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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!   

 

I Peter, Chapter 3, Part 2

I Peter 3:13 – Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

Here the apostle makes mention of a proverb or general truth.

Those who lead upright lives save themselves from a lot of drama, trouble and aggravation.  Those who repay evil with good and strive to treat their neighbors as themselves can generally expect to live a peaceful and tranquil life without interference from the law or evil men. 

Those who cross the line into unrighteousness (as well as those who are always trying to straddle the fence between good and evil), will often find themselves at odds with the law and society. 

We classify this as a general truth rather than a natural law, because many righteous people have found themselves under persecution or distress despite the fact that they are living holy and peaceful lives. 

I Peter 3:14 – But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.  Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,

As Peter now intimates, holy conduct generally provides an environment of peace and safety, yet the possibility of persecution for righteousness’ sake still exists. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you are being persecuted for being righteous or for professing the gospel, take heart – this is an indication that you are blessed by God.

Matthew 5:10 – Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

To suffer for doing good is to follow in the footsteps of Christ himself.  Though he was sinless and did only good things, he was rejected, persecuted and crucified by evil men. 

Persecuted Christians are not to adopt any of the wicked customs of their persecutors.  They are to stand firm, trust in God and keep adhering to Christianity.  Though they may be dragged into court, forced to pay fines, imprisoned, banished or even killed, they should not be afraid for God is with them.  He sees all things and he will bless his servants for their suffering; they are promised an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.  

I Peter 3:15 – but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

Instead of being terrified by evil men, we need to cultivate a healthy respect for God in our hearts.  We do this when we submit to his wisdom and providence, imitate his holiness, give him the glory he is due, trust in his faithfulness, rely upon his power and walk with him daily.

Remember, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  So if you are truly honoring God in your heart, your reverence of him will spill out of your mouth and be displayed in your conduct.  This will bear witness to unbelievers.  When others see that you are different, they will want to know why.

You need to be ready to give an answer to those who ask you about your Christian walk.  This means being able to clearly articulate your testimony or recounting what God has done for you.  Be sure to include what God did in your past, how he sustains you daily, and your future hope of heaven.

So let me ask you this – if you had to give a testimony for Christ right now, could you make a logical statement of your faith in about 3-4 minutes? 

You don’t need to include every single detail of your life thus far.  If you try to take an hour to make your point, you will certainly lose your audience. 

Make sure your testimony is coherent.  If you give a fragmented account, switching from topic to topic, the listener will be confused and you will lose their attention.  You might want to consider limiting your testimony to one or two major points, in order to keep it simple.  

Why not try it right now and see how you do?  This will prepare you for your next opportunity to share the gospel.   

I Peter 3:16 – having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

What is conscience?  It is the judgment of the mind respecting right and wrong. 

As we all know from experience, our conscience first comes into play when we are considering a course of action.  We have probably all seen those cartoons where there is an angel whispering in one of our ears, while a devil is speaking to the other!  This actually gives us a pretty good picture of conscience, because it activates whenever we are faced with a choice.   

Once we make our choice and the action is complete, the conscience judges our actions and instantly approves or condemns them. 

Conscience

However, our conscience is not able, in and of itself, to determine what is right; its job is to prompt us to do our duty.  Our conscience must be trained in right and wrong.  As we study the scriptures we program our conscience with the laws and truth of God. 

If our conscience is programmed with anything other than the word of God (culture, society, our own wisdom, even religion), it becomes an unsafe guide.  Obviously, if our views or the world’s views are erroneous, which they probably are, our conscience may think it is okay to do something that is a direct violation of God’s law.

Proverbs 16:25 – There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.  

Why does the apostle mention our conscience in this text?  Peter teaches that not only should you be ready and able to make a clear confession of your faith, your life should match your confession; your conscience should be clear with respect to the way you live.

When we live our lives in holiness and godliness, our properly programmed conscience will bear witness that we are living in accordance with God’s will.  Then, when our enemies unjustly speak evil of us, our conduct will bear a true witness about us; their baseless accusations will be apparent. 

I Peter 3:17 – For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.  

Peter reminds us that there are two reasons for affliction.

One reason for suffering is because we have done wrong.  For example, as discussed earlier in this study, God has given civil authority to certain people in order to establish a peaceful society.   If we sin and break the law by robbing a bank, then we should expect to be caught and punished for that crime. 

I have never been to prison, but I can imagine that it would indeed have an element of suffering and tribulation.  If we suffer by our prison experience, how does that glorify God?  Overall, it really doesn’t.  If anything, it glorifies civil authority by commending their actions to the citizenship.

However, if we suffer for righteousness it brings about God’s glory and our good.  Yes, you read this correctly – suffering may be part of God’s will/plan for your life. 

If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you know this to be true.  God never promised his people a problem free, carefree life here on planet earth.  What he did promise was to walk with us every step of the way.  He promised to give us his strength in our weakness.  He promised not to give us more than we could bear.  And He promised to give us life eternal.     

God is more interested in your eternal good than your temporary earthly comfort.  While you are here, Holy Spirit is committed to transforming your life into the image of Jesus. 

In the process of that transformation, changes need to be affected in your character.  And there are some transformations which only affliction can accomplish. 

Peter reminds us that suffering for righteousness can (and does) facilitate desirable qualities and character in the Christian.  This not only benefits the believer, it provides a powerful witness to evil men. 

On the other hand, suffering for sin is mostly just punitive.  It does not necessarily stimulate Christian growth.  It does not glorify our Father; instead it drags his name through the mud.  It also gives evil people another reason to discredit the gospel.

So make sure your suffering is the right kind!

I Peter 3:18 – For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

For Christ also suffered: Those who suffer for righteousness sake can take comfort knowing that they are walking in the footsteps of Jesus.  Although innocent, he was not exempt from trials and suffering.

Once for sins:  Under the law, the blood of goats, lambs and other animals were sacrificed for the sins of the people.  But these sacrifices merely covered over sin; they could not truly atone for it.  Thus, sacrifices of this kind had to be made over, and over, and over, and over… 

But it was only necessary for Jesus to die/sacrifice himself once for our sin because his sacrifice was perfect and his blood has the power to truly cleanse us.

Hebrews 9:12 – Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

The righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God: The death of Christ reconciles us to God and provides us with access to the Father with freedom and boldness (Romans 5:1-2, Ephesians 3:11-12).

Being put to death in the flesh:  The crucifixion eventually caused the death of Jesus’ body. 

But made alive in the spirit:  Although Jesus suffered in the flesh, he was ‘quickened’ or made alive by the Spirit; his own divine energy.      

I Peter 3:19-20 – in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when Gods patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

And now we come to what might very well be the two most difficult verses in Peter’s epistle!  There are two main prevailing interpretations of what Peter means here.  As per my usual MO, I plan to relate both interpretations to you, allowing you to decide for yourself what you believe.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you make your decision:   

As with all scripture, we cannot simply pull a verse or two out of a passage and make a doctrine out of it.  Scripture must ALWAYS be understood/interpreted in the context in which it appears.  This principle will greatly assist us in determining the true meaning.

So what has Peter been discussing in this portion of the chapter?  The main focus has been suffering.  Peter has pointed out that there are basically two causes for Christian suffering. 

Decisions, decisions!

One cause is punitive in nature.  It is a result of a wrong (sin or crime) committed by the believer.  Peter mentions this briefly in the beginning of his discourse.  Then, he switches gears to discuss the second type of Christian suffering – righteous suffering.

In the case of righteous suffering, the believer has done nothing wrong, however, God allows some unjust suffering in order to shape the character of the believer, or otherwise mature him/her in the faith.

Peter goes on to tell his readers that the ultimate example of righteous suffering was Jesus himself.  Now, the last point Peter made prior to this, was that the body of Jesus died on the cross, but his Spirit was alive.  Jesus raised himself up by the power of his own divine energy.

Interpretation #1

Peter immediately follows with ‘in which he went’ or your translation may say ‘by which he went’.  In either case, he is referring to the Spirit of Jesus. 

So according to interpretation #1, the Spirit of Jesus went and made a proclamation.  Who did he make this announcement to?  This theory says that he proclaimed a message to people who were sometimes disobedient during the longsuffering of God during the days of Noah.  Or in other words, the wicked people of Noah’s generation, while they were alive on planet earth.  Notice, no other people are specified in this text.   This is who the Spirit of Jesus was addressing. 

These people/spirits are said to be ‘in prison’.  The original word rendered ‘prison’ actually means ‘watch, guard, the act of keeping watch or the guard itself; a place where anyone is watched or guarded as a prison’.  Those who adhere to this interpretation believe ‘watched’ or ‘guarded’ would be the best translation.

The text further indicates when they were being watched/guarded – for the 120 years that the ark was being prepared. 

Overall the meaning/interpretation is something along these lines:  The people of Noah’s day were disobedient sinners.  Because of their transgressions, God sentenced them to destruction.  But first, the Spirit of Jesus delivered messages of repentance through his servant Noah to the people of that generation.  Then God watched to see if they would repent or not.  The long suffering of God waited 120 years; but they chose to ignore the divine message and continue in their transgressions.  Therefore, judgment was finally carried out.  As a result, only 8 persons were saved on the ark.

Those who accept this theory point out that when we consider the Old Testament, we find many instances where the Spirit of Jesus was present in the prophets before his physical birth in the world (Isaiah 48:16, Zechariah 7:12, Nehemiah 9:30).  Therefore, we are not surprised to learn that the Spirit of Jesus also spoke through Noah (Genesis 6:3). 

They point out that the Spirit of God continues to speak through his servants even now, as evidenced by the apostles themselves, and many modern day Christians.  

