Monthly Archives: January 2022

Stand Firm in the Faith

Because of the incredible blessings you have received

By Spencer D Gear PhD

1 Peter 1: 3-5 (ESV)[1]

Introduction

What would happen to your faith if you were one of the survivors in the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and some of your family died in those house ruins?[2] Christian people were overcome by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.[3] How does faith survive among such devastation?

clip_image002

(photo Indian Ocean tsunami courtesy Wikimedia Commons)[4]

It’s hard to imagine how a Church can survive in Communist North Korea. According to Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted church, there are about 400,000 Christians living in that country . . . and they desperately need our prayers and support.

North Korea is [considered to be ] the most oppressive nation in the world. There is no freedom of thought, speech, expression, movement or religion. It is the utmost restricting and punishing place on the planet.

Being a Christian in North Korea is extremely dangerous and difficult to conceal. One in three people [is a] government [spy]. If you don’t regularly bow down to a statue of Kim Il Sung, it’s noted [by these spies].

About 200,000 prisoners are serving life sentences in labour camps. . . . Prisoners work for up to 18 hours a day. Anyone who talks risks 8 days in solitary confinement in a 0.6m x 1.1m cage. . . . Torture, executions and experiments occur daily.

Many thousands of prisoners are Christians. “Christians are the most severely abused,” testifies Soon Ok Lee, a former prisoner. “In seven years I saw many believers die, yet they never denied Jesus”.[5]

What is it that keeps these persecuted North Korean Christians firm in their faith? (400,000 of them in a country of 23 million, with such severe persecution)

It’s the same kind of faith you will need when you are ridiculed for your faith in Australia. It’s the faith that you need when the going gets tough. In I Peter we find why Christians stand firm in the faith when the trials come.

We hear so little of what is happening to the small Christian church in Iraq. I read recently “that Christians and churches are being seriously affected by the internal turmoil across the country. Not only are foreigners being hijacked, but indigenous Iraqi Christians are also disappearing. [Open Doors] contacts stress that in most of these cases, the kidnappers are not Islamic extremists, but more often are young people trying to make some easy money.”[6]

We find it difficult to identify with persecution like this. What did Jesus say about this kind of situation? “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20 ESV).[7]

Let’s get to our text in First Peter.

B. Why did Peter write this first epistle?

clip_image004 It is a very warm pastoral letter with lots of encouragement for Christians who are scattered and persecuted. I Peter 5:12 states, “I have written to you briefly, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it”.

clip_image004[1] Peter wrote this epistle to believers who were experiencing these kinds of things:

clip_image006 1:6, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials”.

clip_image006[1] 2:21, “For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

clip_image006[2] 3:13-14, “Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”.

clip_image006[3] 3:17, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

clip_image004[2] Do you get the picture? Peter wrote this epistle so that these early believers would “see their temporary sufferings in the full light of the coming eternal glory. In the midst of all their discouragements, the sovereign Lord will keep them and enable them by faith to have joy.”[8]

clip_image004[3] This is a very practical and relevant message for us in Qld. in the 21st century.

As we look closely at I Peter 1:3-5, we are taught to

“STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH: Because of the incredible blessings you have received.”

That’s the title of this message. 1 Peter 1:3-5 teaches us to stand firm in the faith . . .

Firstly, because of the incredible blessings you have received in Christ; and

Secondly, because of your inheritance as believers.

Let’s deal with the first major reason.

STAND FIRM IN YOUR FAITH because of the incredible blessings you have received (vv. 3-5)

In I Peter 2:9, Peter uses this kind of language about the people of God: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (ESV). Through God’s “great mercy”, these early Christians had received blessings beyond anything your boss could offer. Marriage will not give you what God has given.

A business woman’s multi-millions of dollars will look like chicken feed when compared with the blessings of the people of God.

It’s appropriate that Peter begins v. 3 with an exhortation to praise, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Conservative Lutheran commentator, Richard Lenski, writes this: “There is too little contemplation of God, too little praise of him in our hearts, especially in our earthly distress.”[9] Would you agree or disagree? Do we praise God enough? Do we know how to praise Him?

The psalmist did and he encourages us to praise like this:

Psalm 103:1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits –

3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed (NIV)

There is so much to praise God for. Let’s not be slack about it. Peter calls us to praise:

clip_image008 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter is singing the true glory of God when he meditates on God’s great salvation through Jesus Christ. When Peter thinks on the blessings of salvation, he has nothing but praise for God the Father.

By way of application:

Please pause a moment, and think of what you have been saved from. You know your past and what you did and were when in rebellion against God. What did it take for you to be turned around? Could you change yourself? Of course not, if we are talking about deep inner change! Let’s pause a moment for you to praise God for who he is and the salvation that he has brought to your life.

You may have a family member who is:

clip_image008[1] Threatening suicide;

clip_image008[2] Rebellious children who run away, wag school and abuse parents.

clip_image008[3] Parents who are guilt-ridden because they can’t control their kids, kids on drugs, stealing, vandalising, etc.

clip_image008[4] Adultery, broken families, talk of legalising homosexual marriage;

How do you survive as a Christian in these circumstances?

You don’t have to be going through such extreme conditions. You may be persecuted for your Christian convictions. For you, this first epistle of Peter has some exceedingly good news.

Just in case you haven’t remembered what God has done for you through Christ, Peter summarises some of the blessings for us. Surely these are enough to convince us to hold to our faith firmly.

Never forget these blessings that are taught in I Peter 1:3-5.

A. YOU HAVE BEEN CHANGED FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

Look how this inner change is described.

1. Firstly, he has given us new birth

Or, as the ESV translates it, he has “caused us to be born again.” This language is so familiar to many of us who are evangelical Christians that we just gloss over it. Please don’t. What has happened to you, if you are born again, is like going into your mother’s womb again and coming out a totally new person, from the inside out. The image baffled Nicodemus (John 3:3-9). It still puzzles those who have not experienced it.

You have been given new birth because the life of God has been implanted in your soul. This is the whole Trinity in you to give you a new life and a new view of the world. Your heart is filled with new powers, new motives, new thoughts, and a new desire. You are not the same.

It is ours because of God’s “great mercy” (v. 3). God saw us in filth, need and rebellion. He was moved with compassion. Eph. 2:4 says He is a God who is “rich in mercy.” Mercy is God’s compassion for the helpless that results in action to bring them relief. “Mercy is a word specially used in the New Testament of God’s kindness in bringing in the outsider and the unworthy, the Gentile and the sinner, to share in His salvation, and in the glories or riches of His Christ”[10] You can read about it in Rom. 11:30-32; 15:9; Eph. 2:1-7, and Titus 3:5.

Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the hungry crowd. But he did more than that. He provided them with the bread and the fish to eat (Matt. 15:32). That’s mercy.

God saw our wretched state, aliens who would rather shake our fist at God than move towards him. We were rebels. In mercy, he offered us new birth through Christ’s death.

It is a new birth that gives us:

2. Secondly, a living hope (v. 3)

We live in a “no hope” world. If we want to put a person down, we call him a “no hoper.” Just think of what has happened to hope during the last century. Two world wars, Hitler’s gas ovens and the deaths of 6 million Jews, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the atomic age ushered in with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Vietnam War; the killing fields of Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The slaughter in Rwanda, Zaire, Port Arthur, the war in Iraq, and the rebellion in the Middle East. The Indian Ocean tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti.

Some of the adults and young people I used to counsel, who were contemplating suicide, told me they saw no hope in the future. They say life is hopeless and meaningless.

A former federal minister of education, Dr Brendan Nelson, wrote to The Australian newspaper back in 1997. He said:

The thematic currency of youth suicide is our failure to transmit a sense of belonging and meaningful purpose to young people. . . . We have created a culture in which young people frequently feel they have nothing other than themselves in which to believe. The mesh of values that held Australian society together 30 years ago – God, king and country – has been systematically dismantled. . . leaving only a vacuum. . . The price of our shallowness is being paid by our children.”[11]

The hope that people had in the optimism at the beginning of the 20th century is dead in the ashes of wars, crime, violence and high unemployment. When you glory in what human beings can do and achieve, you will be bitterly disappointed, even shattered.

For the believer we have a “living hope.” The opposite, “a dead hope,” is what we would call hopelessness. For the Christian it is a living hope because it is in what God has done. Verse 3 makes it clear what God has done. It is a living hope ONLY . . .

3. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (v. 3).

What’s the big deal about the resurrection? If you read the 643 pp of this book, The Birth of Christianity by John Dominic Crossan,[12] you would learn that

clip_image010 The resurrection of Christ is an “apparition.”[13] An apparition is a ghost, spirit, phantom or vision.

clip_image010[1] “Bodily resurrection has nothing to do with a resuscitated body coming out of its tomb. . . . Bodily resurrection means that the embodied life and death of the historical Jesus continues to be experienced, by believers, as powerfully efficacious and salvifically present in the world.”[14]

So, there was no empty tomb for Crossan. It was a phantom experience, an apparition and is only a religious experience for believers in the present world.

