God’s Grace & Submission, part 2

Slaves are frequently mentioned in epistles (1 Corinthians 7.21-23; Ephesians 6.5-8; Colossians 3.22; 1 Timothy 6.1-2; Titus 2.9; Philemon). This seems to indicate that many of those who comprised the first century church were in a condition of servitude or were owners of slaves. In this section (2.18-25), Peter focuses exclusively on “household servants” to encourage those who perhaps needed the most encouragement to live godly lives while facing difficult circumstances.

Submission as Slaves (2.18-25)

18Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.

Servants: Gk oiketai, household servants. No comparable institution exists in modern Western society so it is difficult to accurately translate this word. However, “semi-permanent employee without legal or economic freedom” comes closest (Grudem 124).

Be subject…all respect: cf. v. 13. Present tense indicates these Christians slaves were to continue to submit themselves to their masters “with all fear” (NKJV). Fear (Gk phobo) is to be directed toward God, therefore, this is “for the Lord’s sake” (v.13), not out of fear of their masters.

Not only…the unjust: Generally speaking, slave (both in the house & out) were treated good & gentle by their masters. They were trained to perform important domestic, business, & public tasks. Doctors, teachers, musicians, & managers were slaves. Rome had passed much legislation protecting the 60 million slaves within her boarders. However, there was abuse by “harsh” (NIV) masters who lived in “pampered idleness” (Barclay 249). Some slaves were mistreated, denied pay, kept in awful conditions, etc. Even to these masters Christians slaves submit.

Submission to “unreasonable” (NASB) & “perverse” (NET) masters by Christian slaves is perhaps the most difficult instruction in 1 Peter. Obedience to harsh masters must have been somewhat deflating & disappointing to the Christian slave who had come to a Christian worldview where all men are equal in God’s sight. Of course, like with the government, submission of slaves had limitations; if a master ordered a slave to do something against the will of God, the slave should refuse in order to obey a higher authority. Nevertheless, short of sin, the slave was to submit & obey even dishonest & crooked masters in all things out of respect & fear of God.

19For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

For this is a gracious thing: For signals that Peter is going to explain the reason for the radical submission of v.18. God looks with favor upon those who suffer unjustly while trusting Him.

When…suffering unjustly: The slave is mindful of God, that is, God’s will & presence, even his/her duty toward God. God approves of this because the slave chooses God’s authority over his own comfort & security, enduring sorrows & suffering unjustly (or wrongfully) for His will. Both the physical pain & mental anguish are in view here.

The Christian is to have a “trusting awareness of God’s presence & never-failing care” as they endure suffering, esp. when we suffer for doing the right thing, i.e. God’s will. Our faith is rooted in the knowledge that one day God will right all wrongs & vindicate the patient endurance of the Christian. This is what enables Christians to submit to injustice without bitterness and despair. It will also enable us to avoid improper responses like rebellion, revolt, hateful rhetoric, or misplaced fear.

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

For what…you endure?: A rhetorical question—there is no honor in the patient endurance of rightfully deserved punishment for wrongdoing.  Many who sin and do wrong expect some kind of punishment should they get caught. That’s why they do all they can to avoid getting caught!

But if…sight of God: It could be that they did the right thing fro their master & still suffered for it; more likely this has to do with doing the right thing as a Christian when their master wanted them to do otherwise & they were knocked about being beaten with the fist. Doing the thing that pleases God & suffering for it will open new avenues of “grace from God.”

Peter gives two reason for patient endurance through unjust suffering: 1) God’s grace (18-19) & 2) Christ’s calling (20-25).

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

For…been called: cf. 1 Thess 3.3. Christians are destined for wrongful affliction. Why? Because unjust suffering is at the heart of Christianity in the model of Christ whom Christians are to imitate. This is the example Peter focuses on for Christian slaves who serve unjust masters, even the servant of YHWH. His is the supreme of unjust suffering by the hands whom He came to serve.

Because Christ…in His steps: Christ’s example is proof positive that God looks with favor upon those who patiently endure through unjust suffering. Of course His example is even greater because it was for you (Gk uper umon, lit. on behalf of all you). Nevertheless, Christ also suffered for you even as now you suffer for Him. Christian slaves follow in His steps when they endure unjust suffering from their masters.

NOTE: While Peter is focused on Christian slaves, the instruction can certainly apply to every Christian. Christ is our example (Gk hupogrammon) over which our lives to be placed & traced.

22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

He committed no sin: cf. Isa 53.9. Never once did Christ sin, a fact of the gospel strongly attested in the New Testament (2 Cor 5.21; Heb 4.15; 1 John 3.5) & earlier in 1 Peter (1.19). He was the sinless servant of YHWH (see Isa 52.13). He is distinct from believers in this & because of His sinlessness is able to be our vicarious sacrifice.

Neither was…His mouth: Deceit is something Christians are to put away (v.1). Here is why: Christ. “If Jesus as the servant of the Lord did not sin or use guile, despite suffering intensely as the righteous one, then believers should follows His example and refrain from sinning or using deceit when they are mistreated as Christ’s disciples” (NAC).

23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

When…in return: A possible allusion to Isa 53.7. Jesus the “lamb without blemish” “led to the slaughter…opened not His mouth.” Though He was slandered & insulted He did not hurl invective back. He remained silent. Even those times during His ministry when He did defend Himself it was all spoken out of deep love for those who opposed Him.

When…threaten: It seems slaves were of a mind to be “argumentative” (Titus 2.9) & invoke divine retribution when caused to suffer. But not even Christ did this, choosing rather when the pain the worst to say “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34).

But…Him who judges justly: Peter has already spoken of God as the just judge (1.17). Himself is supplied in most English translations & appears to be correct given what Peter says in 4.19 (“those who suffer…entrust their souls” to God). At the same time, the imperfect tense & His example from the cross seem to indicate that every dimension of His life was entrusted to God by Christ.

Our natural response when someone has injured us or hurt us to even the score by hurting them back &, if possible, hurt them more. If we can’t get even right away, we may threaten with violence later. “I’m gonna get you!” Or if they’ve hurt & we know there is no way we can get a hand on them, we might threaten divine retribution – “God will get you for this!” But these are natural responses for natural people. Instead, we believe in a God who is in control of everything & we follow the example left by Christ who “kept on entrusting” not just Himself but also His followers and even the wrongdoers and the entire situation “to Him who judges justly.” The imperfect tense indicates this was the regular practice of Jesus throughout His ministry. His attitude was one of faith in the just, fair Father of us all.

At the same time, we as believers trusting in the just Judge know that God will vindicate & reward us while judging & punishing our enemies (see Romans 12.19-20). In fact, it is because we leave justice in the hands of the righteous Judge that we can live like Christ without engaging in or even threatening retaliation. Jeremiah is an OT example this very thing (Jer 11.18-23). “Let me see your vengeance upon them,” he says, “for to you have I committed my cause” (20b). So Jesus was God’s gentle lamb. And we too follow that gentle lamb example.

24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

He Himself…on the tree: cf. Isa 53.4, 5, 6, 11 (“borne our griefs…borne our iniquities”). Here is the vicarious nature of Christ’s atoning work—Him in our place for our sins. While Christians are to follow Christ’s example in suffering, we must also remember His suffering had this unique quality as the basis for our salvation. The Lord “laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This took place on the tree (Gk xylon), that is, the cross, Peter preferring “tree” to connect his audience to Deut 21.22-23 & the curse upon those hung on a tree for judicial punishment.

That we…righteousness: Here is the purpose for Christ bearing our sins—living to righteousness.  A new kind of life is the goal of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf & for our sins. This new life is marked by a cessation from sin which began at baptism (aorist).

By His wounds you have been healed: cf. Isa 53.5. By the wounds of Christ on the cross we have been healed of our moral wounds, i.e. sins. The punishment that was due us, that we deserved, Christ took upon Himself in the flesh to make us well.  Sin is the disease, Christ the Cure!

25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

For you were straying like sheep: Cf. Isa 53.6. For explains we deserved punishment for wandering. This was the past condition of these Christians, indeed, the condition of everyone before coming to salvation in Christ. We wondered off the path of righteousness & onto the way of sin.

But have now…your souls: Gk alla, strong contrast. But now our fortunes have changed because of Christ. We are no longer lost, wandering sheep. We have returned to our Shepherd and Overseer. In the Old Testament, YHWH is the Shepherd of the flock, i.e. Israel (Psalm 23.1; 80.1; Isaiah 40.10-11). In the New Testament, Christ is the Good Shepherd (Johhn 10.11) & the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet 5.4). Likewise, in the Old Testament, YHWH is seen as the Guardian (NASB) of His flock (see Ezekiel 34.11, where “seek them out” is translated episkepsomai). In the New Testament, Christ is the Overseer who “seeks out” His sheep. All of this is firm testimony that in Christ YHWH came near.

God’s Grace & Salvation, part 2

Peter has focused his reader’s attention on their salvation & the grace which is theirs, spiritual treasures which prophets search intently for & angels strongly desire to see (3-12). With this firmly in mind, he will now exhort his readers to think & act in a holy manner.

Holy Living – By God’s Grace (1.13-2.3)

God’s grace enables Christians to a live a holy even under a hostile empire.

13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Therefore: Due to the greatness & glory of salvation explained in verse 3-12…

Preparing your minds for action: lit. “gird up the loins of your mind” (so NKJV), a phrase lost on most modern readers, but a common practice in ANE culture where long robes were worn. In order to engage in vigorous activity (running, fast walking, etc.), the robes would have to be pulled up into their belt allowing them freedom of motion. In modern English, we might say “roll up your sleeves.” Peter is telling his audience to get ready for intense mental activity (your minds).

I have been saying that the church needs to be a thinking & thoughtful community. Peter exhorts even us to prepare for intense mental activity. Even as Elijah “gathered up his garment” and outran Ahab’s chariot, so we too must roll up the sleeves of our minds so that we can outthink culture & society with the Truth. Even our Lord has said, “Stay dressed for action” or “Let your waist be girded” (NKJV) – it’s the same idea.

