THE BOOK OF FIRST PETER
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Book of First Peter is a general exhortation to righteous, holy behavior. He reminds these Gentiles that they are members of the royal priesthood.
Peter has some things to say about the Divine judgment of the members of the family of God. Peter is preparing us for the fiery trials that God sends to save us from our sinful nature.
Table of Contents
THE BOOK OF FIRST PETER
For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (I Peter 4:17)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To Godís elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (I Peter 1:1,2)
Peter is writing to Gentiles. This is why he refers to them as "strangers."
Pontus refers to the coastal strip of North Asia Minor.
Galatia was a Roman province in Asia Minor.
Cappadocia was a province in the east of Asia Minor.
Asia refers to the region of Asia Minor based on Ephesus.
Bithynia, in Asia Minor, west of Pontus
"Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." A remarkable statement, and one we need to ponder deeply because it goes to the core of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
I realize that in time past the concept of election and foreknowledge was emphasized to the point that people wondered whether or not they were qualified to be saved; whether or not they had been chosen from the beginning.
Today I think we have gone overboard in the opposite direction. The idea now is that salvation is something that is preached to the whole world, and everyone is on the same level and has the same opportunity. This point of view is in line with democratic thinking.
However, it is not in line with Kingdom thinking. The Kingdom of God is structured according to Godís predetermined purposes. As the Lord said, to sit on His right hand and His left is the destiny of those for whom such places have been designated. Godís works have been finished from the foundation of the world.
It also is true that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Both positions are true and scriptural. The problem lies in the fact that we, being bound by the power of time, cannot conceive of God seeing the entire tapestry of history from the beginning. God is not bound by time. Therefore He can move back and forth at any period of history that pleases Him and make His decisions accordingly.
This means that God structures His Kingdom according to His own will. But it also leaves each one of us free to press forward into the fullness of the inheritance, or to follow our sinful nature to destruction. Whoever will do so may come to the Lord. Yet, all things are working for the good of those whom God has predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. These are equally true.
"The sanctifying work of the Spirit." Justification has to do with our being held to be righteous in the sight of God. Sanctification refers to our being delivered from spiritual darkness in body, soul, and spirit.
Justification results from our believing in Christ and obeying Him. When we believe in Christ and keep His commandments, God holds us to be righteous even though we are not keeping the Law of Moses.
Sanctification results from our obeying the Spirit of God as He orchestrates the events in our life. The Spirit leads us from victory to victory over the actions of our sinful nature. Our task is to confess our sins and to turn away from them, as the Spirit directs and enables.
We have been chosen for the purpose of obeying Jesus Christ. As we obey Christ we are sprinkled by His blood, keeping us holy in the sight of God.
As we are justified, sanctified, obedient to Jesus Christ, and sprinkled by His blood, we have grace and peace in abundance.
Grace is the Presence of God in Jesus Christ, continually enabling us to please God in all matters and continually transforming us into the image of Christ.
There is a peace that only the true saints of God experience. It is a deep joy and assurance that God is taking care of us, and nothing of the spirit world or the physical world can separate us from our Rock in whom we trust.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, And into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fadeókept in heaven for you, (I Peter 1:3,4)
"An inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fadeókept in heaven for you."
An inheritance kept in Heaven. It is understandable believers would derive from this verse that our inheritance is Heaven, or eternal life in Heaven. This belief has been part of Gospel preaching for almost its entire history.
Why are we believing differently now? I donít know, unless it is because we are drawing near to the return of the Lord Jesus to the earth. I suppose it will require one or more generations before we realize that Heaven is not our eternal home.
We lay up our treasures in Heaven. Our inheritance is kept in Heaven for us. Abraham was looking for a city that has foundations; but that city is coming to the earth.
The phrase "go to Heaven" (believe it or not!) does not appear in the New Testamentówhich it certainly would if we are saved to go to Heaven.
If our inheritance is "kept in Heaven," but is not Heaven itself, then what is our inheritance? What is the goal of salvation?
I have identified eight aspects of the goal of salvation. Letís see if you are in agreement. These would be that which is symbolized by Canaan, wouldnít they? Whatever Canaan representsóthat is our land of promise.
First, eternal life. God gave His Son that we might have eternal life. If I am not mistaken, the first aspect of eternal life, that which we are pursuing now, is the Presence of God in our life. This includes the destruction of our sinful nature and the growth of Christ in us. Paul spoke of this when he referred to knowing the power of Christís resurrection. We are to live by the body and blood of Christ as Christ lives by the Father.
Second, immortality. Let us think of eternal life as the Presence of God in our life, and immortality as the Presence of God in our body. In the present hour we have eternal life in our inward nature, but our body is dead because of sin. Our present body is to be raised from the dead and then clothed with our body from Heaven, which does not have sin residing in it. Paul was seeking the redemption of His body.
Third, an eternal position at the right hand of God in Christ. This does not mean we are resident in Heaven, although we can be in Heaven whenever we wish. We will have the power of multiple presence, as does the Lord Jesus Christ. We can go anywhere we desire. Butójust as in the case of the Lord Jesusówe never leave the right hand of God.
Fourth, absolute authority over the works of Godís hands. According to the New Testament, those who overcome the world, Satan, and their sinful nature will sit with Christ on His Throne.
Fifth, the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth. The Father invited the Son to pray that these might be His inheritance. We are coheirs with Him.
Sixth, to be indwelt forever with the fullness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Seventh, to inherit all that God makes new.
Eighth, to worship only the true God and to be Godís son.
The above inheritance sounds like we are going to be busy for eternity. I would rather be busy, living in the Life of God, than laying around on a sofa in a mansion in the spirit realm, having nothing to do and no responsibility. Wouldnít you?
Who through faith are shielded by Godís power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:5)
Here is something we need to think about. In our current understanding we place too much emphasis on our initial acceptance of Christ. It is absolutely true that we do not glide into salvation. There must come a time when we declare that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. It must be a clear-cut decision, established by baptism in water.
Today we are thinking of this initial decision as a ticket that will admit us to Heaven. This is not a scriptural viewpoint. We should think of our initial acceptance of Christ as being the beginning of our life of discipleship. We must work out our salvation as the Spirit of God brings us through the various phases of redemption.
The actual salvation, for which we are being prepared, includes the eight aspects of the inheritance mentioned above. The final act of redemption is our being clothed with a body that does not have a sinful nature. This is the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
What we do not appear to understand is that our discipleship is intended to be a preparation for the redemption of our body. We are not given access to the Tree of Life until we overcome the world, Satan, and our sinful nature. God is not going to give an immature spirit a body like that of the Lord Jesus Christ. Can you see the wisdom of this?
Can you see the enormous damage done by the preaching of the "rapture"? "Rapture" preaching turns our attention away from the need to attain to the resurrection, to immortality. It is the resurrection that is all-important, not the catching up. No preparation is needed for the catching up; but we must be resurrected before we are caught up, obviously.
Our goal is to attain to the redemption of our body. We attain to the redemption of our body by following the Holy Spirit as He leads us through the program of confessing the sins that come from our sinful nature. Until through the Spirit we overcome our sinful nature, how can God clothe us with a body like that of the Lord Jesus Christ?
You know, we are so far from being ready for the salvation that is to be revealed in the last time that it must be true the Lord is not going to return for a while yet. How many Christians of your acquaintance are pressing into the fullness of resurrection life?
I think we are confused concerning the difference between the resurrection of our body and our being caught up to meet the Lord in the air. These are not the same thing at all. They are not even related, except for the fact that we cannot be caught up until we have been resurrected.
Everyone who has ever lived on the earth will at some point hear the voice of Jesus Christ and come forth from wherever he or she has been interred. There is no question about this; it is what the Lord said.
All right. We are in agreement that everyone who has lived shall be raised from the dead and stand before Christ. This is the resurrection and it operates by the power of God Almighty.
Now what? Now we receive our reward. Our reward depends on the decisions we have made while living on the earth.
Then what? If we have lived as a victorious Christian, obeying the Lord, putting the talents (resources) God has given us to work in the Kingdom of God, our resurrected flesh and bones will be clothed with a body from Heavenóthe gold upon the wood of the Ark of the Covenant. Then we will have a body like that of Jesus Christ.
After this takes place, we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air so we can then descend with Him and establish His Kingdom on the earth.
But what if we have not lived as a victorious Christian, or have never heard of Christ? We will judged. We will be rewarded according to our works. If the Lord decides we are worthy of eternal life, we will be brought into the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus Christ. We will be given a role to play in the Kingdom of God.
If the Lord decides we are not worthy of eternal life, we will not be brought into the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus Christ but will be assigned to a place of torment. We will not be given the Presence of Christ in our life or immortality in our body.
What I have just written is the general idea. Some of the details may not be precisely correct. But it is a fact that all of us are going to be rewarded according to our works.
If the goal of salvation were eternal residence in Heaven, then everyone who is saved would receive approximately the same rewardólife in Paradise.
But since the goal of salvation comprises the eight aspects I have mentioned above, the rewards and consequences will be as varied as there are people who receive them. We are going to receive exactly what we have done!
If we do not cooperate with the Lord Jesus in the work of judgment taking place now, we will be judged at a later time. If we hope to be raised from the dead at the next appearing of Christ, we have to go through judgment now in preparation for receiving immortality and other rewards and consequences at His appearing.
This is what the Bible teaches. Those who teach otherwise are not leading the Lordís sheep toward the fullness of their inheritance, as I understand it.
We do not have all of salvation as yet. Salvation shall be revealed in the last time. Meanwhile, you and I are shielded through faith until Godís salvation is revealed.
The Book of Ephesians mentions that we have been sealed until the Day of Redemption. Why we have not seen this before I do not know, except that the coming of the Lord is nearer than before and it now is time to press into the Kingdom of God.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (I Peter 1:6)
The Book of First Peter has some helpful comments concerning Christian suffering.
A few years back a novelty was introduced into the thinking of Charismatic people. The idea was that if you have faith you do not need to suffer. Charismatic people (of whom I am one) sometimes do not have cross-carrying obedience preached to them. As a result, they are seduced into this sort of error fairly easily.
The truth is, Godís elect, both of the old covenant and the new, experience suffering. We enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation.
The idea behind the unscriptural "pre-tribulation rapture" into Heaven of the believers in Christ is the hope of escaping suffering. The motive is not to achieve righteousness, or is it a love for God, or a desire to be obedient to God, or a desire to be closer to Jesus. The motive is to find a way to escape suffering.
Christians "suffer grief in all kinds of trials." When Christians fall into deception it often is because they are looking for a way to make their life more pleasantóto make this earth like Heaven instead of the cursed place it actually is.
Why does God bring us into this valley of the shadow of death (which the present world is)? It is to form our character, and also to detect how we will behave under certain conditions in the new world of righteousness. Suffering is an important part of the program of redemption.
The Lord Jesus Christ learned obedience through suffering. We learn obedience through suffering. Those who have been appointed to high places in the Kingdom of God will drink from a bitter cup and be baptized with a fiery baptism.
In order to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus we have to deny ourselves, take up our personal cross, and follow the Lord. Each Christian has a personal cross. It is that source of pain that keeps us from being happy and content in the world.
God permits Satan to put us into some sort of prison. We do not enjoy what we are compelled to do. We are denied the fondest desires of our heart. And this may go on for fifty years!
Often we do not know why we are being subjected to such misery. And worseówe do not know how long it will last. Therefore we have to accept the fact that we will not receive the desires of our heart in the present world. We place our treasures in Heaven and leave them there for now.
Right at this point the believer comes to a fork in the road. One broad highway is well traveled, and seemingly offers us the opportunity to remain a Christian and yet not have to carry a cross. The other path is narrow and bleakóso much so that we are not certain we can bear such denial for our entire lifetime.
I have seen good Christians come to this place of decision. Some choose the broad highway, hoping they can have their cake and eat it too. Others set their face as a flint and start off down the narrow path.
It may be years before the wisdom of either choice becomes evident. But you see, one has built his house on the sand. The other has built his house on the rock. They both are fine housesóuntil the flood comes. It is the flood that shows us the relative wisdom of our choices.
If you are in a prison with the Lord, donít break out. To break out of the Lordís prison you have to break the Lordís rules. If you are fortunate, the Lord will arrest you again and give you a longer sentence. If you are not so fortunate, the Lord will permit you to live out your life, and then give you the consequences of your choice in the Day of Resurrection.
No oneóabsolutely no oneóbreaks the Lordís rules and comes to a good end. If you can believe it, there are people who leave their wife or husband and enter Gospel work because they think they have found someone more spiritual. They travel around singing, preaching, making tapesówhatever. This may go on for years.
One day they shall stand before Him whose eyes are as flames of fire. They will point to their "ministry," how hard they have worked. You know His response: "Go away. I never knew you."
Because of the overemphasis on grace in our day, many American believers may hear those terrible words. May it not be you or I.
Yes, we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. So have all of Godís elect down through the centuries.
These have come so that your faithóof greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fireómay be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (I Peter 1:7)
Everything points toward the day when Christ is revealed, doesnít it? The Christian salvation is a hope for a glorious future. I am afraid that in America of the present hour, we are attempting to make the Christian salvation a means of making us happy today. We always should pray that God will help us with our problems right now. But the Divine salvation always has been and always shall be a hope for a better world, no matter what happens to us during our lifetime.
What does our suffering accomplish? It proves that our faith is genuine and will bring us to praise, glory, and honor in the Day of the Lord.
Our faith is proved by suffering. Since our faith is of greater worth than refined gold, we have reason to rejoice when our faith is proved. Life is short at best, and eternity stretches into a limitless future. Therefore the wise individual will guard his faith that it does not fail, for his faith in Christ is a treasure of immeasurable value.
Every pain, every problem, every frustration, every pressure, every persecution is an opportunity to prove that our faith is genuine. Let us be patient and follow the Lord until our days of testing have been completed. We will be eternally glad if we do.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, (I Peter 1:8)
God could reveal Christ to the world at any time of His choosing. I expect most people in the world would turn to Christ if we could look up and see Him. Certainly a daily glimpse of Christ in the heavens would have a negative effect on other religions.
If God wants everyone to be saved and to follow the true religion, why does He not make Christ visible? It is because God is testing our heart. If we have the kind of character God values, we will decide that Christ is what we want even though we do not see Him. It reminds us of the Hebrew young people who said to Nebuchadnezzar, "We donít know whether our God will deliver us. But know this, O King. Whether He does or not, we are not going to worship your gods."
This is how many of us feel. We have chosen to believe in God and Christ. If there is no God and no Christ, then so be it. But whether there are such Persons or not, we are not going to serve the gods of the present world.
This is what God is looking forópeople who hope there is something better than the present scene of war, famine, hatred, treachery, fraud, murder, jealousy, gossip, and everything else that flourishes in the world. We are optimistic that there is in fact a God, a Christ, and a new world of righteousness on the horizon.
