God’s Grace & Suffering, part 3

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

Suffering as a Christian (4.7-19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Study— “The End of All Things”

Several possibilities for understanding this verse have been offered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Grace & 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.

The Most Quoted Psalm – Psalm 110

Several passages from the Old Testament are quoted or alluded to in the New Testament, some of them more than once (e.g. “The just shall live by faith” – Rom 1.17; Gal 3.11; Heb 10.38). But there is no passage in the Old Testament quoted or alluded to more in the NT as Psalm 110. Far & away it is the most quoted Psalm. Why? It seems because it contains the epitome of the gospel: the coronation of Christ as King-Priest. Also contained here are core doctrinal principles: 1) Godhead/Trinity (v.1); 2) Suffering as priest poured out (v.4); 3) Resurrection (v.7); 4) Completed work (5-6); 5) Ascension (1, sit at my right hand); 6) Church (v.3); 7) Final judgment (1b); 8) Eternal life (v.4, “forever”).

The Lord (Jesus) is our king-priest according to the ancient oath of God. How can Christ be priest AND King? Psalm 110 provides clarity which would have been odd esp. to a Jew. Without doubt, as the superscription states, this is “a psalm of David.” So here is King David writing about the King-Priest: YHWH’s Lord.

The Kingdom (1-3)

 

1The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand…”

Christ’s Place (1a): YHWH speaks to adonai, which means David heard YWHH speak to Christ. Notice “right hand” which is the seat of power, dominion, dignity. YHWH tells Him to “sit” because His work is over and YHWH will fight for Him. The whole Godhead is involved here: Father speaks to the Son & the Holy Spirit permits David to hear this holy conversation and then enables him to record it in sacred writ. “What is man that thou shouldst impart thy secrets unto him” (Spurgeon).

Note: Verse 1 is the most quoted and alluded to OT verse in the NT – Mt 22.44; 26.64; Mk 13.36; 14.62; 16.19; Lk 20.42-43; 22.69; Acts 2.34-35; 5.31; 7.55-56; Rom 8.34; 1 Cor 15.25; Eph 1.20; Col 3.1; Heb 1.3, 13; 8.1; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Pt 3.22 – 24 verses in the NT quote or allude to this single OT verse.

“…until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.

Christ’s Power (1b-2a): “scepter” is a typical description in Scripture for power & authority. How powerful? Enemies are made His footstool, viz. He puts His boot on their necks/throats, a common ANE practice. Think about when the victor puts his foot on the chest of his opponent in victory, arms extended overhead.

Rule in the midst of your enemies!

Christian Proclamation (2b): “Rule!” Even David the King cries out for the reign of Messiah. Don’t we pray for this? “Thy kingdom come.” Esp. when tragedy strikes we need this: though your enemies are many, rule!

3Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.

Christ’s People (3): “Willing” – that is, willingness is a key characteristic of the people of God. Indeed, willingness is the essence of holiness; Christ’s people must be willing to believe Him, love Him & others, obey Him, live in holiness, die to sin, crucify the flesh, abide in God’s will, suffer for Christ’s cause. All of this and more is how we offer ourselves freely to Christ.

The Priesthood (4)

Note: This is the 2nd most quoted or alluded to OT verse in the NT: John 12.24; Heb 5.6, 10; 6.20; 7.3, 17, 21 (7 times).

4The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

According to the Law: No king could be priest nor any priest a king under the Law. They came from different tribes (Judah – king, Levi – priest). Yet Christ is a king-priest! How?

According to the Lord: This is no ordinary priesthood. First, it is after the order of Melchizedek, a somewhat obscure figure from Gen 14 was king of Salem (proto-Jerusalem) as well as priest of God Most High. Second, this is not like the priests under the Law who served for just a few years or even had a lifetime appointment; this is “forever.” Third, notice that this is an ancient oath “sworn” by God and He will not back off. It’s a done deal.

Christ is both Sovereign (king) & Savior (priest) – He fights for us and forgives our sins. But notice His ultimate victory which closes this Psalm…

God’s Ultimate Victory (5-7)

5The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.

6He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.

Wrath (5-6):  Kings, nations, chiefs who oppose the progress of the gospel are shattered, turned to corpses. First, is it any wonder that Israel anticipated an earthly king? This is a song from their song book which is undoubtedly messianic (no king fits the bill here save Messiah). So they sing this for centuries about a king who would turn the nations to corpses, Who exercises universal might. Second, if God can get the kings who oppose Him (and He does, see Acts 12.22 and every other king historically which has opposed the Bible & Christianity), then no one who opposes the gospel is safe. Meaning: Fall in line with YHWH and things will go well!

7He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.

Refreshment (7): After a long day of exhausting spiritual work, the Lord drinks from “the brook by the way.” Pictured here is the pause in pursuit of an enemy, similar to Gideon & his band who were “exhausted yet pursuing” (Jud 8.4). So here is Adonai (the Lord), pausing at the brook and being refreshed to continue the pursuit. But some day, the pursuit will cease…

Now all this prefigures the end, cf. 1 Corinthians 15.23-28 where this text is alluded to (see v.25). At present we do not see all things in subjection (Heb 2.8). Here is God’s ultimate & final victory over death & evil, esp. v.28. Then, when all things are subjected to Him, God will be all in all.