They also believe the phrase ‘spirits in prison’ may refer to the fact that that particular generation of people are now in the custody of death; they are definitely now spirits and in a sense they are in prison awaiting final judgment at the end of the time (Revelation 20:7).

We could also express their idea yet another way:  At the appointed time, Jesus came to earth in the flesh to preach the message of life to the world.  The Spirit of this same Jesus came to earth before the flood and preached a message of repentance to the unbelievers through his servant Noah, so they might have a chance to repent and be saved.  Again, there are many instances where the Spirit of Jesus came upon prophets to preach repentance and call people back to God, so this is not unusual.

Interpretation #2

The second interpretation asserts that these verses tell us what Jesus was doing while his body was dead – the time between his death and resurrection. 

Again, the last point Peter made prior to this, was that the body of Jesus died on the cross, but his Spirit was alive.  Jesus raised himself up by the power of his own divine energy. 

In this case, the phrase ‘in which he went’ is understood as meaning that the Spirit of Jesus went, at that exact time, to make a proclamation to other spirits who were imprisoned. 

Proponents of this interpretation say that Jesus went to Hades (also called Sheol or the grave).  Hades is a kind of prison where departed souls/spirits are gathered and held until final judgment.  This would clearly be the state of the unbelievers from the era of Noah.  Hades/Sheol/the Grave has at least two compartments (or possibly four), one for the righteous departed and one for the wicked departed (Luke 16:23).

This theory says that when the Spirit of Jesus arrived there, he made a proclamation or preached to the spirits that were there.  While we have no record of what the outcome of that message was, those who adhere to this interpretation believe that at least some departed spirits repented at the preaching of the word (God’s word is never void – Isaiah 55:11).

The overall meaning is something along these lines:  When Jesus died, his Spirit was quickened/made alive and he (his Spirit) immediately went to the place in which other disembodied spirits of men were being imprisoned.  These were incapable of receiving any direct impression from him, unless he was a spirit as they were.  There, he delivered a message or made them an offer of salvation, which at least some of them accepted.

What do you think?  Both interpretations answer some questions, but confront us many with others that simply cannot be answered with the knowledge we now have.

In addition, there are various other interpretations, which we will not consider today.  These include:  The Lord descending into hell to triumph over Satan, the preaching of Christ being an announcement of condemnation, not salvation, that the spirits in prison were heathens who lived according to the light they had, but were idolaters, etc.   

Putting those unanswerable questions aside, let’s consider something else.  Why does Peter use this particular example of man’s wickedness (willful unbelief) and God’s longsuffering before judgment (120 years)?  Surely, in the course of time there are many known examples; so why this one? 

It may be because of what Jesus revealed to the apostles before the crucifixion:

Matthew 24:37-39 – For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

In the days of Noah, only 8 people were ‘brought safely through the water’ while the wicked majority perished.  As God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11), I imagine the grief of Father God was evident in the words of Jesus that day. 

Is it possible that the awful magnitude of that tragedy really hit home with Peter as he considered that his generation was heading the same direction?  Does he mention the incident of Noah in his own epistle because it is a dire warning?    

Later, Peter does make mention of the fact (2 Peter 3:9) that God is ‘longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance’. 

So perhaps this is more than just an ordinary example.  It may be a solemn warning to both Christians and unbelievers.  If we are warned about this by Moses (who wrote Genesis), then Jesus and finally Peter, I suggest we pay careful attention to the message presented here.  

I Peter 3:21 – Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

The focus of this verse is the actual water itself – the flood water and the water used in baptism.  Peter indicates that when the righteous were saved through the flood, it was a prophetic antitype of baptism.    

It was the water which saved Noah and his family from death by bearing up the ark.  But it should be noted that the only reason they were in the ark in the first place, was because their hearts were righteous before God.  Thus, being in the ark was an outward sign of their repentance. 

In the same way, water baptism is an outward sign that a person has experienced true repentance of the heart.  The man (or woman) being baptized has acknowledged his sinful state, is trusting in the blood of Christ to cleanse him, is turning from sin, and is dedicating himself to God.   

So in both cases, water is associated/connected with salvation, but it is not the CAUSE of it.  Rather, we see that a right heart before God was the cause of the salvation. 

Please do not fall into the trap of believing that salvation can be obtained through the mere physical act of water baptism!  The actual act of baptism cannot save you, apart from a relationship with Jesus!

Peter goes on to confirm this for us.  He declares that the outward immersion (or sprinkling) by water removes dirt from the body, but that is all it can do.  Salvation is a cleansing of the soul.  It is a ‘good conscience’ or a right relationship with God which can only be achieved by renouncing sin and accepting the blood of the resurrected Christ as the atonement for sin.  Once this is done, God requires us to be baptized as a public confession of our faith.   

I Peter 3:22 – who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Jesus, our ultimate example of righteous suffering was rewarded when his work was finished.  He has been seated at the right hand of Father God, with all angles, authorities and powers being subject to him (Ephesians 1:21, Philippians 2:9-10).

The man or woman of God who is suffering righteously can take hope from this example.  Indeed, to dwell on this thought can bring comfort in the midst of all trials.  Jesus enters heaven victoriously.  He represents a cessation from further troubles and suffering as well as advancement to the highest personal dignity.  These gifts will be given to the faithful in Christ as well, when they too victoriously enter into all that God has prepared for them.   

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Due to the culture we now find ourselves in, you may subject to righteous suffering.  In other words, people may oppose or persecute you because you stand for Christ and his truth.  If this occurs, do not think that it is a strange occurrence.  The same thing has happened to many believers, including those of Peter’s day. 

During your suffering, do all you can to magnify the name of Jesus.  And be encouraged by his example – one day you too will be vindicated and enter heaven victoriously!

Let me offer you some relief:

Are you suffering punitively (because you have sinned/done wrong and are being justly punished for it)?  If so, forgiveness can be yours through the blood of Jesus.  Even if you have done something unlawful and society has imprisoned you, you can still find meaning and fulfillment in life, through Christ Jesus. 

Seek him today.  Dedicate your life to him, and he will bring you satisfaction no matter what your circumstances.

Let me offer you some strength:

While we all receive Holy Spirit into our hearts upon salvation, there is also a greater measure of the Spirit available to all believers.  This impartation of power and strength comes with the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which is promised to all believers:

Acts 2:39 – For the promise [of the baptism of the Spirit] is unto you, and to your children and to all that are afar off even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

If you have not been baptized in the Spirit, I encourage you to study the scriptures and learn about this gift.  It is still in operation today, and God wants to bless you with it!

 

 

I Peter, Chapter 3, Part 1

I Peter 3:1-2 – Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

So far in his epistle Peter has been dealing with the conduct of his Christian readers, particularly in the area of subjection/submission to authority.  Christians are to honor and submit to the authority of government, provided it does not contradict scripture.

Servants/employees are to show due honor and respect to their masters/bosses.  In doing so, the Christian glorifies God and opens the door for salvation to the lost.

Now Peter turns to the relationship between husbands and wives.  He specifically deals with the difficult position that a woman was placed in when she became a Christian, but her husband was still a pagan. 

Before we go any further, it is vital that we understand the culture of the times in which this passage (and others by Paul) was penned, especially since that culture was RADICALLY different from our Western culture.

At that time, women in Eastern cultures (sometimes called Orientals), were considered pure and moral only if they ‘stayed home’.  They were never educated.  They did not own property.  They did not work outside the home, much less own a business.  They never held positions of authority or power.  They were considered inferior to men, and were little better than household slaves.

In contrast, women who were courtesans (upscale prostitutes) were frequently educated in not only book knowledge (reading, writing) but in philosophy, proper social graces, business and even statesmanship/politics.  

So, at that time a woman with any kind of education got a bad reputation to go along with it.  If a ‘respectable’ woman stood up in a public meeting and spoke, her reputation would have been instantly tarnished.  In that culture, she would be considered common and corrupt and this would bring shame upon her husband and herself. 

For example, women who wanted to keep their reputation of virtue had to keep silent in the church.  A woman who spoke up in that setting was perceived by others to be unwholesome or even wicked.  Her actions cast doubt on her character. 

This helps us to understand why Paul says it is shameful for women to speak in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).  He said this because it was a fact of the culture at that time.

Despite what some religious sects would have you believe, Paul’s statement in that passage is not a blanket prohibition of women in ministry!   It is an example of restraining your own freedom for the sake of the gospel.

Rather than ruin their reputation in the community, and thus cast aspersions on the gospel message, Paul instructed them to keep quiet in the church so they had a good testimony that might eventually win others to Christ.

Now we can begin to see why many women of that era (as noted in verse three of our text) spent an inordinate amount of time and effort on their outward appearance – because society essentially made it impossible for a virtuous woman to build her inward beauty with wisdom, knowledge and success.  Fleeting, outward beauty was all she had left. 

But interestingly, the apostles Peter and Paul encourage women to set their sights higher.  They instructed the women of that age to cultivate and adorn their inward souls.  Clearly, they did not believe that women should be relegated to the position of household slaves.  In fact, under the Old Testament Law women were honored, respected and trusted.  They held positions of influence and leadership.  As we would expect, Christianity retained and even built upon these rights.

Indeed, Christianity reflects God’s true plan for women, which is for them to be a respected partner of men in life and in the gospel. 

Perhaps Matthew Henry said it best: “In creating woman, God did not take her out of the head of man to be over him, nor from his feet to be under him, but out of his side to be equal with him, from under his arm to be sheltered and protected by him, and from near his heart to walk in sympathy and helpfulness by his side.”

It is God’s design for a man and a woman to be joined together as a single entity – one in heart, purpose, aim and desire.  They are two halves of a whole. 

