Category Archives: Survivor

4B – Survivor Spirituality

C.  Thirst for the word of God.

In order to know what to do to walk obediently in the light, one must know where to walk. We must keep in mind that our fortitude against wickedness is conditioned on our obedience to the word of God. It is not within our power to determine our own steps (Jr 10:23). As citizens of God’s nation, we must continually “desire the sincere milk of the word so that” we may grow.2:2 If there is no growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, then spiritual death will soon come (2 Pt 3:18). We must, therefore, “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Mt 5:6). We must be as David described the true disciple: “… his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night” (Ps 1:2). As a disciple of Jesus, we must be able to say, “Your word I have hidden in my heart so that I might not sin against You” (Ps 119:11). If we lay up the word of God in our hearts, then the world will slide off. We will be able to resist the devil and he will flee.5:9 It is as James said, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Js 4:7).

D.  Be a living example.

Each disciple has come “to Him [Christ] as to a living stone.”2:4   Peter reflected on that which revived their hope as Jesus’ first disciples. God “has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”1:3

Jesus Christ is not another head stone in a graveyard that marks the termination of so many self-proclaimed prophets. He is not as the crookedly cut stone that the builders would reject in building a building. On the contrary, He is the exact cornerstone from which the measurements of the building have been made. He is the “chief cornerstone” of all that we are as the house of God.2:6

Christians are the “living stones” who are being built up a spiritual house” by their spiritual measurement from the Chief Corner Stone.1:5 Those who measure themselves from the image of Jesus Christ, are offering unto God their lives as a reasonable response to the Sonship of Jesus (Rm 12:1). And thus, they have come to Jesus “to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”1:5

In our offering, there can be no compromises.   It is as someone said, “Compromise is always wrong when it means to sacrifice a principle.” We must not be like the young soldier during the American civil war of the nineteenth century who supposedly wanted to play it safe.   So he dressed in the grey pants of the uniform of the Confederate Army of the south, but with the blue coat of the uniform of the Union Army of the north. The problem was that he was shot at by both sides in the conflict. When we make our sacrifice for Jesus, there must be no doubt as to which side of the mortal conflict we stand in our war against the forces of evil. Paul exhorted that every Christian “put on the whole armor of God …” (Ep 6:11). In doing so, we will “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ep 2:10).

During the historical times of the day, many false christs had arisen among the Jews in order to call the people to be patriotic in restoring the Jewish state as it was in the days of David. During His prophecy of the fall of the Jewish state, Jesus prophesied that self-proclaimed christs would come. He prophesied, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ.’ And they will deceive many (Mt 24:5). But Jesus warned, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Lo, here is Christ,’ or ‘There,’ do not believe it” (Mt 24:23). Nevertheless, many did believe the self-proclaimed christs, and thus, they were greatly disappointed either when the self-proclaimed christs were killed in the Jewish wars against Rome, or when they were taken into captivity after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. But Peter reassured his readers that the true Living Stone will not disappoint them.2:6 He will be good for His promises.

The Living Stone that the rebellious Jews rejected (Jn 1:11), became “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”2:8 He became such to everyone who would not accept Him as the Christ sent from God.   So “they stumbled, being disobedient to the word.”2:8   And when the word of the gospel is preached throughout the world today, the same rejection happens.

Peter did not mean in the statement, “to this they were appointed,” that God had predestined them to rejection. Such thinking would make God fiendish for allowing someone to be born into this world whom He had predestined to burn in hell against his own volition. The “appointed” were “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Rm 9:22) because they chose to rebel against the living God. God is not willing that any should perish, and thus the offer of the gospel of salvation is to all people (2 Pt 3:9). God has predestined the destruction that would come upon all those who would choose to reject the gospel, but He has not predestined anyone individually to reject the gospel. Therefore, if one chooses to reject Jesus Christ, then he becomes “appointed” to the destruction that God predestined would come upon all the disobedient (See 2 Th 1:6-9). If one rejects the gospel, then he has joined with those who are appointed to destruction.

But the obedient have become a part of the royal priesthood.2:9 They are the new holy nation.2:9 God “has called you unto His kingdom and glory” (1 Th 2:12). “God has not called us to impurity, but in holiness” (1 Th 4:7).   He has called us into this royal priesthood through the preaching of the gospel (2 Th 2:14). It is the message of the gospel that calls individuals into making a choice concerning obedience to that which God requires we do in order to wash away our sins (See At 22:16). It can be no other way, lest we make God fiendish by suggesting that He has predestined individuals to either heaven or hell.

As a reminder, Peter wrote, “You in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God.”2:10 Those who are outside Christ are not the people of God. In order to become a part of the people of God, one must enter into the holy nation through the door of obedience to the gospel. Paul explained it clearly: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gl 3:27). One cannot claim to be of the people of God unless he has put on Christ. And one cannot put on Christ unless he is immersed into Christ. In view of this fact, what do we think Satan would do to keep individuals from becoming a part of the people of God?

