Saturday, November 14, 2015

Called to Endurance and Faith, Part 2 (1 Peter 2:13–3:6)

To pick up where we left off, Peter tells us that the reason we are called to “do good” to those in authority who abuse and hurt us is because God wants to use us to “put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15). We should also note that the Greek term found here (agathosune) refers to God’s moral character reflected in us (Mark 10:18). Saints cannot “do good” naturally because, when God is ruled out of the equation, no one does good” (Rom. 3:12). The flesh profits nothing. However, when one is born of God, he takes on the character qualities of God, practicing righteousness—doing good because he is born of God (1 John 3:10).
In other words, Peter calls upon the believers to behave toward those who spitefully use them or abuse them with kindness and gentleness by doing good to them. Good in God is essential, absolute, and consummate. God is the only good. No one can do good who is not of God. Thus, the good that believers do is morally honorable, pleasing to God, and beneficial.
In this fallen world where no one does good, not even one,” how do we account for the apparent goodness around us? The world often puts the church to shame by acts of sacrificial generosity. It takes discernment to understand the root issue, which is, who gets the glory? That is why we are not to be “conformed to this world” but by being “transformed” so that we may, by testing, prove “what is the will of God, what is good” (Rom. 12:2). Why do we do “good”? Is it to promote self or glorify God? “Whoever serves, let him serve by the strength which God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11).
If one retaliates to wrongful treatment, he proves that he is self-driven. When one responds with goodness, he proves that he is empowered by God. David is an example here (1 Sam. 25:9–39). Rebuffed by Nabal’s demeaning rejection of his plea for assistance, David sought revenge in anger (vv. 13, 22). His personal expectation of respect as Israel’s future king had been met with disdain and contempt (v. 10). His pride hurt, David thought that he had a right to retaliate. However, to do so would have tarnished the throne he was to occupy (v. 26) and would have brought dishonor to his God (vv. 31–34). God graciously intervened in the person of Nabal’s wife, Abagail, who did good to her foolish husband by humbling herself to David and assuaging his anger. Abagail saved Nabal’s life by owning Nabal’s folly in her own person. What sounds to western ears as criticism (v. 25) was, to a near-eastern woman, an admission of her own status. In a godly act, she owned that she was the wife of a fool by degrading herself before David. In that, she “put to silence the ignorance of foolish [David].”

Called to Endurance and Faith (1 Peter 2:13–3:6)

How are believers to behave in oppressive, difficult, or dangerous situations for which they are not at fault? Peter tells us that these situations are in the will of God for saints in order for Him to deal with “the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15). Foolish people are those who refuse to give God His rightful place in the order of things (Psalm 53:1). Their ignorance is willful rejection of good due to moral blindness. That ignorance often makes their response to Christians quite hostile. So, how do saints cope with such people? It is by the saints’ continuing to do good. It is to this that they are called (v. 21). Christ Himself is their example. When reviled, He would not match their ignorance. Instead, “He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (v. 23). He accepted the wrong by understanding that God would set it right eventually.
Revelation 13 makes it clear that God is sovereign because “the beast was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.” Satan and his beast-minions are on a leash. They need permission to do anything. Thus, when God allows them to make war on the saints, He has a glorious purpose in their being beaten down and conquered. The saints should not be discouraged by this because Christ was beaten down, and through it He conquered Satan, sin, and death. So, the question is, why does He continue to allow the evil one to make it difficult for saints? John does not reveal the reason for this allowance; he informs that “here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (vv. 7, 10). In their patience and trust, they commit themselves to “Him who judges justly.”
Peter, however, does give us the answer to the question. It is to put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15). As we have stated, the means of doing this is through “doing good.” This is a problem because Paul makes it clear that “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:12, citing Psa. 53:1–3). Psalm 53 states that the foolish person says no to God. He rejects God. He does not want to acknowledge God because he chooses evil. Thus, the psalmist writes that “they are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity.” Corrupters are those who spoil, ruin, and destroy. In Romans, Paul puts it that they have turned aside and become worthless. They are of no use to God’s kingdom, but they make a lot of noise. That is, “there is none who does good.” Good, in this text is a quality of morality that reflects the very character of God. Jesus told the rich young ruler that there is none good but God (Mark 10:18). Only those who are of God do good by being kindly disposed to others, especially those who oppose and abuse them.

