Farewell & Conclusion

Peter summaries his first epistle with a call to stand firm in God’s grace (12). He then concludes the epistle with farewells and benedictions (13-14). It is once again a call to stand firm in God’s true grace.

1 Peter 5:12–14 (ESV)

12By 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.

By Silvanus…briefly to you: Silvanus is the long form for Silas, one of Paul’s constant traveling companions (mentioned a dozen times in Acts 15-18). Silas was a Christian (brother), a prophet (Acts 15.32), and a Roman citizen (Acts 16.37). He was a letter-bearer for the letter produced at the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15.22). He may have been the letter-bearer for this epistle & possibly the amanuensis for Peter; it is “with the help if Silas” (NIV) that Peter has written briefly. Peter identifies Silas as a faithful brother which is a typical commendation for a letter-bearer (cf. Rom 16.1-2), however, it need not be a designation for an amanuensis. Briefly cf. Heb 13.22.

Exhorting…grace of God: Exhorting or “encouraging” (NIV) speaks to the moral commands to which Peter has called these disciples. Declaring or “testifying” (NIV) speaks to the true doctrine of Christ Peter has put forth throughout the epistle. This refers to the epistle as a whole. Everything Peter has written informs the moral practices & doctrinal beliefs of these Christians. Thus, the true grace of God instructs us concerning morality & doctrine.

Stand firm in it: It is this true grace in which these Christians are to stand firm. Any wavering or deviation from the true grace would be apostasy. God’s grace is to support these Christians as they live the Christian life in an increasingly hostile unbelieving world.

Just as these Christians in Asia Minor were to stand firm in God’s true grace, so too must Christ’s church today stand firm in God’s true grace. From this position we then work out our own salvation with fear & trembling, leaning upon &, indeed, utilizing the grace of God to accomplish this.

13She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.

She…sends you greetings: Babylon is a figure for Rome, not the ancient city in Mesopotamia. She is speculatively considered 1) a prominent woman & leader of the church in Rome known to these Christians in Asia Minor or 2) Peter’s wife. Likewise chosen (Gk suneklektē) would militate against a view of a single person since Peter is writing to churches in Asia Minor. Also, identifying the church in a given locale as an “elect lady” is not without precedent in the NT (see 2 John 2). Hence, it seems reasonable to see here the church in Rome sending greetings to her sister churches in Asia Minor. See Introductory Material for more on “Babylon.”

So does Mark, my son: Mark is John Mark, another regular companion of Paul of whom Paul spoke highly (e.g. 2 Tim 4.11), though they did have a rocky patch (see Acts 15.36ff). Peter calls him my son, a term of endearment indicating Peter fatherly love for Mark, not an actual father-son relationship. Like Babylon, this is a figure. Mark is Peter’s spiritual son, similar to Timothy with Paul (cf. 1 Tim 1.2).

Peter referring to Rome as Babylon has roots in the OT where Babylon is often used as a general figure for those opposed to God (see Isa 13-14; 46-47; Jer 50-51). The same image is used again in Revelation 17-18. It is as if, for Peter & those with him, the whole city is opposed to God’s chosen church. So we come full circle from where we started the epistle: Christians are “elect exiles,” Peter’s two-word sermon for Christians not only in Asia Minor, but even today. The world remains hostile, antagonistic toward the church. “Darkness hates light.”

14Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Greet…kiss of love: cf. Rom 16.16; 1 Cor 16.20; 2 Cor 13.12; 1 Thess 5.26. The language of Peter’s injunction is different than Paul’s “holy kiss.” Nevertheless, the same practice is in view. This was an established practice in the church, probably performed during assembly. The kiss would be given either on the brow or cheek. It was a symbol of familial love among siblings, friendly affection, and honor.

Peace…in Christ: Peter concludes his epistle with a peace wish. Once more we see the end tied to the beginning (1.2). Christians are at peace with God and with one another. For the original audience, peace was much needed. Persecution & trouble beset them within & without. God’s peace is needed is such high stress situations.

God’s Grace & Suffering, part 3

Peter continues to unpack how God’s grace relates to the suffering Christians experience. In 1 Peter 4.7-19, Peter hones in on what it means to suffer as a Christian, i.e. suffering for the Name of Christ.

Suffering as a Christian (4.7-19)

As Christians suffer they must love & serve their siblings & glorify God by continuing to do good.

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

The end of all things is at hand: Given the Noah reference earlier (3.20), it seems best to understand this as when God makes an end of the wicked who are causing the suffering of these Christians; as in Noah’s day when God brought about “the end of all flesh,” so for the Christians in Asia Minor God would bring an end to all the things they suffer from wicked people. However one interprets this phrase (see Special Study), Peter intended to exhort these Christians to consider the impending judgment which Christ’s coming would bring and live accordingly.

Nowhere does the Bible ever endorse or condone date setting. Rather, the doctrine of the end times is intended to encourage to faithfulness, in a perpetual state of readiness to meet the Lord regardless of when He returns. The Bible also does not advocate for withdrawal from the world into isolation in anticipation of the end. We live in the world as elect exiles; time is short so we must make the most of it. This is the urgency of the imminence of Christ’s return. Also note that there is no call for extraordinary or unusual behavior as we live in light of the end. Peter exhorts us to normal Christian behavior. Indeed, if every day is to be lived in light of the end, then would it not be business as usual for Christians. So pray, love, speak, & serve “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (verse 11).

Therefore be…your prayers: self-controlled has to do with controlling the thought life so that the body acts in a God-glorifying way. Sober-minded or “watchful” (NKJV) emphasizes the calmness of mind & disposition, settled in mind for the purpose of prayers.

When faced with persecution our recourse is not political activism but prayerful action. This is the first thing Peter invites Christians to do in light of the judgment of God upon the wicked & His deliverance of His people. Clear-headed, serious prayer. Acknowledge His abiding presence & providence, confess shortcomings, express gratitude for mercy & grace, offer up our desires & hearts, intercede on behalf of others, including those persecuting us. Prayer is the first duty & essential work of true religion unto God. Prayer is to religion what breathing is to life. When it hardest to breathe in this life is when we must devote ourselves to serious, sober supplication.

Special Study— “The End of All Things”

Several possibilities for understanding this verse have been offered:

1) Destruction of Jerusalem: Just a few years away, these Christians were living with before God brought judgment upon the Jewish through the Romans. But one must wonder why a predominately Gentile church in Asia Minor would need this information.

2) The End of Time/Last Day: The final judgment when rewards & punishments are meted out. The problem with this view is “at hand” means soon to take place & we are nearly 2,000 years since Peter wrote this.

3) The End of Suffering/Wicked: Christ would bring deliverance from their suffering & the evil surrounding them when He came.

4) The End of Their Lives: Barnes & Barclay make similar points that this could be Peter’s meaning.

8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Above all: More than anything else for “the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13.13).

Keep loving…earnestly: Jesus warned that with the coming end of the age “the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24.12). So Peter reminds these exiles living under empire of the priority of love for their brethren. Keep (pres. Part.) indicates this must be the habitual practice of Christians. Earnestly indicates the intensity of this love, a theme repeated from 1.22.

Once more Peter exhorts Christians to not merely love one another (which we are), but to love one another “earnestly” or intensely. “Fervently” says some translations. This cuts right to the heart of the “love, but don’t like” fallacy of the world. “Well, I know God commands that we ‘love one another,’ but I don’t have to like the person I love.” While it may true that you start here or end up here because of circumstances, through willful obedience to the expressed command of God & by the shaping of our feelings by the Holy Spirit within us, the fervency of our love is impacted and changed. The depth & degree of our love is influenced by God working on our hearts so that we not only love someone objectively (an overarching desire to see Christ formed in them) but also subjectively (a positive disposition toward a person so that you enjoy treating them lovingly).

This “love, but don’t like” lie has a negative impact on Christian fellowship. If “love covers a multitude of sins” but I don’t even like a person, then whatever forgiveness I extend will be given begrudgingly at best. “Where love is lacking,” says Grudem (173), “every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding, and conflicts abound – to Satan’s perverse delight.” Further, when a Christian brother or sister does not even like a person or persons, the suspicions, misunderstands, & conflicts are only further intensified & constant. The absence of a positive disposition toward another (or others) so that you enjoy treating him/her in a loving way is akin to the “root of bitterness” which the writer of Hebrews wrote about – not liking someone will spring up & cause all kinds of problems. If this is true, one who “loves, but does not like” another is “defiled” (Hebrews 12.15). Only God’s grace will enable us to overcome the bitter root of “love, but don’t like” which desires to spoil our relationships with one another.

In marriage, this lie takes an even uglier 10-word turn: “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” How many marriages have been dealt a death-blow by this worldly double-speak? Or “I fell out of love with him/her.” These kinds of statements are the most unloving things one spouse could say to another. “I have love for him/her, but I’m not in love with him/her.” These are worldly statements that even Christians adopt. Those men & women who have heard these words know just how hurtful & cutting they are. Mourning & lamentation accompany these words. Modern psychology tells us when these words are spoken, the end is near because it is next to impossible to reinvigorate the relationship. But “with God all things are possible.” Only through God can a loveless marriage be redeemed, saved by His grace.

Since love…sins: cf. Proverbs 10.12. Since (Gk hoti) gives the reason for earnest love: this kind of love covers a multitude of sins. Without love, fear, mistrust, & suspicion abound to the devil’s delight.

9Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Show hospitality to one another: In light of the present persecution & God’s impending judgment upon the wicked, “offer hospitality” to fellow Christians. Perhaps Peter’s readers were growing weary of hospitality; it happens (Galatians 6.9). So Peter says that one way Christians express earnest love to one another is through the ministry of hospitality—opening our homes, sharing our resources, putting roofs over one another’s heads.

Hospitality has a rich heritage in the Old Testament. Abraham, the father of the faithful, showed hospitality to the three visitors (Genesis 18); Lot showed hospitality to the two angels who came to Sodom (Genesis 19.1-3); Job made sure strangers & travelers had a place to stay (Job 31.32). Hospitality was enjoined upon the Israelites throughout Torah (Exodus 22.21; 23.9; Leviticus 19.33). The kind of fasting which pleases the Lord is when His people “share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house,” i.e. show hospitality (Isaiah 58.7).

Hospitality is a key mark of the Lord’s church (Romans 12.13; 1 Timothy 3.2; 5.10; Titus 1.8; Hebrews 13.12). Indeed, it was a noble, worldwide custom to provide for strangers (e.g. Acts 28.7, Publius on Malta “received us and entertained us hospitably for three days”). The stimulus for showing cheerful hospitality was altogether different for Christians. Religion, philanthropy, philosophical ethics, the threat of punishment in the underworld for inhospitality, & a reward in returned hospitality drove hospitality in the world-at-large. This is contrasted with Christian ethics.

A core element of our Lord’s teaching was hospitality toward those who cannot pay you back (Luke 14.12-14) as patterned after the eternal condescending hospitality of God to helpless sinners (Luke 14.16ff). True, Christians have similar reasons for showing hospitality as “outsiders” (e.g. punishment for failure to follow Christ’s commands). However, Christians were to show hospitality not based on a natural sympathy for fellow man (although philanthropy based on love for people is a derivative of “love your neighbor as yourself”) nor for the expectation of reciprocation (“I scratch your back, you scratch mine”), but based upon a theology of hospitality. God through the Son creates a habitable world full of glory & grandeur where we have lodging, food, drink, & plenty that we need, then He invites us to make ourselves at home. Which we do & promptly make a mess of things. Then God through the Son prepares a great banquet where everything we have messed up is put back to order, what we have ruined He has put back to right, & He invites us to come & eat at His table (“taste my banquet,” Luke 14.24). With such an extravagant & generous God how could His people be anything but hospitable? And cheerfully hospitable at that!

Without grumbling: or complaint (NASB) about how hard it is, how much time it is taking, or how much it costs. The Lord loves cheerful hospitality & is Himself one who shows cheerful hospitality to men in their misery (Luke 14.16-24). Cf. Philippians 2.14.

“Without grumbling” or “complaint” (NASB) indicates the Christian is to show hospitality to their brethren with a cheerful disposition. There is to be no secret murmuring in the heart about how difficult it is, how long it is taking, how you wish they would just go, how much they are eating, how you regret ever opening the door or answering the call, or the inconvenience of the whole ordeal. Murmuring robs hospitality of beauty. “Such grumbling is ultimately a complaint against God and his ordering of our circumstances” (Grudem 174). When we grudgingly or unwillingly show hospitality to others, especially to our brethren, we “drive out faith, thanksgiving, and joy.” At a deeper level, when God shows us hospitality, in creation first then in the gospel, He did so without complaint or grumbling. He gladly prepares a world then a table for our enjoyment & His good pleasure.