Yet, Dr. N. T. Wright, a British evangelical and former Anglican bishop of Durham, wrote the 817 pp of his book, Resurrection of the Son of God,[15] to refute theories like Crossan’s apparitional view of the resurrection. Wright believes the Bible and is convinced that:

clip_image011The resurrection of Jesus “was the single event through which the world, and Israel, were changed for ever.”

clip_image011[1]“In particular, Luke insists on the bodiliness of the risen Jesus”

clip_image011[2]In Luke 24:36-42, “Every line, almost every word, in this scene demonstrates the point. For Luke, the risen Jesus is firmly and solidly embodied, able to be touched, able to eat.”[16]

So, for N. T. Wright, there was a bodily resurrection of Jesus. The tomb was empty and you could touch the resurrected Christ.

For Crossan, Jesus resurrection was an apparition, a phantom, a vision. What happened to Jesus’ body for this scholar? It “did not undergo resurrection (no Easter) and after his execution, was probably eaten by wild dogs”.[17] That’s what he says.

There is a battle raging in scholarly circles over the resurrection of Jesus. But for many of us ordinary Christians, Christ’s bodily resurrection from the grave needs to be emphasised.

If there was only Golgotha, we would have a dead Jesus, rotting in the grave. It is because of the resurrection that we have a living Saviour and you can become a new person in Christ. It is a hope that will not die because of the one who conquered death. It matters what the resurrection was.

As the Bill & Gloria Gaither’s song proclaims it:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know who holds the future

And live is worth the living just because He lives.[18]

A person once said to me, “I’m going to live it up for all I can get now because I’m going to be dead a long time.” He was dead wrong! You’ll be alive a mighty long time—for eternity—but where you will be, heaven or hell, will be determined by how you respond to the resurrected Jesus in this life.

For what do we hope? What are we looking forward to?

B. AN INHERITANCE (v. 4)

This is why we stand firm when the going gets tough.

This was familiar language for Jewish readers. They had heard lots about the inheritance that God had for his people. Canaan, the Holy Land, was their portion. They were wanderers in the wilderness after coming out of slavery in Egypt. They looked for the Promised Land. After being brought back from Exile in Babylon, they were looking for their inheritance in the Land God had provided.

But the “land flowing with milk and honey” didn’t fulfil Israel’s hopes. They were soon practising idolatry; there was strife between tribes; the land was overrun by invaders. Surely there was something more than this for an inheritance! Was there any lasting hope?

We have seen lots of great things in my Lucky Country of Australia. We have wealth beyond measure. Our natural resources are something to behold. The technology in the land is amazing. The sunburnt country has so much beauty. We have one of the best welfare systems in the world.

But in the midst of this splendour, there is so much ugliness. Surely there is more to yearn for than this land of Australia! Australia or Israel is not the inheritance that the true Church is expecting. Verse 4 says it is an inheritance that

1. Is imperishable

Moths and rats will not eat it up. It will not rust. Thieves will not break in and steal it. No destructive force, natural or man-made, will injure it or take it away.[19] “Unlike any inheritance in this world, it is not exposed to destruction.”[20]

It is an inheritance that

2. Is undefiled

It can never spoil. No stain or stink of sin will be there. It is so pure and lofty. Imagine an inheritance that is worth more, much more, than gold. No contamination from anything related to sin. There will be no brothers and sisters fighting over the will to get their share. It will be unspoiled wealth. The believers’ inheritance cannot be “defiled from outside.”[21]

This inheritance

3. Is unfading

The idea behind this word, says Richard Lenski, is that it is

“never withering, (never) disappointing, (never) becoming old and worn. The delight of it will never lessen or grow stale… Our inheritance will never lose anything through age or sickness on our part or through any damage to itself; it will never be marred by impurity; and it will never lessen in delight because it has been enjoyed for so long.”[22]

Unlike a physical inheritance in this world, it cannot “decay from inside.”[23] But there is more. What makes this inheritance even more remarkable is that the security system is out of this world.

4. It is “kept in heaven for you.” (v. 4)

Literally, it has always been kept and is presently being guarded and will be kept there until you reach glory. God is guarding you. He keeps you safe. What a blessing this is! Please note that this inheritance is:

5. For you through faith (v. 5)

Faith is not to be thought of as some way for earning your inheritance. Never! However, faith in Christ must surely be our response to God’s mercy and love. While our inheritance is kept in heaven for us by God, we, as faithful believers, are living on earth,

6. “Who by God’s power are being guarded” (v. 5).

Did you get what I just said? Your inheritance is guarded by God’s power. God has not left the church without protection in this hostile world. God continuously “guards” the church. Yes, even this church. “Guarded” is an old military term meaning “to garrison.”[24] A garrison is a military post that is permanently established and stays on guard 24 hours a day.

The church is guarded by God’s power every moment of every day.

The psalmist reminded Israel: “[The Lord] will not let your foot slip—he, who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps. 121:3-4); Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

The power of God guarded

clip_image013 Daniel in the lions’ den;

clip_image013[1] Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo in the fiery furnace.

clip_image013[2] It set boundaries around Job when he was afflicted;

clip_image013[3] It freed Peter from Herod’s prison;

clip_image013[4] It preserved Paul when he was surrounded by dangers, hardships and persecutions.

clip_image013[5] The faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11 tells us that, through faith, God guarded those who “were tortured and refused to be released… Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned” (vv.35-37 NIV).

clip_image013[6] However, others were guarded until God took them to heaven: “They were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated” (Heb. 11: 37).

What is being guarded for us?

7. The coming of salvation: ready to be revealed in the last time (v. 5)

We have salvation now that makes a radical personal difference in our lives. But Peter is reminding the church of the final deliverance that will come at the end of the age. There will be horrible persecution and sorrow in the days ahead and just prior to the return of Christ, from Satan’s final assault. Revelation ch. 12 speaks of Satan being cast out of heaven and filled with fury “because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12).

Famous theologian, H. Richard Niebuhr, was on the streets of New York City when he was approached by an evangelist with this question, “Are you saved?” Niebuhr always took people seriously. He paused a moment and gave this thoughtful reply, “I was saved by what Christ did; I am being saved right now; I shall be saved when the kingdom comes.”

We don’t know what the evangelist said. But Neibuhr stated so well what Peter is trying to get across to us: “Salvation spans time. It is grounded in the past; it is experienced in the present; it culminates in the future.”[25]

Without a doubt, we, who believe, have begun to experience a true and great salvation now (Luke 19:9), thanks to Christ’s death on the cross. The joys of salvation come through our daily discipleship (2 Cor. 6:2). However, the absolute wonder and the full dimensions of salvation will not be known until the crowning day of our salvation when Jesus comes again.

When Jesus returns, the church will receive the great deliverance. Salvation will be accomplished then. What a God we have and what a blessing to know that we are guarded by the power of God in this way—in life and through death.

After listening to all this heavenly emphasis, maybe you are tempted to say what Karl Marx said. This is pie-in-the-sky stuff. Isn’t Christianity the religion that is the drug that the ruling classes are using to keep the under-privileged satisfied with their lousy lot? Isn’t this keeping your heads in the clouds so that you don’t have to become involved in solving some of the problems of today’s world?

Of course, this Christian hope can be abused and misunderstood—and it has been. However, it has been the Christians whose hopes have been in heaven who have made a dynamic impact as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Where would we be without committed, evangelical Christians such as William Wilberforce who helped to eliminate slavery from the British Empire. It was George M?ller who helped the orphans in England and lived by faith to receive funding for his ministry.

Another John Howard,[26] besides the former Australian Prime Minister, influenced by the Wesleyan revival, brought about prison reforms in England. Elizabeth Fry continued his work.

William & Catherine Booth founded the Salvation Army and its ministry to the needy has a continuing international reputation. David Wilkerson went to New York City to work with the junkies and help them be delivered from their drug habits through Christ and established Teen Challenge. Where would the welfare of our country be today if the church withdrew its ministry to the hurting people?

Those who have a living hope and know their inheritance is in heaven, never to be spoiled, have most often got their hands dirty in the real world of people and their problems.

Even in this letter of First Peter, Peter has some urgent things to say about life in the present. In chapter 2 he deals with how we are to relate to government and our bosses. Marriage and family come into focus in chapter 3. Chapters 3 & 4 deal with how we should respond to suffering for doing good. This is very down-to-earth stuff for those who are chosen people and a holy nation.

So, what has Peter taught us from I Peter 1:3-5? We know that for persecuted believers, for those of us experiencing very hard times, we can stand firm in the faith because of our incredible blessings. They are:

clip_image015 You have been changed from the inside;

clip_image015[1] You have an inheritance.

You have been changed from the inside by being

a. “given new birth in Christ”

b. And a living hope.

What is that new inheritance that will help you to stand firm? It is the salvation that

a. Can never perish;

b. Never spoil;

c. Never fade;

d. Kept in heaven for you;

e. Through faith;

f. Shielded by God’s power.

