There is nothing greater to take one individually through times of toil and turmoil than the fellowship of a strong family. And that which makes strong families are true disciples of Jesus Christ who take their commitment to our Lord very seriously. The life of a disciple that is guided by the word of Christ is a life that is designed to encounter and conquer every struggle that this world can offer.
A. The life of a disciple:
In order to be more than conquerors over the struggles of this world (Rm 8:37), the first relational strength that disciples must have with one another is that they “be of one mind.”3:8 As stated previously, the strength of their witness to the world is that for which Jesus asked when He prayed that His disciples “may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You” (Jn 17:21; see 1 Co 1:10). In order to have and sustain this type of relationship as the family of God, each member of the body must have “compassion one for another.”3:8
Love, kindheartedness and humility should be typical of the social nature of the body of Christ. In order to develop the social environment among brethren, each member must “not render evil for evil or insult for insult.”3:9 Those who would “inherit a blessing,” must be known for blessing others.3:9
There is a very practical life-style by which, as a group, the family of God can overcome the turmoil that is in the world. In our relationships as a family, everyone must “refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no deceit.”3:10 Speaking evil of one another destroys relationships. Lies make relationships impossible. Therefore, each one of us must be determined to “turn away from evil and do good.”3:11 Each one of us must be peacemakers if we are to have genuine relationships with one another.3:11 We must remember Jesus’ declaration: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Mt 5:9). If we are not of the character that Jesus herein infers, then we must remember that “the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”3:12
B. The courageous disciple:
Paul wrote to Christians in Rome who had suffered under Nero. Peter wrote to Jewish Christians who would in the near future suffer indirectly at the hand of the Roman against the Jews. Both writers asked a question for which those by faith could answer correctly. Paul asked, “Who will lay anything to the charge of God’s elect” (Rm 8:33)? Peter asked, “And who is he who will harm you if you follow what is good?”3:13 Both writers were asking their questions in the context of those who would attack both their spiritual relationship with God and their physical bodies. These Christians were going into the turmoil that would result from the end of national Israel. But if their spiritual strength prevailed, then they did not need worry about what might happen to their physical presence in this world. The Christians of the day, while under persecution, must be faithful, even though to many it would mean death (See Rv 2:10). But death for one’s faith is not the real enemy against the righteous of God. The real enemy is unseen.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places (Ep 6:12).
In this spiritual warfare, many will lose their physical presence in this world. However, there is absolutely no one of this world who can separate us from the love of God. Physical death is only a separation of the body from our spirit (Js 2:26). But this separation will in no way cause a separation of our spirit from God. We must always answer the question correctly that Paul posed, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rm 8:31). The answer is that no one can win against God, and thus, no one can win against those who belong to God. So, “… in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rm 8:37). There is nothing of this world that “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm 8:39).
If one would, therefore, “suffer for righteousness sake,” Peter encouraged, “do not be afraid … and do not be troubled.”3:14 The means by which we conquer fear and anxiety is to “sanctify Christ as Lord God” in our hearts.3:15 When we behave in a courageous manner in times of suffering, those who are burdened with the worries of the world will inquire concerning our faith. And thus, every Christian must “be ready always to give a defense to everyone who asks” concerning that which empowers him to maintain his strength through the turmoil of this present world.3:15
C. The hated disciple:
When Jesus said to His disciples that the world would hate you because they hated Him, He knew that the hate of the world would be generated from the evil that is within the heart of the haters (Jn 7:7; 14:18,19). Peter stated that the hate of the world would be revealed “when they slander you as evildoers.”3:16 It would not be that the disciples were doing evil in the sight of God. They would refuse to live according to the evil standards of the world.
If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (Jn15:19).
Nevertheless, at least most of the world can recognize that which is good. When those who are of the world recognize “good behavior in Christ” they “will be ashamed.”3:16 Because the good of the righteous is pure, all that the world can do to manifest its antagonism against the Christian is to resort to slander. The worldly thus speak lies against those they envy.
[Lecture continues with point D. tomorrow.]