God’s Grace & Salvation, part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

God’s Grace & Salvation, part 1

Peter begins this epistle with a practical doxology, that is, a word of praise which encompasses the present state of his readers (and himself) in the midst of affliction in the world. Though he and his readers are experience fiery trials, God is blessed for His power, salvation, & mercy. Further, this is the culmination of the eternal plan of God, the prediction of prophets & the curiosity of angels.

Living Hope – Born Out of Grace (1 Peter 1.3-12)

By God’s grace these Christians have been born again to a living hope, viz. the salvation of their souls through faith.

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Blessed…Jesus Christ: This is verbatim the same as Paul in Ephesians (1.3) & 2 Corinthians (1.3). In the NT, the word “blessed” is used only of God; He alone is worthy to be blessed. People are blessed when they receive His blessings. The 1st person of the Godhead is God of the man Jesus Christ (see John 20.17, “my God”) and Father of God the Son. As the spring from which flows the fountain of “great mercy” & “salvation” (5, 9, 10) He is worthy of praise.

According to His great mercy: In His kindness He does not give us what our sin deserves.

He has caused us to be born again: A single word in the Greek. We were dead because of sin. Through the new birth we were given new life. This is the genesis of salvation. At some point in the past (aorist tense), we were born again. By the new birth God becomes the Father of all Christians.

To [a] living hope…from the dead: Our hope is rooted in the objective fact of history which is the resurrection of Jesus. Thus hope is the confident expectation of life after this life. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so Christians are raised from spiritual death to eternal life.  In a single phrase Peter unites the beginning of our salvation (born again) with the consummation of our salvation (living hope). In fact, Christians are born again into (Gk eis) living hope.

How do we react when we face persecution & pressure from the world? When we face earthly stress & distress do we open our mouths in praise? Do we praise Him from our hearts? Do we contemplate His majesty & wisdom as a merciful God? Peter (and all of Scripture) shows us a better way. Contemplate the salvific acts and mercy of the blessed God, sing His glory and majesty, magnify Him lest we shrink under the weight of pressure.

4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

To an inheritance…kept in heaven for you: Here is the Christian’s hope—inheritance in heaven. The inheritance is eternal blessedness with God & Christ in heaven. It is 1) not subject to death or decay, 2) unsoiled & free from impurity, and 3) is pristine in brilliance, like a flower that never wilts. When Peter says it is kept (perf. pass.) or “reserved” (NASB) he is saying that God stored up this inheritance for saints and it continues to be there in heaven ready for us.

Many commentators draw a distinction between the Old Covenant inheritance (the Promised Land) and the New Covenant. Consider that the old inheritance was taken from the people of Israel for their many & various corruptions. But even while it was theirs it produced rewards that faded and decayed, defiled by sin. But now the new inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven.” So vastly superior is the New Covenant inheritance.

They do it more at nicer restaurants (the kind of restaurants I tend to avoid) where you call ahead and reserve a table. Let’s say you did that before you came to service tonight: you’ve got a table reserved at the Branding Iron for some time after service. They reserved that table as soon as you called, maybe even put a little placard on the table that says “Reserved.” And they are keeping it reserved until you show up at the appointed time. It’s yours. So God has done for the Christian. You have a reservation in heaven made when you were born again. And your Father through the Son and in the Spirit are keeping it just “for you.” It’s yours!

5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Who by…through faith: God’s power is more than sufficient for anything, including creation, miracles, resurrection, etc. Nothing is too hard for God (Jer 32.17). Christians are those being guarded (perf. pass.) by God’s power. This was a military term denoting the protection of a city from hostile invasion. So God protects us from a hostile onslaught from the world, the devil, & sin. We cooperate with this protection through faith, viz. continuing to trust in God.

For a salvation…the last time: When the last page of this world’s history is written and the veil of this physical world is pulled back & gives way to the spiritual reality is the last time. Then will our salvation be finally & fully revealed or uncovered to be enjoyed by the saints of God forever. When Peter wrote, this salvation was ready, right at the point of being revealed.

Some might object that a salvation “kept” or “reserved” for some future time is of no use in the here & now. Peter in the very same breath as he describes the reserved inheritance points us right back to the here & now – God is guarding us. We are not calmly secure in heaven, but we are mightily guarded by God’s power. The perfect tense indicates that we are continually guarded: when we were born into the kingdom of God, the protection began and it continues to this day so long as we cooperate with God “through faith.” “Faith is the instrument by means of which we grasp the Divine strength, so that it is made perfect in our weakness” (Caffin 5).