(To be continued.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Gospel Obedience (1 Peter. 1:22)

A great deal of confusion arises when grace is emphasized in contrast to law-keeping. Law is looked on by many as being at enmity with grace, and therefore any call to obedience is immediately suspected of being anti-gracious. Returning briefly to 1 Peter 1, we recall Peter’s admonition that we are to be holy (vv. 14–17). God’s people have escaped judgment on their sinful ways through the atoning work of Christ in their behalf (vv. 18–20). The qualification for enjoying this benefit is that one believes (v. 21).
Here is where understanding often goes awry and false conclusions are drawn. Careful attention to the text should clarify things, but how often does one’s preconceived opinions cloud what the text actually says? Does believing the gospel save? Yes, but how? Is faith the activating cause of God’s responding and rewarding the believer with salvation by grace? No, and Peter is very clear on this point. It is Christ’s work that saves, and it is through Christ that one believes to salvation. Reread verses 18–21 carefully. You were ransomed or redeemed (a passive verb). Believers believe because they were ransomed to believe. Thus, every ransomed person escapes punishment for his sins because Christ paid the debt in his stead. Through Christ, the saved believe God for what He did on their behalf. In other words, faith is the evidence of salvation, not the cause of it.
Notice also that grace did not remove the obligation to holy living because each one’s deeds will be judged by God (v. 17). Believers have nothing to fear in the judgment because they are covered by Christ’s blood (vv. 17–21) and because they continue to purify their souls in (Gk. en, “in”) obedience to the truth (v. 22, pointing back to vv. 14, 15).
Now, where do law-keeping and grace fit into this discussion? Right here. Obedience is a work of grace, fulfilling the obligation of the law. How? Peter does not tell us that we are to obey the law, per se, but we are to obey the truth. Obeying the truth results in keeping the law. Read verse 22 carefully again. We purify our souls by obeying the truth unto (Gk., eis) “a sincere brotherly love.” That is how the NT defines law keeping—loving others (Rom. 13:8–11). The one who loves God supremely and his neighbor sincerely fulfills the obligation of the law (Matt. 22:34–40).
A final question remains. What is the truth we are to obey? It is not the law because Peter states that we are to obey the truth unto sincere brotherly love, which is the law (4:8–11). What the truth is is implied in verse 21 with God’s raising Jesus from the dead in order that our faith and hope should be in God. The gospel is the truth we are to obey. We obey by believing and hoping in God’s promise to save us though the death and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1–4). God works through the gospel with great power to transform our lives as we put our whole trust and hope in Him.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Gracious Thing (1 Peter 2:18–25)

     The issue that Peter expounds in these final verses of Chapter 2 is how believers are to conduct themselves when they are suffering unjustly under human authority. Peter has already commanded them to be under submission to institutions ordained for people (v. 13) because doing so is in the will of God (v. 15).
There is a plan that God’s people must understand in order for them to endure suffering and not be discouraged by it. Without this understanding, our tendency is to buckle under the stress of suffering. Although we know that a certain level of trial is beneficial to our character building (James 1:2–4), we assume that God will grant us deliverance as quickly as possible. Our general welfare requires freedom from the stress of the trial. When that does not happen, we are tempted to unbelief, disappointed and thinking that either God was not caring or that we were unworthy.
The fact is God uses suffering as a means to get victory over the evil and bring glory to the Savior. “For to this you have been called” (v. 21). “For what credit [glory] is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” (v. 20). Peter, then, gives an argument to support this thesis.
Christ established this principle in His suffering, leaving an example for all believers to follow (v. 21). Peter is very clear that this suffering has nothing to do with sin, either yours or God’s. Jesus promised to support His own (Heb. 13:6); and He does not lie (v. 22).
Suffering is vital to service. The passage began with the command for servants (slaves) to be subject (submissive and obedient) to their masters in every respect (v. 18). However, we live in a culture that is very sensitive to personal wrongs. We demand justice and recompense, going to whatever lengths needed to insure that the offense is challenged. Christ, on the other hand, teaches us to bear with wrong (v. 23). We are not to repay evil with evil but bless (do good) to those who mistreat us (3:9). Serving with kindness and generosity those who don’t deserve such treatment provokes a response of wonder. Christ served in this way, blessing us with salvation while we were His enemies (Rom. 5:8).
Believers can follow Jesus in this way because we, of all people, should understand what it is like to be on the other side. Christ served the undeserving by taking their sins and enabling them to die to sin and to live unto righteousness (v. 24). That Christ suffered for His enemies ought to continually occupy our hearts with awe and wonder. His suffering made the impossible a reality. Our sin wounds were healed and our desertion from God arrested. We have returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (v. 25). Jesus did all this by entrusting Himself to the just Judge of all the earth (v. 23). We must also entrust ourselves to Him in our suffering.