God identifies such people by keeping Himself invisible, so they have to go through life believing there is something better than what we see now.
I think this is the reason why there are passages in the Bible that invite an incorrect interpretation, such as the writing of the Apostle Paul concerning Divine grace. The Christian testimony in America has been destroyed because the believers have been taught that because of "grace" they will suffer no serious consequences if they continue to sin. This indeed is the supreme delusion. The opportunity to be deceived has come from God, because people want to believe they can sin and still be approved of God. They are not lovers of the truth.
Out of the current confusion will rise believers who know this is not what Paul meant by grace, and they will seek iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to Godóeven when Christians all around them scorn them as "legalists."
The Lord knows those who belong to Him, and in the future we will be able to discern who is a true servant of the Lord Jesus.
For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:9)
The salvation of our soul is obtained as we remain steadfast while our faith is being tested by all kinds of trials.
The goal of our faith is not eternal residence in Heaven. The goal of our faith is the salvation of our soul. But arenít these one and the same? No, they are not. Heaven is a place. The salvation of our soul is our state of being.
God gave us a spirit, a soul, and a body. Our soul is our unique identity, the essence of what we are. Our Christian life is one long struggle to patiently possess our soul.
What does it mean to lose possession of our soul? It means we have chosen to follow our sinful nature rather than the Spirit of God. As a result, we no longer are in control of our soul. We have lost possession of it. Our soul is being driven by forces other than our will.
We save our soul when we follow the Spirit of God, as He points out to us the dark forces that would urge us to act against our better judgment, and then enables us to turn away from them. Often the Spirit uses much suffering to help us get rid of the sin that is in us. If we are obedient to the Spirit, we save our soul. If we choose instead to obey the sinful nature, we lose possession of our soul.
The goal of our faith is the salvation of our soul. Our soul then is transformed into a life-giving spirit. Then we can stand with the Spirit and invite mankind to come and drink deeply and freely of eternal life.
To lose possession of our soul is to inherit a corrupt body in the Day of Resurrection, and then be sent into darknessóor worse!
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, Trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. (I Peter 1:10,11)
Our perception of Divine grace today composes the supreme delusion. It is the very opposite of what the Apostle Paul meant by grace.
"Grace" is God in Christ forgiving man and enabling him to be transformed in personality until he meets Godís standard concerning the personality and behavior of man.
The Apostle Paul taught grace as the Divine alternative to the Law of Moses, not as the Divine alternative to moral transformation, to the new creation of righteous behavior.
Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, eases or removes Godís requirement that man be made in Godís image in spirit, soul, and body.
Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, is a substitute for moral growth.
Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, permits Christians to continue in sin without serious consequences.
Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, removes the fervency required for the life of victorious living in Christ. It fosters the life of defeated living.
Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, prevents a balanced interpretation of the New Testament, and removes the proper role of the Old Testament as a forerunner of the New.
Divine grace, as it currently is perceived, provides a basis for the current errors, such as the "pre-tribulation rapture" of the believers in Christ, and the prosperity deception.
The Hebrew Prophets spoke of the grace that has come to us under the new covenant. They spoke of a covenant in which the law of God would be written on our heart and mind rather than on tables of stone. The Hebrew Prophets never, never, never pointed toward what passes today for Divine grace. They would have perceived such a covenant as the delusion it is.
It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (I Peter 1:12)
One of the major problems of Dispensational thinking, as I see it, is that of cutting off the Old Testament from the New. It is as though God has now issued a covenant different from and nearly completely unrelated to prior covenants. "Grace" is seen as a new way of relating to God, in which obedience to His commandments is not an essential aspect of righteousness.
The need for the blood atonement is carried over, in current teaching; and certain passages, such as the twenty-third and ninety-first Psalms are embraced as signifying Godís love and protection on our behalf. Also wisdom can be gained from the Book of Proverbs and other Old Testament sources.
But the concept Peter mentions, that the Hebrew Prophets were speaking to those who belong to Jesus Christ, may not be regarded with sufficient importance.
For example, both Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied of a new covenant for the House of Israel. The new covenant is primarily the writing of Godís laws on our mind and heart. I have not heard the Christian salvation presented as the writing of Godís laws on our minds and hearts. Have you?
Also, the Prophets did not speak of the elect living forever in Heaven but of the Glory of God filling the earth. The Prophets spoke of Christ governing an earthly Kingdom.
Ordinarily we do not think of the expression "the House of Israel" as applying to us. But it does. We are the House of Israel and the Seed of Abraham if we belong to Christ. All the Messianic prophecies found in the Prophets are addressed to Christ and those who are part of Him, never to Israel after the flesh.
Are we replacing Israel after the flesh? Not at all! The descendants of Abraham were "Israel," not because they were born of the bloodline of Abraham, but because of Godís calling. The Spirit of God, the Spirit of prophecy, rested on Jacob and His descendants. This is the same Spirit that baptizes us into the Body of Christ. It is one elect, one Church.
Is everyone of the bloodline of Abraham part of Christ? No, because the Messianic promises, the one true Olive Tree, have to do with the calling of God, not with the bloodlines. After the appearing of Christ, the promise moved to a remnant of the bloodline of Abraham and a remnant of Gentiles. These belong to Christ and are the House of Israel addressed by Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
There is only one elect of God, one House of Israel, one Olive Tree. The true and only Church of God began with Abraham and is carried on today in everyone in whom Christ, the Olive Tree, is dwelling.
The Spirit of Christ was in the Prophets, the same Spirit that is in every true Christian. Thus there is one Body of Christ, one Servant of the Lord, one Bride of the Lamb, one holy city, the new Jerusalem, one elect of God including all called Jews and Gentiles from every covenant.
Has God finished with the physical people and land of Israel? Not at all. After the full number of Gentiles have been grafted on the Olive Tree, God once again shall visit physical Israel, and the whole true House of Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation. God retains the power to save anyone He wants to save at any time and at any place He desires.
Salvation is of the Lord. Selah!
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. (I Peter 1:13)
"Prepare your minds for action"! We need to do this every once in a while, because years of patient cross-carrying obedience can become tedious. We may cease pressing forward in Christ if we are not careful.
"Be self-controlled." Do not let any motivation control you without the approval of your Spirit-directed will.
The grace given us when Jesus Christ is revealed. I define grace as follows: "Grace" is God in Christ forgiving man and enabling him to be transformed in personality until he meets Godís standard concerning the personality and behavior of man."
Divine grace forgives us, and then changes us so we can and will keep the laws of the Kingdom of God. These are the laws that are found in the Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere in the four Gospel accounts. We are learning to keep them now as our sinful nature is destroyed and Christ is formed in us.
They are the commandments of the Lord Jesus. They shall be kept and enforced during the coming Kingdom Age, and then throughout the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus Christ. This is the purpose and effect of grace.
How can we set our hope fully on the above, which shall be given to us when Jesus Christ is revealed?
We already have been forgiven (justified) through the blood of the Lamb. What other aspect of grace will be given to us when the Lord comes?
If my understanding is correct, the vestiges of our sinful nature, which have been put to death as we have confessed and forsaken them, will be removed entirely from our spiritual nature.
Our flesh and bones will be reassembled, raised to stand on the earth, and then clothed with a sin-free body that has been constructed as we have patiently followed the Lord in cross-carrying obedience.
Perhaps at this time a greater fullness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will come and fill our new, glorified body.
All of the above are, I believe, grace that will be given to us when Jesus Christ is revealed from Heaven.
Because of our hope for such total redemption we are to prepare our minds for action and be self-controlled. We can endure our discipleship because of the tremendous joy that has been set before us.
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance (I Peter 1:14)
Here is a simple, clear commandment. It needs to be stressed more in our day. If people wish to be prepared for the catching up of the saints, jumping up and down at their pews will not make them ready. However, not conforming to the evil desires of their old life will prepare them for the catching up. God will help us to not conform to evil desires if we ask Him in Jesusí name.
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; For it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (I Peter 1:15,16)
There is the state of holiness, and then there is the practice of holiness.
God called out Israel from the nations to be holy to Himself. Yet, in many instances they were not holy in practice.
The Tabernacle of the Congregation was holy, but the Tabernacle did not practice holiness, of course.
God calls us to Himself to be a holy people. This places us in the state of holiness. Then the Holy Spirit guides us into actual holiness of behavior. God is holy. If we are to be in His image we must practice spiritually clean behavior in our thinking, our speech and our actions. The program of delivering us from spiritual filth is termed "sanctification."
"Be holy in all you do." There are numerous such commandments throughout the New Testament, but they are ignored to a great extent because of our overemphasis on justification (ascribed righteousness). The purpose of the new covenant, the writing of Godís eternal moral law on our mind and heart, is to sanctify us, to make us holy.
Why must we be holy in all we do?
Because our Father, God, is holy.
What is holiness?
The absence of that which is spiritually unclean.
What is spiritually unclean?
The New Testament tells us what is spiritually unclean. The actions of our sinful nature are unclean. They include all forms of lust, all forms of murder and hatred, all forms of lying.
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liarsótheir place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
Most spiritual uncleanness, or perhaps all of it in one form or another, is included in the above eight types of personality.
The Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. God gives us His Spirit so we will possess the willingness and the strength to turn aside from all unclean characteristics and to embrace all that is of Jesus Christ. This is what salvation is.
Compare this definition of salvation with the current "believe only and you will go to Heaven to live forever." These two different definitions of salvation have little in common. One is scriptural. The other is not scriptural, and the Christian churches need to consider this fact.
We are commanded to "be holy in all you do." The only way in which we can obey such a commandment is to pray continually about everything we do. As we pray and ask for guidance and help, we will receive guidance and help.
Today justification (imputed righteousness) is emphasized and overemphasized. It seems to me that sanctification, the making of us holy in all we do, is neglected. However, the Kingdom of God is not in justification primarily but in sanctification. We are leaving out the part that leads to glorification.
It is time for a reformation of Christian thinking.
Since you call on a Father who judges each manís work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. (I Peter 1:17)
Reverent fear. Doesnít perfect love cast out fear? Yes, it does. But how many of us have perfect love? Meanwhile we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Because of the overemphasis on justification (forgiveness of sin), the Christian people tend to be giddy. They have been taught, in spite of the Scriptures to the contrary, that God does not judge their work. They have been completely, eternally justifiedóthey think!
But this is not what Peter says. Peter says the Father judges each manís work impartially. The inference is clear that "each manís" includes the works of Christians, their deeds.
If we had been completely, eternally justified then there is no need to live as a stranger in reverent fear. It might be nice if we did, but there is no need to live in reverent fear, because God no longer can see our sinful behavior. This is what is taught so widely today.
The reason we must live as a stranger in reverent fear is that God judges our work. If God did not judge our work impartially, then it would be commendable, but not absolutely essential, to live as a stranger in reverent fear.
This verse in Peter needs to be brought to the attention of the Christian people in America, I believe.
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, (I Peter 1:18)
Peter was addressing Gentiles. Peter is saying that redemption is more than the forgiveness of our sins. Redemption is the means of escaping an empty way of life and entering a way of life filled with the love, joy, and peace of eternal Divine life.
But with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (I Peter 1:19)
The atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is payment in full of the mortgage held by Satan. Our sins have been completely forgiven, but Satan retains the ability to seduce our sinful nature into spiritually unclean behavior.
Since Satan has been so successful in convincing Christians that as long as they are alive on the earth they must sin and that moral deliverance is not possible, Christians often say such things as: "Everyone sins, it is impossible to do otherwise"; "God overlooks our sins, understanding that we are unable to stop sinning"; No one is perfect"; "the purpose of the commandments in the New Testament is to show us how impossible it is to please God by our actions"; "I know I should try to stop sinning, but I canít help myself."
So Satan and the Christian churches have settled for a compromise. The Christian churches may preach forgiveness, but Satan must be allowed to keep the believers in moral bondage. This is where we are in March of 2004. However, the Lord Jesus has not signed this contract. He agreed to shed His blood for the remission of the sins of the world, with the understanding that one day His enemies would be made His footstool.
When you stop to think about it, if everyone on earth were forgiven by professing faith in Christ, but were not transformed by the Spirit of God, Godís problem with mankind would not be solved, and the Kingdom of God would not be helped one bit.
Why is this? It is because forgiving people does not change them. They will continue to sin while in earth, in Heaven, now, and in the future. They will continue to sin until they are brought through the program of sanctification.
The atoning blood of the Lord Jesus justifies us. We are forgiven. But the purpose of justifying us is that we might proceed with the program of sanctification, the program that makes us holy in personality and behavior. If we do not proceed with the program of sanctification, but remain as we are, then the purpose of our being justified has been thwarted.
Christians will then ask: "Suppose I have been justified but have not made much progress in the work of sanctification. Will I still be saved?"
The problem with this question is, it is the work of sanctification that itself is salvation. How can we be saved if we are not being saved (sanctified)?
What the believer really is asking is, "If I do not turn aside from my sinful nature when it is pointed out by the Holy Spirit, will I go to Heaven or to Hell?
The answer is, we cannot continue in known sin and live in the company of the saints of God in Heaven or anywhere else.
God is ready and willing to forgive us and deliver us.
Christ is ready and willing to forgive us and deliver us.
But if we, when we have been taught how to be delivered, persist in our sinful behavior, there is no more God can do for us. We have chosen our destiny.
If we persist in being cowardly we have chosen the Lake of Fire as our eternal home.
If we persist in being an unbeliever we have chosen the Lake of Fire as our eternal home.
If we persist in being vile we have chosen the Lake of Fire as our eternal home.
If we persist in being a murderer we have chosen the Lake of Fire as our eternal home.
If we persist in being sexually immoral we have chosen the Lake of Fire as our eternal home.
If we persist in being a practitioner of magic arts we have chosen the Lake of Fire as our eternal home.
If we persist in being a worshiper of idols we have chosen the Lake of Fire as our eternal home.
If we persist in being a liar we have chosen the Lake of Fire as our eternal home.
If we choose to be heavenly, we will have a place in Heaven. If we choose to be hellish, we will have a place in Hell.
Current Christian teaching seeks to persuade us that we can continue to serve our sinful nature and yet, by grace, find our place in Heaven when we die. This would be to make Divine grace a means of bringing Satan into fellowship with God. We do not always enjoy being this clear, but the Book of First John states that whoever commits sin is of the devil. When we yield to our sinful nature, our sinful nature being a reflection of Satanís personality, we are yielding to Satan. We are worshiping Satan. So todayís preaching teaches us Divine grace will make possible fellowship with God while we are worshiping and serving Satan.
It is absolutely true that we have been forgiven through the blood of the Lord Jesus. The blood takes care of our past sins. But we cannot be sinning now and have fellowship with God. Will God have fellowship with sin? Absolutely not!