6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

In this you rejoice: In anticipation of the revelation of final salvation & reception of the hope. Verses 3-5 are the basis of these Christians’ joy. The term used for rejoice (Gk agalliao) denotes a deep, spiritual joy stemming from the mighty acts of God (cf. Luke 1.47; Acts 16.34).

Though now…various trials: Joy in the midst of suffering is of course a thoroughly Christian theme (see James 1.2ff). Peter has pointed these Christians ahead to “the last time” but now these Christians have been grieved and pressed by various trials. Though unspecified in this epistle, no doubt the state-sanctioned empire-wide persecution of Nero is in view. That these trials are “fiery” (4.12) might hint at the brutal practices of Nero. If necessary seems to be Peter’s way of saying “Since this is God’s will.”

7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

So that…your faith: Here is what should be the product of trials for Christians—genuine faith. Tested genuineness is from a single word which had ties to metal working. So the faith of these Christians is verified in the crucible of trials, the furnace of fiery trials.

More precious…by fire: Gold under fire is separated from all impurities, they are burned away and only gold remains. So faith is refined in the furnace of trial & the process to arrive there is more valuable than testing gold in the crucible.

May be found…Jesus Christ: Genuine faith should result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus comes back. Praise from God (“Well done…”), glory which is Christ’s from before the world, & honor bestowed upon us in the crown of righteousness.

While many see the contrast as being between faith & gold and while that contrast is valid, Peter is ultimately contrasting the process of testing genuine faith with the refining of gold by fire. To remove all the dross and impurities from gold so that all you have is gold is impressive. However, the more momentous feat is the testing of faith by trials and coming through with deeper character, looking more like Christ. Just as impurities are removed from gold by fire, so fiery trials remove from the Christian such impurities as pride, self-reliance, gratification of the flesh. Add to this that gold “is perishable” (NASB) because one day everything will be burned up at the end, but faith abides along with hope & love.

In the span of three verses Peter has mentioned the final judgment twice: “the last time” (v.5) and “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is a firm reminder to Christians that we live eschatologically, ever looking forward to and living in light of that day of days when He who rolled everything out will roll it all back up. Therefore, we live life which praises God for His great mercy and wonderful salvation; we honor Him with our lives and walk worthily; we are changed from degree of glory to another degree day-by-day as we live for Him. If we would see & receive praise, honor, & glory we must live praise, honor, & glory.

8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Though…you love Him: Unlike Peter who was a witness of Christ’s sufferings (5.1) & one of the “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pt 1.16), these Christians in Asia Minor have not seen (aorist) at any point in the past Jesus. Yet they have a continual & progressive love (present) for Christ.

Though…you believe in Him: Presently Jesus is at the right hand in the unseen heavenly realms & is beyond physical vision. Yet these Christians have faith (present) in Christ. Cf. Jn 20.29.

I wonder if Peter had his mind on his face-to-face reinstatement with Jesus as recorded in John’s gospel. Peter had seen Him, but all he could muster was “Phileo you.” I have a strong affection for you. But Jesus had asked “Agapas me.” These Christians in Asia have never had that face-to-face meeting & yet they answer the unspoken question “Agapas Jesus?” with an emphatic “YES!” We have never seen Jesus. But by faith the question comes ringing from our Lord’s lips down the pathway of years: “Do you love me?” “Agapas me?” Only you can answer this question in your heart of hearts.

In a similar way, we do not presently see Jesus physically. Yet our total trust is in Him. We must have a continual faith which deepens as the years go by.

Rejoice…with glory: Because of their faith in & love for Christ they have a joy which is beyond words (inexpressible) and containing the glory of heaven (filled with glory).

“Filled with glory” is from a single word in the original which is a perfect passive participle. That is we do not add glory or bring any glory to it; it is bestowed upon us (passive). But more interesting this glory, being outside ourselves, is from God and therefore has been in existence long before we come on the scene (perfect). Perhaps an illustration: when Moses came down from the mountain, having been in the presence of God, “his face shone because he had been talking with God” (Ex 34.29). Paul tells us Moses was reflecting the glory of God (2 Cor 3.7ff). That glory came from being in God’s glorious presence. So joy which is “filled with glory” is joy that is infused with that heavenly glory and continues to possess that glory (perfect). “It is the joy of heaven before heaven, experienced now in fellowship with the unseen Christ” (Grudem 66).