The Preachers Homiletic Commentary puts it this way: “…the wife in the happy home is equal in position and influence to that of the husband, but not the same.  Woman is not merely a copy of man – a faded, second impression from the same plate – but another creation, enlarging and enriching life… The husband and wife are the two halves of one whole, and the whole is designed by God to be greater and better than the sum of the parts.” 

With this background in mind, let’s examine today’s text. 

I Peter 3:3-4 – Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

Some sects of Christianity have taken this passage (and others by the apostle Paul) out of context and used them to enforce some strange rules.  They forbid women to wear jewelry, makeup or pants.  They forbid them to cut or style their hair, and even force them to wear a hat/head covering while praying.  Those who interpret the scriptures in this way are completely missing the point Peter is making!

So what is Peter saying in this passage?  Well, let’s look at the context.  Peter has just examined the difficulties inherent in the relationship of a Christian citizen and a pagan government, as well as a Christian employee and a pagan boss.  Peter has advised the Christians in these circumstances how they should act in order to please God and be a witness to the unbelievers around them.

Now Peter examines the difficulties inherent in a marriage relationship when the wife has become a Christian, but the husband has not.  He will advise women in this situation how they should act in order to please God and be a witness to their unbelieving husband.   This is the true message of the passage!  

This passage is not a lesson on the general relationships between wives and husbands.  Relationships and circumstances change from age to age, culture to culture and nation to nation.  

Let me just confirm it one more time.  The true meaning of this passage is how a Christian wife should live her life in order to please God and be a witness to her unbelieving husband.

Again, understanding the culture sheds a lot of light on the difficulty facing the Christian women of that era.  On the one hand, the law and culture considered them barely above the level of slaves.  On the other hand, Christianity considers them full partners in life with their husbands. 

So the apostle is giving the women of that era sound advice on how to navigate through the difficulties of this relationship, just as he gave advice to Christian citizens and Christian employees.  You have to love the way Peter gets right down to the practicalities of everyday life!

And here is his godly advice: There is nothing wrong with outward beauty, but true beauty is an inward beauty of the heart. 

External beauty/adornment does not last.  It will fade, decay or go out of style.  (You know this is true; just look back at some of your old photographs and see what was considered ‘stylish’ 20 years ago!) 

By contrast, internal adornment/beauty endures forever, because your soul is eternal.  Beauty of the heart and mind never goes out of style.  Peter advocates for a gentle and quiet spirit.  This kind of spirit does not flash into anger, or answer harshly.  It does not gossip or stir up trouble.  Rather, it is calm and tranquil in all circumstances – even unfair ones.  It possesses (and spreads) the peace of God to everyone it interacts with.  These adornments are very precious in God’s sight. 

When a person (wife or husband) exhibits these traits it is a testimony to the unbelieving partner; they bear witness to the character of God by example rather than by words.  This is a very powerful testimony indeed!  By this testimony the Christian will win the unbeliever to Christ.  Peter points to Sarah, wife of the patriarch Abraham as an example of a woman who cultivated a gentle and quiet spirit.

I Peter 3:5-6 – For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to the own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.  And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

Can we take a few moments now and consider our own culture?  Our situation is the exact opposite of the women in Peter’s day.

In the United States of America in 2021, law and culture automatically assume that women are equal to men.  This is a blessing that more closely matches the will of God, and I do not think it is a coincidence that we find this in a nation that was founded upon God’s word.

I’d like to make two quick points here.  

  • Ladies, do not allow your freedom to be a stumbling block to others.  Honor your husband as the head of your home.  Treat your neighbors as yourself.  If you want to be a leader, be the servant of all.  Pride and arrogance will lead to your downfall, so watch yourself.  Be thankful for your freedom and steward it wisely for God’s glory.
  • Second, all Christians who step out in faith and answer the call God has placed upon their lives encounter resistance.  However, women often encounter an added dimension of resistance from the body of Christ itself.  But fear not!  Walk in the boldness and confidence of Holy Spirit and complete the task God has called you to do!  Be a good steward of the gifts God has given you.  Don’t waste time worrying about what others are saying; let God deal with them!       

Now, while Peter addresses married women in his text, there are lessons here for single women (and men) as well.  Let me begin by asking you a question: How important is your choice of a spouse?

In my opinion, it is the second most important decision you can make, after your decision to accept Christ as Savior. 

When you marry, you have legally and spiritually joined yourself to another person (Genesis 2:23-24, Ephesians 5:31).  God’s will is for this person to be your partner for the rest of your earthly life. 

What kind of a partner do you want?  One who works diligently, exhibits faithfulness, shows patience, and loves God?  Clearly, none of us is perfect.  But in choosing a spouse who is a Christian, you have a much better chance of finding a partner who is faithful, loving, kind, etc because these are the attributes that God instills within his children.  If both of you are believers, your marriage is based on Christ and you can turn to him for guidance in the difficulties of life.  

Or would you rather have a partner that does not provide for you, cheats on you, is abusive and has no regard for the things of God?  In choosing a spouse who is not a Christian, you have accepted Satan as your father-in-law, and his children are just like him! 

This does not mean that you have an absolute guarantee of a happy and trouble free marriage if you are both Christians.  To be sure, there will be bumps along the road of life, and some Christians continue to struggle with wicked habits.  Even in the case where both partners are Christians, you will still have to work to keep your marriage satisfying and intact.  

It also does not mean that if you are a believer who is married to a nonbeliever that there is no hope for your marriage!  There are many people who come to salvation in Christ after they are married; God does not expect you to separate from your spouse for that reason.  Rather, God wants to draw your unbelieving spouse to him, and he will use you to do it!

As Peter indicates in this passage, when the believing partner honors their spouse and demonstrates grace, love, forgiveness, patience, joy and peace in daily life, they provide an example of Christianity that no amount of words could convey.  A living example is a powerful testimony to the unbeliever and usually reaps better results than nagging or preaching!

I Peter 3:7 – Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

There can be no doubt that God’s will is for the husband to be the head of the home (Ephesians 5:23).  But again we notice that contrary to the culture of that day, women are to be treated with honor and respect.  In fact, Christianity is the only religion whose practical application results in such honor and respect of women.   

Further, the apostle goes on to say that women are equal heirs in the salvation and benefits of God.  Think about that for a moment. 

Women are not ‘settling’ for a bad deal when they submit to the husband as the head of the home.  They are exercising sound judgment as they partner with their husbands in life and in the gospel.  The authority of the husband does not interfere with the woman being an equal heir of eternal spiritual things.  On the contrary, fulfilling the role God has given you on earth results in eternal reward.  This is true for men and women alike.  

Therefore, in the most important aspect of life (our relationship with God), women are in every way equal to men.  All humans, male and female alike, are entitled to claim the promises of God.  All may expect forgiveness of sin, fullness/gifts of Holy Spirit, and a home in heaven.  All may praise and worship; all may travail in prayer and seek a move of the hand of God in their situations. 

The Christian home should be a bastion of peace and safety, with the husband in authority, showing respect and honor to the wife as the two of them partner together to navigate the storms of life, raise the next generation of believers, and grow in grace.  Don’t you want to live in a home like that?

Peter also warns his readers about the spiritual dangers of strife/discord in their marriage.  Strife will normally result in anger, unforgiveness or a breakdown in the relationship. 

These injuries to our spirit will most often keep us from praying at all.  Those who do try to engage in prayer, will find God turning them away:

Matthew 5:23-24 – So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  

Look at what Jesus is saying here – you might find it shocking.  He instructs us to leave the altar (the place of prayer) to go and mend our broken relationship.  Only then should we return to prayer.  

As Peter warns, in order to have prayers reach the throne room of God and have their full effectiveness, you need to be a peace with your spouse. 

I Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Peter now gives instructions for the wider Christian brotherhood, the church, by teaching us how to treat one another. 

Unity of mind: Christians are to be in agreement not only in the doctrine of salvation, but in practical aims.  If we unite with other sections of the body of Christ, we have a hope of reaching the world for Christ. 

Satan knows this and he would like nothing better than to cause division among believers.  Although different denominations disagree on certain doctrines, we should be able to unite and work with other organizations that believe in salvation through the blood of Jesus.  Let our love for one another and our desire to serve Christ overcome our divisions.

Sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart:  The importance of Christian love cannot be over stated.  Remember that Paul, in his address to the Corinthians, says that even if a believer speaks in heavenly languages, understands prophesy, has faith to move mountains, gives all he has to the poor and is a martyr for God, it is of no value to him without love! (See 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

We are to rejoice with our fellow believers when they rejoice, and weep with them when they weep, having sympathy and compassion for all.  When we go through some of the trials of life, we can lean upon our Christian family for support, comfort and practical help.  When God has brought us through, we are then able to assist others in their time of need.  

Humble mind:  To be humble-minded means to make a conscious effort to be truly humble.  Humbleness is the opposite of pride and arrogance.  It is a state of mind that recognizes we have fallen short in God’s eyes, yet He has forgiven us; we ought to do the same for others.   This is appropriate for the Christian, because humbleness should underlie all of our relationships. 

I Peter 3:9 – Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

God has showered us with mind boggling blessings.  He has paid for our forgiveness, healed our sicknesses/diseases, given us the indwelling Holy Spirit, granted us his authority on earth, allowed us into his throne room/presence, and blessed us with a comfortable earthly life.  But wait… there’s more!  He has also guaranteed us everlasting life with him in heaven along with other eternal rewards that we have not even dreamed of!     

I would not expect any disagreement when I say that we did nothing to deserve these blessings.  The truth is that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). 

Since God has blessed us when we deserved punishment, God expects us to do the same for others.  Jesus taught this by word and example when he lived on earth.  

Matthew 5:44 – But I [Jesus] say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

[Side Note – notice that we are to bless people, not justify sin.  Sin is sin, and people need to see that so they can be convicted and forgiven as we are.  So be careful not to justify their sin when you are blessing them.] 