God holds us guiltless, because of the atoning blood, provided we are walking in the light of His will. But when we neglect the program of salvation, choosing instead to walk in the ways of the world, the blood of Christ no longer covers us.
The purpose of the atoning blood of Christ is not to cover an individual who is living according to his or her sinful nature. Rather the atoning blood of Christ covers that individual who is pressing forward in the program of sanctification, of moral deliverance.
If this were not the case, then we could maintain that we are in a new dispensation that is unrelated to all of Godís methods and goals of the past. Darkness now can have fellowship with Light. God no longer is seeking to make man in His image. He desires only to forgive man and to keep on forgiving man no matter how man behaves.
If this were true, and it most assuredly is not, it were best we never had been born; for the future then would be as hideous as the presentóonly much more so. There would be no hope, no future worth entering. Man has a sinful nature, and God has decided to forget about that and just keep on forgiving the works of Satan for eternity. Such is the logical conclusion of todayís Christian teaching of Divine grace.
He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. (I Peter 1:20)
The atoning Lamb was chosen before the creation of the world.
God knew that Satan would enter the Garden of Eden. God knew that Adam and Eve would succumb. God could have prevented this from happening. But He did not.
Why did God not prevent the first sin when He so easily could have done so? Because God wants to create in people a resistance to sin so He wonít have to keep on forgiving them and repairing the damage they cause.
We see then, from the very beginning, Godís purpose has been to not only forgive people but to create in them the ability to keep from sinning. As long as man is going to persist in sin, God will not give him access to the Tree of Life. God is willing to forgive, but God is not going to permit a habitual sinner to eat from the tree that gives immortality to the body.
We have to believe in Christ to be justified. We have to overcome Satan, the world, and our sinful nature if we are to be given the right to eat from the Tree of Life.
We see, therefore, that todayís Christian teaching works against Godís purpose. Godís purpose in letting Adam and Eve fall into sin was to use their fall as a basis for ultimately bringing Christ to the earth. Christ could then make an atonement for our sin, but more importantly he could offer a means of deliverance from our sinful nature. By receiving Christís Nature into our personality we are able to recognize sin and righteousness, reject the sin and embrace the righteousness.
God will not restore Paradise to the earth, and man to Paradise, until God is absolutely certain that man will not choose to sin. The reason man will not choose to sin in the new world of righteousness is that God has created righteous kings and priests who themselves will not sin, and who will govern the rest of mankind so the people will not sin.
The revelation of Christ is increasing today. We are becoming aware that there are numerous thrones in the spirit realm that have yet to be occupied. It is time now to press into the Kingdom of God. Many who are last in time will be of first rank in the Kingdom.
After Christ and His nobles have been established in their predestined places of authority, it will be time for Christ and His rulers to appear and establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.
We are living in a period of ever increasing moral darkness. But the Divine grace that transforms people is abounding to an even greater extent. It is a time of danger because of ready access to sin. But it also is an hour of unprecedented opportunity as the Lord calls us to be with Him where He isóin the center of Godís Person and will.
Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (I Peter 1:21)
Through the Lord Jesus Christ we believe in the Father. The Father raised Christ from the dead and glorified Him. Our faith and hope are in the Father, God, who raised Christ from the dead.
It seems to me that our current theology is not clear on the fact that the Father and the Son are two separate Persons. It is true that Christ is the exact representation of the Father. It is true also that whoever has the Son has the Father also.
These facts being eternally true and understood, it is true also that Christ and the Father are two separate Persons.
I am pointing this out because Christ wants to bring us to the Father and reveal the Father to us. It is His joy to reveal the Father to us. We are to be made one in Christ as He and the Father are One. This does not mean we become Christ. We always will be a separate person, a unique identity. But we are on our way to becoming the exact representation of Christ. It also will be true of us that whoever has us has the Son also.
The great move of today, the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles, is that of bringing us into a relationship with Christ that is the same as the relationship of Christ to the Father. It is a step past the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Pentecost. We are to live by the body and blood of Christ just as Christ lives by the Father.
The relationship of Christ to the Father cannot be understood by the study of theology, nor can our relationship to Christ be understood by the study of theology. These relationships have to be experienced. Once they are experienced they are easy to understand.
We worship and serve Christ and the Father just as Christ worships and serves the Father. God is Christís Father and our Father. God is Christís God and our God. We are to come to a greater knowledge of the Father in these days, and Jesus Christ will make such knowledge possible for us.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. (I Peter 1:22)
When we obey the commandments found in the New Testament we purify ourselves, with the result that we have a sincere love for our fellow believers.
New Christians usually have love for their fellow believers. As the years go by we are brought through circumstances that cause the sin in our personality to be revealed. Then we become critical of one another.
It is possible to keep our first love. But we have to be much more diligent in following the Holy Spirit than is true of most Christian peopleóat least in America.
I have noticed that when people begin to neglect their salvation, and do not assemble on a regular basis with other Christian people, it often is true that Satan is able to enter them and cause them to be critical of the pastor and others of the church. I have told the people that if they find themselves becoming critical of the church, that should warn them they are getting cold. They need to turn to the Lord and seek Him fervently until the spirit of criticism is driven from them.
Gossiping and criticizing are common among the believers in Christ. It is a rare assembly, it seems, that is able to surmount such roots of bitterness. We who serve as elders must keep exhorting the believers to pray continually, and listen to the Holy Spirit as He directs them to put to death the deeds of their sinful nature.
Satan always is active among religious people. We see Satan acting among the Israelites as they sought to stone Moses and Aaron. We can see it today when churches are filled with strife and division. To keep a spirit of love among us requires constant dedication and watchfulness in prayer.
The more spiritually mature we are, the more love we have for God and our fellow believers.
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (I Peter 1:23)
The New Testament does not speak much about being born again, although you would think it did in that the term is used so frequently. The expression does not appear in the Book of Acts, because the Apostles preached repentance and the forgiveness of sins, not being born again.
I am not certain we are using the term correctly today.
Being born again means more than repenting, believing in the atonement, believing in Christ, and being baptized in water. Being born again means being born of God. It means that the Seed of God, the living Word of God, has been conceived in us.
It really is a new birth. This is not a figure of speech. Divinity is born in us and has all the characteristics of any other kind of seed. The Divine Seed contains within itself all that is necessary to bring forth a person in the express image of God.
If we truly come to Christ, the Divine Nature is conceived in us. It has not come to term; it has only just begun the long, arduous process of becoming an embryo, a fetus, and then a child. After that it is to grow into a person.
We know what it is to be like to be born of human seed. It is the law of God from the beginning that each organism contain seed that will enable the organism to reproduce itself. The human seed grows into a human. The Divine Seed grows into a Divine organism.
I know this thought frightens people and sounds like we are getting above ourselves. I canít help this. It is a fact: the Seed that comes from God will produce an organism that is like God in every respect.
We conclude, therefore, that after we truly receive Christ, and donít just go through some kind of mental religious conversion, the Divine Seed is planted in us. Now there are two kind of "persons" in us that are totally distinct. The adamic is the adamic, and the Divine is the Divine.
Our body is dead because of sin. Many unclean spiritual forces inhabit our body. Meanwhile our spirit and soul are being brought down to death so that they may be replaced by a new Life.
Now that we are aware of the struggle, we must choose which personality is to survive and gain mastery. When I say "we" must choose I am speaking of our will. Our will more than any other feature of our personality determines who we actually are.
Our will decides (we decide) each moment of each day to give place to our old adamic personality or to our new Divine personality. Moment by moment we choose. As we pray continually, and meditate in the written Word of God, and sometimes actually hear from the Spirit of God, we are able to divide between our soulish nature and our new spiritual nature. It is not always easy to discern which of the two natures is seeking to guide us.
The fully mature spiritual person is much more able to discern whether he is being motivated by his old nature, or demons, or the Holy Spirit and His new nature.
Everything depends on that new Seed. The Seed is of God. It itself is the Kingdom of God. It is Christ formed in us
My personal belief is that the Seed that has been planted in us will grow forever. It is entirely possible that God Himself is growing; Christ is growing; and we shall be growing with them for eternity.
Redemption is a finite work, having a specific beginning; a specific operation; and a specific conclusion. But our growth into the image of Christ, who is the image of God Himself, has no end, according to my understanding.
As Jesus said, the Kingdom is a small seed, like the seed of a tree. But it grows into a great tree if permitted to survive. So it is that the Word of God is planted in us. But what comes forth is precisely that which the Parent is. So billions of years, as measured by our time, would not nearly be sufficient for the Seed that has been planted in us to fully mature.
The future is unimaginable, isnít it?
We have been born of an imperishable Seed, through the living and enduring Word of God. There is no limit on what will be brought forth if we remain faithful until the new Seed survives and gains mastery over our personality.
We have a decision, donít we? If the Seed has germinated in us we can kill it by remaining occupied with the cares of the world.
Or, if we do not remove the stones of hardness and bitterness from our heart, the new plant will die when it is exposed to pressures of one kind or another.
There are those in whom the Seed survives. Among these some take care of the Seed to a certain extent and reap a thirtyfold crop. Some take better care of the Seed and reap a sixtyfold crop.
Then there are those who devote themselves totally to the new Life, always seeing that it is provided for, while the old nature perishes. They crucify their sinful nature with its passions and desires. They reap the fullness of Life that potentially resides in the Divine Seed.
For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you. (I Peter 1:24,25)
Once we understand what is taking place in us we are wise if we pay full attention to the development of the Seed! Our human nature is as grass that today makes a fine show and tomorrow is withered. But the Divine Nature that has been conceived in us increases forever if we will take proper care of it.
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. (I Peter 2:1)
But how do we care for the Divine Seed?
By ridding ourselves of all malice. Worldly people are often characterized by unbelievable malice and meanness.
By ridding ourselves of all deceit. In America in the present hour there sometimes is a lack of integrity. People are two-faced. They are not faithful. They promise one thing and do another. It didnít used to be this way in America, at least not to this extent. God is not deceitful, and we must rid ourselves of all tendencies to deceive people in order to gain advantage.
We must rid ourselves of all hypocrisy. We must not pretend to be something other than what we are. Christian people often are accused of being hypocrites because they preach and teach how we should behave and then do not practice what they are preaching. Hypocrisy destroys our testimony.
We must rid ourselves of all envy. We are to pray until we are content with our state and our role in the Kingdom of God. Satan is filled with envy, and we are in his image when we ourselves are envious of another person.
We must rid ourselves of all slander. Slander and gossip are prevalent in the Christian churches, because Satan is the accuser of the brothers.
We make possible the growth of the Seed of God in us when we rid ourselves of these satanic characteristics. But how do we do this?
We rid ourselves of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander and sins of every other kind by confessing them when the Holy Spirit points them out to us. We confess them as sin and stop practicing them. Then God forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
There is a point to keep in mind when we are considering moral deliverance, that is, ridding ourselves of malice and other sins. We must be truly convinced they are really sin. This may be especially true of gossip and criticism. We may feel in our heart they are not all that bad, that they are not of Satan. So we may ask for deliverance, but we are not certain we really want to be delivered.
As long as this is true we will not be delivered no matter how much we are prayed for. In order to be delivered we have to confess the behavior as sin; denounce it as evil, fit only for the Lake of Fire; renounce it vehemently, declaring we want nothing more to do with it for eternity. Then we are to turn to the Lord Jesus and ask Him to help us never, never, never to act in this manner even one more time.
When we seek moral deliverance with this kind of determination, we will be delivered.
Sometimes there are deep bondages and we need the help of fellow Christians. As they pray for us, and we truly want to be delivered, we will be delivered.
We are not to wrestle endlessly with sin. We are to kill it through the Spirit of God.
The problem with the current teaching of grace is that it is a sort of trying to do good, knowing we never will really change. Such an attitude will keep us defeated. We have to rise up and denounce our sins with all our might. Then Christ will help us. He wants to see if we really are determined to be released.
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, (I Peter 2:2)
I have presented the picture of the Seed of God being conceived in us, and then developing until it comes forth as a baby. But Peter is picturing us as a newborn baby who needs to "grow up in your salvation." Either picture is correct.
The "pure spiritual milk" is the written Word of God, I believe. It is important for the disciple of Jesus to read the Word of God every day. God speaks to us through His Word. It is by reading the Word that we discover what God is requiring of us.
But I would extend the "pure spiritual milk" to include all sources of the Life of God, including the preaching of the Word, the gifts and ministries given to the Body of Christ, and also the fellowship and exhortations of fervent saints. The idea is to keep away from such impurity as malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
I like the idea that we need to grow up in our salvation. Too often today being "saved" is regarded as a one-time experience that we look back on. This is not a true understanding. Salvation is something we grow in, as we learn to overcome our sinful nature and as Christ is formed in us.
Now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (I Peter 2:3)
"Taste and see that the Lord is good." From the beginning, Satan has portrayed the Lord as not wanting us to have what is good. Satan seeks to leave the impression that only in him is there that which man desires; only in the spirit of Antichrist, in the spirit of the world, can we find security and pleasure.
The truth is just the opposite. Satan brings us to wretched misery and torment. The Spirit of God brings us to love, joy, and peace.
It seems to me that this is the basic question facing every person born on the earth. Can I trust that God is good and is bringing me to joy? Or do I have to take matters into my own hands, as Satan counseled Eve to do.
Right now, as I look back over a fairly long lifetime, it seems to me that few people, including Christian people, really trust that God is bringing them to love, joy, and peace. They may want to know God and serve God, but letting go of the world and their own self-will is difficult.
This is a shame. If they would only turn loose of the world and their self-will, and commit their way to the Lord, they would find that God really knows what is best for us and is seeking our good. He can be trusted to do this.
It is true that serving the Lord means we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus every day. We have to present our body a living sacrifice in order to find Godís will. Then we have to do Godís will as we understand it. We may be placed in a "prison" of denial for many years. All this is true.
But the end of such discipline is love, joy, and peace.
Sin is a shortcut. We try to lean on our own resources to find a shortcut to love, joy, and peaceósome way other than the way of the cross. We may think we have found such a shortcut, but at the end of this road are the ashes of remorse and torment.
Blessed indeed is that individual who makes up his or her mind to go Godís way, even though for a season it seems to be painful and frustrating. But the end of the road is love, joy, peace, and such glory as cannot be contained in our imagination. The greatest marvel, the most spectacular wonder you could imagine, would be as a grain of sand on the beach compared to the Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But He always is born in a manger, in the most humble of circumstances. We miss the King because He conceals Himself in the ordinary, tiring, worrisome pursuits of life on the earth. Donít be fooled. If you are calling on the Lord you are being watched over by powerful angels who are more than able to take care of every situation in which you can possibly find yourself. The King knows those who trust in Him.
As you come to him, the living Stoneórejected by men but chosen by God and precious to himó You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:4,5)
The idea of Christ being a Stone and we being living stones is interesting, isnít it? The concept is that of a house for God, a spiritual temple.