Verse 1 is either quoted or alluded 24 times in the NT. If I may, that’s one for every hour of the day to remind us constantly that Christ is STILL on the throne. Verse 7 is referenced 7 times, once for each day of the week to remind us Christ’s atoning work is complete. One day He will get up & come back and finally & fully deal with every foe including death.

The Marks of Mercy – Psalm 51

The superscription for this Psalm gives us the historical background: To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba” (Psalm 51:title, ESV). These events are recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12 when David lusted after & committed adultery with Bathsheba, covered up his sin by deceit & murder, and presumed he had committed the perfect crime with none the wiser. But God sent the prophet Nathan – “You are the man!” In contrition & repentance, David cried out to God in prayer which is recorded in this Psalm.  His spirit & heart is broken so he turns to the only One who can mend heart & soul. This Psalm shows how God is abundantly merciful on the penitent sinner. In the New Testament we read about God being “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2.4). But how rich is He in mercy? Make no mistake, the riches of His mercy are on display in the Old Testament just as they are in the New. God demonstrates the riches of His mercy in David’s life in Psalm 51.

Note: Observe that David addresses his prayer to Elohim and not Yahweh, Jehovah. It is as if he feels absolutely unworthy of voicing the proper name of God and simply prostrates himself before the Make

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

David immediately appeals to God for mercy, even before he mentions his sin. He begs/pleads for mercy as a brokenhearted sinner. This mercy comes from the “steadfast love” or “loving-kindness” of God. What a fitting word: loving-kindness. Wrapped up in it we see the certainly the love of God (that wonderful, matchless love) and the kindness/tenderness of God. And certainly it is steadfast.

By this mercy, God, “blot out my transgressions.” The first prayer is for mercy; this second is for the removal entirely of his offences from the book of God. Think India ink with a fountain pen – when you commit sin, the India ink bites into the pages of your life, mar it. Only the divine ink can blot it out, completely cover over that sin. This is according to the abundance of God’s mercy. Are you concerned about the abundance of your sins? Be advised that God has an abundance of mercy for the penitent sinner.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 

Not like a man washing his body but as a person would wash a fouled, dirty garment. The stains are not removable by human ability and work; only divine detergent, only the blood of the unblemished can wash thoroughly the offender. Wash me, the penitent sinner from my iniquity, that thing which pollutes me.

Hebrew parallelism is used to repeat the request: Cleanse me from my sin. Transgressions, iniquity, sin – in other words, cover every form of moral impurity, every offensive stain that is evil. And truly David’s sins are multiplied: adultery, fornication, lies, murder, self-deception.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

David, once self-deceived and refusing to acknowledge that he had done any wrong, fully acknowledges his wrongs. But truly he knew them for he committed them. They have been told him and he has been found out. I assume there is embarrassment, shame, guilt…as well there should be. Knowledge of sin will produce

But not only has David acknowledged his sins, but they are ever before him. On every face, over ever scene, in every place David looks he cannot escape his sin. It weighs on him and it is impossible to forget as long it oppresses the soul of man. Only God can remove this weight of guilt.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

While there are other parties David has offended (Bathsheba, Uriah, Israel), there is none that is higher than God. Every sin is against God! And every sin is an open offense before God and all of heaven. Nothing escapes his sight and he recognizes the evil of sin.

Hence, the perfect God is found true and right in his words and judgments. The iniquity was indisputably committed; it is unquestionably foul and wrong; and God’s condemnation of that sin is just and without blame.

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Not that any baby is born with sin; sin must be committed and a baby can no more commit sin than it could perform arithmetic. Rather, David, in the throes of contrition over his sin, overstates the case in his confession to God. There is no good thing in his life at this point and David’s whole life is painted the hue of sin.

6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Mark 1 of mercy: Honesty with self over what you have done; truthfulness (6). The preceding 5 verses have been bringing us to this first mark. A person who receives divine mercy must first be honest about their state before a holy God. Honesty concerning your sin will enable you to recognize your sin and admit it plainly to God (that’s confession). And this recognition of sin will produce the contrition we see in this Psalm, the broken-heartedness over sin, the sorrow for his iniquity, and will lead to repentance.

David is saying he is an adulterer, he stole another man’s wife, he had that man killed, he lied about it, covered it up, he deceived people about it. What do we need to be honest about in our life? What’s your secret sin that your hiding from everyone else. You may fool the whole world, but the eyes of God are on you.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Mark 2 of mercy: Request for forgiveness (7-8). Hyssop is from the mint family of plants and was used for cleansing a person from defilement from touching a corpse or from leprosy. And surely David is defiled. So he asks to be purged (purified, removed) from his sin. Only with the complete removal of sin can David be clean/pure. Again the request to be washed (see v.2).

But if we are going to ask for forgiveness, be sure we also receive that forgiveness. God wants to hear the pleading of our hearts as we confess wrong. But don’t continue carrying around what God has forgiven. Have faith God has forgiven (and he has, 1 John 1.9) and move on to service (Heb 9.14). God can, will, and does forgive the penitent sinner.

Satan will whisper doubts in our ear; he’s been since the beginning. “Has God really forgiven you?” We need to confident and stand on the word of God – “Yes He has!” Don’t put a question mark where God has put a period.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Request forgiveness and receive it. God wants to hear the pleading of our hearts as we confess wrong. But don’t continue carrying around what God has forgiven. Have faith God has forgiven (and he has, 1 John 1.9) and move on to service (Heb 9.14). God can, will, and does forgive the penitent sinner. Rejoice in His forgiveness!

