual change he has undergone.  What about you?  What kind of spiritual change have you undergone?  Take a moment to consider your life under sin and contrast it with your life as a child of God.  Big difference, right?  Would you want to go back to your former way of life?  Obviously not!  No Christian I know would trade their life in Christ for anything!

Peter describes himself as both a servant and an apostle.  The word servant refers to all ministers of the gospel in general.  However, the word apostle means that he was commissioned by Jesus himself to preach the word of God and to shepherd the church.  This position carries a high degree of authority.  Therefore, the readers of this epistle should be careful to pay attention to the instructions given by Peter; he speaks with the authority of Christ.

Those reading this letter (including you!) are said to have obtained a precious faith.  In this instance, precious means valuable and costly.  This is a good description, because faith in Christ is of infinite value, but it was an extremely costly gift given by our Heavenly Father. 

Peter builds on that thought when he declares that this faith is ours because of the righteousness of God the Father and our savior, Jesus the Christ.  What does Peter mean by that?

He is referring to the faithfulness of God to fulfill the promises made to mankind.  Way back in the book of Genesis, God promised there would be one born of the woman who would crush the head of Satan.  Later, God called the Jews to be his chosen people; through them the promises of God would be fulfilled.  And eventually, when the time was right, God sent Jesus into the world to die for our sin. 

God has been perfectly righteous in bringing his promises to pass through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  

Take another moment and think of all the millions of people who lived on earth between that first promise to Eve and the thief on the cross.  No matter how much they longed or desired for the redeemer, these people did not see that promise fulfilled.  However, once Jesus had sacrificed himself, Jews and Gentiles alike could embrace the most precious gift in the universe – faith in Christ (Christianity)!

So don’t take your faith for granted!  It is vitally important!  Faith is the gift of God, wrought by Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead.  The just live by faith (Romans 1:17).  Faith in God moves mighty mountains (Mark 11:22-23).  By faith we lay hold of all the promises of God (Hebrews 6:12-15).  Look at just some of the mighty things that faith makes possible:

Hebrews 11:33-34 – …who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in war, turned to flight the armies of foreigners.  

I encourage you to read the 11th chapter of Hebrews, which is commonly referred to as the ‘faith chapter’.  And as you read it, remember that God is no respecter of persons; your faith is of equal standing with theirs! 

I encourage you to actively walk in faith, fully enjoying your opportunity to have an intimate walk with Christ, to worship him, to be filled with Holy Spirit, to hear his voice, and to partner with him to bring about his plans and purposes for the world.  Life on earth is an opportunity like no other, and it will never happen again, so start now! 

Speaking of the promises of God…want to really blow your mind?  Consider the promises of God that are yet to be fulfilled: the return of Christ, the defeat of Satan, our blessed home in heaven, victory over death, and even prayers you are praying right now.  I don’t know about you, but I am excited for the future because I know God will soon fulfill these promises as well!

II Peter 1:2 – May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Those who have a true knowledge/relationship with God through Jesus can expect both grace and peace to be showered upon them abundantly. 

It is grace that pardons and sanctifies us and leads us into peace – calmness in the trials of life.  Notice, there is no expectation/promise of a trouble free life but there is the expectation/promise of peace and victory through life when we place our faith in God. 

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

The fountain of all spiritual blessings is the divine power of Jesus, who was both God and man.  From him we receive everything that is necessary for preserving, improving and perfecting godliness and life (both physical and spiritual).

How are these gifts imparted to the believer? 

Faith in God and knowledge of God join together to form the channel through which these gifts flow to us. 

Think about it.  If you don’t have faith in God, you literally cannot receive any of his promises or gifts, because you need faith to grasp them.  On the other hand, if you don’t have knowledge of who God is and what he has promised you, then obviously you can’t receive anything because you don’t realize it exists!  We need both faith and knowledge of God in order to receive. 

Here is what I find interesting:  Faith and knowledge of God are both things that the believer obtains for himself.  Let me explain.

You can’t put a bible (electronic or paper) under your pillow at night and wake up in the morning with a greater understanding and knowledge of God.  Even if you prayed for God to fill you mind with knowledge of him before you went to sleep, you would still wake up the same.  God is not going to do things for you that he expects you to do for yourself.

The only way to get knowledge of God is by pursuing it – you have to open the bible and read it.  You have to spend time in prayer asking God to reveal his hidden secrets to you.  You need to read or listen to other great men and women of God and find out what they knew/know about God.  You have to meditate on what you find, until it takes root in your spirit.  You are the only one who can do this for yourself. 

The same principle applies to faith.  Yes, God gives to every man a measure of faith.

Romans 12:3 – … God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.

But that faith needs to be increased and expanded.  This happens when we exercise (use) the faith we have.  It happens when we believe in the promises God has made, and we step out and take action based on those promises.  In this way, our faith is strengthened for new and bigger challenges. 

We all recall the example of David.  He spent time in the field with the sheep, worshipping and drawing close to God.  I am sure he read promises in the covenant about how God protected and fought for his people.  Next thing you know, along comes a bear trying to take a lamb.  Faith in God combines with a knowledge of God’s promises of protection/victory, and David takes action.  He successfully defeats the bear.  This victory further strengthens his faith.

Not long after, a lion appears.  That sounds really scary to me, but remember David has knowledge of the promises of God and he has increased his faith by killing the bear, so he is not afraid.  He takes a stand and defeats the lion.

Eventually, he is led to kill the mightiest foe of all – Goliath!  The truth is, David could not have killed the giant without increased faith, which he gained by using what he had.  Neither could David have killed the giant without knowledge of the promises of God.  It took both of these to get the victory.

So, what about you and me?  Remember, Peter is telling us that God’s divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness, but we have to reach out and take them.  They are accessed though faith and a knowledge of God. 

What giants are in your future, or even your present?  Are you prepared to tackle them?  Do you struggle with holy living?  Do you need victory over a besetting sin?  If so, I encourage you to get to work.  Pursue God and increase your faith.

II Peter 1:4 – by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

By God’s own glorious power he has freely given us his exceedingly great and invaluable promises. 

Stop and think about this for a minute…  The Jews were distinguished in a very particular manner by the promises which they received from God.  Promises were given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the prophets and others. 

God promised to be their God, to protect, support, heal, provide and save them.  He promised to give them what was emphatically called ‘The Promised Land’, and he promised that the Messiah would come from their race.  God kept all of his promises to Israel. 

Peter now assures the Gentiles that God has also given them precious (costly, valuable) and exceedingly great promises which include salvation/redemption through the blood of the cross, the continual indwelling of Holy Spirit, resurrection from the dead and eternal rest in heaven. 

The object of all God’s promises was to bring fallen man back into fellowship with him and to remake us into his image. 

Because of sin, we are born into an earthly, sinful, devilish nature, which holds us in a prison of corruption.  The root or source of all this worldly corruption is sinful desire, aka lust.  James tells us that lust conceives and brings for sin.  Sin, when fully matured, brings forth death (destruction of soul and body).  We have no power in ourselves to escape this corruption and death.         

But through the promised Messiah, God removes our sin and saves us from worldly corruption, making us partakers of his divine nature and creating in us true holiness and righteousness (Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10).    

Praise his holy name!

Let me offer you some encouragement and some relief: 

You may look at some of the heroes of the Bible and wish that you had the faith they did.  You may desire to do great works for God, just like they did.  The good news is, you can! 