I’m sure that you can anticipate the objections that Peter’s readers probably brought up back in that day.  They might have said something like this:

‘Listen, Peter, you don’t know these people like we do.  If we return good for evil, that is not going to change them.  It will make things harder on us, because if they find out they can take advantage of us, they will never stop!  They will walk all over us and bully us!  We will eventually perish from the earth, but they will still be around!  Our lives will be miserable!’ 

Granted, in the natural realm it makes no sense to show love to your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to those who clearly hate you, or pray for those who persecute you.  Everything within us wants to do the exact opposite!

But the prophet Isaiah tells us that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55).  God’s kingdom often works the exact opposite from the way our world works. 

Opposite!

In man’s economy, you have less after you give things away, so you should hoard all you have for yourself.  In God’s economy, those who give can expect an abundance to return to them – “pressed down, shaken together and running over”.  The more you give, the more you get.   

In man’s kingdom, the lowest ranking people are expendable; they must die so the King can be protected and live.  In God’s kingdom, King Jesus died so that his subjects might be protected and live!

In man’s government, leaders are those who assume authority and expect others to serve them.  In God’s government, the one who would be a leader must be the servant of all.

And again in this particular case, we see that God’s kingdom works differently than the kingdom of man.  In man’s world, those who do good to their enemies will be destroyed or taken advantage of; their short lives will be filled with pain and turmoil.

But God’s wisdom reveals that those who want to have a long, peaceable and prosperous life must turn away from evil, and repay evil with good.

Peter declares this truth from Psalms 34:12-16:    

I Peter 3:10-12 – For “Whosoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers.  But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Christians who desire long and peaceful lives on earth must not engage in the sins of lying, reviling, speaking rebellion, flattery that covers wicked intentions, slander, gossip, cursing or any of the other sins we tend to commit with our tongues.  Even if our enemies curse us, we must bless them in return.

A Christian should always remember that our words are very powerful; they contain the ability to give life or death and they should be used carefully (Proverbs 18:21). 

But according to the apostle Peter, you have to do more than just watch what you say.  You have to turn away from evil and do good, walking in the ways of righteousness and living holy lives.  This includes the mandate from Jesus in Matthew chapter 5, on how to treat our enemies.   

Those who do, obtain the blessing of a long life.  And a long, healthy earthly life is indeed a blessing.  It gives us the opportunity to gain more knowledge of God, and pass that knowledge down to our children and grandchildren.  It gives us ample time to prepare for eternity; we labor on earth for the riches we will have in heaven. Long life affords us numerous opportunities to do good to others, and share the gospel of Christ with the lost.

So don’t be fooled by the earthly wisdom of man.  Guide your life by spiritual principles.  And remember, God is watching over the righteous, and listening for our prayers.    

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Perhaps you had someone in your life who was always sowing negative, derogatory comments and ideas into you.  Perhaps they gave you the impression that you are worthless and you would never amount to anything, much like some of the women in Peter’s day.

Regardless of what they may have told you, I want you to know the truth:  You are of great importance and value to God!

The scripture tells us that God breathes the breath of life into every human being.  It tells us that God knows the sum of your days, before you are even born.  He knows the number of hairs on your head and every word that comes to your lips.  He sings over you with joy!   Although God created you with a purpose and plan, he does not love you for what you will do for him.  He loves you simply because you are his child!   

Let me offer you some relief:

You can find freedom/relief from all those negative seeds that have been sown into your life.  The first step is to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The second step is to begin to examine the scriptures to find out what God has to say about you.  Remember, your value is not in what you do, but in who you are – his child!  

Let me offer you some strength:

Ephesians 1:3 tells us that God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.  Hallelujah!  Knowing who you are in Christ and what He has done for you should give you the strength to bless your enemies.  That goes against the logic of this world, but I assure you, in God’s economy you will reap a guaranteed reward!

  

Declaring the Word of God

We are interrupting our study of 1 Peter for a special lesson this week.  This is a timely lesson for those in the Kipton Church who are currently meeting to pray for revival as well as a mighty move of God’s power in our midst.

We have been practicing praying and declaring the word of God.  This is a biblically sound concept, as noted in today’s text from the book of Revelation:

Revelation 19:11-16 – And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 

And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.  And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.  And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

I don’t know about you, but I get goose bumps just reading those verses! 

But the thing I want to draw your attention to is in verse 15, where the scripture says “out of his [Jesus] mouth goeth a sharp sword”.  

Now, is this literal?  Is Jesus going to go riding out on his white horse with a literal metal sword clamped in his teeth?  Is he going to swing his head back and forth to fight against his enemies?  Of course not!

The key to what is happening here can be found in Ephesians:

Ephesians 6:17 – and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.

So obviously, the sword of Jesus is not a literal sword made of metal.  His sword is the word of God. 

Now back to the scene in Revelation.  Is Jesus riding on his white horse and when he opens his mouth a bible pops out?  Or maybe a cell phone with an electronic copy of the bible on it?  Is Jesus going to fight the enemy with a phone or an ipad?  Of course not!

Jesus wields the sword of the Spirit by SPEAKING AND/OR DECLARING THE WORD OF GOD! 

The word of God is the sword that Jesus uses to defeat his enemies.  This is not a new concept.  We saw Jesus doing this while he was on earth doing battle with Satan during what is now known as the wilderness temptation.

Matthew 4:4 – But he [Jesus] answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

In every instance of temptation, Jesus defeats Satan by speaking/quoting the word of God.  And that’s not all…

  • In Matthew 21, when Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered from the roots, how did he do it?  He opened up his mouth, and used words.
  • When Jesus calmed the storm (wind/sea) that threatened to overtake the boat in Mark 4, how did he do it?  He opened up his mouth and spoke to the wind and the sea. 
  • In Matthew 17 when the disciples needed help freeing a boy from a demon, how did Jesus do it?  He opened up his mouth, and rebuked the demon.   

In Mark chapter 11, when Jesus taught the disciples about mountain moving faith, did he instruct them to pray about the mountain? No, he did not.

Did he instruct them to worry about the mountain?  No, he did not. 

Did he tell them beg and plead with God to move the mountain?  No, he did not. 

He told them to SPEAK DIRECTLY TO THAT OBSTACLE (with words, using their mouths) AND ORDER IT TO BE MOVED INTO THE SEA. 

As Christians, we have all been trained to pray, and that is a good thing.   But we have also been instructed by Jesus (through both teaching and example) that our words have power in the spiritual realm.  As we speak the word of God out loud in faith, it goes into the spiritual realm and it causes a reaction from heaven.  Our words, spoken in faith, open the door for God to visit the earthly realm and bring about changes.  Bringing about (or birthing) the will of God on earth is a partnership between God and us.  We speak out in faith exercising the authority God has given us, and God brings about the change.  

The spoken word of God is not just the sword of Jesus.  It is the sword of every believer.  It is part of our spiritual armor.  It is the way we engage the enemy, and defeat him.  Should we pray?  Absolutely! 

1 John 5:14-15 –  And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us: and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we desired of him.

However, prayer is only part of our arsenal.  It is ABSOLUTELY VITAL that we begin to speak the word in faith, and begin to use the authority that Jesus has given us. 

We wonder why we don’t see many miracles today.  Perhaps part of the problem is that we are not using the authority God has given us.  Let’s remind ourselves what God has given us:

  • The authority to bind and loose (Matthew 18:18). 
  • The power of agreement (Matthew 18:19). 
  • Authority over all demons and the authority to cure all sickness (Luke 9:1-2). 
  • The ability to call those things that are not as though they are (Romans 4:17). 
  • The power of the blood of Jesus and our testimony (Revelation 12:11).  

We exercise this authority with our mouths, through faith. 

Furthermore, God tells us that his word is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12), and that he watches over his word, to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12).  So we need to get busy speaking the word over situations in our lives and in our nation that do not conform to the will of God. 

Now, this is not to imply that a single ‘dose’ of the word will instantly change a situation.  We are not going to examine the reasons for this right now.  For now, let’s just get started.  And let’s decide in advance that we are going to persevere.  We must continue to speak and pray in faith, until we see the situation conform itself to the will of God.  In the book of Galatians chapter 6, Paul assures us that if we do not grow weary and give up, we will reap the change we are seeking.

So, to help you get started, I have included 11 scriptures in this post.  I strongly urge you use the list this way:   

  • Speak out the scripture, as written. 
  • Then personalize and speak out the declaration. 
  • Pray over that scripture and declaration, asking God for change. 

You can use this list exactly as it appears, or you can use it as a model and make your own list. Please feel free to share it with anyone who will use it.

Now is the time for all Christians to BEGIN TO SPEAK IN FAITH AND TAKE AUTHORITY OVER THEIR SITUATIONS. 

As a side note, I especially want to draw your attention to scripture #11.  As explained below, I am using this passage to pray for America.  I think you will find it an invaluable scripture for this use. 

LIST OF DECLARATIONS

#1 Acts 4:29-30 – Now Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

Declaration:  I believe and declare that I am filled with Holy Spirit and speak the word of God with all boldness. God will confirm his word with signs and wonders which will result in salvation and deliverance for the people of (city name) and all who hear of it.

Prayer suggestion:  Pray for open doors in your community to share the gospel and pray for people, believing that God is going to confirm your testimony with miracles.

#2 2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

I Thessalonians 5:9 – For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 46:13- I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry; and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.

Declaration: I believe and declare that the will of God is coming to pass on earth, even as it is in heaven.  God’s will does not tarry; it is manifested this very day.  I decree that today is the day of salvation through Jesus Christ to every single person in (city name), and all those I am praying for including (insert name here).