9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Mark 3 of mercy: Believe that God has forgotten as well as forgiven. And here is the difficulty for humans: that an omniscient God can forget sin. Nevertheless, Jeremiah 31.34b, Hebrews 8.12b. God can turn his face from our sins, blotting them out so as to never remember them. He no longer sees them. This harkens to the mercy seat (Exodus 25.17-22). The mercy seat was above the Ark of the Covenant and was the resting place of God. Every year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat 7 times to make atonement for the people. The people drew near the mercy seat to receive mercy from the Lord.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Mark 4 of mercy: Allow God to work in you (v.10). See 2 Corinthians 5.17, God creates new motivation (heart) and desire (spirit). David is asking for restoration to the place he was before: a faithful and fruitful person. “Give me the fortitude to get on track and stay on track.”

11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Mark 5 of mercy: Believe in God’s presence (v.11). Does David have Saul in mind? Perhaps. But he has seen what it looks like to live without the presence of God and he does not want that. According to Ephesians 3.16-17, Christians have both the Spirit and Christ within them. Take heart that if you are forgiven, you are fit for His abiding presence.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Mark 6 of mercy: Restoration of joy (v.12). He’s back with a song in his heart and smile on his lips. Does not mean he has forgotten, but he has joy. Like Paul: he never forgot where he came from (chief of sinners) but he had joy (Philippians 4.4).

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Mark 7 of mercy: Proclamation of salvation (v.13). Go tell someone about the God who saved you, what he has done. Was sin bad? Yes, but once on track, headed in the right direction, now we can benefit others.

In order to fully experience the mercy of God, it may be helpful to ask several pointed question to see if you are fully back.

Is the anger, hurt, & resentment still in force? Is the guilt, shame, & disappointment still overwhelming?

Are we in prayer as much as before or even more? It is not embarrassment but sweet conversation.

Can I thank God for the lessons learned & the character gained from this experience?

Can I talk about the hurt without recalling all the stuff that devastates? Can I do that without being hurt? Can I help others?

Do I accept full responsibility for my sins? Or am I still trying to blame someone or something else?

Do I still love myself or am I punishing myself?

Am I imposing some kind of consequence or penance for what I have done? By the way, that is legalism.

So long as anger, lack of prayer, blaming, self-imposed punishment remains, we hinder the full experience of God’s mercy.

We need to trust that Jesus has forgiven fully. God shows this kind of mercy to those who are merciful (see Matthew 5.8). That is the final question: it is not a question of what sort of life you are living; it is not a question of if you have interest in the kingdom of God. It is simply “are you showing mercy?” That is the test from the beatitude from Jesus. For if you do not show mercy, how can you expect God to show mercy to you? Since God has been so merciful to you, how could not show mercy to others? “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6.36). Receive His mercy.

The Best Known Psalm – Psalm 23

The superlatives concerning Psalm 23 are numerous: Spurgeon calls it “the pearl of Psalms.” Alexander Maclaren says we would be better off losing many of the big fat books written than we would losing this single Psalm. James Montgomery Boice calls it the most beloved psalm in the Psalter.

Not only is Psalm 23 the best known & most loved Psalm; it is perhaps the best known & most loved chapter in all of Scripture. Millions of people have memorized it even tho it may be the only text they’ve committed to memory. It has dried the eyes of many brokenhearted saints; it has shaped many hearts; it has brought many peace. It has spawned Christian urban legends like the one about the two men who recite this Psalm – one reading it with great elocution to applause, the other citing it from the heart leaving the crowd in tears. When asked the difference, the first man replied, “I know the Psalm; he knows the Shepherd.”

God is Shepherd of His people. What does it mean for YHWH to be my shepherd? Psalm 23 enables us to come to know the Shepherd.

YHWH My Shepherd (1a)

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

The Sovereign: YHWH, the “I AM.” He is the infinite God (timeless), the self-sufficient one, lacking nothing & needing nothing. So…the One who needs nothing comes near to help the need. He condescends to be the shepherd of His people.

The Shepherd: As in other ancient societies (e.g. Egypt, Gen 46.34), shepherds were considered the lowest folks in society who engaged in the lowest of all work. Typically, the youngest in the family got the unpleasant assignment (e.g. David). It was unending, thankless work of nourishing, binding, caring, etc. some of the dumbest animals on the planet. No one choose to be a shepherd…no one except YHWH. The cosmic sovereign Ruler of the universe stoops down to care for His people. It was despised work, yet it is divine work.

“I Shall Not Want” (1b-6)

Or I have everything I need or I don’t need a thing. Come what may, I will not lack, not b/c of my skills or ability, not b/c of my wit or wisdom, but b/c YHWH is my shepherd. I shall not want…

2He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

Solace (2): Green pastures & still waters are pictures of peace. Laying down is a picture of rest. So with YHWH as my shepherd I have peaceful rest, solace. But for sheep to lie down, they need to be free from several things (see Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, 23) – fear, friction, flies, famine. In similar fashion, for us to rest in God/Christ we must be free from fear (“perfect love drives out fear”), friction (interpersonal conflict, “be at peace with one another”), spiritual “flies” (such as guilt, doubt, shame, bitterness), & famine of the Word. God is the perfect provider of all these so that we might find solace in the Savior.