God has dealt to every person a measure of faith, but that is just the starting point.  You can exercise, strengthen and dramatically increase your faith in God.  Just step up and begin to use it!  If you do, you will see it grow.   

Let me offer you some strength:

Remember, in order to claim the promises of God, you need faith as well as knowledge of God and his promises.  So strengthen and prepare yourself right now, by reading, meditating and even memorizing his word.  On the day of battle, you’ll be glad you did!

 

 

I Peter, Chapter 5, Part 2

I Peter 5:8 – Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

It has been noted that Satan normally comes to us in one of three forms:

As a subtle serpent, to enchant our imagination, pervert our judgment and beguile our senses.

As an angel of light, to deceive us with false views of spiritual things.

As a roaring lion to bear down upon us and destroy us by violent opposition, persecution and death.   This is the form that Satan was taking against the believers of Peter’s day.

In the natural realm, a lion will often attack prey that is weak, injured, off guard or separated from the herd.  This is comparable to what Satan does in the spiritual realm. 

  • If you are spiritually weak/immature or injured, you may be intimidated by his roar and immobilized by fear.  When this happens, he can conquer you. 
  • If you are caught off guard (not watching for an attack from your enemy), then he will sneak up on you, and destroy you before you know it. 
  • If you have separated yourself from other believers by no longer attending church or you have removed yourself from your network of Christian friends and mentors, then you are at risk for a deadly attack.

While a satanic lion is a formidable foe, thanks to our Savior Jesus he is not unbeatable.  Think about it – Satan prowls around seeking someone to devour.  That means that by default, he cannot devour everyone he comes across.  Like a lion, he will travel around, eying all the Christians in turn to see which one he has the best chance of successfully stalking, intimidating and destroying. 

What practical steps can one take to ensure victory against him?

You need to be sober minded.  Sobriety is the opposite of intoxication.  While we most often associate intoxication with alcohol, its definition is actually broader.  It refers to an excitement of the mind; an elation which rises to enthusiasm, frenzy or madness. 

So the truth is, you can be intoxicated by work, or sports or physical fitness, or fashion, or entertainment or almost anything.  The problem is that we become so engrossed (obsessed) by these things, that we are not keeping watch over our souls; the enemy will come and attack us unaware and devour us. 

Make sure you understand me correctly – there is nothing wrong with business or sports or fashion.  Just make sure that you enjoy these pursuits within reason; don’t let them consume you to the point where your spiritual life suffers.

You need to be vigilant.  Be aware of what is going on around you in society and culture.  Christians need to speak up about social and political issues.  We need to stand and fight for the biblical principles this nation was founded upon.  If we let things ‘slide’ and don’t stand for righteousness, things will only get worse/more evil. 

Let’s face it – this has already occurred in America.  Satan has way more than just a foothold in our society.  He has clearly taken ground from the Christian community and now we must fight to get it back.  Once we regain control, we need to be vigilant and diligent in order to keep it!   

You need to watch, or be on your guard.  Even though we are now Christians we are still living in a world and a fleshly body that is fallen/sinful.  Our own propensity to sin often leads us astray without too much effort on the part of the enemy.  Let’s be honest – each of us has areas in which we struggle, and we are fully aware of what those areas are.  So watch yourself, particularly in those areas where you are more prone to sin.  If you don’t, you could easily be Satan’s next meal.

We must also watch for temptations that come from without our own minds and hearts.  While we walk through life, the devil is constantly throwing every single temptation he knows into our path, hoping that one of them will catch us by surprise and he will ensnare us.

Think of it this way:  we often use shiny baits to trick fish into taking our hooks.  The fish are fooled by something that looks/seems good, but in reality it has no value.  The bait is an empty promise that brings only death.  Temptations to sexual sins, envy, pride, greed, etc are just the same – they look like they would be wonderful and enjoyable, but they only bring death.  So don’t be tricked – watch out for these temptations.

Another reason we need to watch is because time is short.  We do not know when the Lord will return, or when our last day on earth will be.  What we do know is that we will give an account to God about what we did in this life.  We don’t want to be unaware and unprepared when that day comes, so keep watch.

This brings up another question – What are we supposed to be watching or guarding?

We need to watch/guard our thoughts – the scripture says that out of the heart (mind) proceed evil thoughts, adultery, murder blasphemy, lies, theft and all kinds of other evil (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21).  So be careful what kind of thoughts you allow to stay in your mind.  You may not have complete control over the thoughts that form in your mind, but you DO have control over the amount of time you allow them to stay there!

We need to watch/guard our lips – Proverbs tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 1:21).  James tells us that the tongue is a little member, but is set on the fires of hell and it defiles our whole being (James 3:6).  So be careful what you say!

We need to watch/guard our actions – In the book of Isaiah, God scorned the words that came out of the mouths of his people, because they words did not match their actions (Isaiah 58:1-8).  God is looking for people who uphold righteousness, justice and mercy (Matthew 23:23).  Which is a better indicator of people – what they say, or what they do?  Obviously, it’s actions that show the true person.  What do your actions say about you?

Here is something else to stop and consider.  Why does Satan tempt us?  I believe it is because he has a raging, destructive, blind hatred of God.  But he is powerless against our heavenly Father.  Since he can’t hurt God directly, Satan tries to cause him pain by attacking one of the things God loves the most – people.   

Satan’s favorite kind of people are sinners, because they are under his control where he can destroy their lives and keep their souls separated from God for eternity.  Every temptation and deception he throws against us is designed to break off the relationship between us and our Father.

Satan’s second favorite kind of person is a weak, powerless Christian.  While he may not have control of them, he has a good chance of intimidating them so they do not exert their God given power and authority to destroy his kingdom and rescue his prisoners.  He will keep a careful watch on this group of people, always attempting to confuse, distort or otherwise veil their thinking, lest they wake up and become the victorious people God has designed for them to be!    

This brings us to the third category of people.  Christians who are full of Holy Spirit, who pray and fast, who live in faith, who stand up for righteousness and who will boldly stand up against the plans of the enemy.  Satan hates and fears these people, because they can defeat him; they are just like his archenemy, God!

Which kind of person are you?

I Peter 5:9 – Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Faith, mixed with the powerful word of God, is the weapon by which the Christian is enabled to resist the tempter, and to repel/defeat his fiery attacks.  The way to overcome the devil is by resisting him; Satan is a conquered enemy and he will run if the Christian (YOU) resists him in faith.

Again, we can look to Jesus as our example.  When he was tempted in the wilderness, he resisted the devil in faith, quoting scripture in the face of every temptation.  And sure enough, Satan fled the scene.

Matthew 4:10-11 – Then said Jesus unto him, ‘Be gone, Satan: for it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’  Then the devil left him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

The weakest follower of God can confound and overpower the devil, IF he continues in steadfast faith, believing on Jesus and walking uprightly before him.  Be sure that you are well prepared for these attacks by hiding the word in your heart, being close to God in prayer, and exercising your faith.

As a further stimulus to the faith of his flock, Peter reminds them that suffering or persecution was not unique to their situation.  Christians in all parts of the world were involved in the same suffering as the Christians in Asia Minor experienced.  Their trials were neither greater nor less than those of others; and their natural strength was neither greater nor less than others.  God’s grace and strength sustain every Christian who reaches out to him.  Therefore, since other believers were able to resist and overcome (even to death), so could the Christians of Asia Minor.  And so can you and I, if God calls upon us to endure suffering and persecution.