Being sober-minded:  Not merely by abstaining from alcohol, but also do not let your mind wander to other mental intoxicants & addictions.  Things that belong to “the futile ways” (v.18).

We must also be clear-headed, not intoxicated by the thoughts of the world. With 24-hour news, non-stop social media, open-letter, politics, sports, etc. Just as surely as alcohol will impair your judgment, so too will intoxicating worldly thoughts carry away our minds from soundness to paranoia, fear, anxiety, worry, depression, defeat, etc.

Set your hope…revelation of Jesus Christ: Peter combines both the now & not yet aspect of our grace. First, we hope fully on this grace, that is, we are to have a very strong confident expectation of grace at the revelation of Jesus Christ. We look forward to His return when grace will be fully realized. But also, the grace “is being brought” (present participle) to you. Grace is already on the way, indeed, “the immeasurable riches of His grace” are ours in Christ Jesus (Eph 2.7). Yet, there is still more to come at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,

As obedient children: As points to their present actual character before God, namely, obedient children or lit. “children of obedience.” Formerly, these were “children of disobedience” (cf. Eph 5.6), but now they are those who seek to please their heavenly Father by their holy character.

Do not be…former ignorance: Conformed is used by Paul in Romans 12.2. Here, as there, an apostle is exhorting Christians to avoid the pattern or mold into which the world would press us. This is a lifestyle that the audience was familiar with since is was their former ignorance. They did not know God’s ways, but instead gratified their passions.

“Christians must live as God’s children and be obedient to their Father” (Black & Black 45). Before our conversion to Christ we were supremely selfish; now we seek to serve others because saved people serve people. Before our conversion we lived to gratify our own desires; now we seek to do what God desires and so please Him. Before Christ, while we may have regarded basic decencies of life and sought some measure of health or reputation, we still did not regard God’s will; now, without regard to our own reputation or health, we seek to uphold God’s will. Before conversion we conformed to the culture & opinions around us; now we seek to influence culture for Christ and destroy every lofty opinion set up against the knowledge of Christ.

“Now [Christians] are to be governed by a different rule, and their own former standard of morals and of opinions is no longer their guide, but the will of God.” (Barnes)

15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,

But as He…is holy: But is strong contrast. Holiness is an inherent attribute of deity (see Ex 15.11; Isa 6.3). God is separate from, even other than, all that we know in His majesty & glory. Notice: holy God called Christians, i.e. He initiated salvation through the gospel (cf. 2.9, 21; 3.9; 5.10).

You also…all your conduct: Christians have been called to be holy. All your conduct captures every thought & action of every day. This is total holiness, inward & outward conformity to the pattern of holiness (i.e. God Himself). The impetus for our holy conduct is the holiness of God.

“What God asked of Israel when he made that people his own he now asks and must ask of us whom he has called by Jesus Christ.” (Lenski) We imitate His moral character, His holiness, which is the ultimate basis for ethics. God’s holy moral character is the reason there are moral absolutes. Why are certain things right and certain things wrong and they are always right or always wrong? Look no further than the holiness of God. He delights in those things which reflect His holiness (moral character) and hates that which is opposed to His holiness. See Psalm 15.

16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Since it is written: As is always the case, Scripture is the sole authority for doctrine & practice.

“You…I am holy”: Quote from Leviticus 11.44-45; 19.2; 20.7, 26. So both Testaments require holiness from God’s people & both ground this imperative in God’s holiness.

Since God is holy and we profess to be His followers, we must be holy. All that intense mental effort Peter just wrote about is to be devoted to holiness. A purging of the mind of all that is low, base, corrupt, wicked, & evil must take place. Even the heavens are not pure in His sight (Job 15.15)! Nevertheless, we flawed, fallen creatures of dust must roll up the sleeves of our minds, be self-controlled, & hope completely, perfectly upon His grace both now and forevermore. Eager, earnest effort is what is required of committed Christians. We are saints only if we pursue holiness with all that is within. And we do because we know “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12.14). It is not just the big sins which weigh down the soul so that we do not progress in holiness (murder, fornication, etc.). A thousand little one pound sins will just as surely crush the soul. Stop using the world’s goods on yourself alone (selfishness). Cease thinking evil about other people, esp. your brethren (malice). Put away the idolatry of worry and pride. Then cultivate Christ-like behaviors & attitudes: help others, love others, esp. the unlovable. Do good to people, esp. your enemies. Not only have you shed those things which God hates, you are allowing His holiness to be reflected in you. Herein is true religion: the imitation of Him we worship. Holiness is imitating God.

17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,

And if…[work]: Or “and sincebecause this is a continuation of what Peter has been saying & no doubt these Christians do call the impartial judge of all Father. God called them to be obedient children, so they call Him Father. But He is also He Who judges (present part.) or more accurately “the one judging.” So in view is not final judgment (although this still applies, cf. 2 Cor 5.10), but the idea Peter expresses here is that God is presently weighing our actions & thoughts without prejudice or favoritism (lit. not receiving face). Our “work” summarizes all our actions & thoughts.

Conduct…your exile: Since God is an ever-present judge who weighs the heart, since we live in His presence and He knows our personal “work,” reverential awe & respect (fear) is the appropriate response during our earthly lives (i.e. the time of our exile).

Is our work holy unto God? Most people jump immediately to the final judgment. However, God is an ever-present judge, either excusing or condemning our life’s work. He “judges” or is judging right now. Either He pats us on the back or head and says “atta boy” or He shakes His head and “Why?” We need to maintain this holy fear derived from a deep sense of God’s presence realized by faith. We cannot even offer acceptable worship without godly, reverential fear of our God (Hebrews 12.28-29). Some (many?) in Christendom are of the opinion that the OT preaches fear, but the NT teaches nothing but love. Jesus and the NT writers bid us fear God.

18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,

Knowing…your forefathers: here is what prompts that reverential fear: knowledge of redemption. These Christians were slaves of the empty & useless lifestyle passed down to them by their ancestors. But in Christ they have been liberated from those ways. The contrast between how they conduct themselves now versus how they conducted themselves before is drawn. They were ransomed from (Gk ek) or out of the sphere of sinful ways to the sphere of obedience to God. The hereditary chain of sin is broken by Christ’s blood.

We tend to think of the spiritual aspects of redemption (saved from sin), but Peter points out the practical nature of redemption (saved from a former lifestyle). How many people today are caught up in the empty lifestyle passed down to them from the previous generation? How many people today know all too well the futility of their lifestyle? The hereditary chain of partying; the hereditary chain of drinking; the hereditary chain of smoking; the hereditary chain of drug abuse; the hereditary chain of pride; the hereditary chain of anger; the hereditary chain of foul language; the hereditary chain of hatred; the hereditary chain of worthlessness. Christ’s blood and only Christ’s blood can break all these chains. We here know this, just as the 1st century audience knew it: had it not been for God & the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we would still be in bondage to that former futile lifestyle. But God and Christ change lives.

Not with…silver or gold: Silver and gold cannot liberate anyone from spiritual captivity. No physical, earthly object(s) could buy back these people from their former sinful manner of life.

19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

But with…Christ: But is emphatic (Gk alla). The impetus for holy conduct as exiles under empire is the ransom price: Christ’s precious blood. Only Christ’s blood could pay the ransom price.  Unlike gold & silver which will ultimately perish, Christ’ body did not see corruption (cf. Acts 2.31).

Not bling but blood. Not coins but Christ. The blood of Christ is so precious, so valuable to God. We must never take lightly the extreme cost of our redemption. The moment we do is when the evil has opportunity to snatch us away from Christ. To lightly esteem or underestimate the value of Christ’s blood in our redemption is a root of all kinds of evil. It is at the heart of every fallen away Christian. If we truly esteemed Christ’s blood as precious, as supremely valuable, we would never walk away from Him, but cling to Him more closely.

Like that…blemish or spot:  Some see here a Passover connection however it seems better to understand this more broadly since frequently the requirement under the Law was for a lamb “without blemish” (Lev 3.6; 4.32; et al). Christ of course was without sin—pure & undefiled. Thus Christ is the fulfillment of all the sacrifices under the Law. Specifically here, He was sacrificed in our stead to free us from bondage of the former life.

20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

He was foreknown…the world: Before time existed, in eternity, God knew that man would sin & rupture relationship with Him and need to be ransomed. So Christ, the Son, was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13.8). It was the plan before time began.

But was made manifest…you: With the cosmic, eternal foreknowledge of God before them, Peter says that all of the scheme of redemption was “for your sake” (NIV). From the timeless realm of eternity comes the Lamb into human history (time & space) in the last times, i.e. “the end of the ages” (1 Cor 10.11). In light of such a great revelation of God’s Son, live appropriately.

21who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Who through Him as believers in God: Through Christ those to whom Peter wrote had become believers, that is they came to put their trust in God. Their faith is based upon historical facts…

Who raised…Him glory: i.e. the resurrection & ascension of Christ by the power of God.

So that…in God: By the resurrection and glorification (exaltation) of Christ, God has a laid a firm foundation upon which the Christian can build his/her faith. Further, he/she can have confident expectation of their own resurrection and glorification someday.

22Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

Having purified…love: Having purified (perf.) is used here in a spiritual sense to indicate consecration to God’s service. Their souls, i.e. their whole persons, are set apart for service unto God. Purification happens “in obedience to the truth” (NASB) and is for (Gk eis) a sincere (lit. unhypocritical) brotherly love (Gk Philadelphian). So Peter’s focus is on the rationale behind love: they love their siblings because they have purified their souls by obeying the truth.

