Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tested In the Prayer Closet (1 Peter 5:5–11)

Have you ever considered prayer as a trial under which you are tested (1:6)? There is no arena under which one’s faith is tested more than in prayer, and when it is thus tested and found to be genuine, it will result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1:7).
Peter has called all believers to holiness of life (1:13–25), which is evidenced in four areas: (1) living stones in Christ’s spiritual house, (2) holy priests offering spiritual sacrifices (2:4–10), (3) honorable aliens sojourning in this vile world (2:11–3:22), and (4) diligent stewards of God’s varied grace (4:1–19). All this is necessary preparation for the final exhortation before us (5:5–11).
In this text Peter drills down on necessary aspects of faith with a list of instructions, all of which pertain to prayer. Citing James 4:6 and 10, he first points to the singular necessary principle for success in every test: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (v. 5b). No one can hope for success in getting answers to his prayers when God opposes him.
While not specifically mentioning prayer, every phrase in this passage involves praying. First, if you want God’s ear, humble yourself before Him (v. 6; 2 Chron. 7:14). Humbling moves the mighty hand of God to lift you up. The hand is symbolic of His great power to deliver His people (Psa. 98:1). Much of our prayer is pleading for deliverance, is it not? Indeed, prayer is an enigmatic work of weak and powerless children through which He moves to act in mighty power. “Summon your power, O God, the power, O God, by which you have worked for us” (Psa. 68:28; Jer. 33:3; James 5:16). Humble, fervent, believing, earnest prayer gets God’s ear and moves His hand in powerful and effective ways. It lifts up and exalts the praying saint and gets glory to God.
Second, the closet of prayer is also the dumping ground for worldly cares (v. 7). Quoting from Psalm 55:22, Peter exhorts the burdened heart to cast or hurl its burden on the Lord. This casting is a participle: being part of the humbling process, it also involves praying. Worldly cares reflect unbelief; they distract and unduly burden the Christian life. These must be given to the Lord. Interestingly, this whole section mirrors James’s instructions on drawing near to God (James 4:6–10).
The great object of our praying is our warfare against Satan (v. 8). We need to take the devil on in the closet, wrestling in prayer (Eph. 6:12; 18–20). We are to “resist him, firm in faith.” We are not alone this, for “the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (v. 9). Jesus defeated Satan on the cross; the saints carry this victory to the prayer closet.
The fruit of this suffering—and praying is suffering—is that “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (vv. 10, 11).

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hospitality (1 Peter 4:9)

In light of the coming end of the age, Peter exhorts his readers to pursue three areas: (1) vigilant and sober praying (v. 7); (2) continued earnest loving of each other (v. 8); and showing hospitality to others without complaint (v. 9). Peter assumes that his readers are already practicing these Christian virtues but urges them to raise them to a higher level. He reasons (vv. 10, 11) that these are spiritual gifts for which all must give an account to Jesus when He comes to judge (1 Cor. 3:10–15; Matt. 25:35). These gifts are indispensable in building the kingdom for the glory of Christ (vv. 16, 17; 1 Pet. 4:11).
Hospitality is a major consideration in the Scriptures because of its importance in advancing the mission of the kingdom. Thus, it is an identifying mark of a true believer. Hospitality is simply welcoming strangers in order to do them good, helping them with needs and encouraging them in their journey (compare Gaius with Diotrephes, 3 John 5–8 with 9, 10; Gen. 18:1–5).
Under the Old Covenant, God’s people were expected to demonstrate the same care for the stranger that the Lord showed (Psa. 146:9). Hospitality reminded them that they were once strangers in Egypt (Ex. 23:9; Lev. 19:33, 34). Very severe judgment was pronounced against Ammon and Moab because they refused to accommodate Israel in their journey (Deut. 23:3, 4). It was so important to God that he required hospitality, among other things, as a condition for their remaining in the land (Jer. 7:5–7).
In the New Covenant era, hospitality serves both a practical and symbolic function. Christian hospitality made it possible for apostles, missionaries, and evangelists to move about safely and conveniently among the churches. Commercial accommodations were rare and dangerous morally and physically (Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2; Phile. 21, 22; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8).
Hospitality is an extension of brotherly love and serves to identify with and welcome other believers as Christ welcomed us (Rom. 15:7; cf. 14:1–3). Eating with others is a way to show love and compassion (Acts 2:42–47). We celebrate the Lord’s Table as a reminder of His cordial welcome of us. Thus, we also are to encourage and help others in their spiritual walk, especially when it is difficult with trials and hardships (1 Tim. 5:10). Paul severely rebuked Peter for showing bias against Gentile believers at Antioch (Galatians 2:11–14). However, vigilance and discernment must also be used. True saints are welcomed, but false teachers and enemies of the gospel are to be renounced (2 John 9–11; Rom. 16:17, 18).
When He sent out the disciples, Jesus designated hospitality as a clear signal of willingness to receive the gospel message (Matt. 10:9–15). He, too, was received by sinners because they were open to hear His message. On the other hand, the Pharisees severely criticized Him for eating with sinners because they refused that message (Matt. 9:11).
Are you eager and willing to welcome others into your home? Do you cherish opportunities to help those who give their lives to advancing His kingdom?