3He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Salvation (3a): “Restores my soul,” i.e. He saves my life. Keller (51-52) says the parallel is a “cast” sheep. How often do we end up on our back spiritually & yet the shepherd comes & stands us upright? For the purpose of walking in paths of righteousness.

A Standard (3b): He leads me in paths of righteousness. See Isa 53.6, left to our own desires, we end up on the wrong/crooked path. But with YHWH as our shepherd, He keeps us on the straight/right path. “For His Name’s sake” – i.e. to display His glory & grace; because He is good

4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Security (4): “Valley of the shadow of death” see Keller 76-77:

It is customary to use this verse as a consolation to those who are passing through the dark valley of death. But even here, for the child of God, death is not an end but merely the door into a higher and more exalted life of intimate contact with Christ…The Good Shepherd knows this. It is one reason why He has told us, “Lo, I am with you alway” – yes, even in the valley of death.

But this also points to the shepherd’s ability to protect his sheep in times of danger. Fearless because He is with me. Note also, the valley is as much the right path as the green pastures & still waters. The rod & staff, one a weapon to fight off predators, the other designed to correct the sheep. Again Keller:

It was the rod of God’s Word that Christ, our Good Shepherd, used in His own encounter with the serpant – Satan – during His desert temptation. It is the same Word of God which we can count on again and again to counter the assaults and attacks of Satan (91-92).

5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Supplies (5): A great feast is prepared with oil & wine (“cup”). Some see here a shift in imagery, but Keller sees continuation in the sheep imagery. First, the “table” are the high table lands, a mesa where the good food is. Second the oil would be used during summer time (“fly time”) to ward off bugs & infection. Third, wine would be used during the winter to ward off chill. Point: all year round God is there with exactly what His people need.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Sanctuary (6): Out of God’s mercy comes His goodness. Thru black days & bright days, goodness will supply our needs & mercy will blot out our sins. Dwelling in His house forever. A heavenly home certainly, but in the here & now we have a “household,” that is, we are part of His flock. Why would we leave? We have everything we need. “I shall not want.” He is the good Shepherd.

Tho this imagery of God our shepherd is in the Old Testament, as New Testament Christians we must never forget that the same imagery is applied to Christ.

Jesus My Shepherd

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly...I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” (John 10:10, 14)

The Good Shepherd (Jn 10.11, 14): He promises self-sacrifice. He also promises to “know” us. That is, He is well acquainted with us. Jesus knows you & is always with you (Mt 28.20). So we can say, “You are with me.”

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13:20)

The Great Shepherd (Heb 13.20): He equips us to do His will. Notice what He equips us with – “everything good.” Isn’t that what we have seen in Psa 23- solace, salvation, a standard, security, supplies, sanctuary, & more!

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4, ESV)

The Chief Shepherd (1 Pt 5.4): He will reward faithful under-shepherds with glory.

“The Lord is MY Shepherd,” but what happens when I am shepherd? Max Lucado helps us understand what that looks like:

I am my own shepherd. I am always in need.

I stumble from mall to mall and shrink to shrink, seeking relief but never finding it.

I creep through the valley of the shadow of death and fall apart.

I fear everything from pesticides to power lines, and I’m starting to act like my mother.

I go down to the weekly staff meeting and am surrounded by enemies. I go home, and even my goldfish scowls at me.

I anoint my headache with extra-strength Tylenol.

My Jack Daniels runneth over.

Surely misery and misfortune will follow me, and I will live in self-doubt for the rest of my lonely life.

Now – which of these would you rather have? God as your shepherd who richly provides you everything good so you say “I shall NOT want” or you as shepherd which only gives you headaches & heartbreak. Kind of a no brainer… Let HIM be YOUR Shepherd.

A Golden Psalm – Psalm 16

Psalm 16 begins with the inscription “A Miktam of David.” Depending upon who you ask, miktam indicates how to sing the psalm or means “a golden psalm” (also 56-60). Either way, this Psalm contains the golden truth of the resurrection. According to Peter (Acts 2.25) & Paul (Acts 13.35), this psalm is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

“Preserve me” – keep me, protect me, guard me, save me. As shepherd with his sheep, a figure David would have identified with immediately. Here he is as a sheep calling out to the Shepherd.

2I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Without God, all is lost. Notice – three (3) names for God used in the first 2 verses: El, YHWH, Adoni.

3As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

“the saints…are the excellent ones”: though they have no excellence in themselves; any excellence comes from God. “In whom is all my delight” – David finds his place among the people of God. On a more profound level, since this Psalm looks forward to Christ, Christ delights in His people.

Many people love God; but do they love being with God’s people? Do they love coming to church? Even among Christians, do you delight in being with God’s people? David did; Christ does – the Savior delights in the saints.

4The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.

Notice the contrast: with God & His people there is “delight;” but away from God with other gods is “sorrow.” Idolatry only breeds “sorrow,” woe, pain. “Run after” can mean wed. Those who “marry” other gods end up with a sorrowful marriage. “Drink offerings of blood” may allude to the sacrifice of Molech which required a child. David says he never sacrificed to another God.

5The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

According to the Law (Num 18.20), the sons of Aaron (priesthood) and the tribe of Levi had no portion of the land. God tells them He is their portion. David says YHWH is his portion, He is more than enough. “My cup” which satisfies the thirst of the dry soul.

“You hold my lot” – “A minister may fill his pews…but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and nothing more.” – John Owen.

