“Return to Me”

Commentary through Zechariah

Zechariah 1:1-6
Dr Steve Orr

I don’t know how well you know the Old Testament book of Zechariah or what comes to your mind if you hear it mentioned but I’ve had it in mind for some time to attempt a series on Zechariah and now that series is beginning. When I started preparing, I turned to James Montgomery Boice’s little commentary on Zechariah and was dismayed to read his opening sentence: “Zechariah is one of the most difficult books in the Old Testament”. However, as I read a bit more widely I came across plenty of encouraging comments such as: “Zechariah is the most Messianic of all the writings of the Old Testament”. Or: “The key to unlocking the truth contained in Zechariah is the Messiah, Jesus”. Someone else said: “At least 33 portions of Zechariah are quoted in about 50 different places in the New Testament. Many of these are in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ”. So, the consensus is that the book of Zechariah is full of Christ! Therefore, it is also full of encouragement. In fact, one writer said: “Zechariah is the Barnabas of the Old Testament – a true son of encouragement”.

So, Boice might be right in saying that Zechariah is a difficult book but I reckon it should be well worth the effort of trying to understand it and we should expect to find plenty of encouragement in doing so. With no more ado, let’s turn to Zechariah 1v1 where we read; “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo”. There we find some answers to the obvious introductory questions: “When?”, “Who?” and What?”.

When?

We see that it was “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius”. Now, Darius reigned as emperor of Persia from 522 BC until 486 BC so the book begins in the 8th month of the year 520 BC. That’s very precise but you’re probably not much the wiser for knowing it. To flesh out the historical context, you’ll remember that way back in Israel’s history the kingdom was split in two. That happened in 930 BC when 10 tribes formed the northern kingdom of Israel and 2 tribes formed the southern kingdom of Judah. In 723 BC the northern kingdom was taken into captivity by Assyria and never returned. Judah continued but was eventually taken into captivity in Babylon in 586 BC. That captivity began to come to an end when Babylon was captured by the Persians in 539 BC. The Persian king was Cyrus and, in 538 BC, he decreed that the captives could return to Jerusalem to re-build the temple. One group of them returned immediately under the leadership of Zerubbabel.

King Cyrus was succeeded by Darius in 522 BC so the book of Zechariah begins about 16 years after the first exiles had set off to return to Jerusalem. However, plenty of them still remained in Babylon under Persian rule.

Who?

That seems obvious. We’re told that the Word of the Lord came to Zechariah. However, there are 27 different Zechariahs mentioned in the scriptures! So, it’s a good job that we’re told that he was “Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo”. In Nehemiah 12v16 we read the peculiar words: “of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam”. What’s that talking about? It becomes clear if you look at Nehemiah 12v.12 where we read: “And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers’ houses: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah”. So, those words “of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam” appear in a list of the heads of the priestly families. That tells us that Iddo’s family was a priestly family and, at that time, his grandson, Zechariah, was the head of the family. So, Zechariah wasn’t only a prophet – he was also a priest.

Why did Nehemiah give this list of the heads of the priestly families? Well, if we look at Nehemiah 12v.1-4 we read: “These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah”. That tells us that Iddo was one of the priests who had returned with Zerubbabel and it seems that Zechariah, probably as quite a young man, had done so too. He’d have seen the work of re-building the temple begin. He’d have seen the opposition to that re-building arise. He’d have seen the re-building eventually grind to a halt. In Ezra 4v.24 we read: “Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia”. So, the work remained at a standstill until the 2nd year of the reign of Darius. That was in 520 which, as we’ve already seen, was when the Word of the Lord first came to Zechariah.

In Ezra 5v.1-2 we read: “Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them”. So, Zechariah and Haggai were contemporaries. They both prophesied at the same time and place and spoke to the same situation. But, it’s worth noting that their prophecies were very different in style and character. Haggai was down to earth and practical. Zechariah was much more of a visionary. So, they complemented one another. There’s an important lesson there. That is that the Lord uses all sorts of people. He uses people with different personalities, different temperaments, different ways of looking at things. Imagine how dull it would be if we were all Haggais – all “facts and figures” people? You can imagine him with his clipboard in hand and consulting his spreadsheets. But then, imagine how frustrating it would be if we were all Zechariahs – all dreamers and visionaries? You can imagine Zechariah dozing on his beanbag humming the Beach boys “Wouldn’t it be nice” to himself! Wouldn’t it be nice if the temple was built! But, having Haggais and Zechariahs working together as directed by the Lord is powerful and effective.

What?

We’ve been told that “the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah”. God had something to say and He spoke it to Zechariah. Zechariah, in turn, told the people. He emphasised that it was God’s Word that was being spoken. Verse 3 says: “Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts”. He said “declares the Lord” and “says the Lord”. This wasn’t just emphasised here at the outset. You’ll find it throughout the whole book. Time and time again God spoke and Zechariah was very conscious of the fact that it was the Lord who was speaking. Sometimes, He spoke in strange visions that are difficult to understand. Sometimes, He spoke in prophetic language that can also be difficult to understand. But the first thing He spoke through Zechariah was abundantly clear as we see in chapter 1v2-6. In this first Word of the Lord to Zechariah we see that it included:

A word of Announcement
A word of Appeal
A word of Assurance
A word of Advice

A word of Announcement

In verse 2 we read: “The Lord was very angry with your fathers”. We often read in the Old Testament that God is slow to anger and abounding in love. Jonah, for instance, knew that to be true. Thank God that it is true! But we mustn’t think that that means that God is never angry. This prophecy of encouragement begins with the announcement that God had been “very angry” with the forefathers of Zechariah and his contemporaries. What had they done that had made the Lord who is “slow to anger” to be so “very angry” with them? We find the answer if we look, for example, at II Chronicles 36v14-16: “All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the Lord that he had made holy in Jerusalem. The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy”. The Lord had “persistently” sent His messengers to them. He was slow to anger. He had “compassion” on His people. He was abounding in love. But, they had mocked God’s messengers, despised God’s words and scoffed at His prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against them.

We speak of some people as having “short fuses” don’t we? The tiniest thing that displeases them makes them react angrily. God isn’t like that. But, if He is continually mocked and despised and ignored, His anger grows until His wrath is poured out. Well, His wrath had been poured out on their forefathers in the mass slaughter at the hands of the Babylonians and the survivors being taken into captivity. Now, God was speaking to a new generation that was making a new beginning. They were pioneers and would have been full of enthusiasm and optimism. What did He announce to them through Zechariah? He told them that, right from the outset, they needed to keep in mind what had happened to their forefathers.

New starts, new beginnings can be very dangerous times because people are swept along on a tide of optimism and euphoria. Things seem so good. The world’s your oyster! But, however exciting and exhilarating the circumstances, those caught up in it still have sinful natures so things can go very badly wrong very quickly. Imagine the excitement of the Children of Israel as they left Egypt. They’d seen God’s power as He made Pharaoh relent and let them go. They’d seen Him part the waters of the Red Sea for them to pass through and then drown the pursuing Egyptians. What a thrilling adventure! Yet, how quickly they were grumbling and wanting to go back! Remember the early settlers in America. They were so optimistic and idealistic in setting about building their “New World”. But, how quickly it was beset with all the failings of the “Old World”. The very evils they thought they’d left behind they found they’d carried there with them in their very own hearts! Well, these Jewish settlers had returned full of enthusiasm. Then they’d met opposition and run out of steam and ground to a halt but now things were looking up again. And, at that point Zechariah comes along and begins by bringing them back to earth with a bump by saying: “The Lord was very angry with your fathers”. It’s as though he’s saying: “Remember – you’re no different from your forefathers and the Lord is no different than He was then either. History will repeat itself if you ignore and reject the Lord as your forefathers did”.

Exactly the same is true today. Those who persistently ignore and reject the Lord Jesus Christ will eventually know the anger of God in Hell.

At the beginning of verse 3 the Lord says to Zechariah: “Therefore say to them”. Since the Lord had been so angry with their forefathers, this was what they needed to be told. The first part of what Zechariah was to say was:

A word of Appeal

What was the appeal? We see it as we continue in verse 3: “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts”. The word translated as “return” really means “turn back”. The Lord was saying: “Turn back to Me. He was saying “you’ve come back to the land, you’ve come back to Jerusalem but that isn’t enough. You must come back to Me”. The appeal isn’t to just return to settle the land or to rebuild the temple or to conduct religious ceremonies. The appeal is for a personal return to the Lord Himself.

It’s very informative to note the point in the proceedings at which this appeal came through Zechariah. Remember that it came in the 8th month of the 2nd year of Darius. We read in Haggai 1v1: “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest”. So, Haggai had already been prophesying for at least 2 months before this appeal came through Zechariah. Haggai had given a word of rebuke that was intended to shake them out of their ease and preoccupation with their own comfort and they were greatly stirred by that message as we see from Haggai 1v.14b-15 where we read: “And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king”. So, Haggai’s message had had an immediate effect. They’d returned to the work of rebuilding the temple. Things were moving again. They were busy again. Now, they were on their way! Then look at Haggai 2v1: “In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet”. That was one month later and he went on to prophecy concerning the future glory of the temple that they were building. That would have been a great encouragement for them to keep on building. However, that was still before Zechariah started prophesying. It was after that encouraging prophecy from Haggai that Zechariah chimed in with his reminder of the Lord’s anger with their forefathers and his appeal that they should return to the Lord.

You see the point? They’d heard the word of the Lord through Haggai. They’d heeded it. They were building the temple again and that was good. They’d been enthused by the word of the Lord. BUT, none of that activity and enthusiasm meant that their hearts were right with God. They still needed to return to the Lord. Activity isn’t enough. Being stirred by rousing words isn’t enough. We must come to the Lord Himself. That’s the appeal or invitation that the Lord gives: “Return to Me. Come back to Me”. In fact, it’s much stronger than a mere invitation. The translation of verse 3 quite rightly reflects the fact that two different Hebrew words are being used. You’ll notice the words “declares” and “says”. The word translated as “declares” has the urgency of being a challenge or a charge or a command. It’s not like an invitation to a birthday party which really is saying: “Please come if you can. I hope you’ll be able to make it”. The word “declares” is saying “This is what you must do. This is important”.

It’s exactly what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 11v28 where we read: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. In saying that He wasn’t competing with the Father’s appeal to “Return to Me”. It’s not an alternative. We read in John 14v6 that Jesus also said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Coming to Jesus is the way to obey the Father’s command to “Return to Me”. So, the word of appeal was an urgent command from the Lord to return to Him.

The second part of what Zechariah was to say was:

A word of Assurance

Having said “Return to Me”, he goes on to say: “and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts”. Now, the word translated as “says” means just that. This is a simple statement of fact. If you return to the Lord, you have His word that He will return to you. We find much the same thing in James 4v8a where we read: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you”. Then James continues through to verse 10 by saying: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you”. You see, God won’t come near to you if you attempt to come to Him lightly – in a presumptuous or self-righteous way. You must come in repentance and recognising your need of Him. If you come with that humility, He will lift you up. Why? Because He’s slow to anger and abounding in love. Return to the Lord in repentance and He will return to you with spiritual blessing.