This is the meaning of "In my Fatherís house are many dwelling places. If this were not the case I would have told you so."
God is building a great house for Himself. Jesus Christ is the Cornerstone, the Beginning of the house of God. Christ went to the cross, and then to Heaven to sprinkle His blood in the Holy Place there. By so doing He prepared a place for us in the Presence of God. Now Christ is preparing a place in us for Himself. This is why He stands at the door of our personality and asks for admittance. We are in Christ, and now He wants to be in us.
There is no more important issue in the Kingdom of God than that of the eternal dwelling place of God. Man was not created to be an individual separate from God. Man was created to be the dwelling place of God.
You know, we have to consider this fact; for in order to be the dwelling place of God, the throne of God, the revelation of God to His creation, we have to give up certain things. The question is, are we willing to give them up or not? We have to come to a clear decision on this point.
In order to be indwelt by the fullness of God we have to give up our right to be an individual separate from God.
We have to give up our right to do what we want to when we want to.
We have to give up our right to go where we want to go and be what we want to be.
Our natural instinct is to draw back when we consider the consequences of being the dwelling place of God. We can no longer be ourselves, in this sense. We are consenting to be an integral part of another Person. We become part of the eternal destiny of Someone else.
Think long and deeply about this, because this is what is required.
Are you ready to find a larger destiny than being you; doing what you want to do; going where you want to go; making your own decisions about what you want and what you donít want? Are you ready to trust God to this extent? Do you actually want to be part of another, greater Personality? Think about it.
There are the thirty, the sixty, and the hundred. There are those who would like to be part of God. There are those who more fervently would like to be part of God. Then there are those who are totally consumed with the desire to be filled with the fullness of God for eternity.
Which group do you find yourself in? As for me, I marvel that anyone would not want to be filled with the fullness of God for eternity. I am not so pleased with myself that I desire to retain my right to be myself. But then, that is a personal decision.
And to know this love that surpasses knowledgeóthat you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)
I may be incorrect in this, but I gain the impression that many believers in America desire to get what they can out of God while they preserve their own life. In some instances it sounds as though they are trying to make God their servant.
For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (I Peter 2:6)
Mount Zion is the hill God has chosen. Zion was a suburb of Jerusalem, chosen by David to be the resting place for the Ark of the Covenant. We have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God.
Jesus Christ is the Beginning of the resting place of God. Those who trust in Christ will never be ashamed, because God has chosen Christ to be the Cornerstone of the house that God is building for Himself.
We enter the resting place of God when we choose to become an integral part of the Lord Jesus Christ. As long as we attempt to save our own life, perhaps professing faith in Christ but not actually giving ourselves wholly to Him, God cannot find rest in us. Christ alone is the House of God, the place of Godís rest. It is only as Christ is formed in us that God can find rest in us.
There are many religions in the world, many spiritually ambitious people. But they lift themselves up in vain. God has chosen Zion, and no other place. Jesus Christ Himself is Zion, and we become part of Zion when we are part of Christ.
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, And, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the messageówhich is also what they were destined for. (I Peter 2:7,8)
The Lord Jesus is both the Cornerstone and The Capstone of the House of God. He is the Beginning and the End. All is measured from Him and is of Him.
Men without Christ stumble and fall. This is because they are seeking their own will and not the will of God. Even if we profess faith in Christ, if we seek our own will rather than the will of God we will stumble and fall.
Peter says men stumble because they will not believe the message brought to them by the Apostles of Christ. This is because they are seeking their own will rather than Godís will.
Peter goes on to says that these men were destined to fall.
Both Peter and Paul emphasize foreknowledge and predestination. It reminds me of Jesus saying God had planted wheat in the world and Satan had planted weeds.
I am not one to go overboard on predestination. On the other hand, I am committed to teach what the Bible says. And the Bible clearly teaches that God is in control of all things, including what people do and what they donít do. This concept is so contrary to the American philosophy of government that we scarcely can believe it is true.
But "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated," before they were born. What do we do with this?
Jesus said, "You did not choose Me. I chose you." "No man can come to Me unless the Father draws Him."
What do we do with these statements? The Book of Acts tells us that some people were ordained to life. Jesus said, "All whom the Father gives Me shall come to Me."
The Potter has absolute power over the clay.
"They stumble because they disobey the messageówhich is also what they were destined for."
Yes, or no?
God hardens whom He willóspeaking of Pharaoh.
The whole idea of Israel being a chosen nation is undemocratic. Why should God select one family of the nations of the earth and reveal Himself to them? How about all the other tribes and races in existence at that time? Why shouldnít they have the Tabernacle, the holy priesthood, the prophets?
I can only say with the Apostle Paul, "God is the Potter. He does what He will with the clay."
Now, what does this mean to us? Does it mean that God will only hear certain people when they pray? Does it mean no matter how hard I seek God I will not be heard unless God chooses to hear me? What if I am destined to disobey the message? These are immensely practical questions that arise whenever we state that God works in terms of His own will.
I think the answer is as follows: If you have a hunger for God, God put it there. If you want Christ, God put that in your heart. If you hunger and thirst after righteousness, you already are blessed. It is God who works in us to will and to do His good pleasure.
Everyone is free to choose to obey the message of the Apostles. Some will. Some will not. Some will obey thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some a hundredfold. Nothing is preventing you or me from desiring a hundredfold fullness of God. God will not come to us and say, "You have not been destined to receive the hundredfold fullness of God."
"Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened to you." To whom is the invitation given? To everyone.
But you are not going to persist in asking, seeking, and knocking unless God puts a desire to do so in your heart.
Is the entire plan cast in steel? I donít think so. I have seen believers come along splendidly, and then choose to go back into the world. Were they destined to fall away? I am not certain. I believe they have disappointed the Lord.
So there always is that door of opportunity. You can go as far as you want to with God. He holds the door open. You can enter and become one of the princes of Judah.
I have heard people speak of a passion for souls. I admit freely I do not have a passion for souls as such, although there are times when God gives me a great love for specific people. But I can say honestly I do have a passion to do the will of God and to be holy. These are as fires in me. But I truly believe this hunger for Godís will and for holiness are gifts of God, and I thank God for them every day.
I do not believe I have these two hungers because I am a good person but because God has given them to me.
Why doesnít everyone have a passion for Godís will and a passion for holiness? I cannot answer that. Why doesnít everyone have a passion to be filled with all the fullness of God for eternity? I cannot answer that. I can only believe such passions are gifts of God that He gives to whomever He chooses.
I canít say much more about foreknowledge and predestination. I know the Bible teaches these doctrines clearly, no matter how our humanistic, democratic mindset recoils at the thought.
So, as Paul says, "How can God judge anyone if He puts His will in some and hardens others"? This is a hard question, isnít it? I cannot answer it. All I know for certain is that God is righteous and wise in all His works.
If God wants to make some vessels for honorable purposes and some for dishonorable purposes, that is Godís business. If God then proceeds to punish the dishonorable vessels for being dishonorable, then we have to bow before Godís Throne and proclaim His righteousness and mercy.
You see, there are factors of which we are not aware, and we just have to trust in Godís righteousness. (Even if God were not righteous, there is nothing whatever we can do about it except parade around in our vanity and self-assurance!)
I have lived long enough to see that there indeed are tares. There are people whose meanness and selfishness are unbelievable. Yet if any such person chooses to repent and serve Christ, Christ can make a new righteous creation of this individual.
I am a pastor. One time someone that I did not enjoy came into the church. Instantly the Lord said to me, "Do not hinder anyone from coming to My altar."
People do turn. Sometimes the wicked start behaving righteously. Then, God has said, their wickedness shall not be remembered against them.
Sometimes the righteous start acting wickedly. Then, God has said, their righteousness shall not be remembered on their behalf.
Our job is not to examine Godís Word in our pride and decide what is righteous and what is unrighteous. Godís written Word is inerrant, as far as I am concerned. By this I mean, all the generally accepted translations from the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. I have lived by them for nearly sixty years and I have not found a flaw in them.
So when Peter says some stumble because they disobey the message, and this is their destiny, I say, "Amen. So be it." Let God be God and every man a liar.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (I Peter 2:9,10)
Peter is addressing Gentiles who lived in what now is Turkey. He tells these Gentiles they have been chosen by the Lord. This is quite a statement for the Jew, Peter, who withdrew from eating with Gentiles until he was reproved by the Apostle Paul.
But it was Peter who saw the sheet let down and heard three times that he was to eat from unclean animals, and then brought the Gospel message to Cornelius.
Peter goes on to say that these chosen Gentiles, whom he is addressing, are a royal priesthood, that is, people who shall govern and also serve mankind as Godís representatives.
They are a holy nation. They are holy because God has set them apart to be His own special family among the nations of the earth. They now are part of Godís Israel. They have been sprinkled with the blood of the covenant.
They belong to God in a manner not true of other people. Their role is to worship and praise God, for this is the calling of the priesthood. They have been called out of the spiritual darkness with which the earth is filled and now are walking in the light of the Presence of God, having fellowship with the Father and the Son.
At one time they were not part of the family of God. Now they are. Formerly, mercy had not been shown to them. Now it has been.
The concept of Christians being an integral part of Israel, of the holy nation, the royal priesthood, needs to be emphasized in our day, for two reasons. First, the destructive philosophy of Dispensationalism has cut off us Gentiles from our inheritance in Israel.
Second, we view the Gospel as our means of going to Heaven to live forever. We are not stressing our role as members of Godís holy priesthood. It is our responsibility to stand between people and God, to present God to people and people to God. We are the light of the world, the salt of the earth, Jesus said.
Because of the Word and calling of God we now are one with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Ezra, Daniel, and all the other prophets and patriarchs of Israel. We preach and prophesy by the same Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ was in them. The only difference is, Christ has been born and is being formed in us. This was not true of anyone before Christ rose from the dead.
One of the massive errors of our day is that the Israelites were one people of God and we are another. There is no such thing as a Jewish Church and a Gentile Church. There is only the one Church; the one family of God; the one elect; the one holy Olive Tree; the one Body of Christ; the one Servant of the Lord; the one Seed of Abraham; the one new Jerusalem. Until we grasp this concept firmly we cannot possibly understand the Scriptures or the Kingdom of God.
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. (I Peter 2:11)
Years ago the Lord revealed to me that the New Testament was not primarily about imputed righteousness but about actual righteousness of behavior. The doctrine of imputed righteousness was employed by the Apostle Paul to assure the Jews that they could look up from the scroll of the Law of Moses and place their faith in Jesus Christ. God then would ascribe righteousness to them even though they were not obeying the commandments of the Law.
Imputed righteousness was never designed to be a new way of serving God. Imputed righteousness is not the theme of the New Testament. From Matthew through to the Book of Revelation, the theme of the New Testament is actual righteousness of behavior.
We see the exhortation to actual righteousness in the above verse. "Abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." There are many such commandments in the New Testament. A great number of believers in America absolutely reject these commandments, saying they apply to the Jews or to the unsaved or to people prior to the resurrection of Christ.
The exhortation to abstain from sinful desires was not written to Jews but to Gentiles living in what is now Turkey.
The exhortation to abstain from sinful desires was written to the members of the royal priesthood, that is, the Christian people, not to the unsaved.
The exhortation to abstain from sinful desires was written after the crucifixion of Christ.
There is no question but that there is an appalling spiritual blindness afflicting a significant number of Christian people in America. They say they believe the Bible is the Word of God. But they deny any passage that states Christians are to behave righteously. They have believed "another gospel."
Sometimes they claim that it is impossible for Christians to sin because the sin instantly is forgiven, being under the blood of Christ. If this were the case, Peter would not urge us to abstain from sinful desires, which war against the soul.
According to many believers, it is impossible for sinful desires to war against our soul because a Christian cannot have sinful desires. He lives in a bubble of grace. God has chosen to refer to his sinful desires as righteousness.
You, the reader, may not believe any believer could subscribe to such clearly unscriptural doctrine. The truth is, we may be speaking of the majority of Christian believers in America. It is a profound blindness and apostasy.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:12)
It is the good deeds of Christian people that are the testimony, the light of the world. Of course the unsaved will accuse us of doing evil. Many Jews accused Jesus of doing evil. Unjust accusations are an important part of the sufferings of Christ, which we are to share.
But when the Lord comes, our good deeds will cause the nations of the earth to glorify God.
For Zionís sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalemís sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. (Isaiah 62:1,2)
It is obvious that the righteousness that "shines out like the dawn" is not imputed righteousness. Imputed righteousness is not an actual righteousness of behavior but a righteousness imputed to us by the Lord when we place our faith in the atonement made by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, it is taught currently, we may be committing every kind of sin, but God sees us as righteous.
Now if we are committing every kind of sin, but God see us as righteous, what do the nations see? Do they see the sin we are committing, or do they see the righteousness that God has imputed to us, a righteousness that exists only in the mind of God?
Obviously, the nations see the sins we are committing. So the righteousness that shines out like the dawn is not imputed righteousness but the actual righteousness of behavior that proceeds from us when Christ has been formed in us.
So it is in America today. We have multitudes of believers who profess to be righteous by imputation. But the American public does not see their imputed righteousness, only their smugness, gossiping, lying, stealing, arrogance, fits of rage, immorality, and other works of the flesh.
This is a horrendous blindness, isnít it?
When Peter says the pagans will see your good deeds and glorify God, he does not mean the pagans will see our imputed righteousness.
You would think all intelligent Christians could see the truth of this, but they cannot for some reason.
If you think I am mistaken, ask a Christian friend how important it is that a Christian behave righteously.
Submit yourselves for the Lordís sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, Or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. (I Peter 2:13,14)
Christians are to obey the civil authorities. Their role is to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. The idea is, if the Christian does what is right he will be commended by the authorities.
I have noticed in America that when Christians come into conflict with the civil authorities it is not because the government is seeking to force the Christians to do what is wrong. Rather it will be over issues such as abortion, or homosexuality, or some other behavior of unsaved people which the Christians are resisting.
There currently (December, 2003) are two issues before the Supreme Court. One has to do with the removal of "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. The other involves a student who was not permitted to use a grant to study theology. The grant was issued by the state of Washington. Any other discipline could have been pursued except religion.
This is not a case of Christians not being allowed to live righteously. Rather it has to do with governmental practices in which Christians have chosen to involve themselves.
There have been times in history when governments have attempted to force Christians to disobey God, such as the efforts of the Nazis to compel Christian people to turn Jews over to the police. In this case, the Christian must obey God rather than man.
Ordinarily, however, a civil government is only too pleased when Christian people live according to the New Testament, for then they are peaceful, honest, productive citizens.
Governments have been instituted by the Lord to punish evildoers and to enable the righteous to live in peace. When we behave ourselves and do good deeds we ordinarily will receive a good report from the government and secular society. It is when we attempt to force our values on unsaved people that trouble comes.