10As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

As each has received a gift: The Giver of a gift (Gk charisma) is the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.8-9). Received (aorist tense) points back to a specific point in the past, i.e. baptism. So at baptism the Holy Spirit gave each of these Christians a spiritual gift.

At the baptistery every Christian in every church is given a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit that God intends for us to use & develop into a ministry for the church at-large. No one is exempted or overlooked. The purpose of the gifts is not for self-congratulations or mutual back-patting as we congratulate how well we serve to stroke our ego or boost our self-esteem. Rather, the gifts are given for ministry – to serve, edify, strengthen, & help other members in their walk with Christ. This is how we are “good stewards” or use God’s gifts responsibly.

There are five lists of spiritual gifts found in the New Testament. In Romans 12.6-8, the gifts listed are 1) prophecy, 2) service, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leadership, 7) mercy showing. In 1 Corinthians 12.8-10, the gifts listed are 1) wisdom, 2) knowledge, 3) faith, 4) healing, 5) miracles, 6) prophecy, 7) distinguishing spirits, 8) languages, 9) interpretation of languages. Later, in 1 Corinthians 12.28-30, the gifts listed are 1) apostles, 2) prophets, 3) teachers, 4) miracles, 5) healing, 6) helping, 7) administrating, 8) languages. In Ephesians 4.11, the gifts listed are 1) apostles, 2) prophets, 3) evangelists, 4) teaching shepherds. In 1 Peter 4.11, the gifts listed are 1) proclamation of God’s message, 2) serving by God’s strength. 1 Corinthians 7.7 could be added which includes celibacy & possibly marriage (called charismata by Paul). No list contains all the gifts & no gift shows up on all the lists.

Use it to serve one another: The purpose of God the Holy Spirit gifting each member of the church is to equip Christians for service to the body (see Ephesians 4.12). Serve (Gk diakonountes) touches both speaking & duty roles of Christian service (v.11). Thus, the service rendered could be counsel, advice, & preaching (speaking) or rendering assistance, help, or aid in menial tasks (duty).

As good…grace: or “the manifold grace of God” (NASB, NKJV). This means there is a rich variety to God’s grace. So also there is a wide variety of spiritual gifts God gives His church by His Spirit. The Christian’s responsibility is to be found as good stewards. That is, Christ needs to find Christians building up others with God’s gifts, not building themselves up.

11whoever 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.

Functionally, Peter breaks spiritual gifts down into two (2) categories: speaking & serving.

Whoever speaks…of God: The speaking done here includes both the formal setting of public instruction as well as an informal setting of private conversation among saints. Whatever the occasion the speaking should be in accordance with what the oracles of God—Holy Scriptures—say.

Whoever serves…God supplies: The service rendered includes both service on a large scale to many members as well as in a private one-on-one setting among brethren. Whatever the service it must be rendered in accordance to the strength God makes available & provides.

Given that this epistle was for a 1st century audience gifted with the miraculous demonstration of the spiritual gifts, the speaking & serving in view may be miraculous in nature. For us, while the spiritual gifts may not be miraculous, they are nevertheless supernatural (i.e. they are not mere natural abilities). Thus, the Holy Spirit is the originator & enabler of the exercise of each gift. As such, we must be willing participants who yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit so that our speech is God’s speech & our service rendered with God’s strength. In this way, God will get the glory through Christ Jesus.

Breaking this down a bit further, we can see how all spiritual gifts fall under either of these two categories & that all Christians are addressed here. If we speak wisdom or knowledge, it must be wisdom or knowledge which accords with God’s word. If we serve giving or helping, it must be giving or helping which comes from God’s strength. Each gift could be examined in this way, but these suffice to show that all gifts fall under these categories & therefore all Christians addressed.

It should be noted that while Christians are to speak the oracles of God, neither the original audience nor we should view our utterances as part of the revelatory account, i.e. God’s revealed word. Rather, our speech is in accordance with or is in line with the revealed word of God, esp. the gospel. Further, Christians must never rely upon our own power to serve others, but must minister with & in the power God provides. One key way we do this is through prayer where can appeal for & tap into the power of God.

In order…Jesus Christ: This is the grand, glorious purpose in the exercise of spiritual gifts, indeed, in everything that Christians do: God glorified through Christ. As Christians prayerfully await the end of all things, loving one another & showing hospitality while serving & speaking to one another, they make known the wisdom, power, holiness, sovereignty, & riches of the gospel of Christ which produces honor & praise to God the Father.

The guiding principle in the life of every true Christian is the glory of God the Father through Christ the Son. Every sober-minded prayer, every occasion in which we exercise self-control, every sin covered by brotherly affection, every time we open our homes with gladness, every word we speak, every act of service, every breath, everything – it all down to bringing God glory through Jesus Christ.

To Him…ever. Amen: Him seems to refer to Christ. So just as “all things” are “through” & “for” God (Romans 11.36), glory is through & belongs to Christ forever & ever. This is the goal of the cosmos: glory to the Father & to the Son & to the Holy Spirit. Christ also has dominion, which is the power to rule. Indeed, Christ is King of Kings & Lord of Lords. Amen shows Peter’s agreement.

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

Beloved: Peter loves these brothers & sisters. The command to love is more than talk for Peter.

Do not…test you: cf. 1.6-7. These Christians may be surprised that God would allow His “chosen people” to endure intense trials & tests, but Peter assures them this is not unusual nor unheard of. In fact, the persecution of the church seems normative & universal (4.17; 5.9). But the fires of persecution would burn off the dross & impurities, as gold in the refiners fire.

As though…to you: Strange is the noun word for surprised which is the same word for the pagan reaction in verse 4 (“they think it strange”). The pagans think it strange Christians do not join in their wicked works & therefore “they malign you;” Christians should not think it strange when pagans return evil for the good they are shown.

Sometimes when Christians today endure trials & hardship they will question, “Why?” “Why me?” They will lament as though something strange is happening to them. They are surprised that God would allow the trials & testing to come upon them. This is the very opposite reaction we should have according to Peter. No matter how intense the trials or testing may be, nothing strange or unheard of is occurring. In fact, it is par for the course as we live as Christians in the world. It should be expected. Suffering for Christ is a common motif in the New Testament (e.g. John 15.18-21). Darkness hates light, the world hates holiness. When Christians walk with their Father in holy light they become the targets for the hatred of the wicked. Nevertheless, the fires of trials are the testing of our faith.

It should be noted that Peter gives no theodicy, no explanation for the suffering in the world, especially the suffering experienced by Christians. We ask “Why?” Philosophers & theologians have offered answers. However, in Scripture no answer is given as to why an all-powerful, all-kind, all-knowing God would allow His children to endure intense & severe persecution. We are told it is normative & universal (4.17; 5.9). We are told that it is cause for joy as we reveal His glory (4.13, 16). But a detailed theodicy explaining the presence of evil & suffering in the world is not given. One thing is certain: the intense sufferings are not a sign of God’s absence, but of His purifying presence. He is with His people as they suffer.

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

But rejoice…Christ’s sufferings: But (Gk alla) indicates a strong contrast. Rather than surprise, these Christians must rejoice. How can a Christian rejoice in “fiery trials”? They share Christ’s sufferings. These are sufferings which are the result of pledging allegiance to Christ (cf. Acts 5.41). The present tense indicates the ongoing habitual practice of both of these: insofar as you keep on suffering with Christ, keep on rejoicing.

Suffering for Christ is a clear indicator that we are Christ’s. To “share His sufferings,” “suffer with Him” are reasons to rejoice because as we experience suffering we are experiencing the presence of Christ. Indeed, we stand in His place as His representatives. Saul of Tarsus was asked, “Why are you persecuting me?” He was breathing murderous threats against the disciples, dragging men & women off to prison for their allegiance to Christ, but it was ultimately Jesus whom Paul was persecuting. So also when we suffer for the Name it is Christ who suffers with us.

That you may…revealed: Lit. “you might rejoice being glad.” This is nearly verbatim from the lips of Jesus regarding the reward for enduring persecution for His Name (Matthew 5.12). The revelation of Christ’s glory is nearly universally assumed to be His future return by commentators. “The promise of future joy, in fact, energizes the joy that will be theirs in the future” (Schreiner). However, glorifying God in Christ’s Name is the present aim & reality of Christians (v.17). Glad-hearted rejoicing occurs when Christians realize that Christ’s glory is being revealed in their suffering.

How we respond to suffering is likewise a clear indicator of whether we truly belong to Christ. Some who claim the name of Christ have turned their back on Him when they experienced even a modicum of pain & suffering. But it does not have to be full blown apostasy; some grumble & murmur, complain about the suffering. But to rejoice in suffering, praising God for the pain…this is foreign to our Western sensibilities.

14If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

If…: In light of present context & overall context of the book, this is better understood as “since.”

You are insulted for Christ’s Name: Insulted is unjustified defamation & reviling. Much of the persecution these Christians faced was verbal abuse (2.12, 15, 23; 3.16).

[You are] blessed: The bliss of God belongs to insulted Christians. “The harsher the reproaches, the sweeter this heavenly verdict” (Lenski).

#blessed. American Christianity says you are blessed if you have a nice place to live, a reliable car, a good job, overachieving kids, and/or things are just going swell all-around. Peter says that the blessed life is one of insult for our devotion & allegiance to Christ. When is the last time someone update their social media with an account of how they were insulted for Jesus’ sake? Most of us would not consider that a blessing. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to realign our values. This is why God has given “the Spirit of God’s glory” to rest upon us – so that we might hold to a proper perspective regarding suffering, pain, persecution, & insult.

The insults Peter refers to are unjustified verbal assaults. When’s the last time someone cussed you out for being a Christian? I’m not talking about them verbally chastising you for being obnoxious with your faith; that might be justified. I’m talking about the backlash that occurs like when The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an evangelical coalition, released the Nashville Statement in August 2017. With reverence & in humility the coalition issued the statement. The statement was essentially a creedal statement affirming 14 beliefs about human sexuality, all of which are based on Scripture. Evangelical Christians were castigated as hateful bigots, homophobes, &, as one tweet reads, the statement “is the most unchristian piece of garbage I’ve read in a long time.” The (pagan) internet ruthlessly insulted & disrespected Christians who believe what the Bible teaches about marriage being exclusively between a man & woman, human sexuality, & gender.

Another instance: I do not agree with hardly anything that comes out of his mouth, but an example of what we are talking about occurred during & shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. All over social media Joel Osteen & Lakewood Church where he is pastor were being heavily criticized for closing their building due to flooding. Twitter erupted in outrage expressed in less than 140 characters. Memes circulated accusing Osteen of being a money-grabbing selfish religion killer. Quasi-investigative reporters took to the streets with video camera in hand to show that there was no flooding at Lakewood Church. The (pagan) internet insulted this man mercilessly for his “unchristian” behavior.

Because…upon you: cf. Isaiah 11.2. Isaiah’s prophecy has now been fulfilled in Christ & the church. As the Spirit rested upon “the root of Jesse” (Jesus), so He rests upon Christ’s persecuted followers. In contrast with the inglorious insults, Christians have the glorious indwelling Spirit, even the Spirit of God. God’s glorious Spirit who comforts, strengthens, & blesses abides with & in these Christians.

See Isaiah 11.2. The world heaps insults, but the Spirit rests upon us. The world counts us foolish, but we have the Spirit of wisdom. The world counts us dimwitted, but we have the Spirit of understanding. The world counts us ill-informed, but we have the Spirit of counsel. The world counts us weak-minded, but we have the Spirit of might. The world counts us ignorant, but we have the Spirit of knowledge. All of this is ours because we fear & revere God & He delights in resting His Spirit upon us.

15But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.

But let none…as a meddler: cf. 2.19-20; 3.17. Peter’s constant refrain has been that Christians must not suffer for evil, but for good. Peter lists four (4) evils by which men may suffer: murder (premeditated taking of innocent life), theft (taking other people’s property), evildoing (or “criminal” [NIV], general term for bad behavior), & meddling (intruding into other people’s affairs). Christians must not suffer for any of these.