Peter’s first specific application of his command to live a holy life is for Christians to love one another. This then is the first mark of genuine Christians who are in pursuit of holiness: deep, earnest love for their fellow Christians. This is testimony to the power of the gospel. Even the most hard-hearted individual might have their affections changed dramatically & permanently.

“Love one another” – why this command to these people? Certainly the temptation to just survive with fellow Christians, gathered together & rubbing shoulders like so many marbles in a sack. But that Peter has to command this implies they were a) growing lax in fulfilling this “new command” or b) former relationships with non-Christians were being rekindled. It would have been easy for these persecuted Christians to just fall back into old patterns of life, relapse due to these old connections. How many Christians does this same thing happen? Old relationships with people who know you became a Christian but themselves do not want a part of Christ have dragged many backward. But we have exchanged the flesh for the Spirit! Saved people love other saved people.

Love one another…heart: “As [these Christians] face persecution and distress from without, it is vital that they maintain mutual support from within” (Black & Black 51). Earnestly includes not only intensity but also duration (i.e. without ceasing). A pure heart is a prerequisite for Christian love.

This is all the more reason why our new relationships with fellow Christians must be all more “earnest” and spring from a “pure heart.” This is all the more reason why love must be “unhypocritical,” that is, genuine & without show. This is not a call for Christian glad-handing & hand-patting. Love is not smarmy. This is not a call for “working the crowd” or “pressing the flesh.” Love is not political. This is not a call for self-exaltation – “What would you do without me, brother?” Love does not boast (excessive praise). This certainly is not a call to pretend to love your brother to their face, & then tear them down behind their back to someone else. Real, genuine, sincere love is not duplicitous. “God is love” and He is none of these things.

Genuine Love: Romans 12.9; 2 Cor 6.6. Love from a “pure heart” – that is it is unmixed, i.e. not because of what you can do for me or “what have you done for me lately?” Not because it gives me some benefit or pleasure. Not because you belong to my church. “Even sinners do that!” That’s worldly love, but genuine love from a pure heart is unmixed with worldly love. “Earnest” or fervent – it is hot! “Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of YHWH. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it” (Songs 8.6-7).

23since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

Since…born again: cf. v.3. Single word in original (perf. Pass.). Christians were born again and stand born of God as His children. Here is perhaps the highest argument for strong love for one another: we are all children of the Father, all born again.

The use of two perfect tense words (“having purified” [v.22] & “having been born again”) is interesting. The first is active; the second is passive. Said another way, the first states what we are able to do, the second what God did. The first goes back to the second. In other words, because God has caused us to be born again, we have been & are purifying our souls by our obedience to His truth.

Not…imperishable: Or “not of mortal seed (i.e. parentage) but of immortal.” The contrast is between natural birth (by a human father) & spiritual birth (by the heavenly Father).

“The seeds are the thoughts of God, the truth of God; and they are seeds out of which the life of holiness must burst and grow” (Caffin 59).

Through the…word of God: It is through His word that God causes people to be born again. The word is identified as “the good news” (v.25). “It is the uniform doctrine of the Scriptures that divine truth is made the instrument of quickening the soul into spiritual life” (Barnes). The word is living and abiding of course because Jesus said “My words will never pass away” (Matt 24.35, et al).

24for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,

For…: This introduces the quotation from Isaiah 40.6, 8 as confirmation of what Peter has said.

“All flesh…flower of grass”: All flesh speaks all human beings, mankind. All its glory is a reference to man’s accomplishments, beauty, strength, intelligence, riches, & greatness. Peter says all mankind & all of the greatness of mankind is like grass…the flower of grass. In this comparison, Peter is pointing out the frailty of mankind.

“The grass…falls”:  Lit. “withered the grass, fallen the bloom!” It is emphatic. These earthly, natural elements fade away and perish. So too is human life & glory transitory, given only a certain amount vitality & endurance before it gives out.

We know how brief this life is. It is theme constant in Scripture (James 4.14, et al). When a brother or sister, a loved one, a close friend dies we are reminded yet again by our experience of the transitory nature of this life. Both Scripture & experience affirm what Peter is saying here.

25but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

“But the…forever”: Now the contrast—while everything in the natural world is transitory, the word (Gk rhema) of the Lord (LXX of God) is permanent. The world fades, but the word is fixed. Christians have an eternally abiding nature (2 Pt 1.4) because we have been born again by “the living & abiding word,” the forever-word of God.

“The Word of the Lord Abides Forever” – this world is going out of business. But God’s word is “living & abiding,” that is, it lives and continues to lives. Men & women, like grass & flowers, wither and pass away. But when the eternal word of God is uttered and they hear it with open ears and open heart, eternal life is imparted to the obedient. Everything in this world gives out except the spoken word of God contained in the gospel today.

And this word…preached to you: Word (Gk rhema) is the spoken word of God. It is the “good news” of Zion & Jerusalem (Isa 40.9), fulfilled in Christ, preached to you & imparting life & grace.

1So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

So…: Since you have obeyed the gospel, been born again, & are to love one another…

Put away: Or stop doing what you are used to doing. Same word Paul uses in Ephesians (4.22) in speaking of putting off the old self. Indeed, these Christians have been ransomed from the former lifestyle and in Christ have a new lifestyle to live before their Father & with one another.

All malice: Every bit of hateful feelings toward others is to be abandoned. Malice is a disposition or spirit which holds ill-will & thinks evil of other people. Stop thinking evil of others, esp. siblings.

Malice eats churches alive because it eats too many members alive.

All deceit: Or “guile” (KJV, ASV). This is trickery & treachery, fraud & falsehood. Brethren ought not lie to each other, nor express with their lips what is not in their hearts.

Is it deceitful for us when we greet each other to respond “fine” when life is anything but fine? “How are you?” “Fine.” But you’re really not. Is that a form deceit?  Lenski says deceit is “to mislead other to their own hurt and to our own supposed advantage.”

Hypocrisy:  Lit. hypocrisies (pl). Pretending to be what we are not. The word originally was for stage actors in a play who wore masks & pretended to be someone else. Appearing religious, pious, Christian, when we never intend to truly be such. Plural because there are so many ways to be fake.

Barnes says the hypocrisies are toward both God and man:

hypocrisy to God is, when persons profess that which they have not, as love to God, faith in Christ, zeal for religion, fervent devotion, and sincerity in the worship of God; and do all they do to be seen of men, and appear outwardly righteous, and yet are full of all manner of iniquity: hypocrisy to men is, pretence of friendship, loving in word and tongue only, speaking peaceably with the mouth, but in heart laying wait; a sin to be abhorred and detested by one that is born from above; and is contrary to that integrity, simplicity, and sincerity of heart, which become regenerate persons, the children of God, and brethren one of another:

Envy: Envies (pl). Or “jealousies” (cf. NCV). Hating others because of some advantage (real or imaginary) or possession they have which we do not.

All slander: or “evil speaking” (NKJV).  This all kinds of unkind talk which seeks only to run down someone else. Defamation of character, false accusations, backbiting,

Note; all of these vices are not in keeping with the character of those who have been begotten of God and infused with a new divine nature. Those who have experienced the grace of God must themselves learn to be gracious to others, esp. toward brothers & sisters.

“All these sins aim at harming other people, whereas love seeks the good of others” (Grudem 94). All of these sins likewise will hurt the Christian, hinder his/her growth, and quite possibly jeopardize their salvation unless abandoned immediately. We must take off this robe of many sins

2Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

Like newborn infants…: Infants would be free from all of the vices mentioned in v.1. As those “born again” by the Father they must “be infants in evil” but mature in their thinking (1 Cor 14.20).

Long for…spiritual milk: Long is an imperative and expresses a desire for something. As they get rid of the impure desires of v.1, they are to “crave” (NIV) for the pure spiritual milk of God. These would be the spiritual truths & doctrines of God which are “without guile” (contrast v.1).  Indeed, “the commandment of YHWH is pure” (Psalm 19.8).

Irenaeus, early church writer, in talking about heretics in his day that they mixed the pure spiritual milk with chalk. How many today do the same thing with the pure, unadulterated gospel of God? They gag & choke on the polluted, theologically shallow gospel!

The milk is “spiritual” (Gk logikon from which we get “logic”) or “reasonable” or “rational.” Hence, all of the sins mentioned in v.1 are unreasonable & irrational behaviors for the child of God. Flee to the reasonable, rational shores of pure love for one another & for God.

That…salvation: Putting away sinful attitudes & practices while filling ourselves up with the love & purity of God & His words is vital for spiritual growth. “The soul which feeds upon the pure milk of the Word [grows] continually unto salvation” (Caffin 69).

3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

If indeed…is good:  Cf. Psalm 34.8. If would better be understood as “for” (RSV) or “since.”  Peter does not doubt these Christians have tasted the goodness & kindness of God. Rather, assuming they have tasted the Lord’s goodness, they will crave even more & fuller tastes.

You know how sometimes you try something which you are not sure you will like. As a kid you are coerced into trying stuff which was unappealing to you with the phrase, “You might like it.” Well, Peter knows that those who taste God’s goodness will like. And having tasted it…mmm…Yes, I would like more please! “The first experiences of the Christian life stimulate God’s people to further efforts” (Caffin 69).

There is some neat word play here: the word for Christ is Christos and the word for good is chrestos. In fact, early church writers like Tertullian adopted the confussion of heathens: Christos chrestos, Christ is good. Indeed, Christians follow the good Christ.

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.

Growing in Your Walk with Christ, part 5

Paul continues to expound upon the new kingdom ethic which should be normative for Christians. There are certain behaviors, actions, & attitudes which should be avoided at all cost by Christians. At the beginning of chapter 5 Paul’s practical guidance reaches from those sins which some consider “light” offenses to those which are very “heavy.” Make no mistake – all of them are sins. Kingdom citizens seek to rid themselves of all impurity.

A Pure Walk (5.1-7)

Living with Christ requires abstaining from impure & immoral behavior.