9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Obtaining…your souls: As Christians continue to grow in love, faith, & joy, they are obtaining (present) the goal of faith, their salvation. In Peter, soul stands for the whole person (cf. 3.20).

Daily continuing in love, faith, & joy will produce the marvelous blessing of growth & maturity as Christians. This is the progressive nature of “obtaining the outcome of your faith.” While “the salvation of your souls” anticipates what is “ready to be revealed in the last time” (v.5), there is the present reality & everyday experience of Christian growth in the here & now as well.

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,

Concerning this salvation: Both what we enjoy in the present & what will be “revealed”…

The prophets…inquired carefully:  Cf. Mt 13.17. The prophets spoke about the grace for (eis) us. They had some real knowledge of it but it was incomplete & they longed to know more. So they exerted considerable effort to search & seek information concerning grace & salvation.

“That salvation was so magnificent a prospect that it concentrated upon itself the rapt attention and deepest interest of those to whom the promise was revealed.” They were like miners mining for treasure: they would uncover a gem, but only when refined by the Incarnation did it true beauty shine.

Peter is working to help his audience realize just how great their salvation is in Christ and to get them to better appreciate the grace of God. He does this by focusing on two groups which never tasted the sweet grace of God as we have under the New Covenant: prophets & angels. Peter tells his readers (and us by extension) that the grace by which we are saved was the study of seers for centuries & is the abstraction of angels for eons. How dare us be apathetic concerning the salvation of our souls! Do we not realize the exceeding glory & grandeur of the joy of our salvation? Have our hearts grown cold & dull? Should we not instead fix our attention on the sufferings of Christ just as the prophets before us did? Should we not instead give our undivided concentration to the glories of His resurrection & ascension just as the angels do? The prophets searched & inquired with prayer & fasting; how much more should we imitate their example, searching the Scriptures, meditating upon them, watching unto prayer.

11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.

Inquiring…was indicating: Though Peter does not specify what they inquired, the word used here is also used by Jesus in reference to Scripture (Jn 5.39). So the prophets searched their & whatever other writings they had in an attempt to know who and when the Holy Spirit was indicating or pointing. Indicating (imperfect) describes how the Holy Spirit kept making these indications.

When He predicted…subsequent glories: The Holy Spirit predicted these things by the prophets. The sufferings of Christ speaks to His torture & crucifixion which are well testified to in the Old Testament (e.g. Psa 22; Isa 53). The subsequent glories (pl.) points to His resurrection & ascension. It is Peter who proclaims that these prophesies have been fulfilled by God (Acts 3.18).

An example of a prophet searching & inquiring of the Scriptures is Daniel. Whether he was reading the book of Jeremiah to glean some idea of Christ is not mentioned, but he was reading Jeremiah’s work (Daniel 9.2). Could he have been reading Jeremiah to better understand the person & time of Christ but discovered something else during his Bible study? Does not this happen during our Bible studies? We’ll be reading right along, maybe even have some subject which we are diligently trying to better understand, only to uncover some other hidden gem from Scripture.

12It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

It was revealed…but you: It is God who revealed (passive) to the prophets that their prophecies were not for their time & circumstance. Their search & inquiry of the Scriptures confirmed this. They came to know that their service was not for themselves, but for those saved by this grace. Their prophecies certainly brought them hope as they lived by faith. However, they were serving (imperfect) a yet future generation. So their ministry was far grander than they knew.

In the things…the good news to you: The things are the most significant facts of history—the sufferings & glories of Christ. These have now been announced to you…by the Holy Spirit. The announcement originates with God in heaven. Thus the Spirit is sent (Gk apostalenti [aorist]) from heaven, commissioned on Pentecost to oversee the advance of the gospel. Then through those who preached the good news to you (lit. those who evangelized you) He announced it (aorist). Certainly Peter would be head of that list but not the only one on it. Other evangelists no doubt worked in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to evangelize Asia Minor.

Things…to look: Throughout the Law angelic beings had ringside seats to what was doing: cherubim in the Holy of Holies (Ex 25.20-21), seraphim in the heavenly temple (Isa 6.1-2). Peter says that they still long (present) to look into how God’s grace is demonstrated in Christ’s sufferings & glories in relation to the salvation of souls.