6The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

As David scoped out Jerusalem and surveyed the surrounding territory, he saw the “beautiful inheritance” of land God had given His people. On a higher level, Christ (Eph 1.18), when He surveys His people, His bride, the church, He sees His “beautiful inheritance.” Indeed, we, because we know Christ, consider the various blessings we now enjoy and how those will give way to something even more profound someday, we have a “beautiful inheritance.”

7I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Counsel from the YHWH blossoms & grows in our heart & mind. David would meditate upon God’s counsels even at midnight, being instructed by them.

“Wise men see more with their eyes shut by night that fools can see by day with their eyes open” (Spurgeon).

8I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Perhaps at this point in his life the 1st part of this verse were true for David. “Always” had he set YHWH before him. However, you & I know the tragic episode in David’s life with Bathsheba where David set aside the Lord. But when you set the Lord always before you, He is close by and ready to save. While David is the type, Christ is the antitype. His is a life which never set aside the Lord, but truly kept Him ever before Him.

9Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

“Therefore” since God is continually close…there is true joy & gladness that comes from the abiding presence of God. Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit (Lk 10.21). Brother Lawrence was a humble cook in a monastery, but his book on The Practice of the Presence of God is enlightening. “It isn’t necessary that we stay in church in order to remain in God’s presence. We can make our hearts personal chapels where we can enter anytime to talk to God privately. These conversations can be so loving and gentle, and anyone can have them” (37).

10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

“Sheol” is the unseen realm of disembodied souls (New Testament counterpart is Hades). When a person dies, they go here as a waiting place for final judgment. When David died, that’s where his soul went and his body saw decay. How much did David understand about what he is writing here? We know it speaks of resurrection (dead body coming back to life), but that was wholly unknown to David. It will be a century or two before the first resurrection takes place (by Elijah, 1 Kings 17). He had some inkling (v.11a)…

11You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The path to eternal life realized in Christ. Christ lived that He might die. Christ died that He might live again forevermore. Christ lives to make us partakers of His life. “In His presence” is where Christ is with all His glory & full joy.

Several generations of God’s people sang, read, pondered, and prayed this psalm. The temple was built by David’s son and then razed to ashes; the Israelites went into captivity, taking this psalm with them. 70 years later, the Israelites returned to the land, carrying this psalm with them. Temples were built, desecrated, and rebuilt. Empires rose & fell. And then, after nearly 1,000 years, one summer morning, when the feast of Pentecost was in full swing, Jerusalem was full of cheer & gladness, the time arrived to put the key in the lock & unlock the full meaning of this psalm. The same Spirit that had inspired it, interpreted it through apostolic lips.

Kiss the Son – Psalm 2

Turmoil in the world tempts us to worry and wonder. Several of the Psalms are Messianic in significance. Psalm 2 is one such Psalm. Yet each Psalm had its own meaning when originally penned. This Psalm communicated to Israel that no matter how chaotic the world scene may be, their King is the Anointed of God. That David wrote this Psalm is unquestionable (Acts 4.25). Paul affirms this is the second Psalm (Acts 13.33). Author & location are established in NT.  This Psalm’s main emphasis is to highlight God’s sovereignty over man’s depravity. How is God sovereign over man’s depravity? Psalm 2 answers this.

Man’s Depravity (1-3)

1Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

“Nations” are heathen nations, the Gentiles. “The peoples” are all mankind. They “rage” like the waves of the ocean. Why? B/c they are opposed to YHWH. It really is that simple. Since the beginning, man has rebelled against God’s way. Throughout history mankind has plotted in vain against God.

The Roman Empire plotted to vanquish Christianity from the earth…in vain.

19th century philosophers declared God is dead…in vain.

Militant Islam seeks to eliminate Christianity by killing the infidels…in vain.

Show me the burial place of Christianity. Show me where they buried God when He died. In fact, His tomb was found open, empty, with His grave clothes still there.

2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

Notice that man in rebellion 1) rages, 2) plots, 3) set themselves, 4) take counsel together, & 5) speak against God (YHWH) & His Anointed. “Anointed” in Hebrew is Messiah which translated into Greek became Christos from which we get Christ. Prophets (Isa 61.1), priests (Ex 30.30), and kings (1 Sam 16.13) were all anointed. So it is with Christ.

3“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

In other words, “Let us be out own gods.” This has been the cry of man since Eden when Satan tempted Eve to “be like God, knowing good & evil” or “to play at God, defining good & evil.” The inclination of man’s fallen heart is to reject God’s rule, even hating His Christ. Man’s inclination is to play at God and we are surrounded by a society whose favorite pastime is to (re)define good & evil.

The Lord’s Derision (4-6)

What is God’s reaction to all the depravity & rejection from mankind?

4He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

The Lord sits in heaven and His kingdom is over all (103.19) whether man likes it or not, whether man acknowledges it or not. In heaven, the Lord laughs. What’s so funny? God laughs these puny men to scorn and His scorn is for vengeance. He is a jealous God – jealous for His glory & the glory of His Anointed. So He mocks at man’s attempts to diminish Him or even erase Him, as though such a thing were possible. He ridicules man’s attempts to escape His cosmic sovereign rule.

5Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,

Some have attempted to eliminate the wrath of God from their Bibles. Nevertheless, it is a Bible subject. God’s holy wrath is kindled against sin, esp. the sin of self-deification (making self God), which is what the nations are about. Be assured: The love of God has averted His wrath away from us in Christ.