That’s what Jesus illustrated so clearly and powerfully in what we tend to refer to as the parable of the prodigal son. It’s really the parable of the loving father. The son had left his father and struck out on his own. He was determined that he would do exactly what he wanted to do. And, where did that lead him? He ended up all alone and reduced to eating pig food. That eloquently pictures what it is like living away from God. Then, he came to his senses and remembered that even his father’s servants were in a far better condition than he was. So, he decided to return; not saying “I’m your son and I demand that you take me back” but saying, “I’ve sinned against you. I was wrong. I’m no longer worthy to be your son but perhaps you’ll be willing to give me a job as a servant”. He returned with repentance, humility and no presumption. That’s a picture of someone returning to the Lord in the right way. What happened next in Jesus’ story? While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him, was filled with compassion, ran to him, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you”. The son said he’d sinned and wasn’t worthy to be his son. He really meant it and it was true wasn’t it? And what did the father do? He gave him the best robe. He put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. The one who wasn’t worthy to be a son was received as a son and treated as a son. Why was that? It was because he’d returned in humility and his father was gracious and compassionate.

We’re not worthy to be God’s sons. We’ve been far away from Him. We’ve sinned against Him. But He says: “Return to Me and I will return to you”. He gives that word of assurance.

The last part of what Zechariah was to say was:

A word of Advice

Moving to Zechariah 1v4 we read: “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the Lord”. Here we see the message that the Lord had given the forefathers through the earlier prophets. It had been: “Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds”. The message Zechariah was now bringing was “Return to Me”. It is essentially the same message again! The Lord’s message is always the same because the problem is always the same, the need is always the same and the Lord’s solution is always the same. Jesus said “Come to Me”. The apostles said “Repent and believe” The message is always the same, the appeal and promise are always the same but the response isn’t. The word of advice given through Zechariah was to heed the lesson of history and not make the fatal mistake that their forefathers had made.

Their forefathers had heard the same message. How had they responded? We read “But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the Lord”. And, what was the result of that? They were taken into captivity and died in captivity. That was exactly what the Lord had warned them would happen if they continued to turn away from Him. We read in Zechariah 1v5-6a: “Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?” And, when it eventually did happen, they had to admit that God was just in doing so. Continuing in verse 6b we read: “So they repented and said, ‘As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us”. They deserved it. They’d been given every opportunity to return to the Lord. He was slow to anger and abounding in love but they had spurned Him and His anger had eventually come upon them. It will be exactly the same for every sinner in hell. None will be able to say: “It isn’t fair. I don’t deserve it”.

So, what is the word of advice? It’s there in verse 4a: “Do not be like your fathers”. Of course, in many respects, they were inevitably like their forefathers – same race, same nationality, same religion, same sinful nature. There was nothing they could do about any of that. But, there was one way in which they could “not be like their forefathers”. What had their forefathers been like? They would not listen or pay attention when the Lord told them to turn from their evil ways. We see it in verse 4b: “But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the Lord”. Zechariah’s advice was: “don’t be like that! Don’t repeat their mistake but heed the Lord when He says “Return to Me”. If you do, He promises “and I will return to you” If you don’t, His words and decrees will overtake you as surely as they overtook their forefathers.

I said at the beginning that the book of Zechariah is a message of encouragement. You might think that being urged to repent and humble yourself doesn’t sound very encouraging but this opening message is vitally important. The fact is that there can be no real encouragement unless you first come to the Lord in repentance and humble faith.

 

1 Peter 3:3-4

Submission and Marriage

Dr Steve OrrLast time we started to consider 1 Peter chapter 3v1-6. Those verses present the third of Peter’s series of examples of what it means to obey the command he gave in chapter 2 verse 13 for believers in Christ to “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution”. The first of those examples is found in verses 13 to 17 where he speaks of Christian citizens submitting to “the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him”. So, that’s speaking of submission to civil authorities or what we might call “the powers that be”. We considered that under the title “Submission and freedom”. His second example is found in verses 18 to 20 where he speaks of Christian slaves or servants submitting to their masters even if they are unjust and make their servants suffer. We saw that nowadays that really equates to Christian employees being submissive to their employers. We considered that under the title “Submission and suffering”. After a wonderful digression to consider the sufferings of Christ in bearing our sins on the cross, chapter 3 then introduces Peter’s third example of “submitting yourselves” to “human institutions”. It hangs on the command that we find in verse 1 which is given as “wives, be subject to your own husbands” in the ESV or as “Wives……. submit yourselves to your own husbands” in the NIV. So, in this case Peter is speaking of Christian wives submitting themselves to their husbands.
We’re looking at that command under the heading “Submission and marriage” and we noted that verses 1-6 cover the Properties, Purpose, Practice and Pattern of this submission. Last time we considered the Properties and a Purpose. Today, we’re going to move on to look at the Practice of this submission and we’ll leave the Pattern of this submission next time.

The Practice of submission

We see that in verses 3 and 4 where Peter says to Christian wives: “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious”. That’s how the ESV translates it. The NIV has: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”.
Superficially, those verses might sound to contain a negative command followed by a positive command. We see what might be considered to be the negative command in verse 3 where we read: “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear” and then we see what would be the positive command in verse 4 where we read: “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious”.
Archbishop Robert Leighton wrote a famous commentary on 1 Peter. I don’t often refer to it because it was written in the 17th century so it’s quite antiquated but I did dip into it recently and found that, in commenting on verse 3, his first sentence is as follows: “That nothing may be wanting to the qualifying of a Christian wife, she is taught how to dress herself; supposing a general desire, but especially in that sex, of ornament and comeliness: the sex which began first our engagement to the necessity of clothing, having still a peculiar propensity to be curious in that, to improve the necessity to an advantage”. By modern standards, that is quite a long and convoluted sentence but, once you’ve managed to unravel it, you find that it’s really quite a mischievous statement! In essence he’s saying that since the need for clothing was brought about by the sin of the woman in the first place it’s quite outrageous that women should tend to take delight in their clothing by styling and ornamenting it. He’s saying that it’s lamentable that what was given as a shameful punishment should be treated as an art form to be enjoyed and with which to impress others! So far as he’s concerned, what Peter has written here is so that a Christian wife might be “taught how to dress herself”.
It’s certainly the case that many of the early Church Fathers quoted verse 3 as being a prohibition of jewellery being worn by Christian women. The Puritans also took verse 3 as part of their rationale for prescribing what was and what was not considered to be acceptable attire for Christian women. No doubt many other Christian groups and movements over the years have done exactly the same sort of thing. Now, if you’re a believer in Christ, How do you feel about that? What is your gut reaction to that? What does your instinct tell you? What does your sanctified common sense suggest? Do you not instinctively feel that there is something that’s not quite right about it? I hope you do and, if you do, I’ll tell you why you do. As believers in Christ we are not under the Old Covenant with its rules and regulations about all sorts of external things. We are in the New Covenant. That covenant emphasises our freedom in Christ. It emphasises our relationship with Christ. It doesn’t impose laws about externals. Rather, it centres on the fact that our hearts have been made alive in Christ and it emphasises the fact that His law has been written in our new, living hearts and that the Holy Spirit lives within us to help us to work out the law that has been written in our new, living hearts. In short, the notion that what Christian women should and shouldn’t wear is dictated by apostolic teaching simply feels far too legalistic to sit comfortably with the New Covenant in Christ.
However, it’s all well and good to say that such an understanding of the text simply doesn’t feel right but what does the Greek text actually say? Is there a command here about hairstyles, jewellery and clothing or does the point that Peter is making lie elsewhere? Well, a literal, word for word translation of verses 3 and 4, would be as follows: “whose adorning let it not be the outward of braiding of hair and putting around of gold or putting on of garments, but the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptible of the meek and quiet spirit which is before God of great price”. That needs tweaking a bit to make it read as good English but it gives the right sense. Now notice that, although the NIV speaks of “elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes”, the Greek text does not mention fine clothes”. It simply says “garments” or “clothes”. The translators of the NIV have decided to add the word “fine” but it’s actually just speaking of clothes. That being the case, if Peter was really prohibiting “the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry”, he would also be prohibiting the wearing of clothes! I hardly think that he would be promoting nudity among Christian wives! So, if you take this as a blunt commandment not to wear certain things you actually get into a bit of a tangle.
Now, it is clear that Peter is talking about the adornment of Christian wives. It is also surely immediately apparent that, with respect to such adorning, an important contrast is being made between two very different types of adorning. It’s a contrast between that which is outward and that which is inward. It’s a contrast between externals and internals. It’s a contrast between what’s on the surface and what’s in the heart. It’s a contrast between what is corruptible and what is incorruptible. That is a contrast between what is fading, passing, superficial and that which is lasting, enduring and of eternal value. That’s a theme that we’ve seen repeatedly in Peter’s letter.
So, in 1 Peter 1v6-7 we read: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. Peter was saying that our faith is more precious than gold. Why? It’s because our faith leads to “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” whereas gold, even when it is highly purified will ultimately perish.
In 1 Peter 1v18-19 we read: “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot”. The blood of Christ by which we have been ransomed is more precious than silver or gold. Why? It’s because silver and gold are perishable. The inference we must draw is that, in contrast with such perishability, the blood of Christ is of eternal value.
Then look at 1 Peter 1v23-25 where we read: “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever””. The seed by which we’ve been born again is not fleshly, earthly seed. That is perishable seed because it eventually withers and dies. Rather, the seed by which we’ve been born again is “the word of the Lord”. That’s imperishable seed because it’s “living and abiding” and it “remains forever”.
So, as Peter has done previously in various contexts, here in the context of adorning, he’s comparing outward adorning with inward adorning. He mentions “the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear”, not as things to be forbidden per se but simply as examples of external adorning. In his day, those were prime examples of outward, external adornments that women employed. If he was writing today he might say something like “hair colouring, body piercing and false eyelashes.
What does Peter mean by a Christian wife’s “adorning” in this context? I think he means the source of her true beauty and what makes her genuinely and lastingly attractive. He’s saying that what matters, what really counts, what really lasts is not any form of outward adornment whatever it might be but “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”. Why is that? It’s because that, as Peter says: “in God’s sight is very precious”. That’s what God values. That’s what counts to Him. That’s what pleases Him. He looks at what’s in the heart not what’s on the outside.
So, in keeping with the whole spirit and ethos of the New Covenant we’re not to take Peter’s words as a specific command against “the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear”. You ladies are not to give yourselves a pat on the back for not having braided hair! Neither are you to feel that you’re being “got at” if you happen to be wearing any jewellery! Neither is this to be taken as a command against outward adorning in general. There is freedom for Christian wives to choose what they will wear. Does that then mean that they can wear absolutely anything? The answer really is “yes and no”. You see, with freedom there is also responsibility. Look at the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6v12 where he says: ““All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything”.
Paul states quite categorically “All things are lawful for me”. But, there being no law against something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s helpful or beneficial and it certainly isn’t helpful for your Christian life and witness if you allow yourself to be dominated by it. In the quote from Robert Leighton that we alluded to earlier he mentioned that women in particular have a desire to ornament themselves and have “a peculiar propensity….. to improve the necessity (of clothing) to an advantage”. I tend to think that that was a valid observation. Isn’t it true to say that many women are dominated by hairstyles, jewellery, beauty treatments, keeping up with latest fashions and so on? They spend a lot of time thinking about it and discussing it, they read magazines about it, they put a lot of effort into it, they spend a lot of money on it. It can mean so much to them that they are dominated by it. Now, for a Christian wife, there are no laws against having your hair styled and wearing jewellery and wearing fashionable clothes but there is a responsibility to not be dominated by any of it. Why? Because it’s all merely external so keep a right sense of proportion. Always remember that, from an eternal perspective, it counts for nothing. There are much more important things to think about and to spend your time and money on.
In this passage Peter is specifically addressing Christian wives but, for the sake of balance, it’s worth mentioning that exactly the same principle applies to Christian men. Most of us men are probably not in danger of being dominated by hairstyles and jewellery and so on although perhaps nowadays that isn’t necessarily true. But men have other things that can easily dominate them. People talk about boys and their toys. We men need to apply exactly the same principle to cars and gadgets. Likewise our hobbies and interests be it model railways, music, football or other sports. They’re all perfectly legitimate things. There’s no law against any of them but, as believers in Christ, we have a responsibility to have a sense of proportion and keep them in their right place. We mustn’t let them dominate us anymore that Christian wives are to let fashion and beauty trends dominate them.
We’ve just quoted 1 Corinthians 6v12. Paul also says something similar in1 Corinthians 10v23-24 where we read: ““All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor”.
Now, “the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear” doesn’t “build up” either yourself or others and neither is it for the good of your neighbour. Rather, it draws attention to yourself. It cries out “Look at me!” That’s very different from “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” isn’t it?
So, on the one hand you have freedom to wear what you want but on the other hand you have a responsibility to work out what is appropriate. In the absence of clear rules, how do you do that? I suggest that you need to consider a couple of things. Firstly, your motive and secondly the message you’re conveying.
Motive is always crucial because the Lord looks upon the heart. What motives do we need to avoid? I’ll mention three.