People suffer for evil; they suffer punishment from the justice system as well as the affliction of the conscience, esp. if unrepentant. Suffering deserved as punishment for wrongdoing is inglorious. This is not how Christians are to suffer. Of course Christians should not suffer for serious criminal offenses like murder & theft (both of which are prohibited throughout the Bible) & Peter knows Christian people would never engage in such evildoing, but the temptation to pry into other people’s business is a very real possibility. So he rhetorically sets major violations against something very much in the realm of possibility: annoyingly intruding into other people’s business. This would cause someone to be considered a pest worthy of mistreatment.

Martyr’s complex – some people can turn just about any event into an occasion for suffering. They are the victim of some injustice, even if they are the perpetrator of some offense. It is so easy for people to rationalize deserved punishments as suffering “as a Christian.” Peter addresses this complex here – suffering is neither invented nor is it self-caused for bad behavior. If you live as a Christian, suffering will find you.

“Meddler” – stay in your lane! While the exact meaning of this word is difficult to nail down because of its rarity (used only here & two other places in 4th & 5th century documents), it seems to be a term describing someone who involves themselves into the affairs of others, inviting themselves into issues not their own. A buttinski. In Spanish, entrementido. Suffering for being a buttinski is beneath a Christian. Stay in your lane!

Notice the company meddlers keep – murders, thieves, criminals! Strange company, right? Well, not really. A meddler can assassinate the character of another; they can rob a person of their good name & reputation; their practice is in line with evildoers. May meddlers be banished from Christ’s church!

16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Yet if…a Christian: Believers “were first called Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11.26), a name which probably originating among the unbelievers. Suffering as a Christian would be to endure persecution as a follower of Christ. It seems this was a term of ridicule rather than respect, a label used for believers by those outside looking in.

Don’t focus on the shame, focus on His Name! The name “Christian” was a derogatory term in Peter’s day. It was the equivalent of “holy roller” or “Bible thumper” today. These are intended to make us feel ashamed, to make us feel bad for being a follower of Christ. Peter is telling us: don’t focus on the shame, focus on His Name. Peter has already told us that the main thing is “that in everything God may glorified through Jesus Christ” (v.11). “Foolish people” will “speak against you as evildoers” (2.12, 15). They will “revile your good behavior,” & cause you to “suffer for doing good” (3.16, 17). “Do good & suffer for it” (2.20). When all this happens glorify God. Focus on His Name & exalt it, confess it, praise it, lift it up, glorify Him.

Let him not be ashamed: Even though society at large treats Christians in an undignified & disgraceful manner, the Christian need not feel shame. Unlike the murderer, thief, evildoer, or meddler, there is nothing shameful in bearing the name of Christ. Rather…

But…in that name: By bearing the name of Christ publicly & bearing whatever reproach society heaped on them, these believers would honor & praise the glorious name of Christ.

Only by “the Spirit of glory…of God” are we able to endure the mistreatment & abuse of the world and find joy in glorifying God in that suffering. The Holy Spirit sanctifies the suffering, if we let Him. The Holy Spirit strengthens us to endure suffering, if we let Him. The Holy Spirit supplies the necessary means to cope with suffering (“the fruit,” Galatians 5.22-23), if we let Him. He is the promised Helper, but we must willingly submit to His direction.

17For 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?

For…household of God: household of God is the “spiritual house” made of “living stones” “precious” in the sight of God (2.4-5), i.e. the church. While Peter borrows OT allusions (see Ezekiel 9.6; Malachi 3.1-5), his whole meaning is shifted. The judgment of God upon God’s house is not intended to be for condemnation, but for purification, i.e. refinement through trials leading to glorification of God (1.6-7; 2.12; 3.14, 17; 4.16).

How we as Christians view the trials & suffering we endure matters. Notice that it is not “punishment” which begins with the “house (family, NIV) of God” but judgment. Christ has suffered our punishment & therefore when we experience pain & persecution in the world, God is not punishing us for our sins. Christ did that. He endured the wrath of God. Rather, judgment begins from the house of God (lit.); God’s people are the jumping off point, the point of departure for God’s judgment. Seeing we have “ceased from sin” (4.1) He moves on to those who are not His family, that is, “those who do not obey the gospel of God.” Worse affliction will be visited upon the unbeliever, specifically exclusion from the presence of God.

And if…us: There may be a parallel to Jesus’ own description of the judgment which begins with the sheep (saved) & passes onto the goats (lost). Yet even now this judgment has begun.

What will…gospel of God?: those who do not obey the gospel are unbelievers. “All unbelief leads to disobedience” (Schreiner). The order of righteous first then the unrighteous is maintained from Malachi 3.1-5 & through Christ (Matthew 25.31-46). This rhetorical question is answered…

18And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

And “If…saved”: Quoted from Proverbs 11.31. Scripture is offered as proof positive of what Peter is saying: God’s judgment in the end will be worse than any suffering Christians face from unbelievers. In fact, unbelievers will have it worse due to their disobedience. Scarcely does not point to the uncertainty of a Christian’s salvation; rather, the word can also mean “with difficulty.” This echoes the preaching of Paul & Barnabas in Acts 14.22. Salvation is with difficulty because of the suffering, trials, & persecution Christians endure from unbelievers.

“What will…the sinner?”: Ungodly refers to a person who does not love God nor do they worship Him. Sinner is one who scoffs at God’s self-evident laws & violates them. What will become of such individuals? The reader is to supply the obvious answer: they will be lost.

Never underestimate the value of the Word of God in the midst of suffering. Peter quotes Proverbs to help his readers maintain an eternal perspective & to help their theological viewpoint. God is the final Judge, not man. Those opposed to Christians are opposed to Christ & will face the eternal consequences of their rejection of Him. Many Christians will suffer the loss of their work but preserve their soul at the end. Many Christians will be saved “only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3.15). Therefore, “the righteous are scarcely saved.” So it will be worse for “the ungodly & sinner.” We enter by the narrow gate; it snags us, catching at our clothing. Since this is so, the ungodly sinners who refuse to obey God’s gospel & so be saved only have eternal punishment to face.

Taken together, verses 17 & 18 bring clearly & unmistakably the awful terror of the final fate of the wicked. The righteous endure difficulty in this life, but it is with the promise that these are temporary trials of this world. Unbelievers, on the other hand, “can reasonably count on nothing but unmixed misery, everlasting perdition” (Brown 3:175). The reasonable expectation for those who do not obey God’s gospel is eternally worse than anything a Christian would experience in this world. Just as certainly as our entrance into God’s kingdom comes with many trials & suffering, so it is certain that eternal punishment awaits the ungodly sinner. Just as it is God’s will we suffer, so it is God’s will that the wicked be shut out of His presence eternally.

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

Therefore…God’s will: those who suffer according to God’s will are Christians who suffer because it is what God has willed. While at first blush this may seem harsh, it is actually intended to bolster faith. The duration & intensity of suffering is under God’s control. What Christians suffer is for their good because it is according to “His good, pleasing, & perfect will” (Romans 12.2).

Suffering according to God’s will means to “share Christ’s sufferings” (13), to be “insulted for the name of Christ” (14), & to glorify God by suffering as a Christian (16). God’s will is not that we suffer as an evildoer (15). Christ’s suffering in the flesh is the model for Christian suffering. Nothing happened to Christ apart from the Father’s sovereignty & love. This means that nothing that befalls us happens independent of God’s sovereignty & love. He is in control of everything. Any suffering we endure is not the result of an uncaring & indifferent universe randomly selecting us for pain. Our suffering is not accidental nor the result of dumb luck. Suffering is not purposeless but purposeful. Our suffering is under the watchful & loving eye of sovereign God. Our suffering is “according to God’s will,” that is “His good, pleasing, & perfect will” (Romans 12.2, NIV).

Entrust…faithful Creator: Just as Jesus entrusted His spirit to His Father at death (Luke 23.46), Christians are to entrust their souls to a faithful Creator for care in this life. That is, we give our souls to God for safekeeping so that no matter what happens in this life, that part of us which lives on after death is kept safe by the power of God (cf. 1.5).

So then Christians should “entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.” God is our Creator – He has created us body & soul. He is the Father of our spirits who saw our unformed substance (Hebrews 12.9; Psalm 139.16) as well as the One who forms our inward parts & knitted us together in our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139.13). Further, in Christ Jesus we are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5.17). This means we belong to Him body & soul. We are His own possession & God takes care of what is His. Therefore, He is a faithful Creator. Who better to entrust the keeping of our souls than the One who not only crafted them, but also redeemed & saved them? Our lives, even our very souls, are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3.3).

…while doing good: How does a Christian show that they are trusting God? By continuing to do good. They do not stop doing good. Acts of loving service & mercy. This not merely a duty, but a privilege rendered not only to other people, but ultimately to God. Retaliation may be the response from the flesh. By God’s glorious Spirit who rests upon us (v.14) we resist that impulse so that we may do good to all men. Doing good is a common refrain in this epistle (2.15, 20; 3.6, 11, 17).

“So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment.”
(2 Peter 2:9, NLT)

God’s Grace & Submission, Part 1

The earliest charge against Christians as social rabble-rousers was that they said “there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17.7). Therefore, Christians, it was alleged, are bad citizens, prone to disorderly conduct & disregard of civil authorities. No doubt the question of whether God’s people should obey their pagan rulers was a pressing one for Peter’s audience. It was especially pressing when they were spoken of as “evildoers” & persecuted. Peter has already said that Christian’s are to conduct themselves honorably (v.12) & he begins with honorable conduct before the state.

Submission to the State (2.13-17)

God’s will is that Christians submit to & honor governing authorities which are established by Him.

13Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,

Be subject…to every human institution: Submission & obedience to governing authorities is typical of ethical instructions found in the NT (cf. Romans 13.1-7; Titus 3.1).

For the Lord’s sake: This may be Peter’s way of echoing Paul’s “there is no authority except from God” (Rom 13.1). Contextually, the glorification of God through our submission to the authorities He put in place is the theological basis.

Whether…as supreme: The Roman emperor was the one who exercised continuous control over the empire and so was supreme. Considering the emperor at the time of Peter writing was Nero it seems this principle is binding even when rulers are neither Christian nor moral.

Peter addresses not only what Christians are to do related to governing authorities, but also gives the why: be subject (what) for the Lord’s sake (why). For Jesus’ sake is reason enough for Christians not to be anarchists or insurrectionists.

  1. Submit (13-14) – to governing authorities high & low
  2. Silence (15) – ignorant foolish people
  3. Serve (16-17) – everyone high & low

14or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

Or…do good: sent by him may be referring to the emperor in his authority establishing local governing bodies to keep the peace or may refer to God (i.e. Him, cf. Jn 19.11) & once again we have tones of Paul (see Rom 13.3-4). Their function in the various Roman provinces was to punish delinquents and to praise the virtuous.

While Christians certainly have obligations to the state motivated by our theology (“for the Lord’s sake”), the state likewise has obligations to the people. The state is supposed to punish evil-doers & praise do-gooders. Paul says of the emperor, “he does not bear the sword in vain” (Rom 13.4). No whatever that means, it certainly means that governing authorities are to be “an avenger who carries our God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (verse 4). Meanwhile, those with good conduct “receive his approval” (13.3).

Our society seems to have this all backward. Those pursuing a Christian ethic are punished while those engaged in behavior contrary to God’s will are applauded. Refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and you could face stiff penalties. Make the Bible your state book and it’s only a matter of time before you will hear about it. A Chicago church fired their music director who came out as homosexual and now they are facing litigation. Good is evil and evil is good & Caesar grins menacingly.

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

For this is the will of God: God’s will for His people is that they submit in order to silence…

That…foolish people: Peter calls the Gentiles foolish not to denigrate their intelligence, but rather as an allusion to wisdom literature where the foolish one who does not fear God or walk in His ways & is thus morally debased (Psalm 53.1). The Gentiles ignorance springs from their irrational claims of Christians as evildoers. All of the ignorance & folly can be silence by Christians living morally upright & virtuous lives (i.e. doing good).

Here is our obligation to society at-large – live the life excellently. Live it so excellently that they are actually muzzled when they open their mouths to accuse us. People want to know what is God’s will for their life; here Peter spells it out explicitly. Do so much good that you shame to silence the stupid & silly accusations spoken by fools. This seems to be what Jesus did. There came a point where no one dared ask him any more questions (Matt 22.46). He was good & He silenced the ignorance of the foolish teachers of His day.

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

[Live] as…free: Live is supplied in most English versions, however, what Peter says here is a continuation of verse 13 & “be subject.” Christians are “called to freedom” (Gal 5.13) & at the same time, as Peter emphasizes, Christians are God’s slaves.

