God’s Grace & Suffering, part 2

Peter continues his exploration of the relation between God’s grace and the suffering Christians experience at the hands of unbelievers. In the midst of this larger context are couched two of the most enigmatic and problematic verses in the New Testament (3.19; 4.6). While commentary will address these verses and work through them with a particular interpretation, the overall thrust of these verses, viz. suffering as Christians after the model of Christ, will be the primary emphasis.

Suffering & Christ (3.18-4.6)

Christ is the example for Christians of suffering according to God’s will.

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

For Christ…the unrighteous: Peter appeals to Christ as the model for his readers to follow. Christ also suffered even as you now suffer. Though similar, Christ’s suffering was unique in that He suffered once for sin, a common theme in the NT (Heb 9.28; 10.10, 14). It was not “once upon a time,” but “once for all.” It was not for His sins; He was sinless (2.22). But for our sins did He suffer. He was righteous, that is He was wholly conformed to the holy Law of God. So He was innocent whereas man was guilty of breaking God’s Law, i.e. unrighteous. By His unique suffering…

Just as Jesus fearlessly suffered to accomplish God’s purposes so we must face suffering fearlessly that God’s purposes might be accomplished in us. His vicarious sacrifice on the cross (the doctrine of atonement) animates & stimulates our patient endurance in suffering. “Just as suffering was the pathway to exaltation for Christ, so also suffering is the prelude to glory for believers.”[1] Doctrines embody the duties; duties are animated by the doctrines.

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

“Christ suffered once for sins” and no more. Contrary to what Catholicism teaches concerning the Mass – that Christ is sacrificed all over again each time Mass is held.

The sinlessness of Christ – His absolute moral perfection – is stressed here as elsewhere. The purity of Christ was never soiled or stained in the slightest degree. “Though exposed to the assaults of the great author of evil, that adversary did not prevail against, that son of mischief did not overcome him. Though in a world full of temptation and sin, he remained untainted; though tried both by its smiles and its frowns, its terrors and its allurements, he never in the slightest degree imbibed its spirit or imitated its manners. He kept himself ‘unspotted from the world,’ being ‘in it, not of it;’ and he died, as he lived a stranger to guilt and depravity. No action, no word, ever escaped him, no thought, no desire, ever arose in his bosom, inconsistent with the requisitions or with the spirit of the divine law. He left this world as he entered it, ‘holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.’” (John Brown, Expository Discourses on First Peter, Vol. 2, p.385-386)

That He might bring us to God: This is the result of Christ’s suffering for our sins—access to the immediate presence of God. Our sins had separated us from God; His suffering brought us near to God. We may draw near to God by the new & living Way Christ provided by the cross.

Note: Nothing in the atonement changed the inherent nature of God. While Christ showed us the Father in Himself, He did not bring God to us. On the contrary, Christ brought us to God by His suffering on the cross.

“That He might bring us to God”: Peter is preparing to venture off into turbulent waters. The verses ahead have given scholars pause & headaches probably since Peter put pen to parchment. It is difficult & obscure. Whatever is meant by the next few verses, one thing is clear: by His death, resurrection, & exaltation Christ has provided us with immediate & direct access to the presence of God the Father.

Being…in [the] spirit: So Peter clearly identifies the sufferings of Christ—specifically His painful & violent death “in the body” (NIV) on the cross. Made alive (i.e. reanimated) “by the Spirit” (NIV) is resurrection language. This is similar to Paul in Romans 1.3-4 & 1 Timothy 3.16 in both structure & meaning. While Christ’s suffering on the cross brought death to His body, He was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit.

19in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,

In which: or in Whom also (kai). The Holy Spirit is in view as the inspiration for proclamation.

He went: Who? Christ. Christ’s Spirit has always been the initiator of divine revelation (1.11). This going is after His death in the flesh and resurrection. Therefore, this is His ascension back to the Father.

Proclaimed to the spirits in prison: One of the primary interpretations of this text since Augustine has been that this refers to when Christ’s Spirit proclaimed (aor) in the days of Noah to those souls which were alive at the time but are now in prison (NASB) since they died in the flood. Indeed, this was this author’s view. However, upon further evaluation and following Dalton, this “refers to Christ’s self-presentation as risen Lord to the hostile angelic powers in the heavens on the occasion of his ascension.”[1] This idea is continued in verse 22 when Peter explains the subjection those same spirits, i.e. “angels, authorities, and powers,” to the resurrected Christ.

[1] William Joseph Dalton, Christ’s Proclamation to the Spirits: A Study of 1 Peter 3:18–4:6, vol. 23, Analecta Biblica (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1989), 26.

Preaching to Spirits in Prison

While the above exposition seems the best explanation for this difficult text, other explanations have been offered:

1) Christ’s Spirit in Noah’s Day: Christ’s Spirit went & preached in the days of Noah to those disobedient ones then alive but who are now dead & in prison, i.e. tartarus. This view incorporates the reference to Noah in verse 20.  A nuance of this view is that “in prison” described their state in the days of Noah, i.e. they were in bondage to sin.

2) Christ in Hades: He then went to the hadean realm (see Acts 2.24, 27, 31) where He proclaimed a message of victory over the forces of evil to the evil angels who did not keep their proper place (Jude 6). A variation of this view says Christ proclaimed to dead saints in paradise or to those who repented just before the flood but went to Purgatory, which is the “prison” (Catholic).

3) Christ’s spirit went to the hadean realm to preach the gospel to all the dead, thereby giving all a second chance at salvation. This universalist view stands in contradiction with several key biblical texts, esp. Hebrews 9.27.

20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

Because they formerly did not obey: This phrase with the accompanying time stamp of “days of Noah” in the next positively identifies the “spirits in prison” of v.19 as human spirits. God’s judgment in the flood was upon human sin (Genesis 6.5-7).

When…being prepared: Never are angels given time to repent; only with man does God patiently wait for repentance. So while the ark was being prepared God waited patiently for disobedient men to repent before His judgment came in the flood.

God is patient. [If God is love & love is patient, then God is patient.] By my calculations it took Noah about a hundred (100) years to build the ark. 100 years. A lot can happen in 100 years. People live whole lifetimes in 100 years. We have gone from the inability to fly to manned space flight & landing on the moon in less time. We’ve gone from telegraph to telephone to cell phone to iPhone in 100 years. Computers went from massive machines that took up hundreds of square feet to wristwatches in 100 years. Technologically man can literally leave our solar system in 100 years. Yet…spiritually given 100 years man will still persist in his rebellion & disobedience to God. For 100 years Christ through Noah preached repentance & judgment. By faith Noah built his ark. But according to extra-biblical literature & through our own experience with the callous hearts of mankind all Noah received back was derision: “Old man, what is this ark for?” And still God waits patiently as Christ through His church continues to preach and prepare for the judgment & eternity.

In which a few…through water: It must be noted that Peter affirms the historical nature of the Noah account (Genesis 7.13, 23). Two facts emerge from the example of Noah: 1) Few were saved; 2) The salvation came through water.