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

Therefore: Seeing that “God in Christ forgave you”…

Be imitators of God: Be (present imperative) or “become” indicates a process with progress. Paul exhorts these Christians to “become” imitators (Gk mimêtai, from which we get “mimic”) of God. Imitate God in His forgiving love specifically, but also in holiness generally.

The call to follow Christ is a call to imitate God is a call to holiness. We have been made children of God by the grace of God. Since He has saved us by grace through faith (2.8) we have an obligation to live according to His holy calling with which He called us (2.10; 4.1). Of course it begs the question “How is it possible to imitate One who infinitely above us, the Sovereign God of the universe?”

As beloved children: Children should look like their Father who loves them.

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Walk in love: “Let every act of life be dictated by love to God and man” (Clarke).

As Christ…for us: Christ is our example & model of love. His steadfast love was the impetus for Him giving Himself up to death on our behalf.

This is similar to Hebrews where Jesus is both our great High Priest (4.15) and the better sacrifice (9.23) offered outside the city (13.12).

A fragrant offering…to God: The Offerer and offering are one and the same. Fragrant or “sweet-smelling” is language harkening to the burnt (Lev 1.13), grain (Lev 2.2), & peace (Lev 3.5) offerings. Sacrifice points to Christ’s death as a sin offering acceptable to God to reconcile us.  “Christ is not merely one kind of offering, or sacrifice, but every kind” (Coffman).

Christ’s life was a whole burnt offering to God and His death was a sin offering. He fulfilled all the various offerings and sacrifices. In a similar way, when we “live a life of love” (NIV), we unite in Christ’s offering, which is to say our life becomes a sweet savor unto God.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

But [fornication]: Gk porneia. This is illicit sexual intercourse of all kinds—heterosexual, homosexual, etc. Marriage is the proper place for sex.

All impurity or covetousness: Or indicates that these are the same but different, the difference being impurity is more general whereas covetousness is specific. The former seems to be “sexual perversions of all kinds” whereas the latter is engaging those activities for selfish reasons (Patzia 257).

Notice the sharp contrast between Christ’s self-denying sacrifice and sin’s self-satisfying indulgence. The Jewish idea of idolatry being the root of all sins is present here. There is always the struggle concerning who we will worship and pledge alligence to: God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) or something else (in particular here, sex outside of marriage – be it physical or fantasy).

Must not…among saints: Engaging this this type of behavior is a contradiction of those who claim to be called by God. Saints are to be holy & these sins must not exist among us.

Our culture is so sexually charged that we need this instruction badly. “Sex sells” and companies such as Carl’s Jr. and Victoria’s Secret know it. In this hyper-sexualized culture, the clarion call of God through this epistle is unmistakable: this kind of behavior is not proper for the saints of God. Like these Christians, we are surrounded by a culture of sex. Yet Christians are not to adopt the lax sexual standards of our surrounding society. Rather, we must uphold the standard of God: the beauty of sex expressed in marriage and the ugliness of sexual sin.

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Let…crude joking: Filthiness or “vulgar speech” (NET) is the kind of behavior that a morally sensitive person should be ashamed of. Foolish talk is the kind of talk uttered by a drunkard which is senseless and unprofitable. Crude joking or “coarse jesting” (NASB) is the kind of joking which includes double entendres and obscene references.

Note that this is not forbidding all humor. One can be humorous without being crude, filthy, or vulgar. What is condemned here and should be rejected by saints of God is that which is morally and spiritual perverse, the use of humor as a way to play with sin.

Which are out of place: There is no place for these things in the life of the Christian.

Not only are we not to engage in these immoral practices; we shouldn’t even talk about them. What comes out of the mouth is a reflection of the heart. (Matt 12.34) The three categories covered by Paul deal with everything from vulgarity/obscenity to defiance toward God to innuendos (Snodgrass 276). A quick way to determine if a person is conformed to the world or transformed after Christ is by what they say and how they feel about it. Use of this kind of language which God prohibits and lack of remorse for it is an indication that the heart & mind have been darkened.

But instead…thanksgiving: Gk eucharistia at the heart of which is charis (grace). The three (3) modes of speech preceding are graceless speech. Hearts captured by God’s grace will issue forth with praise & thanksgiving to God with the mouth.

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

For you…is covetous: “For this you know with certainty” (NASB). These Christians knew without a doubt that continuation in certain practices led to forfeiting one’s eternal inheritance. These include 1) Fornication, 2) Impurity, & 3) Greed. These connect right back to verse 3, with the caveat that at the heart of covetousness is idolatry. Whatever one covets—be it money, power, pleasure— becomes their god with their affections & devotion going to that rather than God.

Has no…and God: There are not two rival Kings with rival kingdoms; “God’s kingdom is Christ’s kingdom.” (Foulkes 151). Those who practice the above mentioned sins have rejected the rule/reign of God & Christ in their life. Hence, they have renounced their inheritance.

At the heart of the gospel is a changed life. One cannot be saved by God’s grace and remain the same. The old self is put off; the new self is put on. The man who once exploited his fellow man no longer does so because he has become a new man. And a woman becomes a new woman. “The hope of the world is not new programs but new people” (Boice).

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Let no…empty words: Surely there were those in the 1st century who were saying that these various practices were not sinful and that these were not offensive to God. Such preaching is patently misleading & erroneous. Further, it is void of purpose & meaning.

Jesus’ words also ring in my head as I read Paul here: Matthew 5.19. “The greatest disservice that any man can do to a fellow man is to make him think lightly of sin. Any teaching which belittles the horror and the terror of sin is poisonous teaching” (Barclay 194).

For…sons of disobedience: Sons of disobedience (cf. 2.2) is not a phrase describing the saved. These are the faithless ones who engage in said practices and hasten God’s coming fury & rage.

“There were then, as there always are, those who made light of sin, and scoffed at the thought of its consequences” (Foulkes 150). This may have been a similar group to those Paul addressed in his Roman epistle (Rom 6.1-2). They had perverted the grace of God into license to keep on sinning and still enter the kingdom of heaven. Paul emphasizes that Christians are no longer “sons of disobedience” but are now “children of light.” Grace is not an occasion to sin; it brings with it responsibility and obligation. Since God has been so gracious, we ought to seek a holy life.

Therefore do not become partners with them;

Therefore…with them: Since these various actions are incompatible with the nature of those the Father has forgiven; and since the full force of the Father’s fury is to be unleashed on the faithless, Christians are not to share or partake with them in their practices.

John R.W. Stott [as quoted by Boice] says we are God’s new society:

Their theme [the theme of these chapters] is the integration of Christian experience (what we are), Christian theology (what we believe) and Christian ethics (how we behave). They emphasize that being, thought and action belong together and must never be separated. For what we are governs how we think, and how we think determines how we act. We are God’s new society, a people who have put off the old life and put on the new; that is what he has made us. So we need to recall this by the daily renewal of our minds, remembering how we ‘learned Christ … as the truth is in Jesus,’ and thinking Christianly about ourselves and our new status. Then we must actively cultivate a Christian life.

Grow in Your Walk with Christ, part 4

Paul established (see 4.17-24) that the Christian life is putting off/putting on (baptism) and renewal (daily). In the following verses (4.25-32), he will get intensely practical concerning how this new life is to manifest in the believer. This is Christianity; this is a walk worthy of our calling!

A Different Walk

Living with Christ means Christians walk different than the world.

25Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Therefore…falsehood: Since Christians put away once-for-all the old self including falsehood…

Let each…his neighbor: See Zechariah 8.16. Our present habitual practice must be to speak truth to our brethren (v.15). Here neighbor is understood as brother due to the next clause.

For we…of another: The motivation for dealing truthfully with our brother is the body bond. Our fellowship is undergirded by love and truth; lying is detrimental to that bond of peace & unity.

For starters, a Christian should not lie. Lying is harmful to Christ’s church. “Without openness and truth, there can only be disunity, disorder and trouble in human community” (Foulkes 140). So the Christian is to reject what would destroy the body and promote what edifies the body.

26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

Be angry and do not sin: See Psalm 4.4. “Paul’s concern is the prevention of sin, not the obligation of anger” (Snodgrass 250). In fact, believers do not handle anger well so get rid of it (v.31).

Do not…your anger: So if & when the Christian gets angry, deal with it quickly.

27and give no opportunity to the devil.

Give no opportunity to the devil: An imperative with the force “Stop giving the devil opportunity,” implying they were. Given the chance Satan will destroy the church with anger.

What begins as “righteous indignation” (anger against sin) can fester and simmer and grow to bitterness, resentment, pride, and whole host of other things directed toward the church (anger toward brethren). Carrying anger into the next day only allows further opportunity for the devil to tempt us to sin. So handle it while it is still day, for night is coming. Read Psalm 4.4 – how are we going to silently ponder in our beds when we are full of anger? Answer: you can’t. You’ll toss and turn, unable to sleep because of this thing in your brain. There is an old Latin proverb: “He who goes angry to bed has the devil for a bedfellow.”

Someone might say, “Well, Jesus got angry!” Sure He did; and He handled His business that day too! Solomon knew that “anger lodges in the bosom of fools” (Ecc 7.9). “We are not to harbor resentment or keep it rankling in our bosom, lest it should change into downright hatred or revenge” (PC 170).

28Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Let the thief no longer steal: Another imperative indicating that some of the recipients were 1) from this background formerly or 2) still engaged in this behavior though a Christian. That is old self behavior and must be abandoned. No longer links this with the preceding section (v.17).

But rather…his own hands: New self behavior is honest work with [one’s] own hands. Indeed, hard work is the duty of all Christians (2 Thessalonians 3.10-11).

So that…anyone in need: The motivation for abandoning a lifestyle of theft and adopting a lifestyle of honest work is not merely to provide one oneself or one’s own, but to share with the needy.