Consider that Paul says “the mystery of godliness…was seen by angels” (1 Tim 3.16). When Christ stepped onto the grand stage of human history, every angelic eye was fixated on his every move. His birth, His childhood, His adolescence, His youth, His temptations, His ministry, His miracles, His sermons, His trails, His torture, His crucifixion, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension. All the while, the angels watch with rapt attention the great facts of the history of redemption. Even now the angels still delight to contemplate the advance of the kingdom. They “long to look” into these things.

Nothing causes the angels more confusion than when men & women for whom Christ died allow their faith to grow cold & their walk with Christ becomes listless. Maybe they can understand when men & women for whom Christ died refuse to honor Christ with their life since the evil one has so blinded the world. But when Christians, those who angels serve, whom Christ has saved and God has graced, backslide or rebel or fail to grow, choosing immaturity, surely is the cause of much angelic perplexity & vexation.

Special Study – Perfection & Righteousness

Special Study—Perfection

“The biblical idea of perfection is of a state of ideal wholeness or completion, in which any disabilities, shortcomings or defects that may have existed have been eliminated or left behind” (J.I. Packer in The New Bible Dictionary). When applied to God, it speaks of God being  complete in Himself, lacking nothing, and without flaw. Thus, God becomes the basis or standard by which all other perfection is measured (cf. Matt 5.48). God is absolute perfection.

When Paul speaks of perfection (Gk from teleioo) in Philippians 3.12, 15, he is obviously not saying that he is absolutely perfect as God is absolutely perfect. The reference to the “resurrection of the dead” in v.11 hints at the fact that Paul looks forward to absolute perfection in the future, though now, in the flesh, he is not “already perfect.” In this single verse, Muller (122-123) says Paul is dismissing three erroneous concepts of perfection:

1) Self-righteous perfectionism—the claim that one has arrived and is already perfect.

2) Self-sufficient semi-perfectionism—though not yet entirely perfect, one has attained much already and is perfect to an extent.

3) Indolent imperfectionism—conscious of the “not yet” but gives in to the sinful desires of flesh with no pursuit of holiness.

However, just a few verses later, he speaks of “those of us who are perfect (Gk teleioi).” Once again, Muller says Paul is speaking “not of ethical perfection, but of perfection in principle” (125). It is similar to how Paul to describes the Corinthian brethren (1 Cor 1.2) as “sanctified” and “saints” despite their being engrossed in several sinful practices. Though their ethical practice needed correction, in principle they were holy (set apart) unto God. Another way of understanding Paul’s use of teleioi is to connect it with what he says in 1 Corinthains 14.20: “in your thinking be mature (Gk teleioi).” Therefore, this has to do with spiritual maturity and readiness to apprehend things divine. Some believe there may have been a self-righteous group which saw themselves as superior to their brethren, as perfect. Paul “is opposing a relative and progressive ‘perfection’ which he expects of every Christian to the impossible claim of final perfection which must ever be future while we are still on earth” (Martin 152).

Special Study—Righteousness

Paul speaks of “a righteousness of my own that comes from the law” which stands juxtaposed with “the righteousness from God that depends on faith” and is the righteousness “which comes through faith in Christ” (3.9). The former speaks to man seeking right relationship and standing with God through conformity to the demands and obligations of the will of God. The latter is God achieving right relationship between God and man through Jesus Christ. Man attains to that right standing in his obedience to the gospel, namely, denial of self, belief in Christ, and the obedience of faith in immersion where we are put into Christ (Rom 6.3) and we put on Christ (Gal 3.27).

Righteousness is also “holy and upright living, in accordance with God’s standard” (New Illustrated Bible Dictionary 1089). Indeed, John says, “Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous” (1 John 3.7). So there are acts of righteousness which Christians are to pursue and put into practice. However, these righteous deeds must never be viewed as a means to gain right standing with God. Christ Jesus, by His perfect obedience, brings us that right relationship and we live accordingly.

Christ’s Righteousness

We are declared righteous by obedient faith in Jesus and His completed work of atonement.

Practice Righteousness

In light of right relationship with God based upon Christ’s finished work, we live upright and holy according to the Word.

Paul makes it clear that Christ’s righteousness cannot be acquired by human effort in commandment keeping or inherent virtue. Thus, the righteousness from God is a gift from God to the Christian in Christ Jesus. The medium or vehicle by which this righteousness is accepted by man is obedient faith. This new and true relationship between the believer and God involves a new moral standing and a new moral standard to be upheld and championed in the life of the Christian. Further, from this new union with God in Christ comes the impetus and motivation for holy living. God has dealt with not only sin but the consequences of sin I Christ on the cross freeing the Christian to pursue upright and godly living. God makes us righteous through Christ; we, having been declared righteous, will do what is righteous.