If Paul’s preceding statement is true—and it is—then Satan would convince people to think that they were the people of God on the other side of the waters of the new birth. He would convince people that a “sinner’s prayer” or “an acceptance of Jesus into one’s heart” were all that is needed to bring one into a saving relationship with God. Unfortunately, there will be a great deal of disappointed people in the judgment who have not dressed themselves with Christ by refusing to be buried and raised with Christ (See Rm 6:3-6).

E.  Be a sojouner and pilgrim.

For those Christians who would engage themselves in efforts to make war against governments who function for our peace, they need to remember that our citizenship is far above any government of this world. We must remember that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Ph 3:20). And because our citizenship is in heaven, Peter exhorts that we “pass the time of your journey on earth in fear.”1:17

We must be sojourners and pilgrims who war against the lusts of the flesh, not against the state. Paul exhorted, “put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ep 6:11). Sojourners are passing through every nation that comes into existence. Pilgrims have their minds set on a new destination that is not of this world (Cl 3:1,2). The sojourner, therefore, can remain faithful in his journey because his mind is focused on that which is beyond the land in which he is sojourning. It could not have been said better than in the following words:

Brethren, I count not myself to have laid hold. But one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things that are before. I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Ph 3:13,14).

As we sojourn among the unbelievers, we maintain the integrity of our holiness through honesty. We heed the life-style that Jesus directed: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16). When the unbeliever observes our good works, he has the opportunity to “glorify God in the day of visitation,” the day when God brings judgment on national Israel.2:12 In other words, when a Roman soldier came breaking through a Christian’s door, a humble disciple should be discovered inside the house, one who was submissive to the law of the state in which he lived. It would be a moment when a disciple of Jesus should immediately confess that he was a Christian, and not some Jewish insurrectionist working against the state of Rome.

[Next lecture:  SURVIVOR SUBMISSION:  January18]

 

 

4A – Survivor Spirituality

In the first letter of Peter, Peter writes with his heritage in mind in order to address the new nation of God that was born out of national Israel over thirty-five years before. The covenant and law that God had with Israel came to a close in A.D. 30, but now the state of Israel was coming to a close in less than five years and will be gone forever. There was a new nation of God’s people on earth that had taken the place of the old. A spiritual had replaced the physical. As opposed to the citizens of the old who were rising up in rebellion against Rome, the new citizens of the spiritual were characterized by an example of submission, not only to God, but also to civil government.

This is the exhortation from God to all Christians throughout history who would find themselves as residents in hostile environments. Those who would be disciples of Jesus must learn the spirit of submission to civil government in order to bring glory to the God of heaven.

These words of Peter are some of the best there is in the Holy Scriptures that define the difference between the religions of man, and the faith of those who have submitted to the one true and living God.   Those who would be tempted to take up arms and commit acts of terrorism and war to promote a theocratic religion, cannot claim to have a faith that originates from God if they live in rebellion against civil government.

Peter’s readers were living in a time where Jewish nationalists were launching acts of terrorism against a state (the Roman Empire) that sought to maintain law and order. The nationalistic Jewish terrorists were rebelling against Rome in order to promote their own theocratic state. In this context, Peter was writing to Jewish Christians that they not be caught up in such carnality. They must remember who they are as the spiritual nation of God that is without territory. They must remember that there is a separation between the spiritual nation of God and any state govenment that is of this world. They must, therefore, keep in mind Paul’s words that were written many years before:

 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but powerful through God for the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Co 10:4,5).

“New born babes,”2:2 as the citizens of God’s holy nation are continually in the struggle of “laying aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisies and envies and all evil speakings.”2:1 It is significant to notice how Peter says they are able to do this. They “desire the sincere milk of the word.”2:2 They study their Bibles, and if they do not, then they are not babes in Christ. We must not forget that a disciple of Jesus is always identified by his worn Bible. Because we study our Bibles, we are not as misguided religionists today who seek out a concert assembly of emotionally charged participants who desire to lose control of themselves in an hour of ecstacy. Such are not as the noble-minded Bereans who “received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily …” (At 17:11).

One’s identity as a disciple is not in a colorful assembly, but in a daily thirst for the word of God, and a daily living of that word. Therefore, unless they be misled by the religions surrounding them, Peter writes to clarify the identity of the citizens of the kingdom of God.

A.  Lay aside wickedness.

In order to accomplish their desire to be disciples of Jesus, disciples must do as Peter instructed. “Laying aside”2:1 is from the Greek word that was used when one took off his garments and laid them aside. In this context, Peter exhorts that they discard the old way of behavior in order to live the life of a disciple. They must “cast off the works of darkness” and “put on the armor of light” (Rm 13:12).   James said the same: “Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word that is able to save your souls (Js 1:21).

If we would seek a list of specifics as to what must be “laid aside,” then Paul listed them in the text of Colossians 3:8-10.   Works (behavior) of darkness would be things as anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy speech and lying (See Ep 4:22-31). The list of the works of the flesh go on in Galatians 5:19-21: fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealously, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revelries, and the such like.