Notice the progression: It is good not to steal; it is better to engage in honest work. What is best to no longer steal and work so that we might have something to share with someone in need. Or unnatural behavior is to steal; natural behavior is to not steal and work. But supernatural behavior is to not steal, work, and share with those in need.

29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Let no…your mouths: Corrupting carries the idea of “rotten, putrid” like fruit or fish. This is the kind of talk that is moral garbage. “All empty, shallow, thoughtless talk” (Lenski).

But only…the occasion: The opposite of corrupting talk are good or “helpful” (NIV) words. Good words edify others which is the aim of the Christian. Cf. Prov 15.23 for a fit word.

That [He]…who hear:  Through our words, God is able to impart grace. Like our Lord, Christians should be people who have “gracious words” on their lips (Luke 4.22; Col 4.6).

The words which come out of our mouths are a clear indicator of what is in our hearts. This is what Jesus said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12.34). Corrupt speech out of the mouth indicates a corrupt heart. Rotten talk indicates a rotten heart. No, Christians have been revived, refreshed and so our speech should be “good” and pure. Our speech should be life-giving, enlivening others to higher, nobler goals.

Christians should major in communication. That is, we need to be lifelong learners of what to say and how to say it. This will enable us to impart grace in our speech to those who hear. “The Christian should never lose sight of the sad fact of a world lost in sin, without the Lord, needing some word, some ray of light, some word of grace that will point to the Lamb of God that takes away sin” (Coffman).

30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God: See Isa 63.10. Christians grieve the Holy Spirit when, like the people of Israel of old, they rebel & refuse to  obey the word of the Lord. Contextually, when we express anger wrongly or do not deal with it appropriately; return to behavior characteristic of the old self or avoid behavior of the new self; use corrupt language or fail to use gracious words; or are unkind and fail to forgive (v.32),  we offend God’s Holy Spirit.

All sin grieves God. Not just those listed here in Ephesians 4, but every sin is cause for God to sorrow. Specifically, when it comes to the Holy Spirit, we can resist Him (Acts 7.51), lie to Him (Acts 5.3), blaspheme against Him (Mark 3.29), and a host of other sins. All of it saddens God.

By Whom…redemption: cf. 1.13. The sealing takes place at baptism (aorist tense). When a person hears and obeys the gospel, God gives him/her some of Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. This anticipates the coming day of final redemption when we are fully delivered from sin.

31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Let all…from you: The impetus for obeying this command is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer. Bitterness is “sharpness of temper” fueled by resentment; wrath is outbursts of anger whereas anger is the lingering, simmering feelings; clamor (“brawling” NIV) is face-to-face heated confrontation whereas slander is harmful speech spoken behind someone’s back. Put away all these; that is, make a clean sweep of the house. Pick all these up and take them out to the trash!

Along with all malice: Several commentators see malice as the root of all the foregoing. This is a settled disposition “always looking out for opportunities to revenge itself by the destruction of the object of its indignation” (Clarke).

From Jamison, Fausset, Brown adapted from Chrysostom: “Bitterness” begets “wrath”; “wrath,” “anger”; “anger,” “clamor”; and “clamor,” the more chronic “evil-speaking,” slander, insinuations, and surmises of evil. “Malice” is the secret root of all: “fires fed within, and not appearing to by-standers from without, are the most formidable”

32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Be kind…tender-hearted:  We must never seek to bring needless pain to others & should have a heart of pity and compassion toward each other.

Forgiving…forgave you: How did God forgive us in Christ? To the uttermost! Totally!

“If we are to attain to the kingdom of Heaven, it is not enough to abandon wickedness, but there must be abundant practice of that which is good also. To be delivered indeed from hell we must abstain from wickedness; but to attain to the kingdom we must cleave fast to virtue” (Chrysostom).

“Forgiving” (present tense) is the habitual practice of the Christian toward his/her brethren. In kindness and from a heart full of compassion we keep on forgiving one another. The standard for our forgiving one another is none other than God Himself: “as God in Christ forgave [aorist] you [emphatic pl.].” And how has God forgiven us in Christ? As Albert Barnes puts it:

(1) “freely” – without merit on your part – when we were confessedly in the wrong.

(2) “fully;” he has forgiven “every” offence. [Even those we don’t even know about]

(3) “Liberally;” he has forgiven “many” offences, for our sins have been innumerable

To borrow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as God has done unto to you!

The church is the perfect bride of Christ composed of imperfect people. Sometimes old self behavior crops up in brethren. This may have been what was happening with these Christians. How we react when this happens is important. Let us be gracious people, patiently forbearing with one another, mindful that we too are imperfect with our flaws, forgiving as God in Christ forgave us.

Grow in Your Walk with Christ, part 3

Paul continues to expound upon the Church’s responsibilities as together Christians strive to walk with Christ. Verses 17-24 of chapter 4 contrasts the old or former life with the new life that Christians have in Christ. We see immediately that Christianity is not a “When in Rome…” religion. We are not to be conformed to this world. Conforming to the world is a fatal error for the Christian. Rather, Christians are to stand out – “shine like stars” as Paul says in Philippians 2. We are to live holy lives as we are transformed into the image of Christ.

A New Walk (17-24)

Living with & for Christ means Christians have a new lifestyle vastly different than their former one.

17Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

Now this…in the Lord: Now shows Paul is now addressing the intensely practical aspects of Christian living. Focus (I say) & intensity (I testify) are implied. This is a solemn charge (in the Lord).

You must…Gentiles do: These Christians, a majority of which are surely Gentiles, are surrounded by “other” (KJV) Gentiles who live their lives “in the darkness of their godlessness” (Foulkes 133). Paul tells them that Christians do not live like they used to, like the rest of the world. How so?

The futility of their minds: Here is the 1st distinction—useless thinking & thoughts which produce “frivolous, empty aims in life” (PC 151).

We are still surrounded by a culture & society which has largely abandoned God and any semblance of godliness. America has loosed itself from the moorings of its founding upon Christian principles and is now drifting further & further onto the sea of secularism. So much of the thinking today is useless: TMZ, supermarket tabloids, celebrity gossip, fantasy football, etc. And so we have people whose minds are full of content void of meaning.

18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

They are…understanding: Here is the 2nd distinction—lack of spiritual discernment. Perfect tense participle indicates that darkness came in the past (when sin came) & they are still in darkness.

Alienated from the life of God: Here is the 3rd distinction—exclusion from God. Another perfect participle—they lost life (when sin came) & life still eludes them.

Because…hardness of heart: This is an explanation as to the Gentiles spiritual condition. Hardness of heart means they stubbornly refuse and are insensitive to spiritual influences. So they remain ignorant, neither knowing God nor known by Him.

So many today stubbornly refuse or are insensitive to God’s word. Why? It begins in the mind as they 1) pursue meaningless thoughts [futility of mind] and 2) refusal to consider God [darkened understanding]. Their mind is already full; there’s no room for God. This leads to exclusion from the divine presence, privileges, and promises [alienated from life of God].

As Ed Ames sang:

If the soul is darkened
By a fear it cannot name,
If the mind is baffled
When the rules don’t fit the game,
Who will answer? Who will answer? Who will answer?
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!, Hallelujah!

People act as they think. God knows this which is why He invites us to have our thinking transformed, our minds renewed. Thinking rightly should lead to acting rightly.

19They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

They have become callous: or “being past feeling” (NKJV). Habitual sin has left them shameless

Given themselves up…impurity: Here is the 4th distinction—moral depravity. This is the climax: full blown hedonism (lack of moral restraint). Given themselves up (aorist) indicates they threw in the towel on being good. Greedy indicates they want more impurity. See Rom 6.19b.

Our society “parades their sin like Sodom” without regard to offending sensibilities, without shame, no fear of God, and no idea of the degradation of sin. We live in a callous culture! And they are greedy for more of “every kind of impurity.” The dirtier, the better. Is it any wonder marijuana is called a gateway drug; it leads to the harder stuff. Having a beer or two in the evening to unwind typically leads to alcoholism. Stealing glances at one’s porn stash will lead to viewing videos on the internet. When that does not satisfy, one must live out those fantasies in real life, typically through solicitation of a prostitute. Folks, the research is in and it indicates exactly what I’m telling you which is exactly what Paul says here: sin is greedy. “lawlessness leads to more lawlessness.”

20But that is not the way you learned Christ!—

But…Christ: You is emphatic. Learned is aorist tense, pointing back to their conversion. Since they came to know Christ, their lives are radically changed looking nothing like it was before.

When a person learns Christ, that is, they come to know Him in all His beauty and glory, they cannot continue to live like they used. Hence, the “no longer” in this section. Our thinking is no longer futile, we are no longer in spiritual darkness, we are no longer alienated from life with God, we are no longer greedy for immorality. Stated positively…

  1. Futility of mind: Christians are now to think God’s thoughts after Him
  2. Darkened understanding: Christians have been illuminated by the light of God’s truth
  3. Alienated from life with God: Christians have been brought into life with God
  4. Given over to depravity: Christians are in pursuit of holiness

21assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,

Assuming…about Him: Paul calls on these Christians to affirm they had heard (aor.) about Christ, that is, heard Him preached whether by Paul or some other.

Were taught…in Jesus: Since they heard they likewise were taught (aor.). Both events (hearing & teaching) point back to their conversion. They heard about & were taught in Christ in the past. However, the present reality is that the truth is in Jesus. Truth is always in Jesus; indeed, He is truth.

The voice of Christ is still heard through the apostolic word contained in the NT. Those who “have ears to hear, let him hear” and when they do, they come to learn Him. By the way, Christ is in the emphatic position in both statements (i.e. “Him you heard, Him you learned”). That means that Christ is the sum total of the gospel message, He is at the heart of the Christian message. Hence, the final phrase that “the truth is in Jesus.” Only in Jesus is there truth. Indeed, He is “the truth” (John 14.6). And truth still is in Jesus (present reality).