The example of Noah was selected by Peter (even the Holy Spirit) to encourage his readers (and even us) to faithfulness in the midst of suffering. Noah’s family was an oppressed minority surrounded by hostile unbelievers; so were Peter’s readers; so are most Christians today the world over. Noah was faithful to mission of God; so Peter exhorts his readers to faithfulness to God’s mission by calling them to set Christ apart in their hearts & being willing to give an answer for their inward hope (3.15). In Noah’s day judgment was soon to come and did come in the flood; so for Peter’s readers judgment was soon to come and would come (4.5, 17). God was present with Noah by the Spirit of Christ; so God would be with Peter’s readers, empowering them in their work; so they should not fear (3.14). These parallels in like manner should encourage our hearts: though we are the minority, the “few,” God is faithful, He will save us, and final judgment will come.

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

Baptism…now saves you: The waters of the flood is that which corresponds to baptism as a type or figure (Gk antitupon). The flood of Noah’s day “prefigures” (NET) or “symbolizes” (NIV) the baptism of Peter’s readers. How? Just as Noah & his family escaped the corrupt world & entered into the renewed world, so Christians escape from the corruption of the world & enter into renewed life with God. Just as in the flood, in baptism evil is washed away & continues to save us (present tense). Baptism “brings us into a state of salvation, into covenant with God” (Caffin 137).

“The basis of their assurance is their baptism, for in baptism they have appealed to God to give them a good conscience on the basis of the crucified (v. 18) and risen (v. 21) work of the Lord Jesus Christ.”[1] “Baptism now saves you.” “But it is only the beginning, the birth; the growth must follow; the death unto sin, the new birth unto righteousness, must be realized in actual life” (Caffin 137). John Gill, good Baptist that he was, saw the inescapable conclusion of this text when he wrote, “the sense seems plainly this; that then is baptism rightly performed, and its end answered, when a person, conscious to himself of its being an ordinance of Christ, and of his duty to submit to it, does do so upon profession of his faith in Christ, in obedience to his command, and “with” a view to his glory; in doing which he discharges a good conscience towards God: and being thus performed, it saves.” Albert Barnes, good Presbyterian that he was, likewise recognized the immediate meaning of this text when he wrote, “The sense is, that baptism, including all that is properly meant by baptism as a religious rite – that is, baptism administered in connection with true repentance, and true faith in the Lord Jesus, and when it is properly a symbol of the putting away of sin, and of the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit, and an act of unreserved dedication to God – now saves us.” Barnes goes on to call baptism “the indispensable condition of salvation.” Indeed, we cannot be in Christ without baptism.

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

Now the flood of Noah’s day did a couple things: 1) It brought catastrophic disaster & judgment after a long period of patience and 2) It saved Noah & his few family members. This became a type of Christian baptism for baptism likewise does a couple things: 1) It marks out for judgment those who refuse it through disobedience & rebellion and 2) It brings glorious salvation to those who submit. What was true in Noah’s day was true in the 1st century is true today: the same waters that bring salvation to the faithful likewise condemn the unrepentant. We have escaped the judgment & have experienced the grace of God; indeed, it is the same favor Noah found from God. God is still perfectly capable & willing to save His people who are facing ridicule & hardship from unbelievers.

Not as…the body: But this is no mere ceremony. Peter is quick to squelch any “magical” notions about baptism. It is not a bath to remove dirt from the body (Gk sarkos), indicating the true meaning of baptisma as an immersion since a few drops sprinkled would not cleanse the body. Rather, while an outward action is being performed (immersion ), an inward attitude must be maintained (faith).

But as…a good conscience: But (Gk alla) indicates a strong contrast. As an appeal can also be translated “the pledge of.” So is baptism a petition or a promise? Commentators note how difficult the language of this verse is. Perhaps this was intentionally done by Peter so that both petition & promise come into view. On the one hand, when one is baptized he/she is asking God for a good conscience—something only He can give by the blood of Christ (cf. Hebrews 9.14; 10.22). At the same time, when one is baptized he/she is pledging to maintain a good conscience before God through a life of service to Him. Both of these fit well with Peter’s overall theme.

“The inner meaning of baptism is not that the flesh puts away its filth, but that a good conscience inquires of God. The outward and visible sign doth not save if separated from the inward and spiritual grace” (Caffin 137). Or as the writer of Hebrews puts it, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22, ESV) The body must be washed with pure water, but the heart must also be sprinkled clean.

In baptism we are pleading with God to forgive us our sins, make us clean by the blood of Jesus, wash us inwardly of sins so that we are whiter than snow, and put us in right relationship with Him. It is no wonder that the one writing this epistle is the same one who told the crowd on Pentecost to “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2.38).

At the same time, in baptism we are promising God that we will walk Him, renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil, dedicate ourselves to Him fully, & consecrate our hearts to service in His kingdom. So it is no accident that the one writing this epistle is the same preacher who warned the crowds on Pentecost to “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2.40).

Through…Jesus Christ: Here is the power of baptism—Christ’s resurrection. Everything related to our “living hope” is connected to Christ’s resurrection (1.3). This includes the good conscience & deliverance from sins one receives from God through baptism. Christ earned these for us by His resurrection. As He was raised from the dead, so are Christians raised from spiritual death.

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

Who has…of God: Christ’s ascension & exaltation are in view here. Following the 40 days He was with His disciples after the resurrection, Christ was “lifted up” & taken out of sight by a cloud (Acts 1.9) to go back to heaven to intercede on our behalf (Hebrews 7.25). Has gone is the same word as “went” in verse 19 (cf. Ephesians 4.10). Being seated at the right hand of a king in antiquity indicated that one acted with the authority & power of the king. So Christ acts on the authority of the Father; power and honor belong to Him. Also, this is an allusion to Psalm 110.1.

“Just as Noah was delivered through the stormy waters of the flood, believers have been saved through the stormy waters of baptism by virtue of Christ’s triumph over death.”[1] Peter brings his readers & us back to the main point of this section: Christ’s victory over all His (and our) evil foes. Christ triumphed over sin, over death, and over angelic beings. “Now who (or what) is there to harm you?” (v.13) Christ is all-powerful, since the holy angels worship Him & evil angels tremble at His name. If even these mighty creatures are subjected to Him, what can harm us that He cannot overcome? Further, God will bless you for suffering while doing good (v.14) and, like Noah, God will ultimately deliver you from all the corruption of the world.

[1] Ibid.

With angels…subjected to Him: See Ephesians 1.20-21. Angels, authorities, and powers can refer to spiritual beings both good and evil. All these powerful creatures regardless of rank have been subjected to Christ, that is, through His resurrection, ascension, & exaltation He brought them into submission even those which were not willing.  Christ is the cosmic sovereign Ruler over every power; “Now who is there to harm you…?” (v.13). Peter has answered His question by tracing the example of Christ clearly for his readers to see the exalted Lord. Summing up, Peter exhorts his readers to follow Christ’s example in suffering and be encouraged that the Lord will deliver them from all enemies be they of flesh or spiritual.

1Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

Since…in the flesh: cf. 3.18. Peter returns to where he started in presenting Christ’s suffering (Gk. Root pascho) as an example for these Christians suffering persecution. The aim here will focus more on the eschatological glory to come for suffering for Christ.

Arm yourselves…thinking: i.e. think as Christ thought about obedience & suffering. Arm yourselves is military language for the resolution needed to venture forth into battle.

Why do we do what we do? Do we behave a certain way in order to avoid suffering & minimize hardship? Or is obedience to God our supreme motivation? Peter exhorts us to obedience to God in spite of hardship & suffering. Since it is true that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” and therefore cannot be avoided, we need military grit & discipline to live the Christian life. Battle is inevitable for soldiers; similarly, persecution is inevitable for believers. This is the nature of God’s dealings with peoples. Therefore, prepare for war.