Sometimes a government will punish people merely for becoming Christians. This is an evil government. In such instances the believers will become fervent in their faith because of the persecution.
For it is Godís will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. (I Peter 2:15)
If we will live according to the Sermon on the Mount and the other commandments of Christ, we ordinarily will be commended by all secular people of good will. Not in every case, but on some occasions Christians bring trouble on themselves because they do not behave righteously. They are not being persecuted in this instance. Rather they are being punished for their bad behavior.
Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (I Peter 2:16,17)
This is good advice. Sometimes Christians in America use their freedom to do evil. For example, a pastor of a church may not report all the cash that comes in the offering, and hide it from the federal government so he will not have to pay taxes. Every church should insist that at least two people count the offering and record it. This sort of lying and stealing goes on in Christian churches because we are preaching grace instead of righteous behavior.
Sad to say, Christians in America are not known for their Christlike behavior. They defend themselves by saying "Christians are not perfect, just forgiven." In this manner they excuse themselves, thinking God is accepting this. He is not.
There are many Christians in jail in America. You can see them in their cells reading their Bibles. Even then the workers that come in to hold services tell them that they do not have to live righteously because they are saved by grace. Can you imagine the irony of this? The authorities have confined them in jail because of their behavior. Then the chaplains and other workers tell them they do not have to behave righteously, only profess belief in Christ. Can we ever be delivered from this confusion?
Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (I Peter 1:18)
Some people, including Christians, have bosses who are unjust. Sometimes it is the only job they can get. In this case, it helps to work as unto the Lord. Forget the boss and think about Jesus. Do what the supervisor says, but perform the work diligently, whatever it is, as though Jesus is your Supervisor. This attitude may help you through a difficult situation. God will bless you for this effort.
For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is 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. (I Peter 2:19,20)
If we are treated badly, and we bear up under it patiently because of our faith in God, we have acted righteously. If we are beaten for doing wrong, we do not receive credit for enduring that patiently. But if we suffer for doing good, and endure that without complaining, then God commends us.
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (I Peter 2:21)
We have been called to suffer patiently, even though we are doing good things. Christ went about doing good and healing all who were bound by the devil. Yet He was abused, mocked, and crucified. He is our example of patient suffering.
"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." (I Peter 2:22)
Christís behavior was above reproach. Each person born into the world has a "Jacob" nature. We are full of guile, and supplanters by nature. Our goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ. When we have thus been conformed, the guile will be gone from us. There will be no lie in our mouth.
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (I Peter 2:23)
Peter is presenting Christ to us as our Example. Christ did not fight evil with evil. He accepted the evil without fighting back and looked to God for justice.
We are to repay evil with good. This is the Nature of God. God is kind to all men. It is the mark of the mature Christian to not resist evil, but to permit himself to be defrauded at times.
"Love your enemies," the Lord commanded. "Pray for those who despitefully use you." Our adamic nature finds this exceedingly difficult. Only the new righteous creation, Christ formed in us, can obey this commandment.
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, That you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44,45)
The purpose of the grace of God, which is God in Christ, is to make us willing and also able to repay evil with good. Repaying evil with good is the Nature of God. Man repays evil with evil. We cannot repay evil with good until we have been born again, that is, until Christ has been born in us. This is the Kingdom of God that we enter by being born again.
The purpose of being born again is to enable us to repay evil with good, thus being the children of our Father who is in Heaven. Such behavior is required in Heaven. It also is required in the earth, and shall be practiced in the earth when the Kingdom comes.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (I Peter 2:24)
The above verse requires clear explanation.
What does it mean to die to sins?
What does it mean to live for righteousness?
In what way have we been healed by His wounds?
What does it mean to die to sins? When we are baptized in water we are stating that we are taking our place with Christ on the cross. Our entire self, not just our sinful nature, is to be crucified. This marks the end of the adamic creation, as far as we are concerned. When we come up out of the water we are saying that we have risen with Christ and our inward nature has ascended to be with Him at the right hand of God.
So far so good. Then as we go about our life after water baptism we find that the urge to sin, the sinful nature, is still active in us. What now?
We are to maintain our position that we have been crucified with Christ and we owe our sinful nature nothing that we should yield to its urges. Then we confess any act of unrighteousness we have actually done as sin. We denounce it as unworthy of the Kingdom of God. We renounce it, desiring to have nothing more to do with it. Then we ask the Lord to destroy it from our personality so we never practice it again!
This is what it means to die to sins. We are authorized to do this because God has justified us (declared us without the guilt of sin) on the basis of the blood atonement made by Christ on the cross.
What does it mean to live for righteousness? It means to obey the commandments given by Christ and His Apostles, as set forth in the New Testament. As we pray and read our Bible, the Holy Spirit guides us into righteous behavior. We are to be the slave of righteousness, as Paul says in the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans.
In what way have we been healed by the wounds of Christ? We have been healed body, soul, and spirit from all sin and infirmity. Christ died for our complete healing. We accept this by faith. Then, as we walk with the Lord each day, the healing begins to take place. Our spirit begins to be healed. Our soul begins to be healed. Our body begins to be healed. It is a fight all along the way, because the forces of spiritual darkness would keep us from participating in the redemption Christ has purchased for us. Paul prayed that our whole spirit, soul, and body would be kept blameless in anticipation of the return of Christ.
For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (I Peter 2:25)
Christ is the Good Shepherd. When we were astray from Christ we were wandering about, driven by the god of this world. We have returned to the Good Shepherd and He is leading us into green pastures, beside quiet waters. Now there is nothing we need that Christ does not supply.
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,When they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (I Peter 3:1,2)
Peter is saying that if any husband is not a believer, he may come to Christ if His wife submits to him and leads a godly life.
In America it sometimes is true that the husband is abusive, or an adulterer, or wants his wife to carouse with him.
If he is abusive, she should pray carefully about separating herself from him. God has called us to peace, not abuse.
If he is an adulterer he has broken the marriage covenant. She is free to remarry.
If he wants his wife to carouse with him, the wife should never do anything against her conscience as a Christian.
Marriage vows are extremely serious. Separation or divorce should never be taken lightly. Sometimes separation or divorce causes as many problems as it solves; so the wife needs to think carefully about such an action. Also, separation and divorce are difficult for children.
Sometimes women leave their husbands because the husbands are not "spiritual" enough. They want to find a man who is more "spiritual," and then marry him. This is not acceptable. They both will be punished for this.
It is up to the man to be the rock of the home. His wife will be subject to emotional ups and downs, and he is to make allowance for these and not expect her always to be logical and give a reason for what she says or does.
The man is the priest of the home. He is to give an account to God for his family.
Sometimes the man is weak, and the wife rushes in to fill the gap. This is not wise. It makes her the priest of the home, and this is not in Divine order.
God made the woman to be a support suitable for the man. A woman should never marry until she finds a man she respects. She must accept the fact that her role is to help him fulfill the role God has for him.
If the woman feels she does not want to serve as a helper for a man but has her own destiny to fulfill, then she should not marry.
To be an appropriate support and helper for a man, to bear children, to guide the home, is a full-time occupation. In fact, it is the highest calling for a woman, in that she is bringing servants of God into the world.
In America it often is true that the woman has to work to help with the family finances. This is a very difficult position to be in, but sometimes cannot be avoided. In this case it is incumbent on her husband to share in the work of the household and to help with the children.
Romantic love is idolized in America. It is a fantasy, not based on reality. It is an attraction between two bodies. The bodies marry, and then the inner persons and their wills come to the surface. Soon there is a divorce, because the two people really do not know each other.
The American way of romance, dating, and marriage, based on physical attraction, is not a sound program, as evidenced by the high rate of divorce. If young people are wise they will involve adults in their decision to marry, because it often is true that the adults can see problems that will arise. The young people need to consider these problems before they enter marriage, and wait until they have thought through how they are going to handle the obvious difficulties.
Once two individuals marry, and find they are of opposite temperaments, they need to learn to give and take, and make every effort to stay together. This is extremely important if there are children. If they divorce only because they were not perfectly "happy," and the children suffer from this selfish decision, God will hold the two of them responsible. It is better to remain together and grow in character.
Two people who marry and are continually clashing because they are "incompatible," are in an excellent arena in which to grow in Christ. If they will make the effort to work things out, and stay together, they will grow in Christ and be blessed.
However there are times when the marriage becomes destructive. Then the two people involved should seek the counsel of the elders. Separation or divorce may be in order. Man was not made for the marriage laws. The marriage laws were made for man, to prevent undisciplined sexual behavior.
There cannot be two heads of a household any more than there can be two captains on the bridge of a ship. The woman needs to consider that her husband is the God-ordained head of the home, before she decides to marry.
On occasion a man will tell a woman that if she will marry him he will become a Christian. The woman should never accept this. If the woman is a Christian, and then marries a man who is not a fervent Christian, she will have years of torment. She has placed herself on the path to sainthood.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in Godís sight. (Peter 3:3,4)
Many years ago in Pentecost we placed much emphasis on dress, especially womenís dress. Now the pendulum (in the Charismatic movement) appears to have swung to the other extreme. Anything is acceptable.
It seems to me that the Lord would be pleased if we went to neither extreme. Anyone with good sense can judge when a girl or woman dresses modestly, according to the local customs. When a girl or woman does not dress modestly, she provides an entrance for Satan. Demons of lust abound in the American culture.
For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, Like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (I Peter 3:5,6)
The holy women of the past made themselves beautiful with a gentle and quiet spirit. I spoke previously of the right kind of submission.
I do not understand why Peter spoke of the woman giving way to fear, unless it is true that women in particular are attacked by fear. As I think about my experience as a pastor, I believe it is a fact that women tend to be moved to fear in spiritual matters more often than ordinarily is true of men. So the woman is exhorted to do what is right and not give way to fear.
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (I Peter 3:7)
It is not that the wife necessarily is weaker biologically, it is that she tends to be weaker emotionally. The husband must respect her and be patient until she feels better. It is up to him to be loving and avoid conflict.
What I am about to say applies equally to the husband and wife.
If you begin to feel a dispute arising, it is up to the stronger Christian to give way. You can tell, usually, that if you respond you are going to create an argument. There is a strong temptation to respond. But you know if you do it is going to cause trouble. A weak Christian will answer back, and then the argument will escalate.
When we cause an argument to escalate, we are hindering our prayers and the other personís prayers. This happens when we are not strong enough to help our partner.
Jesus told us that the peacemakers are blessed and shall be called the sons of God. It is up to the husband to be the peacemaker, to not answer back and cause an argument, thus hindering his wifeís prayer and his own prayers.
Spiritually immature couples have numerous arguments because of their carnal nature.
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (I Peter 3:8)
Notice that Peter directs us to live in harmony. Living in harmony does not occur just because we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have to make an effort to avoid arguments, to promote peace as often as we can.
We are to be sympathetic with one another in brotherly love, being compassionate and humble. This is not easy for some of us. We have to pray continually to maintain a right attitude.
As I stated previously, the first sign to us that we are growing cold spiritually is when we notice we are finding fault with the church, with other Christians. This is a red flag of warning, telling us we need to reconsecrate ourselves as disciples of Christ. We need to go to Jesus and ask Him to restore to us our first love.
When an assembling of Christians loses its harmony, when roots of bitterness spring up and there is jealousy and hatred, the testimony of the church has been destroyed. Its lampstand has been removed. It then is time for the elders of the assembling to call the people together, tell them of the problem without blaming anyone, and pray until peace has been restored.
It may be necessary that some of the members leave and attend another church. It is useless to continue until love and peace have been restored.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (I Peter 3:9)
The above verse speaks of maturity in Christ. When we are strong enough spiritually to repay evil with good, to answer an insult with a soft word; when we are able to bless those who offend us and pray for their welfare, we have made headway in the Kingdom of God.
The only manner in which we ever are going to attend to such godliness is by continual prayer, meditating daily in the Word of God, and cooperating with the Holy Spirit as He guides us in putting to death the deeds of our sinful nature. It is the Virtue of Christ, the Divine Nature that is being created in us, that does not repay evil with evil but overcomes evil with good.
The adamic nature may attempt to imitate such Christlike behavior, but under enough pressure and perversity the adamic nature will begin to fight fire with fire. When we attempt to fight fire with fire we always lose, because the wicked are better equipped for this type of warfare.
For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it." (I Peter 3:10,11)
Let me point out once more that the New Testament is an exhortation to righteous behavior. Notice how far removed the above passage is from what often is presented as the Gospel message. If we would love life and see good days we must behave righteously. We must turn from evil and do good. We must seek peace and pursue it.
Nothing about grace! Nothing about the "rapture"! Nothing about going to Heaven! Just plain old righteous behavior. The Bible used to be called the "Good Book." This is because people recognized that the Bible taught us how to live in a righteous manner. Today it is not the Good Book; it is the grace-rapture-Heaven book. We have forgotten that Jesus Christ came to make men holy, to set them free from sin.
Will we ever be able to return to the truth of the Gospel of righteous behavior?
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (I Peter 3:12)
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. Psalms 34:15,16)
The fact that Peter is quoting from the Book of Psalms is extremely significant. It shows us that the same emphasis on righteous conduct is present in both the old and new covenants.
When we read Psalms 34 today we would say, "The eyes of the Lord are on us and His ears are attentive to our cry, now that we have accepted Christ as our Savior. God will cut off the memory of those who refuse to accept Christ."
Also, in Psalms 24, we would say, "We can ascend Zionís hill because God through Christ has imputed to us clean hands and a pure heart!"
But this canít be true because Peter admonishes us to keep our tongue from evil and our lips from deceitful speech. The Apostle Paul commands the saints throughout Achaia to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and Spirit, that they might be Godís children?
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (II Corinthians 7:1)
If we automatically are pure and holy, on the basis of accepting Christ, why is the Apostle Peter quoting Psalms 34 to us?
We have been greatly deceived.
If a Christian is to love life, see good days, have the eyes of the Lord on him, have the Lordís ears attentive to his prayers, and not have the face of the Lord against him, he must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech, turn from evil and do good, and seek peace and pursue it.
But what if he doesnít keep his tongue from evil, his lips from deceitful speech? What if he doesnít turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it? What if he does not behave righteously and continues to do evil? What if the Christian does not obey the words of King David and the Apostle Peter?
He will not live and see good days. The eyes of the Lord will not be on him. The Lordís ears will not be attentive to his prayers. The face of the Lord will be against him, according to King David and the Apostle Peter (as well as John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and all the Apostles of Christ).
"But he will be "saved" anyway, the proponents of grace will claim.
Will he be saved anyway? He will be saved and yet not live and see good days? He will be saved and not have the eyes of the Lord on him? He will be saved and not have the Lordís ears attentive to his prayers? He will be saved and have the face of the Lord against him?
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? (I Peter 3:13)
There appears to be evidence in this epistle that the Gentiles being addressed were suffering persecution.