Please note v. 3. It is given to believers, not because they deserve it, but because of God’s “great mercy.” And this salvation that we are now experiencing will be fully revealed when? V. 5, “In the last time.” At the glorious unveiling of our full salvation at the Second Coming of Christ.

It has often been said that many Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. That’s not biblical Christianity. Here in I Peter, those who are sure of their inheritance in heaven and have a living hope that longs for their eternal reward, are most actively involved in this present world — through evangelism and practical ministry. You might ask, “Should we focus on this world or the next?” I think the question is wrong. Rather, it should be, “Does your future belong to a human being’s pride and resources or to God’s grace?” Since our future belongs to God’s grace, our lives ought to demonstrate “Christianity with its sleeves rolled up” to the needy – wherever and whenever.

Vietnam’s tribal Christians are under physical and spiritual attack. Two brothers tell us their story, and ask us to stand with them through prayer.

Who is teaching your class? Who else studies with you? Why do you believe in this Jesus?’ The policeman barked his questions at Nate, [the policeman’s] eyes filled with disdain and fury. ‘Help me, Lord!’ Nate prayed, pleading for the strength to keep quiet and not give away any details of the secret Bible classes.

After the interrogation came the second beating – worse than the first. When he’d arrived at the police station, he’d been taken to a room and hit with a wooden club. When Nate refused to talk, the policeman struck out at him again. ‘They hit me over and over again with the club and told me they would beat me to death. One of them kicked me in the groin and then I was hit on the head,’ recalls Nate. I collapsed, falling unconscious to the ground.

Troy tells a similar story.

Nate, Troy and other “Galilee [Bible School]” students from their J’rai tribal group have resolved to keep studying God’s Word. ‘The Holy Spirit has comforted me and helped me to stand firm without fear,’ explains Nate. ‘I am so blessed to be part of the Bible class because I am getting to know Jesus more and more. I will keep studying – even if it leads to my death.[27]

What is it that keeps these persecuted Vietnam Christians firm in their faith? The same inheritance that is yours and mine in Christ, through his vicarious atonement and resurrection. It’s the “living hope” that we have, through Christ’s death and resurrection.

clip_image016

(Movie image courtesy, Voice of the Martyrs)

Notes


[1] Preached by Spencer Gear at Gin Gin Baptist Church, Qld., Australia, 11 July 2004; also at Hervey Bay Presbyterian, 24 June 2007; Maryborough Presbyterian, 7 Feb 2010.

[2] See “2010 Haiti earthquake,” Wikipedia, available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Haiti_earthquake (Accessed 21 January 2022).

[3] See details at Wikipedia, “2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami,” Wikipedia, available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake_and_tsunami (Accessed 21 January 2022).

[4] Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2004-tsunami.jpg (Accessed 21 January 2022).

[5] Open Doors, Australia, “The most punishing place on the planet. . . North Korea,” letter, January 2006. Available from PO Box 53, Seaforth NSW 2092; www.opendoors.org.au; email: opendoors@opendoors.org.au

[6] The Door Openers Club, Frontline, June 2004, Open Doors Australia, P.O. Box 53 Seaforth NSW 2092. Website: www.opendoors.org.au.

[7] Unless otherwise stated, all scriptural quotations are from the ESV (English Standard Version).

[8] Edwin A. Blum, 1 Peter, in Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, p. 213.

[9] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg publishing House, 1966.30.

[10] A.M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter (The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries). London: The Tyndale Press, 1959, 75.

[11] Dr. Brendan Nelson, The Weekend Australian, January 11-12, 1997, 20.

[12] 1998, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

[13] Ibid., p. 550.

[14] Ibid., p. xxxi.

[15] 2003, Fortress Press, Minneapolis.

[16] Ibid., p. 657.

[17] In Crossan, J. D. 2000. A long way from Tipperary: A memoir. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco., p. 133.

[18] Words and Music by William J. Gaither; Recorded by William and Gloria Gaither; ©1971 BMI All Rights Reserved. Words available at: http://www.alighthouse.com/lives.htm [24th August 2004].

[19] Lenski, 33-34.

[20] A.M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter (The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries). London: The Tyndale Press, 1959, 75.

[21] Stibbs, 75.

[22] Lenski, 34.

[23] Stibbs, 75.

[24] A.T. Robertson, Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume VI (The General Epistles and the Revelation of John). Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1933, 83.

[25] Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace, Study Guide for the Book of 1 Peter (Mastering the Basics). Littleton, Colorado: Serendipity USA, 22.

[26] See the article, Wikipedia, John Howard (prison reformer) at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Howard_(prison_reformer) (Accessed 22 January 2022).

[27] Open Doors Newsbrief, July 2004, p. 1

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 22 January 2022.

Abstract Waving Line Particle Technology Background  single line stock illustrationsAbstract Waving Line Particle Technology Background  single line stock illustrations

Abstract Waving Line Particle Technology Background  single line stock illustrations

STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH

Because of the incredible blessings you have received

1 Peter 1: 3-5 (ESV)[1]

A. Introduction

What would happen to your faith if you were one of the survivors in the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and some of your family died in those house ruins?[2]

Christian people were overcome by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.[3] How does faith survive among such devastation?

clip_image002

(photo Indian Ocean tsunami courtesy Wikimedia Commons)[4]

It’s hard to imagine how a Church can survive in Communist North Korea. According to Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted church, there are about 400,000 Christians living in that country . . . and they desperately need our prayers and support.

North Korea is [considered to be ] the most oppressive nation in the world. There is no freedom of thought, speech, expression, movement or religion. It is the utmost restricting and punishing place on the planet.

Being a Christian in North Korea is extremely dangerous and difficult to conceal. One in three people [is a] government [spy]. If you don’t regularly bow down to a statue of Kim Il Sung, it’s noted [by these spies].

About 200,000 prisoners are serving life sentences in labour camps. . . . Prisoners work for up to 18 hours a day. Anyone who talks risks 8 days in solitary confinement in a 0.6m x 1.1m cage. . . . Torture, executions and experiments occur daily.

Many thousands of prisoners are Christians. “Christians are the most severely abused,” testifies Soon Ok Lee, a former prisoner. “In seven years I saw many believers die, yet they never denied Jesus”.[5]

What is it that keeps these persecuted North Korean Christians firm in their faith? (400,000 of them in a country of 23 million, with such severe persecution)

It’s the same kind of faith you will need when you are ridiculed for your faith in Australia. It’s the faith that you need when the going gets tough.

In First Peter we find why Christians stand firm in the faith when the trials come.

We hear so little of what is happening to the small Christian church in Iraq. I read recently “that Christians and churches are being seriously affected by the internal turmoil across the country. Not only are foreigners being hijacked, but indigenous Iraqi Christians are also disappearing. [Open Doors] contacts stress that in most of these cases, the kidnappers are not Islamic extremists, but more often are young people trying to make some easy money.”[6]

We find it difficult to identify with persecution like this. What did Jesus say about this kind of situation? “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20 ESV).[7]

Let’s get to our text in First Peter.

B. Why did Peter write this first epistle?

clip_image004 It is a very warm pastoral letter with lots of encouragement for Christians who are scattered and persecuted. I Peter 5:12 states, “I have written to you briefly, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it”.

clip_image004[1] Peter wrote this epistle to believers who were experiencing these kinds of things:

clip_image006 1:6, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials”.

clip_image006[1] 2:21, “For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

clip_image006[2] 3:13-14, “Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”.

clip_image006[3] 3:17, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

clip_image004[2] Do you get the picture? Peter wrote this epistle so that these early believers would “see their temporary sufferings in the full light of the coming eternal glory. In the midst of all their discouragements, the sovereign Lord will keep them and enable them by faith to have joy.”[8]

clip_image004[3] This is a very practical and relevant message for us in Qld. in the 21st century.

As we look closely at I Peter 1:3-5, we are taught to

“STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH: Because of the incredible blessings you have received.”

That’s the title of my message today. 1 Peter 1:3-5 teaches us to stand firm in the faith…

Firstly, because of the incredible blessings you have received in Christ; and

Secondly, because of your inheritance as believers.

Let’s deal with the first major reason.

I. STAND FIRM IN YOUR FAITH because of the incredible blessings you have received (vv. 3-5)

In I Peter 2:9, Peter uses this kind of language about the people of God: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (ESV). Through God’s “great mercy”, these early Christians had received blessings beyond anything your boss could offer. Marriage will not give you what God has given.

A business woman’s multi-millions of dollars will look like chicken feed when compared with the blessings of the people of God.

It’s appropriate that Peter begins v. 3 with an exhortation to praise, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Conservative Lutheran commentator, Richard Lenski, writes this: “There is too little contemplation of God, too little praise of him in our hearts, especially in our earthly distress.”[9] Would you agree or disagree? Do we praise God enough? Do we know how to praise Him?