For whoever…sin: This is the 1st main emphasis Peter wants to impact his readers—suffering frees us from sin. Ceased from sin in that Christians make a clean break from sin & obeying God is the supreme motivation for all of one’s actions. The next verse explains further.

“Ceased from sin” is further detailed in verse 2 when Peter explains how we are “to live…for the will of God” as opposed to “for human passions.” Hence, in view here is the process sanctification. The aorist tense indicates a clean break from sin whereby obedience to God becomes our chief aim in all we do (as opposed to no longer sinning, a notion which fails to account for a number of verses which teach the complete opposite).

2so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

So as…human passions: the rest of the time in the flesh is the time God gives. Human passions at the desires they had before they were converted (3). They “no longer live for themselves” (2 Cor 5.15).

It is important to keep Peter’s theme of suffering for righteousness or “for doing good” in view as we read about suffering in the flesh (3.14, 17). This would exclude all “human passions,” i.e. “the lusts of men.” We are yet “in the flesh” or “fleshy” (sarki). So long as we are alive, we still live “in flesh.” At the same time, we should be living in the flesh so as to glorify God by doing His will as opposed to being controlled by & gratifying the flesh.

But for the will of God: However many years God may give these Christians, God’s will is to be their highest priority. God’s will & “the lusts of men” are always opposed to each other (Gal 5.17).

Christians are exiles in whatever country they live, hostile government or not. God’s will is to be priority #1 wherever we live. The goal must not be to avoid suffering; rather, the goal should be to use suffering as a means to sanctification. Regardless of regime or who sits on the throne, this is the purpose of our suffering: to live for the will of God.

3For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

For the time…want to do: Why live for God’s will? They have spent enough time in the other. Since Christians are New Israel (1.2; 2.9-10), Gentiles here means those who are not Christians.

However long you were without Christ & however much sin you committed; whether it was one sin or a grossly profligate lifestyle given over to sin, Peter is blunt – that time was sufficient for sin. It was enough! So we should not want to live any longer, not a day, hour, minute, or second more in it. We have done enough of living “for doing what the Gentiles want to do.” That life was not right. So let us be done with it. There is no reason to continue in it.

Living in sensuality: No moral restraint in sexual acts or physical violence.

Passions: or “lusts” (NASB). These are unnatural, ungodly desires for sex or property.

Drunkenness: excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages; intoxication.

Orgies: typically linked with drunkenness (Gal 5.21), these parties encouraged immoral behavior.

Drinking parties: these were social gatherings where drinking games were played (cf. Isa 5.22).

Lawless idolatry: Pagan worship which was against God’s law & resulted in immorality.

God’s word still speaks a powerful word into our current social situation. Where there is all manner of ungodly behavior being engaged in, God demands holiness from His people. In our culture, greed is still good & sometimes celebrated. Covetousness is used in commercials to sell products. Sex sells. Men still want women who are not their wives & women want men who are not their husbands. People still have unnatural, ungodly, evil desires. Drunkenness is still a blight upon our society today, along with other serious substance abuse. Typically this kind of behavior is accompanied by sex, in some cases forced and others consensual with multiple partners (our modern definition of orgies). There are drinking parties which include a host of drinking games (beer pong, et al). All of these “lusts of men,” these “human passions,” are diametrically opposed to the will of God. They are thoroughly non-Christian (i.e. Gentile) activities. Enough with these!

4With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;

With respect…debauchery: They are surprised or “think it strange” is a sudden amazement or wonder the unbeliever has given the life change which has taken place in the Christian. The same flood of debauchery is all the sins listed in verse 3. Christians seek to do God’s will.

The “surprise” is one of eyes wide, mouth agape astonishment. Whoa! The unbelievers are taken aback at the radical change which has taken place in the life of the believer. This is the way it is supposed to be. For the unbeliever it is strange because they feel no guilt or remorse over sin nor do they have any sense of obligation to God. Their obligation is to self-gratification, the philosophy of “if it feels good do it,” get all you can now because this life is all there is. The Christian, on the other hand, has been awakened to the spiritual reality of God, heaven & hell, & the folly of sin. They have sought to abandon the gratification of the flesh for actions which are pleasing to God.

The malign you: Or “speaking evil of you” (NKJV). Or “they vilify you” (NET). Surprise turned to anger.  The Christians became the objects of the pagan unbeliever’s wrath.

The unbeliever’s puzzlement turns to outrage. Unbelievers consider the “flood of debauchery” as normal behavior. Therefore, since Christians do not engage in what they consider normal behavior, and so engage what is for them unnatural behavior, they speak evil of the Christians. They criticize, defame, revile; they name-call, belittle, & teardown. We see this in our own society where Christians are typically presented as unenlightened prudes who do not really contribute to thoughtful dialogue about issues since they are usually blinded by bias. “In a world of sin, Christians are strangers, especially if they were formerly part of that world.”[1]

[1] Kistemaker, Simon J., and William Hendriksen. Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude. Vol. 16. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. Print. New Testament Commentary.

5but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

[But] they will give account: The reviling of the unbelievers is not the last word; they will give back “a word” to God. In other words, they will answer to God for maligning Christians. In this the suffering of the Christians will be vindicated.

The reviling & evil speech, even blasphemy, of the unbelieving world is never the final word. Indeed, the final word anyone will have to give back to God is “Jesus is Lord” spoken either to their vindication or condemnation at the last day. Furthermore, there is always a sense from the NT writers that the Judge would appear at any second, as though He were “standing at the door” ready to break forth onto the grand stage of history to bring the final act to a close. We today must live in confident expectation that at any moment the Lord will appear in glory.

To Him…the dead: He who is ready to judge is Christ. The living & the dead means everyone; some will be alive when He comes in final judgment while others will have died. For ready see James 5.9.

Notice how Peter speaks of Christ/God: “Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” Paul does a similar thing (e.g. Romans 8.11 – “Him who raised Jesus from the dead”). They do not come out and simply say “Christ” or “God.” They focus on a certain aspect of what makes God God or Christ Christ. It amplifies the subject. It is a way of magnifying God & Christ. So Christ is magnified as the judge of all people, living & dead. How we talk about God matters!

6For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

For this…who are dead: Since Christ will judge the dead, what about the faithful dead, i.e. Christians who have already died esp. those who suffered martyrdom in persecution. The gospel was preached (aor) indicates this took place in the past. Those who are dead are those who obeyed the gospel preached & have since died (whether by persecution or not).

That…people are: That (Gk hina) shows the purpose of the proclamation of the gospel: on the one hand (Gk men) judged (and condemned) by men in [the] flesh or…

In the same way that Christ was judged worthy of reviling, malignity, & death by fleshly men, so too are Christians across time & space deemed worthy of the same. But just as God did not abandon His soul to Hades so that He saw life, so too are Christians promised life with God both now & forever.

They might…God does: on the other hand (Gk de) they might live according to God in [the] spirit. So while alive, these Christians were judged by fleshly men as worthy of reviling, malignity, & even death, but God, who is Spirit, gives them life even in death.