Here is another interesting point – the Greek word translated as ‘adversary’ actually means an adversary at law.  We know that the devil is our accuser; day and night he stands before the Lord trying to bring a legal case against us (Revelation 12:10).

But we have an advocate in the court room of heaven – Jesus Christ our Lord (1 John 2:1-2).  He will plead our case before the Father because through his blood we have been found innocent of all charges!  

I Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

Verse 10 is what we would consider a closing prayer by the apostle Peter. 

Peter addresses his prayer to the ‘God of all grace’ who is not only the author, but the finisher of our faith.  It’s good to remember that God’s arm is not short that he cannot save, nor is his ear deaf that he cannot hear.  He will faithfully sustain us in the beginning, middle and end of all suffering and persecution.

Notice that Peter’s prayer is not for believers to be removed from suffering, but for God to sustain them in the midst of it.  As we noted before, trials often mature us in ways that nothing else can.  If God has allowed it, we must embrace it as his will and have faith that it will result in our good and his glory.  This is very similar to the way Jesus prayed for us too:

John 17:15 – I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil.

However, Peter does ask God to make their suffering short – ‘a little while’ – which may refer to the duration of time, or the severity of the suffering.

Either way, he is asking God to confirm and strengthen the faith and belief of Christians until they are firmly, completely and unchangeably established upon the solid rock Christ Jesus.  Once this has occurred, the bond between them and God will be everlasting and unbreakable.  The Christian who is steadfastly anchored in Christ is like a house built upon bedrock – neither the storms of life nor the wiles of the devil will be able to topple it.

When the bond between God and his children remains intact, the believer can look forward to sharing eternal glory with Christ. 

I Peter 5:11 – To him be the dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

Dominion is the ultimate authority to rule; the power of governing and controlling.  Since all glory and dominion belong to our God, we have no reason to worry or fear.    

Isaiah 43:2 – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame scorch you.

God’s power and authority will bring all of his precious promises to pass in our lives.  He is well able to perfect, strengthen, establish and preserve us, even when we pass through the fire or the flood.  And we don’t just make it through life by the ‘skin of our teeth’.  When we walk through this life with Christ as our anchor, we walk victoriously through every situation.

I Peter 5:12 – By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God.  Stand firm in it.

In his benediction, Peter reaffirms the two main reasons or purposes for his letter.

The first is to declare, in the strongest possible terms, that the doctrine of salvation which had been preached to them (and which they had accepted) was the true message of the grace of God.  Christianity was not some new, flash-in-the-pan idea that had no substance or backing.  Rather, the gospel message was foretold by the prophets of long ago, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. 

Secondly, because the gospel is true, Christians should continue to embrace it regardless of persecution by their enemies or the seductive temptations of Satan. 

When we are fully persuaded of being on the path to heaven, it will motivate us to stand firm and persevere in our Christian walk.  Heaven and all its untold blessings, are indeed the reward of the believer.   

I Peter 5:13-14 – She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.  Greet one another with the kiss of love.  Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

‘She’ refers to the church.  In other words, the church at Babylon sends its greetings to the other churches under Peter’s care.  Some scholars believe that Babylon was code for the city of Rome, while others understand it to refer to Babylon in Assyria, which had a very large Jewish population.  Either way, the substance of the greeting remains the same – we are not alone.  There are kingdom believers everywhere and we all belong to the body of Christ.

Lastly, Peter reminds and encourages all Christians to express love towards one another.  He pronounced a blessing of peace upon them. Peace, which flows from salvation, refers to all prosperity, both spiritual and temporal. 

Let me offer you some encouragement:

A lot of times, our first prayer during a trial is for God to simply remove it from our lives completely.  (Okay, maybe I shouldn’t speak for you.  Let’s say that is MY first prayer!)  But God does not always remove those problems from our lives.  If he did, we would continue to be weak, immature Christians. 

What happens in most instances is that God allows the trial to continue, and he uses it to teach/train us.  We become stronger Christians as we trust God, exercise faith, claim the promises in scripture and use our spiritual armor.  In this way we grow and mature in the faith.  Our example can even help build faith in others.     

I encourage you to try and focus on the good that is happening to your spiritual man in the midst of trials, as opposed to whining and complaining like a two-year-old!

Let me offer you some relief:

Trials don’t last forever; once they have accomplished their purpose, God will remove them, and you will actually be better off because of them!

Let me offer you some strength:

Remember, God never sets you up to fail.  You never walk through trials alone; Holy Spirit is there in the midst of that fire/flood.  When you are weak, he will make you strong.  So stand in faith.  Resist the devil.  Enjoy a victorious Christian life!

 

I Peter, Chapter 5, Part 1

I Peter 5:1 – So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:

Peter now goes on to instruct the elders of the church to be faithful and good shepherds of God’s flock. 

What is an elder?

Elder is a title which denotes a person of authority, who is entitled to respect and reverence.  In patriarchal societies such as the Jews, they were men of extensive influence in the nation and they took an active role in public affairs.

These men were, as the title suggests, old or at least older.  They were men of common sense who had lived long enough to obtain great wisdom in how to deal with problems, conduct business, build relationships, serve God and wisely oversee their own affairs.  Their practical understanding of everyday life qualified them to be leaders in the nation.   

Early in the history of the Jews, God instructed Moses to appoint 70 elders to assist him in governing the nation.

Numbers 11:16-17 – And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people, and officers over them… and I will take some of the spirit which is upon you, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you bear it not yourself alone.  

The office of Jewish ‘eldership’ began during the time of Moses, and it was never lost.  It continued from generation to generation even during the exile, and it was still a recognized office in the nation during the time of Jesus.  Unfortunately, at the time of Christ many of these men were caught up in religious tradition and rejected Jesus as the Messiah:

Matthew 16:21 – From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.  

When the New Testament church came into being, it also instituted the position of elder (likely based on the aforementioned Jewish custom).  In New Testament writings, elders are also referred to as pastors, bishops, shepherds, overseers, leaders or rulers.  They share good council and wisdom, lead by example and perform functions of the church such as teaching, preaching, baptizing and communion.  

The apostle Paul outlines the qualifications of an elder in several of his epistles, including Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Timothy 3:1-5.

Notice in this verse (5:1) that Peter humbly identifies himself as an elder, even though he was an apostle of Jesus.  He does not exalt himself above other preachers or teachers; when he admonishes other elders to tend the flock, he is putting himself in the same position.  He provides an excellent example of true leadership – being a servant of all.

And again, as in chapter 4, Peter links righteous suffering on earth with glory in heaven.

I Peter 5:2-3 – shepherd the flock of God that is among you exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Our translation says that spiritual leaders are to ‘shepherd’ the flock of God, but the King James offers a better translation – ‘feed’ the flock.  The command to perform this duty was given to Peter by Jesus himself, and it obviously made a lasting impression upon him:

John 21:15 – So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these? He said unto him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love you. He said unto him, Feed my lambs.

Essentially, the elders/pastors/leaders are to exercise oversight, or faithfully tend to the spiritual lives of their congregants just as a shepherd would faithfully feed and care for his sheep.  It is good for leaders to remember that the head shepherd is Jesus; they are really subordinate shepherds.  They should take great care with the responsibilities entrusted to them for one day they will give an account of their actions to Jesus.