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." (I Peter 3:14)
I have no doubt martyrs receive a special crown. Some day we Americans may face severe persecution. Should that happen, we also will receive a special blessing.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11,12)
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (I Peter 3:15,16)
No matter what suffering we may experience, we are to keep our eyes steadfastly on Christ, and Him as Lord of all.
It may be that it is given to some Christians to be aggressive in evangelism, confronting people boldly and insisting that they accept Christ. For most of us, however, we are to live in such a manner that people may be moved to inquire why we have such hope. It seems to me such inquiring would be likely in a time of calamity, when they see us facing disaster calmly.
Then we are to answer their questions gently and respectfully, not brashly and arrogantly with a know-it-all attitude. This isnít always true of us Christians, is it?
We are to maintain a clear conscience, behaving honestly and politely in the sight of all people. Then when people speak maliciously against our steady Christian life they finally will be ashamed of having slandered us.
We probably will be slandered if we are serving the Lord with a pure heart. When we are slandered, we are to keep committing our way to the Lord. If we keep looking to the Lord, doing His will, then He will bring forth our righteousness as the light and our judgment as the noonday.
It is better, if it is Godís will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (I Peter 3:17)
All of us at one time or another have suffered because we have done foolish or bad things. However, it may be Godís will on some occasion that we suffer because we have done something good. In this case we are not to blame anyone but to look to the Lord. The Lord Himself takes care of the righteous and sees to it that they are vindicated. But if we strike back, seeking to avenge or vindicate ourselves, we will lose the blessing.
Suffering for doing good is one of the sufferings of Christ, and we are called to these.
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, (I Peter 3:18)
Of all people who have lived on the earth, Jesus Christ was treated the most unjustly. He went about doing good. Yet His good was spoken of as being evil. We who have a sinful nature may do something good once in a while. But then to have someone refer to our good intentions as evil is difficult to bear. In this case we are to look to the Lord because Heóand perhaps only Heóunderstands that we were seeking to do His will, and He will deal with us accordingly.
In the case of the Lord Jesus, He did nothing but good throughout His lifetime on earth. Then He died for our sins that He might bring us to God.
Because the Lord Jesus kept the Law of Moses perfectly, thus earning life and blessing, and then was treated as a criminal, He laid up unspent life and blessing in the Bank of Heaven. It is this life and blessing, earned by Jesus but not drawn upon, that is available to us if we will receive it by faith.
What Christ earned we are permitted to spend.
The physical body of Christ was put to death. However, His inward Man was made alive by the Spirit of God. It appears that Christ proceeded to minister while alive in the Spirit but before His body came out of the cave of Joseph of Arimathea.
Through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison Who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, (I Peter 3:19,20)
Through the Holy Spirit, with His body still in the cave of Joseph of Arimathea, the Lord Jesus preached to the spirits in prison. How Peter knew about this I do not know. I do not remember this event being described anywhere else in the Bible.
One thing I do know, however, is that this statement from the inspired text shows us that ministry is possible in the spirit realm.
I think that somehow, perhaps because of the rigid Evangelical doctrine that people must accept Christ while alive on the earth, and if they do not they shall spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, we automatically suppose that no redemption can take place in the spirit realm. I think this assumption is quite incorrect and leads to impossibilities. The Scripture appears to indicate the opposite.
Before I proceed, let me say clearly that I am not teaching that we have a "second chance," that is, if we reject Christ now, or refuse to do Godís will now, we will have another opportunity after we die. This idea is not supported by the Scriptures.
For example, the parable of the talents reveals what will happen to us when the Lord returns if we do not use wisely what we have been given now. So noóI am not saying we can refuse Christ now and then have another chance when we die, or when the Lord comes. If we neglect our salvation we shall not escape punishment.
If we hold to the fact that redemption or spiritual growth cannot take place in the spirit realm, we run into problems.
The main problem is, of course, how about people who never have heard the Gospel? The current teaching is that they shall be sent to the Lake of Fire because "there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Of course there is no salvation in any other name. But that "Name" is very much alive in the spirit realm, isnít He?
The idea that people who never have heard of Christ shall be cast into the Lake of Fire to suffer torment forever is so manifestly unjust that it is a marvel anyone would think of such a thing. In fact, extremists go so far as to claim that babies who do not accept Christ shall be cast into the Lake of Fire. One teacher actually announced that an aborted fetus would be cast into the Lake of Fire because it had not accepted Christ.
Such is the religious blindness that lies so heavily on the "accept Christ" crowd.
Stop and think. We know that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will sit down in the Kingdom of God. We know that no one can see or enter the Kingdom of God unless he or she has been born again. We know also that no one could be born again before Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead. The Bible says Christ is the Firstborn from the dead.
How then could Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob see or enter the Kingdom of God before Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead? It appears Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were born again of Christ a long, long time after they died.
We know that the Body of Christ is built up by that which every joint supplies. Since at any given moment most of the members of the Body of Christ are alive in the spirit realm, not on the earth, it must be that the members of the Body continue to be built up after they die physically.
Think about the Bride of the Lamb. The Lord is looking for an unblemished Bride. We know that most believers die physically before the blemishes are removed. We know also that at the end of the age the messengers of the Lord are going to remove all sin from the Kingdom of God. Since most of the members of the Bride will be in the spirit realm at the end of the age, and not on the earth, it must be true that the messengers of God will be busily engaged in removing sin from them while they are in the spirit realm.
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (Matthew 13:40,41)
The above must certainly take place in the spirit realm as well as on the earth, because at that time most of the members of Godís Kingdom will have died and be alive in the spirit realm.
You know, I donít think the spirit realm is anything like we imagine. Through the centuries the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached as the means of bringing people to Heaven to live forever. All sorts of myths have grown up concerning what Heaven is like.
What has been conceived is really the Paradise that at one time was in the Garden of Eden in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf. In other words, Heaven, as we picture it, formerly was on the earth. (It shall return to the earth with the Lord Jesus, so you donít want to be forced to stay in the spirit realm when Christ returns to earth.)
The New Testament simply does not talk about going to Heaven. We imagine that it does, but it doesnít. Jesus taught us many parables. None of them were about going to Heaven. They were about a Seed that is planted in us and then grows. The Kingdom of God is like leaven that spreads throughout a lump of dough; like a seed that grows into a great tree.
Before we can picture the Lordís messengers removing sin from the members of the Kingdom who are alive in the spirit realm, or the members of the Body of Christ growing to maturity in the spirit realm, or Abraham being able to receive Christ in the spirit realm, oróas we will find when we reach the fourth chapter of First PeteróChrist judging those who are in the spirit realm, we will have to adjust our thinking concerning what is taking place in Heaven, what Heaven is like, and what we will discover when we die.
Perhaps Heaven is not all Paradise. Perhaps believers go there in various states of spiritual maturity and have to be taught. Perhaps the inhabitants of Heaven are learning as the plan of redemption is unfolding in the earth, as it is in the present hour.
Perhaps the believers in Heaven are listening and learning from the Divine revelation as it is being given to Godís apostles and prophets in the earth. We have learned much from the record of people in the Old Testament, havenít we? Perhaps they are learning from us now. Perhaps they are a cloud of witnesses.
Perhaps the members of Godís army are being prepared for the Battle of Armageddon by learning military tactics and strategies.
It sort of stretches the imagination to believe people will be summoned from their couches in their mansions and suddenly, without any training, placed on the huge, fierce war stallions in preparation for the descent of Christ to establish His Kingdom on the earth.
I would venture that the spirit world is a busy place of learning and growing, and perhaps of some fiery chasteningsónot to earn salvation but to be prepared to live in the new world of righteousness (this is where my teaching differs from the doctrine of purgatory).
When the Lord returns He will sound the trumpet and the elect will be gathered from one end of the heavens to the other. I rather suspect that people are being ministered to in innumerable places in the spirit realm, and this is why they will be gathered from near and far.
So think of a busy, busy place with angels being sent here and there, and the ministries of the Body of Christ operating to bring all of the elect to the stature of the fullness of Christ. It is a real worldófar more real than the earth, because it is constructed from reality and not from uncertain atoms and molecules. It does not grow old and pass away as the forms of earth do.
What do you suppose Christ preached to the millions of people who drowned during the flood of Noahís day? He preached His crucifixion, of course. He told them He had made an atonement with His blood, and whoever was willing to receive Him would be without condemnation.
What am I saying? I am saying that Christ may be presented to us during our lifetime on the earth, or after we have died. When Christ is presented to us we have to either accept Christ or reject Him. If we reject Him there is nowhere else to go, not here or in the spirit realm. We have rejected eternal life, for Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life.
Adam and Eve did not reject the Tree of Life. Their problem was they learned about good and evil before God had had a chance to clothe them. No doubt Adam and Eve since then have already come face to face with Christ and probably have received Him.
The only people in the Lake of Fire will be those who refuse the redemption God has provided through His Son. They insist on going their own way without Christ. There is no place for them in the love, joy, and peace of the new world of righteousness. Because they are self-directed and not Christ-directed they will bring misery, destruction, hatred, and wars wherever they go. This is why God rejects them, and why they are lost and must be confined; it is not because they came into the world bound with sin, but because they are unwilling to receive Christ as their rightful Lord and Savior.
There are numerous believers in America who have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ but still are self-directed and not Christ-directed. They bring misery and confusion wherever they go, whether they are ministers, or believers who are not as prominent. Their doctrinal orthodoxy will not qualify them as friends of God. Why not? Because even though they profess Christ, and may be working in Christís vineyard, they are doing so according to their own will. Donít forget, Christ was murdered by religious leaders, not by the common people, who heard Him gladly.
Our religion does not save us. It is fellowship with Jesus Christ that saves us.
Are you a friend of Christ? Am I?
Noah, his wife, Shem, Ham, and Japheth and their wives, were saved through water. The water that buoyed up the Ark saved them from the destruction caused by the same water.
Millions of people drowned, perhaps many screaming for mercy. God heard their cries. He hears the cry of the sparrow that falls to the ground. God repented of having caused such agony and gave His rainbow as a sign it would never happen again.
God was moved by the massive suffering and sent Christ in the Spirit to bring the Gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom of God, to these who had been imprisoned in the spirit realm.
And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you alsoónot the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (I Peter 3:21)
The water that came on the earth during the flood of Noah symbolizes the water of baptism. It is the pledge of a good conscience in that we symbolically leave all the filth of our sinful nature when we come up out of the water. The old life is over and our conscience is clear.
The water of baptism saves us by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ because in water baptism we are saying that we are taking our place on the cross with Christ and now are rising with Him to walk in newness of life, and are ascending with Him in our inward nature to the right hand of the Father in Heaven.
Who has gone into heaven and is at Godís right handówith angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (I Peter 3:22)
The Lord Jesus Christ is now in Heaven at the right hand of God. It also is true that we are there with Him. The Lord Jesus Christ is dwelling in the center of Godís Person and will, and God is dwelling in Him. It also is true of us that we are in Christ in God, and God is in Christ in us.
From this vantage point we reign with Him over all angels, authorities and powers, although such dominion is not a reality for us as yet. We have to be shaken and proven first, that our obedience to the Father might be perfected and assured. It is given to man to govern, through Jesus Christ, all the works of Godís hands. Man was created to fulfill this roleóto be the ruler and judge of all that God makes new in Christ.
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:7)
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor And put everything under his feet." In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. (Hebrews 2:5-8)
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. (I Peter 4:1)
The fourth chapter of First Peter discusses suffering in a manner not true of any other epistle, I believe. It relates suffering to judgment, and judgment to salvation.
I think it is significant that the Trumpet of the Jubilee was blown on the Day of Atonement, that is, on the tenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish civil calendar. Since the spiritual significance of the Day of Atonement has to do with the judgment and removal of the sins of Godís people, and the Jubilee portrays redemption, it is clear that God is telling us we are going to be redeemed and delivered from sin by means of judgment.
This may be a new concept to us, but it is the next spiritual move after the Pentecostal experience. We have always believed our judgment was taken care of on the cross. It is true that our guilt was taken care of on the cross, and we were totally forgiven. This is the meaning of "justification."
But forgiving us is only half of the program of redeeming us from the hand of the enemy. We also must be delivered from the sinful nature. As long as we are bound with the sinful nature we have not been fully redeemed.
To be fully redeemed we first must be forgiven through the blood of the cross.
Then the compulsion to sin must be removed from our spirit.
The compulsion to sin must be removed from our soul.
The compulsion to sin must be removed from our body.
When the compulsion to sin, including all disobedience, has been removed from our spirit and soul, then God, in the Day of Resurrection, will raise our flesh and bones from their place of interment and clothe our flesh and bones with a robe, or house, totally free of sin. At this point we have been redeemed totally.
Initial salvation focuses on justification, the forgiveness of our sins.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit provides us with the wisdom and power to proceed with the program of redemption.
Now we are to press toward total release from sin; the formation of Christ in us; the resurrection of our flesh and bones and the clothing of them with the house from Heaven; and finally the receiving of the fullness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our personality.
Divine judgment serves to forgive our sins and to remove from us the sinful nature. Suffering plays a role in delivering us totally from worldliness, the various appetites and passions of our flesh and spirit, and the self-will of our soul. It is for this reason that we enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation.
We are to arm ourselves with the same attitude Christ had, who was willing to suffer in His body. He suffered that we might be healed. We suffer in order to overcome sin.
As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (I Peter 4:2)
Before we suffer we follow evil human desires. After we suffer we choose to do the will of God.
For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to doóliving in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (I Peter 4:3)
This is how people live: in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and detestable idolatry. This is how we lived before we came to Jesus Christ.
Todayís teaching maintains after we come to Christ we can continue to live in this manner without losing our "salvation" (whatever is meant by salvation!). But this is not true. After we receive Christ we are to cease such behavior, for it is proof we still are bound by Satan.
They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. (I Peter 4:4)
We spoke before that the Gentiles Peter was addressing were being persecuted for being Christians. Notice that these believers were not being abused because they had received Christ, or had been baptized in water, but because they no longer were living in debauchery (dissipation), orgies, carousing, and idolatry.
We in America are not as yet at the place where Christians would be abused for refusing to indulge in riotous living. But that day may come. Perhaps we are not abused for living a godly life because our salvation consists largely of a head knowledge and affirmation of faith that do not, in some instances, materially affect our behavior.
Satan does not become alarmed when we speak about going to Heaven. Satanís concern is that we will cease worshiping him while we are on the earth. Because our current gospel is directed toward going to Heaven and not toward moral transformation, Satan is not unduly alarmed.
When we do speak of moral transformation, it is apt to be for our benefit. "Forgive people and you will be healed of arthritis. Keep a positive attitude and you will have friends and succeed in business. Learn to be patient and you will have a happy marriage."