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).

Rejoicing in Proclamation of the Gospel

After thanksgiving and prayer Paul turns to his own imprisonment. Some debate exists about which imprisonment: Roman or Caesarean. It seems best to understand this to be Paul’s Roman imprisonment when he also penned Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon.

The Gospel Advances in spite of Imprisonment (1.12-14)

In spite of Paul’s imprisonment the gospel of God has advanced and brethren all over have been emboldened.

12I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,

I want you to know, brothers: Paul desires for his Christian brethren to be aware of a certain fact. Perhaps the Philippians had feared that Paul’s imprisonment had hindered the spread of the gospel, a message relayed by Epaphroditus. So Paul writes to assuage that fear.

That what has happened to me: what has happened is he has been imprisoned due to his preaching of the gospel. The latter half of Acts details many events resulting from that imprisonment, but rather than dwell on those, he address a point for rejoicing.

Has really served to advance the gospel: The gospel is not hindered by fetters, chains, or bars. Though Paul is bound as a criminal, “The Word of God is not bound” (2 Tim 2.9). That is what is most important to Paul and which produces joy in him.

13so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

Paul introduces two results of the spread of the gospel: 1) outsiders know why Paul is imprisoned (for Christ, v.13), and 2) believers are emboldened by his imprisonment (v.14).

So that it has…my imprisonment is for Christ: He may have seemed like every other prisoner which darkened a prison cell, but it soon became known that he suffered imprisonment not for crimes but for Christ. Word spread through the whole Praetorian regiment (those guards whose barracks were attached to Nero’s palace). This is the cohort connected with “Caesar’s household” (see 4.22). Word also spread “to all the rest” which is to say the whole city of Rome heard about the prisoner for Christ and apparently came to hear him preach while he was under house arrest (see Acts 28.30). Among these are brethren in Rome.

14And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.  

And most of the brothers: not every brother; some remain timid or half-hearted. But  certainly not just those gifted with preaching and teaching; the majority of the brethren are in view here. Hearing about Paul’s plight in prison had an effect upon these Christians in Rome.

Having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment: The Roman Christians found new courage, courage afresh which came by the Lord through Paul’s imprisonment. Seeing God’s grace in Paul’s life assured them of God’s grace in their life. Since Paul was supported and sustained even during his persecution, God would do likewise for all His saints. “They saw in Paul, as they had never seen before, the presence, power, and sufficient grace of Christ” (Wesley).

Are much more bold to speak the word without fear: the language here denotes that these Christians had had a certain level of confidence and boldness already. But upon hearing of the Paul’s imprisonment, the boldness they had exceeded to a much greater degree enabling them to speak (contrast with “preach” v.15, and “proclaim” v.17, 18) God’s word fearlessly. When these Christians realized they had the authority and power of heaven behind the very words they spoke, boldness came and fear fled. Instead of being silent, more brethren than ever with more courage than ever were fearlessly speaking aloud the Word of God (Lenski).

The Gospel Advances in spite of Impure Motives (1.15-18a)

Paul rejoices that in spite of the impure motives (of some) the gospel of Christ is preached.

15Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry: present tense verb indicates this preaching is happening even as Paul writes. Interesting that even those who wished Paul evil were stirred up tp preach the Christ. Though their motivation was wrong, Paul rejoiced that the message of Christ went forth and was “announced” (Gk. from kerusso).

But others from good will: Not everyone was an antagonist; some were benevolent.

[Technical textual note: The KJV & NKJV have verses 16-17 in reverse order than the ESV (and most other versions including the ASV, NASB and NIV). This has to do with manuscript variants—some  manuscripts read 17 then 16; other (older) mss read 16-17.]

16The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.

The latter do it out of love: those kindly-hearted brethren preach Christ from a heart of love. Love for whom? Paul or Christ? Certainly both! These, then, became apologists not only for Christ but also for Paul, the prisoner of the Lord.

Knowing that…defense of the gospel: here is the theological perspective of Paul. He understands that God has appointed and ordained for him to be exactly where he is. Further, this was a military term indicating that Paul was enduring his imprisonment as a good soldier of Christ. When forced into the fray he will bravely defend the Christian faith. Paul’s supporters are well aware of this.

17The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.