A visitor to the coal mining area of eastern America once noticed a unique flower that grew in the midst of the coal mines.   He wondered why the flower was not dirty from the coal dust of the area. So he threw some coal dust on the flower and the dust immediately slide off the pedals of the flower. What the Holy Spirit through Peter, James and Paul was seeking to convey to us is that if we lay aside the old garments of darkness, we too will eventually be citizens in the kingdom where wickedness will simply slide off. We will not be tempted beyond that which we are able to bear (1 Co 10:13). When we have resisted the devil, he will flee (Js 1:7).

B.  Put on Christ.

We must understand that when one puts on Christ, it is as John wrote: “Whoever abides in Him does not sin.   Whoever sins has not seen Him or known Him” (1 Jn 3:6). It is not that putting on Christ is a guarantee against committing a sin.   What John means is that those who abide in Christ are no longer living a life of sin. But those who would continue a life of sin, do not know the One who died for their sins. John clarified this in the following statement: “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 Jn 3:7). The one who is obediently practicing that which is according to the will of God, is righteous because the grace of God is appropriated to his sins. It is the righteousness of Jesus that declares one redeemed. When one has put on Christ in baptism, God puts away his sins through the continual washing of his sins by the blood of Jesus (1 Jn 1:7).

It is not good enough to “put off” wickedness unless we “put on” something in its place. “Putting off” leaves an emotional vacuum. Unless one fills the vacuum, invariably he will return to that which he “put off” (Compare Mt 12:43-45; 2 Pt 2:20-22).

In order to be those from whom wickedness slides off, we must put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rm 13:14).   This “putting on” started the day we came dripping wet from the waters of baptism. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gl 3:27). Those who have not passed through the waters of baptism in order to wash away sins (At 22:16), have not put on Christ. They have left themselves vulnerable to return to darkness. Faith alone is not sufficient to keep one from returning to one’s former way of life. One must actively put on obedience in order to survive the committed life. Those who have obediently dressed themselves in the garment of Jesus Christ, and subsequently walk obediently in the light of God’s commands (1 Jn 1:7), have shielded themselves from darkness.

[Lecture continues tomorrow with point C.]

 

 

3 – Survivor in the Word

 

Because the mystery of the gospel has been revealed, it is a time to “gird up the loins of your mind.”1:13 It is a time for sober living and to “hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”1:13 Our hope is our motivation not to live “according to the former lusts” of our lives that we lived before we became disciples.1:14   Our former life was a time when we “walked according to the ways of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ep 2:2). As God, who is not of the material world, is holy, Christians must separate themselves from worldly living through all holy living that is not of this world.1:15

A.  Live the obedient life.

Peter reminds us that we must be “obedient children.”1:14 The word “obedient” means that we do not live by “faith only.” As disciples of Jesus, we must do something. James asked, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (Js 2:14). The answer to the questions is obvious. “Even so faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (Js 2:17). So James seemingly interrogates the “faith only” person with the question, “But are you willing to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (Js 2:20). And then James concludes with the demonstrative statement: “You see then that a man is justified by works and not by faith only (Js 2:24).

The theological hypocrite is the one who stands up before an audience and proclaims that everyone is saved by “faith only,” but in the next breath he reminds the audience that they must obediently show up next Sunday morning, and especially with their contribution.

Obedience to God’s commands does not assume that we are either saved by works or living legally. It is a condemning doctrine to preach that one is saved by ignoring obedience to what God commands as to do in order to be saved. It is an ungrateful faith to believe that one will enter a final rest for which he did not work. We must remember that God, “without respect of persons judges according to each one’s work.”1:17   And work assumes obedience to commands.   Work assumes obedience in response to grace (See 2 Co 4:15). Therefore, Peter admonishes that his audience must “pass the time of your journey on earth in fear.”1:17

The lazy disciple must remember that we were “were not redeemed with corruptible things … but with the precious blood of Christ ….”1:18,19   If this fact does not motivate faithful obedience, then we are doing as the Hebrew writer stated concerning some of his readers:

Of how much severer punishment do you suppose will he be thought worthy who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted as a common thing the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hb 10:29).

B.  Live in thanksgiving.

The redemptive work of the Son of God was planned before the creation of the world.1:20   Of necessity, redemption from sin had to be planned also in order that we not be able to accuse God of being fiendish in His creation of those whom He knew would separate themselves from Him through sin. There would have been no righteousness in creation if there were no plan in place to reconcile and restore sinners to their Creator. The cross, therefore, was not an accident. When John stated of Jesus, “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him” (Jn 1:11), he was not saying that the Jews’ rejection of Jesus was an accident. The coming of the Son was planned, and the rejection was foreknown. It was God’s plan to use the rejection to accomplish our redemption. If there had been no rejection, then there would have been no cross. If there were no cross, then there would have been no redemption. The cross was thus the eternal plan of God to offer redemption to humanity. Redemption “with the precious blood of Christ”1:19 was not an afterthought of God to bring His creation back into His fellowship.