No doubt real benefits proceed from living righteously. However, such is not the emphasis of the Bible. The Bible speaks of release from the power of Satan and entrance into the Kingdom of God. We forgive people that God may forgive us. We keep a positive attitude because the joy of the Lord is our strength. We learn to be patient that we may inherit the Kingdom of God.
We participate in the program of moral transformation so we may please God and be in his image, having nothing to do with Satan. The true program of moral transformation is directed and empowered by the Spirit of God and is our redemption from the hand of the enemy. The current emphasis on learning to live a better life in the world is proceeding from our self-centeredness. While it may be benefiting us, it may not be bringing us into Godís will.
The purpose of the Christian salvation is not to enable us to be a healthier, more productive person in the world. In fact, salvation may lead us to martyrdom.
How will American Christians, who have been reading books on how to improve their lives through Jesus Christ, react when their association with Christ leads to much suffering; to the tearing apart of their family; to the loss of employment; to social ostracism? When such suffering comes, it burns away false motives. At that time we either press into Jesus Christ or else retreat into the worship and activities of worldly, man-driven churches.
We have not been abused to any great extent. But if we turn from our worldliness, lust, and self-will, and begin to seek Christ for His own sake, we may stir up hostility. Whoever departs from evil makes himself a prey.
But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (I Peter 4:5)
I mentioned, when discussing the previous chapter, that we may have a false idea of what Heaven is like. Certainly our current description of mansions surrounded by parks is not found in the Scriptures.
The above verse could not be more revolutionary. It is telling us that Christ is ready now to judge the living and the dead.
To judge the dead? What about our mansions and parks?
To judge the living? Wasnít our judgment finished on the cross?
Truly, a radical, revolutionary idea that departs markedly from our customary view of both Heaven and earth.
What judgment are we speaking of? We are speaking of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
What takes place at the Judgment Seat of Christ? We receive the good we have done and the bad we have done.
Will this take place in Heaven? Absolutely!
Will this take on the earth? Absolutely!
The Judgment Seat of Christ has begun, according to the Apostle Peter.
Will all the believers in Heaven have to bow the knee and confess their behavior to Jesus Christ? Absolutely! But what about our mansion? The Bible does not teach that there are mansions in Heaven, only dwelling places in Christ.
Will those who are living now have to bow the knee and confess their behavior to Jesus Christ? Absolutely!
When does the judgment begin? It begins with us as soon as we are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.
But the Bible says it is appointed to men once to die, and after this the judgment.
Correct. When we really count ourselves crucified with Christ, truly reckon ourselves dead, God takes us at our word and begins the work of judgment and deliverance (the Day of Atonement and the Jubilee).
How does it work out in practice?
The Holy Spirit makes us aware of some aspect of our behavior that is not pleasing to God. As soon as we become aware of our sin we are to confess it as sin, denounce it, and renounce it vehemently, turning away from it with all our strength. Then the Lord is faithful and righteous to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
This is an eternal judgment. Once we confess and turn away from a behavior, it shall never be mentioned to us again. As I said, it is an eternal judgment.
How far can we go with this? As far as we are willing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
We know that the Lord Jesus will return to earth soon, perhaps within the next hundred years. If we are to receive an immortal body at His coming, we must have been judged in advance. We cannot receive an immortal body until we have been judged.
We cannot be raised from the dead, receive an immortal body, be caught up to meet Christ in the air, and then descend with Him to install the Kingdom of God on the earth, until first we have come before Christ and confessed our decisions and behavior while living on the earth. This judgment operates equally whether we are alive on the earth or deceased and in the spirit realm.
This is the new-covenant fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement, the convocation that precedes the last and greatest celebration, the feast of Tabernacles.
The feast of Tabernacles represents to us the coming of the Kingdom of God, the Presence of God and Christ, into our personality. Such cannot possibly take place until first we pass through the spiritual fulfillment of the Day of Atonement.
So we see that in our day we have come to an extremely important step in the plan of redemption. It is time now for all of us Christians to live in the Presence of Jesus Christ so, as the Spirit guides and empowers us, we can put away the graveclothes of sin.
Like Lazarus, we have been raised from the dead at the voice of Jesus Christ. Like Lazarus, we are bound with graveclothes. It is time now for the graveclothes to be removed.
We do not have to figure out how to make this program work. All we have to do is keep looking to Jesus, looking to Jesus, every day and every night. Jesus will direct the Spirit of God to each one of us personally when we are spiritually ready to submit to the program of release from the deeds of the sinful nature.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
I suppose we all knew in our heart that at some point in time the Lord Jesus would purify His Church. We certainly do not plan to spend eternity resisting the compulsions of our sinful nature. Well, the time has arrived, and the Holy Spirit is doing the work. Our task is to cooperate each day with the Spirit of God.
We, being Christians, have received the Spirit of God. The role of the Spirit of God is to provide an unblemished bride for Godís Lamb. This is the next step after the Pentecostal experience.
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (I Peter 4:6)
When Peter says "for this reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead" he is referring back to his statement in Chapter Three concerning those who were imprisoned in the spirit realm since the days of Noah. The Gospel was preached to them.
Notice that the Gospel is preached to those who are dead so they might be judged as though they were alive on the earth. This confirms what I have been saying, that the work of salvation proceeds independently of whether we are alive on earth or alive in the spirit world.
This gives us a different picture of life in Heaven, doesnít it? But it is a scriptural picture, whereas our present concept of Heaven is not found in the Scriptures but is an assumption on our part.
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. (I Peter 4:7)
What do we conclude from the fact that the Judgment Seat of Christ has begun? We conclude that we should live a godly life such that our mind and conscience are clear and we are in control of our behavior. When this is true of us we are able to lift up holy hands in prayer to Him who judges righteously.
If the end of all things was near in the days of the Apostle Peter, what must be true today?
When the Apostle Paul spoke to Governor Felix he mentioned self-control.
As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, "Thatís enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you." (Acts 24:25)
An evangelist of today probably would not speak to Felix like this, fearing it would "drive him away from Christ." The evangelist no doubt would tell Felix that all he need do is believe in Christ. Christís righteousness then would be applied to him, and Felix would be without condemnation in Godís sight. The point is not to be righteous, self-controlled, or afraid of judgment to come; all that matters is that we believe in Christ.
Yet here is the Apostle Peter saying that if we wish to please God we must be self-controlled.
We are not preaching the true Gospel today. It is Godís will that the new covenant, the Christian covenant, produce righteous people. The purpose of every Divine covenant is to produce righteous people. Would God ever institute a covenant whose goal was not to produce righteous people?
But we have changed the true Gospel until it has become a religion whose purpose is to bring people to Heaven to live forever. Righteous behavior is desirable, of course, but not essential. The one essential action is to believe in Jesus Christ. Whether a change in behavior follows our belief is not an issue.
It does not seem possible that Satan could be so successful in destroying the results of the perfect covenant, but he has. Satan has been successful because our hearts are evil. We want to be able to go to Heaven and escape Hell when we die, yet live our life the way we want to. Because we have not received the love of the truth, God has sent a powerful delusion on us. This delusion has blinded multitudes of pastors and their congregations in America.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (I Peter 4:8)
Christ and His Apostles command us to love one another. In the Kingdom of God, love covers much sin.
Satan continually seeks to promote conflict among Christian people. He often is successful because we are not strong enough in Christ to resist him. Satan understands that a bitter, unforgiving Christian will remain immature in Christ; will bear a poor, unproductive witness of Christ; will have his prayers hindered; and will pose little threat to Satanís kingdom.
A church in which there is strife and division cannot serve as the lampstand of God.
Every pastor understands how difficult it is to keep roots of bitterness from springing up. The pastor must be mature enough to be able to overcome the evil with good. A Christian assembly can be destroyed by a root of bitterness that has not been destroyed the moment it appeared.
Sometimes we are not able to approach the problem directly but must pray first. There are times to act, and times to just look to the Lord for the solution. If we will go to the Lord, He will show us whether to take action against the root of bitterness or whether He is going to take care of it as we pray and are patient. Some matters simply are too sensitive for us to touch.
The love Peter is referring to, when he commands us to love each other deeply, is not an emotion. It is an act of will. Emotional love comes and goes like the wind. We can act lovingly toward another person when we do not especially like them, by being considerate of their needs and refraining from judging them.
Every believer has some strengths and some weaknesses. We show love toward each individual by encouraging his strengths and not allowing ourselves to become angry when we see his weaknesses.
As far as the emotion of love is concerned, as we grow toward maturity in Christ we receive more of Godís Divine love. As we do, we become more tolerant of people and find it easier to overlook their points of immaturity.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (I Peter 4:9)
Grumbling is an easy habit to fall into, particularly for old people who have many aches and pains. However, grumbling is sin in the sight of God. God became angry with the Israelites because of their grumbling.
We are to be considerate of the needs of others, helping them when we can, while maintaining a cheerful attitude. It is especially important that we maintain a cheerful attitude toward the Lord, not complaining about our circumstances but continually looking for reasons to praise the Lord.
I am seventy-eight years of age and recovering from a back operation. My back is still sore while I am recuperating, I am wearing a brace, and it is not comfortable.
I could find several reasons to grumble. I also can see several reasons to praise the Lord. It could be so much worse! I could be paralyzed. Instead I am able to get up, walk around, and even do some work on the computer. Praise the Lord forever!
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering Godís grace in its various forms. (I Peter 4:10)
As I see it, most American Christians are altogether too careless about using what has been given to them in the work of building up the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God.
Our culture is so filled with distractions that it is nearly impossible to set aside time to find out what it is God wants us to do. For the young person starting out, there are numerous opportunities for education and employment. For the older people, there are the opportunities to increase their material possessions. Consequently we are killed spiritually by the things and concerns of our culture.
This is an extremely serious matter and is going to result in a multitude of American believers losing part or all of their inheritance in the Kingdom of God.
The servant who buried his talent was treated harshly by the Lord!
Notice the following passage:
"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:34-36)
Here is irony. The American Christians are drowning in dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and expecting Christ to come and catch them up to Heaven so they may escape all that is about to happen and stand before the Son of Man. What an incredible misunderstanding!
What the passage means is, pray that you may be able to escape dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, so that in the Day of Christ you will be able to stand in victory before the Lord, not having succumbed to the worldly spirit of Antichrist.
The passage has nothing to do with escaping life on the earth and being caught up to Heaven. It is speaking of escaping the allurements of the god of this world so we do not lose the eternal life we were given in the beginning.
Nothingónot even the lusts of the fleshóis as able to kill spiritual life as is true of material possessions. Jesus told the rich man to sell what he had, if he would have eternal life. The man turned away sorrowfully. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy person to inherit the Kingdom of God.
God is a businessman. He has entrusted every believer with resources, some spiritual and some physical, which he or she is to use in building the Kingdom of God. The believer who is diligent with his or her gifts will accomplish much, as did Dorcas with her sewing.
But the believer who permits himself to be drawn away in the ordinary pursuits of life, not being careful to discover and utilize diligently what he has been given by the Lord, will face an angry Christ. His resources will be removed from himóhis family, his opportunities, his spiritual gifts, everythingóand given to another. He himself will be driven into the outer darkness.
From this area he will be able to see the Glory of the Lamb in His Kingdom, just as the rich man could see Abraham and Lazarus. But he himself will dwell in bitterness and remorseóperhaps for eternity!
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 4:11)
The mature Christian does not talk very much, but when he does speak he is worth listening to. The immature believer babbles about nothing, sometimes sinning with his or her mouth.
We can cultivate the ability to speak as the oracle of God. We do this by praying about what we are going to say before we actually speak. I understand such restraint is difficult for someone who is accustomed to blurting out whatever is on his or her mind. Discipline is required. But there is rich fruit to be borne if we are willing to work at this.
It requires considerable experience in the Lord to serve with the strength God provides. When we are a new Christian, particularly a young new Christian, we are filled will all kinds of motives and zeal. These motives are not necessarily sinful, and God may use them to accomplish His will.
My observation is that very little Christian work is done with the strength God provides. Christian people are no different from other human beings. If they are diligent, capable people in the world they most likely will be diligent, capable people after they become believers.
All of us want the Kingdom of God to be enlarged. So we set forth with this plan and that idea to accomplish what we think will spread the Gospel. The denominations develop one plan after another to increase their influence, all in the name of building the Kingdom of God.
If old age or sickness or some other weakening factor causes us to stop our mad rush to do our religious work, and we begin to reflect on what is of God and what is of the well intentioned efforts of people, we can see that not everything that names the name of Christ is being performed with the strength God provides.
Yet, it is only that which God strengthens and directs that is of eternal value in the Kingdom of God.
I wonder how much Christian work would be accomplished if the workers stopped long enough to hear what the Spirit is telling them to do.
Upon finishing Bible school, a friend of mine was exhorted to go out and plant a church. Not knowing how to proceed, he went to the Lord about what to do. The Lord spoke to him and told him to lose weight.
I did not make up this story, it actually happened. The truth is, my friend indeed was overweight. He has lost weight since then. This was necessary for his health.
But the incident shows us the difference between the current pressure to go out and plant churches, and what the Lord is actually saying. In other words, we do not always know the mind of the Lord. What good is it to spend our life in Gospel work, only to find out that God had something else in mind for us? Yet I think this sort of thing happens more often than we would care to imagine.
As I see it, most of the history of the Christian Church has to do with well intentioned people doing what they thought was Godís will. For example, we know that the persecution of one sect of Christians by another sect can never be of God. Building giant cathedrals that glorify a denomination can never be of God.
The Apostle Paul endured many hardships. In addition, God sent another affliction on him, probably a disease of Paulís eyes. God said the purpose of the disease was that Paul might work in Godís strength and not his own strength.
God is glorified through Jesus Christ only when God Himself has provided the wisdom and strength for the particular undertaking.
If I am not mistaken, one of the primary needs of our time is for believers who will wait until they hear from the Lord, and then do only what He directs. This entails a continual waiting on the Lord, a moment by moment listening to Jesus for His will. Meanwhile we may be jumping up and down, so to speak, with some new plan in our mind to do "great things for God."
One time the Lord told Peter and John to go and prepare a place for Him and His disciples to celebrate the Passover. Peter and John could have talked among themselves and decided where to prepare the meal. Instead they asked the Lord where the preparations should be made, and the Lord told them exactly where to go.
What an important example this is! It is not enough for the Lord to commission us to do something. We then must keep looking to the Lord to find out precisely what to do at each moment.
How frustrating it must be to the Lord to see His people scurrying about, like so many ants on the ground, attempting to build His Kingdom. Jesus has all wisdom, all knowledge, all power, and all wealth. He doesnít need our wisdom, knowledge, power, or wealth. He said He would build His Church on the Rock, the fact that He is the Christ of Israel. He will build His own Church. He will send His Spirit to enable us to build the Kingdom of God. Our task is to follow the Spirit in every detail.