Peter is very specific about how are their duties to be carried out:

  • Leaders are to perform their duties willingly, not under compulsion.   A job is simply gainful employment.  You don’t have to love your job.  You don’t necessarily have to do your best work.  Your mind can be somewhere else while you perform your duties.  And you can walk away from it at any time, especially if you get a better offer.  After all, it’s just a job.

On the other hand, a calling is different.  It is something born inside of you; it is something that you willingly expend all your effort to do, even when it is difficult.  It occupies your heart and mind.  It gets most of your time and attention, regardless of how much it pays.  You can’t abandon your calling, because it is a part of who you are.     

Pastoring a church should never be just a job.  It is a true calling from God.  As such, the duties of the spiritual leader should be cheerfully and willingly performed out of love.  This is true in every generation, so on the surface it seems strange that the apostle would mention it. 

Peter’s admonition makes more sense when we understand that for the elders of that day, there was a very real danger that they might lose their lives, their property or both for service to the church.  There was a very real temptation to justify their work a job rather than a calling, especially if persecution broke out. 

But Peter reminds them that if/when persecution broke out, they were not to abandon the flock as a hired hand performing a job, but remain faithful to the call that God has put on their lives as shepherds.

  • Leaders are to perform their duties eagerly, not for shameful gain.  It seems clear that in the early church the pastorate was a paid position.  If not, then monetary gain could not have been a motive for becoming a pastor. 

Pastors are hard working people who should certainly be paid.  And contrary to what some people believe, there is no spiritual or biblical law that says pastors have to be poor.  If your church can afford to pay the pastor well, it should.  However, money should never be the motivation for ministry. 

The immoral souls of men are priceless; they have been purchased by the blood of Christ.  The care of these souls is a sacred and solemn responsibility given to the pastor by God.  Faithful pastors will be rewarded by God in eternity, regardless of how they are paid on earth. 

  • Leaders are to perform their duties by example, not domineering over those in their charge.  Long before this, Jesus had revealed to his disciples that the greatest among them was the one who served:

Luke 22:25 – And he said unto them, the kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.  But you shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that does serve.

So again, pastors and leaders are to remember that they are not the ultimate authority.  The flock they shepherd belongs to God, and it must be lovingly tended according to his statutes.  They serve their congregations, not rule them as dictators.  

Remember the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day?  They put grievous religious burdens upon the people but never raised a single finger to assist or bear these burdens themselves (Matthew 23:4).  Unlike those Pharisees, church pastors/elders are to lead by example. 

They must not only give instruction for mortification of the flesh, righteous suffering, generosity, holy living, patience and the like, but they must practice these things themselves.  By their example, they lead in the ways of righteousness, give strength to their flock, and build up trust among the brothers.  As the old saying goes, they must practice what they preach.  They are subject to the same spiritual laws as their flock.

What a different world it would be if we ALL led by example!  

I Peter 5:4 – And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

This verse tells us a couple of really wonderful things.  First, Jesus WILL return!  The world constantly mocks the Christian community for their belief in the rapture and second coming, but one day it will happen!  The trumpet will sound, the dead in Christ will be raised, we who are alive will meet them in the air, and Jesus will escort his bride to her new home in heaven (I Thessalonians 4:15-17)!

Second, there will be a reckoning for those who carry the title of elder or pastor.  They will give an account of how they performed their office.   Those who have been faithful in their duties shall receive a crown of glory that will never fade away.

Pastors have a difficult calling and often carry a heavy load.  Over time, they could easily become weary or faint.  The coming of Christ and the reward he brings are a source of hope for those who constantly minister in the trenches of life. 

However, you too can be a source of hope for your pastor.  Give them words of encouragement.  Pray for them.  Help bear some of the burdens of the church.  And by all means, thank them!  If you appreciate your pastor, be sure to take time and tell them so!

As a side note, this might be a good time to remind ourselves that it isn’t just elders/pastors who will give an account to God.  In the parable of the talents Jesus reveals that all of us have been given gifts and talents, and all of us will one day give an account of how we used them.  Don’t you want Jesus to look you in the eye one day and say, ‘well done, good and faithful servant’?  If so, then put your talents to work!

I Peter 5:5 – Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.  Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Having exhorted the elders/pastors, Peter now instructs the younger people.  In this case, ‘younger’ actually means ‘inferior’.  It may refer to age, generation, experience, spiritual maturity or simply those who do not hold an office of authority.  ‘Younger’ members of the flock are to give respect and honor to their pastor, because the pastor is watching out for their spiritual well being.   

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

And everyone, regardless of age or rank, is to exercise a humble spirit when dealing with one another.   Remember, brotherly love is to be present in the church at all times.  As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to bear one another’s burdens, encourage the weak, pray for the sick, give good council, enjoy fellowship and even reprove if necessary.  If these actions take place outside of a spirit of humility, it can open the door for unnecessary evils such as pride, scorn or a judgmental spirit.

  • Humility promotes unity within the body, while pride promotes dissention.
  • Humility promotes peace within the body, while pride promotes conflict and turmoil (drama).
  • Humility promotes an environment where people can step out in faith to minister or use their talents for God, while pride promotes an environment where people are afraid to do anything. 

I Peter 5:6 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

True humility is when we humble ourselves.  To be crushed by others or by circumstances brings humiliation; not humbleness.

We should willingly humble ourselves under the hand of our Heavenly Father and the circumstances he has allowed into our lives.  Why should we do that? 

Because our God is mighty, loving, perfect, generous and good.  He has our eternal good in mind and he knows what is best for us.  Only he can see the end from the beginning.  Plus, he has promised to bring to perfection everything that concerns us:   

Psalm 138:8 – The LORD will perfect that which concerns me: your mercy, O LORD, endures forever…

Think about that for a second.  We can be sure that whatever our circumstances, they have a purpose and will result in our good and God’s glory.  We can trust God with all aspects of our lives – our children, our jobs, our future, our possessions, our goals, dreams, etc.  He holds them all within his hands, and he has promised to bring to perfection everything that concerns us.    

Furthermore, in God’s economy, submission and humility are the pathways that lead to glory and exaltation.  As we tread those paths we are preparing ourselves for elevation in God’s kingdom.  When the time is right, God will promote us to a place of greater influence and responsibility. 

What constitutes the ‘right time’?  That may be a little hard to define.  The right time may be when we have arrived at a certain level of maturity in our lives.  The right time may be when we will have the most influence on our culture.  The right time may be when God brings many circumstances together to accomplish his will/purpose. 

One thing is certain – we must be patient and wait on God to exalt us.  Only he knows when the time is right.  If we try to rush ahead of God, we will end up causing great harm to ourselves and our testimony before the world. 

And if you start to feel a bit rebellious because it is taking longer than you think it should, remember this:  a wise man once commented that if we do not humble ourselves under God’s grace, he will humble us under his judgment! 

I Peter 5:7-  … casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.

One of the reasons we are reluctant to exercise a humble and submissive spirit is because we don’t want others to perceive us as weak.  We think that if we stop fighting for every single advantage or edge in life, that others will rise above us and control us or take advantage of us.  So we are in a constant, relentless battle to always maintain an edge over others or at least keep our guard up.  This attitude will often result in anxiety – a state of restlessness, agitation or torment over future/uncertain things and events, which adversely affect both the mind and the body. 