Both the judgment of men & life with God have consequences for the present & eschatologically (now & not yet). These men who judge Christians as worthy of rejection & as despicable themselves heap up condemnation on their own life and will one day stand & give account for their blasphemy. In the meantime, they stand condemned, lest they repent & are saved (e.g. Saul/Paul). Christians, as they endure this treatment, live for God’s will as supreme in their life & thereby live with Him even now. As this world gives way to the next, we will enjoy life with Him even more.

Special Study—The Gospel Preached to the Dead

1) Following His death & before His resurrection, Jesus went to the unseen spiritual realm (Hades) & preached the gospel to the spirits of the dead. However, this removes the teeth out of the promise of vindication in v.5 if there is a second chance.

2) The “dead” are those “dead in trespasses & sin,” i.e. spiritually dead. The aorist tense works against this; why not say “the gospel is preached” since this is what was taking place even as Peter wrote?

3) Those who heard & obeyed the gospel but have since died (perhaps via persecution). This seems the best understanding.

God’s Grace & Salvation, part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barnes says the hypocrisies are toward both God and man:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Psalm that is Repeated – Psalm 53

Psalm 53 is nearly identical to Psalm 14.

If God says something once it is important; it is His word after all. If He says it twice, we must give it special attention. But what if God says it thrice? This Psalm is quoted by Paul in Romans 3.10-12. “This demands out keenest concentration, contemplation, assimilation, and even memorization…we are to ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.’” (Boice). There is no vain repetition with God. Spurgeon suggests that David wrote the 14th when he was young and turned his attention to it later in life for a “revision” of sorts. What he found was that men were no better later in life as they were when he was younger. Yet God takes care of the faithful who live surrounded by sin & evil. How bad is it really in the world? According to Psalm 53, it is really, really bad. We might say it’s a bad, bad, bad, bad world.

“To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.” The superscription of this psalm calls it “a maskil.” A maskil could mean this is 1) a contemplative song [think about it, hmm…]; 2) a psalm imparting moral wisdom; 3) a well-written psalm (NET).

The Fountain of Sin (1a)

1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

“Fool”: this word is typically used to describe a moral deficient person, an impious individual. A fool is one who “finds pleasure in evil conduct” (Prov 10.23, NIV). Not intelligence but impiety is in view. This personal rebellion is what stimulated their “repentance” about God’s existence.

“Heart”: The moral corrupt person must first convince him/herself there is no God. So here is self-deception. So they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1.18).

“No God”: Ultimately, then, this is a choice to disbelieve in God. There may certainly be real challenges to their faith & attempts to make atheism appear reasonable or rational, but at the heart of atheism is personal rebellion.

The Filthiness of Sin (1b)

They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.

“Corrupt”: Here is the deceptiveness of sin – it masquerades as something beautiful & desirable. Like how homosexual behavior is simple another alternative lifestyle or being for abortion is “pro-choice” (who would want to take away options?). Sin makes men altogether filthy.

“Vile”: or “have committed abominable injustice” (NASB). Is there really any greater injustice men can commit than to make sin seem attractive?

The Fact of Sin (2)

2God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.

“God Looks Down from Heaven”: Holy God, perfect & sinless, sitting upon His majestic throne looks down upon the earth. What does He see? A planet full of sinful men & women. All our sinful hearts & lives are open before Him.

The Witness of God: Do any seek after Him? When Paul quotes this verse in Romans 3.11 the answer is “no one understands…seek for God.”

The Fault of Sin (3)

3They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

“Fallen Away”: Is sin really that bad? YES! It is iniquity, unrighteousness, there is nothing good in it, it is evil. It is turning away from the right path, the path of life, to the path of death.

No One Does Good: Not only have we turned from God & corrupted ourselves, our interpersonal relationships are ruined because of sin. We do not do good to others.

The Folly of Sin (4)

4Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?

“no knowledge…do not call upon God” is language indicative of those who never made time for God in their lives and their foolishness will ultimately find them out. Listen to the excuses people make when it comes to knowing God…

“I didn’t know you existed”: God has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself in the world & the Word – how will this sound to Him?

“I didn’t think you were important”: How insulting to God! What was more important? TV, fantasy football, Facebook, work?

“I didn’t have time for you”: Yet you had time for every other frivolous, meaningless thing; everything you believed was important, but wasn’t.

The Fruit of Sin (4b)

“…who eat up my people as they eat bread…”

Barbarity: these “eat up my people as they eat bread.” These devour the weak & the poor that they might become strong & rich. This is an apt description of the dog-eat-dog world that then was and still is.

Cruelty: when the deceitfulness of sin hardens men’s hearts we should expect to see even the family unit being destroyed. Just plain mean, acting  like junk yard dogs toward one another.

The Fear (and Shame) of Sin (5)

5There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.

God their Enemy: Here is the main variation between this and Pslam 14. “great terror where there is no terror.” Their own consciences frighten them, their imaginations fill them with terror. There is a very real fear that cannot be erased: God is & God fights against them.

“God has rejected them”: They are right to fear because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. “The wicked flees when no one pursues” because in reality God is hunting them!

The Faith of the Saints (6)

6Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

The Present Evil World: Sin abounds here & has made men barbaric & cruel. Our experience is one where sin wins: the righteous are vilified & destroyed. It’s as common as men eating bread. (Romans 3.10-20; 21-25)

Look Upward: First, our Savior has come & delivered us from the bonds of sin. We are no longer corrupt & vile because of Jesus. Second, we wait in anticipation for when Christ comes back to set to right all that is wrong:

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:5–12, ESV)

We are surrounded by sin & evil in this world. The world hates us but God has rejected them. When Jesus comes He will demonstrate that finally & fully. May we be found worthy when Jesus comes.

(Outline adapted from Matthew Henry)

When You’ve Blown It Again – Psalm 32

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

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

God Deals With Our Sin (1-4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Hears Our Confession (5-7)

Confession brings joy!

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

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

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

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

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

God Instructs Our Hearts (8-11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practical Atheism – Psalm 10

Statisticians have long been forecasting the rise of secularism in America. George Barna in his book The Seven Faith Tribes sets the number of Spiritual Skeptics at 11% – atheists (9%) and agnostics (2%) (99). When one factors in the number of “nons” you end up closer to 1 in 5 or 20% of the American population being somewhat skeptical of God, the Bible, & religion in general. All of these numbers are figures which have nearly doubled in size in the past 25 years. The 24 hour media cycle does not help. Every moment there is more bad news. Turmoil & tumult are the order of the day. It appears that evil is winning. Satan’s kingdom is advancing. What can the righteous do? Enter Psalm 10. The message of this Psalm is simple: Though it seems like evil wins in this world, God ultimately wins. What do we do when evil is winning? Psalm 10 provides insight concerning what we do in troubled times.

The Perplexity of Theism

1Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Why is God Silent? Verse 1, why is God far off and hidden? We are inclined to think that 1) if we are God’s people, He would never allow us to fall into the hands of our enemies or 2) if we are oppressed by evil men, God will be quick to rescue. However, the psalmist’s own experience does not bear this out. Surely you can identify with this to some degree. There is the creeping influence of secularism with the growing acceptance of ungodly practices; there is the threat of radical, militant Islam which largely goes unchecked though they broadcast their violent videos; maybe in your own life you have experienced some kind of oppression from evil people. Where is God in all of this? Why does He tolerate it?

13Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?