Firstly, don’t be motivated by the belief that there is a particularly “Christian” way to dress. As we’ve seen, there are no prescribed rules and yet some follow a tradition or allow themselves to be bound by unwritten rules. On our way to church on Sunday mornings we pass a Brethren Hall. It’s almost always completely deserted but once in a while there are lots of people there and the men all look exactly the same. They all wear white shirts, black ties and black suits. I can’t imagine that they have that many funerals! They’re clearly motivated by a need to conform to a perceived code of dress for godly men. The danger with that is that they pride themselves on having kept arbitrary rules but could well have failed to do what God really requires. Translating that to what we’ve been seeing in connection with Christian wives, they might refrain from “the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry” but fail to adorn themselves with “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” which is what the Lord is wanting to see. We can all be very good at getting hung up on things that don’t really matter much while happily ignoring what does really matter. Remember how Jesus denounced the Pharisees in Matthew 23v23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others”. You see, they were meticulous on minor externals but neglected the characteristics that God wanted to see flowing from within.

Secondly, we need to recognise that, in Peter’s day, “the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry” was very expensive so it was a way for wealthy women to draw attention to themselves and parade their affluence and station in life. The desire to dress in a way that draws attention to yourself is not appropriate for a Christian wife whose adorning is to be “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”.

Thirdly, don’t be motivated by a desire to parade the freedom that you have in Christ. It’s interesting to recognise that most of the Greek and Roman thinkers and teachers of Peter’s day admonished women to not have elaborate hairstyles or wear costly jewels but to dress modestly. So what Peter said about “the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry” wasn’t actually anything new or even specifically “Christian”. He was saying that, although Christian wives have liberty to wear whatever they want, it would be best if they dress in keeping with the norms of the society in which they found themselves. Why? Well, that brings us to the question of the message being conveyed.

Why did the Greek and Roman thinkers and teachers of Peter’s day admonish women to not have elaborate hairstyles or wear costly jewels? It’s because they were considered to be an indication of deception and seduction and idleness. Peter knew full well that a fancy hairdo or a piece of jewellery isn’t intrinsically good or bad and as such is of no consequence to God just as Paul was in no doubt that God had no problem with the eating of food that had been offered to idols. But, if society at large considers something to convey a negative message it’s best for believers to not exercise their liberty. It’s better to curtail your freedom than to send a message that gives a bad impression of the gospel. So, Paul says in 1 Timothy 2v9-10: “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works”. The principle being urged there is that: “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control”. In Paul and Peter’s day, to wear “braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” was not considered to be respectable or modest or to suggest self-control. It didn’t send a message of respectability or modesty or self-control so it was best for Christian wives to refrain from such things.
Of course, the significance of outward adornment varies at different times and in different cultures. For example, when I was a boy I was in the Boys’ Brigade and the church also had a Girls’ Brigade Company. I remember the very elderly Captain of the Girls’ Brigade Company once commenting how strange it was to her that the uniform of a Christian organisation required the girls to wear black stockings because, when she was a girl, wearing black stockings was a sign of an immoral woman. In the 1960’s black stockings had no such connotation and it certainly doesn’t convey such a message today. There was a time when it would not have been advisable for a Christian woman to wear black stockings but that’s no longer the case. In Victorian times it would not have been advisable for a Christian woman to let her ankles be seen but that’s no longer the case.
This really highlights the folly of understanding Peter to be giving a specific command against “the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry” doesn’t it? If a Christian woman in Victorian times displayed her ankles there would have been widespread muttering if not uproar. Would that have stopped if she’d said “yes, but my hair isn’t braided and I’m not wearing any jewellery”? No, because in Victorian times her exposed ankles were sending the same message as braided hair and jewellery would have sent in Peter’s day.
So, in Christ you have freedom but the extent to which you exercise that freedom should be dependent on your motive and on the message you’d be conveying. And, you should be prepared to curtail that freedom because it’s freedom with regard to something that doesn’t really matter very much and is of no lasting consequence.
What is really important is that you “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious”. You sometimes hear it said that beauty is only skin deep don’t you? That’s very true of superficial, physical beauty. As we read in Proverbs 31v30: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”. So, Peter is encouraging Christian wives to adorn themselves with an “imperishable beauty”. That’s not vain. It’s not “skin deep”. It comes from what Peter describes as “the hidden person of the heart”. It’s not put on the outside. It comes from the inside and it’s what the Lord takes particular notice of. He made that clear when He gave instructions to Samuel when he was given the task of choosing a king from among the sons of Jesse. We read in 1 Samuel 16v7: “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart””.
For the natural man, it should be a scary thing to know that “the Lord looks on the heart” because, by nature, according to Jeremiah 17v9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” but, as believers in Christ, we’ve been born again and we have new hearts. Now, God can see into those new hearts but they are hidden from other people. That’s why Peter speaks of “the hidden person of the heart”. I can’t look into your hearts any more than you can look into mine. What we can see is what arises from people’s hearts. We can see what comes out. We can see what hearts produce and, hearts renewed by God and indwelt by the Holy Spirit should produce “a gentle and quiet spirit”. Remember that gentleness is part of the fruit of the Spirit.
The Greek word that’s been translated as “gentle” there could equally be translated as meek or humble. It’s only used on three other occasions in the New Testament. One of them is in the Sermon on the Mount which is really Jesus’ manifesto for New Covenant living. He said in Matthew 5v5: “Blessed are the meek”. In the other two instances, the word is used of Jesus Himself. So, in Matthew 11v29 we read Jesus saying: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”. Then, we read of Him in Matthew 21v4-5: “This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden’”.
Matthew 12v17-21 is also relevant here: “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope””. The word “gentle” doesn’t appear there but the gentleness of Jesus is depicted beautifully in the words “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench”. As well as His gentle spirit, there’s also an indication of His quiet spirit in the words “He will not quarrel or cry aloud”.
So, for a Christian wife to be adorned with “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” is nothing less than to be Christ-like. Such a spirit should be attractive and beautiful to the husbands of Christian wives and, what’s for sure, “in God’s sight” it “is very precious”.
You might well say that that is all very interesting and helpful but wonder what it all has to do with Christian wives submitting themselves to their husbands. After all, that’s the key point of the passage. Well, that will become clearer when we move on next time to consider: The Pattern of submission in verses 5 and 6.

About Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

1 Peter 2:11-12 (III)

 

Conflict within and conflict without (III)

Peter's first letter

1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

 
Review

Last post we considered “conflict within” and previously I reminded you how God’s saints have been made to be God’s people in order to show, declare, proclaim God’s praises and Peter is now urging them to do that. Peter urges them “to abstain” and then, in verse 12, he urges them “to keep your conduct honorable”. We could say that he strongly urges them to abstain and maintain. Stop doing certain things and continue doing certain other things.

Again, it’s worth repeating, these aren’t just instructions that he’s throwing out because they sound like a good idea. They are given in a context that shows that there are important reasons for these instructions.

Peter’s instructions are given because believers in Christ live in a context of conflict and his instructions make it clear that there is both conflict within and there is conflict without.

Let’s now give consideration to the:

Conflict without

We see this conflict in verse 12 where Peter says: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation”. You see the conflict there in the words “when they speak against you”. That’s the language of opposition and conflict again isn’t it? But, this time, it’s not a conflict that is raging within. This is an external conflict. It’s other people who are against us and attacking us. It is an external conflict.

Who is this external enemy who is “against you”?

The answer from the text is that it is “the Gentiles”. What does Peter mean by that? Aren’t we Gentiles? Weren’t his readers mainly Gentiles? Isn’t part of the glory of the church of Jesus Christ that it consists of both Jews and Gentiles? Yes it is but that is referring to those who are Jewish or Gentile in an ethnic sense. In this context, where Peter has just been speaking of believers in Christ as being God’s people, what Peter means by “Gentiles” is unbelievers. It’s those who are to God’s New Covenant people in Christ as the ethnic Gentiles were to God’s Old Covenant people. So, by “Gentiles” here he doesn’t mean those who are ethnically non-Jews. He means all who are not God’s people so he’s referring to all who do not share our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, unbelievers are against us and that is where the conflict stems from.

Notice that Peter said “so that when they speak against you as evildoers”. You see, it’s “when” not “if”. Peter is not just saying that there’s a remote possibility of opposition from unbelievers. No, it’s inevitable. There’s a certainty about it. We are to expect it. Peter is eager that we as strangers and sojourners in this world do not take a “head in the sand” approach. He wants us to realise that we can’t just keep our heads down, keep a low profile and expect to live our lives as God’s people in this world and remain unopposed. We face an inevitable external conflict.

So, how are we to handle ourselves in the context of this external conflict?

In the case of the internal conflict we saw that the right response is to run away. Is that how we are to respond to the external conflict as well? Well, no it’s not. This time, in this external conflict, the answer is not to run away. Peter says “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable”. We’re to “keep”, or we could say “maintain”, something. Rather than saying “run away” he’s now saying “keep, maintain, stand your ground”. So we see that we are to handle ourselves in the context of this external conflict in a proactive way. Peter doesn’t so much tell us how to respond “when they speak against you as evildoers”. Rather, he says “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable so that when they speak against you as evildoers”. He’s not saying “this is what you must start to do when they speak against you”. He’s saying “this is what you must do because you know that they will speak against you”. It’s not so much a response as a pre-emptive strike!

What weapon are we to use for this pre-emptive strike? Peter has mentioned “when they speak against you as evildoers” so you might expect him to say to speak against them. Fight fire with fire and reply in kind. Get in first by denouncing them and their evil ways before “when they speak against you as evildoers”. But, what he actually says is: “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable”.

By conduct Peter means “way of life” or “outward behaviour”.