Anxiety reveals something about us.  It shows that we distrust God’s providence and his care of us.  It shows that we hold onto the foolish belief that we can somehow manage to do better for ourselves than God can. 

But for the Christian, there is hope.  Our religion is not just an empty doctrine providing some vague hope for a better existence in eternity.  God is actively involved in the lives of his children right now, giving peace, comfort, wisdom, provision, joy and endurance for living life on earth, even in the midst of trials and tribulations.   

Unlike those in the world, Christians have the option of casting all of their anxieties and worries upon God, and living in a state of peace.  How incredibly wonderful is that?    

The first step in doing that is to know and understand that God cares for you. 

Psalm 55:22 – Cast your burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain you: he shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

Despite what some unbelievers would have you think, God is not an unfeeling, unseeing being who formed the earth, created mankind and then walked away.  In fact, the opposite is true.  God is actively involved in the affairs of this world and he watches over his children. 

He knows when we sit down and when we rise.  He knows the number of hairs on our heads.  He knows what we are going to say before the words are on our lips.  He knows what we need.  He knows our likes and dislikes.  He sees every tear/heartache, every shout of joy, every defeat and every victory. 

In other words, whatever concerns YOU whether it is spiritual or temporal, whether it is something great or small, God concerns himself with it too.  If it affects you, it is on God’s radar!       

So don’t be afraid to commit yourself to humility and service, using common sense.  If you begin to fear for your future, go straight to the throne of God through prayer and worship.  Release your fears and anxieties to him. 

Now, don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of the night with those fears going through your mind.  The enemy will try to push those fears and anxieties right back on you.   

If that happens, begin to speak out the word of God because that makes the devil run and hide.  Begin to quote scriptures that speak of God’s providence and love for you.  Begin to sing/praise/worship God, and those anxieties will flee! 

Let me offer you some encouragement:

You really, really need to be an active part of a local church.  God has put pastors, elders and other church leaders in place within the local body of Christ to serve you.  They are there to encourage, instruct, assist and advise.  You need what they have to offer. 

Likewise, the local church needs you!  You have gifts and talents that will benefit the others in your local church.  Don’t deprive them of your gifts and don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity to minister to others. 

I strongly encourage you to find a church and plant yourself there.     

Let me offer you some relief and some strength:

You don’t have to spend every second of every day worried about the future or the uncertainties of life.  If you are willing, you can cast your anxieties on God, and live in peace knowing that he will take care of you. Not only that, but God walks with you through both the peaks and valleys of life.  His grace is sufficient for you and his strength is made perfect in your weakness.  So when things are good, rejoice with him!  When you feel inadequate, lean on him.  He will give you the strength you need until the very day he calls you home!

    

  

I Peter, Chapter 4, Part 2

I Peter 4:9 – Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

In the first portion of chapter 4, Peter calls upon believers to crucify their sinful natures.  We noted that crucifying the flesh has two parts – the removal of what is sinful and the addition of what is holy. 

Peter also reminds us that our earthly lives pass very quickly, and we have already used some of our time in rebellion against God.  Now that we are Christians, we need to live lives that glorify God.

One of the ways we do that is by being sober-minded and practicing self control.  Another way is to exemplify brotherly love towards other Christians.  We looked at both of these mandates in our last post.  

Peter now urges his readers to show hospitality without complaint.  What is hospitality?  Why did Peter need to mention it to his readers?    

On the surface, the concept seems pretty simple:  Hospitality is the reception of travelers as honored guests.  But in practice, things get complicated in a hurry!

The first thing we need to understand is that during ancient times, people generally did not travel for pleasure or education, as we do today.  Because they traveled only when truly necessary, there were no hotels or inns in existence as there are now.  Along the busiest roads (trading routes) there were a few inns, but they had scandalous reputations.  Moral, upright, honest citizens did not want to stay there. 

Instead, those who traveled stayed with friends or family.  If this was not an option, the traveler may hang around the city gates where the rulers and influential men of the city met, and wait for an invitation to stay the night.  Alternatively, they would simply come to town, knock on the door of a house and request a place to stay. 

Granted, this seems very weird to us.  If a stranger knocked on our door and requested hospitality, we would be inclined to slam the door shut and call the police, rather than let them inside!  But many earlier cultures including the Greeks, the Romans, and the Orientals all practiced hospitality.  

In fact, hospitality was considered the duty every citizen.  It was scandalous to be a poor host; one’s personal reputation and honor demanded that the duties of hospitality be fulfilled completely.  You and your family were disgraced, openly shamed and even shunned for failing to provide adequate hospitality.       

What were the basic duties of the host?  As soon as the traveler arrived, he was furnished with water to wash his feet and otherwise refresh himself.  He was provided with food for himself and his beast.  But the host would not just give him a bologna sandwich and a glass of water – he would put on the equivalent of a Thanksgiving feast for his guest.   The meal was considered a reflection of the host’s wealth and reputation in the community, so nothing was held back.  He would make the meal as lavish as possible.

In addition, the host would act as the servant, waiting on his guests.  Often, he would inconvenience himself by giving the traveler his own bed.  He would do anything and everything to ensure his guest(s) were treated like kings.

The Jews were among the Oriental/Eastern people who practiced hospitality.  For instance, in Genesis 18:3-5, we find Abraham showing hospitality to three strangers who turned out to be of heavenly origin.  In Genesis 24:1-33, we find that Laban showed hospitality to a stranger, who eventually took Rebekah to Canaan as a wife for Isaac.  Even Job practiced hospitality (Job 31:32).  There are many more examples that you will find during your reading of the Old Testament.    

We also find the practice of hospitality in the New Testament. 

When Jesus sent the 12 disciples out to preach the word, they relied on the hospitality of other Jews:

Matthew 10:11 – And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till you go from there.

In fact, New Testament Christians were expected to continue the practice of hospitality:  Romans 12:13, I Timothy 3:2 and 5:10, Titus 1:8, Hebrews 13:2, and Peter 4:9.

Now that we understand some of the facts of hospitality, let’s picture a few scenarios.

Suppose there is a major event taking place in the city.  The very limited number of rooms available at the inns would be full, and travelers would be relying on the hospitality of local families.  But even these accommodations would fill up if enough people flooded into town.  This helps to explain why Mary and Joseph had no place to go during the census; they were sheltered in a barn/stable, because that was literally all that was left in Bethlehem.    

Enormous, overflowing crowds also filled Jerusalem during the Passover each year.  The Jews who resided there were always called upon to provide hospitality for the Passover visitors, many of whom had come from far away.   

Consider another situation – Jews who have come to accept Jesus Christ as savior.  These Jews were disowned by their families and friends and they often lost their employment.  It was not uncommon for them to leave Jerusalem for some other area, and depend upon the hospitality of other Christian Jews as they built a new life from scratch.  

Can you imagine what it would be like for you to be minding your own business, when all of a sudden there is a knock on your door and it is a family of strangers – Christian Jews from Jerusalem, carrying all their possessions with them, seeking your hospitality? 

You would be expected to open the door to them, give them your best, provide for them, and protect them, because that was your duty.  We can see that hospitality comes with a cost – the host must expend time, energy, money and resources in order to fulfill his obligation. 