Prayer suggestions:  It is God’s will for people to be saved, freed from addiction and healed from all physical, mental and emotional sickness. Jesus paid the price for these blessings on the cross.  Pray for his will to come immediately to those on your prayer list.

#3 Isaiah 55:10-11 – For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Declaration:  I believe and declare that God’s word is flowing freely to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Wherever it flows, it brings life and spiritual fruitfulness, accomplishing the purposes of God and destroying the works of the devil.  

Prayer suggestions:  The gospel goes out into the world 24/7.  Think of all the seeds that have been planted in the hearts of people that have not yet sprouted and grown!  Perhaps some were planted into people as children (your children?) but have never been fruitful.  Pray for Holy Spirit rain to come down, and bring life to those hidden seeds.  

#4 Isaiah 43:18-19 – Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert… to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.

Declaration:  I believe and declare that the past is behind me.  My sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ.  God is doing new amazing things in my life and using me in new ways, for his glory.  I am filled with Holy Spirit power.  I am a new wineskin.  I am exercising the authority God has given me to cure all sickness, cast our demons, bind and loose, preach the word, and call the things that are not as though they are, so that his kingdom may be manifested on earth as it is in heaven.  I decree that His name is and will be glorified and praised in all the earth.

Prayer suggestions:  Spend time in prayer, seeking wisdom from Holy Spirit as to what he is doing/wants to do in your community and in the lives of your family.  Get in agreement with it, and use your spiritual authority to enforce it in their lives.

#5 Isaiah 49:25 – But thus says the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save your children.

Declaration:  I believe and declare that (insert personal name or city name here) is even now set free from Satanic bondage and blindness, because God himself fights for possession of (name).  We declare that the mind of (name) is awakened to clearly see the truth of the gospel.  We not only claim the life of (name) for Christ, but we hereby lay claim to all his/her descendants.   

Prayer suggestion:  Pray for spiritual blindness to be removed from your city/loved one so that the truth of the gospel can be clearly seen.  Pray (bind/loose, declare, apply the blood of Christ, etc) against any strong hold, addiction, sickness, poverty, generational curse, etc. 

#6 Joel 2:28-29 – And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your you men shall see visions.  Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

Declaration:  I believe and declare that Holy Spirit is actively at work in my life.  He has filled me with his power, wisdom and spiritual gifts.  He is actively involved in communicating with me and other believers.  I declare that I hear his voice and I follow his leading.

Prayer suggestions:  Pray for the baptism of Holy Spirit.  Ask Jesus for a spiritual prayer language, then use it.  Ask the Lord to speak to you, whether through dreams, visions, tongues, etc.  Work on your ability to hear him and follow his leading.

#7 Deuteronomy 20:1 – When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

Esther 8:11 – …the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods.

Declaration:  I believe and declare that greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.  I am clothed with the full armor of God and I am not afraid of the enemy, for no weapon formed against me will prosper.  God has given me his authority to destroy and bring to nothing the evil that Satan has planned for me, my family, and the people of America/earth.

Prayer suggestion:  Begin to engage in spiritual warfare for your personal life – your children, your finances, your health, your ministry… everything that concerns you.  It is your right to fight for victory in your own family.  Once you have slain the ‘lions and bears’ of today, you will have the confidence and faith to face the ‘Goliaths’ of the future.  Don’t try to rely or depend on someone else to do this for you – it is not only your privilege, but your responsibility.  

#8 John 16:23-34 – Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.  Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Psalm 84:11 – For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

Declaration:  I believe and declare that God watches over his word to perform it.  I do not need to beg God for anything; I simply ask in faith.  He joyously hears and answers my prayers, giving me everything that I need to live a victorious, abundant, fulfilling life.     

Prayer suggestion:  God already has the answers to your problems lined up for you.  In faith, with an open mind, ask him for a solution.  He may not answer in the way you imagined, but his way/answer/solution/provision/open door will be perfect for you.

#9 Mark 11:23 – For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be removed, and be cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he said shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he said.

Declaration:  I believe and declare that nothing is impossible with God!  Even now, my circumstances are conforming to the will of God.  I place my faith in the Alpha and Omega, the one who moves mountains, the one who has never lost a battle, the one who knows the end from the beginning, the one who watches over his word to perform it; the only eternal God and King who reigns forever and ever!   

Prayer suggestion:  Rise up in the authority God has given you.  Speak directly to that mountain, commanding it to conform to God’s will, like Jesus did when he cursed the fig tree.

#10 Numbers 10:35 – And it came to pass when the ark set forward, Moses said, “Rise up Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered.  Let them that hate thee flee from before thee.

Declaration:  I believe and declare that God is in our midst, and that he is moving in the world today, actively fighting against the forces of darkness, who run away from his presence.

Prayer suggestion:  Satan will flee from the presence of God.  Use praise and worship to bring God’s presence into situations, and watch the devil run!  Begin to thank the Lord for the answers you have seen with the eye of faith, even though they have not yet manifested in the natural realm.

#11 Proverbs 6:16-19 – There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

This scripture passage in Proverbs is one that I am using for declarations on a national level, for America.  For example, our government currently sanctions abortion, which is the shedding of innocent blood, and we know that God hates that.  So I might declare something like this:

Declaration:  I believe and declare that God hates abortion and therefore it has no place in the nation of America.  I declare that Americans will no longer be blind to the sin of abortion; they will recognize its evil and reject it.  I decree that the laws of abortion will be abolished in this nation and American law will conform to the will of God.

Prayer suggestions:  In my opinion, all of the evil and wrong doing that the government is now perpetrating fits into one of the seven categories mentioned in Proverbs, so speak out/decree against any/all of their actions using this passage in Proverbs. 

FYI, we are seeing a lot of ‘sowing discord among brothers’ in our nation today, so be sure to include that one especially right now.

 

I Peter, Chapter 2, Part 2

I Peter 2:13-14 – Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

Our last post ended as Peter was instructing the Christians of Asia Minor to keep their conduct among the Gentiles honorable.  Obviously, Christians will want to live holy lives because it glorifies God and it is the reasonable thing to do in light of the salvation Jesus died to purchase for us.

Peter also told his readers that they should act honorably because it was a witness to the unbelievers around them, who were looking for reasons to discredit or shame Christians, and the God they served.  

But why would Peter feel the need to address issues relating to civil government and authority?  Doesn’t everyone honor their government? 

In the case of the Jews, the answer is emphatically ‘no’!  Remember, at one time the Jews had their own nation and their own king.  But that ended when they went into exile (586 BC).  Even though God brought them back to the land after their punishment, their monarchy was never restored.  Ever since that time, they have been ruled by a foreign power.

And truth be told, they hated and despised that fact!  The Jews were notorious for their constant rebellions against the Romans.  Many Roman officials did not want to rule over Jerusalem because the Jews were so hard to govern/keep under control.  

Furthermore, if Peter wrote this epistle around 60-64 AD as we discussed in the introduction, then it is a mere 6 years (plus or minus) until the hostilities between Rome and the Jews totally erupt in a violent and bloody war which almost wipes out the Jews and burns down the temple (70 AD).

Keep in mind that the people of that era considered Christianity to be an offshoot of Judaism.  Naturally, they are going to assume that Christians would be almost ungovernable, just like the Jews. 

Now do you see why Peter gives the Christians a reminder to submit to the yoke of civil authority?  If they don’t, they will greatly damage their witness for Christ and the reputation of Christianity as a whole.  They will give unbelievers a reason for despising not only themselves, but God.

Respect and submission were to be given to all ruling authorities whether those were kings, emperors, governors or magistrates.  Obedience is due to them because they have been granted that position/authority by God’s providence; submitting to their authority was another way of glorifying God, and displaying a good witness to unbelievers. 

Romans 13:1 – Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  

The apostle Paul agrees with the apostle Peter – government officials rule by the command of God.  They would not be in power if God did not allow it.  Therefore, unless the authorities are requiring something that is contrary to the laws of God, their authority is to be recognized. 

Peter goes on to say that civil authority should be respected because it has been appointed by the Lord for the common good of mankind – it oversees public peace and safety, while punishing those who break the law. 

It would be wonderful if all civil powers were just and righteous in their doings.  Of course, this is not the case.  However, we must consider that government, even tainted by corruption, is still better than anarchy.

And thankfully, in America we have the right to vote out any government official that is doing corrupt or unrighteous things.  So take a look around you.  If you don’t like the officials that govern you, take action!  Vote them out of office.  You might even consider running for office yourself!  What a blessing it would be if every mayor, governor, congressman, senator, and judge in America was a Christian!

I Peter 2:15 – For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

What do you think of when you read the phrase ‘put to silence’?  It makes me think of old gangster films where the bad guys would kill anyone who challenged them!  But of course that is not the case here.   

The phrase ‘put to silence’ literally means ‘to muzzle’ as you would an animal, which implies to stop their mouths; to leave them nothing to say.

True wisdom can only be found in the knowledge of God.  Therefore, people who are still unsaved have no wisdom; they are ignorant.  Interestingly, the original Greek word carries the connotation of “self imposed” or “self caused” ignorance, which means these people chose to reject the obvious truth of the gospel.

Furthermore, they are foolish – absurd, despicable, contemptible; without judgment or discretion. 

Peter’s point is that people who do not know God lack true judgment.  Naturally a person of that mind set would accuse Christians of being unfit citizens of their country.  They would accuse Christians of causing civil unrest and anarchy.  In fact, they tend to blame Christians for any and all ills that society suffers from. 

According to Peter, how were the Christians supposed to react to this situation?  

These false charges are not to be fought with words of indignant self vindication, but by obedience.  Actions speak louder than words! 