The psalmist did and he encourages us to praise like this:

Psalm 103:1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits –

3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed (NIV)

There is so much to praise God for. Let’s not be slack about it. Peter calls us to praise:

clip_image008 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter is singing the true glory of God when he meditates on God’s great salvation through Jesus Christ. When Peter thinks on the blessings of salvation, he has nothing but praise for God the Father.

By way of application:

Please pause a moment, and think of what you have been saved from. You know your past and what you did and were when in rebellion against God. What did it take for you to be turned around? Could you change yourself? Of course not, if we are talking about deep inner change! Let’s pause a moment for you to praise God for who he is and the salvation that he has brought to your life.

You may have a family member who is:

clip_image008[1] Threatening suicide;

clip_image008[2] Rebellious children who run away, wag school and abuse parents.

clip_image008[3] Parents who are guilt-ridden because they can’t control their kids, kids on drugs, stealing, vandalising, etc.

clip_image008[4] Adultery, broken families, talk of legalising homosexual marriage;

How do you survive as a Christian in these circumstances?

You don’t have to be going through such extreme conditions. You may be persecuted for your Christian convictions. For you, this first epistle of Peter has some exceedingly good news.

Just in case you haven’t remembered what God has done for you through Christ, Peter summarises some of the blessings for us. Surely these are enough to convince us to hold to our faith firmly.

Never forget these blessings that are taught in I Peter 1:3-5.

A. YOU HAVE BEEN CHANGED FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

Look how this inner change is described.

1. Firstly, he has given us new birth

Or, as the ESV translates it, he has “caused us to be born again.” This language is so familiar to many of us who are evangelical Christians that we just gloss over it. Please don’t. What has happened to you, if you are born again, is like going into your mother’s womb again and coming out a totally new person, from the inside out. The image baffled Nicodemus (John 3:3-9). It still puzzles those who have not experienced it.

You have been given new birth because the life of God has been implanted in your soul. This is the whole Trinity in you to give you a new life and a new view of the world. Your heart is filled with new powers, new motives, new thoughts, and a new desire. You are not the same.

It is ours because of God’s “great mercy” (v. 3). God saw us in filth, need and rebellion. He was moved with compassion. Eph. 2:4 says He is a God who is “rich in mercy.” Mercy is God’s compassion for the helpless that results in action to bring them relief. “Mercy is a word specially used in the New Testament of God’s kindness in bringing in the outsider and the unworthy, the Gentile and the sinner, to share in His salvation, and in the glories or riches of His Christ”[10] You can read about it in Rom. 11:30-32; 15:9; Eph. 2:1-7; Titus 3:5.

Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the hungry crowd. But he did more than that. He provided them with the bread and the fish to eat (Matt. 15:32). That’s mercy.

God saw our wretched state, aliens who would rather shake our fist at God than move towards him. We were rebels. In mercy, he offered us new birth through Christ’s death.

It is a new birth that gives us:

2. Secondly, a living hope (v. 3)

We live in a “no hope” world. If we want to put a person down, we call him a “no hoper.” Just think of what has happened to hope during the last century. Two world wars, Hitler’s gas ovens and the deaths of 6 million Jews, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the atomic age ushered in with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Vietnam War; the killing fields of Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The slaughter in Rwanda, Zaire, Port Arthur, the war in Iraq, and the rebellion in the Middle East. The Indian Ocean tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti.

Some of the adults and young people I counsel, who are contemplating suicide, tell me they see no hope in the future. They say life is hopeless, meaningless.

A former federal minister of education wrote to The Australian newspaper back in 1997. He said this:

The thematic currency of youth suicide is our failure to transmit a sense of belonging and meaningful purpose to young people. . . . We have created a culture in which young people frequently feel they have nothing other than themselves in which to believe. The mesh of values that held Australian society together 30 years ago – God, king and country – has been systematically dismantled. . . leaving only a vacuum. . . The price of our shallowness is being paid by our children.”[11]

The hope that people had in the optimism at the beginning of the 20th century is dead in the ashes of wars, crime, violence and high unemployment. When you glory in what human beings can do and achieve, you will be bitterly disappointed, even shattered.

For the believer we have a “living hope.” The opposite, “a dead hope,” is what we would call hopelessness. For the Christian it is a living hope because it is in what God has done. Verse 3 makes it clear what God has done. It is a living hope ONLY . .

3. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (v. 3).

What’s the big deal about the resurrection? If you read the 643 pp of this book, The Birth of Christianity by John Dominic Crossan,[12] you will learn that

clip_image010The resurrection of Christ was an “apparition.”[13] An apparition is a ghost, spirit, phantom or vision. His view was:

clip_image010[1] “Bodily resurrection has nothing to do with a resuscitated body coming out of its tomb. . . . Bodily resurrection means that the embodied life and death of the historical Jesus continues to be experienced, by believers, as powerfully efficacious and salvifically present in the world.”[14]

So, there was no empty tomb for Crossan. It was a phantom experience, an apparition and is only a religious experience for believers in the present world.

To the contrary, Dr. N. T. Wright, a British evangelical and former Anglican bishop of Durham, wrote the 817 pp of his book, Resurrection of the Son of God,[15] to refute theories like Crossan’s apparitional view of the resurrection. Wright believes the Bible and is convinced that:

clip_image012 The resurrection of Jesus “was the single event through which the world, and Israel, were changed for ever.”

clip_image012[1] “In particular, Luke insists on the bodiliness of the risen Jesus.”

clip_image012[2] In Luke 24:36-42, “Every line, almost every word, in this scene demonstrates the point. For Luke, the risen Jesus is firmly and solidly embodied, able to be touched, able to eat.”[16]

So, for N. T. Wright, there was a bodily resurrection of Jesus. The tomb was empty and you could touch the resurrected Christ.

For Crossan, Jesus resurrection was an apparition, a phantom, a vision. What happened to Jesus’ body for this scholar? It “did not undergo resurrection (no Easter) and after his execution, was probably eaten by wild dogs”.[17] That’s what he says.

There is a battle raging in scholarly circles over the resurrection of Jesus. But for many of us ordinary Christians, Christ’s bodily resurrection from the grave needs to be emphasised.

If there was only Golgotha, we would have a dead Jesus, rotting in the grave. It is because of the resurrection that we have a living Saviour and you can become a new person in Christ. It is a hope that will not die because of the one who conquered death. It matters what the resurrection was.

As Bill & Gloria Gaither’s song puts it:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know who holds the future

And live is worth the living just because He lives.[18]

A person once said to me, “I’m going to live it up for all I can get now because I’m going to be dead a long time.” He was dead wrong! You’ll be alive a mighty long time—for eternity—but where you will be, heaven or hell, will be determined by how you respond to the resurrected Jesus in this life.

For what do we hope? What are we looking forward to?

B. AN INHERITANCE (v. 4)

This is why we stand firm when the going gets tough.

This was familiar language for Jewish readers. They had heard lots about the inheritance that God had for his people. Canaan, the Holy Land, was their portion. They were wanderers in the wilderness after coming out of slavery in Egypt. They looked for the Promised Land. After being brought back from Exile in Babylon, they were looking for their inheritance in the Land God had provided.

But the “land flowing with milk and honey” didn’t fulfil Israel’s hopes. They were soon into idolatry; there was strife between tribes; the land was overrun by invaders. Surely there was something more than this for an inheritance! Was there any lasting hope?

We have seen lots of great things for those of us who live in the ‘Lucky Country’ of Australia. We have wealth beyond measure. Our natural resources are something to behold. The technology in the land is amazing. The sunburnt country has so much beauty. We have one of the best welfare systems in the world.

But in the midst of this splendour, there is so much ugliness. Surely there is more to yearn for than this land of Australia!

Australia or Israel is not the inheritance that the true Church is expecting. Verse 4 says it is an inheritance that

1. Is imperishable

Moths and rats will not eat it up. It will not rust. Thieves will not break in and steal it. No destructive force, natural or made by human beings, will injure it or take it away.[19] “Unlike any inheritance in this world, it is not exposed to destruction.”[20]

It is an inheritance that

2. Is undefiled

It can never spoil. No stain or stink of sin will be there. It is so pure and lofty. Imagine an inheritance that is worth more, much more, than gold. No contamination from anything related to sin. There will be no brothers and sisters fighting over the will to get their share. It will be unspoiled wealth. The believers’ inheritance cannot be “defiled from outside.”[21]

This inheritance

3. Is unfading

The idea behind this word, says Richard Lenski, is that it is

“never withering, (never) disappointing, (never) becoming old and worn. The delight of it will never lessen or grow stale… Our inheritance will never lose anything through age or sickness on our part or through any damage to itself; it will never be marred by impurity; and it will never lessen in delight because it has been enjoyed for so long.”[22]

Unlike a physical inheritance in this world, it cannot “decay from inside.”[23] But there is more. What makes this inheritance even more remarkable is that the security system is out of this world.

4. It is “kept in heaven for you.” (v. 4)

Literally, it has always been kept and is presently being guarded and will be kept there until you reach glory. God is guarding you. He keeps you safe. What a blessing this is!