America is the land of the free. So we truly know what it means to live as free people. But this freedom cannot & must be used to justify moral evil. Some think that we are free to do whatever we want. “Free country,” scoffs the ner-do-well. But as social critic Os Guinness says, “Liberty requires restraint, but the only restraint consistent with liberty is self-restraint.” Said another way: Liberty requires virtue. Where does virtue come from? “Add to your faith virtue,” says Peter. Therefore, without faith we cannot have virtue; without virtue it is only a matter of time before we are without liberty.

Not using…evil: “Christians do not have freedom to do wrong” (Grudem 121).  “Genuine freedom liberates believers to do what is good” (Schreiner).

[Living] as servants of God: This is the inward motivation for the actions here commanded—Christians are God’s slaves. So Christians live under another King who wants us to submit to human rulers He has established.

17Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Honor everyone: Christians are to attribute high status & value to all people. Why? Though Peter does not specify, it seems best to understand that God created everyone in His image.

Love the brotherhood: Present tense so continue to love all Christians.

Fear God: Present tense so continue to render  reverential awe & respect to God (see Ecc 12.13).

Honor the emperor:  So the emperor is placed on equal footing with everyone.

We are inclined to honor the great & powerful. Those with money (Bill Gates), athletes with exceptional skill (Michael Jordan), the very intelligent (Stephen Hawking) – I think we look upon these people as having some position of honor. This seems particularly true in the political arena. For example, if you received an invitation to the White House, you would no doubt recognize that as a great honor. Whether you like the guy or not, you respect the office. Peter does something interesting – “honor everyone.” All people are worthy of our honor, not just the emperor. I don’t know that Peter drags the emperor down to the common man’s level so much as he elevates everyone to a position of honor. Every person is someone who was created by God in His image & therefore is worthy of honor.

Special Study: The Christian & Government

Peter’s admonition for Christian submission to governing authorities must be understood in light of the instances of civil disobedience found elsewhere in the NT. There are times when the apostles, with Peter as their spokesman, refused to comply with the orders of civil authorities because they were in opposition to the orders of God (see Acts 4.19-20; 5.29). These appear to be the exception rather than the rule. Submit to (good) government, unless they seek to force Christians to violate God’s will. Then obey God.

God’s Grace & Salvation, part 3

Peter begins a new paragraph by shifting from the idea of newborn babies needing spiritual milk from the Lord to holy priests in a spiritual house rendering sacrifice to God. At the same time, this section belongs with all that has gone before concerning God’s grace & our salvation. Just as our hope is living (1.3) and the word of God is living (1.23), so we are “living stones” & Christ is the living Stone to Whom we come & are built into this spiritual house. Peter will quote from or allude to the Old Testament often to show how these Christians are God’s people.

Living Stones – Examples of God’s Grace (2.4-12)

Christians are living examples of God’s grace, & they glorify God in life & worship.

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

As you come to Him:  Lit. coming toward him (pres.). Not just when they were converted, but this is continually drawing near to Christ by continued faith in Him. The Christian must ever be drawing closer to Christ, every day; drawing near to His presence for sacrifice.

Coming to Christ is siding with God. At the same time, choosing Christ will mean rejection from “men,” that is, people in general. Jesus said as much: John 15.18, 20, 21. The reason they will reject us is because they first “rejected” Him. When He came, after He ascended, in the first century, throughout time since then, on to today, men still reject Him. They do not consider Him worthy to follow. But we do. We are those who are continually coming to Christ, ever drawing near to Him.

A living stone…chosen and precious:  cf. Acts 4.11. Jesus is a living stone because He is “Son of the Living God” (Mt 16.16).  Christ has life in Himself, inherently, & is the source of life. He is unlike other earthly rocks which are non-living; He lives & gives life. During His earthly ministry, during the lifetimes of the original audience, & even today Christ was & is rejected by men (perf.). However, Peter draws a contrast between the world’s view & God’s view of Christ. God esteems Christ as chosen and precious, that is, elect & highly valued. Rejected, chosen, & precious are all vocabulary from Psalm 118.22 & Isaiah 28.16, texts Peter will quote in the verses ahead.

It was almost as if Peter anticipated the Catholic fallacy that was yet to come which would make him the stone upon which Christ builds His church. Of course it was the Holy Spirit Who foreknew this and has Peter here a) deny his stone-ship while b) affirm Christ as chief cornerstone.

5you 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.

You yourselves like living stones: Here is a thought which would have amazed these Christians—even they are living stones. Of course their union with Christ the Living Stone is why they are living stones. Like Christ, they are elect & highly valued to God.

Are being built…house: being built up is a passive verb because it is Christ who builds His church (see Mt 16.18). Christians “come to Him” (v.4); He builds us into a spiritual house. The present tense may indicate that the building is ongoing, i.e. Jesus continues to build His spiritual house by adding souls (living stones) to the structure & priests to His priesthood.

Christ is both the Builder & the Foundation (1 Cor 3.11). The building He builds is not material but spiritual; He does not use dead rocks, but living stones. Then the sacrifices offered in this temple are not physical (cattle & flocks), but spiritual (obedience & surrender). They are not offered by an elite priesthood with special access to God, but by all believers who are His holy priesthood. This is what the Jewish system anticipated; this is what pagan ritual grasped for. The substance & fulfillment is realized in Christ.

To be a holy priesthood: Christians are both the spiritual temple & the priests of the temple. All saints are priests unto God & all are to be engaged in their priestly duty, namely…

To offer…Jesus Christ: Like the priests of the Old Testament, Christians are to offer spiritual sacrifices. Peter does not specify exactly what the spiritual sacrifices are, though verse 9 (“that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him”) may be one. In one sense, everything Peter exhorts his readers to be & do could be seen as a spiritual sacrifice. These sacrifices bring pleasure to God since they are offered through Jesus Christ.

Temple, priest, sacrifices. In this single verse Peter highlights the superiority of the new covenant, contrasting the material temple & sacrifices with the spiritual & living house, priesthood, & sacrifices. “The New Testament church is the true spiritual house of God” (Lenski). We offer praise & thanksgiving for the grace poured out on us (see Hebrews 13.15). We offer our bodies for holy living (see Romans 12.1). We offer our contribution to God (see Philippians 4.18). We offer our prayers & petitions to God (see Revelation 8.3). We offer the gospel to lost humanity (see verse 9).

Once again it seems as though the Holy Spirit through Peter anticipates the error of Catholicism which says that only a few select people are priests. Rather, what Peter describes here is the universal priesthood of all believers. Every Christian is a selected priest precious to God and set apart to offer up sacrifices that are dominated by the influence of the Holy Spirit.

6For 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.”

For it stands in Scripture: cf. 1.16, the Writings (Gk graphe), i.e. the Old Testament Scriptures were for the Peter the source of authority for Christian doctrine. Once more he appeals to the Scriptures, in this case Isaiah 28.16, a text early Jewish interpreters regarded as Messianic.

The Word of God continues to “stand” today. What stands in Scripture continues to be the source of authority for life & doctrine for the church of Christ.

“Behold…precious”: Peter quotes from the Septuagint (LXX) and omits a few unimportant words, his focus being the substance of the idea: the excellency of the Living Stone. Behold indicates this is an astonishing thing God is doing. I lay in Zion because this is where Christ suffered & died and also from whence the gospel was preached. Chosen and precious have already been used to describe Christ (see v.4). As a cornerstone Christ is the first stone laid by which the whole foundation is aligned and built around.

Lenski says the cornerstone “governs all the angles and all the lines of both the foundation and the building and is thus placed at the head of the corner.” So Christ governs everything about His church – all the actions & attitudes. He sets orthodoxy & orthopraxy.

“And whoever…shame”: Our trust, our faith is well-placed when put in Him. Thus, there is no disappointment or embarrassment, no disgrace or humiliation—no shame—for whoever puts their faith (believes) in Christ.

7So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

So the honor…believe: Though these Christians were an oppressed minority, despised by society at-large, the honor is for you because of their faith. Whatever honor or preciousness the Stone has is for you who believe. His worth is their worth; His honor is theirs also. On the other hand…

But…not believe: For those who continue in rebellion and unbelief…

“The stone…the cornerstone”: Psalm 118.22. “The point of the quotation is to show that those who rejected Christ have been proved exactly wrong by God’s exaltation of him to the place of greatest prominence” (Grudem 105).

Consider a parable: The kingdom of God is like builders who were busily building a structure. The work was progressing nicely, moving along at rapid pace as the builders were busily at work. They desired a structure which would be the envy of the universe. So they worked fast and hard. Their work required many stones which they used without second thought. But they came upon a particular stone. This stone gave them pause and, after evaluating the stone, they deemed it unworthy of their building and cast it aside. As their work was nearing completion, the owner of the building came by late in the afternoon to see how the work was progressing. He found the workers busily building His building. When the owner inquired about the particular stone, the foremen said they had not used that stone because it was wholly unfit for the structure. The owner was furious and said, “That stone is precious to me for I chose it especially for this work.”  The owner ordered that their building be torn down brick by brick and that a new structure be built in its place with the precious stone He selected to be the cornerstone. Then the owner ordered these foremen to be cast out into the night where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

8and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

And “A stone…offense”: see Isaiah 8.14. Originally it was YHWH of Hosts who became “a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling.” Now Jesus is the stumbling stone & offensive rock, as well as a sanctuary for those who believe (see “honor” in v.7). This is an instance where Christians readily identified YHWH with Christ.

Here is still another example where the deity of Christ is affirmed by the NT writers, esp. those who lived with Him and were eyewitnesses of Him. Some today want to strip Christ of His Godhood (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc.). These refuse to believe Jesus is God, aligning themselves with “those who disobey” & therefore stumble over the Stone, themselves offended by the pure doctrine of the word. Let us hold fast the apostolic testimony that Jesus is the Christ, indeed YHWH of the OT come in the flesh.

They stumble…to do: Stumbling is a direct consequence of disobedience. So as they were destined to do speaks of the penalty for their disobedience (i.e. stumbling), not the disobedience itself. “They rebelled against God and paid the penalty” (Robertson). Those who disobey are held accountable.

What does it mean to stumble? Well, there is some obstacle in the way into which one runs, striking the foot or leg causing the trip and, typically, fall and usually with injury. If I had a dollar for every time I bashed my toe into something…Especially in the dark and you do not see the obstacle. In this case, the soul fails to believe; that is, the soul is wandering around in the dark, unilluminated by the Light of the world – Christ. This failure to believe does not enable them to see the capstone which for them is now the stumbling stone, the rock by which they are scandalized (Gk skandalon).

9But 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.

But you…race: But you indicates two things: 1) contrast (“but”) between the unbelieving Jews who a) rejected the chief Cornerstone & b) refuse to believe in Him and the Christians to whom Peter writes who have a) accepted Christ & b) believe in Him. 2) Emphasis – “you” (citizens) as opposed to them (unbelieving Jews outside the rule of God). These Christians have been chosen by God & are genetically (Gk genos) linked by the blood of Jesus (1.2, 19). Cf. Isa 43.20

A royal priesthood: The universal priesthood of Christians has already been mentioned (v.5). Now the idea is combined with the regal aspect due to our relation to the King of kings. Ex 19.6

Holy nation: Cf. Exodus 19.5-6. As Israel was a theocracy, so the church today is a sacred state.

People for His own possession: Exodus 19.5. The idea is that we have been purchased , even redeemed by the blood of Christ (1.19).

Peter’s contrast is stunning and sweeping: first, the church is contrasted with unbelievers who reject Christ, the Cornerstone, and continue in unbelief. But then Peter digs deeper and contrasts the church – New Israel – with the nation of Israel. He borrows copiously from Exodus 19.5-6 and the covenantal language therein contained to say that the church is now the covenanted people of God under the New Covenant forged in the blood of Jesus (“chosen race,” Gk genos eklekton). Israel was the shadow people; their covenant was real, make no mistake. But it has given way to a greater substance in Christ.

“Like the old people of God, the nation of Israel, the new people of God are a nation of people set apart for the service of God” (Black & Black 65). Indeed, our work, worship, and worth flow from being set apart by God to be this holy, royal kingdom of priests. “The purpose of the people of God is now explained. God has chosen them to be his people, established them as a royal priesthood, appointed them as a holy nation to be his special possession, so that they would ‘declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’”[1] The declaration of God’s praise includes both worship & evangelism – directing our hearts upward to Him for saving us & spreading the good news of His salvation outward to others.