Why Be an Atheist? Verse 13, why do the wicked renounce God? And they do! 1) They deny there is a God (v.4); 2) They deny God sees their actions (v.11); 3) They deny God will judge them (13). Even today there are many who a) reject God & Christianity outright or b) claim the name of Christ while living their life as though He does not exist, what one writer calls “Christian Atheism.” Why would anyone exchange the safe shores of sanity which is theism for the roaring waves of insanity which is atheism, practical, Christian, or otherwise? Well, verses 2-11 will serve to explain why many choose this course.

The Practice of Atheism (2-11)

Contained in these vs. is a lengthy picture of human wickedness & as terrify as any found in all the Bible.

2In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.

3For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.

4In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

Pride (2-4): One reason people choose atheism is pride. “In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek Him,” i.e. God. Arrogance births & nourishes godlessness. The arrogant, prideful boaster shows contempt for God and for his fellow man, seeking to create & devour the permanent underclass (“pursue the poor”), exploiting & crushing the weak in their greed.

5His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them.

Prosperity (5): Herein lies the rub – the godly might expect God to strike down the practical atheist. Instead, though, “His ways prosper at all times.” In fact, his prosperity makes his continued atheism possible. The practical atheist 1) has no need for God’s moral code (“judgments” or “laws”), they are “out of his sight” & 2) he makes fun of us for upholding God’s standard of conduct (he “makes fun of his enemies”). So worldly wisdom says, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world; survival of the fittest; God won’t help you.”

6He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”

Protection (6): The phrase “he says in his heart” is key – this is the language of self-deception (cf. Psa 14.1). His pride & prosperity have so deceived the practical atheist that he believes he is guaranteed security. He’ll never be moved nor will adversity come his way. Not even God Himself can touch him!

A vivid illustration of this happened during WWII. The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was shot at & nearly killed. He laughed it off: “The bullet has never been made that can kill me.”

7His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.

Profanity (7): This is vile, destructive language; wicked words. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” says the Lord. See Matthew 12.34-37. Our language matters to God. But if you don’t believe in God or believe He will hold you accountable, well, you will say whatever you please.

8He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;

9he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket; he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.

10The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might.

11He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

Persecution (8-11): Three images are employed to paint the vivid picture of the practical atheist’s violence: an assassin, a lion, & a hunter. The parallel between all three is that all stalk their prey, hiding in wait for their victim.

The practical atheist does all this under the self-deluded idea that “God has forgotten…He will never see.” This is a very bad, wicked person.

The Prayer of Theists (12-18)

As NT Christians, we would expect “Love your enemy” or pray for them. Even under the Law, “Love your neighbor.” However, that is not the chord struck by the Psalmist at all…

12Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted.

Do Something! (12): Don’t just stand there…do something! Do not sit on your hands… “Arise…lift up your hand!” Talk about coming boldly to the throne of grace! Lift up your hand and take vengeance, which is God’s alone.

13Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?

14But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.

15Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.

Don’t Let Them Get Away With This! (13-15): “The Way of the Wicked Will Perish,” cf. Psa 1.6. Verse 13, they think they are getting away with it. “There’s no judgment, no hell.” This side of Calvary Peter ran into similar thinking, 2 Pet 3.1ff. There’s the New Testament update. There is a God who will judge the world. Verse 14, and God does see & while put to right all wrongs. God sees the schemes of the oppressors and the grief of those oppressed. Verse 15, the arm was the symbol of strength. So break his strength, take away his ability to do evil. Don’t let him get away with it!

16The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.

17O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear

18to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

YHWH is King (16-18): When evil is winning, and sometimes that happens, always keep in mind that YHWH still rules over all. No one will ever dethrone Him. Further, the weak ones have His ear; He inclines His ear to hear the oppressed. God has had the sovereignty & will always rule.

The bottom line is God is faithful, cf. Habakkuk 3.17-19. It is Habakkuk who also uttered, “The just shall live by faith” which is quoted all over the New Testament. Yes, when surrounded by ungodliness & godlessness, when all the news is of oppression & violence, the just must live by faith; faith in a faithful God who ultimately wins.

When You Blow It – Psalm 6

Psalm 6 is the first of what are known as the penitentials (32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143); these are Psalms of great lamentation over sin. This one is probably not as well-known as the others (32, esp. 51), but it communicates feelings I believe we can all identify with: the feeling of failing God. What do we do when we have failed God, sinned? This Psalm tells us there is hope when we bow it spiritually. Psalm 6 provides hope for when we’ve blown it morally. Two things to mention initially: 1) though the sin is not mentioned, the conscience is clearly stricken; and 2) though the sin is unnamed, the Lord knows what it is.

Psalm 6 (ESV)

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

1O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.

2Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.

3My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?

4Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.

5For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?

6I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.

7My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.

8Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.

9The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.

10All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

When You’ve Blown It

A Lurking Sense of God’s Displeasure (1-3): The Psalmist speaks of “Your anger…Your wrath” (v.1). The wrath of God over sin is very real. Sin is no small matter, lightly overlooked. The true gravity of sin is seen in what it cost God to redeem us from sin: His unique Son, Jesus.

A Lost Sense of God’s Presence (4-5): “Turn” or “return” says come back. Why? Implication is the Psalmist feels as tho God has departed due to sin. But the return of YHWH will mean salvation & deliverance. So yes – come back! Don’t stay away forever! Restore me that I may praise you.

A Lacking Sense of God’s Peace (6-7): Notice the Psalmist is up all night, every night mourning his sin (every night I flood my bed with tears). Sleep eludes the conscience stricken person. Indeed, his whole being – mind, body, soul – is in distress. There is no rest, no peace, even if you are a king like David was. Have you ever experienced this kind of spiritual & bodily fatigue – unable to get out of bed, too tired to go to work, too worn out to clean the house, maybe even too depressed to go to church, read the Bible, even pray? I know some have. Perhaps the only thing you can pray is v.3 – How long, O Lord?

A Longing for God’s Deliverance (8-10): How long until I am delivered from this? From my enemies (all you workers of evil), esp. the spiritual forces of darkness which are probably at the source of many of our troubles. You want it so desperately. You plead & pray for God to deliver.

What Do We Do When We’ve Sinned

Feel the Guilt (1-3): Godly grief produces repentance unto salvation (2 Cor 7.10). We ought to feel guilty when we sin. If we do not, we’re in trouble. Lack of guilt is indicative of a seared conscience. 1) The Psalmist feels the guilt & knows he deserves rebuke just “not in Your anger,” discipline but “not in Your wrath” (v.1). 2) The Psalmist is “languishing,” that is, he is withered like a plant or flower; lit. he is one who droops (v.2). 3) The Psalmist seems absolutely worn out by his grief; so weary in fact, that he can’t finish the sentence. “How long?” he asks without specifying for what. See Habakkuk 1.2; given v.9, this makes sense.

Pro Top Tip: When someone comes forward following a sermon I am very mindful to not minimize the action of one by lumping it in with the masses. Saying things like “We all have…” minimizes their repentance when instead, they need to feel the weight & gravity of this.

Pray to God (4-7): “Save me,” cries the Psalmist to God. Also, notice how often God is mentioned in these opening verses – my count is five (5) times in four (4) verses. He is the only and best hope we have for these dark nights of the soul: YHWH. He is the hope of the David & He is our hope as well. This is the turning point – when David, by habit, training, or sheer desperation, hurls himself to God and calls upon God.