Please note that this inheritance is:

5. For you through faith (v. 5)

Faith is not to be thought of as some way for earning your inheritance. Never! However, faith in Christ must surely be our response to God’s mercy and love.

While our inheritance is kept in heaven for us by God, we, as faithful believers, are living on earth,

6. “Who by God’s power are being guarded” (v. 5).

Did you grasp what I just said? Your inheritance is guarded by God’s power. God has not left the church without protection in this hostile world. God continuously “guards” the church. Yes, even this church. “Guarded” is an old military term meaning “to garrison.”[24] A garrison is a military post that is permanently established and stays on guard 24 hours a day.

The church is guarded by God’s power every moment of every day.

The psalmist reminded Israel: “[The Lord] will not let your foot slip—he, who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps. 121:3-4); Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

The power of God guarded . . .

clip_image014Daniel in the lions’ den;

clip_image014[1]Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo in the fiery furnace.

clip_image014[2]It set boundaries around Job when he was afflicted;

clip_image014[3]It freed Peter from Herod’s prison;

clip_image014[4]It preserved Paul when he was surrounded by dangers, hardships and persecutions.

clip_image014[5]The faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11 tells us that, through faith, God guarded those who “were tortured and refused to be released. . . . Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned” (vv.35-37 NIV).

clip_image014[6]However, others were guarded until God took them to heaven: “They were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated” (Heb. 11: 37).

What does it mean to be guarded for us?

7. The coming of salvation: ready to be revealed in the last time (v. 5)

We have salvation now that makes a radical personal difference in our lives. But Peter is reminding the church of the final deliverance that will come at the end of the age. There will be horrible persecution and sorrow in the days ahead and just prior to the return of Christ, from Satan’s final assault. Revelation ch. 12 speaks of Satan being cast out of heaven and filled with fury “because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12).

Famous theologian, H. Richard Niebuhr, was on the streets of New York City when he was approached by an evangelist with this question, “Are you saved?” Niebuhr always took people seriously. He paused a moment and gave this thoughtful reply, “I was saved by what Christ did; I am being saved right now; I shall be saved when the kingdom comes.”

We don’t know what the evangelist said. But Neibuhr stated so well what Peter is trying to get across to us: “Salvation spans time. It is grounded in the past; it is experienced in the present; it culminates in the future.”[25]

Without a doubt, we, who believe, have begun to experience a true and great salvation now (Luke 19:9), thanks to Christ’s death on the cross. The joys of salvation come through our daily discipleship (2 Cor. 6:2). However, the absolute wonder and the full dimensions of salvation will not be known until the crowning day of our salvation when Jesus comes again.

When Jesus returns, the church will receive the great deliverance. Salvation will be accomplished then.

What a God we have and what a blessing to know that we are guarded by the power of God in this way—in life and through death.

After listening to all this heavenly emphasis, maybe you are tempted to say what Karl Marx said. This is pie-in-the-sky stuff. Isn’t Christianity the religion that is the drug that the ruling classes are using to keep the under-privileged satisfied with their lousy lot? Isn’t this keeping your heads in the clouds so that you don’t have to become involved in solving some of the problems of today’s world?

Of course, this Christian hope can be abused and misunderstood—and it has been. However, it has been the Christians whose hopes have been in heaven who have made a dynamic impact as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Where would we be without committed, evangelical Christians such as William Wilberforce who helped to eliminate slavery from the British Empire. It was George M?ller who helped the orphans in England and lived by faith to receive funding for his ministry.

Another John Howard, besides Australia’s former Prime Minister, influenced by the Wesleyan revival, brought about prison reforms in England. Elizabeth Fry continued his work.

In 1774, [John Howard’s] evidence to a House of Commons committee [in the UK] led to two Acts which aimed to improve conditions in gaols. His published writings on the subject were widely read and his detailed accounts of inhumane conditions caused dismay.

He advocated a system of state-controlled prisons in which the regime was tough, but the environment healthy. In 1779 the Penitentiary Act authorised the construction of two prisons in accordance with his own theories.

He advocated a regime of solitary confinement, hard labour and religious instruction. The objective of imprisonment, he believed, was reform and rehabilitation, not just punishment.[26]

William & Catherine Booth founded the Salvation Army and its ministry to the needy has a continuing international reputation.

David Wilkerson went to New York City to work with the junkies and help them be delivered from their drug habits through Christ and established Teen Challenge. Where would the welfare of our country be today if the church withdrew its ministry to the hurting people?

Those who have a living hope and know their inheritance is in heaven, never to be spoiled, have most often got their hands dirty in the real world of people and their problems.

Even in this letter of First Peter, Peter has some urgent things to say about life in the present. In chapter 2 he deals with how we are to relate to government and our bosses. Marriage and family come into focus in chapter 3. Chapters 3 & 4 deal with how we should respond to suffering for doing good. This is very down-to-earth stuff for those who are chosen people and a holy nation.

So, what has Peter taught us from I Peter 1:3-5? We know that for persecuted believers, for those of us experiencing very hard times, we can stand firm in the faith because of our incredible blessings. They are:

clip_image016 You have been changed from the inside;

clip_image016[1] You have an inheritance.

You have been changed from the inside by being

a. “given new birth in Christ”

b. And a living hope.

What is that new inheritance that will help you to stand firm? It is the salvation that

a. Can never perish;

b. Never spoil;

c. Never fade;

d. Kept in heaven for you;

e. Through faith;

f. Shielded by God’s power.

Please note v. 3. It is given to believers, not because they deserve it, but because of God’s “great mercy.”

And this salvation that we are now experiencing will be fully revealed when? V. 5, “In the last time.” This will be at the glorious unveiling of our full salvation at the Second Coming of Christ.

It has often been said that many Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. That’s not biblical Christianity.

Here in I Peter, those who are sure of their inheritance in heaven and have a living hope that longs for their eternal reward, are most actively involved in this present world — through evangelism and practical ministry. You might ask, “Should we focus on this world or the next?” I think the question is wrong. Rather, it should be, “Does your future belong to a human being’s pride and resources or to God’s grace?” Since our future belongs to God’s grace, our lives ought to demonstrate “Christianity with its sleeves rolled up” to the needy – wherever and whenever.

“Vietnam’s tribal Christians are under physical and spiritual attack. Two brothers tell us their story, and ask us to stand with them through prayer.

“‘Who is teaching your class? Who else studies with you? Why do you believe in this Jesus?’ The policeman barked his questions at Nate, [the policeman’s] eyes filled with disdain and fury. ‘Help me, Lord!’ Nate prayed, pleading for the strength to keep quiet and not give away any details of the secret Bible classes.

“After the interrogation came the second beating – worse than the first. When he’d arrived at the police station, he’d been taken to a room and hit with a wooden club. When Nate refused to talk, the policeman struck out at him again. ‘They hit me over and over again with the club and told me they would beat me to death. One of them kicked me in the groin and then I was hit on the head,’ recalls Nate. I collapsed, falling unconscious to the ground.'”

Troy tells a similar story.

“Nate, Troy and other “Galilee [Bible School]” students from their J’rai tribal group have resolved to keep studying God’s Word. ‘The Holy Spirit has comforted me and helped me to stand firm without fear,’ explains Nate. ‘I am so blessed to be part of the Bible class because I am getting to know Jesus more and more. I will keep studying – even if it leads to my death.”[27]

What is it that keeps these persecuted Vietnamese Christians firm in their faith? The same inheritance that is yours and mine in Christ, through His vicarious atonement and resurrection. It’s the “living hope” that we have, through Christ’s death and resurrection.

clip_image018

(Street in Vietnam, courtesy Open Doors)[28]

Notes


[1] Preached by Spencer Gear at Gin Gin Baptist Church, Gin Gin, Qld., 11 July 2004; it also was preached at Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church, 24 June 2007; and at Maryborough Presbyterian, 7 Feb 2010.

[2] See “2010 Haiti earthquake,” Wikipedia, available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Haiti_earthquake (Accessed 21 January 2022).

[3] See details at Wikipedia, “2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami,” Wikipedia, available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake_and_tsunami (Accessed 21 January 2022).

[4] Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2004-tsunami.jpg (Accessed 21 January 2022).

[5] Open Doors, Australia, “The most punishing place on the planet. . . North Korea,” letter, January 2006. Available from PO Box 53, Seaforth NSW 2092; www.opendoors.org.au; email: opendoors@opendoors.org.au

[6] The Door Openers Club, Frontline, June 2004, Open Doors Australia, P.O. Box 53 Seaforth NSW 2092. Website: www.opendoors.org.au.

[7] Unless otherwise stated, all scriptural quotations are from the ESV (English Standard Version).

[8] Edwin A. Blum, 1 Peter, in Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, p. 213.

[9] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg publishing House, 1966.30.

[10] A.M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter (The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries). London: The Tyndale Press, 1959, 75.