When man builds his religious institutions, man receives the glory. When Christ builds His Church, His Kingdom, Christ receives the glory and God through Him.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. (12)
At the beginning of Chapter Four we were urged to arm ourselves with a mind to suffer, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. Suffering is a major aspect of the Divine redemption.
A few years ago it was being taught that if we have faith we can escape suffering. This is one evidence of the fallen state of the Christian churches in America. The teaching of the "pre-tribulation rapture" of the believers to escape suffering is another evidence of apostasy.
Suffering burns the love of the world out of us. Suffering burns the bodily lusts out of us. However, I believe the most important work of suffering is to destroy our self-will and self-centeredness. When we bear our cross each day, waiting patiently in the prison in which the Lord has permitted us to be placed, our self-will is weakened and we are better able to lay hold on Godís will for our life.
Suffering is associated with rulership. The cross and the crown go together. We will not be glorified together with Christ unless we first suffer with Him.
We are to be pressing each day into the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.
In fact, we are saved through suffering, through fiery judgments on our adamic personality.
But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (I Peter 4:13)
We are to beware when all men speak well of us. The normal Christian life is one of patient, cross-carrying obedience, and being misunderstood and despised just as Christ was misunderstood and despised.
Those who are bearing their cross are looking forward with happy anticipation to the return of Christ, for He shall lift the cross from their back. Worldly Christians know little of such happy anticipation. Rather, they would not mind if the Lord would delay his arrival. They are content with their business in the world.
We American Christians have not experienced much persecution. If the day should come when we have to meet in secret, or are imprisoned for the name of Christ, we will have a better understanding of the Bible passages that speak of the various sufferings of the saints. Meanwhile, the Spirit of God has His own means of bringing us through fiery tests, even apart from persecution. These too are part of the sufferings of Christ.
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (I Peter 4:14)
Perhaps in the future we will experience persecution. Many of our fellow members of the Body of Christ are being persecuted in other parts of the world as I am writing. If that day comes, may the Lord help us to never, never, never deny the name of Jesus.
If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. (I Peter 4:15)
I think the current preaching of Divine grace sometimes leaves the believer with the impression that he is Godís favorite. This can deceive the Christian into committing a criminal act, under the impression God will make a special provision for him or her.
Anyone who has participated in prison ministry knows there are many Christians behind bars. It may be true that one reason for the number of Christians behind bars is that the overemphasis on grace has left them with the feeling no matter what they do God will make certain they are not punished for it.
The truth is, the believers are more likely to be apprehended and punished for their acts than is true of the unsaved. Jerusalem always receives double punishment for her sins. The nearer we are to the Lord, the more strictly we are held to account for our actions.
Notice in the above verse that the meddler is grouped with the criminal. This is unusual, isnít it. Sometimes God judges differently than we do. In any case, let us be careful that we are not meddling in a situation in which we are not involved.
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (I Peter 4:16)
One of the signs we are approaching spiritual maturity is that we are able to overcome evil with good. The number of believers in America who are holding grudges because someone treated them unjustly is legion. Such people have been defeated spiritually. They need to confess their sin to God and ask for release from bitterness and unforgiveness.
Should we come to the day when we are abused just for being a Christian, we are not to strike back. We are to praise God that we have been found worthy to suffer for the Name.
For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (I Peter 4:17)
As I said before, the closer we are to the Lord the more apt we are to be judged.
Divine judgment is a blessing. King David prayed that God would search him to see if there was an offensive way in him.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalms 139:23,24)
It wouldnít hurt any of us to pray this prayer every day of our life. Our heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Only God understands the labyrinth that is the human soul. There is much evil in all of us. When the Spirit of God searches out the evil and brings it to our attention, we are to confess the deeds of our sinful nature so that God may forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
There are many aspects of the program and process of redemption. God redeems us from the hand of Satan so we may become Godís eternal resting place.
The two great works of redemption are the removal of all evil from our personality, and the forming of Christ in us. All of our sinful nature is to be judged and destroyed. Our adamic nature is to be assigned to the cross. Christ is to be formed in us until we can say with Paul: "It is no longer I who am living but Christ who is living in me."
Through the blood of the cross we have the legal basis for the work of judgment in our personality. The Holy Spirit of God strengthens and guides us so the work of judgment may be carried through to completion. Without the authority of the blood and the guidance and power of the Spirit we could not survive the Divine judgment.
This is why God told Adam and Eve to not partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They were not sprinkled with the blood of atonement. Neither did they have the Holy Spirit to help them. They ate of the tree and became aware of their nakedness, but did not have the blood of atonement or the Presence of the Spirit to enable them to survive the judgment that resulted from gaining the knowledge of good and evil. They did not give God time to clothe them.
Today we have received the atoning blood and the Holy Spirit. The next step is to experience Divine judgment. As the Spirit of God removes the sins from us, the body and blood are available so we can eat and drink Christ and thus fill the vacancy in our personality caused by the removal of our sin.
As more sin is removed from us, more of Christ enters us. This program continues until we have been delivered completely from the person and works of Satan.
Many Christian churches have gotten as far as Pentecost. The next step of salvation is to confess our sins and turn away from them as the Holy Spirit assists us. After we have gone through this process, which is the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement, we will be ready for the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles. The spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles is the coming of the Father and the Son to take up Their eternal dwelling, Their rest, in us.
We understand, therefore, that each one of us must be judged by the Lord. Such judgment is desirable. One aspect of the program and process of Divine judgment consists of various kinds of tribulations, sufferings, imprisonments, and denials that we are called on to experience. It can be seen from this that the fourth chapter of the Book of First Peter is speaking of our salvation being accomplished through fiery trials, and that these fiery trials are Divine judgment on our adamic personality.
The following verse makes perfect sense in terms of what I have just written concerning salvation through judgment and suffering. But it makes no sense at all in terms of the current "ticket" doctrine, in which accepting Christ is seen as a free ticket to eternal residence in Paradise.
And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" (I Peter 4:18)
Why is it difficult for a righteous person to be saved? It is difficult for everyone to be saved, because salvation consists of our deliverance from all that is of Satan.
The program includes counting ourselves as dead on the cross with Christ. The process contains much suffering as the Holy Spirit brings to the light the various dimensions of our sinful nature. The way of salvation is the way of the cross, the way of self-denial, and the way of patience, during various tribulations, pressures, perplexities, and frustrations.
The cheap "gospel" of our day makes few serious demands on the convert. Just "accept Christ" and now you are on your way to Heaven.
I think this cheapening of the Gospel walk, of the way of discipleship, has come about because of our ungodly emphasis on numbers of people. If a pastor is pressured by his denomination to gain converts, he certainly is not going to preach that in order to be a Christian we have to turn away from the world, be baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, and then follow Jesus every moment for the remainder of our life. These demands are total, and they are repulsive to the average seeker who wants a "nice" church where he can socialize with his friends.
May God continually remind us about the saints of old who left bloody footprints in the snow. May God continually remind us of those Christians of today who are being imprisoned for the Gospelís sake. May God deliver each one of us from the contemporary teaching of the "free ticket to Heaven."
So then, those who suffer according to Godís will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (I Peter 4:19)
What are we to do when, having made every effort to serve God, we enter a season of suffering? We are to patiently wait on the Lord, meanwhile doing whatever good we can. We are not to fret and complain, or blame people or God for our misery. We are to trust God that in His time He will bring us forth from our captivity.
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christís sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of Godís flock that is under your care, serving as overseersónot because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; Not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (I Peter 5:1-3)
Jesus told Peter to feed and take care of His lambs and sheep. If we love the Lord we do this, not because we must but because we want to serve Christ in this manner.
Pastors and evangelists should not be hirelings. They should minister only because they wish to serve the Lord. It is the Lordís will that those who are ministered to support the minister with their material wealth. But a true pastor or evangelist cannot be hired. Freely he has been given and freely he gives.
The pastor must never view himself as being a lord over the members of the church. He is their example. He demonstrates in himself what he is preaching.
Unfortunately it is not always true that leaders of churches or denominations see themselves as servants who are to illustrate the teachings of Christ in their lives. Politics operate within the Christian institutions just as they do in any other type of organization.
Those of us who can see and deplore ecclesiastical politics must pray for wisdom that we not become trapped in man-directed religion. Instead we must go about doing good, setting a good example for the younger Christians to follow.
Christ stated that he who would be great in the Kingdom must be the servant of all. This is not often the case on earth. But it certainly shall be in evidence when the Kingdom of God comes to the earth. Meanwhile we are to obey Christís command to the best of our ability, regardless of what others do.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (I Peter 5:4)
Actually there is only one Shepherd and one fold. Those of us who pastor are human and, because of our immaturity, readily find ourselves competing with another church in the area.
I have noticed through the years that some believers thrive best in a certain assembly, and that is where they belong. If they leave us and go to another church, it probably is the will of the great Shepherd that they do so. They are Christís sheep, not ours. We who call ourselves pastor are really helpers of the great Pastor, Jesus Christ. As such we are to rejoice when another pastor succeeds, because we all are serving the one Shepherd.
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under Godís mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (I Peter 5:5,6)
"Lord, give us the gift of humility." This should be our prayer, shouldnít it? The mature saint is characterized by meekness of spirit, always willing to gently teach those who need instruction; always willing to learn; always willing to acknowledge when he is mistaken.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (I Peter 5:7)
There are so many anxieties, so many dreads and fears, and so many pressures in our present life in the world that we look forward to Heaven as being a place free from anxiety and dread. Isnít that true?
Since we are not in Heaven but on earth, we are directed to cast our burdens, our anxieties, our dreads, our worries, on the Lord.
The cherubim have four faces, the man, the lion, the eagle, and the ox. The ox is the burden bearer. Our Lord is the mighty Ox who is able to carry our burdens and fears. He will lift the worry from us if we ask Him to.
We also are to grow as an ox so we can carry faithfully the load the Lord assigns to us. It seems that life is never easy. There always is this problem or that concern. I have survived as a pastor by giving all my concerns to the Lord, praying until I know He has heard and has taken control of the circumstance. That way I do not have to go about all bowed down with my own worries and those of the people under my care.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)
Again Peter mentions self-control. Self-control is listed by the Apostle Paul as one part of the fruit of the Spirit.
So many forces in life seek to control us, donít they? Christian young people often experience pressure from their peers to do something that is not right. They lose their self-control by allowing others to control them. I remind the young people in our church of this. We must always control ourselves, doing what we believe to be pleasing to the Lord. When we do, others will follow our example.
Unfortunately, not all Christian believers are self-controlled. They are led about by the Antichrist spirit of the world, by their own bodily lusts and passions, and by their personal ambition. What is at stake here is their soul. God has given us a soul so we can make moral decisions. When we continually give way to forces other than our soul, losing our "soul-control" as it were, we stand in danger of losing our soul.
God has given us our soul as a gift. It is up to us to patiently possess it in the midst of the clamor of life. There will come a time when God calls us to account for the decisions we have made. If we have not faithfully possessed our soul, we may lose it. It is our soul that is saved or lost, isnít it?
And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry." But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?" (Luke 12:19,20óNASB)
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving [possessing] of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39óNASB)
We are never to lose control of our actions but to pray continually that we might always do what we believe to be pleasing to the Lord. One day we are going to have to give an account of our decisions before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
We notice in the Book of Romans that when people persist in debauching themselves, God gives them a mind that is unable to make righteous judgments.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28)
They gave way to the lusts of their bodies, so God took away their ability to choose to do what is right. This appears to me to be a loss of the soul, in that it is the soul that chooses to obey God or to sin. The soul that chooses to sin dies and the spirit is left to answer to God. This is how it seems to me.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (I Peter 5:9)
Notice that it does not tell us to rebuke the devil but to resist the devil. There is a big difference between rebuking the devil and resisting the devil. We who are of the Pentecostal persuasion often rebuke the devil when we should resist the devil.
I am afraid that our constant rebuking of the devil is interpreted by him as worship.
Resisting the devil, on the other hand, means we are standing firm in the faith, doing what is righteous, turning away from temptation. This is much more difficult than yelling at the devil.
It is human nature to want to attack. But our time to attack has not come as yet, in spite of our immature desire to rush out and do something. Our task now is to stand. We have not been called to attack but to stand steadfast, clothed in all the armor of Christ.
When the Lord Jesus descends from Heaven in the attack of Armageddon, that will be our time to attack the enemy. In the meanwhile we are to pray continually that we may have the wisdom and strength that will enable us to stand upright against all the onslaughts of the enemy.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (I Peter 4:10)
Here is a good verse to give a new Christians who is having difficulties. Every new believer is tested rigorously. He needs to be reminded that it will not always be like this. After we have suffered a little while, God will restore us and make us steadfast.
Sometimes the new convert turns away from the cross. He finds the new life too difficult. Pastors and evangelists do harm when they promise people that if they become a Christian their troubles will be over. Sometimes their troubles begin when they receive the Lord.
Throughout history it often has been true that to become a Christian meant imprisonment or martyrdom, so we have no business telling people that if they will accept Christ they will not have any more trouble.
How much better it is to point out to people that Christ died on their behalf, and they owe it to Him to accept His sacrifice and serve Him. One day they may be required to endure persecution or even to die for His Name. People, particularly young people, need to know that they are becoming part of the great Church of God that will eventually prevail. Meanwhile it will cost them everything to stay true to God.
We deprive people of the truth when, in our ambition to get them to join our group, we promise them every kind of blessing with no hardships. The true Gospel of the Kingdom of God always has been a hope for the future, accompanied by the knowledge that in this world we are going to suffer tribulation.
To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 5:11)
"Him" as used here probably refers to God the Father. Today we are apt to view the Father and the Son interchangeably, as though they were one Person. I see no real harm in this, except that we ought to notice when the Scripture is referring to the Father and when it is referring to the Son.
The Kingdom is the Kingdom of God. The Son has come to reconcile us to the Father. All that the Son does has as its purpose the glorifying of the Father.
The Son rejoices when He brings someone to the Father. The Father has given all authority in Heaven and upon the earth to the Son, and no one can come to the Father except through the Son. For all of this, the Father and the Son are two different People with wills of their own. The Son chooses to serve the Father.
If I am not mistaken, as we move forward into the Kingdom of God we are going to become more conscious of the Father as a unique Person than we are today.
With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (I Peter 5:12-14)
What is the true grace of God? Certainly not that all we have to do is believe in Christ and after that wait to go to Heaven! Notice that the term "grace" as employed here refers to the entire plan of redemption, including judgment, suffering, and righteous behavior.
We have to stand fast in this grace, even though it is difficult to do so. Why is it so difficult? Because there are numerous forces that seek to rob us of our self-control; that tempt us to turn away from suffering and live according to our animal lusts and appetites; that would frighten us with the threat of persecution.
But in spite of the things we suffer as Christians, there is a deeply settled peace that the world cannot give and the world cannot take away. Our peace truly surpasses all understanding.