Repent (8): Verse 8 is the turning-point of this Psalm. The grief & guilt should lead to true repentance. “Depart from me, all you workers of evil” – this is the language of practical repentance. You sweep out the wicked, purge yourself of the impure so that you are holy unto the Lord. The change of mood continues into the next verses. Why? God has heard my prayer!

Know God Hears (9-10): Though you sin, you are still a child of God. Unless you up & leave home,  live in open, willful rebellion…that’s a different story. But when a child of God fails the Father, know you still have the Father’s ear. When Simon (the Magician), a child of God, fails the Father thinking to buy the miraculous demonstration of the Holy Spirit with money, what does Peter tell him to do? Acts 8.22, though he has sinned, he still has the Father’s ear. Back in Psalm 6, notice the three-fold assertion – “YHWH has heard…YHWHW has heard…YHWH has accepted…” this denotes absolute conviction. No doubt about it.

When Others Blow It

Be Gracious (2): Even as we desire for God to be gracious us so we ought to be people who show grace to one another. Remind them of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. Pray with & for them.

Mourn (6-7): We should agonize over sin in our brothers & sisters. Especially if they persist in their sin. “Cemeteries are quiet places where damp earth covers dumb mouths” (Spurgeon). Now is the time to remember God.

Remember God’s There (8-10): God is not lost, those who rebel against Him & reject Him are. God was always there, even when we’ve blown it. He’s still there for our brothers & sisters who choose to walk away from the Father.

When you sin, you should feel guilty, but do not therefore feel lost. In the dark night of the soul, when we have failed to live up to the high, holy standard, call upon God. Request light. God is our light & pathway through the darkness.

Growing in Your Walk with Christ, part 5

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

A Pure Walk (5.1-7)

Living with Christ requires abstaining from impure & immoral behavior.

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore do not become partners with them;

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

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

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

Grow in the Work of Christ, part 1

Some say that all of chapters 1-3 is a prayer of Paul (see 3.14; 1.15). So this section (2.1-10) is a recitation of the spiritual history of the Ephesians and all who come to obedient faith in Christ. This text can be seen to track with Genesis 1: We have the chaos (v.1-3) out of which God brings order (v.4-9) and a new creation (v.10).

Access to His Grace (1-10)

God made us alive in Christ when He saved us by grace through faith unto good works.

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins

And you were dead: And indicates this section is connected with the previous verses in ch.1. You is emphatic. Paul is using a historical present tense (lit. you being dead) to remind these Christians of the filth from which they have come, that is spiritual death.

All people outside of and away from Christ are the walking dead. They are spiritual zombies, “dead even while [they] live.” Isa 25.7, they wear casket clothes. Those we walk by every day, who we work with, eat, with, commute with, perhaps even live with – they are dead! Just like you used to be. But God…even as God worked a work in your life, so He is able to work a work in theirs!

In the trespasses and sins: Two terms for offenses against God. 1) Trespasses—a term which points to boundaries set by God which we are not go beyond or barriers set up to keep us from harm (esp. the Law and conscience). 2) Sin—”missing the mark” by failing to do what God said to do or doing something which God said not to do. Both trespasses and sins have the same killing effect.

2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—

In which you once walked: Or how they lived, going about with their dead lives. Walking is a figure used later in this epistle (v.10, 4.1; 5.2, 8, 15) and elsewhere in the NT (Col 4.5; 1 Jn 1.7).

Following the course of the this world: Here is the 1st antithesis to life with God. This is “earthbound motives” which are typical of the world. It is an ethic which stands juxtaposed with “the coming ages” (v.7). This system does not consider God and is opposed to God (cf. 1 John 2.15-17).

Following…of the air: Here is the 2nd antithesis to life with God. “Satan is here pictured as the ruler of the demons and other agencies of evil” (Robertson). Formerly, these Christians had their lives shaped by the master of evil as they followed his bidding. That these beings are of the air indicates that they are immaterial, spiritual beings, not necessarily that they “haunt” the atmosphere.

The spirit…the sons of disobedience: present tense, the devil is still working in the world, namely in “children in whom is no faithfulness” (Dt 32.20). He fans into flame their dislike for the will of God. Though he fell like lightning from heaven (Luke 10.18), is judged (John 16.11), and will soon be crushed under our feet (Romans 16.20), Satan energizes those not surrendered to God.

Those who are not surrendered to God are subject to Satan. There are only two energizing forces in this cosmic battle for the souls of men: God and Satan. And if a person is not surrendered to God, he is surrendered to the forces of darkness of whom Satan is the head. “And if people are surrendered to the power of evil, they become those whose habit of life is contrary to the living God, and so they are rightly called the sons of disobedience.

3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Among whom…our flesh: We all once lived points to Paul including himself with the Ephesian readers as among the sons of disobedience. Lived (or “conducted ourselves,” NKJV) stresses daily behavior. So the daily behavior of the unregenerate person is the gratification of “the longings and impulses of the self-centered life” (Foulkes 79). This is the pattern of life which emerges when left to our own natural desires and proclivities. Neither Jew nor Gentile are exempt.

We “all” did this before Christ. If you say you did not, there is no hope for you. We all gave into the base, carnal, earthy, selfish desires and appetites. That’s sin in its basic definition – gratify the selfish desires.

Carrying out…the mind: our habitual practice was to fulfill the will of the flesh and mind. “Lusts lead to acts” (Lenski). So not only self-centered passions, but the actual doing of those desires, both in the flesh and in our thoughts. Indeed, from our thoughts issue forth our fleshly practices.

Were by nature…the rest of mankind: Before becoming the children of God or light (see 5.8), we were by nature children of wrath. There was a Jewish thought that the Gentiles were ignorant of God “by nature” (see Wisdom 13.1). Paul affirms that all men—Jew or Gentile—are subject to divine wrath due to disobedience. Because of what they did, they were under the judgment of God. Like the rest of mankind could speak of Gentiles, but it seems best to understand it as the former state of these Christians before coming to obedient faith in Christ. All men, if left to themselves, develop the habitual practice (i.e. nature) of self-gratification (i.e. sin).

We see here three (3) fatal guides: 1) The world (v.2, “the course of this world”), 2) The devil (v.2, “the prince of the power of the air”), & 3) The flesh (v.3, “the passions of the flesh”). When one follows these guides, heeding their voice to “trespass” and “sin” against God, it leads to a very dark condition for man: 1) Morally dead (v.1, 5, “dead in trespasses and sins”), 2) Practically worldly (v.2, “following the course of this world”), 3) Satanically ruled (v.2, “following the prince of the power of the air”), 4) Wickedly associated (v.3, “the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived”), 5) Carnally debased (v.3, “the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind”), & 6) Perilously situated (v.3, “children of wrath”). Here is the bleak picture of life outside of and away from God and Christ.

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,

But God: When the night was darkest, in broke the light! God entered the fray.

Being rich in mercy: Mercy is not getting what we deserve (wrath, v.3). No doubt God’s mercy is immeasurable like His grace (v.7). It is our in abundance and overflowing.

Because…He loved us:  It is God’s infinite love which is the ground of our salvation.

“Mercy takes away misery; love confers salvation” (Bengal). God sees our deadness and offers us life in Christ. There is longing in the heart of God for us to be restored to life and vitality. You cannot have verse 4 without verse 1-3.