6“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

Consider what a mess this world is in and then remember what God says here. “God’s anointed is appointed & shall not be disappointed.” He rules from Zion regardless of how chaotic the world may be.

It’s as if God says to a rebellious mankind, “Ha! Rebel against me all you want. No matter what you do, what I’ve determined will come to pass will come to pass! Look! It’s as good as done. I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill”

A man once met Horace Greely, the famous newspaper editor, on the street and said, “Mr. Greely, I have stopped your paper.” “Have you?” Mr. Greely said, “that’s too bad,” and went on his way. The next morning, Mr. Greely met the man again, and said, “I thought you had stopped the Tribune?” “So I did,” was the reply. “Then there must be some mistake,” said Mr. Greely, “for I just came from the office and the presses were running, the clerks were as busy as ever, the compositors were hard at work, and the business was going on as yesterday and the day before.” “Oh,” said the man, “I didn’t mean I had stopped the entire newspaper. I meant that I had stopped my copy of it because I didn’t like your editorials.”

In the same way, individuals who rebel against God are like the man who proudly announced to Horace Greely that he had stopped his newspaper. They think that if they reject God’s rule in their life that they will stop God’s rule in the earth. But that’s not so. Whether a person rebels against God’s rule in his life or submits to God’s rule in his life, God is going to do what He has declared. God has declared that one day, despite mankind’s rebellion; Jesus Christ will reign upon the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

YHWH’s Decree (7-9)

7I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.

This is the decree of YHWH; it is the purpose of God – for David and the kingdom of Israel (the antitype/shadow) and for Jesus & the eternal kingdom (the type/substance). Herein lay the gospel (Acts 13.33). Thru His resurrection, Jesus was declared, finally & fully, to be the Son of God.

8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

A common custom among ancient near east kings was to give those to whom they favored whatever they ask. Thus, YHWH is pictured as sovereign monarch even over David.

9You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Those who refuse to bend the knee the King will break with an iron rod. The words “break” & “dash” denote strong force even tho it is merely a “potter’s vessel” which is struck. Once more the frailty of man is juxtaposed with the supreme power of God. Let’s just say you do not want to be found opposing or rebelling against God!

Man’s Devotion (10-12)

Given the unalterable, eternal purposes of God, what should man do?

10Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

If kings should take notice, how much more the subjects. God is supreme & the wise thing to do would be to take notice that God’s eternal purposes are fixed. It would be easier for a spider to move a mountain than for puny men to thwart God’s purposes or bring to nothing His Christ. Rather, men must “Serve YHWH…and rejoice…” Submission to & service in the kingdom is the wisest course men could take. Rejoicing under the rule of God is best. But all this is with “fear & trembling” (cf Phil 2.12-13) “Fear without joy, is torment; and joy, without holy fear, would be presumption.”

12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

“Kiss the Son,” i.e. pay homage to Him. Replace hatred with homage. In modern vernacular, “Don’t be hatin’.” Hatred toward God will only serve to ignite the wrath of God. “The way” spoken of is the way of rebellion; that way only leads to rebellion.

The 1st Psalm taught us the character of the righteous; the 2nd Psalm teaches us the character of the Righteous One. Turmoil in the world tempts us to worry & wonder – Where’s God? This Psalm answers: “Reigning in His heaven.”

This Psalm ends with a beatitude & can be translated “Blessed are all those who trust in Him.” Honor the Son by trusting in Him.

Conclusion – Ephesians

“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7.8). Paul closes this epistle with a final farewell of blessing and benediction (6.21-24). The general language and lack of personal greetings would indicate that this epistle was intended as a circular letter, the target audience being not just those in Ephesus, but Christians throughout the Cayster River valley (see Introduction).

Blessing (21-22)

Paul is sending Tychicus to these saints to bless them with encouragement.

21So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything.

So that…what I am doing:  Both concerning his physical situation (in chains in Rome) as well as his spiritual condition (personally as he preaches under house arrest and also how the church in Rome is doing). These brethren want to know & Paul wants them to know how he is. (cf. Col 4.8)

Tychicus…tell you everything: Tychicus was an Christian from Asia Minor who accompanied Paul (along with Trophimus) on his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20.4).  He was probably a native of Ephesus or Colossae. He no doubt acted as courier of this epistle as well as Colossians & Philemon. Paul calls him a beloved brother and faithful minister (Gk diakonos) in the Lord (key phrase). This loveable and faithful brother would make known all that these Christians wanted to know about Paul.

Would Paul say about us what he says about Tychicus – that we are not only beloved brothers or sisters, but that we are faithful ministers? We need to love one another and also be loveable ourselves. Every Christian is a minister, a servant unto the Lord (not just the preacher). We need to be found faithful in our service to our God. Like Tychicus…

  1. We need to be devoted to the service of Christ
  2. We need to co-labor with our brothers in Christ
  3. We need a disposition which seeks to encourage brethren

22I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

I have sent him…encourage your hearts: cf. Colossians 4.8. Paul purpose in sending Tychicus is the same as why he sent him to the Colossians: so that these Christians would know not just Paul’s well-being, but that of those with him (how we are) and that Tychicus might encourage or “comfort” (NASB) these brethren with how God has preserved Paul, even in chains.