The former…in my imprisonment: Contrast this conduct with the noble and magnanimous spirit of Paul. These rivals of Paul are resentful (based on jealousy toward Paul) and desire to put themselves forward. Their motives are mixed and impure. All this is done to (if possible) kick Paul while he’s down. They stirred up trouble for Paul, seeking to add to his suffering. They sought to aggravate his burden and cause him additional pain.

18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

What then? What does it matter? As he assesses his situation and the situation involving the Christian church with these factious brethren, he singles out the main thing and is gladdened by the one all-important fact…

Only that…Christ is proclaimed: the continual proclamation of Christ, free from heresy and perversion, regardless of mixed motives. The full gospel is preached (not an anemic gospel like Judaizers would bring). This is not “Some Christ is better than no Christ” (A.T. Robertson) – Paul would not tolerate another gospel featuring another Christ. This is Paul rejoicing over full proclamation of the full gospel, the true gospel feature the true Christ, regardless of personal motivation.

And in that I rejoice: “In all his affliction and personal grief, in all his disapproval of sinful partisanship and insincerity of action and the preaching under a cloak in the case of some preachers, the joy in the progress of the gospel, in the fact that Christ is preached, ever dominates” (Muller 56).

Special Study—Paul’s Rivals

Who are these men who Paul identifies in vs.15-18 who preached Christ from envy and rivalry, not sincerely, and in pretense? That they are brothers in Christ seems evident from v.14 where “most of the brothers” have been emboldened to speak the word without fear based on Paul’s imprisonment. Paul breaks that group down into two parties: “some” preaching Christ from mixed motives and “others” who preach Christ from good motives (v.15). Most commentators jump on the Judaizer bandwagon (cf. 3.2ff); however, based on what Paul writes in Galatians about Judaizers it doesn’t seem he would rejoice in their perverted doctrine even if Christ is proclaimed. These brother’s motives are mixed, not the message. It seems best to understand these rivals as a factious group who view the imprisonment of Paul as discrediting the Christian message. They appear to be a faction whose strategy is to excel in power and exude success so as to compete in an ancient religious market rife with pagan teachers. Paul’s imprisonment could torpedo their efforts at gaining ground. So they denounce Paul’s imprisonment (“thinking to afflict me”). In short, they were pro-Christ but anti-Paul.

Resurrection

In the Bordeaux Pilgrim (AD 333), there is mention of the location. St. Cyril of Jerusalem makes reference to it several times. In the days of the church historian Eusebius (first half of fourth century), there was no doubt as to the location of the empty tomb. No doubt that even today, there will be a guided tour near Jerusalem which will walk right past the site. One Sunday morning nearly two millenia ago, several women made a trek to the precise location of the the tomb of Jesus. As mentioned in the previous section (Luke 23.55), these women were familiar with the location of the tomb, having seen Jesus’ body placed in it just days before. There was no doubt in their minds as to where to go “after the Sabbath.”

John Calvin calls this “the closing section of our redemption.” J. C. Ryle calls the resurrection of Jesus “one of the great foundation-stones of the Christian religion.” Indeed, in the words of Paul, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15.17, ESV). In other words, “Christianity stands or falls with the Resurrection” (Theodsus Harnack, quoted in McDowell’s The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, pg.205). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is either “one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, OR it is the most fantastic fact of history” (McDowell, 203). The bottom line is we, Christians, need the resurrection. If Jesus was not resurrected, He can no more save me than condemn me. And if there is no resurrection, “let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” In other words, drive the morality bus off the cliff if the dead are not raised. There’s no point in being a good, moral person since Christianity has toppled. Those who would argue for morality in the absence of the Christian religion should understand this. Morality is pointless without a supreme moral authority.

Truly, then, the whole world needs the resurrection of Jesus. Woven into the fabric of human history is the need for the resurrection of Jesus. Everything before points forward to it and everything since points backward to it. Indeed, everyone who has ever or will ever live by faith find their vindication in three simple yet striking words: “He has risen.” In Luke 24.1-12, the subject is the resurrection.

The Empty Tomb

The women of this context would appear to be the women of the previous context: “women who had followed him from Galilee” (23.49). The spices they bring were prepared just before the Sabbath, the day Jesus was placed in the tomb (23.56). They had rested on the Sabbath (23.56b) and now return to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus very early Sunday morning.