This is an outward, external conflict and our engagement in it is to be in terms of our outward conduct. That conduct is to be “honorable”. Remember that Peter said back in 1 Peter 1v15: “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”. Holy conduct is going to be honourable conduct. It will be seen in good, wholesome, inspiring lives. There are a couple of things that we do well to notice about this conduct that is honourable.

Firstly, we need to see the priority of abstaining from the passions of the flesh.

Peter focusses on inner passions before he mentions outward conduct or inner desires before outward behaviour. The fact is that we must first abstain from sinful desires before our conduct can be right. It’s only when you’re fleeing fleshly passions that you’re in a position to maintain good outward conduct. If you don’t abstain from fleshly passions and deny sinful desires your outward conduct won’t be honourable because your conduct is shaped by the desires that you allow to be fulfilled. We saw exactly the same pattern back in 1 Peter 1v14-15 where Peter said: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”.

The second thing for us to notice about this conduct that is honourable is that it is to be lived out “among the Gentiles”.

It would be very easy to think that, since we’re strangers and sojourners living in a hostile world where unbelievers will oppose us and speak against us, it would be best for us to keep clear of them as far as possible. That will surely give us a much easier and more peaceful life. Over the years there have been plenty of Christians who have reasoned in that way and sought to act upon it. There have been ascetics and hermits and monastical orders that have sought to keep away from the world as much as possible. An extreme example was Simeon Stylites who lived from 390-459AD and is known for spending 37years of his life on a small platform on top of a pillar near Aleppo in Syria. His first pillar was about 9 feet tall but he was eventually up 50 foot pole. He was up the pole in more ways than one!

We laugh at such foolishness. As 21st century Christians certainly don’t do daft things like that do we? Nonetheless, we might be guilty of finding ways of keeping ourselves a bit apart. We perhaps don’t spend time among unbelievers any more than we need to because that avoids conflict and confrontation. But, you see, Peter doesn’t only say that we’re to “abstain from the passions of the flesh” so that our conduct can be honourable. That’s relatively easy in a holy huddle but we’re to do it “among the Gentiles”. We’re to live holy lives in the midst of unbelievers and in the face of opposition. We’re not to flee from this battle but engage in it by keeping our conduct honourable. That is by living holy and Godly lives.

What is our objective in this conflict?

The object in any conflict is surely to win. So, what does winning this conflict look like for the believer in Christ? What is “keeping your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” intended to accomplish? Peter says that it’s that “they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation”. The word that has been translated as “see” there doesn’t just mean “notice”. Rather, it means “look upon and watch”. Such observation is consistent with what we noted about being among them.

Now, victory for the believer in this conflict is when, having seen your consistent honourable conduct and good deeds among them, the Gentiles, or unbelievers, “glorify God”. Jesus said something very similar in Matthew 5v16 where we read: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”. There, He referred to unbelievers as “others” and He spoke of them “giving glory to your Father who is in heaven” as result of “seeing your good works” which is exactly what Peter went on to say as another way of speaking of honourable conduct. So, our objective in fighting this conflict by letting our good deeds be seen is that unbelievers come to glorify God.

That sounds very pious and spiritual but what does it actually mean?

How do unbelievers glorify God as a result of seeing our honourable conduct and good deeds? How and when does that glorifying God come about? Well, notice that Peter spoke of them glorifying God “on the day of visitation”. How are we to understand that expression? Well, some commentators take that to be a reference to the day of judgement. It is certainly true that this idea of visitation is sometimes a reference to judgement. For instance, we read in Isaiah 29v5-6: “But the multitude of your foreign foes shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the ruthless like passing chaff. And in an instant, suddenly, you will be visited by the Lord of hosts with thunder and with earthquake and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire”. That’s clearly speaking of a visitation by the Lord in judgement.

However, this idea of visitation is also sometimes a reference to deliverance or salvation. For instance, in Luke 1 we find the prophecy that Zechariah the father of John the Baptist made when filled with the Holy Spirit and, in verses 68 and 69, we read: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David”. That is speaking of God visiting in order to redeem and save.

So, when Peter speaks of people “glorifying God on the day of visitation” does he mean on the day of judgement or the day of salvation? I have to say that I find it hard to comprehend how our good deeds being seen now leads to unbelievers glorifying God when He visits them in judgement. Look, for instance, at Revelation 16v8-9 where we read: “The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory”. That’s a graphic depiction of God’s judgement. To be sure, God is glorified in His righteous judgement of unbelievers but that is not to say that they glorify Him or that they give Him glory. No, they curse His name and refuse to repent and give Him glory.

It’s very different when the Lord visits with salvation.

In Acts 13 we read of Paul preaching the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ and we see the result of that in verse 48 where we read: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed”. You see, when they believed and were saved “they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord”.

In Romans 4v20, speaking of Abraham, Paul said: “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God”. You see, because he believed God and was saved “he gave glory to God”.

If we look at Romans 15v8-9 we read: “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy”. That is referring to ethnic Gentiles who are saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ as promised long ago. What is the result of their salvation? We see that they “glorify God for his mercy”.

All things considered, I think we have to conclude that Peter is saying that God uses our good deeds in bringing unbelievers to salvation. On seeing our good deeds, some will repent and believe and will then, as saved people, glorify God.

Peter will go on to mention a specific example of this in chapter 3 verses 15 and 16 where we read: “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct”. This is addressed to the believing wives of unbelieving husbands. Peter is saying that unbelieving husbands can be won. By that he means brought to believe and so saved. How? Well, it’s through what they “see”. That’s the same word that we have in our text, meaning “look upon and watch” or “observe over a prolonged period of time”. What do they see? Peter says “your respectful and pure conduct”. That’s the same word, “conduct”, which we have in our text, meaning “way of life” or “outward behaviour”.

So we’ve seen that as believers in Christ in this world we face a conflict within and a conflict without. The conflict within is a battle for our souls and we win that battle by running away from “the passions of the flesh”. The conflict without is with a hostile unbelieving world and we win that battle by living such good lives that some come to repent and believe in Christ and so glorify God.

~ Steve

 
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

1 Peter 2:11-12

 

Conflict within and conflict without (I)

Peter's first letter

1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

 
Review

On the last couple of occasions we’ve looked at 1 Peter we’ve considered chapter 2 verses 9 and 10 where we read: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

From those verses we found answers to three questions.

The first question was “What are we?”

We did see that the answer was that believers in Christ, as a collective whole, are “God’s people”. That is because we are chosen by Him, we’re servants of Him, we’re set apart for Him and we belong to Him. As such, we are the spiritual fulfilment of the promises that God made to the nation of Israel in Old Testament times.

The second question was “How are we what we are?”

We saw that the answer was that we are “God’s people” by having been powerfully called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light which shines in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The third question was “Why are we what we are?”

We saw that the answer was that we are “God’s people” in order “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him” or, more literally “that you might set forth the virtues of Him”.

Today we’re moving on to look at verses 11 and 12 where we read: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation”.

So, having stressed that his readers are God’s people in order to declare His praises or proclaim His excellencies, Peter goes on to introduce what he has to say next by saying: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles”.

Firstly, notice that he addresses them as “Beloved”.

In speaking of them as “Beloved” it’s not clear from the text whether he’s referring to his love for them or the fact that they are loved by God. The NIV has opted for the former as it uses the words “Dear friends”. However, Peter has been emphasising God’s love and mercy towards them, so that could be what he has in mind in addressing them as “Beloved”. Whatever Peter meant, he was clearly stressing to them that they were loved and the reality was that they were loved by both God and Peter.

Secondly, notice that he goes on to refer to them as “sojourners and exiles”.

Does that sound familiar? It should because he’s spoken of them in that way twice before in the letter. In chapter 1v1 he addressed them as: “elect exiles of the Dispersion” or, as the NIV put it: “elect, exiles, scattered”. Then, in chapter 1v17, he said: “And 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”. The fact that Peter repeatedly mentioned this shows that he considered it important that they should recognise that they were “sojourners and exiles” in this world and see themselves as such.

So, on the one hand, they were loved by God.

However, at the same time, they were “sojourners and exiles” in this world. That’s the tension that exists for believers during their earthly life. What does he have to say to those who are both loved by God and yet despised by the world? Well, he says “I urge you”. The Greek word here is very emphatic. It would be better translated as “I strongly urge you”. Remember, they’ve been made to be God’s people in order to show, declare, proclaim God’s praises and Peter is now urging them to do that. What does Peter urge “sojourners and exiles“ to do? Well, he specifically mentions two things.

Firstly, in verse 11, he urges them “to abstain” and then, in verse 12, he urges them “to keep your conduct honourable”.

We could say that he strongly urges them to abstain and maintain. Stop doing certain things and continue doing certain other things.

Now, these aren’t just instructions that he’s throwing out because they sound like a good idea. They are given in a context that shows that there are important reasons for these instructions. In the hymn we’ve been singing we had the words:

“Just as I am, though tossed about

with many a conflict, many a doubt,

fightings and fears within, without,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come”

That could provide good titles for today’s sermon such as “Many a conflict” or “Fightings within, without”. You see, Peter’s instructions are given because believers in Christ live in a context of conflict and his instructions make it clear that there is both conflict within and there is conflict without.

Next post we’ll be considering the: Conflict within

~ Steve
 
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

The Saved Sinners (Part Two)

Dr Steve OrrReview

We’re going to continue where we left off and continue on to the end of the chapter. Let us continue to consider what Peter had to say about the effect of Christ’s suffering for us as His people. As a reminder, Initially, I was going to do so under three headings beginning with “R” so I was going to say that we have the three “Rs” in these verses but they’re not “reading, writing and ‘rithmatic”. Then I thought of a fourth point beginning “R” so now we have the four “Rs”! They are REVITALISATION, RECOVERY, RESCUE and RELATIONSHIP. In my previous post we considered the first two of the four. With this post we are going to consider Rescue and Relationship.

Our Passage

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25 NASB)

In our passage we see that the RECOVERY comes about because there has been a:

RESCUE

Peter continues in verse 25 by saying: “For you were straying like sheep”. Once again, we see something of the state we were in before we came to Christ. We were “were straying like sheep”. That is what every human being is like by nature. They’ve gone astray. Now, I’ve often been out walking in the countryside and lost my way. I’ve gone astray. However, I’ve always managed to work things out and get back on track. Notice that Peter didn’t simply say that we were straying. He specifically said that we “were straying like sheep”. If you’ve seen the “Shaun the sheep” movie you’ll know that the sheep in that film are very intelligent and resourceful. That’s part of the humour because that’s not what sheep are really like. Usually sheep are depicted as being rather foolish and helpless. That is because that is what sheep are really like. So, when sheep are astray they are lost and in danger and they don’t have the ability or resourcefulness to get themselves back on track. So Peter wasn’t saying that we were astray but able to sort it out. No, he was saying that we were helplessly lost and in serious danger. We needed to be rescued.

Peter’s statement “For you were straying like sheep” is, like so many others in this passage, clearly based on Isaiah 53. We read in Isaiah 53v6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him he iniquity of us all”. That not only tells us that we were straying like sheep. It also tells us why we were straying like sheep. It’s not like when I’ve accidentally got lost in the countryside. It’s because “we have turned—every one—to his own way”. We were astray wilfully. We were astray because we were determined to deliberately go our own way. And, notice the emphasis there on “every one”. There are no exceptions. All human beings are naturally astray. It’s a depressing and seemingly helpless situation.