Our lives are open books to one another. Paul was eager to share news of the wonder work of God in his life with these brethren knowing that this news would strengthen their hearts. Comforted, they themselves could pursue ministry bolstered in their faith.

We need more Tychicus’ today – those who heal the hearts of saints by the good word and encouragement they share. There are too many Christians who are sour faced curmudgeons, killjoys who believe their sole purpose is to point out how others are doing things “wrong,” and by wrong they mean they are not doing things the way they think it should be done. Tychicus was not a wet blanket saint, a Debbie Downer who only dragged people down. He called people up and built the brethren up. He sought opportunity to share a gracious word with God’s people. He told of the grace, love, and peace God brought to Paul and that imparted grace, love, and peace to His fellow brethren. Yes, we need more people like Tychicus in the church and fewer with Debbie Downer syndrome.

Benediction (23-24)

Paul offers a final prayer of peace, love, faith, and grace for these saints.

23Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace be to the brothers: This was the usual and common form of salutation of the time, especially among the Jews (Heb. Shalom).

Love with faith: Love is the fruit of faith, both of love to God and love toward one another. Where peace exists among brothers, love can flourish, stimulated by faith.

From God…Jesus Christ: The Father is the source of all these virtues and the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the mediator of our peace & love. Both are the objects of our faith.

As Paul has detailed (2.13-17), Christians have peace with God thanks to the blood of Christ and peace with one another due to the same means. Further, God shows us His faithful love by sending Christ into the world to die and into our lives to live. All these virtues come from God: we love because He first loved us; we know peace because He gives us peace; we have grace because He is gracious.

24Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Grace…Jesus Christ: Whereas verse 23 is a specific benediction (“to the brothers” of the local church), here it is more general aimed at all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul seeks the grace which he has spoken so often of in this epistle to be with all Christ-loving Christians.

With [love] incorruptible: or “with undying love” (NET, NIV). Here is the kind of love every Christian should have toward Christ. This is a rare word used only a handful times in the New Testament and typically in association with the resurrection (Romans 2.7; 1 Corinthians 15.42; 2 timothy 1.10). Used here it speaks of the abiding, unfailing love for Christ that marks genuine Christians. It “is not a passing gleam, like the morning cloud and the early dew” (PC 261).

The riches of God’s grace is immeasurable (2.7). But if we have no love for the Lord, this grace eludes us. No wonder Paul says elsewhere “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Cor 16.22). When you are outside of the grace of God because your love for Christ has died there is only a curse! So it is no wonder Paul has prayed for these Christians to know the unknowable love of Christ (3.19); when we know His love then our love for Him can flourish and grow. There will be no decrease or decay in it.

Note: all four (4) of these virtues have been discussed throughout this epistle: Peace (1.2; 2.14, 15, 17; 4.3; 6.15), love (1.4, 15; 2.4; 3.176, 19; 4.2, 15, 16; 5.2, 25, 28, 33), faith (1.1, 15; 2.8; 3.12, 17; 4.5, 13; 6.16, 21), and grace (1.2, 6, 7; 2.5, 7, 8; 3.2, 7, 8; 4.7, 29).

Growing in Your Walk with Christ, part 6

“Anyone whose life is not holy will never see the Lord” (Hebrews 12.14, NCV). The apostle Paul was acutely aware of just how vital holiness is for Christians. Already in chapter 5 of Ephesians he has exhorted his readers to purity in their lifestyle (vs.1-7). Now, pulling on the rich heritage of light and darkness familiar to him through the Old Testament, Paul unpacks the need for a holy life, a separate walk from the world with Christ (v.8-14).

A Holy Walk (5.8-14)

As children of light, Christians walk separated from darkness.

8for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

For at…darkness: Before Christ, they practiced these sins and were identified by darkness.

But now…the Lord: A sharp contrast is drawn from where they once were and where they are now. Now they are in the Lord which carries with it certain ethical charges and changes.

God is light (1 Jn 1.5). God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6.16). His truth is light (Psa 43.3). Light expresses His perfection & glory & majesty & truth. Darkness, on the other hand, is every in opposition to His perfection & glory & majesty & truth. It is in this darkness the world gropes and in which we once made our abode. But not anymore. In Christ, we are “children of light.”

Walk as children of light: Here is the obligation of those rescued out of darkness.  “The life lived as children of light is characterized by goodness, righteousness, truth, and whatever is pleasing to the Lord” (Patzia 258).

9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),

For the fruit of [the] light: Fruit is “a figurative term for the moral results of the lights, its products as a whole” (Nicoll 356). The earliest manuscripts read the light making “the Spirit” (NKJV, KJV) a transcription error intended to harmonize this verse with Galatians 5.22.

Found…and true: This triad summarizes living in light. “All goodness” is a disposition inclined toward good works (cf. 2.10); “righteousness” is moral integrity by obedience to God’s word; “truth” is what corresponds to reality, esp. relating to God.

This could serve as a commentary of sorts for what Jesus says in Matthew 5.14-16. Letting our light shine so that others may see it means we pursue goodness (a disposition seeking to engage in good works), righteousness (moral integrity & rectitude), and truth (freedom from falsehood and embracing, loving, and speaking moral truth). Sometimes there is a yawning chasm between what we know how we live. My brethren, these things ought not be so!

10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

And try to discern…the Lord: To live (“walk,” v.8) as children of light means Christians will “find out” (NIV) what is acceptable to the Lord, He Himself being light. The present tense indicates that this is the lifelong, habitual practice of light-children. Keep discerning what pleases the Lord.