22to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,

To put off the old self: the old self is the hedonistic pagan lifestyle these Christians came out of (v.17). When they heard and learned Christ, they put off (aor. Mid.) that former life. The tense of this verb indicates a snapshot event, esp. baptism. Patzia says the language is “baptismal instruction.”

Which belongs…of life: “As past sins are dealt with by the grace of forgiveness, and as repentance determines to abandonthem completely, all that belongs to the old way of life, the way of the heathen that has been described in verses 17-19, is to be set aside decisively” (Foulkes 137).

Is corrupt…desires: Our “lusts” (NKJV) are deceitful because they promise more than they can deliver. In fact, they only disappoint causing more & more corruption leading to destruction.

23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,

And to be renewed…your minds: present passive indicates this is the ongoing, continual reality for the Christian. Further, this is the work of God on the Christian (pass.), made possible no doubt by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the word.

24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

And to put on the new self: to put off (aor. Mid.) is connected with “to put off” in v.22. Both occur at the same time: baptism. The old self is put off when the new self is put on.

Created…of God: Cf. Col 3.9-10. Surely reticent for Paul is Genesis 1.26. Just as the creation of men was God’s work, so the new self is the work of God since He creates it.

In true righteousness and holiness: lit. in righteousness & holiness of the truth. This stands juxtaposed with the “deceitful desire” of the former life (v.22). See also Luke 1.75; Acts 3.14.

“Baptism is the beginning of a new ethical way of life” (Patzia 250). There is a definite and permanent break from the former life and Paul’s use of the aorist tense makes this all the more clear. The continued struggle against the old self is capture in the constant, continual renewal which must take place (v.23). We must allow God to renew our minds if we would keep off the old self and live the new self in righteousness & holiness. Someone has posited that righteousness is our duty to man (neighbor, v.25) and holiness is our duty to God. Indeed, these two characteristics are linked several times in Scripture (Luke 1.75; Acts 3.14; 1 Thess 2.10). So constantly learning of Christ is essential. We came to learn Christ and continue to learn Christ.

Grow in the Will of God, part 1

Paul began this epistle with praise (1.3-14) and prayer to God (1.15-23) before discussing what God has done in the church (2.1-22). He will continue to pray for his readers (3.14-21). But first he explains 1) the mystery of God, 2) his role with the mystery, & 3) the church’s cosmic mission.

The Revelation of the Mystery (1-6)

Paul had the mystery revealed to him & he delivered it in this epistle, viz., the union of Jews & Gentiles into one body. The Father (ch.1), the Son (ch.2), & now the Holy Spirit (ch.3).

1For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—

For this reason: This phrase is in reference to the foregoing theological ideas just emphasized. As in 1.15, Paul starts a thought but is diverted (v.2-13) by mention, here, of the Gentiles.

I, Paul, a prisoner…you Gentiles: Not just “a prisoner” but literally “the prisoner,” as if there is no other. Paul is in Roman custody, yet he says in truth he is Christ’s prisoner. His imprisonment for (or possibly by) Christ is for the sake of the Gentiles; in fact, it was his preaching to the Gentiles which landed him in prison. He will refer to himself as a prisoner later also (4.1).

It is all in how you look at you circumstances. “One man will regard his prison as a penance; another man will regard it as a privilege. When we are undergoing hardship, unpopularity, material loss for the sake of Christian principles we can either regard ourselves as the victims of men, or as the champions of Christ. Our point of view will make all the difference” (Barclay 142).

2assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

Assuming that you have heard: Seems to indicate that the readers were unfamiliar with Paul personally, indicating that this was a circular letter among the churches in the Lycus River Valley. Several scholars do not see doubt, but certainty (i.e. “since…”); they heard from Paul himself.

The stewardship…for you: Stewardship (Gk oikonomian) was used in 1.10 for Christ. Paul had been entrusted with God’s grace which was a gift given to him (see v.7). He served to dispense that grace to the Gentiles through his role as apostle for you, that is, the “nations.”

In a similar fashion, we, brethren, have been entrusted with the grace of God. We have the gospel of grace. We must be faithful stewards of God’s grace by “dispensing” it to those around us (i.e. evangelism).

3how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

How the mystery: The musterion is the eternal counsel of God kept hidden from man for generations until the times had reached their fulfillment (see p.5). Here especially in this context it is closely related to the gospel being for Gentiles as well as the Jews.

Was made known to me by revelation: The mystery was made known to Paul at some point in his past (aorist tense). Perhaps Paul is thinking of when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and Jesus revealed to him “I am sending you” to the Gentiles (Acts 26.17-18). Cf. Galatians 1.12. The nature of revelation is some truth is uncovered or disclosed by special communication.

As I have written briefly: see 1.9-10. He now expounds upon his brief comments earlier.

None of us had a bright light from heaven blinding us and disclosing some saving secret like Paul did, but we possess the saving secret of God. As the initiated and illuminated of God, we know the mystery of God and can make it known not merely to men but also to spiritual powers in the heavenly places (see verse 10).

4When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,

When you read [this]: This is supplied in English for clarity but is lacking in the Greek. When you read what Paul has written briefly (v.3)…

You can…the mystery of Christ: The word musterion is found 21 times in Paul’s literature with 6 of those in Ephesians (1.9; 3.3, 4, 9; 5.32; 6.19). He will explain it fully in verse 6. So Paul is safe in writing that his readers can understand the mystery just as he understands it.

5which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

Which we not…in other generations: The purpose of God has always been the same though man’s knowledge of His purpose has been limited. The revelation of that grand purpose has been gradual; while the mystery may have been revealed in part in the past, now through the apostles and prophets it has been made fully known.

There were glimpses of God’s grand scheme of redemption, but the full glory of His marvelous plan had yet to be made known fully.

As it has now been revealed: What was once concealed has now been revealed by God. Again, God’s purpose to include Gentiles was not unknown entirely in the Old Testament (cf. Gen 12.3; Isa 49.6); but the full measure of God’s toward the Gentiles was not fully known until now.

To His holy apostles and prophets: Like Paul, these New Testament messengers have been entrusted with the sacred secret of the Savior. That the apostles and prophets are holy speaks to the dedication of their lives to and by the will of God (see 1.1).

By the Spirit: The Spirit alone is able to search “even the depths of God” and only He “comprehends the thoughts of God.”  But the Spirit is also able to teach in words so that man might understand the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2.10-16).

Why don’t we have modern-day prophets? Barnes explains, “They were persons endowed in this manner [i.e. inspired of the Holy Spirit] for the purpose of imparting to the newly formed churches the doctrines of the Christian system. There is no evidence that this was designed to be a permanent order of people in the church. They were necessary for settling the church on a permanent basis, in the absence of a full written revelation, and when the apostles were away. When the volume of revelation was finished, and the doctrines of the gospel were fully understood, the functions of the office ceased.”

6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

This mystery is: These words are provided for clarity. Paul states the substance of the mystery.

Gentiles are fellow heirs: with the Jews, that is. The emphasis here is upon receiving an unearned gift, especially the blessings God has for His people (1.3) and the same inheritance (1.11-14). Note the present tense—Gentile are the following. This is present reality.

Members of the same body:  This is a single word in the Greek (susoma) and is unique to Paul later church writers. Literally it is co-body. There is but “one body” (4.4) and both Jews & Gentiles are part of it.

Partakers…through the gospel: The promise most scholars point to is that made to Abraham (Genesis 12.3) and is confirmed in Galatians 3.7-14. “They do not get this blessing indirectly through the Jews, or by becoming Jews, but directly, as Gentiles” (PC 105).  Only in Christ Jesus can Jews and Gentiles partake of this blessing; only through the gospel are they invited and admitted.

It is still “through the gospel” that we gain access to the promise, body, and inheritance today. We must believe, accept, and obey “the gospel of your salvation” (1.13) to be incorporated into Christ Jesus. As Christians, we need to value the gospel. “If we do not value the gospel as revelation from God, it will not impact our lives.”[1] Think of the parable Jesus told about the pearl of great price (Mt 13.44-46). We have that which is of ultimate value; it was all Paul and all we have. “We must give attention to the gospel, be defined by the gospel, and solve our problems by applying the gospel.”[2] And the gospel is not merely about getting to heaven; it is about life here and now as well as over yonder. It captures our initial conversion and our daily walk as disciples. It touches on our forgiveness and how we ought to forgive others. It speaks to God’s unfathomable love for us and how we ought to love one another. With so many implications upon life right now, it is no wonder Paul calls it “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (v.8). And then we gather with the saints once or twice a week and think we’ve got it. No, we only start unwrapping the gift here; you take it home and finish the job the rest of the week.

[1] Snodgrass 169.

[2] Ibid 170.

Rejoicing in Peace from God

As Paul nears the end of this epistle, he has some final exhortations concerning certain members of the Philippian congregation and for the members in general, especially pertaining to joy (4.2-9).

Peace in the Church (2-3)

Paul requests for the church to help two sisters agree in the Lord.

2I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.

I entreat Euodia: a lady who is a member of the Philippian church whose name means “fragrance.” Unfortunately, it seems she is not spreading the fragrance of Christ since she is involved in a divisive dispute with her sister in Christ.

I entreat Syntyche: another female member whose name means “good luck.” Some suggest these ladies may have hosted (rival) house churches—one Jewish, the other Gentile. However, this is mere speculation for precious little is said about who exactly these women were. What we do know is that Paul earnestly pleads with these two women to…

Agree in the Lord: This is something which needs to characterize the entire Body of Christ (1.27; 2.2, 5). Employ the mind and think the same thing. Whatever it is that is causing this friction, bury it. Both are “in the Lord” and the double “entreat” may indicate both are at fault.

3Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Yes, I ask you also, true companion: or Syzygus (ESV footnote). Scholars differ over whether this is a proper name or not. Many ideas exist as to who this person is: Paul’s wife (though this is a masculine noun with masculine adjective), some leader among the Philippians, a husband or brother of the two ladies (Chrysostom), Timothy or Epaphroditus or Lydia (if not a proper name). The Philippians and the person himself knew who Paul meant.