The only way for a sheep to no longer be astray is for it to be rescued and be returned to its shepherd. Thankfully Peter continues by saying: “but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”. Sometimes the word “but” can be a real downer. It can introduce a spanner in the works or a fly in the ointment but here it introduces wonderfully good news. It’s saying that if you are a believer in Christ, although you “were straying like sheep” that’s no longer the case because you “have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”.

Clearly, by “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” Peter means Jesus. Remember that Jesus said of Himself in John 10v11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. Then, in verse 14 of the same chapter He said: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me”. So, believers are no longer astray because they have come to Christ as their Shepherd.

Now, that word “returned” could be a bit misleading.

If you go to a railway station and buy a return ticket it allows you to go somewhere and then travel back to your starting point. So, saying that you “have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” could give the impression that Peter was saying that you started with “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”, strayed from Him and have now come back to Him. However, the Greek word that has been translated here as “returned”, epistrepho, is usually translated as “turned”. Let me just give you a few examples of the same Greek word being used.

Firstly, let’s read Acts 9v35: “And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord”. We find something in similar in Acts 11v21: “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord”. In both examples people who had never previously known the Lord turned to Him. It was a turning not a returning.

Next, let’s read Acts 14v14-15: “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them”. In that context, Paul and Barnabas were exhorting the people of Lystra to turn away from their false gods and to turn to the true God. In 1 Thessalonians 1v9 Paul tells us that that is exactly what the Thessalonian believers had done. He said: “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”. You see, they hadn’t returned to God. Previously they’d been following idols but they’d now turned to God from those idols.

So Peter was saying that his readers were no longer “straying like sheep” because they had turned to Jesus as their “Shepherd and Overseer”.

How had that come about?

In saying “but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” you could get the impression that that it is something that we do for ourselves. The reality is that it’s something that Jesus our Shepherd does for us. Continuing in John 10 we read in verse 16 that Jesus said: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd”. You see, it’s not that lost sheep seek for their shepherd. Rather, Jesus as the Shepherd brings lost sheep to Himself so that they are no longer astray. We see the same sort of picture presented in Jesus’ words in Luke 15v3-7 where we read: “So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance”.

You see, it’s Jesus who takes the initiative. He seeks the lost sheep. He finds the lost sheep. He brings the lost sheep to Himself. He rescues lost sheep.

But, how does being rescued in this way bring about the Recovery and Revitalisation that we’ve already considered? It does so because it leads to a:

RELATIONSHIP

You see, Peter doesn’t speak in terms of us simply having been rescued. It’s not just that we’re now out of danger and no longer astray. It’s not like having been rescued by a Mountain Rescue Team. They would come and find you, get you down safely, check you over and send you on your way. But, you see, we’ve been rescued by turning to the person who is our rescuer. He’s described as “the Shepherd and Overseer”. That says something about Him and what He does but notice that Peter doesn’t stop there. He describes Him as “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”.

How are we to understand “your souls”? Well, the Greek word is psyche and it can be used in different ways. Sometimes it’s used to refer to the spiritual part of our being in contrast with our physical bodies. Paul often uses it in a negative way to denote the natural fallen self in contrast with the new being renewed by the Holy Spirit. However, Peter consistently uses it to simply refer to the whole being. So the idea here is that we’ve come to Jesus as “the Shepherd and Overseer” of our whole beings. He’s “the Shepherd and Overseer” of all that we are. So, we’ve come into that relationship with Him. He’s not just someone who’s rescued us. He’s become our Shepherd and He’s become our Overseer. It’s because He’s rescued us and brought us into that relationship that we have recovery and revitalisation. It all comes from Him and by being brought into a relationship with Him as our “Shepherd and Overseer”.

Now, when you read “Shepherd and Overseer” it sounds as though Peter has two different roles in mind but I think that he is actually using two different terms to depict the same role. One term, “Shepherd”, comes from a Jewish background and the other term, “Overseer”, comes from a pagan background. The Old Testament often speaks of God’s people being His flock and Him being their Shepherd and a Shepherd is one who provides leadership, care, provision and protection.

The word translated as “Overseer” could also be translated as guardian or superintendent. As with a shepherd, it carries a sense of authority combined with care.

So, in these verses Peter has recognised that the natural man is alive to sin, sick and straying. But, through faith in Christ, we have received new life, our sickness has been healed and we’ve been rescued. That all comes about through being brought into a relationship with Jesus as “the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls”. What that means is depicted beautifully in Psalm 23 so we’ll read that in closing:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.

~ Steve

 

About Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

The Saved Sinners

Dr Steve OrrReview

Last time we started to look at 1 Peter 2v22-25 and considered Jesus as “The Suffering Saviour” from verses 22 to 24a. Those verses say: “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”. From that statement, we noted five things that Peter had to say about Jesus:

  • He committed no sin
  • He suffered
  • He did not retaliate
  • He trusted
  • He bore our sins

Now we’re going to continue on to the end of the chapter and we’ll consider what Peter went on to say about “The saved sinners”.

Our Passage

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25 NASB)

Notice that, having said of Jesus that “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”, Peter then went on to say: “that we might”. Without looking at the passage, I wonder how you would finish that sentence. If someone was to ask you to tell them what you considered to be the purpose of Christ’s death for His people or the effect of Christ’s death on His people what would be the first thing that you would mention? I expect you would probably say something like “the forgiveness of their sins” or “being made right with God” or “being made righteous in the sight of God” and, of course, all of those things are wonderfully true and Peter does mention them. However, it’s interesting to note that that is not the first thing that Peter went on to concentrate on here.

Having said of Jesus that “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”, Peter went on to say: “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”. From that we will consider what Peter had to say about the effect of Christ’s suffering for us as His people. Initially, I was going to do so under three headings beginning with “R” so I was going to say that we have the three “Rs” in these verses but they’re not “reading, writing and ‘rithmatic”. Then I thought of a fourth point beginning “R” so now we have the four “Rs”! They are REVITALISATION, RECOVERY, RESCUE and RELATIONSHIP.

So, let us begin by considering the fact that, for saved sinners, there has been a:

REVITALISATION

You see, Peter said that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness”. That word “live” speaks of a revitalisation or a new life. The purpose of Christ’s death was not only to provide forgiveness for us but also to bring about a new life for us. It was to enable and empower us to “live to righteousness”. That speaks of a revitalisation.

The first thing that we need to recognise from that is that it tells us what every human being is like by nature. They are alive to sin and dead to righteousness. That’s the status quo. Sinning comes naturally to people. Being righteous does not. We don’t naturally “live to righteousness”. That has been the case Ever since Adam rebelled against God in the garden. That’s now the way we are. It takes nothing less than the death of Christ bearing our sins to change that. It’s His death on the cross that makes us die to sin and be able to live to righteousness. Apart from His death on the cross we would remain alive to sin and dead to righteousness. There would be no revitalisation.

Now, before we consider that revitalisation further we need to be aware of the grammatical construction of the phrase that has been translated as “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness”. The translations that we find in both the ESV and the NIV are misleading. They both make it sound as though Peter is saying that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree” in order to make two things possible. Firstly, to make it possible for us to “die to sin” and, secondly, to make it possible for us to “live to righteousness”. However, the verb “die” in the text is in the aorist tense so it is something that has already happened before we can “live to righteousness”. Also, the word “and” does not appear in the Greek text. So, the proper sense of the phrase is: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree so that, having died to sin, we might live to righteousness”.

You see, if Jesus has borne your sin on the cross then you have died to sin. It’s not that in bearing your sin on the cross Jesus had made it possible for you to die to sin. It’s not that He’s given you a fighting chance. No, you are dead to sin. Now, you might say that I’m reading too much into the fact that the verb “die” is in the aorist tense. Well, look at what Paul says in Romans 6v1-3: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”

There Paul is addressing ordinary believers in Christ and he makes it quite clear that he and they had “died to sin”. How come? It’s because they were “in Christ” and so they had died with Him. Now, this having “died to sin” doesn’t mean that we are now sinless. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need to bother about sin any more. We know all too well from personal experience that sin is still a present reality that we have to struggle with. But, this having “died to sin” means that Jesus has not only brought about forgiveness for our sin through His death on the cross; He’s also freed us from slavery to sin. He’s not only delivered us from the guilt of sin, He’s also delivered us from the power of sin. Through Christ’s death, sin’s dominion over us is broken.

It’s that being dead to sin that is the basis for being able, in Peter’s words, to “live to righteousness”. So long as you are alive to sin you have no chance of living to righteousness but if you have died to sin then living to righteousness in no longer an impossibility. Paul says the same thing in different words as he continues in Romans 6v4 by saying: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death”. Again, he’s talking about having died with Christ or having been included in His death and then he says: “in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life”.

You see, Peter says “that we might live to righteousness” and Paul says “in order that we might walk in newness of life”. They are different ways of expressing what Peter had previously referred to in verse 21 as following in the steps of Jesus. To “live to righteousness” is to be Christ-like. That is to “walk in newness of life” because it is completely different from our old, natural life before we came to faith in Christ.

So, Peter is emphasising that the purpose of Christ’s death was not only to procure our forgiveness but also to bring about a radical change in our lives. Believers in Christ are not only forgiven people, they are also new people. How we need to constantly remind ourselves of that. Oh, we like the idea of being forgiven because that costs us nothing but living out a new life in this sinful, hostile world is another matter. That’s tough. It takes effort. But, our Saviour “bore our sins in his body on the tree so that, having died to sin, we might live to righteousness”. Do you believe that Jesus died for you? Well, be in no doubt that He died so that you can live a new life for Him. Becoming a Christian isn’t just a matter of adopting a new set of beliefs. It changes your life. Jesus died “that we might live to righteousness”.

RECOVERY

Peter’s next words show that. He goes on to say: “By his wounds you have been healed”. Once again, he’s basing that expression on words from Isaiah 53. Verse 5 of that chapter says: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed”.

So, Peter says to believers in Christ: “you have been healed”. Once again, the first thing that we need to recognise from that is that it tells us something about the state we were in before we came to Christ. We were sick or wounded and needed to be healed. That is what every human being is like by nature. Ever since the fall, there has been an inherent sickness in humanity. It’s what the Bible calls sin. That’s why people are naturally alive to sin and dead to righteousness. That’s why they need the revitalisation that we’ve been thinking about. They are infected with the disease of sin and that manifests itself in all sorts of ways. There’s the big stuff that makes the headlines such as wars, child abuse, terrorist attacks and so on. Those are the sorts of things that we’re ready to deplore because it’s invariably other people who are the perpetrators. But, this sickness in humanity manifests itself in less newsworthy ways too. The sickness is so severe that things such as pride, greed, dishonesty and the like are so commonplace as to seem to be the norm. The fact is that as Paul says in Romans 3v23: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. There are no exceptions. Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, every man, woman and child is infected with the disease of sin.

There is a huge army of people employed in trying to cure the disease of sin: the police, the probation services, educationalists, psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists – the list is endless, but the fact is that they are all equally ineffective and powerless. At best, they scratch the surface or tinker at the edges but they can’t change human hearts.