Like Yoda said, “No try. Do or do not.” To “discern” is “to ascertain by test and experiment. Our whole walk should be directed to finding out what things are pleasing to Christ, rejecting at once everything that is not so, and clinging to all that is…The supreme practical rule of the Christian’s life must be to please Christ” (PC 209). The way to discern what pleases Him is accurate & diligent study of His word. Further, through careful practice we can please our Lord. “Discern” & “pleasing/acceptable” are both found in Rom 12.2. This has led some scholars to see here (Eph 5.10) sacrificial language, i.e. our entire, every action is a sacrifice unto God as we are ever laid upon the altar.

Implied in this is that there is a lifestyle which is displeasing to God, i.e. a life lived in darkness, a life stubbornly refusing the light. Wickedness, unrighteousness, and falsehood would characterize that kind of life.

Pause for a moment and notice the progression of these verses:

  1. Transformation (v.8): We have been changed from darkness to light. Hence, we abandon immorality and pursue holiness; we put off ignorance and put on knowledge; we are no longer but now have joy.
  2. Obligation (v.8, 10): We are called to walk as children of light and live so as to discern what pleases God. Don’t go back to the darkness and engage what is not pleasing to God; walk farther into the day where God-pleasing activities are.
  3. Demonstration (v.9): We will demonstrate 1) divine beneficence/benevolence – doing good to all men; 2) divine righteousness – rendering to men what is theirs and to God what is His; 3) divine reality – the way things ought to be with God in control.

11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Take no part…darkness: The works of darkness are barren, having no life in them. They only produce death (see Rom 6.21). The Christian is to “have no fellowship” (NKJV) with the evil so prevalent in the world. That is old self behavior; the new self accentuates light, especially…

Instead expose them: Expose here means to convict through words and actions. By living the life excellently Christians convict and even condemn the world (see Noah, Hebrews 11.7). By speaking the word engagingly we can convince them of the truth.

Christians must never be content with passivity toward darkness. We are light and must shine forth into darkness (Matt 5.14-16; Phil 2.15). Now when people’s darkness is exposed it is traumatic so expect a reaction (see John 3.19-21).

12For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

For it is shameful…in secret: Clarke says this is a reference to the mystery cults of Ephesus which we engaged in extreme levels of debauchery as recorded by Livy. However, it need not be limited to those cultic practices performed at night. It certainly could be the secret vices of engaged in the home. Either way, it is shameful for those who practice them to talk about, but Christians must speak out and shed light into the dark corners of culture & society. Paul has done that throughout these two chapters as he contrasted the old self with the new self.

The degradation & depravity of man knows no bounds today. We’ve got an entire internet full of corruption and foulness. Parades are held in celebration of debauchery. Sin has crawled out of the shadows of hiding and is now all over the TV & silver screen. It is still darkness; it just seems the darkness is advancing. Fast falls the night. And it is still shameful, disgraceful. Deep down inside those who practice know this is the case. Yet, they have seared their conscience, walled it off in an attempt to silence that still small voice which tells them, “This is not right.”

13But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,

But when…the light: When Christians identify those evil, barren works of darkness to those who practice them, “people will come to see the true nature of evil and, it is hoped, turn to the light” (Patzia 261).

It becomes visible: Or they are seen for what they are, i.e. shameful, evil, darkness.

We, Christians, are enlightened (1.18; 5.8) and we are enlightening others. “Christians are to be God’s light in the midst of darkness” (Boice). We’re like Motel 6 – “We’ll leave the light on for the you.” Brethren, let us hold forth the light of the gospel in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation.”

14for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

For anything…is light: Here is the transformative effect of the light of the gospel. Once enlightened, what was darkness is light (verse 8).

Therefore it says: or “He says” (KJV, NKJV). Either is an acceptable translation.

“Awake, O sleeper…on you”: Three metaphors for turning to God are linked in this statement: 1) Awakening from sleep; 2) Being raised from the dead; 3) Christ shining light into darkness. This may have been a song sung when a person was baptized (Patzia 262; see also Special Study).

Paul seems to present a three-fold progression from darkness to light:

  1. Exposure (v.11): Their sin(s) are revealed to them either through conversation with or conduct of Christians. They are found out.
  2. Disclosure (v.13): A crisis of judgment occurs – either they avoid the light (because they love evil) or they allow their deeds to be made manifest (John 3.19-21). But if they disclose their sins to God…
  3. Erasure (v.14): The light erases the darkness. They come to the serenity and tranquility of being So darkness is transformed into light by Christ (who is Himself the Light).

Special Study—What Is Paul Quoting in Ephesians 5.14?

Most scholars believe that Isaiah 60.1 is in view, though other Old Testament passages are cited as well (Isaiah 9.2; 26.19; 52.1). However, there is not an exact match with any OT text. So what is Paul quoting? Foulkes says, “The most likely explanation is that we have here another little fragment of an early Christian hymn” (155). Patzia goes further and says “it may have been used by the church at a baptismal service as part of a hymn that was recited or sung” (262). If it is a hymn, Isaiah 60.1 (et al) surely inspired it.

Growing in Your Walk with Christ, part 5

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

A Pure Walk (5.1-7)

Living with Christ requires abstaining from impure & immoral behavior.

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore do not become partners with them;

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

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

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