That…His marvelous light: Cf. Isa 43.21. Here is the purpose—announcing the virtues of God. Darkness is “the futile ways inherited by your forefathers” (1.18) or rank heathenism. His marvelous light is the Christian manner of life patterned after the model of Christ. See Eph 5.8ff.

Our mission is singular but with different aspects: we are this elect, royal, holy, priestly nation that belongs to God so that we might continue the ministry of God’s people throughout all ages: declaring His praise. “Man’s chief & highest end is to glorify God,” says the Westminster Confession. We exclaim His excellencies; we vocalize His virtues; we proclaim His praise. This carries with it a celebratory aspect: we celebrate God for transferring us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Son by His blood. Early church writers connected this verse with baptismal liturgy and for good reason – that is when we are called out & become the people of God.

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

Once…God’s people: Verse 10 is an allusion to Hosea’s sordid story (see Hosea 1.6-7, 9-10; 2.23). Once upon a time (i.e. before Christ) these people were not God’s people. Now they are!

Once…received mercy: They had never been shown mercy until God called them and they received mercy (aorist). Peter is pointing them to their conversion which ended their “no mercy.”

When a person obeys the gospel, they move from being in a “no mercy” state before God to knowing & experiencing the mercy of God. All at once their situation changes.

11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Beloved: Loved by Peter, because saved people love other saved people, & loved by God.

I urge you…the flesh: I (strongly) urge you is about as close as you can get to begging without infringing upon proper manners. Sojouners are those who have a residence in a foreign land but are not citizens of that territory; exiles are those who are just visiting for a time (see 1.17). Since “this is world is not my home,” keep on keeping your distance from the gross sins of the flesh.

Since our citizenship is in heaven, we are sojourners and strangers. We have a homeland which, though we have never seen, we long for. So as we live out the remainder of our exile on earth, we keep ever before us our distant country. We refuse to learn the practices of this strange land we are in. That was what ruined Israel – once they got into the land they learned the practices of those whom they were to drive out. Learn the lesson well: do not learn the practices of those citizens of this world because this world is not our home.

Which wage war against your soul: There’s a war going on for the souls of Christians. The present tense indicates this is ongoing & daily. These passions take no prisoners.

For a vivid depiction of the war between the flesh and the spirit see Galatians 5.16-24. However, it must be noted that though Christians have the Spirit of God in them, they are not exempt from fleshly desires. There is still a battle to fight every day against the flesh, the devil, & the world. That battle runs deep, even to “your soul.” The spiritual forces of darkness know exactly what buttons to push in order to tempt us. It could be lust. It could be anger. It could be greed. Peter has already listed several “lesser” sins (2.1). But these are just as devastating as the “big” sins.

12Keep 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.

Keep…honorable: The Christian’s “behavior” (NASB) as they live among the uncovenanted people of this world is to be honorable, that is, it should be of positive moral quality.

How should Christians live in this world? How can we be holy when in the midst of unbelievers? This is Peter’s thesis for this epistle. He’s taken his time to build up their identity in Christ; now he will get intensely practical and direct concerning how to be holy in an unholy world.

The world is watching closely our behavior. Long before they ever hear a sermon they are looking for one, looking at one in how we live our lives. Our conduct must be morally excellent, so much so that even those “evildoers” who have only a shade of moral sense left will recognize it as honorable.

So that…evildoers: Those doing evil gleefully speak in opposition to Christians.

They…day of visitation: To see is to look upon intently with careful consideration. So the Gentiles closely inspect the Christians’ good deeds in anticipation of the day of visitation wherein they will honor God. Theories of what the day of visitation abound: 1) the day of judgment; 2) some times of persecution; 3) destruction of Jerusalem; 4) some time when the gospel is preached to the Gentiles.

It is interesting to note that Peter does not call Christians to march on Rome & pursue political activism. He does not order Christians to take up arms & fight against a tyrannical government. The inspired apostle does not exhort Christians to defend themselves verbally or write religious tracts defending their moral positions. The Holy Spirit through Peter encourages these believers to pursue goodness & virtue in all simplicity in order that their transformed conduct would contradict the lies & slander from the hostile society.

_____________________________

[1] Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.

Longing for God – Psalm 63

God “has put eternity in man’s heart.”

Man has this built-in craving, longing for the eternal, esp. for God. If nothing else, one has a sneaking suspicion that there is more to all this than meets the eye. Some stifle & suppress this, but it never goes away. When a person becomes a part of the people of God this appetite for the Almighty is augmented & must be fed regularly. Sadly, some Christians starve this appetite and is one reason we see people walk away from the Lord. But those few happy souls who hunger & thirst for righteousness & are satisfied so that they might hunger for more, for them…

God is the singular desire of the searching, thirsty soul.

What does it look like to long for God? Psalm 63 captures this craving which Christians today ought to have.

The Soul’s Longing (1)

1O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Seeking God: Even “my God,” its personal. 1) Earnestly: With eagerness, zeal. I’m going to do this now, immediately; I can’t wait. 2) Early (KJV): First thing I’m going to do even before the sun comes up, I gotta find you. The pillow is despised & the coolness of the AM embraced so that sweet communion with God might be enjoyed.

The Thirst for God: “My soul…my flesh” – everything about me, my whole being craves God. All of me longs for Thee! Notice that God is the object of this thirst; not creeds & confessions & councils; not religious leaders & preachers; not even religious exercises & practices; GOD alone can satisfy this craving. And God is of such a nature that He will grant this request…

It seems that just about every night after the boys are scrubbed, their teeth washed, they’re in their pajamas, prays have been said, & the light turned off that I will hear from the boys’ room, “DAD!” And when I go in there they invariably ask the same thing, “Can I please have a drink of water?” Good dad that I am, I get it for them. So here is David on his bed (v.6) saying, “GOD! Can I have a drink please?” The Father is of such a nature that He readily fetches it for him. And for us!

The Soul’s Looking (2-4)

2So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

In the Sanctuary (2): David wasn’t at the sanctuary (the tabernacle in his day) to see the crude structure; nor if the temple had been built in his time would he have gone there to see the wonderful stones & wonderful buildings; whenever he went up to the sanctuary it was to seek “my God,” esp. His power & glory. This is what David longs for in the wilderness.

3Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

God’s Love > My Life (3): God’s covenantal, steadfast, unending love is better than life, or rather, “lives.” God’s love is better than 10,000 lives! Life is dear, but God’s love is dearer. Life is valuable, but God’s love is supreme. Why? Because life is temporary, but God’s love is eternal. Oh, that more people today understood what the saints of old knew.  Too many people view their life as all important, as tho this is all there is. Indeed, some Christians do likewise. No! God’s love is eternal and the thing we are to reach out for.

4So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.

Worship (4): Praise from his lips (3) will flow from his mouth as long as he lives. My whole life is given over to the lover of my soul. The lifting of holy hands (lit.) was an outward manifestation of the inward disposition – as the soul reached out for God so the body too reached to the heavens (or Jerusalem) in an attempt to grasp His presence. Here is the summation of man’s creation & purpose & destiny: the praise of God’s glory.

The Soul’s Living (5-6)

5My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

Satisfaction (5): “fat & rich foods” are the best of the best, the choice cuts of meat and freshest vegetables & fruit…but remember, this is a spiritual feast provided by God. This “hidden manna” brings spiritual refreshment as we eat with the lover of our soul. It is the food we eat which the world does not know, living water to drink which the world refuses to drink.  So it has been that the saints of God have always been sustained & satisfied by the spiritual.

6when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

Meditation (6): Although David misses Jerusalem, he acknowledges that he doesn’t have to be in Zion to enjoy a spiritual feast. Right here on his bed as he recalls & ruminates on God, His glory & power (v.2), he fares sumptuously. “If day’s cares tempt us to forget God, it is well that night’s quiet should lead us to remember him” (Spurgeon). We see God best in the dark.

The Soul’s Lodging (7-8)

7for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

“Shadow of Your Wings” (7): The top of the Ark of the Covenant was called the mercy seat and this is where God’s presence abided. There were two (2) cherubim on either side of the ark with their wings outstretched and touching over the mercy seat, defending God’s glory. David alludes to these wings and in their shadow where God dwelt is where David finds His help & joy.

8My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Intimacy with the Almighty (8): The word “cling” or “follows close” (NKJV) is the same word used for when a man leaves father & mother and “clings” or “cleaves” to his wife. It denotes the close, sacred union of the soul with its God. It means we are glued to God, the lover of our soul. So the soul clings to God & God clings to the soul with His right hand. Even as a husband’s “right hand embraces” his wife (Song of Sol 2.6; 8.3). This is close, personal, active love.

All of me longs for Thee! It should be, ought to be, must be the earnest desire of every Christian to see & enjoy more & more of the power & glory of God. We must long for deeper intimacy with the Almighty, even as our flesh craves food & drink. Only God can satisfy the souls appetite for Him.

Stay thirsty my brethren!

When You’ve Blown It Again – Psalm 32

The haunting, terrible reality for all Christians is that we fall short of the glory of God far too often. Once is too often, by the way. We do slip up, trip up, & fall short or miss the mark. As Christians we strive to be like Jesus, but we sin. 1 John 1.8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Notice that John includes himself. It is right to feel guilt over sin; in fact we ought to because when we don’t something is wrong. What do you do when you are in the throes of despair over sin? Psalm 32 offers light & hope in darkness & despair. God thoroughly forgives our iniquity, transgressions, & sins.

The superscription of this psalm calls it “a maskil.” A maskil could mean this is 1) a contemplative song [think about it, hmm…]; 2) a psalm imparting moral wisdom; 3) a well-written psalm (NET). Psalms 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89, & 102 are also maskil Psalms. “Of David” means this was written by David and this fact is confirmed by Paul (Romans 4.6-8).

God Deals With Our Sin (1-4)

Like the Sermon on the Mount this Psalm begins with a beatitude. This is the beatitude of the forgiven lawbreaker.

1Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Sin Expiated [atoned for] (1-2): Three (3) words are used in the 1st two verse to describe sin: transgression, sin, iniquity. 1) Transgression: crossing a boundary, i.e. God’s law. 2) Sin: missing the mark, not doing what God has commanded or doing what God has commanded not be done. 3) Iniquity: internal defilement of the soul, moral distortion. All three of these God handles. With transgressions, He “forgives,” i.e. they are taken away like a burden. With sin, He “covers,” i.e. they are hidden from His sight. With iniquity, He does not “count” them, i.e. they never hit the record. But cleansing of all sin begins with genuine, real repentance, not pretended penitence (“no deceit”). Salvation from sin flows into a sincere heart before God.

3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

Sin Experienced (3-4): Here is the soul crushing reality of sin. David “kept silent” about his sin. Why keep silent? Could have been out of pride (stubborn refusal to confess), neglect, despair (“How could God forgive me?”), guilt (don’t deserve? Exactly! That’s grace). But the longer he kept it in, his physical condition took a turn for the worse as he “wasted away” (weak, exhausted, aged). He groaned all day; so while he may have been silent over sin, he was groaning in sorrow. Verse 4: God’s hand is helpful when He reaches down to help us up, but it is heavy when it comes down upon us due to sin (cf. 38.2). If his finger can crush, what pressure must His hand bring? Further, the heat of divine justice has withered David, dried him up like a twig.  All of this shows us the awful experience of unconfesed sin.

God Hears Our Confession (5-7)

Confession brings joy!

5I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

7You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

Individual (5, 7): Verse 5: Here is true repentance in action. First, David takes ownership of his sin – “my sin…my transgressions…my iniquity.” Mine, all mine. My rebellion & self-will & perversion (cf. James 1.14-15). All this he “will confess” to God, that is, his intention & inclination is toward God. Notice: David can’t even get the words out and God already forgives! Like prodigal son (Lk 15). AND God not only forgives the sin, but “the iniquity of my sin” or “the guilt of my sin” (NIV). The very blackest part God blots out! God deals with the root of sin, the virus of moral depravity. He does not merely mow over the weed; he pulls it out at the root! God’s pardon is deep, thorough. Verse 7: It is no wonder David views God as his personal city of refuge, city to hide from the avenger of blood, preserved from death, with shouts & songs  because he is safe.

6Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.

Everyone (6): David says to God that everybody ought to do what I am doing. David wants everyone to experience the joy of salvation. This is the best deal around – total, full forgiveness of all sin & a new heart on top of it. This doesn’t make what we did right; it makes Him good.