[11] Dr. Brendan Nelson, The Weekend Australian, January 11-12, 1997, 20.

[12] 1998, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. I studied the book for my PhD dissertation.

[13] Ibid., p. 550.

[14] Ibid., p. xxxi.

[15] 2003, Fortress Press, Minneapolis.

[16] Ibid., p. 657.

[17] In Crossan, J. D. 2000. A long way from Tipperary: A memoir. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco., p. 133.

[18] Words and Music by William J. Gaither; Recorded by William and Gloria Gaither; ©1971 BMI All Rights Reserved. Words available at: http://www.alighthouse.com/lives.htm [24th August 2004].

[19] Lenski, 33-34.

[20] A.M. Stibbs, 75.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Lenski, 34.

[23] Stibbs, 75.

[24] A.T. Robertson, Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume VI (The General Epistles and the Revelation of John). Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1933, 83.

[25] Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace, Study Guide for the Book of 1 Peter (Mastering the Basics). Littleton, Colorado: Serendipity USA, 22.

[26] UK Parliament, “John Howard and prison reform.” Available at: https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/laworder/policeprisons/overview/prisonreform/ (Accessed 21 January 2022).

[27] Open Doors Newsbrief, July 2004, p. 1

[28] Available at: https://opendoors.org.au/world-watch-list/vietnam/ (Accessed 21 January 2022).

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 January 2022.

Line clip art free

Introduction to 1 Peter

Prepared by Spencer D. Gear PhD[1]

clip_image001

1.   INTRODUCTION

Have you witnessed to people about your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and experienced these kinds of reactions? “I don’t want to listen to that nonsense. You’ve got to be joking. Just take a look at all those religious paedophiles who have sexually abused children placed in their trust. Especially after the Royal Commission into sexual abuse,” OR

clip_image002 “Christian! Huh! Hypocrites, that’s all they are. Remember Jimmy Swaggart and his prostitute? Jim Bakker, high flying TV evangelist jailed for 45 years for fraud – and of course, there was adultery by that person? Don’t mention the church to me.” OR

clip_image002[1] How can I believe in your God of love with so much evil in the world? Hitler and your God allowed all that! Saddam Hussein & what he did to Iraq.

In the language of some of the kids I counselled in the 17 years before I retired, “Life sucks.” You may get to the point of asking yourself, “Is it worth it? I should chuck this in.”

For those who are tempted to chuck it in, this Book of I Peter has some profound things to teach, to encourage you to keep on keeping on, and NOT to give up when the going gets tough.

Before we examine this wonderful encouragement, we need to note:

2. SOME THINGS ABOUT THE BOOK OF 1 PETER [2]

clip_image003First verse, it claims to be from “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1). Sounds pretty straight-forward. Peter the Apostle wrote it. Yet some liberal scholars promote the view “that First Peter is a pseudonymous [false] work of the post-Apostolic Age . . . [Peter] could not have written the letter.”[3] Why do they claim this is not the apostle Peter who wrote, but a person who falsely used the name of Peter? Because these scholars want us to believe that the “persecutions mentioned in the book” are “those of the reign of [Roman Emperor] Trajan (ca. AD 98-117).”[4]

clip_image003[1]If we make the writing as late as during the reign of Trajan, it would be 70-90 years after the death of Christ and Peter could not have written the book, as he was probably dead and gone. Then somebody from the early church, not the real Peter, wrote the book, and claimed he was Peter.

clip_image003[2]NO, NO, NO! This Peter, 1 Peter 5:1 says, was the one who was “a witness of the sufferings of Christ.” This is no fake Peter, but the apostle Peter, who was Christ’s apostle, denied him 3 times, and was there as an eyewitness of Christ’s death. Why do these liberal theologians invent such things? Here is a link to the non-canonical, apocryphal Gospel of Peter (Raymond Brown translation).

clip_image003[3]In 1 Peter 5:12, he wrote it “with the help of Silas/Silvanus . . . a faithful brother.” This is probably the Silas of Acts 15:22; 1 Thess. 1:1;

clip_image003[4]When was this book written? If you read 2 Peter 3:1, it speaks of “This is now my second letter to you.” Perhaps this is referring back to 1 Peter as the first letter. There’s a writing from the early church called I Clement (5:4-7), written by Clement of Rome to the Corinthian church, written about A.D. 96.[5] It speaks of Peter and Paul suffering persecution.[6]

clip_image003[5]http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/e-catena/ church fathers allusions.

clip_image003[6]Why could these early church fathers not give us a chapter and verse from 1 Peter? Why did they simply refer to the content without any mention of which verse it appeared in?

There’s a simple reason. What could it be?

3. THEMES [7]

Although 1 Peter is a short letter, it touches on various doctrines and has much to say about Christian life and duties. It is not surprising that different readers have found it to have different principal themes. For example, it has been characterized as:

clip_image004clip_image002[2] a letter of separation,

clip_image002[3] of suffering and persecution,

clip_image002[4] of suffering and glory,

clip_image002[5] of hope,

clip_image002[6] of pilgrimage,

clip_image002[7] of courage,

clip_image002[8] and as a letter dealing with the true grace of God. Peter says that he has written “encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God” (5:12). This is a definitive general description of the letter, but it does not exclude the recognition of numerous subordinate and contributory themes. The letter includes a series of exhortations (imperatives) that run from 1:13 to 5:11.

4. Compare verses in 1 Peter with some statements I’ll read.

I would like you to compare what I read with verses in 1 Peter. Read . . .

1 Peter 1:6-8 (NIV):

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 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’.

How does that compare with this quote?

[8][. . . .] Though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than that of gold which perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ; whom, having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see Him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Do any of you have any idea where that quote came from? Does it sound anything like 1 Peter 1:6-8?

It was by Clement of Alexandria Stromata Book IV, ch 20.[9]

Clement of Alexandria

clip_image005

Clement depicted in 1584

In Book 4, ch 2, Clement explained what Stromata means: “As the name itself indicates, patched together — passing constantly from one thing to another, and in the series of discussions hinting at one thing and demonstrating another.”[10]

When did Clement of Alexandria live? He was born AD 150 in Athens and died between 211 and 215.[11]

I deliberately left out something at the beginning of that quote. It reads: ‘[12][Peter in his Epistle states]: Though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations.

So as early as the late second century, Clement of Alexandria was quoting the Epistle of Peter, naming it as from Peter, and we now know it was from 1 Peter 1:6-8.

1 Peter 1:8

Read v. 8 again (NIV): ‘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’.

How does that verse compare with this quote?

In whom, though now ye see Him not, ye believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Saint Polycarp

clip_image006
Martyr, Church Father and Bishop of Smyrna

That’s from the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians. Polycarp was a bishop at Smyrna. Where’s that? It was on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor (Turkey).

clip_image008clip_image010Smyrna, shown within Turkey on the Aegean Ocean line.

One of Polycarp’s famous quotes is from when the fire was about to be lit. He said: “When they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, Leave me as I am; for He that gives me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, “The funeral pile is erected,” ch. 13).

His martyrdom was the first after the time of the NT and he was in his 80s when he died.

When did Polycarp live? His age span was AD 69-156.[13] He was very close to the time of the original 12 apostles. Encyclopaedia Britannica states of him:

Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians is doubly important for its early testimony to the existence of various other New Testament texts. It probably is the first to quote passages from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and the first letters of St. Peter and St. John.[14]

I wonder if we would have the same courage as Polycarp if we were faced with being a martyr for our faith:

Because he was born in 69 A.D., as a young man he knew the Apostle John and his faith grew from there. The local magistrate is reluctant to kill him but has no choice when Polycarp refuses to deny Christ.

In Polycarp’s famous words before his martyrdom, he stated: “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?” (New Advent, “The Martyrdom of Polycarp,” ch. 9)

Polycarp was sentenced to be burned. As he waited for the fire to be lit, he prayed:

“Lord God Almighty, Father of your blessed and beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in your presence:

“I bless you that you have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit.

“Among them may I be accepted before you today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as you, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved child, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.”[15]

1 Peter 1:8

There is something different about this quote from another of the church fathers. What is it? Listen carefully.

And this it is which has been said also by Peter: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom now also, not seeing, ye believe; and believing, ye shall rejoice with joy unspeakable.”

That citation is from Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V.

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon (in what is France today) born c. 120, /140, Asia Minor—died c. 200, /203, probably in Lyon.[16]

What is stated here that was not in the other 2 quotes from the church fathers? Answer: The name of ‘Peter’.

Question: Why would I raise these parallels between today’s Bible (1 Peter) & the early church writers quoting 1 Peter?

Answers:

1. They show that the early church fathers quoted from Bible books even though they weren’t in a combined canon of Scripture. When were the 27 books of the NT formed into a single NT?

‘The first time a church council ruled on the list of “inspired” writings allowed to be read in church was at the Synod of Hippo [called Annaba, Algeria today] in 393 AD. No document survived from this council – we only know of this decision because it was referenced at the third Synod of Carthage in 397 AD’.[17] Today, Carthage is on the Mediterranean Sea of northern Tunisia.