So, how have believers in Christ been healed? How has a recovery been brought about? Well, Peter says that “By his wounds you have been healed”. What does he mean by “his wounds”? It’s very clear from the gospel accounts that Jesus had terrible wounds inflicted upon Him. His back was lacerated as He was scourged. His hands and feet were wounded as the nails were driven through them. His head was wounded as the crown of thorns was pressed down upon it. Even after He was dead a further wound was inflicted as a sword was thrust into His side. However, it’s hard to see how those wounds as such have brought about our healing. Peter has just been saying that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree”. That was clearly speaking of His death on the cross and Jesus’ wounds were all associated with His crucifixion so when Peter says “By his wounds you have been healed” he’s saying that we have healing through the death of Christ on the cross. He’s healed us from the disease of sin by bearing our sin for us. He’s healed us by taking the disease away and He’s taken the disease away by taking it upon Himself.

It’s very important to notice that Peter says that “By his wounds you have been healed”. He doesn’t say: “By His wounds healing is offered” or “By his wounds healing is a possibility” or even “By his wounds a healing process has begun”. No, he says: “you have been healed”. So, unlike that army of professionals that we mentioned, Christ’s death on the cross is efficacious. It provides a certain cure. No wonder Paul said in Galatians 6v14: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”. It is through “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” that we are healed.

So, saved sinners have been revitalised so that they can live a new life of righteousness. That is because they’ve recovered from the sickness of sin by being healed through Christ’s death on the cross.

Now, for any physical cure or remedy to be effective, it has to be taken. Looking at a Paracetamol tablet in the packet won’t cure your headache. You have to take the tablet and ingest it. Likewise with Christ’s death on the cross. Just knowing about it won’t do you any good. Reading about it won’t achieve anything. Thinking about it won’t cure the disease of sin. There has to be a coming together.

Next week: RESCUE and RELATIONSHIP

~ Steve

 

About Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

The Suffering Savior (Part Four)

Dr Steve OrrReview

We have now arrived at the last of the four things that we are considering concerning our suffering Saviour. As mentioned in my introduction, I mentioned there are five things from verses 22-24a for us to notice about what Peter had to say about Jesus “The suffering Savior.”

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:22-24 ESV)

The last thing we’re told here about our suffering Saviour is that:

Jesus bore our sins

We see that at the beginning of verse 24 where we read the remarkable words: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”. That’s a wonderful statement that sums up the heart of the gospel. Once again, Peter is drawing on Isaiah 53. In verse 6 we read: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. That’s talking about God laying our sins on the suffering servant. Then, in Isaiah 53v11 we read: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. So, not only would God lay our sins on the suffering servant – the suffering servant would bear our sins. Continuing in verse 12 Isaiah says: “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors”. Again we see Him bearing the sin of many.

Peter’s statement here is drawing on what was prophesied by Isaiah and applying it to Jesus. He’s saying that Jesus is the suffering servant who was foretold. Notice that Peter begins this short statement by saying: “He himself”. It would have made perfect sense had he said “He bore our sins in his body on the tree” but Peter said “He himself”. That’s very emphatic.

Someone might say that the Duke of Wellington won a great victory at Waterloo but the fact is that he didn’t do it on his own. His troops had something to do with it too! We actually understand such a statement to mean “the Duke of Wellington and his army did it”. In saying “He himself”, Peter is emphasising that he is talking about something that was done entirely by Jesus. It wasn’t Jesus and anyone else or anything else. It was Jesus and Him alone who did this.

What did Jesus do?

Well, Peter continues by saying that He “bore our sins”. Remember that we have already seen that Jesus is without sin. He has no sin of His own to bear. It is “our sins” that He bore just as Isaiah said. That means that our sins were put upon Him as though they were His own. It’s what Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 5v21 where we read: “For our sake he (that is God) made him (that is Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

You see, in bearing our sins, Jesus took our place.

He was our substitute. He had no sin and He took our sin for us. We’ll see that sense of substitution again in what Peter will say in 1 Peter 3v18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God”. You see, it was “the righteous”, that is Jesus, “for the unrighteous”, that is us. He stood in for us. He took our place.

How did Jesus bear our sin?

Peter says that He did so “in his body”. Our sin was laid upon Him bodily and the consequence of that took place in His body too. We see that in what Peter goes on to say in 1 Peter 3v18. Having said: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” Peter goes on to say: “being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit”. By “the flesh” there he must mean the body because it’s being contrasted with “the spirit”.

Why does he stress that Jesus “bore our sins in his body”?

I tend to think that it’s to make the point that Jesus Himself was our sacrifice. You see, in the Old Testament sacrificial system the priest offered the sacrifice of an animal and sin was considered to have been laid upon the body of that sacrificial animal. Now, Jesus is the priest who offers a sacrifice for our sin but the sacrifice wasn’t the body of something else – it was His own body. Our sin was laid on His body as the sacrifice that was put to death on our behalf.

The last thing to notice about what Peter said about Jesus bearing our sins is that He did so in His body “on the tree”. That’s Peter’s way of referring to Jesus’ death on the cross. For instance, we read in Acts 5v29-30: “But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree”. You might ask why Peter uses the word tree instead of cross. I think it was to draw attention to what was actually happening when Jesus was crucified by making an allusion to Deuteronomy 21v22-23 where we read: ““And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance”. Paul refers to that verse in Galatians 3v13 by saying: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree””.

The point is that when Jesus was hung on the cross, it wasn’t just another execution that was taking place. He was under God’s curse. Why? Our sinless, suffering saviour was under God’s curse because He was bearing our sins. He was suffering the punishment we deserve. He was dying in our place. That’s the basis of the gospel. That and that alone is why every sinner who trusts in what Jesus did in dying on the cross is saved from the punishment they deserve and brought back to God.

Well, next time we’ll look at the rest of verse 24 and verse 25 and consider what Peter has to say there about “The saved sinners”.

~ Steve

 

About Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

The Suffering Savior (Part Three)

Dr Steve OrrReview

Picking up where we left off we will once again continue to concentrate on the fact of Christ’s suffering by looking at v22-24a under the title “The suffering saviour.”

As mentioned in my introduction, I mentioned there are five things from verses 22-24a for us to notice about what Peter had to say about Jesus “The suffering Savior.”

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:22-24 ESV)

The next thing to note about our suffering Savior is that although He was subject to awful suffering that:

Jesus trusted

You see, having said at the beginning of verse 23 that Jesus: “did not revile in return” and that He “did not threaten” we find that Peter continues the verse by saying: “but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly”. The word “but” there suggests an alternative to reviling in return and threatening. What was that alternative? What did He do instead of reviling or threatening? It was “entrusting himself to him who judges justly”. So, it wasn’t a matter of Him being stoical, it was a matter of trust.

The Greek word that has been translated as “entrusting” is paradidomi and it means “handing over to” or “delivering to” or “committing to”. Giving vent to your anger on the one hand or being stoical on the other are both human ways of trying to deal with unjust suffering for yourself but the idea here is of handing it over for someone else to deal with. That’s why He didn’t need to retaliate: He trusted someone else to take care of the situation. He didn’t need to worry about it.

To whom did Jesus entrust Himself? Who was it that He was so sure would deal with every situation? Well, the text says that it was “to him who judges justly”. That is clearly referring to God but why did Peter choose to express it in that way? Why didn’t he simply say that Jesus “continued entrusting himself to God”?

Surely the point is that the reason for Jesus not retaliating was not simply because He trusted in God in a general but specifically because He trusted that God will one day judge and that He will judge justly. That’s why He could hand over any thoughts of retaliation and we should follow His example. Last time we referred to Colossians 3v23-25 where we read: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality”. That was in the context of slaves obeying their masters even if they’re treated harshly. How could they do so?

It’s because if they have a right understanding of the justice of God and entrust themselves to Him as “him who judges justly” they will have confidence that eventually “the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done”. We don’t need to retaliate. We’re liberated from any sense of needing to get even or striving for justice. We can confidently leave justice and punishment to God.

We’re exhorted in the same way in Romans 12v19-20 where we read: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.””. You see, we’re never to avenge ourselves. We can hand it over to God knowing that He will repay.

Notice that the text says that Jesus: continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly”. Once again, the verb is in the imperfect tense and the word “continued” serves to emphasise that. So, this “entrusting himself to him who judges justly” was an ongoing attitude or state of mind that characterised Him. It’s not that He started trusting when opposition and suffering came. No, when opposition and suffering came, He continued trusting. He entrusted Himself to God from the outset and didn’t stop when opposition and suffering came and increased.

We Christians can be very fickle can’t we?

Some, when all is going well, say they’re trusting God, but that trust quickly evaporates when problems arise and they descend into a blind panic and try to deal with the situation in a purely human way for themselves. At the other extreme, others are happy to jog along with no conscious trust in God when all is well but then suddenly turn to Him as soon as troubles arise. If we’re following the example that Jesus left us neither of those extremes will be true of us. Rather, like Him, we’ll always continue entrusting ourselves to Him who judges justly.

The last post for this section of 1 Peter will be: Jesus bore our sins

~ Steve

 

About Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

The Suffering Savior (Part Two)

Dr Steve OrrReview

Today we’re continuing to concentrate on the fact of Christ’s suffering. As mentioned in my previous introduction to the larger section, I mentioned there are five things from verses 22-24a for us to notice about what Peter had to say about Jesus “The suffering Savior.”

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:22-24 ESV)

The next thing to note about our suffering Savior is that although He was subject to awful suffering that:

Jesus did not retaliate

We see that in verse 23a because it says that “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return” and that “when he suffered, he did not threaten”. Now, the verbs in those expressions “he did not revile in return” and “he did not threaten” are in the imperfect tense. That means that they are expressing an action that was ongoing.

So, non-retaliation characterised the whole of Jesus’ life. Peter was speaking from first-hand experience here. In Matthew 26 we have the account of Jesus being betrayed and arrested and we read in verses 47 to 53:

“While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”

They came with their swords and clubs and laid their hands on Him and seized Him. When one of His followers drew his sword in retaliation Jesus commanded him to put the sword away. Who was it that had wielded that sword? Well, look at the account in John chapter 18 of Jesus being arrested. We read in verses 10 to 11: “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?””.

The one who had wielded the sword and been reprimanded for it was none other than Peter the writer of this letter. What a lesson that was for him and what a lasting impression it had made!

Now, Peter’s words here are not a direct quotation from Isaiah 53 but they certainly pick up on the sense of Isaiah 53v7 where we read: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth”. Clearly, Peter viewed Jesus as being the suffering servant who was foretold in Isaiah 53. Jesus was the fulfilment of that prophecy.

It’s also worth noting that Jesus followed His own teaching. In Matthew 5v38-40 we read that Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well”.

You sometimes hear parents say something like “do as I say not as I do”. That was never the case with Jesus.

What Jesus said was exactly what Jesus did. As we saw previously, Jesus committed no sin. He was perfect so all that He said was true and all that He did was right. There was never any discrepancy between His words and His actions. He said “turn the other cheek” and that’s exactly what He did even under the most difficult and distressing circumstances. In doing so, He was leaving us an example to follow.

That flies in the face of a lot of modern psychology doesn’t it?

Many would say that there is therapeutic value in expressing your anger when you suffer and when you’re wronged. Venting your anger is encouraged as a good and helpful thing. But, that was not what Jesus did and it’s not what He encouraged His followers to do. Does that then mean that we’re to supress it, hold it in and bottle it up? Are we to be stoical and maintain a typical British stiff upper lip? Was that what Jesus was doing in not retaliating? I don’t think so.