God Instructs Our Hearts (8-11)

Some say this is David instructing others as he vowed to do (51.13). Others say this is God speaking & instructing us after reconciliation.

8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

9Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.

God Guides the Godly (8-9): God guides us with spiritual & moral guidance. He reveals to us the way we should go thru His word. Further, He watches over us as we walk in His way. Verse 9: these beasts need a bit & are forced into service. Ours, tho, is a willing service. They are “without understanding,” but we are rational creatures rendering to our Maker what is rightfully His.

10Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.

God Guards the Godly (10): Sorrows are guilt, shame, anxiety (over relationship with God), fear/terror, anger, bitterness. “The wicked” are acquainted with these. “He who sows sin will reap sorrow in heavy sheaves” (Spurgeon). “Every wicked man is a miserable man” (Clarke). However, those whose faith is in YHWH are surrounded by His unfailing love. Morning & evening, in company & alone, in sickness & health, in life & in death – everywhere & always.

11Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

God Gladdens the Godly (11): Joy accompanies forgiveness. So holiness & joy are welded together.  Note that only “in the YHWH” can we experience joy for only YHWH can atone for & absolve us of sin thereby making us “righteous” & “upright in heart.”

I believe many Christians need this reminder of reassurance of remission of sin. Guilt is crippling & hinders us from fulfilling the purposes of God in our generation. But God has dealt with our sin & continues to deal with our sins. We are forgiven to the uttermost, and God calls us to live with & for Him.

Prayer: For the forgiveness of our sins, the blotting out of our transgressions, and the remission of our iniquity, even the iniquity of our sin, we praise thee, O Lord.

Grow in the Word of God, part 3

Slavery was an established institution when Paul penned the words of Ephesians 6.5-9. It had been in existence for millennia. God’s people were slaves in Egypt for centuries. There were provisions in the Law (Exodus 21) designed to protect the slave and prevent abuse. Under the Law, a slave only served seven (7) years and then was released by his master with plenty of goods from his master’s house (Deuteronomy 15.12-15)…unless the slave loved his master, in which he could stay and be a slave forever (Deuteronomy 15.16-17). Undergirding these laws was the reminder that Israel had been a slave in Egypt (verse 15). Surely, there was abuse, but to do so a Jew would have to trample underfoot the Law.

In the rest of the unenlightened world, the cruelty and depravity of the sinful heart of man was normally displayed in the slave-master relationship. True, there were pockets of light where slaves were treated well and special bonds formed (Pliny lamented when slaves he loved died), but the norm seems to have harsh & horrible treatment of slaves: runaway slaves were branded with an “F” on the head for fugitivus; slaves were crucified or fed to beasts for minor offenses; slaves were killed when an owner lost his/her temper; old slaves were discarded to the rubbish heap to starve to death; female slaves had their hair torn out and skin ripped from their faces by their mistresses’ nails. A slave was not a person but property (versus under the Law, the Hebrew slave is called “your brother”). Under Roman law, “Whatever a master does to a slave, undeservedly, in anger, willingly, unwillingly, in forgetfulness, after careful thought, knowingly, unknowingly, is judgment, justice, and law” (Barclay 213-214). The Roman world was full of slaves. Estimates ventured tell us that somewhere in the neighbor of one-third to one-half of the Roman population was enslaved to the other portion of the empire.

Into the chaos of injustice and abuse, God speaks a word of order. He does not call for rebellion; He calls for respect. God does not call for a revolution; He calls for reverence. Slaves are not to be subversive, but submissive. The instruction herein contained, while not a direct parallel, is useful for those on the job and in the workplace. In other words, verse 5-9 impact how Christians behave 9-5.

God’s Word to Workers (6.5-9)

Slaves and masters have mutual obligations to one another in order to grow in the Lord.

5Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,

[Slaves]: These are household slaves; Paul is still dealing with relationships in the family. Further, Paul is addressing Christians slaves, hence, the heavy emphasis on Christ throughout this section.

Obey…trembling: Obey is the same word used for children to their parents (v.1). Earthly masters stands juxtaposed with the heavenly Master (i.e. Christ). Fear (Gk phobos) and trembling is not terror & dread but rather respect & reverence, eager to fulfill one’s duty. These are regularly connected with obedience in the New Testament (cf. 2 Corinthians 7.15; Philippians 2.12).

With a sincere heart: As opposed to duplicity & double-mindedness which would accompany one who was only seeking to please man (v.6). This is the same kind of devotion which accompanies obedience to Christ; His slaves serve from a single or united heart (cf. Psalm 86.11).

As you would Christ: Of course a Christian slave would obey Christ with a sincere heart and respect & reverence. Render this same kind of obedience to your earthly master as though he were the Lord.

The temptation for 21st century American Christians is to read Paul’s words through the lens of our own dark history of slavery. This would be a mistake for a couple of reasons. First, the slavery of the 19th century in America is a different animal from the slavery of antiquity. The largest difference was the slavery of antiquity did not discriminate based upon race, sex, or other qualifiers. Second, and more important, Paul’s concern is not the slavery institution (right, wrong, or otherwise), but how one behaves when in that relationship. Paul neither condemns not condones slavery; he explains how Christian slaves & Christian masters are to relate to one another in Christ. His emphasis is ethics among believers who were in the institution. There is no diatribe bemoaning the evils of slavery. Neither is there a treatise on the benefits of slavery.

6not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,

Not…as people-pleasers: In his typical style, Paul presents the negative first followed by the positive. Christian slaves must never be the kind of slave who render their service only for the eye.

But as [slaves] of Christ: Every Christian is a slave of Christ. This is a principle which runs throughout the New Testament (1 Corinthians 7.22; Philippians 1.1; James 1.1; Jude 1).

Doing the will of God from the heart: Christians are first & foremost God-pleasers. God is pleased when we do His will from the heart (Gk psuches, lit. soul).

A slave’s obedience was Christocentric – every verse, every exhortation to the slave was focused on Christ: “as you would Christ” (v.5), “as servants of Christ” (v.6), “as to the Lord” (v.7), “back from the Lord” (v.8). So for the Christian employee, our work must be consecrated unto the Lord. “For a Christian, there is no distinction between secular and sacred” (Patzia 281). “The Bible allows no distinction between sacred and secular” (Foulkes174). Everything we do matters to Christ. We are His slaves. He is the recipient of every act we perform. Everything we do on the job, regardless of what your job may be, is ultimately done for Him. Ephesians 6.5-9 tells us how to live 9-5. All our work take on new meaning; how we treat people on the job is affected. Whether we cut grass, clean pools, fix cars, educate children, administrate educators – whatever our job or career, Christ is the Boss and so everything and everyone is important. “What we do and how we do it matters because all life is live in, to, and for the Lord” (Snodgrass 333).

We are slaves 24/7, 365. If we are not, we are not in Him and therefore alienated from God.

7rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,

Rendering…not to men: This is a complete transformation of the Christian’s standard for work & service. The Christian slaves works with a good will or zealous desire to be of benefit to their Master. Everything we do on the job should be done as though we would present it to the Lord.

Herein lies the great principle for all working Christians: You work for the Lord. “The conviction of the Christian workman is that every single piece of work he produces must be good enough to show God” (Barclay 215). Jesus is Boss over every boss you happen to be employed by throughout your life. By faith we we see beyond this transient life, beyond our fleshly master to our heavenly Master and realize that whatever service I render, I render it unto the Lord.

8knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

Knowing…anyone does: Lit. “having come to knowthrough Christian instruction. Whatever good (or bad) pertains to our ethics. Whatever good we render on the job…

This he…from the Lord: The Lord rewards His people for faithfulness, especially when the circumstances are difficult and “unjust” (1 Peter 2.18). So slaves could find encouragement from the apostle’s words that 1) they are the Lord’s & 2) He rewards their good works.

Whether he is a [slave] or is free: But this principle is not merely for a slave; the freeman must take note also that God is a Rewarder of those who pursue faithful service.

Think about this: what you do on the job has an impact upon your eternal destiny. I don’t know that a lot of Christians grasp this. Or if they grasp it, they only grasp it in part – like they know they shouldn’t have a job which would be in violation of God’s word (like a stripper or drug dealer). I am persuaded that this thing climbs into our lap and eats our lunch. How can we be salt & light on the job when our language is salty and our heart is so full of darkness? “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” and if you have heart full of darkness it will come out in what you say 9-5. What do you with anger on the job? How do you handle it? Do you cuss out an employee or slander your boss behind his back (“Why that good for nothing so-and-so!”). Philippians 4.8, “think on these things.” Why? Because God repays for the good we do on the job.

9Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

[And] Masters: And joins masters and slaves. Masters are Christian slave owners.

Do the same to them: i.e. do “whatever good” you can do to your slaves.

Stop your threatening: One common practice to control slaves was through threats—punishment, sale, beatings, even death. But a master who came to know Christ their Master had to abandon that and change their attitudes and actions toward their slaves.

Knowing…in heaven: Lit “having come to know” again through Christian doctrine. These masters came to know the Master…in heaven.  Further, they knew that He is Master of all—both slave and free. In fact, these masters are the Master’s slaves (see 1 Corinthians 7.22).

There is no partiality with Him: The Master will be merciless to a merciless master. Conversely, to a merciful master the Master will be merciful. In other words, His judgment is just.

Husband, father, & master are all the same person. Since Paul is dealing with “house rules” and how each member conducts him/herself in the household, the head of the house – husband, father, master – is addressed in each of these discussions. If you get the head of the house, you get the house. God knows this which is why He addresses the man of the house three (3) times.

Grow in the Word of God, part 2

The integrity of a society begins with the integrity in the home and the home is the first & best place for children to learn faith and obedience. The collapse of a nation (any nation) is directly related to the home. When the family is decayed, the nation rots. The only remedy is a wholesale return to the godly principles contained in the Bible. Parents must 1st themselves be given over to the way of God and then in turn they instruct their children in obedience. Therefore, Paul continues his exhortation to the family, and in this section (6.1-4) focuses on the children’s responsibility toward their parents.

 God’s Word to Children (6.1-4)

As children grow they are to be obedient to their parents, especially their fathers.

1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Children: This epistle is addressed to “saints” (1.1), not exactly preschoolers and young children. Obedience and honor certainly begins in childhood, but it continues into adulthood.

Obey…the Lord: Obey is stronger than submit (v.21, 22). Submission is voluntary; obedience is mandatory. In the Lord (key phrase in Ephesians) “means to obey as part of one’s relation to the Lord” (Snodgrass 321).

The Scriptures paint a bleak picture of those who are disobedient to parents (Prov 30.11, 17). Disobedience to parents is characteristic of those who are depraved and reprobate whom God has given over to a debased mind (Rom 1.29, 30). It is also a signal that we are indeed living in the last days (2 Tim 3.1-2). At its heart, disobedience is spiritual rebellion since obedience to parents is part of our relationship with the Lord.

For this is right: Even the law of nature teaches we obey those who gave us life; the Romans understood the power of the father (patria potestas) in his home. Common sense dictates that parental obedience is right. The Law of God sanctioned & sanctified obedience (5th commandment). Now Paul, inspired of the Holy Spirit, baptizes the command and so enjoins it upon the church of Christ.

2“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),

“Honor…mother”: Honor means to revere, respect, and value upon the parents. Parents (v.1) is here defined as a father and mother, which would exclude other unlawful arrangements (i.e. Heather has Two Mommies).

Obedience may look different for a 20 year old than a 5 year old, but honor remains relatively unchanged. We should always respect our parents, regardless of what age we be. But a 5 yr olds obedience (maybe – eat your vegetables) looks different than a 20 yr olds obedience (say – stay away from alcohol). Honoring God is the theological principle undergirding the principle to honor and obey parents.

This is…a promise: Some have noted that the 2nd commandment (no idols) has a promise in it (Exodus 20.4-6). However, a close reading of the text shows that the Lord is describing His nature in the 2nd commandment, whereas the 5th commandment has a specific, personal promise (“you”).

3“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

“That it may go well with you”: The promise is that things will go better for you if you obey your parents. You’ll be more useful, healthy, happy than if you did not obey mom & dad.

“That you…in the land”: or “on the earth.”  Though originally “the land” is the Promised Land, here it is meant generally for the earth. The second aspect of the promise is longevity. Those who listen to their parents, doing what they say will live a long time.