What about us?  Do our actions enforce the Christian lingo coming out of our mouths? Or do our actions contradict the ways of God?  Are non-believers paying more attention to what we say, or what we do?

I Peter 2:16 – Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

The Christians of Asia Minor had been set free from both the bondage of sin and subjection to the Mosaic law.  They had become God’s people; he, and he alone, was their ultimate authority.  Therefore, it was looked upon as an indignity to subject themselves to the heathen rulers/government.  By virtue of being subjected to the law of God, they felt they were above the laws of fallen man.   

Meanwhile, because they considered Christians an off shoot of the Jews, heathen rulers looked upon the church as a dangerous, lawless organization.  Their views were based on history – the Jews in general had long held the belief that they were not subject to any heathen government (John 8:33, Deuteronomy 17:15) and this belief was the underlying foundation of their constant rebellion against Rome.  And Christianity in general had certainly turned the world upside down!  

But freedom in Christ is not a cloak or a mantle that we can use to cover up evil.   In other words, freedom in Christ is not a license for unrestrained behavior.   

In this particular case, Peter points out that sedition and rebellion against Rome were a sin because God’s law required subjection to the civil authority of the land, which He had placed in power.   

In the next verses, Peter goes on to explain or clarify what is/is not entailed in the freedom of a Christian. 

I Peter 2:17 – Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor.

  • Honor everyone:  Due respect is to be given to all men based on their personal worth as humans and based on the offices/positions of authority they hold.  
  • Love the brotherhood:  We are all part of the body of Christ.  There is one body, one Spirit, one faith, one baptism, and one Father God.  Therefore, we should strive for unity in the Spirit and a bond of peace among ourselves (Ephesians 4:3-6). 
  • Fear God:  As I am sure you already know, ‘fear’ means to show reverence and honor.  Reverence and honor to God are exemplified in obedience and submission to his will and loving our neighbors as ourselves. 
  • Honor the emperor:  At the time of writing, this would have referred to the Roman rulers, but in our generation it is a mandate to respect those that God has placed in authority over us.  We are to obey their rule, as long as it does not directly conflict with the word of God.  This would also include praying for them, and cheerfully paying taxes! 

And again, let us be thankful that in the United States of America, we have the means to oust tyrants and wicked rulers from office by being politically active.  This is a huge blessing, for many Christians live in places where they have no recourse for bad government. 

I like the way that Peter puts things in the proper order – fear of God first, loyalty to government second!

I Peter 2:18 – Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentile, but also to the unjust.

Peter is still on the same topic of freedom in Christ, and what that looks like at the basic levels in life.  He just showed us that freedom in Christ does not allow us to be anarchists – we must obey the rulers God has set over us in government.

Next, he shows us how that freedom works itself out in situations where another person has authority over us on a daily basis.   Let’s take a look at the original Greek word for “servants”.  Its literal meaning refers to domestics – those employed in a house.  So just to be clear, they are not slaves.  They can best be described as employees.

Likewise, the Greek word for “master” refers to the head of a family, (who would be supervising the domestics) not the owner of slaves.  

So, we could read the verse this way: Employees, be subject to your boss with all respect…

In almost all instances, if you are employed, you did that voluntarily.  You approached the company and requested to work for them.  Even if they approached you, you accepted their offer.  In the end, it all works out the same – you agreed to the company’s terms of employment. 

As Christians, we need to show our bosses respect in the way in which we speak to them and the way in which we speak about them.  We owe them, and the company, fidelity – faithfulness, honesty, integrity and loyalty in the discharge of our duties.   

That is a pretty easy thing to do, if you have a fair, honest and caring boss.  But what if you don’t?  What if the person who supervises you is an ungrateful tyrant?  What if they take credit for your hard work, or pass over you when handing out promotions?

Peter says that for the Christian, it doesn’t matter whether they are good/gentile or unjust/unfair.  The character of your boss has no direct effect upon the way you are to perform your service.  God is well aware of any and all ‘wrongs’ and injustices done to his children.  In the end, he will account for all of these things.

But in the meantime, we have two choices.  One, we can slander, complain, undermine and rebel against the authority of our boss.  We can sabotage their projects and requests. We can turn in incorrect, late work and we can perform our duties at a standard less than we are capable of doing.  In other words, we can act just like unbelievers.  But if we do, what kind of a testimony does that exhibit to the world?

Romans 12:21 – Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Two, we can acknowledge that God is our ultimate authority and because we serve Him, we can continue to discharge our duties to the best of our abilities and show respect for our boss.  Although this is a very difficult position, it brings great glory to God.  We become a witness to the nature of God when we bear up under unjust suffering.  Who knows – maybe you will get an opportunity to bring this lost person into the kingdom of heaven. 

Also, keep in mind that those with authority, including your boss, will someday give an account of their stewardship of that authority.     

I Peter 2:19 – For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

In other words, if you suffer injustice or wrongful treatment at work (or elsewhere), but still continue to discharge your duties properly (including keeping a guard on your mouth), this is pleasing before God. 

This is a practical demonstration that you have chosen to obey/submit yourself to the will of God, rather than give into the desires of your own will/flesh.  This is definitely an instance where your actions will reflect a testimony for God, without you saying anything.   

I Peter 2:20 – For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?  But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

Common sense tells us that there is little or no reward in patiently enduring a punishment that you deserve.  Unbelievers are not going to see any virtue or honor in your actions, because you were guilty of the crime. 

In comparison, a person who is innocent but willingly and graciously bears a wrong done to him/her because they consider it their duty before the Lord, will display an unusual and noteworthy grace that others will attribute to God. 

So, what can we conclude here? 

If you are in a bad position at work and you no longer feel that you can honor God in that situation, you should look for other employment.  If you are constantly griping and complaining about your position, your boss or your company, you should consider moving on, rather than displaying a poor witness for Christ.  

Alternatively, if you really want to keep your position, then you need to get a handle on yourself.  You will need to practice keeping control of your mouth.  You will need to change your attitude about your job.  One of the ways you can do this is to begin thanking God for your job, and all of its benefits (rate of pay, hours, retirement, health insurance, personal satisfaction, etc).  Be content with what you have.  You can pray for your supervisor/boss and your situation and see what God will do.

As a side note, we can’t help but be reminded that the borrower is a slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7).  This might be a good time to stop and consider your situation.  Are you living within your means? Are you a good steward of the resources God has placed in your care?  Do you have a plan to become free from debt and the bondages it carries?  If not, make changes now, before your situation gets worse.     

I Peter 2:21 – For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Peter now provides us with two further arguments in favor of Christian patience under unjust suffering.

First, all Christians are called to endure suffering for righteousness sake.  Part of being a Christian is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24).   This is what we have been called to do; so if the situation arises, let us respond to the call and embrace the opportunity. 

I Thessalonians 3:3 – …that no one be moved by these afflictions.  For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.

And lest we are tempted to complain about our suffering, please remind yourself of all those martyrs who have given their very lives for the cross of Christ.  What is your suffering compared to theirs?

Second, the suffering of our Lord and Savior was on our behalf. He suffered not because of his own sin but because of ours.  He endured suffering voluntarily, with patience and righteousness.  This is the example he has provided for us.   We too are to voluntarily suffer with patience and righteousness, when called by God to do so. 

II Timothy 4:5 – As for you, always be sober minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Just as the unjust suffering of Jesus brought people into the kingdom of heaven, so our unjust suffering will be a witness that lifts up the name of Jesus and draws all men to salvation (John 15:18-20, 27). 

Here is a word of comfort for you – afflictions in this life are temporary and they will result in great eternal glory if we embrace them properly (II Corinthians 4:17). 

I Peter 2:22-23 – He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

The apostle Peter now goes on to give more in-depth insight into the suffering of Jesus, and shows how this is an example for us.

As we already noted, Jesus himself committed no sins, so when he suffered it was unfair and unjust.  We too, should live our lives in such a way that if we suffer, it should be unjustly.  As Christians, we should be careful to not get ourselves into a position where we are suffering because we deserve to be punished!  It is as much our duty to live in a manner that avoids any kind of guilt as it is to suffer patiently when we are unjustly accused.

Jesus never sinned with his actions or his mouth!  He never deceived, complained, cursed, gossiped or told a lie.  This is always the example that we need to follow.  Taming the tongue is one of the most difficult things we are called to do (James 3), and also one of the most important.  I doubt we can ever reach perfection on this, but that is what we should strive for!

Jesus never retaliated.  When his earthly enemies blasphemed him, mocked him and accused him of all manner of sin and evil, he said…nothing! 

Isaiah 53:7 – He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.       

Furthermore, when they whipped him, spit on him, plucked out his beard, slapped him and jammed a crown of thorns on his head, he did…nothing! 

Jesus could have called down legions of angels to annihilate the men who abused him.  Instead, he patiently and righteously endured these afflictions, trusting in the Father to eventually vindicate his innocence and avenge him on his enemies. 

What about you and me?  Is it better to try and vindicate your own innocence, or trust God to do it in his own way and his own time?  Is it better to try and avenge your enemies yourself, or leave that in God’s hands?

An honest, impartial look at the word of God reveals that provocation by our enemies is not an excuse to sin or take revenge.  But many times, when you are personally being attacked, your emotions are involved and it is hard to set those aside and do the right thing.  It is good for us to examine this issue now, so when it affects us, we are ready to follow the example of Jesus and commit injustices and revenge to God.

I Peter 2:24-25 – He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Can we take a few minutes to bow down and take a fresh look at His sacrifice?

A price HAD to be paid for our sin.  Had Jesus not done it, the task would have fallen upon us.  Having no possible way to pay our debt, we would be eternally dead in our sin, eternally without the love and mercy of God, forever cut off from life.  We cannot fully comprehend what a bitter, hopeless and anguished existence that would be!