The redemption came to us through the grace of God. Listen to what Paul said concerning this grace, and what it causes in the hearts of the redeemed:

For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace that is reaching many people may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God (2 Co 4:15).

Grace moved God to give His only begotten Son (Jn 3:16). Our response to God’s grace is our overwhelming thanks, and certainly our giving as He gave to us.   The life of a disciple is a life of thanksgiving. An old Chinese proverb reads, “When you drink from the stream, remember the spring.”   It is as Seneca stated, “Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.” We would be honorable disciples by remembering where we quenched our thirst for redemption through the grace of God.

C.  Live as begotten children.

 In response to the grace of God, Peter’s readers had obeyed the gospel of the death of Jesus for their sins and experienced the resurrection by being raised out of a tomb of baptismal water. We cannot overlook the significance of this example as it is stated in the text of verses 22-25. Peter declared, “… you have purified your souls in obeying the truth ….”1:22   The verb tense of “have purified” is perfect participle. Something happened in their lives in the past that continued with results into the present. That which was continuing was their “sincere love of the brethren.”1:22 This way of life began at a point of time in the past. Peter explains the time in the statement, “having been born again.”1:23 The verb tense here is perfect passive. In other words, they were acted upon at a time in the past.   Some translations use the phrase “begotten again.” We are born free of sin in our physical birth, but sin later enters into our lives (Rm 3:23). So we must be born again in order to live the sinless life under the continual cleansing blood of Jesus (1 Jn 1:7).

Their sanctified life began according to what Jesus stated: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5). Paul used the passive tense of the verb when he reminded the Roman Christians “that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death” (Rm 6:3). When one is born again, he is passively baptized by someone. He is washed passively by God with the blood of the Lamb.   In words of action, one is lowered in a grave of water by someone else, and then cleansed of sin by God who acts upon our soul. And thus, when the repentant believer comes forth from the grave of water, he has obeyed the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for the remission of his sins (At 2:38; 22:16). He is thus born again of the water and of the Holy Spirit.

It is the word of God that reveals this message to us, and thus, Peter states that we have “been born again … by the word of God that lives and abides.”1:23   If the word of God did not exist today, then all men would be ignorant of what one must do in order to be born again. For this reason Peter minds us to be thankful that “the word of the Lord endures forever.”1:25   It is this word that is the medium by which the good news of Jesus’ death for our sins on the cross and His resurrection for our hope is revealed.1:25   It is this word that reveals the eternal mystery of God that has now been revealed (Ep 3:3-5).

We can now understand the prayer statement of Jesus in John 17:17: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” Because “the seed is the word of God” (Lk 8:11), when it is preached it brings forth fruit when people obey the gospel that is revealed through the written word of God. When the word of the gospel is preached, then comes to pass that of which James wrote: “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth …” (Js 1:18).

Christians existed in the province of Achaia because Paul preach the gospel in all Achaia. He later wrote to these disciples that “I have brought you forth through the gospel” which he had preached to them (1 Co 4:15; 15:1-4).   We must never forget the revelation that Jesus stated: “The words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life (Jn 6:63). They are spirit and life because it is through the medium of words that the story of the cross and resurrection are revealed. Not only this, but revealed also is how the repentant believer can join in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus in obedience to the gospel (See Rm 6:3-6).

[Next lecture:  SURVIVOR SPIRITUALITY:  January 16]

 

2 – Survivor Joy

 

Hope for the inheritance that is set before the disciples of Christ should be an occasion to “greatly rejoice.”1:6 If our rejoicing has faded, then we need to be reassured by these statements of Peter and other writers who remind us of that which is promised to those who faithfully survive the struggles of this world. The New Testament writers wrote for the purpose stated by Paul when he pictured the final coming of Jesus and our resurrection: “Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Th 4:18). We need to read more of the encouraging words of our Bible if we are in times of despair. “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rm 10:17).   A struggling faith needs a faithful word of encouragement.

Jesus forewarned His disciples of the suffering that would come as a result of living the life of a disciple. Therefore, He comforted them by saying, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake …” (Mt 5:11).   The occasion for such rejoicing that was spoken by Peter, was spoken by Jesus during His earthly ministry. “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Mt 5:12). We are blessed in persecution because we are reminded of the reward that will be given to all those who survive the persecution of this world.

A.  The suffering will pass.

Peter’s view of suffering is comforting. The duration of the suffering was only “for a little while.”1:6   His readers must suffer the turmoil of the Roman war against the Jewish state. However, during the time of suffering, they must remember that it will soon pass. Paul sought to focus our minds beyond the “little while” of the suffering when he wrote, “For our light affliction that is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Co 4:17). The one suffering must always keep in mind that that which causes the suffering will eventually pass away. Even in comparison to our lifetime, which times are cursed with “trouble and sorrow,” we must remember, as the psalmist said, that our brief life “is cut off and we fly away” (Ps 90:10; see Js 1:10,11).   So we find comfort in the fact that our life “is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Js 4:14).