Some point out the problem with the promise – some children, even those who are very obedient, die. Granted, there are the cases where lives are cut short due to willful rebellion and refusal to heed the voice of parental wisdom. But some kids’ lives are short without that willful rebellion. They don’t “live long on the earth” even though they may have been very obedient. What then? The problem is further compounded when we consider that some little hellion grows up into adulthood, perhaps to continue his profligate lifestyle. “Why do the wicked prosper, Lord?”

  • Reminder: when a child dies, we believe that they go to be with the Lord. Sin does not come alive until they come to know the Law and disobey it. So when a young child does die, we have the blessed assurance that they are “safe in the arms of Jesus.” Do not doubt in the dark what you knew in the light.
  • Though we can point to specific cases, this promise, when applied generally, tends towards the results specified. Where you find parental obedience, you will typically find longevity and habits which promote that.
  • Another reminder: God is sovereign. In the end, He owes us no explanation for the whys and wherefores of life (and death). Though we only have partial answers in this life, the promise still stands.

4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Fathers: Some point out that the word used here (Gk pateres) is used of both parents (see Hebrews 11.23). However, Paul has just used the word for “parents” in v.1. It seems like the shift is intentional: primary responsibility to lead the home and primary accountability unto the Lord for the home is placed squarely upon men.

Do not…anger: Paul tells Christian fathers not to make their children mad or irritated. Coupled with Colossians 3.21 this comes into sharp focus: don’t lead your children down a path of frustration which culminates in their being discouraged in the faith.

But bring…the Lord: Provide for their physical & psychological needs, yes. But most important, give them what they need spiritually. Discipline relates to cultivating the mind and morals complete with commands and correction when necessary. Instruction could be either correction (for misdeeds) or confirmation (for good works).

First the wives, then the husbands. First the children, then the fathers. The dependent first followed by those upon whom they are dependent. Here Paul states the negative before giving the positive. This is Paul’s typical style.  First, don’t provoke them to anger: That is, although there is a proper and necessary place for discipline, that discipline must nevertheless “never be arbitrary (for children have a built-in sense of justice) or unkind. Otherwise, they will ‘become discouraged.’ Conversely, almost nothing causes a child’s personality to blossom and gifts to develop like the positive encouragement of loving, understanding parents.”[1] Second, bring them up in God’s instruction: How are fathers to do this unless they know what the Word of God teaches? How are they to teach with wisdom unless they have themselves learned in Christ’s school? Obviously fathers will fail at this great task unless they are themselves growing with God. They must be studying the Bible. They must be seeking to live by it and practice it in their own daily lives. Parents (and especially fathers) must be models. [2]

[1] James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1988). 214.

[2] Ibid 215.

Grow in the Word of God, part 1

Paul closed the previous section of this epistle by explaining that Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit will submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (5.18-21). Now Paul will explain what is entailed in this mutual submission with frequent appeals to the Old Testament.

Paul begins with the family (5.22-33). When Paul penned the words of this epistle, the pagan family unit was in deep degradation. Someone has noted, “One found in the pagan family neither purity nor love.” Even when Jesus walked the earth, the Jewish family was threatened by unholy conduct and standards. One rabbi advised, “Don’t talk much with women” and another was quick to add, “Not even with one’s wife” (Snodgrass 302). The ancients thought the two best days of woman’s life were the day someone married her and the day he carried her body to the graveyard! Into this context of devaluation comes the clarion call of a higher love (agape) in the family & mutual respect.

God’s Word to the Married (5.22-33)

Husbands & wives have mutual obligations to one another in order to grow as a couple.

22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Wives…husbands: cf. Col 3.18. Submit is supplied from verse 21 since Paul is explaining the practical manifestation of Spirit-filled life through mutual submission. John Piper writes, “Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts” (This Momentary Marriage 80).

As Adam Clarke puts it, “The husband should not be a tyrant, and the wife should not be the governor.” When the wife elevates herself to assume what is not hers, we end up with either 1) a two-headed monstrosity or 2) the wrong head with everything upside down. Many Christian marriages end up looking like the “unwise” of the world who in their folly think themselves wise (v. 15; Rom 1.22). Tragically, these wreck their marriage or at best wreak havoc on the relationship.

As to the Lord: This could mean 1) in a similar fashion as their submission to the Lord, 2) as if their husband was the Lord, 3) as part of their submission to the Lord. Option three seems best. The submission she expresses to her husband is based upon her submission to the Lord.

23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

For the husband…wife: For (or because) is explanatory: the wife submits to her husband for he is her head. Some read head to mean “source,” however, leadership is how this term is best understood. According to John Piper, “Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christlike, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.” “The husband has a leadership role, though not in order to boss his wife or use his position as privilege. Just as Jesus redefined greatness as being a servant (Matt 20.26-27), Paul redefines being head as having responsibility to love, to give oneself, and to nurture. A priority is placed on the husband, but, contrary to ancient society, it is for the benefit of the wife” (Snodgrass 295, emphasis original).

Even as Christ…the church: Christ’s relationship to the church is the model for headship. So then what is in view is servant leadership (Mark 10.43-45). “All the instructions concerning human relationships are rooted in the foundational relationship of the Christian to Christ…The Christian’s relationship to Christ is the basic, foundational relationship that colors every other relationship” (Malone 83). One significant reason that the world is messed up – in the home & everywhere else – is because it does not know Christ. So long as a man or woman remains outside of Christ, they will always be one down in the home, on the job, wherever. When the foundational relationship with Christ is missing, every other human relationship suffers: husband/wife, parent/child, employer/employee. “The church becomes a pattern for all social order” (Patzia 268). Without Christ, the pattern is deficient and chaos ensues.

His body…Savior: Since Chris tis the head the church is His body. He acts as Savior when He “gave Himself up for her” (v.25) by dying on the cross. How is the husband the wife’s Savior? Certainly not in the same sense in which Christ is Savior of mankind. However, through his self-denying as protector the husband it can be said the husband is “Savior.”

24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Now…to Christ: The church is composed of those who have submitted themselves to the Lordship of Christ. Christians honor & affirm His leadership as well as look to Him for provision of all things.

So also wives…husbands: Once again submit is supplied for it is understood in the context. Wives should submit themselves (voluntarily) to their husbands. In everything means all things lawful & acceptable to God. Anything criminal or against God’s will should be avoided. Of course, a husband who is demonstrating Christlike headship would never ask his wife to engage in those kinds of things.

The tragedy of tragedies is when God’s word is twisted in order to justify cruel & abusive behavior. The unfortunate reality is that some men have read “Wives, submit…” and “The husband is head” disconnected from its context and thereby have produced unhealthy and ungodly circumstances for their marriage and family. Then little Jimmy watches how daddy has treated mommy growing up and what do you think he does when he gets married? Yes, even the in church this pattern is all too true. “Men in more conservative denominations with traditional views of marriage are more likely to abuse their wives” (Snodgrass 313). Books like Battered into Submission have been written documenting this kind of abuse.

By the way, we are not merely talking physical abuse; emotional, psychological, sexual, and verbal abuse is just damaging. Demeaning your wife is symptomatic that you have misunderstood and misapplied this text.  Christ would never do this to His bride. This is why it is so critical that we never disconnect headship from Christ. If we do, we end up with harsh, authoritarian manhood which is the kind of manhood resulting from the curse rather than redeemed from the curse.

25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Husbands, love your wives: Love (Gk agapao) “means to subordinate one’s own interests, pleasures, and personality for the benefit of someone else” (Patzia 270). The husband looks to the needs, interests, and concerns of his wife, eager to understand and meet them. If wives are to submit to their husbands, then husbands must love their wives. When husbands love their wives as they ought, it is easy for a woman to affirm & honor his leadership in the home. Though he may not manifest this kind of Christlike love does not mean the wife is free from her obligation to submit; it just makes it more difficult.

It is not the deep sexual passion (erao) which Paul enjoins upon men. Nor is it familial (storgeo) or friendship (phileo) love. It is that selfless kind of love which puts the other person’s greatest good above your own (agapao). When it comes to Christians, even Christian couples, the greatest good of the wife which the husband should be in constant pursuit of is that she look like Christ. Husbands, this should be our overarching, singular desire when it comes to our wives.

As Christ…for her: The husband’s love for his wife ought to correspond to Christ’ love for the church. Christ’ loved the church to the uttermost when He gave Himself up for her on the cross. He supplies His bride with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms” (1.3) in His sacrifice.

Some have argued that the greater responsibility is upon husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. If nothing else, “The husband’s commitment to his wife and to home responsibilities is certainly no less demanding than that asked of the wife – but the two are different, and complementary” (Foulkes 164).

26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

That He might sanctify her: or “to make her holy” (NIV). This is the glorious purpose of the atoning death of Christ: a bride set apart unto Himself.

Having cleansed…with the word: Sanctify and cleansed are both aorist (snapshot) tense indicating that a single event is in view when the washing of water with the word took place: baptism. With the word (Gk rêmati) could point to either instruction or confession before baptism.

Some see here an allusion to the pre-marriage bath a bride would take the day before her wedding. Then, cleansed and in splendid clothing, she was presented to the bridegroom and he would say, “Behold, you are sanctified to me.” Perhaps this imagery in behind this and other texts (2 Cor 11.2). In which case, when we are baptized, we are cleansed – “our hearts sprinkled clean” (Heb 10.22) – by the blood of Christ and He says to us, “Behold, you are set apart unto me.”

27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

So that…in splendor: Lit. “in order that He Himself might present to Himself the glorious church.” Some see a possible allusion to Psalm 45.13-15 here. Note that the key difference here is that the bride can do nothing to make herself clean or beautiful; Christ cleanses & beautifies her.  Our splendor or glory or honor or beauty is all the result of His work.

Without…any such thing: A spot would be a stain or defect; a wrinkle could be related to clothing or skin (i.e. age); any such thing would be any offending deformity. Freedom from all these things contributes to the splendor or glory of the bride.

That she…blemish: cf. 1.4. Here is the goal of the Lord’s work in cleansing us. This has been His aim & purpose since “before the foundation of the world.” Christ sees His church with all her weaknesses & failures and still loves her, seeking her sanctification. So husbands, love your wives.

Imagine a bride in her flowing white gown with a ketchup or mustard stain right on the front of the dress. Or picture a bride who looks like she just pulled her dress out of the hamper. Now think of a woman who, because of years as a chain smoker, has deep wrinkles and leathery skin on her face and hands. Or suppose there is a woman who, due to a birth defect or a tragic accident, is missing a limb or has some abnormality. When I was growing up my dad knew a guy who had moles all around his neck, I mean all around his neck! Because he abused drugs, he didn’t bathe regularly and so those moles were caked with dirt, sweat, and all kinds of grossness. These are all illustrations of the defilement of sin and transgression. That’s what sin is like and that’s what Christ has cleansed us from spiritually speaking. All the spots, all the wrinkles, all the various defects – gone! Washed away, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. And now all He sees is His beautiful bride; nothing else.

28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

In the same way: Just as Christ loves His bride and seeks her sanctification…

Husbands…own bodies: Indeed, Adam said of Eve that she was “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2.23). Also behind this seems to be an application of “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19.18), though this is more profound in marriage.

Here is why spousal abuse is a sin not merely against the (civil) law, but also against nature. When a man & woman are married, they become “one flesh.” That is, she is “his own body” for they are one body.

He who…loves himself: Husband & wife are “complimentary parts” of a single personality. “His wife is part of himself” (PC 212).  It is a lower manifestation of Christ’s union with the church.

29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,

For no one…own flesh: For a man to hate his wife is as irrational as to hate his own flesh. Paul uses flesh (Gk sarka) rather than “body” (Gk soma) no doubt in anticipation of the coming Genesis 2.24 quotation (v.31).

The notion of a husband hating or neglecting his wife is as strange as hating or neglecting oneself. While it is true that some people (male & female) engage in self-mutilation (e.g. cutting), we readily identify that kind of behavior as abnormal. In a similar fashion, a husband who hits his wife or abuses her verbally or emotionally is likewise abnormal.

But nourishes & cherishes: But (Gk alla) indicates a strong contrast. Nourishes (or “feeds,” NIV) means to provide food for over a period of time to sustain growth and maturation. Cherishes (or “cares for,” NIV) means to provide what is necessary. A man will naturally feed & clothe himself!

Just as Christ does the church: This is what Christ does for His bride! He nourishes us with His Word & provides everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1.3).