Plus, as my father always says, ‘Fish and house guests both begin to stink after 3 days’!   A more polite way of phrasing that idea might be this:  putting two families together in the same house for even a short period of time, could cause conflict or intense irritation.   

When Peter penned his letter to the Christians in Asia Minor, he probably had this scenario in mind – Christian Jews who fled Jerusalem due to persecution, and sought refuge or hospitality with other Jews.

He instructs Christians to offer hospitality without complaining or literally ‘without murmurs’.  They were not to complain of the hardship of doing it; of the time, expense or trouble required to provide good hospitality.  They should perform this duty willingly and with a cheerful mind. 

Hospitality is an aspect of showing love to your Christian brothers and sisters.  Again, this was especially needful during the age of persecution when Christians were often driven from their homes.

While hospitality is not practiced this way in our culture, we should still be willing to expend time, energy and resources to help those in need.  

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

What gift does Peter refer to here?  The actual word means ‘endowment of any kind, spiritual or temporal’.    

If you read the verse closely, you can’t help but notice that everyone (this means you) has received a gift from God.  Notice also that we are not proprietors, but stewards of our gifts.

A proprietor is one who has a legal right or exclusive title to something.  As owner, he can withhold his gift from others or he can charge any price for it. 

A steward is one who manages something for the true owner.  God is the ultimate owner of any gifts we possess and he wants us to use them for the benefit/good of others.  God always intends to do good to people, and he accomplishes that good through us; that is why he has entrusted you with your gift(s).  

Consider what God, in his great providence, has done.  He has not given each person everything they need.  Instead, he has given each one of us gifts which places us in a position of needing what others have.  Thus, we are to work as a united family.  We assist others with our gift of encouragement, while another uses material wealth to meet needs, while another teaches/preaches the word, while someone else provides much needed wisdom, etc (Romans 12:5-8).  Individually, we would be lacking in many things, but collectively, we should have all we need.     

As we use these gifts to the best of our abilities, people will acknowledge God as their benefactor, and he will be glorified through us. 

Withholding this assistance from our bothers is essentially the same as burying our talent (Matthew 25:24-25).  This is a form of robbing God; he is denied the glory due to him, and the gift he has given us is wasted.  

We can no more refuse to share our gifts than the Christians of Peter’s day could refuse hospitality.  How are you stewarding the gifts God has entrusted to you?

I Peter 4:12 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

Peter now goes on to speak about fiery trials of affliction and persecution.  Christian suffering should not come as a surprise to us, nor should it catch us off guard; Jesus has forewarned his followers that it would come. 

John 15:20 – Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord.  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

God allows these trials into our lives.  He is not trying to destroy us, but rather to test our faith, patience and maturity in him.  These trials can, in fact, be very beneficial to the Christian.  They can actually strengthen and expand our faith as we lean on and obey Jesus during the suffering.  In addition, trials prepare us for heaven, by keeping our focus on eternal matters.

We must also bear in mind that the Christian who has been diligent to crucify the flesh (as mentioned earlier), has no doubt set his mind resolutely on Christ and righteousness, and thus he will be much better prepared to handle fiery trials.   

I Peter 4:13 – But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

To be identified with Christ is the ultimate consolation of every believer; for the world to view you as they viewed Jesus our Lord is the highest compliment that can be paid.

To the extent that we share in his suffering on earth, we will partake of his glory in the next life.  Or, we might consider it this way – in the same proportion that we suffer like him, we shall also be glorified with him. 

This refers back to Peter’s earlier statement, that Christians should not be surprised at suffering.  If we are caught off guard by suffering, we will be distraught and anguished.  However, if we understand that suffering may very well occur and that it is for our benefit and God’s glory, we can rejoice when the time of suffering comes, knowing that we will also be glorified with him.   

I Peter 4:14 – If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Jesus himself was insulted many times by the religious leaders and the masses of people.  They accused him of being possessed by a demon (John 7:20), of being mad (John 10:20) and of being a Samaritan (John 8:48).  They even mocked him multiple times before and during the crucifixion (Mark 15:20, Luke 22:63, Luke 23:36, etc). 

If we are insulted for the testimony of Jesus we should consider our situation blessed.  This does not mean that we find personal joy or fulfillment in being reproached.  It means the world recognizes that we are like Christ and we will receive spiritual influence in this world, as well as rewards in heaven.  

It is of further comfort that those who suffer do not suffer alone, or merely in their own strength.  Holy Spirit rests upon them and abides with them.  They will receive an extra measure of grace and strength in proportion to their trial, bringing them peace and strength for their situation. 

Many scholars believe this extra grace from Holy Spirit also rests upon people under other types of suffering as well, such as sickness, bereavement, loss and even death itself.  Thus, God leads and guides them into victory.   

I Peter 4:15-16 – But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as meddler.  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Again, as discussed earlier in this epistle, Christians should be careful not to suffer for doing evil.  The only blessed suffering comes when one suffers for righteousness.  As Matthew Henry has said, “it is not the suffering, but the cause, that makes the martyr”.

II Timothy 2:12 – If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…

Those persecuted for living a godly Christian example should not be ashamed of being rejected and mocked.  Rather, they have a reason to glorify God – their testimony for Christ has been recognized by the world and it carries heavenly rewards.    

I Peter 4:17-18 – For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  And if the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?

What does Peter mean by the term ‘judgment’?  In this case it seems to refer to severe trial(s).  These trials would test the depth and value of a believer’s faith. 

They also reveal any areas in which the believer has wandered away from the narrow path of righteousness.  God will then use the trial as a form of discipline to bring his child back into holiness, to prepare them for heaven, to humble them, and to mortify their fleshly desires.

I Corinthians 11:31-32 – For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

So there is reason for hope and comfort for the Christian: God’s judgment/testing is corrective in nature, not destructive.  Like any good Father, God corrects his children in love so they will properly mature.  He often uses the furnace of affliction to burn away impurities and make us pure and holy.  Therefore, these trials are ultimately for our good.

But what of the judgment of the wicked, who live in open transgression and rebellion against God?  

The truth is that suffering comes to both Christians and Sinners. 

  • The Christian has comfort knowing his suffering is for good, the wicked have no such comfort or peace.
  • The Christian has hope for a better life in eternity; the wicked has only eternal death and damnation in his/her future.    
  • The Christian suffers a judgment of grace resulting in mercy; the wicked suffers under a judgment of wrath which results in punishment. 
  • The Christian suffers temporarily, in earthly life.  The wicked suffer eternally in the next life.

The details of the end for the wicked are, for the most part, shrouded from our understanding.  We do not know the true horror their existence will entail.  What we do know is that the scriptures give warning to those who rebel against God – their creator, Father and King.  Rebellion is not tolerated by mortal men, why would God tolerate it?

Furthermore, Christians can expect to inherit what their Father has to offer:  life, peace and eternal reward. Sinners can also expect to inherit what their father has to offer:  death, turmoil and eternal suffering.

I Peter 4:19 – Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Here is Peter’s conclusion:

Righteous suffering should be patiently endured because it is for our eternal good.  If God has allowed it, there is a purpose behind it.

God is our Father and we can trust him with the safe keeping of our eternal soul; we must commit ourselves to him in well doing and obedience to his commands.

God is faithful to preserve and defend whatever is under his protection and power.