Next post we will continue with the thought “Jesus trusted.”

~ Steve

 

About Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

The Suffering Savior

Dr Steve OrrReview

Last time we looked at Peter’s command to slaves or servants in 1 Peter 2v19. The command was for them to always submit themselves to their masters – “not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust”. We saw that the reason for that lay in the proper Christian response to any form of unjust suffering. That proper response is to endure it and we saw three reasons for doing so. Firstly, we’re to endure unjust suffering because doing so is commendable to God. Secondly, we’re to endure unjust suffering because doing so is living out our calling. Thirdly, we’re to endure unjust suffering because doing so is being Christ like in that we’re following His example.

We closed last time by looking at the words that we find in 1 Peter 2v21: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps”. That contains the statement “Christ also suffered for you”. That speaks of Jesus who suffered and those for whom Jesus suffered. Peter goes on to expand on Christ’s suffering for you in the remainder of the chapter. He says in verses 22 to 25: “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”. The passage draws heavily on Isaiah 53. Peter doesn’t give exact quotations but the allusions to statements and ideas in Isaiah 53 are unmistakeable.

Beginning today we’re going to concentrate on the fact of Christ’s suffering by looking at v22-24a under the title “The suffering saviour.” When we’ve completed this section (this being the first of four posts) we’ll concentrate on the effect of Christ’s suffering by looking at v24b-25 under the title “The saved sinners”. 

The Suffering Saviour

From verses 22-24a there are five things for us to notice about what Peter had to say about Jesus “The suffering Saviour”.

1 Peter 2:22-24 ESV
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

The first thing that Peter went on to say about our suffering saviour is that:

Jesus committed no sin

Having said that “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” Peter went on in v22 to say: “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth”.

In doing so, Peter was drawing on the words of Isaiah 53v9 and applying them to Jesus in order to establish the fact that Jesus is perfectly sinless. Peter wasn’t just saying that Jesus had been able to resist sinning when He suffered. He was saying that Jesus never sinned in any way or at any time. That is the consistent teaching of the New Testament.

In John 8v46 we see that Jesus was confident that no-one could convict Him of sin. He said: “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” Why was He so confident that no-one could convict Him of sin? It was because He was perfect. He was without sin. There were no skeletons in the cupboard.

In John 18v38 we read: “Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him””. So Pilate could find no sin in Him.

In 2 Corinthians 5v20-21 Paul said: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. He said that Christ was Him “who knew no sin”. As He went to die on the cross He bore our sin and died because of our sin but He had no sin of His own. He’d lived a completely perfect life.

In Hebrews 4v15 we read: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin”. Jesus wasn’t sinless because He’d had an easier life than we do. He was subjected to all the temptations that we experience but He never succumbed to them. He was “without sin”.

In 1 John 3v5 we read: “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin”.

So, the New Testament consistently asserts that Jesus was without sin. He was perfect in every way. He was sinless. Why is Peter emphasising that Jesus is without sin at this point? Well Peter had been speaking of how believers should respond to unjust and undeserved suffering and had said that Christ in His suffering had left us an example to follow. The point that Peter is establishing here is that Jesus did not deserve to suffer in any way because He was sinless. As Peter said, Jesus “suffered for you” – not because He deserved to suffer.

Having established that Jesus was sinless and so did not deserve to suffer the next thing that Peter went on to say about Him was that:

Jesus suffered

We read in verse 23a: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten”. So, firstly, we see that Jesus was “reviled”. That really refers to Him being subjected to insulting and abusive speech. We see that especially during His trial and crucifixion. For instance, look at Matthew 27v28-31 where we read: “And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him”.

Or look a little later in Matthew 27 at verses 39 to 44 where we read: “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way”. You see how everyone reviled Him.

We’re told that “those who passed by derided him”.

We’re told that “the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him”.

We’re told that “the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way”.

This provides an amazing insight into fallen human nature! When confronted with divine perfection, instead of marvelling and worshipping, fallen human beings respond with contempt and mocking and reviling. None the less, some would quote the old adage “sticks and stones might break my bones but words can never hurt me”. I think we all realise how hurtful unkind words can be but reviling wasn’t the only way in which Jesus suffered.

Besides being “reviled”, Peter also says that He “suffered”. That surely means actual, physical, bodily suffering. In Matthew 26v67-68 we read: “Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”” There we have a degree of physical suffering combined with mockery but His suffering really culminated in the agony of His crucifixion. And, that was so much more than terrible physical suffering. In the account of Jesus on the cross we read in Matthew 27v46: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” That speaks of His spiritual suffering. He had been one with God the Father and God the Spirit from eternity and now He was God forsaken. I don’t think we can begin to imagine such suffering. He was God. He was sinless and yet He was God forsaken.

~ Steve

 

About Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

Submission and Freedom (II)

1 Peter 2:18-21 ESV

Peter's first letterServants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

 

Submission and suffering

For our previous post we considered the “Who” and the “What”. For this post we are considering the “When” and “Why”.

WHEN?
The short answer to that question is; “always”! Notice that Peter goes on in verse 18 to say of this submission: “not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust”. That’s in the ESV and this time the NIV is also quite similar as it says: not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. So, Peter recognises that masters or employers come in various types. Some are good, gentle and considerate and others are unjust or harsh. We mentioned earlier that there was legislation that covered the owning of slaves and that meant that, generally, slaves were well treated. But, Peter was realistic enough to know that some slave owners were unfair and abused their position of power and took advantage. No amount of human legislation provides any absolute guarantee. It’s exactly the same with employers in our society. Most are reasonable and responsible but some will see what they can get away with.
Our natural inclination would probably be to not be submissive to masters or employers who do not follow the rules and treat us unjustly. But, Peter makes it clear that Christian slaves or employees are to be willingly submissive to their masters or employers without exception. We’re not to pick and choose when to submit ourselves. We’re not to only be submissive if we deem our employers to be worthy of our submission. No, we are to be characterised by that spirit of submissiveness at all times and in all circumstances.
That same emphasis comes out in Titus 2v9-10 where Paul says: “Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior”. You see, we’re not just to be submissive to employers when it suits us or when it’s agreeable to us. We’re to be submissive to them “in everything”. We find exactly the same emphasis again in Colossians 3v22 where Paul says: “Bondservants obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord”.
Last time we faced the question about whether we are to subject ourselves to the powers that be at all times – even if they are repressive and corrupt and persecute the church. Difficult though it is, we thought that Peter did mean exactly that. He didn’t actually spell it out but we inferred that it must be the case because we recognised that the Emperor that Peter was commanding his readers to submit to was none other than Nero. It’s hard to imagine a more unhinged and despotic ruler than Nero! Well, now, in connection with submitting to masters, Peter does spell out the fact that we are to submit even if we are treated badly and unfairly. That suggests that we were right in thinking we are to subject ourselves to the powers that be at all times.
The fact is that, as Christians in this world, we shouldn’t expect to be treated with justice or fairness. We’re very grateful for it if we are treated with fairness but we shouldn’t be surprised if we’re treated with harshness.
So, we’ve seen that Peter commanded slaves to be deliberately submissive to their masters – even when those masters treat them harshly or unjustly.
The obvious question that arises from that must be:
WHY?
You see, if masters or employers treat us badly and make us suffer in some way or another, surely the natural response is to complain about it or object to it or even to retaliate. Yet, Peter commands us not to do that but to be submissive. Why? Well, verse 19 begins with the word For so Peter is going on to provide the reason for continuing to be submissive even to those who mistreat us. As he continues in verses 19-21 we find that the reason stems from the proper Christian response to any unjust suffering. He says in those verses: “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps”. That’s from the ESV.
The NIV has For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
He’s urging his readers to endure unjust suffering of any sort and, of course, that includes suffering at the hands of masters who are unjust or harsh. From those verses we can pick out three reasons for enduring rather than retaliating when we suffer unjustly.
Firstly: because it’s commendable.
I’ve taken that from the NIV. Verse 19 begins by saying For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering” Then, in verse 20, we read: “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. However, the ESV has “For this is a gracious thing” and that sounds quite different doesn’t it?
Before we try to establish the correct sense of that phrase let us notice exactly what Peter is saying is commendable before God or “a gracious thing in the sight of God”. It’s not merely enduring unjust suffering or bearing up under it. Peter is not saying that there is any virtue in some sort of macho, stoical, heroic, British stiff upper lip type enduring or bearing up. No, what is commendable is enduring unjust suffering “when, mindful of God” or conscious of God”. By that he means trusting in God and so pleasing God. He means being confident that, despite outward hardships, in the words of Romans 8v28: “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”.
Why does the NIV say that this is commendable before God and the ESV say that this is “a gracious thing in the sight of God”? Well, the Greek word “charis” is used here and that is often translated as “grace”. We usually think of that as being undeserved favour but it can also mean approval or credit.
The word “charis” is used in that sense in Luke 6v32-34 where Jesus says: “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount”. There, “charis” is translated as “credit”. He’s saying there’s no “credit” in doing things that even sinners do. Then He continues by saying: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”. You see, the implication is that there is “credit” in going beyond the things that even sinners do. In fact Jesus parallels “credit” with “your reward will be great”.
So, in saying that suffering unjustly “when, mindful of God” or conscious of God” is commendable before God or “a gracious thing in the sight of God” Peter means that it is pleasing to God. It meets with His approval. He considers it a worthy and creditable thing and He will reward it. Now you might say “That might be so but doesn’t that mean that those who make us suffer are getting away with it? Where’s the justice in that?” Well, look at Colossians 3v22-25 where Paul says: “Bondservants obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality”. That covers a lot of what we’ve been saying about obeying earthly masters and fearing the Lord but besides saying that “you will receive the inheritance as your reward” it also goes on to say that “the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done”.
This is speaking of the final judgement and I suggest that, for the believer in Christ, it is very liberating to know that there will be a final judgement. Knowing that there will be a final judgement when perfect justice will be administered and every wrong will be righted should deliver us from any feelings of unfairness and dissatisfaction and wanting revenge in this world. That’s what Jesus kept in mind throughout His Earthly life. Looking forward to verse 23 we see that Peter remembered something about Jesus. That was: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten”. Why? How come? Well, Peter said that He “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He lived His life and endured all sorts of suffering in the knowledge that justice will be done. Paul exhorts us to have the same attitude. He says in Romans 12v19: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord””.
So, we’re to endure unjust suffering at the hands of employers or anyone else for the Lord’s sake because it is commendable.
Secondly: We’re to do so because it’s living out our calling.
Verse 21 begins by saying “For to this you have been called”. What does Peter mean by “this” in that phrase? It is surely the enduring of unjust suffering for the Lord’s sake that he’s just been talking about. We mustn’t be surprised by opposition and injustice. It’s par for the course. It goes with the territory. If you’re a believer in Christ it’s because God has called you. As Peter said back in chapter 1v15: ”but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”. That results in us being sojourners and strangers in this world. Peter will go on to say in chapter 3v9: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing”. You see, receiving evil and reviling is to be expected but we are called not to respond in kind but to bless. So, enduring unjust suffering at the hands of employers or anyone else for the Lord’s sake is not only commendable – it’s in keeping with our calling.
Thirdly: We’re to do so because it’s being Christ-like (v21b)
Peter continues in verse 21 by saying: “because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps”.
When we speak of the suffering of Christ we are usually referring to our Saviour’s death on the cross in our place. Of course, that is at the very heart of our faith and Peter will soon go on to refer to that. However, I don’t think that is what Peter has in mind here. If you’re using the NIV you’ll see that it says: because Christ suffered for you but the ESV has “because Christ also suffered for you”. Now, that is correct. The word “also” is in the text but, for some inexplicable reason, the NIV has chosen to omit it. The point is that, having spoken to his readers in terms of them being called to endure “sorrows while suffering unjustly” and suffering for doing good, he’s reminding them that Jesus also suffered in exactly same the same ways as they would and that their suffering was for Him just as His was for them.
Peter then says that in Christ’s suffering “for you” He was “leaving you an example”. Quite often we think of an example as being an illustration of something or representative of something. For instance, you might say something like “Neil Whitcombe is an example of a Welshman”. That is true and it might vaguely be of interest but it doesn’t impact you in any way. It’s purely academic. But, that isn’t the sense of the Greek word that Peter has used here. The word is hypogrammon and it literally referred to children tracing over the letters of the alphabet in order to learn to write the letters correctly. So, it referred to an exercise. It involved activity. It wasn’t just an example to note or be impressed by. It was something that was to be done. Perhaps you remember as a child, or may be with your own children, using a copy book when learning to write. The letters would be printed clearly on the page and there would be a blank line underneath on which the child tried to copy the letters as neatly as possible. Well, that’s the idea here. Just as the printed letters were the example to copy and follow so Jesus is the example we are to copy and follow. Peter makes that clear by going on to say: “so that you might follow in his steps”. Jesus didn’t merely leave us an example to look at and admire. He left us an example to follow and following that example means following Him. It means walking as He walked. It means being like Him. It means doing as He did and thinking what He thought and being motivated by the desire to please our heavenly Father as He was.
When your employer treats you unjustly, are you Christ-like? Are you following in His footsteps? Peter will go on to say of Him in verse 23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten”. Can that be said of you?
The remaining verses of the chapter detail the example Jesus left us by speaking of His suffering and we’ll look forward to considering that next time.