5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

Even when we…our trespasses: Repeat of the reality of verse 1; spiritual death by trespassing. There were “No Trespassing” signs up and we crossed the line, climbed the fence and we paid the penalty for trespassing – spiritual death.

Made us alive together with Christ: As Christ was raised bodily by the power of God, so we are raised spiritually by God’s power. So we have new life with Christ, even eternal life (cf. Rom 6.4).

By grace you have been saved: At the heart of spiritual resurrection is God’s grace., i.e. His unmerited favor. The construction of this phrase (also in v.8) reaches forward & backward in time while also touching the present. We have been saved, are in a saved state, and are being saved—all by God’s grace. This is ubiquitous in the New Testament: Acts 15.11; Romans 3.24; Titus 2.11.

6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

And raised us up with Him: Having been revitalized (v.5) with new life we have also been resurrected with Christ. As Christ walked out of the tomb, so we vacate our spiritual sepulchers. As Christ ascended after His resurrection, so the Christian ascends out of the “domain of darkness” and into “the reign of the Beloved Son” (Col 1.13).

And seated us…in Christ Jesus: Or enthroned us. What happened to Christ (1.20) has happened to the Christian also. “We are joined to him so that we are where he is” (Snodgrass 102). The heavenly places refers the spiritual realm where we “reign with Christ” (Revelation 20.4, 6).

Salvation is presented as an event which has occurred in the past (i.e. baptism) and a present possession and reality experienced by those in Christ. To enjoy salvation requires being joined to the Savior. The gift cannot be separated from the Giver.

7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

So that in the coming ages: that is, those periods and times from apostolic days until the second coming of Christ or the church age. Indeed, God’s grace has flowed freely and fully in history.

He might show…in Christ Jesus: throughout church history God has made known His grace in the example of the Ephesians and Paul (“us”). The riches of his grace must be immeasurable if He can show kindness (or love in action) toward such sinners! Grace is only found in Christ Jesus.

If God can show mercy, grace, and love toward the Ephesians and Paul, then couldn’t He show us the same? Haven’t we tasted the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in our own lives? God in kindness has freely and fully given us miserable, wretched sinners His grace.

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

For by grace…through faith: Here Paul expands upon what he mentioned parenthetically in v.5. Here divine sovereignty and human responsibility meet in the rugged realm of redemption. Grace is God’s part; faith is ours. God’s grace appeared and brought salvation and teaches us the appropriate and right response to all that God has done on our behalf (cf. Titus 2.11ff).

This is…the gift of God:  That is, salvation by grace conditioned upon faith is a gift from God.  Man is unable to save himself. Further, man neither initiated nor accomplished salvation. God did and He offers the gracious gift of salvation to man who receives it unto himself by obedient faith. We were saved, are in a saved state, and are being saved by God’s continued favor upon us as we continue to trust Him for all things.

9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Not a result…no one may boast: If salvation were by works grace would no longer be grace (see Romans 11.6). Whether the works of the Law of Moses or any works man might attempt to perform to placate the divine fury—it does not matter. All man’s righteous works are filthy rags before holy God (see Isaiah 64.6). It is the law of faith by which boasting is excluded (Rom 3.27).

There are a lot of people today who believe that “if you’re just a good person, God will overlook all the bad you do and take you to heaven.” This heresy is straight from the pit of hell! Salvation by grace through faith is not of works. No amount of good deeds can atone for even one sin. “I’m basically a good person” is the statement of someone who does not know that Jesus says “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10.18). Further, the Bible says, “None is righteous, no not one…no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3.10, 12). So, according to God’s word, no one is “basically a good person” and no amount of good works will save us because our good works are really polluted garments.

10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

For we are His workmanship: Or His masterpiece. Lit. We are that which God has made. This is language which harkens to God’s creative power. But though the creation of the world was grand, the new creation is grander! To bring a world out of nothing is great; to restore that world from chaos is greater! We have been made anew by God (cf 2 Cor 5.17). So we are His people, possession, prize, (see Psalm 100.3).

Created…for good works: Good works will not save us. But in Christ Jesus we are made to engage in good works. Having been spiritually renewed we can fulfill God’s purpose in our lives.

Which God prepared beforehand: From eternity, God purposed that those whom He would create new in Christ would engage in good works (as opposed to evil works). “Before the foundation of the world it was ordained that whoever should be saved by grace [thru faith] should walk in good works” (PC 64).

That we should walk in them: In time, God has a blueprint for our lives which we are to live by. This walk is the habitual practice, the career of those saved by grace. “He who is not holy in his life is not saved by the grace of Christ” (Adam Clarke). “If we are not living a life of good works, we have no reason to believe that we have been saved by grace” (PC 64). “Boast not of Christ’s work for you, unless you can show the Spirit’s work in you” (Ryle 47). One cannot claim to be saved but refuse to serve.

If we would become the masterpiece of God (“His workmanship”), we must be “in Christ Jesus” and “saved by grace through faith.” Further, to truly be God’s masterpiece, we must engage in the works He has prepared beforehand for us to walk in.

Fellowship with God is rooted in Jesus’ present ministry

Sometimes we wonder what the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are doing up in heaven right now. Sometimes that actually causes us to miss what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are doing right now in us. Nevertheless, the Son has a specific ministry He is accomplishing even as you read these words and He is working that on your behalf. In John 5.18-21, we get a glimpse of what the Son is doing in His present ministry at the right hand of God.

18We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

We know that everyone who has been born of God—”we know” (Gk. Oida) is absolute (positive) knowledge. “Everyone who has been born of God” is perfect passive participle. Past completed action, present continuing results. We were born (baptistery) and stand begotten of God (children).

Does not keep on sinning—present tense verb. The ESV captures the import of the Greek. There is no habitual practice, career of sinning in the child’s of God life.

But he who was born of God—aorist tense participle. The perfect participle “expresses him who came to be, and still continues to be, a son of God. The aorist participle occurs nowhere else in St. John: it expresses him who, without relation to time past or present, is the Son of God” (PC).

Protects him—some mss. do have “keeps himself” with the reflexive pronoun (Gk. Heauton), however, “auton is preferable.” Calvin says, “were any one of us the keeper of our own salvation, it would be a miserable protection.” There is some debate about who the Protector is: God or Christ. One school of thinking is “The One born of God (Christ) keeps him (the Christian).” Another theory is “The one who is born of God, he protects him,” that is, God protects the begotten one. Certainly either would acceptable both theologically, grammatically and contextually

And the evil one does not touch him— “the evil one” is Satan, our adversary who would love nothing less than to rob us of life. But since we are kept or guarded (carefully watched) by Christ/God, he cannot lay a finger on us. We are in the grip of Christ/God and safe from the grasp of Satan.

19We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

We know that we are from God—again, positive, absolute knowledge of whom we are out of/from: God. We who? Apostles may be a little awkward to make work. Christians in general seems best. In addition, John seems to be contrasting Christians who are “out of” God (born) and the “whole world” which is “in” the evil one.

The whole world lies in the power of the evil one—while we are presently “from God,” the whole world “lies” (present, middle/passive) in the grip of Satan. What is pictured is a reclining, with no struggle to be free. Just nicely laying there passively.

20And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

And—one final assertive declaration: whatever philosophy and the world may claim…

We know that the Son of God has come—again, positive, absolute knowledge (Gk. Oida) that Jesus, the Son of God, has come. Present tense of a root that has a perfect sense; hence, KJV “is come” however this is better understood as a perfect tense verb. Therefore, in one sense Jesus has come in the Incarnation. In another, He is still present (“is come”) as He is present in His church.