2 Timothy 1:12 – For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

However, those who refuse to commit their lives to God in obedience to the gospel have no such assurance or hope.  Rather than hoping in God, they fear him.

When considering the outcome of the wicked, we should not envy their present prosperity, but we should consider their final outcome, and be even more diligent to introduce them to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.   

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Every generation of Christians seems to struggle with the prosperity of the wicked.  And every generation must search the scriptures to find that the end of the wicked is only death/destruction. 

Even though the righteous suffer, it is not punitive.  Our loving Heavenly Father is more concerned with our eternal good than our earthly comfort and he is not adverse to placing us in the furnace of affliction to burn off impurities.  This is a normal part of being a child of God.

Let me offer you some relief:

You can trust God.  In your private, personal relationship with him, you can commit your ways, hopes, dreams, desires, faults and strengths to him.  He will use these for his glory and your good.  No matter what life holds on earth, God preserves the lives of his children for all of eternity.

Let me offer you some strength:

The promises given in this portion of scripture are for those who have committed their lives to Christ.  If you are reading this now, there is still time for you to commit or recommit your life to Him. 

If you desire to have your sins forgiven and entrust your eternal soul to a loving Heavenly Father, then pray this prayer to him, from your heart:

Dear Jesus,  I confess to you that I am a sinner.  I am sorry for all the wrong things I have done and I ask you to forgive me.  I believe that you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross and rose again, and that your blood paid the price for my sin.  I invite you to come into my heart and life and to be my Lord and Savior.  I commit myself to you right now.  Thank you for saving me from death and giving me the gift of eternal life.  Amen.

If you prayed this prayer and sincerely meant it, then you have received the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ! 

  

I Peter, Chapter 4, Part 1

I Peter 4:1 – Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

In the prior chapter, Peter addresses the issue of Christians who are suffering.  He made a distinction between suffering because of doing wrong, and suffering for the sake of righteousness.  

When believers suffer righteously, they are to follow the example set by Jesus.  This was discussed at length in our prior posts from chapters 2 and 3. 

Up until now, the suffering that Peter was referring to was physical and/or mental suffering.  In chapter 4, Peter changes direction.  Still using Jesus as the ultimate example, he now begins to discuss a different type of suffering.

Before and during his crucifixion, Jesus allowed his physical body to suffer.  If you followed our study on the gospel of Matthew, you recall that Jesus was slapped, spit upon, whipped, humiliated, punched, had a crown of thorns smashed into his head, and was nailed to a tree.  This extraordinary suffering had a purpose – our redemption.

Peter now teaches that in light of the suffering Jesus submitted to in his physical body (due to our sin), we also should submit ourselves to suffering – that is, we should crucify our fleshly desires and abstain from sin.  This is a different kind of suffering than what was discussed in chapters 2 and 3, but it is suffering nevertheless. 

Just as Jesus did not shrink back from the literal crucifixion of his flesh, so we should not shrink back from crucifying the lusts and sinful desires of our flesh.  

In chapter 4, Peter will go on to teach that this involves a two-fold process.  Not only must we abstain from sin, but we must also embrace righteousness.  We will discuss this more at the appropriate point in our study.  For now, I just want us to note that ‘crucifying our flesh’ has both a negative side (abstention) and a positive side (embracing righteousness).             

So here in verse 1, believers are to arm themselves with the same mind, or ‘way of thinking’ that Jesus displayed. 

What mindset did Jesus display? He was committed to submitting to the Father’s will, no matter what kind of suffering this caused.  He was willing to pay the price for our sin, no matter how painful.  His mind was resolutely set against sin and toward holiness. 

Likewise, we should be committed to allowing Holy Spirit to make us over into the image of Christ.  As we already mentioned, part of this entails abstaining from evil desires, which will be painful for us at first.  Nevertheless, we should be fully committed to this because it is our heavenly Father’s will.  We too, must gain control of our minds and set them fully against sin and fully toward holiness. 

Here is why that is important:

As humans, we all have a mind, a will and a set of emotions.  If we allow our mind to be in charge, it will determine the best course of action based on the word of God.  Once we make a decision to follow biblical principles, our will ‘gets on board’ or gets in agreement with our mind.  In this scenario, our emotions will then be forced to come into agreement with the mind and will.

Alternatively, if we allow our emotions to rule us, they will make a decision based on how our flesh feels, regardless of what the word of God tells us is true.  Once our emotions are in control, our will ‘gets on board’ with the emotions, and the mind is then forced to come into agreement. 

Let’s consider an example – fasting.

The Christian discipline of fasting is biblical.  It entails denying your flesh something it wants to have for the purposes of seeking or hearing from God.  Although fasting from food is the most common observance, you can fast anything that your flesh craves such as television, shopping or even Facebook! 

Let’s suppose that you are reading the Bible and you feel a nudge from Holy Spirit to fast about an issue.  For the first few hours, everything is fine.  But soon you start to get hunger pains.  Your stomach is calling for nourishment – now! 

If your mind is committed to the fast, it will receive support from your will.  They become like partners.  When your emotions begin to whine and complain and scream for food, they will be silenced by the mind/will.  They will be forced to comply with the decision that the mind has made.  You should be able to resist the temptation to give up on the fast by eating a piece of pie.  

However, if your mind is not in control, then your emotions will be in charge.  As the stomach begins to demand food, the emotions grab a hold of the will, and together they decide what will happen – and the mind will be forced to comply by rationalizing the behavior the emotions demand.  To make a long story short, you will find yourself in the drive thru at Taco Bell, telling yourself that you didn’t really hear from Holy Spirit!   

The beginning of all true self denial and mortification of the flesh begins in the mind, not the body.

We are going to want to ‘arm’ ourselves with the same mind or way of thinking as Christ – allowing our minds to be in control, rather than our emotions. 

In this passage ‘arm’ refers to armor which men used to wear in battle.  Armor is normally considered a defensive weapon that protects a soldier from the strikes of his enemy.  In the same way, if believers are mentally prepared to suffer (crucify the flesh), then that mental preparedness is like armor, which will help protect us from the pressures of temptation.   

We should probably take a minute to note that this defense is only part of the equation.  The process of crucifying the flesh will require more than just a mindset – it requires help and strength from Holy Spirit too.

Peter then concludes that those who have suffered in the flesh, have ceased from sin.  In other words, the believer who has been inwardly and truly conformed to the image/sufferings of Christ has ceased, or been delivered, from sin.

I Peter 4:2 – so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

Because of the forgiveness that Jesus purchased for us on the cross, we should live the rest of our earthly lives turning away from (crucifying) our corrupt and sinful desires.  Pride, envy, lust, hate, greed, etc are all part of our sinful nature and we must put an end to them in our lives. 

But what happens then?  Should we be walking around like robots without any feelings, emotions, goals or desires?  Of course not!

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’?  This saying expresses the idea that unfilled or empty spaces go against the laws of nature, and that every space needs to be filled with something.

Peter seems to have understood this concept, because immediately after instructing Christians to get rid of corrupt and sinful desires, he tells us to fully embrace the will of God in our lives.   

As old sinful desires are pruned away, good and holy desires must be grafted in.  Hate is replaced by godly love, pride is banished by a humble spirit, greed gives way to generosity and so on.  