Our life is simply a brief existence of time between two eternities. In view of this brevity, both Peter and James move us to be encouraged by the fact that our lives are but for a moment in comparison to eternity. And since this is true, then the focus of our brief life should be on that which is beyond life. With the following words, Jesus sought to focus our minds beyond the physical body:

And do not fear those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.   But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt 10:28).

B.  Life is too short to be taken seriously.

When we understand the brevity of life, and the eternal plan of God in the creation of this world, we have reason to rejoice in our sufferings. “Count it all joy,” James reminded his readers, “when you fall into various trails, knowing that the trying of your faith produces patience” (Js 1:2,3).   Some poet correctly stated this truth:

O, trouble’s a ton,

Or a troubles an ounce;

Or a trouble is what you make it.

And it isn’t the fact that you’re

hurt that counts,

But only how did you take it.

As a pilot of our own airplane, I perfected my skills only when I ventured through thunderstorms of nature that tested my ability to fly an airplane. Once on a flight from Miami, Florida on our way to our home in the Caribbean, my family and I had to fly through a tropical depression of many thunderstorms. As we flew through the storms, the rain pounded against the windscreen of the airplane. The airplane was jolted from one turbulent shake to another. For what seemed to be an eternity, we were jostled around inside that small airplane until we finally flew clear of the storms. All my family was quite shaken by the experience, but they had trusted in their father pilot to take them through the storms. And this is exactly what we must do in life. We must always keep the following precious words of the psalmist in mind when we are flying through the storms of life:

 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.   Therefore we will not fear, though the earth is removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling (Ps 46:1-3)

C.  Allow faith to be refined.

Too many Christians want to reach the promised land without going through the wilderness. A tested faith is “much more precious than gold that perishes.1:7 This is true because a faith that is refined with suffering will “be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ”1:7 Our refined faith takes our minds into the heavenly realm wherein Jesus Christ now exists at the right hand of God. It is a faith that allows us to see beyond the confines of our troubled world.

It is our tested faith that allows us to love Jesus beyond the realm of this existence of suffering. It is the nature of the tested faith to “rejoice with joy inexpressible,” regardless of the sufferings through which we must go in this world.1:8   Peter wants us to remember that it is this refined faith that is necessary in order to receive the outcome of that in which we believe and that for which we hope. So he reminds his readers that the outcome is “the salvation of your souls.”1:9

For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Ph 1:29).

 D.  Thank God for your salvation.

It was the mystery of this salvation that sparked inquiry by the Old Testament prophets who were given only pieces of the puzzle that was finally revealed completely through Jesus Christ. They “inquired and searched diligently,”1:10 but were never given the opportunity to see the full picture of the mystery that would be revealed through Jesus (Ep 3:3-5).   It was only through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that they were given pieces of the picture that we now see clearly in Christ. Through the revealed pieces, therefore, “they ministered the things that are now reported” to us, and now written in the New Testament to build our faith.1:12

We must note that before the revelation of the hidden things, all was a mystery. Paul used the word “mystery” in the context of Ephesian 3:3-5 to explain that it was something unknown at one time in history, but later revealed through actual fulfillment in life. Paul wrote, “… by revelation He [God] made known to me the mystery” (Ep 3:3).   There is no longer a mystery of the gospel, for Paul stated that he “wrote before in few words” the fulfillment of that which was spoken through the prophets (Ep 3:3). And indeed he did in statements that defined the mystery as the death of Jesus for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection for our sins (See 1 Co 15:1-4). “Therefore,” Paul wrote, “when you read you can understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men [the prophets], as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy [New Testament] apostles and prophets” (Ep 3:4,5).

[Next lecture:  SURVIVOR BY THE WORD:  January 14]

1 – Survivor Destiny

 

In order to endure tough times, Christians must focus on their spiritual blessings that they have in Christ. In view of the existing circumstances in which Peter’s readers lived, it was time to “count their blessings, and name them one by one.” Because of the circumstances of the times, it was time for the disciples to be reminded of the spiritual blessings that they had in Christ, for it was going to get worse before it got better.

 “Blessed be the God … who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”1:3   The apostles had hoped in Jesus while they were with Him during His earthly ministry. However, their hope was shattered when they stood at the foot of the cross and watched their leader die a painful death which they considered shameful and humiliating. After the crucifixion and burial, the two despondent disciples on the road to Emmaus even said, “We were hoping that it was He [Jesus] who was going to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21). But all hope was lost at the sound of a nail through an outstretch hand. To them, Jesus’ cry from the cross, “It is finished,” were words of finality, not beginning. To the disciples, their dreams in Jesus were finished.