First, note that they went to “the tomb;” that is, they went to the tomb they had visited just a couple days earlier and “saw the tomb and how his body was laid.” There is not mistaking – they went to the right tomb. And if they had gone to the wrong tomb, surely on Pentecost day when Peter preaches the resurrection, someone would have pointed them in the direction of the right tomb with the body still within. Or the authorities when the apostles preached the resurrection would certainly have squelched this fable in the same manner. The fact of history is that the women and then the apostles Peter and John went to the tomb where Jesus had been laid following His crucifixion. However, things are different this Sunday morning.

Second, notice the tomb is open (v.2). Luke did not mention a stone being placed over the entrance of the tomb. It would appear he takes for granted the knowledge of his audience. That is, Luke seems to know that Theophilus would be aware of the large stone placed over the mouth of the tomb, sealing the body of Jesus inside. The women had discussed along the way the problem of removing the stone so they could continue and/or complete the burial of Jesus (Mark 16.3). When they arrive, though, the tomb is already open.

Third, in addition, the tomb was also empty (v.3). Since the stone was rolled away, they went into the tomb, perhaps ready and eager to accomplish their mission before someone return and replace the stone (which John seems to imply by the language employed that the stone was completely removed off its track, John 20.1). However, once inside, “they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” A Bishop Brownrig has noted that this is the first occasion when this terminology (“Lord Jesus”) is used of the Savior in the New Testament. It is the first time Luke has used it and he will continue to use it into his next work (Acts). Rightly so, since He is now demonstrated by God to be both Lord and Christ (Acts 2.36).

The open and empty tomb causes the women to be “perplexed.” The word used here signifies a state of great confusion and anxiety. They are at a total loss of making sense of this whole picture. They don’t know what to do, what to think, how to feel. Put yourself in their shoes – all the emotion and commotion from just a couple days prior. Their beloved Teacher was killed and they were not expecting a resurrection. Of course their confused. However, two men, angels, in “dazzling apparel” stand nearby. This same term for “dazzling” was also used of Jesus at the Transfiguration (9.29) when His clothes were dazzling bright. The term denotes something like lightning, bright and brilliant.

The Ethereal Tidings

Confusion turns to fear for the women and like the prophets of old, the seemingly lose control of bodily functions. Like Daniel or Ezekiel, they end up face down before the messengers of God out of respect. But these messengers bring a slight rebuke and subtle reminder for these courageous women. First, the slight rebuke is “Why do you seek the living with the dead?” The resurrected Jesus is alive. Therefore, His tomb is empty. He is not with the dead any longer. So of course “He is not here” for “He has risen.” Here is the angelic proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus. Angels are highlighted in Luke’s gospel account. They announced to Zachariah the coming of his son John the Baptist; they spoke to Mary concerning her conception of Jesus; angels serenaded shepherds when Jesus was born. Now the angels are the messengers announcing the triumph of the Son of God over death. “He has risen.” How fantastic a thought that God has blessed men to carry this simple yet profound message of resurrection!

Second, the angels has a subtle reminder. “Remember” is how they begin. Jesus had told them this would happen (Luke 9.22; 18.33), namely, that He would rise from the dead on the third day. Here it is the third day and the tomb is empty. Just so there is no confusion, the angels specify what Jesus had said: 1) the Son of Man (favorite term of Jesus to describe Himself) would be delivered into the hands of sinful men, 2) death by crucifixion, 3) resurrection on the third day. While He was ministering in Galilee, Jesus made His disciples of these things. Luke tells us, though, they didn’t get it, understand it for “it was concealed from them” (9.45).

The Eyewitness Testimony

This angelic reminder causes the women to remember the words of Jesus. They leave the tomb and find the eleven and tell them. Note Luke says eleven and not twelve. Judas has already hung himself. In Luke’s next work, Acts, he will detail the death of Judas. But this is the first he speaks of the eleven. These women act as the first human agents of commnicating the good news of the resurrection of the dead. They are the first evangelists, tell others the good news of the resurrection of the dead. “To all the rest” is a vague statement and exactly who “the rest” are is uncertain. Some point to the 120 who would be with the apostles during the ten days after the ascension and before Pentecost (See Acts 1.15). Of course, during His ministry, Jesus had others whom He called and sent out (see Luke 10.1). Again, who exactly “the rest” are is unknown. Nevertheless, they hear about the empty from the women also.

Luke gives a detailed description of who these women are in verse 10: they are Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and “other women with them.” Perhaps Salome (she is mentioned in Mark 16.1 as part of the company of women at the tomb) and Susanna (Luke 8.3) are also part of this number. It is the women who tell the apostles about the bewildering scene at the tomb. So fantastic is their message that the apostles cannot believe it. To them it is an “idle tale” or nonsense. Don’t be too hasty, ladies; remember just a few verses prior to this the women were experiencing something akin to this before two angels helped their unbelief.