2. How the individual books of the Bible came to be accepted as a collection of books inspired by God took 2-3 centuries. But as early as Polycarp in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries, a disciple of John, quoted from a number of books.

3. Why did some of these early writers after the NT not refer to the name of Peter and exactly which chapter and verse they referred to?

There’s a wonderful website that gives brief answers to most doctrinal questions. It’s called Got Questions? Beware that it is Calvinistic in tone. This is how this website explained the reasons why early church fathers could not quote chapter and verse:[18]

Question: “Who divided the Bible into chapters and verses? Why and when was it done?”
Answer:
When the books of the Bible were originally written, they did not contain chapter or verse references. The Bible was divided into chapters and verses to help us find Scriptures more quickly and easily. It is much easier to find “John chapter 3, verse 16” than it is to find “for God so loved the world. . . .” In a few places, chapter breaks are poorly placed and as a result divide content that should flow together. Overall, the chapter and verse divisions are very helpful.


The chapter divisions commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place around A.D. 1227. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern. Since the Wycliffe Bible, nearly all Bible translations have followed Langton’s chapter divisions.

The Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan in A.D. 1448. Robert Estienne, who was also known as Stephanus, was the first to divide the New Testament into standard numbered verses in 1555. Stephanus essentially used Nathan’s verse divisions for the Old Testament. Since that time, beginning with the Geneva Bible, the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions.

clip_image011 Peter says that he wrote the book from “Babylon” (5:13). Among the interpretations that have been suggested are that he was writing from

(1) Egyptian Babylon, which was a military post, (2) Mesopotamian Babylon, (3) Jerusalem and (4) Rome. Peter may well be using the name Babylon symbolically, as it seems to be used in the book of Revelation (see Rev 14:8; 17:9–10 and notes). Tradition connects him in the latter part of his life with Rome, and certain early writers held that 1 Peter was written there.

Who received this letter? Verse 1, “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” These were cities in northern Asia Minor, what is known as Turkey today. It was written to God’s people who were scattered, for some reason, across Turkey. If you read 1 Peter 4: 3-4, it suggests that these believers had probably “been converted out of paganism rather than out of Judaism.”[19]

First Peter 4:3 states, ” For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery,[20] lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.”[21]

This probably refers to the persecution under Emperor Nero[22] of Rome following the fire that destroyed Rome in AD 64. 1 Peter “was probably written from Rome shortly before Nero’s great persecution — that is, in 62-64.”[23]

clip_image011[1]Why did Peter write this letter?

It is a very warm pastoral letter with lots of encouragement for Christians who are scattered. I Peter 5:12, ”I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”

clip_image013 These Christians shared a common faith;

clip_image013[1] But they faced common problems. Their basic problem was that they lived in a society that was ignorant of the true and living God. What country does that sound like today?

clip_image013[2] As Christians, they would be misunderstood and given some cruel treatment;

clip_image013[3] Peter wrote this epistle so that these early believers would “see their temporary sufferings in the full light of the coming eternal glory. In the midst of all their discouragements, the sovereign Lord will keep them and enable them by faith to have joy.”[24]

clip_image013[4] This is a very practical and relevant message for us in Queensland and around the world in the 21st century.

clip_image015

Notes


[1] Prepared on 11 February 2019. Some of the material is taken from my sermon online, 1 Peter 1:1-2, Don’t chuck it in because of who you are as the people of God. (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[2] These points are based on: Edwin A. Blum, 1 Peter, in Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, p. 210-213.

[3] Ibid., pp. 210-211.

[4] Ibid., p. 211. B. C. Caffin states that Peter “must have written before the outbreak of any systematic attempt to crush out Christianity, or any legalized persecution such as that under Trajan. Judgment was about to begin at the house of God (ch. iv.17)”, I Peter, The Pulpit Commentary, Spence H.D.M. & Exell, J. S. (eds.), (Vol. 22), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1950, p. viii.

[5] F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture. Glasgow: Chapter House, 1988, p. 121, gives these details.

[6] Blum, p. 212.

[7] This section is from Biblica 2011-2019, 1 Peter (online), NIV Study Bible. Available at: https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-1-peter/ (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[8] This segment began with the words: ‘Peter in his Epistle says, . .’

[9] Also available at New Advent 2017 at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02104.htm (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[10] New Advent 2017. Stromata (online, Bk4, ch 2. Available at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02104.htm (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[11] From Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019 (s.v. Saint Clement of Alexandria). Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Clement-of-Alexandria (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[12] This segment began with the words: ‘Peter in his Epistle says, . . .’

[13] Ibid.

[14] Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Saint Polycarp. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Polycarp (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[15] Cited in Landon Meadow 2016. God’s gift is given through Christ. Leaf Chronicle (online), 10 June. Available at: https://www.theleafchronicle.com/story/news/2016/06/11/message-gods-gift-given-christ/85663344/ (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[16] Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Saint Irenaeus. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Irenaeus (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[17] R A Baker 2008. How the New Testament canon was formed. www.churchhistory101.com. Available at: https://www.churchhistory101.com/docs/New-Testament-Canon.pdf (Accessed 12 February 2019).

[18] Got Questions Ministries 2002-2019. Who divided the Bible into chapters and verses? Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/divided-Bible-chapters-verses.html (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[19] Ibid.

[20] “Debauchery” means “excessive indulgence in sex, alcohol, or drugs” (Oxford English Dictionary 2022. debauchery), available at: Excessive indulgence in sex, alcohol, or drugs (Accessed 16 January 2022).

[21] This section is from the NIV Study Bible’s introduction to 1 Peter. Biblica 2011-2019, 1 Peter (online). Available at: https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-1-peter/ (Accessed 11 February 2019).

[22] Caffin’s view is that “all this seems to point to the time of the Neronian persecution. Before that date, we gather from St. Paul’s Epistles, there was no actual persecution in Asia Minor” (p. viii).

[23] Blum, p. 212.

[24] Ibid., p. 213.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 January 2022.

STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH[1]

PAKISTAN: Supreme Court Grants Bail for Christian Accused of Blasphemy

(image courtesy Voice of the Martyrs, Australia)

12 January 22 | All Posts, I Commit To Pray, News

(I Peter 1:1-2)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Bible Reading:

NIV, 1 Peter 1:1-12

1. INTRODUCTION

For the first time, North Korea [has] replaced Saudi Arabia as the country where Christians are most severely persecuted, according to the recent “World Watch List” released by Open Doors on August 9, [2004]. . . .

“For years, Saudi Arabia has held the top spot on the list. The desert kingdom, which sees itself as the guardian of Islam and its sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, requires all [of] its citizens to be Muslims. A Saudi who converts to another religion faces the death penalty for apostasy.

“But growing evidence of severe oppression in North Korea has confirmed what many observers have believed for years, that the communist dictatorship of Kim Jong Il stops at nothing to eradicate all belief systems other than the worship of Kim himself and his deceased father, Kim Il Sung. Both father and son have made every attempt to purge the land of Christians.

“Nevertheless, the church has survived in North Korea. Christian refugees escaping North Korea’s devastating famine have told of small house churches. They rarely number more than 10 individuals, often including only family members for security. One refugee told of how a house church of 20-30 people simply disappeared in [the year] 2000.

“In relative terms, however, it doesn’t matter who is ranked number one on the list,” an observer said. “The conditions facing a Saudi or North Korean Christian are unimaginable for those of us in the West.”[2]

In case you are interested, Open Doors rated the top ten countries for persecuting Christians [in 2004] as: North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Vietnam, Turkmenistan, Maldives [Islands in the northern Indian Ocean towards India], Bhutan [near Nepal, north of Bangladesh], Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia [north Africa, near the mouth of Red Sea, E of Ethiopia].[3] China ranks at no. 12.

In 2020, Christianity Today listed:

Where It’s Hardest to Follow Jesus:
1. North Korea
2. Afghanistan
3. Somalia
4. Libya
5. Pakistan
6. Eritrea
7. Sudan
8. Yemen
9. Iran
10. India
[4]

If you were sending a Christian letter to encourage churches in North Korea that are severely persecuted, how would you begin your letter and what would you say? G’day, mate, how’s it going? OR, Greetings brothers and sisters in the Lord? How would you commence a letter to those who were being thrown into prison or prison camps and severely treated for their faith? [I’ll wait for your replies]

That’s the kind of situation Peter faced when he wrote First Peter. He wrote to Christians scattered across Asia Minor, which is Turkey today. This was happening to them:

I Peter 1:6, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”[5]

2:20b, ” . . . if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

4:12, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”

4:16, “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

You may not be in a situation as bad as North Korea or Saudi Arabia, but some of you know the hostility of people against you when they know that you are Christians. Or the scoffing at you: What a God you have who allows September 11, Sadam Hussein, the Iraq war, and paedophiles in the church!