Help these women: “Help” indicates that both the women will do their best to work for peace in addition to what “true companion” will do. Indeed, he merely joins work in progress.

Who have labored…the book of life: These women played a prominent role in the spread of the gospel in Philippi. In the face of opposition, the locked arms with the apostle and his co-workers and advanced the kingdom. Clement, someone known to the Philippians (why name him if they didn’t), could verify this. Indeed, Euodia and Syntyche have their names written in the book of life, “the roll of the citizens of the heavenly kingdom” (Caffin 156; see also, Ex 32.32; Dan 12.1; Rev 3.5; 13.8; 17.8; et al).

Peace from God (4-7)

All anxiety and worry is to be given to God in prayer so that God’s peace can permeate our entire life.

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Rejoice in the Lord always: cf. 3.1; 1 Thess 5.16. Paul returns to the central theme of this epistle. Only “in the Lord” can people find true joy—Christ in us and we in Him. Since Christians have fellowship with God and God lives among and with us, joy abides with us as we keep these objective truths ever before us. It comes down to what we think (see 4.8).

Again I will say, rejoice: Paul “never wearies of repeating that holy joy is a chief Christian duty” (Caffin 156). “The purest, highest, truest joy is to fill the Christian life like sunshine” (Lenski 874). “I will” is future tense—this will be Paul’s constant theme in life.

5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;

Let your reasonableness…to everyone: or “gentleness” (NIV, NKJV). This is a characteristic of Christ (see 2 Cor 10.1). It is an attitude of gracious forbearance which does not insist upon it’s own rights or way. Refusing to retaliate when attacked is allowing the joy of the Lord to shine forth. “Everyone” indicates that more than just church is in view; non-Christians need to experience (root Gk ginosko) the magnanimity of Christians (cf. 2.15).

The Lord is at hand: Psa 119.151. Cf. 1 Cor 16.22 (“Maranatha”); James 5.8. Proximity or parousia? Either. God is present with His people, ever mindful of them as they live with gentleness toward all. Also, He is coming back one day and this should be a motive of our magnanimity. Further, His nearness promotes within the Christian the incentive to pray (v.6).

6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Do not be anxious about anything: present imperative (command), “stop being anxious.” Worry “betrays a lack of trust in God’s care” (Martin 171).  Lit. the word means to have a divided mind, pulled in different directions. “Anything” (lit. nothing) means any man, any woman, anything (ex. Spouse, kids, job, health, bills, economy, etc.).

But in everything…known to God: “But” (Gk. Alla) is a sharp contrast. Not worry BUT prayer. “Prayer is the cure for care” (Spurgeon). “Everything” menas…everything. Develop the habit of referring all things, both great and small, to God in prayer. Four (4) prayer words: 1) prayer (Gk proseuche) is general invocation of God; 2) supplication (Gk deesei) is a request as a result of need; 3) thanksgiving (Gk eucharistias) springs from the remembrance of God’s goodness and mercy; 4) requests (Gk aitemata) are specific things asked for. We can talk to the cosmic sovereign Ruler of everything about everything.

7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And the peace of God…understanding: Here is the result attached of taking all things to God in prayer: He gives us His peace. The God of peace (v.9) gives peace; the Son left His peace (Jn 14.27); the Holy Spirit produces peace (Gal 5.22). The entire Godhead is at work to bring us peace which eludes the minds of natural men, but floods the mind of the spiritual.

Will guard…in Christ Jesus: “guard” is a military term which would conjure an idea familiar to the Philippians who lived in a garrisoned city. They were used to seeing Roman soldiers on guard. That is what the peace of God does to the hearts and minds of Christians (“in Christ”).

Peace of Mind (8-9)

Pondering and practicing things which bear the eight (8) characteristics listed will bring peace of mind to the Christian and invoke the presence of God.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Finally, brothers: Paul seeks to conclude his letter to these Christians in Philippi. Some see a continuation of thought—if peace would abide then certain steps must be taken.

Whatever is true: as opposed to false. Things honest and in keeping with historical fact.

Whatever is honorable: or noble. Things of dignity, respect, and reverence.

Whatever is just: or right. Things that duty demands. Same word for righteous.

Whatever is pure: clean things, thoughts, words, deeds. Free from moral defect. Unmixed.

Whatever is lovely: used only here in the NT. Things pleasing, beautiful, or winsome.

Whatever is commendable: Things well spoken of and praiseworthy.

If there is any excellence: A word used by Peter (1 Pt 2.9; 2 Pt 1.3, 5) which seems to denote anything which the Philippians would find best and good morally.

If there is anything worthy of praise: anything generally or universally deserving praise. Anything which Paul might have missed but are morally excellent and praiseworthy…

Think about these things: NKJV “meditate on these things.” Present imperative. Reflect upon these virtues and allow them to shape your conduct. Keep on thinking about these things with logic and in detail. Give careful attention and study to them. “Let these be the considerations which guide your thoughts and direct your motives” (Caffin 157-158).

9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

What you have…in me: Cf. 1 Cor 11.1. Paul had lived among these brethren for a short time but his example lingered in their minds. They had been taught both formally and informally; the traditions had been passed on; they had heard his preaching; they had witnessed his life.

Practice these things: present imperative. From contemplation to transformation. Reflection should produce a response. The Philippians were to put into action the pattern Paul had given in his words and deeds. These things should comprise their habitual practice (career).

And the God of peace will be with you: God lives among people who are holy in thought and holy in lifestyle.  Herein lies the incentive to ponder and practice holiness. Not just His peace, but God Himself “will be with you.”

Rejoicing in the Prize of Glory

There apparently were some (“the enemies”) who might have charged that the standard of conduct was not clear. So Paul responds to these with a living pattern of behavior by which their lives could be formed and fashioned. Imitation of this apostolic example assures Christians of their citizenship in heaven and the coming resurrection. This is Paul’s main point in 3.17-4.1 of Philippians.

17Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Brothers: fellow Christians in Philippi who are citizens of the heavenly kingdom (v.20).

Join in imitating me: as Paul imitates Christ (1 Cor 11.1). Or this imperative is a call for the Philippians to be fellow imitators of Christ or God (cf. Eph 5.1).

And keep your eyes…in us: “keep your eyes on” (Gk skopeite) is to scope them out. Fix your eyes on them and pay attention; observe, contemplate. There is a metaphor change from the Christian life being compared to a race to now a walk. Watch those who daily tread the Christian path of life. The “example” (Gk tupon), either imprint or image, is the Philippians (“have,” present tense) in “us.” Who? Certainly Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus contextually speaking. In a more general sense, the apostolic college at large.

18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.

For many…walk as [the] enemies of the cross of Christ: No definite number is given and very little is said about their manner of life. But that they tread an unchristian path of life is evident by their conduct. These enemies have given themselves over to their evil passions, evading the obligations Christ’s death lays upon them concerning holiness. They are therefore hostile to the cause of Christ though they move around in Christian circles.

Of whom…with tears: “I have often told you” is past tense. This is not news to the church in Philippi. Paul had constantly warned them of the erroneous enemies among or around them. Through tear laden eyes Paul acknowledges that even as he writes they are still enemies. “So true is his sympathy, so deep his care for all men.” – Chrysostom

19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

Their end [is] destruction: The destiny of these “many” enemies is destruction for they have cut themselves from salvation in Christ. “They have no prospect except the doom which awaits unsaved humanity” (Martin 161).  “Destruction” is the same word found in 1.28. Lenski says, “The word never means annihilation as has, in view of the translation ‘destruction,’ been claimed by those who attempt to abolish hell.”  It does mean the loss of eternal life unto eternal misery and death. It is the kind of ruination that would happen to a sunk ship.

Their god [is] their belly: Elsewhere Paul speaks of those who “serve…their own belly” to describe divisive brethren who must be avoided (Rom 16.18). Perhaps here the Judaizers are in mind who by their regulations regarding clean/unclean food and “Taste not—touch not” doctrines (cf. Col 2.21) were literally serving their belly while causing dissension in the church

They glory in their shame: Glory, in the Bible is often used of God and in this case answers to “god” in the previous phrase. “Their shame” are their evil practices. This seem to be an allusion to Hosea 4.7 where shame is a “devastating caricature of false gods” (Martin 161). So their sensuality, carnality, all-around earthly-mindedness is condemned.

With minds set on earthly things: All of the preceding is merely indicative that the enemies of the cross of Christ are living their life without a thought of eternity. Their attentions and affections are given over to on a continual basis (present tense) to earthly things. Further, their conduct carries out what they have their minds set on. “It is not so much those who deny the doctrines of the cross, as it is those who oppose its influence on their hearts” (Barnes).

20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

But our citizenship is in heaven: present tense. It exists there now, therefore, we are even now enjoying the benefits of being kingdom citizens. Though Paul was a Roman citizen and leveraged that privilege to his advantage (Acts 16.38; 22.25-29); though the Philippians, by virtue of the fact that they lived in a Roman colony, enjoyed the rights and privileges of citizenship—Christians are citizens of a kingdom not of this world (John 18.36). “Our” citizenship is above which requires certain behavior (cf. 1.27) stands in contrast to those who have their “minds set on earthly things” (v.19). Christians are  looking toward the imperial city of Christ. All we have is in the heavens: our Savior, our city, whatever a man can name (Chrysostom).

And from it…Lord Jesus Christ: this waiting is appropriate behavior of the kingdom citizen. Eager expectation of the imminent return of Christ is the normal attitude of the Christian.  Even as right now our citizenship is in heaven, we are also presently waiting for Him who will deliver us from this world to our home. While Christians are saved in the present there is yet a future full and final realization of salvation to come.