Think about the nature of the one who willingly became the substitute for our sin.  He is God!   This means that the creator of all things, the only true God in whom resides all wisdom, power and authority, allowed himself to come to earth in human form, for the express purpose of paying our debt; of bearing those sins in his own mortal body.  This is truly a mind-boggling thought!  How can it be that the eternal God would seek to join himself to his creation in such a manner?  What does he see in us that would make it worth it to Him?

Think about death on the cross.  Certainly, it was a hideously painful way to die.  But it was more than just physical pain.  It was a place of scorn.  The Romans would not suffer any of their own to die that way; yet they hung the Son of God there as if he was a common murderer.  They cast lots for his clothes as he hung up there naked.  Then everyone (Jews and Gentiles alike) proceeded to mock and laugh at him as he suffered.  But that is not all.  The cross was also a place of mental and spiritual anguish, as Jesus was completely separated from the God-head!  There is no way for us to comprehend what that anguish and suffering were like. 

The cross is also the place of the curse.  Scripture says ‘cursed is every one that is hanged on a tree’ (Galatians 3:13, Deuteronomy 21:22-23).   Jesus was made a curse for us, as he innocently hung on that tree!  It was our sin, our curse, our failure, our rebellion that put him there. 

We have so much to thank and praise him for!!

Now, consider this:  We did absolutely nothing to deserve the gift of eternal life that Jesus provided for us on that cross.  God’s mercy and love are the only basis for our redemption.  Because of his great sacrifice, we have been delivered from the power/bondage of sin.  We are now free to live righteous lives in Christ. 

How then, can we continue to live worldly lives?  How can we ignore biblical mandates pertaining to personal holiness?  How can we complain if we are called upon to follow in the footsteps of Christ and suffer unjustly?

When we were sinners, we were far from the protection, provision and love of God, just like a straying sheep.  But now, through the sacrifice of Christ, we have returned to the One who loves us so much, he laid his life down for us.  Jesus vigilantly watches over his flock, to keep us safe and secure.  Let us cease from our wanderings and cling to him in righteousness.   

Let me offer you some encouragement and strength:

This is not an easy portion of scripture!  In order to use our freedom in Christ, we must deny our flesh and its desires.  We must honor those in authority over us, even when that is difficult. 

Maybe you are experiencing a tough situation right now at work.  Maybe your boss or supervisor is unkind or treats you unjustly.  I encourage you to take a step back and think about your response. 

Jesus has given us the mandate to follow in his footsteps and be examples of righteousness in these situations.  He would never call us to do something that he himself is not willing to do.  He would never assign us to a task that he did not equip us for.  So take heart.  Be strengthened.  God has given you the grace to endure this situation for the glory of God. 

Let me offer you some relief:

Respecting authority can be a tough thing, especially when those over you are unbelievers who are dishonest or foolish.  Suffering unjustly is also a tough thing.  But these trials also bring about good. 

They allow you opportunities to show forth the righteousness of Christ.  They assist in shaping you into the image of Jesus.  And you can be relieved knowing that God has allowed this trial in your life, and that he is going to use it for your good.

  

 

   

  

I Peter, Chapter 2, Part 1

I Peter 2:1 – So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

In chapter 1, Peter spoke about the marvelous salvation that Jesus made possible for the Christians in Asia Minor, and for us.  Now that we have been ‘born again’ we must live a life that corresponds to this new birth.   

Part of living a redeemed life includes casting off or laying aside sin, as you would a soiled or rotten garment.  The sins Peter admonishes us to abandon include the following:  

  • Malice:  Any wicked or mischievous intention of the mind; the intent/desire to injure or harm another person, rancor, maliciousness, ill will, etc.   
  • Deceit or Guile: To disguise, conceal, deceive or delude.  Cunning, treachery. This not only applies to our actions, but to our speech and includes things like flattery, lying, distorting the truth, etc.
  • Hypocrisy: Pretending to be what you are not; a counterfeit, assuming a false appearance of religion, cloaking a wicked purpose under the appearance of piety.
  • Envy: Discontent or malice because of the good fortune of another, with some degree of desire to possess equal advantages; jealousy.
  • Slander or evil speaking: A false report maliciously uttered, which tends to injure the reputation of another; defamatory reports; to defame, dishonor or disgrace; backbiting. 

 Do you notice anything these sins have in common?  They all relate to the way we interact with others.  They also tend to appear together.  In other words, slander/evil speaking is a sign that we are entertaining thoughts of malice, hypocrisy, envy or guile. 

In fact, it is more than a sign – it is proof!  Jesus revealed that out of the abundance of our hearts, our mouths speak (Luke 6:45).  So if you want to know if envy or hypocrisy, etc are dwelling in you, check your mouth!     

When we are born again, we start off as spiritual babies.  We must grow in grace and mature in our walk with God.  And even the most mature among us has not been perfected; any of us can stumble and commit one of these sins. 

Therefore, we should not lightly cast off this warning by the apostle Peter to examine ourselves and purge these evils from our lives. 

I Peter 2:2-3 – Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

All of us are aware that infants can only be fed with milk/formula.  Their digestion has not matured to the point where they can eat solid food.  However, if they continuously receive liquid nutrition, they will quickly grow and develop to the point where they can digest solids.

If you have children of your own, you know that infants have a constant and fervent desire to be fed.  They don’t care if it is 3:00 in the morning; if they are hungry they will cry/fuss until they get food!

Although there will be ups and downs along the way, we fully expect our children to grow up.  As they grow and mature, we give them additional opportunities and privileges.   

The same principles apply to our spiritual lives.  When we are born again as babies in Christ, we must provide ourselves a steady, regular supply of the word of God, which is the spiritual milk that Peter refers to in this verse.  Our desire for the word of God should be just as fervent as the hunger of an infant.

By taking spiritual nourishment from the word of God, we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

As we spiritually grow and mature, our Heavenly Father will present us with more and more opportunities and privileges within his kingdom!   

Speaking of food, the apostle tells us that, as Christians, we have tasted that the Lord is good.  In other words, we haven’t just heard about the goodness of God, we have experienced it.   

There is a big difference between knowing about something and experiencing it.  Take, for example, driving a car.  You can watch videos on how to operate the vehicle.  You can study the driving laws and pass the written test.  But none of that is the same as actually getting behind the wheel and pulling out into traffic.   

In the same way, you can hear other people tell you about the goodness of God.  You can read books written by people who have been saved and delivered from sin.  But until that actually happens to you, you haven’t ‘tasted’ the Lord yet!

Do you remember when you first heard the gospel message?  Do you remember the feeling you experienced when he washed your sin away, and sealed you with the Holy Spirit? 

And since then, as you have grown in your faith, haven’t you discovered deeper levels of his joy and peace?  As you get to know him more and more, doesn’t your love for him deepen and grow? 

Consider this:  As wonderful as our relationship with God is, it is only a mere taste of what awaits us in eternity when we finally see him face to face!  

I Peter 2:4 – As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,

It is common for the New Testament writers to described Jesus as a stone or a corner stone.  This is an Old Testament reference to the Messiah:

Isaiah 28:16 – thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation…”

Psalms 118:22 – The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

There are actually two ideas conceptualized in a cornerstone.  The first is a foundation stone, upon which a structure rested.  We find this referenced in places such as Isaiah 28:16 (see above), Job 38:6 or Jeremiah 51:26.  Jesus is described as the cornerstone or foundation that the church is built upon. 

But a cornerstone can also refer to the topmost or capstone on a building, which links the last tiers together.  We find this referenced in places such as Psalms 118:22 (see above) or Zechariah 4:7.  This is fitting because Jesus is not only the foundation, but also the one who binds the church together. 

In both cases, the cornerstone is figurative of the Messiah (1 Corinthians 3:11, Ephesians 2:20, Matthew 21:42, etc), who is the first and the last.  He has invincible strength and everlasting duration.  He is our protection and our security.  He is the sure foundation of our lives.  Those who build upon him will stand in the storms of life (Matthew 7:24-27).  

Cornerstone

Notice that Peter refers to Jesus as a living stone.  Under the new covenant, the church is no longer a building made of inanimate stones.  It is a living temple, made of redeemed people, in which God now resides.  Jesus himself lives eternally and he imparts life to all who build their lives upon him.

But there are men who have rejected him.  Although many Gentiles have refused to acknowledge him, this is a direct reference to the Jews.  They were looking for a Messiah of this world, who would uphold their traditions and customs, take authority over the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom.  Their faith was shaken when Jesus did not do as they expected. At first they rejected him out of ignorance and blindness, but later out of malice and wickedness.     

This presents a startling contrast with God’s point of view.  In his sight, Jesus is chosen and precious.  He is the savior of the world; the perfect foundation on which the church rests.  Since God can never be wrong, we can rest assured that the sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient to atone for all our sin, no matter how great. 

I Peter 2:5 – you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The first Jewish temple was built by King Solomon, and it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar when he invaded Jerusalem in 586 BC.  By all accounts, it was a magnificent edifice.

A new temple was built by the returning Jewish exiles back in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.  This temple was much smaller and far less magnificent than Solomon’s temple, but it was a temple nonetheless.  It had been in existence for about 500 years by the time Herod became king in Judea. 

Replica of Herod’s temple

In order to gain favor with the Jews, Herod offered to rebuild the temple and the Jews accepted his offer.  It should be noted that the temple was torn down and rebuilt in sections.  So in the end, it was an entirely new and glorious building but it was still considered the second temple.  The project took 46 years to complete.

It might be difficult for us to imagine the feelings that the Jews had for their temple; to them it was by far the most important place on earth.  It was the place where God was worshipped.  It was the place where God dwelt (on the mercy seat between the cherubim of the Ark).  Acceptable sacrifices were offered there.  The priesthood ministered there.  It was the meeting place between God and man.  