But the cross was only the beginning of the story of their lives. All hope was regained when Jesus came forth from the tomb. All Christians now have a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In contrast to this, the hope of people today who place their faith in their dead prophets is in vain.   What hope can a dead prophet give to those who will follow in his steps to the grave. But not so with Jesus. Our hope lives because He lives. It is for this reason that we do not place our faith in dead prophets, but in the living Son of God.

Because of the resurrection of the Son of God, our hope for an inheritance is specific. It is not abstract, though we cannot realize through our humanly defined words the full extent of that which is beyond our experience. Regardless of the limitations of our dictionary, there are some specifics understood that are enough to lay a solid foundation upon which we can have hope. The Holy Spirit assumes that even with our limited understanding of that which is beyond our experiences, we can have a strong hope that will take us through the most difficult times that can exist on this earth. Peter, therefore, seeks to define in few words the inheritance that is awaiting every faithful disciple.

A.  It is imperishable.

Ours is an inheritance that is not corrupted by the decay that sets in when any organic material of this world dies.   Since our earthly body is organic after this world, it will decay away at death. But the nature of the environment which is coming for all Christians is an enduring immortality. Because we will be in the eternal presence of God who only has eternality, then we will drink from His eternal spirit, and thus, suffer death no more. This is an existence that is not affected by time.   And thus, when Jesus comes, “this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Co 15:53).

So when this perishable has put on the imperishable, and this mortal has put on immortality, then will be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory (1 Co 15:54).

Since that which causes the organic to decay away is gone in the eternal existence that is to come, then we will be in an environment wherein the concept of perishing will no longer exist. We will be able to strike from our dictionary the words “corruptible,” “perishable” and “mortal.” We look forward to an existence that is “reserved in heaven for you.”1:4

B.  It is undefiled.

This reserved inheritance is unstained by that which is of this world. It is unspoiled and pure in comparison to that which we now experience. The Greek word that is translated in the text “undefiled” is also used in reference to the purity of Jesus, our high priest, “who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners …” (Hb 7:26).   John pictured that those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life will go into a realm wherein “by no means will there enter into it anything profane or one who defiles …” (Rv 21:27). The heavenly inheritance is undefiled because those who would defile it will be denied entrance.

C.  It will not fade away.

In the description of the inheritance to come, Peter says that it “does not fade away.”1:4 He uses the Greek word amarantos. The name of the Amaranth flower comes from this word, which name is used by writers to refer to human immortality. And such we will experience in the inheritance to come. We will be immortal beings in the presence of the One who only has eternality.

D.  It is reserved.

Peter’s statement is worded to say that it is not heaven that is reserved. It is that which we receive in the existence of heaven. Those who are in heaven will be blessed with immortality, and thus, away from the presence of those who would defile them. They will not wither away because of the sustaining eternality we will recieve in the presence of God. Those things that curse us in our mortal bodies in this life will not be a part of the eternal heavenly realm of existence to come. We thus seek deliverance from our fear of death with which we are burdened all our lifetime (Hb 2:15). Because of our toil in this world, we look for the eternal rest that is reserved for us in a heavenly environment.

E.  We are kept by power.

In order to inherit that which is reserved for us, we “are kept by the power of God through faith.”1:5 We remember the statement of the Hebrew writer, that our Lord Jesus is now “upholding all things by the word of His power.” (Hb 1:3). Both the world in which we now live, and we ourselves, are kept in existence until this world fulfills its purpose for existence.

The words “kept” and “upholding” indicate that we do not sustain our existence on our own power. The world is not held together by the force of natural laws.   It is God who holds together the natural laws in order to keep this world held together by natural laws. It is He who continues our bodily existence on this earth until our earthly time expires in death. We conclude, therefore, that God did not create the world, and then venture off to a galaxy far away. We are not deist, but of those who have faith that God sustains all that exists in the material and biological world in order to bring His obedient children into the realm of His eternal existence.

It is interesting that the Greek word used here for “kept” can also be translated “guarded.”   It is from the Greek word that means to be protected by a military guard. We are protected by our King Jesus while in this earthly realm of existence. As long as we stay in His realm of protection, we are guarded from the roaring lion who seeks to devour us.   Therefore, “be sober, be vigilant.   Your adversary the devil walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”5:8

[Next lecture:  SURVIVOR JOY:  January 12]

Introduction – 1 Pt

The rewarding experience about studying through the document of 1 Peter is that this letter came forth from the pen of a married man who had led his wife here, there and who knows where throughout the ancient world (1 Co 9:5). We are never informed concerning the name of Peter’s wife, but from his younger days before he was called into apostleship, he had taken a wife before he met Jesus (See Mt 8:14).

We consider what this married man wrote in these two epistles from the perspective of one who is concerned about families in the existing historical turmoil of his latter years. These were not the best of times, but times of apprehension and international turmoil. Over thirty-five years before, Jesus had forewarned His disciples of these times.   They would be times when “nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Mt 24:7).