~ Steve

 

About Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

1 Peter 2v18-21

 

Submission and suffering

 

Peter's first letter

Last time we looked at 1 Peter 2v13-17 and we saw that, although believers in Christ are described by Peter as “a holy nation, a people for his own possession” and as being “sojourners and exiles” in this world, we are, nonetheless, to relate to the earthly nation in which we live by subjecting ourselves to “the powers that be”. Remember that, in verse 13, Peter commanded Christian citizens to “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution”. We don’t do that simply in order to have a quiet life, or out of fear of “the powers that be” or even because we admire and have confidence in “the powers that be”. No, Peter says that we are to do so “for the Lord’s sake” because it is “the will of God” that we should do so.

We’re going to look at verses 18 to 21 today.

Continue reading “1 Peter 2v18-21”

1 Peter 2:13-17 (V)

 

Submission and freedom

Peter's first letter

1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover- up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor
(1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)

 

This is the last post of five on this section that we’re looking at in 1 Peter 2v13-17. Before we continue let us once again remind ourselves of the preceding context so that we can see how it follows on from what Peter had just been saying.

Review.

Since we are God’s people, how does He want us to relate to a world in which we’re strangers and to a world that opposes us and even persecutes us?” We saw last time that Peter went on to say: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” but what does that actually involve?

Peter was not calling his readers to be mere doormats. He wasn’t calling them to a blind, fatalistic acceptance. Rather, he was calling them to purposely, thoughtfully and deliberately place themselves under authority.

Believers in Christ are to be characterised by a deliberate submissiveness in every area of life. In verse 18 he’ll talk about the submission of slaves to their masters. Today we’re going to look once again at verses 13 to 17 to consider the deliberate submission that we find under the following five headings:

The scope of this submission
The motive for this submission
The purpose of this submission
The nature of this submission
The perspective for this submission

Let us now consider our last point:

The perspective for this submission

We see this in verse 17 where we read: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor”. At first sight, that verse simply reads as a series of snappy, punchy bullet points. However, those points follow an important pattern that provides a proper perspective for what Peter has been saying about our submission to “the powers that be” here on Earth.

The series begins with: “Honor everyone”.

The word translated as “honour” there means “show respect” or “treat with dignity”. That is how believers in Christ are to relate to “everyone”. That is how believers in Christ are to relate to all manner of people, irrespective of nationality, class, financial status or anything else. That’s not how it usually is in the world where the rich and the powerful look down on the poor and the weak and take advantage of them and the poor and the weak in turn are envious of the rich and powerful and show them resentment and contempt.

As believers in Christ we are to recognise that all people have been made by God and in the image of God and so we’re to show them all equal honour – even those who speak evil of us or persecute us.

Next, Peter says: “Love the brotherhood”. He’s narrowed it down from “everyone” to “the brotherhood” – that is, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The way in which we are to relate to “the brotherhood” goes beyond the “honour” that we’re to show to “everyone”. We have a higher obligation to our fellow believers. We are to Love the brotherhood”. The word for “love” there is “agapae” so Peter is speaking of a special, sacrificial, family love.

Next, Peter says: “Fear God”. He’s now narrowed it down from “everyone” to “the brotherhood” to “God” and our obligation to Him is higher still. Yes, we’re to honour Him and love Him but we’re also to fear Him. That’s beyond honour and love. It’s a deep reverence that is exclusively for God. It’s something that only He deserves because He alone is so glorious.

Peter then continues by mentioning “the emperor” – the one he’s commanded us to submit to and the one that the Romans claimed to be divine. Following the trajectory of the series of points in verse 17 so far you might expect that Peter would say that we should at least “fear the emperor”. If possible, you might expect that something beyond fear or even greater than worship might be required. What Peter actually says is: “Honor the emperor”.

Having scaled the dizzy heights of the glory of God we’re back to Earth with a bump. We’re back to the ordinary dignity and respect that he said we’re to show “everyone”. The point is that, although we’re to submit to the Emperor because God has put him in a position of authority, he is, nonetheless, just an ordinary man. That’s the proper perspective that we’re to always keep in mind.

So, be subject to the Emperor or whoever exercises temporal power. Do so “for the Lord’s sake” but don’t put your trust in the powers that be. They’re ordinary men with feet of clay. At best they make mistakes; at worst they work out their own sinful agendas. Whatever, be subject to them, treat them with respect but put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our hope is not in earthly princes but in the Prince of Peace. Our hope is not in earthly kings but in the one who is King of kings and Lord of lords.

~ Steve

 
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

1 Peter 2:13-17 (IV)

 

Submission and freedom

Peter's first letter

1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover- up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor
(1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)

 

This is the fourth post of five on this section that we’re looking at in 1 Peter 2v13-17. Before we continue let us once again remind ourselves of the preceding context so that we can see how it follows on from what Peter had just been saying.

Review.

Since we are God’s people, how does He want us to relate to a world in which we’re strangers and to a world that opposes us and even persecutes us?” We saw last time that Peter went on to say: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” but what does that actually involve?

Peter begins to address that question in verses 13 to 17 where we’ve seen that Peter has already given a whole string of imperatives or commands for the Christian life and his teaching in these verses begins with another command. In verse 13, according to the ESV, he says “Be subject” or, as the NIV puts it, “Submit yourselves”. The word in the Greek text is actually a compound of two words. One is hypo and that means “under”. The other is tasso and that means “to order” or “to place”. So, the literal meaning is to “order under” or to “place under”. The two English expressions that we find in the ESV and NIV capture the sense of the Greek and might seem to be quite similar to one another but there is a significant difference between them. “Be subject” is passive. It suggests lamely accepting subjugation. “Submit yourselves” is active. It suggests deliberately determining to submit.

Which of those two senses does Peter have in mind here? Well, as we go on to consider the following verses I think we’ll see that Peter has the latter sense in mind. He was not calling his readers to be mere doormats. He wasn’t calling them to a blind, fatalistic acceptance. Rather, he was calling them to purposely, thoughtfully and deliberately place themselves under authority. Believers in Christ are to be characterised by a deliberate submissiveness in every area of life. In verse 18 he’ll talk about the submission of slaves to their masters. Then, at the beginning of chapter 3 he’ll speak about the submission of wives to their husbands but today we’re going to look at verses 13 to 17 and we’ll consider the deliberate submission that we find under the following five headings:

The scope of this submission
The motive for this submission
The purpose of this submission
The nature of this submission
The perspective for this submission

Let us now consider:

The nature of this submission

We see that in verse 16 where we read: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God”. As presented in our English translations, that sounds like another commandment. Peter has said “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” and now he seems to be giving an almost contradictory commandment to “Live as people who are free”. However, the word “live” is not in the Greek text. It has been supplied by the translators and that is really quite misleading. The phrase “as people who are free” actually refers back to the command to “Submit yourselves”. So the sense here really is “Submit yourselves to every human institution as people who are free”. This is not a new command. Rather, it’s telling us the nature of the submission that Peter has already commanded. It’s telling us the way in which we are to submit ourselves to the “powers that be”.

The fundamental truth that lies behind the way in which we are to submit is the fact that believers in Christ have been set free. We have freedom in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Now Peter doesn’t specify what sort of freedom he has in mind here but remember that back in 1 Peter 1v17-19 he said: “And 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, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot”.

That being ransomed from “the futile ways inherited from your forefathers” refers to having been set free from a way of life that once held us captive. Why did it hold us captive? It was because it was a life of rebellion against God. As such, we were guilty sinners and controlled by sinful desires. Being set free from that doesn’t mean we are now free to do whatever we please. In Romans 6v18 Paul says that “having been set free from sin” we have “become slaves of righteousness” and then in verse 22 he says that “having been set free from sin” we have “become slaves of God”. You see, the freedom that we have as believers in Christ is not licence to do as we please but freedom to do what is good and freedom to serve God.

Peter emphasises that by going on to say: “not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God”. You see, the freedom that we have in Christ does not mean that we are free to do evil; it does mean that we are free to serve God.

Even so, saying “Submit yourselves” to earthly rulers “as people who are free” still sounds bit contradictory doesn’t it? To be subject and to be free seem to be complete opposites don’t they? The idea is of exercising the freedom that we have in making ourselves subject to the “powers that be”. We’re not to submit because we’re too apathetic to do otherwise.

We’re not to submit because we’re coerced by any earthly power.

We’re not to blindly submit simply because it’s the done thing.

No, as believers in Christ, we have freedom and we’re to exercise that freedom in deliberately and willingly submitting to “the powers that be” “for the Lord’s sake”.

We do it for Him.

We do it because He wants us to.

So, all submission to earthly rulers is in the context of a life lived in submission to God.

That being the case, although we are to peacefully honour and respect the authority of earthly leaders, we are not to blindly obey all of their demands because we live under a higher authority. God’s requirements trump any contrary demands made by earthly rulers. Peter himself serves as an illustration of that. In Acts chapter 5 we read of the apostles being imprisoned by the ruling council for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then, in verse 19, we read: “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach”.

Reading on we find that they were quickly hauled before the council again and we read in verses 27 to 29: “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men””. So, it is right to disobey the powers that be when to obey them would mean disobeying God. He is always our ultimate authority.

We’ll see that in our closing point.

~ Steve

 
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!