And has given us understanding—perfect tense; he gave in the past and we continue to posses understanding. “Us” are the people of God, Christians. Some point to the anointing of ch.2. It is the power to know, the capacity for knowing.

So that we may know—Gk. Hina, introduces the purpose of Christ coming and giving us understand: “we may know.” This is gnosko kind of knowledge, that experiential knowledge.

Him who is true—or real, or genuine. As opposed to the false prophets and antichristian spirits (ch.4). John in this epistle has detailed exactly who the real Jesus is in contrast to the false Jesus of the Gnostics.

We are in him who is true—we (Christians) are in the real one presently. So long as Christ is God, the Son of God, came in the flesh, etc. then He is the real Jesus, the Jesus the apostles knew and preached and the only one to be in.

In His Son Jesus Christ—John makes it plain that “him who is true” is Jesus, the Son of God, the Christ. This is the only genuine one among all the imitations and imposters.

He is the true God and eternal life—This same Jesus is also genuine and real God. Every other god is an idol. Every other Christ that the false prophet and antichrists may bring are idols also. In Him (and only in Him) is eternal life (5.12), indeed, He Himself is the embodiment of eternal life (1.2; Jn 14.6).

21Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

People look at v.21 and think “This doesn’t fit” or we’ve only got a portion of the letter of 1 John, the last portion lost over time. However, if you have tracked with John through this entire epistle and understand his true v. false argument, it is exactly where we should end up. The Jesus of history is the “true God.” Any other Jesus preached by Gnostics (or whoever) is a “false god,” or an idol. John’s final admonition to his “little children” is to stay away from the false prophets and antichrists who teach another Jesus, a false god.

Little children—aged John’s favorite affectionate term to describe his audience.

Keep yourselves from idols—follow and cling to the true God, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. Make every effort to stay away from these idols being presented by the Gnostic teachers. The word’s usage outside of the Bible is for watchmen who stood on guard to protect the city during the night. The picture for Christians is clear: be awake, alert, on duty and watchful for the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the church of Christ. Hold fast to the true God and shun the idols the world and philosophy invent.

Fellowship with God is rooted in Confidence in Intercessory Prayer

Just a casual reading of the gospel of John and then the epistles of John will undoubtedly strike the reader with similarities between the gospel and epistles. There is however a marked difference in the purpose of the gospel and this first epistle: the gospel is intended to produce faith in Christ so that one might have eternal life in his name (Jn 20.31) and the epistle is written so that Christians might know (fully) that they have eternal life.

13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

I write—lit. “I wrote” or “I have written” (NET), i.e. in the sum of this epistle. This corresponds directly to 1.4 (“I write”): completed joy = full knowledge of having eternal life.

These things—contained in this epistle: walking, obeying, antichrist, love one another…

To you who believe in the name of the Son of God—i.e. Christians, those begotten-ones of God (5.1; Jn 1.12). “In the name” is eis to onoma (Greek). “The name” points to the very character or nature of the person; this is the object of faith. To “believe in” the name is to put your full trust/faith in the nature and character of that person; here it’s Jesus. To those who continue to put their faith and trust in the full character of Jesus, the Son of God John has written…

That—or “so that”; here is the purpose of John’s having written this epistle to these Christians.

You may know that—perfect subjunctive of oida, that full and absolute knowledge. John has developed a tight and detail argument for these Christians and against the anti-christians. It is all for the purpose of convicting and convincing his brethren to true knowledge. Know for certain!

You have eternal life—present indicative. These Christians have (present real possession) eternal life. We right now possess eternal life. This is the real possession of eternal life. You have it and continue to have inasmuch as you continue to trust in the Son of God.

14And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

And this is the confidence—or “boldness.” This is the freedom to speak. Prayer is speaking to, talking with God. John says we have freedom to speak to Almighty God. This has been a common theme of this epistle (3.21; 4.17) – the confidence of God’s people before God, both on the day of judgment (2.28; 4.17) and  in prayer (3.21; 5.14).

That we have toward him—This is nearly identical grammatical arrangement as 3.21. Hence, we have (present indicative) this confidence “before Him” who is God.

That if we ask anything—”that” is explanatory. In other words, this is our confidence.  Even as “we ask” whatever it may be, “he hears” (both pres. Tense). There is no timidity and we can present before Him “anything.”

According to his will he hears us—so, if what we ask for isn’t according to His will, He doesn’t hear us? I thought He always hears us. So then wouldn’t this exclude “anything”? We can only ask for those things which are “according to his will” as revealed in His word.

15And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask—”know” is oida that absolute knowledge. And we do know that he hears us, v.14, no matter what we ask.

We know—oida, full and absolute knowledge.

That we have the requests… – present indicative. “requests” or “petitions” is the noun form of the verb “to ask.” We ask and we have our askings. In other words, He answers.

We have asked of him—perfect tense verb. We have asked and continue to ask, continue to bring it before God (cf. Lk 18.1ff). Don’t lose confidence in prayer or in God’s ability to answer

John will next illustrate this point in v.16 when he seems to treat the greatest thing one could for—a brother in sin. Implies we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff (like gold Cadillacs).

16If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.

If anyone sees his brother—It seems John is resuming the style common in this epistle for exposing religious error. It is somewhat akin to “If we say..” earlier in the epistle. ”Brother” is fellow Christian, not your brother of the world community. “Sees” is aorist tense—if you happen to see on some particular occasion.

Committing a sin—lit. sinning [a] sin. This is a sin that is becoming a habitual practice. Is this person lost? No, he is still your brother; fellowship exist. But this sin can jeopardize his salvation.

Not leading to death— lit. sin unto/toward (Gk. Pros) death. Pros is a directional preposition; this brother is not “toward death” but is toward life, light. This brother is striving to please God, however there is some sin in his life that could eventually be “unto death.”

He shall ask—”Anyone” shall ask, a Christian who sees his brother sinning will pray (intercessory) for his brother. John picks the greatest thing a Christian can pray for to illustrate v.15: God hears us whatever we ask. This asking is urgent pleading, even demanding.

God will give (to) him life—lit. “he shall ask and he shall give.” First, who is “he”? Seems to me that whoever “he” is both asks and gives life. In other words, once you have finished praying, go to your brother and tell him his sin. If he listens, you have won your brother (Mt 18.15; cf. Lk 13.6ff; James 5.19-20). What should we ask for? Strength, words. To whom is life given? “Anyone” or the “brother”? Seems like John makes it clear that “anyone” is giving life to his brother.

There is sin that leads to death—rather, “there is sin unto death.” Sin that is toward death, facing death. In other words, sin that is committed outside of fellowship with God/brethren.

I do not say that one should pray for that—This person has walked away from God. He has been told repeatedly to repent and has not. Fellowship has been broken on earth for fellowship was broken in heaven (Cf. Mt 18.15ff)

17All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

All wrongdoing is sin—or all “unrighteousness” is sin. John does not downgrade the utter terribleness of sin. Sin is terrible. However, there are sins unto death and sins not unto death.

But there is sin not unto death—it depends on which direction you are facing: toward death or toward life; toward light or toward darkness. This is a fellowship thing also. These are sins committed when in fellowship with God/brethren and of which Jesus’ blood cleanses us.