In writing around A.D. 65, we are only five years away from Rome’s crackdown on Peter’s heritage, the Jews. All his Jewishness was about to be destroyed with the death of over one million Jews during the war against national Israel that culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70.   Regardless of the turmoil of the times, Peter sought to comfort his Jewish Christian readers by reminding them of what Jesus promised: “But he who will endure to the end, the same will be saved” (Mt 24:13).

As all the other disciples of Jesus, Peter’s audience believed the last prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 24 concerning the termination of the Jewish state. When they finally accepted Jesus as the resurrected Son of God, they believed His judgment on Jerusalem:

Do you not see all these things?   Truly I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down (Mt 24:2).

We are sure that these words cut to the heart of the Jewish disciples who had 2,000 years of heritage behind them, specifically 1,400 years of history since they had resided in the land of promise as a nation. But it was all going away, and Peter writes within only a few years of the consummation of national Israel in order to comfort those who would suffer the termination of their Jewish heritage.

So his first words that are directed by the leading of the Holy Spirit are words of hope in the midst of all the political turmoil of the day. In the middle of so much suffering that his fellow Jews were about to endure, Peter sought to give hope in the midst of social chaos. Since they were disciples of the only begotten Son of God, then they must look past the turmoil of the day and rejoice in the victory that they would have over all that is of this world. They would suffer for a brief period, but they would be survivors through the power of the name of Jesus.

We must conclude that there lies behind Peter’s exhortation a plea that his fellow Jews throughout the Roman Empire must stay away from Jerusalem. He writes “to the sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.”1:2   He writes to keep them away from Jerusalem, which some possibly would periodically visit as Jews during the annual Passover/Pentecost feast. But in a few years, Rome would choose this feast time to surround Jerusalem in order to erradicate from the Empire the most radical zealot Jews. Since Peter assumed the ministry of being the apostle to the circumcision (Jews) (Gl 2:7), then we conclude that he accepted the responsibility of watching over his fellow Jews in reference to the coming fulfillment of the prophecy of both Daniel and Jesus concerning the consummation of national Israel (Dn 12). He thus writes to all the Jews who are scattered throughout the Roman Empire to stay home and away from Jerusalem.

We can only identify indirectly with the first recipients of 1,2 Peter, James, Jude and Revelation. These four letters were written specifically to those Jewish Christians who were moving into the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel and Jesus concerning the consummation of national Israel. (Some commentators assume that even Revelation was written with the same purpose.) The consummation of national Israel would turn the world of Jewish Christians upside down.   According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, an estimated 1.1 million Jews across the Roman Empire would die.   We may not be able to fully identify with his slaughter of a race of people, but certainly, the message of encouragement of the Holy Spirit has permeated history to this day.

We must suppose that there were Christian Jews during this “end of times” who were going to suffer greatly as a result of this crack down on nationalistic Jews. If we were there as Jewish Christians, we would have believed Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24. Therefore, we would know that we would have to endure the times because we were Jews.   During the conflict, some Roman soldiers had little desire to separate a Jewish Christian from an unbelieving insurrectionist Jew. Both were going to endure the heat of Rome’s determination to put down the Jewish insurrectionists throughout the Empire.

The Jewish Christians, therefore, were going into great suffering regardless of their submission to the state of Rome.   Rome’s war against the political Israel was against the radicalization of Jewish nationalists. Because the Jewish nationalists promoted a theocratic government according to the Old Testament law, Rome was going to put down any rebellion against Roman government. We understand, therefore, why Peter exhorts Jewish Christians to submit to Roman rule.2:13,14

Christians, on the other hand, did not promote a theocratic state. Nevertheless, Roman soldiers might not make the distinction between the faith of believing and unbelieving Jews. To many Romans, all Jews were insurrectionist terrorists who were working to overthrow the power of the Roman state. The political state of affairs of the time was not much different than today when a theocratic system of religion seeks to overthrow a secular government that promotes the freedom of religion. At the time Peter wrote, Rome allowed the freedom of religion. Though Nero had a personal vendetta against Christians, this was not the policy of the Roman government. What the nationalistic Jews wanted to do, however, was to carve out of the Roman Empire their own theocratic state in Palestine as it was in the days of David. So in the background of what Peter, James and Jude wrote, was this political tension between secular state government and Jewish theocratic religiosity.

In the historical context of Peter’s Jewish readers, it was time to confess that one was a Christian4:16 in order not to be associated with the nationalistic Jews who wanted to set up their own theocratic state that was independent from Rome. In these times one’s confession to be a Christian would possibly save his life. At least this is what transpired during the final days of Rome’s battle against Jerusalem. Confessed Christians escaped death by being allowed to flee from Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, there would come a time after theocratic Judaism had been suppressed that confessing that one was a Christian would mean going to the lions. Nevertheless, during the tyranny of Nero’s rule of Rome that ended with his suicide in A.D. 68, Christians in Rome were intimidated into hiding in the middle 60s. But at the time Peter wrote of things that would come a few years later, Nero would be dead. Galba, Otho and Vitellius momentarily reigned as Caesars of Rome in 68 and 69. The tyranny of Nero’s personal vendetta was gone, and eventually Vespasian followed Vitellius (69-79) and brought relief to the Christians.