Peter now makes an astonishing revelation to his readers – God has instituted a new, fully complete, fully functioning temple, which is even more glorious than the one they are familiar with! 

This new temple is built upon Jesus Christ, a foundation of living stone.  All individual believers are living stones, and together we are the united church of the Living God. 

So God now dwells in temples of flesh – the hearts of believers everywhere.  Therefore, Christians are the new priesthood, daily engaged in his service, led by our high priest Jesus Christ.  Acceptable sacrifices and offerings are made in this new temple in the form of obedience, prayer and holy living by all believers.  Worship occurs in the new temple; true believers worship him in spirit and in truth.  Since God now dwells within us, we are in constant fellowship with him.  

In short, all of the things that made the physical temple a true temple had been replicated in a new and living way – in the lives of Christians. 

This would have given comfort to the Jewish Christians who lost such a big part of their heritage when they came to Christ.  This knowledge would have been an even bigger comfort in about five years, when Herod’s temple was destroyed. 

It would also have been a consolation to the Gentile believers.  They were excluded from worship in the physical temple at Jerusalem, but now they were admitted to the new and living temple of God.  In fact, they too had become priests unto God which would never have been allowed under the Law.

What a blessing we have in Jesus!  No longer are we limited by the law and its regulations.  Now, all people can have God dwelling in them, at all times.  Now, all believers can worship and fellowship with God in any place, at any time!

I Peter 2:6 – For it stands in Scripture:  “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

  • Jesus is the cornerstone, the foundation stone, or the fundamental truth of Christianity; outside of him Christianity would not exist.  He alone is the head and King of his church; he alone rules it in wisdom and righteousness.
  • This foundation is laid in Zion.  Zion is the name given to the main hills on which the city of Jerusalem was built.  The term is sometimes used to refer to the city of Jerusalem itself.  Under the law, Jerusalem was the seat of true religion; it was the place where the physical temple was located.  Jerusalem also becomes the place where Jesus is manifested in the flesh, where he suffers, dies and is raised to life again.  Jerusalem was the center point from which the gospel was carried throughout the entirety of the world.  Truly, the foundations of Christianity were laid in Zion, through Jesus.
  • True believers build upon this foundation.  It is not enough to just hear the story of Jesus and be familiar with it.  It is not enough to be able to quote the scriptures.  It is not enough to have a relative or close friend who has a relationship with Jesus.  It is not enough to just attend church every week.  If you want to build upon the foundation of Jesus, you have to believe on him yourself.  You have to accept him into your heart and allow him to rule your entire being.  When you do, he becomes the sure foundation of your entire existence.
  • Those who build upon this foundation will never be put to shame/shall not flee.  Through Jesus, we are able to stand firm in this world against all temptations and sin.  At the end of time, the people of God will be vindicated for their trust in him.        

I Peter 2:7-8 – So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

God has honored his Son by making him both the foundation and head of the church (Psalms 118:22).  Each and every person must decide for themselves what they will do about this fact. 

Those who believe the gospel message and choose to accept Christ as Lord and Savior have the privilege of building their spiritual lives upon the foundation of his atoning work.  When coming into contact with Christ, they become living stones in his church, and recipients of eternal life.

But there are those who do not believe the gospel message and choose to reject Christ as Lord and Savior.  When coming into contact with Christ, their unbelief and hardness of heart cause them to stumble or be offended.  Because they reject Christ, they have no hope of salvation.  They will spend eternity in hell, separated from God.   

Of course, the Scribes, Pharisees and other religious leaders who were alive during the incarnation of Christ were the original group of people who stumbled and were offended by him. 

They read the Old Testament prophesies, picked out the parts they liked best, and formed a false picture of who the Messiah was and what he would do.  In their minds, he would be a conquering hero who would rid them of their enemies and set up a physical kingdom on earth.  Because Jesus did not wage war on Rome and reestablish the throne of David as expected, the religious leaders stumbled at his claim to be the Messiah. 

They expected the Messiah to be great and glorious, rich and famous, loved by all.  When Jesus came to earth he was a humble servant, who associated with publicans and sinners.  He had no money, no home and no influential contacts.  Again, because he did not fit into their preconceived ideas, they stumbled at his claim to be the Messiah.

Because Jesus pointed out their false beliefs, pride and hardness of heart, they were offended by him and rejected him as Lord, despite clear evidence that he was the Son of God.   But they didn’t stop there.  Not only did they reject him, they actively opposed him.

Isaiah 8:13-14 – But the Lord of Hosts, him you shall honor as holy.  Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.  And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offence and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

It should be noted that their (the religious leaders at the time of the incarnation) refusal to accept Christ does not in any way change the facts.  Wicked men many refuse to believe that Christ is the Messiah, but he still is.  God still honors the Son, even though wicked men do not.  Even though Jesus is opposed by his enemies, he is still the King of Kings. 

The rebellious efforts of these foolish men were all in vain; although they opposed him as Messiah with diabolical fury, no amount of effort on their part could change the decree of God that Jesus was the cornerstone of the church.

What about you?  Is Christ your foundation or your stumbling block?  If God does not do things the way you think he should, or in the time frame you think he should, do you become offended?

I Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light,

The Jewish nation was formed as a chosen people, holy and peculiar to God.  They were separated from all other nations of the world to bear witness to his truth and to be a blessing to all of mankind.  This was a special privilege that all Jews treasured.  Born-again Jews feared that they had lost this privilege when they became Christians along with the Gentiles.

But here Peter explains that as Christians, God has bestowed upon them even greater honors.

  • They are still a chosen race/generation: Under the Law, the Jews were separated from the world for service to God.  Under grace, Christians have been separated from the world into the service of Christ, whose name they bear.
  • They are a royal priesthood: Christians are described as kings and priests.  We are priests who can offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.  We have the right to enter into his very presence, just as the high priest of the old covenant.  As kings, we will rule and reign with him.
  • They are a peculiar people:  In all of God’s vast creation, what other race has fallen and then been purchased by the very body and blood of God himself?  What other race has been chosen as the bride of Christ?  Who else will rule and reign with him?   Surely, mankind is a unique race of beings!
  • They are a holy nation:  Christians have been set apart from the rest of the world for the specific purpose of God.

These wonderful, honorable favors have been bestowed upon Christians for a purpose – that we might display the wisdom, power, goodness, mercy, righteousness, love and truth of God to those who are still in darkness.  Just as God has called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light, so we are to assist others to find him as Savior and King.

The benefits and honors of being a Christian far outweigh the honors bestowed upon the Jews under the old covenant.  This is reason enough to rejoice and give glory to God!

I Peter 2:10 – Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The New Testament church consists of both former Jews and former Gentiles.  Under the law, Gentiles had NEVER been considered God’s people or been eligible for his mercy.  But now, under the new covenant, mercy, grace and all the benefits/honors of being a Christian are open to anyone who believes on the name of Christ.    

Thus, the church is made up of Christians.  There is no more distinction between Jew and Gentile.     

I Peter 2:11-12 – Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Here is the situation during the time Peter wrote his letter:  The pagans were speaking out against the Christians, accusing them of being evil.  The fact is that Christianity was spreading quickly; increasing numbers of people were turning to Christ and renouncing their old ways.

This was causing the pagan religions to lose followers.  In particular, the Romans were disturbed by this, because they worshipped their leaders and emperors as gods. All eyes were on the Christians, as they looked for reasons to accuse and defame them.

In addition, the Jews were not well behaved towards the Gentiles.  The two groups detested each other.  Since Christianity was at first considered a branch of Judaism, these feelings of animosity were automatically applied to Christianity.  It was up to the first century Christians to dispel those false beliefs and show the Gentiles that they were vastly different from the Jews.   

The duty of all Christians was to live their lives in such a manner that their conduct brought honor and glory to God and gave the pagans no reason to slander Christianity or Jesus.  This is still our duty in this generation.

Peter reminds his readers that as Christians, they are sojourners/exiles (your translation may say pilgrims) on earth.  His point is that Christians are no longer citizens of this world.  We are passing through this life on our way to our eternal home in heaven.  This has several implications for the way we are to live while on earth.

If we consider ourselves as merely passing through this life, we will be more apt to store up treasures in heaven, rather than seek the riches of earth.  We will be much less likely to allow the cares of this life to choke out our spiritual fruitfulness (Mark 4:19).

As citizens of heaven, we are to abstain from fleshly lusts.  These include wrath, strife, envy, unforgiveness, lust, murder, lying etc.

Titus 2:11-12 – For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live sensibly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

If we allow these fleshly lusts to have their way in our lives, we bring shame and contempt on the name of Jesus.  We also encumber ourselves with burdens that we are not meant to carry.  All such burdens ensnare us, and impede our progress toward heaven (Hebrews 12:1). 

It was very important that the Christians of Peter’s day do their best to exemplify a righteous life in front of the pagans.  In this way, they lift up and glorify the name of Jesus.  This way of life is a testimony to the pagans; it may be that in the future, they too will come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Let me offer you some encouragement:  It is still the duty of Christians to live a holy life in this world.  We are the salt of the earth; we are the lamp set on a hilltop.  You may not realize it, but the world is watching you, and they judge God by what they see in your life.  I encourage you to take another look at your personal holiness.  Take a look at the words that are coming out of your mouth.  Take a look at what you are watching, reading and playing.  If needed, set aside those things that have ensnared you, so you can be a holy witness for God.

Let me offer you some relief and some strength:   Jesus is our cornerstone, the firm foundation on which we build our lives.  Since he is unshakable, so are we!  This means we do not need to fear the future.  We are like a house built on the rock – we will stand in the storms of life!