Another wrong turn men make is viewing their wives as someone they can control and order around. Once again, this is an abuse of headship. Authentic manhood/headship patterned after Christ is not about control. Paul does not say, “Husbands, control your wives.” He says, “Love your wives.” Husbands who love their wives with this kind of love will not have to worry about his wife submitting herself to him; she will want to affirm and honor his leadership in the home.

30because we are members of his body.

We are…His body: Here is the reason Christ loves, nourishes , & cherishes us: we are part of His body. As the branches are part of the Vine (John 15.1-6), so members are part of the body, the church (v.23). “Of His flesh and of His bone” (NKJV, KJV) is not supported by the earliest manuscripts. As Eve was taken from Adam & given to him, so the church was taken from Christ & given to Him.

The imagery of bride and body are admixed. As the church, we are both the bride of Christ & and the body of Christ. Every individual Christ – be it Paul the apostle or you or me – is a member of the glorious body of Christ. “Because” of this wonderful fact, He, as the Head, takes special care of us, nourishing & cherishing us, yes, even lavishing upon “every spiritual blessing” in Himself. You are special to Him; don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise!

31“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

“Therefore…one flesh”: Genesis 2.24 is quoted (from LXX) as application of Paul’s argument concerning Christ & the church (v.32): how He left His Father’s bosom to woo unto Himself a Bride (the church) out of the lost world. Simultaneously, Paul has in view the husband/wife relationship, of which Christ and His church are the perfect model.

Hold fast to his wife: Literally the husband is glued to her. Like anything which is glued, tearing the two glued pieces apart, though possible, will render permanent damage to the glued pieces.

The two shall become one flesh: This speaks to the profundity of the union between Christ & His church and husband & wife.

When it comes to Genesis 2.24, “No one verse speaks more strongly for the sacredness and permanency of the marriage bond and for fidelity within marriage” (Patzia 273). This is the primary text against such things as polygamy, fornication, and divorce, rightly so!

32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Note: The Latin Vulgate reads “sacramentum hoc magnum est” for “This mystery is great.” This has become the sole basis for the Catholic Church making marriage a sacrament (“an external sign of something sacred” or an outward sign of inward grace – Catholic Encyclopedia).

This mystery is profound: As profound as the union between a husband & wife is, it is but a miniature, dim reflection of the original which is Christ & the church. Mystery here (as in 3.6 refers to something hidden before, but has now been revealed, namely…

And I…the church: Christ’s relationship to His church. The mystery is not about marriage, per se, as much it is about the union between the Redeemer & His redeemed, the Savior & the saved.

Marriage is an important, a holy, a noble, a pure institution, altogether worthy of God; but it does not thence follow that marriage was designed to be a type of the union between Christ and the church. Paul’s emphasis, which should be our emphasis, is Christ & the church. He is the Head and we, the church, submit to His Lordship. We have no agenda, no mission save that which He established and modeled while on earth. If we could grasp that truth and seek His higher purposes rather than our petty squabbles, we could move past so much useless junk and move forward & upward to what God in Christ has called us.

33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

However: Pauls’ final word will be a practical one for husbands and wives.

Let each…as himself: Love (Gk agapato) “pure and simple, but transcendent,” because it mirrors the love of Christ toward His bride, is the husband’s calling in marriage. As himself captures “as their own bodies” from verse 28.  After all, they are “one flesh.”

And let…her husband: Respects (Gk from phobeo) is literally “fears” but is not, of course, servile or slavish fear (cf. 1 John 4.18). “Reverence” (KJV) or “holy respect” (PC 213) toward her husband, as connected to “submission” from verse 22, is the wife’s divine calling in marriage.

However profound the mystery of Christ & His church, there is no mystery as to the duty of each party involved in marriage: husbands love their wives and wives respect their husbands. If the husband withholds love, he is wronging his wife and subverting the relationship. If the wife withholds respect/submission, she is wronging her husband and subverting the relationship. The marriage suffers unless both parties fulfill their God-given calling.

Growing in Your Walk with Christ, part 7

Ephesians 5.15-21 contains a verse much disputed in the church. Verse 19 is a passage used to prohibit the use of musical instruments in worship services. Intensive word studies, exhaustive exegetical articles, and not a few early church essays have been written on that single verse. Frankly, it is a tragedy that the rest of the context surrounding this verse tends to be ignored. It is rich with how to wisely navigate life in the Spirit.

A Wise Walk (5.15-21)

Living with Christ means seeking His wisdom & will.

15Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,

Look carefully…walk: Then indicates that Paul is continuing his exhortation to these Christ to be what they are in Christ. They do that by walking carefully or “circumspectly” (NKJV). A careful walk is one which includes strict attention to detail & complete obedience to the standard.

To “walk…carefully” carries the idea of accuracy, precision, & diligence. It is a life lived in strict conformity to the Christian ethic. Half-hearted or lackadaisical discipleship is more in line with the unwise behavior of the world than it is with the heart & desire of God. A Christian’s walk is to careful not carefree.

Not as unwise but as wise: This is once more a contrast in cultures: the heathen culture is unwise whereas the Christian ethic is wise. Cf. Colossians 4.5

We teach our children to “Stop, look, and listen” when crossing the street. How much more is this true when living the Christian life? We must be intensely vigilant as we walk with Christ knowing that there are deadly consequences to evil actions. Armed with that knowledge, we can wisely navigate our lives.

One word of caution: There may be a threat toward legalistic rule keeping. This is not what Paul is advocating at all. He is saying, “Do not walk loosely, without fixed principles of actions; but make sure that you rules are of the true kind” (Pulpit Commentary 210). Many people are very strict & rigged but they are not wise in that rigidity. They have rules, very strict rules, but they are not good rules. So that is a key difference between what Paul is exhorting us to and legalism which Paul would never be in favor of.

16making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Making…the time: Lit. “Redeeming the time.” Several scholars see here an allusion to the marketplace: a merchant would buy up the good articles & products. So the Christian must seek the precious pearls of time and purchase those, i.e. use every opportunity for good.

And so we sing, “Your empty, wasted years/ He will restore;/ and you iniquities/ remember no more.” As Longfellow has said, “Life is real; life is earnest/ and the grave is not its goal./ ‘Dust thou art, to dust returnest,’/ was not spoken of the soul.” Life is urgent! We must consider how we spend our time, what little we have left. Paul seems to be saying, “embrace every opportunity to glorify God, save your own souls, and do good to men.” (Clarke) “How wise, then, to seek to make out of every passing moment eternal gain!” (PC 236) Why?…

Because the days are evil: there was trouble & temptation all around. These Christians lived in a very pagan world with much immorality.

The more things change, the more they stay the same – the days are still evil! In fact, as Paul says elsewhere, “evil people go from bad to worse” (2 Tim 3.13). Or as one country preacher once put it – “evil people go from worse to worser!” So in 2,000 years since Paul penned these words, our world has gone from bad to worse, worse to worser. Society progresses further into secularism. Evil is good and good is evil. Religious formalism where the letter of Law stifles the Spirit of the Law permeates much of Christendom. Philosophical skepticism which for the most part is anti-God, anti-Christian, and anti-supernatural has a choke hold on many people. So if ever there was a time when Christians need to make the best use of their time, it is now.

17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Therefore, do not be foolish: Therefore here has a summation quality of the foregoing context. Since you are to be imitators of God (1-2), children of holiness (3-7) & light (8-14), do not be “senseless” or “unthinking.” Again, this is old self & “outsider” behavior.

But…Lord is: But (Gk alla) is a strong, sharp contrast. Those “in Christ” make it their career to understand (pres. Imp.) the Lord’s will. This is more than just hearing and knowing. Involved in understanding is careful consideration and private pondering so as to take it to heart.

Here is the purpose-driven life – understanding God’s will and walking accordingly. Any other life is “foolish” & “unwise,” purposeless & aimless. But a life devoted to the pathway of God which He has marked out by His stated will revealed by His word has purpose, direction, and progress. We will spend the rest of lives seeking to “understand what the will of the Lord is.” The present tense indicates this is a lifelong pursuit, the ongoing practice of every wise saint.

18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

Do not get drunk with wine: Some pagan religious cults would become intoxicated during their worship (ex. Dionysus) in order to express spiritual elation (usually in erratic behavior). That kind of pagan revelry should not mark the Christian. In fact, we have a better way (i.e. the Spirit).

“Intoxication with wine has a degrading effect; intoxication with the Spirit (cf. Acts 2.13) can have an uplifting effect upon Christian community” (Patzia 264). We are to be filled with the Spirit not drunk on spirits. Getting drunk is not wise (Proverbs 20.1).

For that is debauchery: “Both the wastefulness and the lack of self-control implied by [debauchery] are things which should not be seen in the lives of those who have found in Christ the source and the way of wisdom” (Foulkes 158).

A word about drinking: Drunkenness is categorically condemned in Scripture (Deut 21.20; 1 Cor 5.11; Gal 5.21). Especially if you were a leader in the church it is condemned (1 Tim 3.3, 8; Titus 1.7; cf. 2.3). Granted, total abstinence is not mentioned except in the case of special vows (for example the Nazarite vow, Num 6.3). Hmm… but aren’t we people who have taken a special vow? Drinking is a habit which sends everything to wreck and ruin.

But be filled with the Spirit: In typical fashion, Paul replaces the negative with the positive. Be filled (present passive imperative) indicates 1) this should be the ongoing lifestyle of the Christ, 2) it is God (with the Holy Spirit) who fills the Christian, 3) every Christian must be filled with/by the Holy Spirit.

19addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

Addressing one another: One another indicates that this “speaking” (NASB) is an expression of our being filled with the Spirit. Though some are quick to apply this to the worship service (almost exclusively), “the meetings would seem to have been for social Christian enjoyment rather than for public worship of God” (PC 211). Context bears this out since the overall lifestyle of the Christian is what Paul has been discussing (5.1-18).

Psalms…spiritual songs: Some have found subtle distinctions between these words, however, Jimmy Jividen says, “There is no evidence in the New Testament or the writings of the early church that distinction is to be made between psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” (Worship in Song 11).

Singing…your heart: All worship (in the assembly or not) is always directed to the Lord. Jividen finds no distinction between singing and making melody, both referring to the melodic utterance of words. He does note that your heart is the only instrument for our singing (Worship in Song 11, 62).

While certainly applicable to the assembly of the saints every Lord’s Day, what is view here is any expression of worship in which saints engage in. Our whole lives are music of a specific kind to the Lord. Be it a small group study, and in-home Bible study, or just sitting around the campfire, we can address one another and worship our Lord in song from the heart. It is the heart not the harp which is the appropriate instrument for our worship.

20giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Giving thanks…Jesus Christ: Contextually, we do this by and in our singing. However, that is not the only avenue by which we give thanks to God. It is always (at all times) and for everything (all things) that we give thanks to God the Father, Who is Himself the source of all blessings. Our Lord Jesus Christ is our mediator to the Father.

“Spirit-filled Christians live in a continual attitude of gratitude for everything” (Patzia 264). At its core, sin is basically ingratitude. We need to affirm that all that we have is from God. When we truly give thanks, from that will flow ethics and right behavior. Further, thanksgiving has a transformative effect. It is nearly impossible for a person to be both spiteful (harboring resentment) and grateful, giving thanks unto God. When we realize we have been set free from our old self and have been infused with the life-giving Spirit, how could we not be thankful?

21submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Submitting…for Christ: The habitual practice of Christians is willing submission to each other. Mutual Christian submission is born out of  “fear” (Gk phobos, respect & awe) for Christ.

Here is still another key factor to living a Spirit-filled life. Pride in a Christian is an oxymoron. Pride is the heart leaves no room for the Spirit of God. Pride kills fellowship. Thinking of ourselves as better or too highly is destructive to true, authentic Christian fellowship. “In humility count others more significant than yourselves” and look “to the interests of other” (Phil 2.3-4). So humble mutual submission is the key to unlocking how to live as husband & wife (5.22-33), parenting effectively (6.1-4), and how to behave on the job (6.5-9).

Submission for all Christians is the divine calling upon our lives to honor & affirm Christ’s leadership and serve Him according to grace He has given to each one of us. The word “submit” was a military term used to describe the various soldiers under the command of their leader. It is interesting that Paul ends this epistle utilizing the military motif (6.10ff). Further, this word had a non-military usage for voluntarily giving in and cooperating to carry a burden. It is to voluntarily yield ourselves to Christ in love. This kind of mutual submission is illogical when disconnected from Christ. Only through the cross can we proper express submission. By uniting with Christ and dying to self we can submit as we ought to His lead.