This relief from direct persecution of Christians would last until the years of Caesar Domitian. It would be during the reign of Domitian that Christianity would head into its darkest hour of persecution. It would be during these years of persecution that the apostle John, through the book of Revelation, would bring comfort to Christians, who for the next two centuries, would go in and out of persecution. But until that time came, the Christian Jews of Peter, James and Jude’s time needed comfort. They needed to know that God was in control. We could conclude that the Holy Spirit would give Jewish Christians of their day words of encouragement that were relevant to their immediate situation. Many of them would suffer wrongfully during the time of the consummation of national Israel.   Nevertheless, they must remain faithful as disciples of Jesus Christ.

What would be unfair on our part today is to assume that the messages of encouragement that were initially written to the early Jewish Christians somehow bypassed them. We often steal the immediate message of comfort written directly to them by supposing that the Spirit was speaking directly to us today in reference to the end of all things. In other words, some today suppose that when 1, 2 Peter, James and Jude were written, the Spirit was speaking something that was directly related to us today in reference to the coming of the Lord. The Spirit somehow bypassed the Jewish Christians who lived in the middle 60s when their world was coming apart.

If we lived two thousand years ago, and concluded that these letters of encouragement were not written specifically to us, then encouraging statements of the letters would have little reference to our suffering. If we, living two thousand years ago, were to interpret these letters correctly, therefore, then we would have to suppose that the message of the letters had little reference to us as we were going into times of social chaos as a result of Rome’s termination of Jewish nationalism. In reference to the message of Revelation, we would have to ignore the message of the entire book because it would have little reference to our immediate suffering at the hand of the state persecution of the Roman Empire.

It seems that some today are very narcissistic in their interpretation of the Bible in reference to messages of encouragement that the Spirit wrote specifically to give the initial readers of His inspired letters of encouragement in times of international turmoil in the first century.

We must keep in mind that the Jews of the first century were experiencing the end of 2,000 years of heritage. So we must not deprive these Jewish brethren of the direct encouragement of the inspired letters written to them, while we bask ourselves in some end-of-time fantasies that supposedly had no relevance to them.   In fact, when Peter, James and Jude spoke of the “end of all things” and the “coming of the Lord,” we often want to steal from the early recipients of these letters the encouragement the Holy Spirit meant to send to them to prepare for the consummation of their heritage as Jews.

What is the correct view of these letters is the fact that they were written directly to the Jewish Christians throughout the Roman Empire. The message of comfort and encouragement was directly relevant to them in their struggles to endure the end of their Jewish heritage. This does not mean that the message of encouragement is not relevant to us today. Only the historical events of the letters must be relevant only to the initial recipients of the letters.   What the Holy Spirit said to the initial recipients would be the same encouragement He would say to us today if we were in similar circumstances today.

Though the message was directed to saints who lived two thousand years ago, the encouragement is applicable to all saints who have found themselves in similar situations since that time. If the Spirit would deem it necessary to write a letter today to saints who were going into the same circumstances as the initial recipients of the letters, then He would say the same thing. Therefore, all those today who find themselves in similar circumstances as the initial recipients must gain encouragement from what was said to them. The Spirit needs to write no more letters of encouragement. He needs to raise up no more prophets to speak hope to the people.   If people desire encouragement from the Holy Spirit in times of trouble, then they need to study the messages of 1, 2 Peter, James, Jude and Revelation.

In our study of the Spirit’s message of encouragement to those who were suffering through Jewish or Roman persecution, we are cautioned not to twist statements of specific finality in time as a reference to us today in reference to the end of time. In Matthew 24 and Luke 21, Jesus spoke of the “end.” But the context of His prophecy was not the end of the world. It was the end of God’s work through national Israel, which end took take place when Rome finalized Israel in A.D. 70.

Nevertheless, any judgment of God “in time” illustrates His final judgment at the end of the world. We can apply in-time judgments as illustrations of end-of-time judgment because of Jude’s use of the prophecy of Enoch. Jude used the prophecy of Enoch to refer to the destruction of national Israel in A.D. 70. However, Enoch’s prophecy was originally spoken in the historical context of the flood of Noah’s day when God brought judgment on the ungodly by taking them away in the flood (Jd 14,15). But Jude used Enoch’s prophecy in reference to the end of national Israel. We could take the liberty to assume that God will do the same at the end of the world. We do not weaken the power of the judgment of God at the end of time by keeping the original fulfillment of those prophecies that were originally made in reference to events that would transpire in time. All in-time judgments of God illustrate and reaffirm that there is a final judgment to come. In fact, in-time judgments affirm that God does not go back on His promise that the world as we know it is coming to an end.

[First lecture: SURVIVOR DESTINY:  January 10]