For example, if you want to remove gossip from your life, you can’t just stop talking.  That may work for a short time, but not for long.  Instead, you need to embrace the will of God by changing what you say – speak encouragement and life into people instead of death/gossip.  In fact, prayer is a great way to fill the vacuum that will occur when you stop gossiping!     

So crucifying the flesh has two parts – the removal of what is sinful and the addition of what is holy.

It’s a good thing we have the rest of our lives to make these changes, because there is a lot to work on!

I Peter 4:3 – For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

In this case, the term Gentile is a generic term that stands for heathen or sinner.  All of us were sinners before we served Christ.  During that time we lived in the indulgence of corrupt passions, including (but not limited to) drunkenness, sexual sins and idolatry.

As sinners we did this because we were ignorant of God’s ways.  But once we accepted Christ and were forgiven, we became a new creation; it would be unreasonable for us to continue in the ways of sin. 

Now we must live in faith as soldiers for Christ, redeeming or making good use of the time we have left on planet earth.

Ephesians 5:15-16 – Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Although our past is behind us and cannot be changed, it can still be a useful reminder to spur us on to greater holiness.  

I Peter 4:4 – With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;

When we become new creatures in Christ it makes perfect sense to us to put off wickedness and sin.  However, our friends and family, who are still living as sinners, may not understand this. 

In their eyes, it seems strange that you would give up the pleasures of this world for a life that seems to promise anything but happiness and ease.  Because they are not in touch with the eternal world, they cannot understand or appreciate the conduct of those who live with regard to the next life.

They find nothing wrong with the sinful pleasures of this world, and they may find it strange that we reject practices that seem innocent, harmless and pleasurable to them.  It may seem especially strange because we used to enjoy these things too.

The world often reacts to this situation by condemning Christians.  We are often labeled as hypocrites, fanatics or fools.  These terms are meant to injure/condemn the character and reputation of Christians who no longer align themselves with the world. 

I Peter 4:5 – but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

The ‘living and the dead’ is a metaphor which speaks to the inclusion of all people, regardless of whether or not they still walk the earth.  Peter’s aim in this verse is to comfort and encourage believers.  We should patiently and righteously bear the opposition we face from unbelievers because our heavenly Father sees and hears it.  There is no need for us to attempt to avenge ourselves; at the proper time God will vindicate his children and judge the wicked. 

Although we don’t know the exact time when this will take place, we are reminded that Jesus already sits at the right hand of God, and he is ‘ready’ to judge even now.

Romans 14:12 – So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Peter was encouraging his spiritual children to live as though the return of Christ was imminent.  We should still be living with that same attitude.  Even if Jesus tarries another thousand years, we are always living ‘in the last days’ in a sense, because we never know when our last day on earth will be!  

I Peter 4:6 – For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The interpretation of this verse varies widely, depending on how you define ‘dead’.

Some feel that ‘dead’ refers to people who are spiritually dead in trespasses – ordinary sinners, who are physically alive right now (Ephesians 2:1).  In this case, the interpretation would be that the gospel was preached to sinners when they were spiritually dead, so that each person might strive against, mortify and subdue their own carnal appetites and lusts.   As they do, God makes them spiritually alive. 

Another interpretation is that ‘dead’ refers to people whose physical bodies are literally dead.  In this case, the interpretation would be that the gospel was made known to them when they walked the earth, so that they might have a chance to crucify their sinful desires and live for God.  These people were made spiritually alive by the gospel, while their flesh was put to death by men (martyrs).

There are also some who interpret ‘dead’ to mean those who had died long ago (the antediluvians), and had their spirits imprisoned down in Hades/Sheol/the grave.  Those who accept this interpretation also believe that Jesus went down to Hades after his physical death and preached to the lost (see one of the explanations of I Peter 3:19-20).

In any case, the apostle is again offering hope and comfort to the believer.  By the world’s standards, physical death means total destruction.  But for the Christian, physical death simply means life in the Spirit with God. 

I Peter 4:7 – The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

What does the phrase ‘the end of all things’ refer to?  It may be a reference to the end of the world/the conclusion of human affairs.  In this case, Peter’s meaning would be that the end of the world (the return of Jesus) was near.

Alternatively, we know from history that the city of Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed in 71 AD, effectively bringing an end to the Jewish way of life and worship.  This occurred less than a decade after Peter penned his epistle, and thus may have been the event he was referring to.      

However, the phrase may also refer to the physical death of each individual.  In this case, his meaning was that so far as his readers were concerned, the end was near.  As we mentioned earlier, even if Jesus tarries another thousand years, the end of all things is still at hand for each individual because they do not know the time of their death.  

In any case (personal demise, destruction of Jerusalem or the return of Christ), the point is that our time on earth will quickly draw to a close.  In light of this, Peter goes on to give a series of exhortations to believers. 

The first exhortation is that we ought to be sober minded and have self control.  In other words, we should be actively involved in crucifying our fleshly desires, as mentioned back in verse 3 and giving up the wicked practices we engaged in before we came to Christ. 

Instead of indulging in the vain cares and pleasures of earth, we should be good stewards of all we posses, including resources, time and talents.  We should be constantly in a state of prayer, making sure that we are ready for eternity.   

I Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

And, more than anything, we need to have a warm affection and brotherly love towards other Christians.  We must practice this love earnestly, and with fervor.  What does this mean?

It means that our love for each other should be active and tangible.  It should not only manifest in our words, but in our deeds.  For example, if our Christian brother or sister has experienced the death of a spouse, we should not only tell them how sorry we are; we should show them.  We can do this by giving them a hug, coming to the funeral, bringing a gift of food or flowers, etc.  Our tangible actions can really ease the burden they are experiencing. 

Why, exactly, are we to practice such fervent love?  Because it covers a multitude of sins.

This is true with respect to ourselves.  If we are busy ministering to our brothers/sisters, we are much more likely to have compassion towards them, as opposed to judging them.  We are much more likely to overlook or pass by their faults and failings which tend to irritate and anger us. 

It also covers or hides their sins from the eyes of the world.  If we expose every single fault within the church, nonbelievers will be happy to discredit the church as well as the cross of Christ.  It is better to suffer wrongs than stir up strife. 

Proverbs 10:12 – Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.   

However, we must exercise caution – if we cover up sins using flattery or falsehood, that is not only a disgrace but a sin in and of itself.  And there are some sins which, if covered up, will fester into bigger problems or cause destruction in the church.  These sins cannot be covered over, but they can be dealt with in love.  These are the duties of the Christian life.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Remember, the war against your sinful nature/flesh begins with your mind.  You will need to renew or reprogram your thinking with the word of God.  Meditating on scriptures and making daily declarations are a good way to begin the process.  However, you don’t need to try and figure this out all by yourself.  Many excellent Christian books have been written on this topic, and are readily available.  I encourage you to check some out.     

Let me offer you some relief:

Crucifying your flesh is not an instantaneous transformation.  It is a process over time.  You may fail a time or two before you gain the victory, but victory will come if you don’t give up.  You might want to consider finding a prayer/victory partner for yourself as you work through the process.  They can be there to offer encouragement and prayer when needed.  

Let me offer you some strength:

The Bible says that nothing is impossible with God and that includes gaining control over your sinful nature.  Confess your sin and repent before the Lord.  Ask Holy Spirit to be involved in the change you are committed to making.  He probably prompted you to make the change in the first place, because he is interested in making you over into the image of Christ.  He will give you the strength to overcome!