21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Who will transform: the root for “transform” is the word we get our English words “scheme” and “schematic” (Gk metaschematisei). A scheme is a plan or design. In this case, coupled with the prefix, the original design is changed .

Our lowly body…glorious body: lit. our body of humiliation, which refers to our present mortal, carnal, broken by sin, subject to pain, destruction, and death body.  This body will be changed to be  like (lit.) the body of His glory. This refers to an immortal, spiritual, heavenly, indestructible, undying body. Whether dead or alive at the time of Christ’s return, “we shall all be changed” (1 Cor 15.51). This new body will be suitable for life in the afterlife and to associate with Christ in His glory.

By the power…to himself: How much power does Christ have? Plenty, and then some. His power enables Him to bring under firm control everything—the cosmos, angels, demons, Satan, death, hell. The whole universe and beyond. “Nothing is to hard for you” (Jer 32.17). “If anyone doubts the power of Christ to do this transformation, Paul replies the he has power ‘even to subject all things unto himself’” (Robertson).

1Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Therefore: This is the conclusion of the third chapter (cf. 2.12). In light of the foregoing…

My brothers: fellow citizens of the kingdom of Christ, born again into that kingdom (Jn 3.3,5)

Whom I love and long for: a few words later they are also “my beloved.”  No other congregation associated with Paul is referred to in this manner. “Paul lets all his love, all his joy in the Philippians, all his pride in them, speak at once” (Lenski). It his love and affection for these brethren which should act as motivation to carry out what he commands.

My joy and crown: As noted, joy runs throughout this epistle. These brethren had been nothing but a joy to Paul. Further, their steadfastness would indicate he had not “run in vain” but had run and won the victors crown (Gk stephanos).

Stand firm thus in the Lord: This is an admonition oft repeated by Paul (1 Cor 16.13; Gal 5.1; 2 Thess 2.15). Earlier in the epistle, Paul said of his brethren that they are “standing firm in one spirit” (1.27). This is further behavior becoming citizens of the kingdom of Christ. Here, the call is to stand “in the Lord” as opposed to outside of the Lord like the enemies of the cross would. Since our citizenship is “in [the] heavens” Christians must keep standing (present imperative), unmoved by the errors and attacks of enemies and the defection of the panicked.

Special Study – Savior

The word “Savior” appears 24 times in the New Testament. Interestingly, Paul only refers to Jesus as “Savior” about nine (9) times in all his epistles (Eph 5.23; Phil 3.20; 1 Tim 1.1; 2.3; 4.10; 2 Tim 1.10; Titus 1.3, 4; 2.10, 13; 3.4, 6). Some argue he uses the term infrequently because gods and even the emperor were referred to as “saviors.” By comparison, John refers to Jesus as Savior only twice (Jn 4.42; 1 Jn 4.14) and Luke only 4 times (Luke 1.47; 2.11; Acts 5.31; 13.23). Arguably, Paul uses it more than all other New Testament writers.

Rejoicing in Partnership for the Gospel

After explaining how the Philippians can maintain pure conduct before God (Philippians 2.12-18), Paul turns his attention to two brothers in Christ who have meant a great deal to him during his ministry: Timothy and Epaphroditus. These passages are often overlooked by Christians, but they communicate the deep heartfelt affection of Paul for his fellow laborers in the faith.

Timothy’s Service (2.19-24)

Timothy is an example of selfless service in the gospel with Paul pursuing Christ’s interests

19I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.

I hope…to you soon: His hope was not in himself—his power, intelligence, abilities, etc. Paul’s confident expectation in the Lord Jesus was to send Timothy to the Philippians. Even as he was convinced of his remaining, coming, and helping of the Philippians (1.25-26), so he was expecting to send Timothy.

So that…news of you: Here is the purpose for sending Timothy—Paul wants to hear about how the Philippians are doing. Timothy will help the Philippians by his presence and counsel and will help Paul with his report of their Christian life.

20For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.

For I have no one like him: Lit. like-minded or equal in soul. Paul and Timothy are of the same mind and attitude. Think of all the traveling companions the apostle Paul and then consider this statement. Timothy was a man after Paul’s own heart.

Who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare: Paul’s heart was for the Philippians; so too was Timothy’s. They shared the same concern and interest in the Philippians’ spiritual wellbeing. They faced the daily anxiety for all the churches (cf. 2 Cor 11.28).

21For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

For they all…of Jesus Christ: That is, all those available to him. It seems doubtful that Luke would fall under this category; perhaps he was minister elsewhere and was not with Paul. While those around Paul are “brothers” (4.21), they are apparently not as willing as Timothy to spend and be spent for the sake of others. Another theory: this is a sorrowful statement about the present condition of the world (full of selfishness and self-seeking) and having a brother like Timothy is a rare thing.

22But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.

But you know Timothy’s proved worth: “know” is the kind of knowledge which comes by experience (Gk root ginosko). In fact, he had been to Philippi at least once (Acts 16).

How as a son…in the gospel: It was fitting for Timothy to labor (lit. slave, from Gk douleuo) like this with Paul since he was Paul’s “true child in the faith” (1 Tim 1.2; 2 Tim 1.2; 1 Cor 4.17). The kind of service mentioned here is done in a humble manner at the demands of another, i.e. slave. This is the kind of work Paul and Timothy engaged in as father and son. Timothy “was both a son and servant of St. Paul, and also a fellow-worker with St. Paul, both being slaves of God” (Caffin 63).

23I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me,

I hope therefore to send him: Whenever Paul wanted information about a congregation or wanted to encourage and build-up brethren and he personally could not go, Timothy went.

Just as soon…with me: Whether he will be released from prison or face a martyr’s death. This way Timothy would bring the report of Paul’s fate. This indicates there is no certainty about his future at the time of his writing.

24and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.

And I trust…will come also: This is similar to what he said in 1.25-26. Paul is persuaded that what is needful is for him to continue in the body. He has come to this conclusion and holds to it (perfect tense). Only in the Lord can he look to the future with such confidence. “We do not know certainly what he meant by the term shortly. The uncertainty as to what whim might strike Nero was an uncertain thing to count upon” (Lipscomb 193). Coffman thinks this hope was probably fulfilled, pointing to Titus 3.12 as evidence.

Epaphroditus’ Sickness (2.25-30)

God spared Epaphroditus so that he could render further service to Paul & his brethren

25I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need,

I have thought…Epaphroditus: Epaphroditus is known only by this verse and 4.18. He is a different person that Epaphras, another co-worker of Paul’s—Epaphroditus was from Philippi, Epaphras was from Colossae. This man Paul was compelled to send back home.

My brother…minister to my need: Paul uses five (5) phrases to describe the usefulness of Epaphroditus. First, he is Paul’s (“my”) brother in Christ. Second, he is Paul’s fellow worker (Gk sunergon); he worked with Paul in the furtherance of the cause of Christ. Third, he is Paul’s fellow soldier; they had been through severe trials and tests together. Fourth, he is the Philippians’ (“your”) messenger (Gk apostolon); that is, he had been sent by the church. Fifth, he was Paul’s minister (Gk leitourgon, cf.v.17) on behalf of the Philippians. By conveying their contribution which is “a fragrant offering” (4.18) he renders a sacred service.

26for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.

For he has…he was ill: Barclay gives a reconstruction of the events surrounding this narrative. Epaphroditus was sent to Paul by the Philippians with their gift (see 1.5, 4.17-18) and in Rome he became sick (possibly with fever, which was common then). The sickness is not stated. Epaphroditus is eager to get back (and Paul eager to send him, v.28) to assuage the brethren’s fears. He longs for these Christians as Paul does (1.8); he is distressed as the Savior was (Mt 26.37).

27Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

Indeed, he was ill, near to death: Whatever Epaphroditus came down with was serious.

But God had mercy on him: “But” draws sharp contrast (Gk alla) – not death, but life from God. Paul recognizes that God is the giver of life and health.

Not only on him…sorrow upon sorrow: There is the sorrow of his brother’s illness and, if he had died, the sorrow of his death which would have affected Paul. God’s mercy spared him these sorrows and made him “unsorrowful” (“less anxious,” v.28).

28I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.

I am the more eager…I may be less anxious: the reunion of the Philippian saints with Epaphroditus would be a time to rejoice. Thus, Paul is sending back his brother to them, wanting them to experience the joy God gives at such reunions. Also, the reunion of the Philippians and Epaphroditus would give occasion for Paul to be “less anxious” (Lit. more un-grief).

29So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men,

So receive him in the Lord: Since Epaphroditus fulfilled his mission, his life spared by God, and he’s coming back home—welcome this broth back with arms wide open as the Lord Jesus welcomes us into His presence (cf. Rom 15.7).

With all joy, and honor such men: With heartfelt, unalloyed joy they are to welcome him. But also they are to esteem Epaphroditus and recognize how invaluable he is. Why? V.30

30for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

For he nearly died for the work of Christ: because when it comes to the work of Christ, Epaphroditus is a man who will risk life and limb to get the job done.

Risking his life: lit. handing life over. He was willing to expose himself to hazard.

To complete…your service to me: Epaphroditus risked his life so act as a ministering priest, presenting the sacred offering of their contribution to Paul. Others point to the presence of Epaphroditus as making up for the lack of presence of the Philippians (cf. 1 Cor 16.17).

Special Study—Why didn’t Paul heal Epaphroditus?

Paul had healed others miraculously (see Acts 28.8). Why not Epaphroditus? First, maybe he did. The text is relatively ambiguous and God could have used Paul as a conduit of his mercy (v.27). But the consensus among scholars is that Paul did not heal Epaphroditus and the why-question remains. Epaphroditus is not the only companion of Paul who was not healed (Trophimus in 2 Tim 4.20). Even though he had miraculous powers, the exercise of those powers were for a specific purpose (Mk 16.20) and were to be used at the discretion of God. That’s why certain companions were not healed and why Paul did not heal himself when afflicted (cf. 2 Cor 12.7-9).