However, there is one apostle who goes to the tomb: Peter. Just a couple days earlier he had denied Jesus and had had to look Jesus in the face immediately after the third denial (Luke 22.54-62). Luke graphically describes his reaction to hearing the women’s story: he “rose and ran to the tomb.” He left his fellow disciples and went to the tomb. John records that he went with Peter to the tomb. Peter arrives and “stooping and looking in” he sees the grave clothes of Jesus lying there. All this matches with with John very nearly except John has Peter entering the tomb. The empty tomb has a profound effect on Peter: he’s left “marveling” to himself. This is not a lack of faith but rather it seems Peter is trying to make sense of everything. What happened? Truly this has been the struggle for many people ever since the tomb was found open, empty, and the grave clothes lying empty. How should we understand this? The gospel writers present us with the facts of history and these facts demand an answer. The only answer which fits with the historical facts is that Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected by the power of God on the third just as He predicted would happen.

The Grace of God in the Face of Death

25 miles. That is how far Nain is from Capernaum. And yet Jesus gladly walks that distance to bring comfort and grace to a widow. One commentator writes, “what consolation to thousands of the bereaved has this single verse [v.13] carried from age to age!” Indeed, I peronally have taken this very text to bring comfort to those hurting individuals during times of grief and pain at the loss of a loved one. It is beautiful is its simplicity and impacting in its emotion. The NIV says “When the Lord say her, his heart went out to her” (v.13). Another translation would say, “he had compassion on her” (RSV). The New Living Translation says, “his heart overflowed with compassion.” I don’t know about you, but when I read about the emotion of my Lord, it gives me comfort knowing that he cares for me in this way. When I hurt, he sympathizes. The Hebrew fittingly commented on this ver thing when he wrote, “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” Jesus knows and understands the pain we feel when we hurt because he himself has felt the very same feelings. We do not have a Lord who is unapproachable and distant, but we have a Lord who comes up alongside us and weeps with us.

The Scene of Grief

Try to picture the scene which Jesus comes upon: The funeral procession was important. It would begin at the home of the deceased, proceed through the village, and end at the cemetary, which was always outside the city. If the family could afford it, they hired professional mourners who played dirges, shouted great laments, and wept loudly. They believed that a big commotion honored the dead, and was an apporiate expression of grief. Along the way, the procession would pick up steam. The weeping and wailing would get louder, as other villagers joined in the procession as it passed by (Ronald Harbaugh, The Grace of God in the Face of Death). This great band of emotion and shouting and weeping is what Jesus runs into as he enters Nain. His words to the mother are simply, “Do not weep.” But it is not enough for Jesus to say those few words; there must be something behind which gives the woman something to rejoice about.

The Author of Life

Jesus walks up to the casket and, like the stormy sea, he calms the crowd by touching it. When everything is calm and quiet, he speaks life to the young man: “Get up…arise.” The incarnate Resurrection and the Life with a word raises this dead back to life. The text very simply says, “and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” He gave him back to her. What current of emotion raced through the crowd as the dead man came back to life and spoke. We don’t know what he said, but surely he joined with the crowd (or maybe started them off) in praising God.

When Jesus shows up in your life, things happen. For a widow, she got her son back. If you and your loved ones are in Christ, you have the promise of getting them back. One day, this corruptable body which fails us and even now is dying will be exchanged with an incorruptable body. The people this life has taken from us and have gone to be with the Lord are restored to us. Only a Christian has this assurance and this comfort. Those outside of Christ only have the fearful expectation of judgment (Heb 10.27). Only Jesus offers you the help you need to save you from the raging fire which is the wrath of God. The good news of this help from God spread throughout Judea and the countryside. Christians, spread this good news to every lost person you know and love before it is everlasting too late. Tell them God has come in the form of His Son to help them. Share with them the good news of a resurrected and a resurrecting Savior. Explain that hellfire awaits those who refuse the help. Focus their attention to eternal matters concerning their life and the life of those around them whom they love also.

Faced with death, God, through Jesus, shows us his grace. He restored a dead son back to a widow. Indeed, the message of grace in the face of death still rings. We face death. It is inevitable and sure that one day we will die. But the grace of salvation and the grace of uniting for eternity with those we love, especially our Lord, still stands. Accept it and live it.