You may get to the point of asking yourself, “Is it worth it? Should I chuck in this Christianity? It’s not worth the opposition.” If that’s how you think, you need the message of I Peter – don’t give up when the going gets tough.

Peter gives FIVE very specific statements in his introductory greeting that are so important for those whose faith is being severely tested. In the greeting, the first two verses, to these suffering Christians, Peter wants to get across to them and to us:

2. STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD (vv. 1-2).

So “stand firm in the faith” is Peter’s emphasis in this book of I Peter: 5:9,

“Resist [the devil], standing firm in the faith,” 5:12, ” I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”

To these Christian believers who are suffering terrible persecution, Peter greets them with facts that are core to the Christian faith. This is NO “Greetings brothers and sisters in the faith,” but God’s assurance to God’s people.

You are:

clip_image002Firstly, “God’s elect”; according to the foreknowledge of God

clip_image004Secondly, you are “strangers in the world”;

clip_image006Thirdly, “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit”;

clip_image008Fourthly, “for obedience to Jesus Christ”;

clip_image010Fifthly, “for sprinkling of blood.”

Let’s unpack this.

A. FIRSTLY, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE YOU ARE GOD’S ELECT.

Peter wanted the first century Christians (and us) to remember who we are in Christ! It’s a great honour for the church to be chosen by God. But God elected you into His kingdom, not for you to be proud about it, but for a purpose.

What did it mean that the believers in the first century were “elect”? Eph. 1:4 states: “For he chose us [elected us] in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

The teaching on election has caused much spiritual heartburn and conflict in Christian circles, thanks to the teaching of St. Augustine (4th. century) but especially John Calvin (16th century).

Calvin (and St. Augustine) taught this:

(1) “God chose out of the condemned race of Adam those whom He pleased and reprobated [i.e. rejected and damned] whom He willed.”[6]

(2) Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion: “All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and accordingly, as each has been created for one or the other of these ends, we say that we have been predestinated to life or to death” (3:21:5).[7]

A leading Calvinistic theologian today, R. C. Sproul, puts it this way:

From all eternity, before we even existed, God decided to save some members of the human race and to let the rest of the human race perish. God made a choice—He chose some individuals to be saved into everlasting blessedness in heaven and others He chose to pass over, to allow them to follow the consequences of their sins into eternal torment in hell. . . The elect do choose Christ, but only because they were first chosen by God. . . The non-elect receive justice. The elect receive mercy.[8]

In other words, God unconditionally elects you to salvation, but God unconditionally damns most of humanity to hell.

You are God’s elected, chosen people. This is who you are. You are not an accident of history or some weirdos. You are people chosen by God for a purpose. But let’s get this very clear, none of us would come to Christ, unless God moved in our lives by the Holy Spirit to draw us.

Henry Thiessen gives an excellent definition of election: “By election we mean that sovereign act of God in grace whereby He chose in Christ Jesus for salvation all those whom he foreknew would accept Him.”[9]

But does that mean God chooses to save a small percentage of people throughout human history, and God chooses to send most people to hell?

I am convinced this is NOT a biblical view. This view of God makes him like an ugly monster. Opening the door for you, by his sovereign act, but giving most of the world the flick into a hell of horror, is grossly unjust in my view. It is inconsistent with the attributes of the God, revealed in the Scriptures.

I do not believe this is biblical Christianity for these reasons:

Firstly, this would make God very unjust, as one who chooses to unconditionally damn people to hell, but unconditionally chooses some for heaven. Ezek. 18:23 states, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD . Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” What is God like? He takes no pleasure in the death of ungodly people, but he takes pleasure in those who repent of their sinful ways and turn to him.

Secondly, we know that unconditional election of a minority of the human race is NOT the nature of God as he states in 2 Peter 3:9, ” The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Thirdly, Titus 2:11 states, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people” (NIV).[10] Or as the ESV puts it: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.”

Fourthly, John 3:16, ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

While all true believers are God’s elect, I Peter 1:2 says that they are

1. Elect according to the Foreknowledge of God the Father (v. 2)

Pause with me a moment to consider the nature and attributes of God, especially as it applies to God’s foreknowledge. Foreknowledge means “knowledge beforehand.”[11] But knowledge beforehand does NOT CAUSE things to happen. “Free actions [by human beings] do not take place because they are foreseen [or foreknown] by God, BUT they are foreseen because they will take place.”[12]

Also think with me about God’s omniscience – God’s all-knowing ability. For God, that means:

¨He and only He knows Himself and all other people and things.

¨He knows whether they are things that actually happen, will happen, or are merely possible;

¨God knows comprehensively and completely about people and things in the past, present and future;

¨God knows perfectly and from all eternity.

¨God knows all people and things at the same time, exhaustively and truly.[13] [See passages such as: I Sam. 23:11-12; Ps. 33:13-15; 139:1-10; 147:4-5; Prov. 15:3, 11; Jer. 23:23-25; Matt. 6:8, 32; 10:29-30; 11:21-24; I Cor. 2:11; Heb. 4:13].[14]

Let’s look at a sample of how much God knows about you, everybody, our world, and about Himself.

  •  Proverbs 15:3 (ESV), “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”
  •  Hebrews 4:13 (ESV): “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
  •  Matthew 10:30 (ESV), “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” For some of us men that is a challenge, but not to God.

We don’t have space to look comprehensively at the Scriptures in this article, but we need to note God’s foreknowledge means that for US, it is God seeing into the future. For God, it is God having knowledge in the eternal present. There is no past and future knowledge with God. He is eternal and omniscient – all knowing.

clip_image012 God knows himself (the Trinity) intimately and only he knows himself (see Matt. 11:27; 1 Cor. 2:11); God knows things that are actually existing:

clip_image013 The inanimate creation (Ps. 147:4);

clip_image013[1] People and all of their works (Ps. 33:13-15);

clip_image013[2] People’s thoughts and hearts (Ps. 139:1-4);

clip_image013[3] God knows your needs (Matt. 6:8, 32); God not only knows things in the past and present, but he also knows all things that are possible:

clip_image015 He knew that Keilah would betray David to Saul, if he remained in that vicinity (I Sam. 23:11-12);

clip_image015[1] Jesus knew that Tyre and Sidon would have repented if they had seen the miracles that were performed in Bethsaida and Chorazin (Matt. 11:21);

clip_image015[2] Jesus knew that Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared disaster if they had seen the works that were done in Capernaum (Matt. 11:23-24).

n God’s foreknowledge means that he knows the future as the present for Him. Can you get a handle on that? However, we need to understand that from our “standpoint God’s knowledge of the future is foreknowledge, but not from God’s [point of view] since He knows all things by one simultaneous intuition (Acts 2:23; 3:18, etc.).[15]

So, Peter’s readers were “elect/chosen” believers “according to the

foreknowledge of God.” God knew beforehand what they (and we) would do with the proclamation of the Gospel. Would they respond or reject Christ? We know that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” [Romans 10:17 (ESV)]. But we can’t come to Christ unless the Holy Spirit draws us

n Jesus said: John 6:44 (ESV), “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Here in I Peter 1, the “foreknowledge of God the Father” means that God knew ahead of time what we were like and what we would do with his gracious offer of salvation in Christ.

First, Stand Firm in the Faith Because You are God’s elect.

B. SECOND, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE STRANGERS IN THE WORLD.

The original language does not include “in the world” but the idea is there. Other translations call them “aliens” (NASB, REB, NJB), “exiles” (NRSV, ESV), “refugees” (GNB), “sojourners” (NAB).

The idea is this: the chosen people of God are:

Persons who belong to some other land and people, who are temporarily residing with a people to whom they do not belong. They are for a time being aliens, foreigners, strangers and not natives. They never expect to become [naturalised citizens of this world]. They do not want to be considered or treated as natives by the . . . people among whom they happen to be living. . .

Aliens are often held in contempt by the natives among whom they dwell. To this day they may be placed under severe restrictions in times of war; they may be [thrown into prison] or even repatriated.”[16]

Yet, despite this treatment by the people living in this world, Peter states that you are “God’s chosen people.” “God’s election has made the Christians `foreigners’ to the rest. At one time [you] were common natives and lived on the same low level as the rest.”[17] You are not like that any longer.

We “live in the world but are no longer of the world. [We] have become like Abraham; [we] are merely sojourners in a land that is now strange to [us]. [We] look for a city which has foundations, whose designer and maker is God; heaven is [out] home and fatherland.”[18]

We are strangers as Christians living in Australia. Our desire is for a better country, a heavenly one, the city that God has prepared for us (see Heb. 11:9-16).

Don’t you feel like this sometimes? You are out of step with the direction the world is taking. We walk to the beat of a different drum. This is the way God wants it to be.

C. THIRD, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE OF THE SANCTIFYING WORK OF THE SPIRIT.

In v. 2, it is speaking of the Holy Spirit who applies God’s work of redemption to believers so that they will be holy—set apart—purified, and equipped for the task of serving Jesus in this wicked age. However, the Spirit will never sanctify you if you do not submit to him. Following conversion, the Spirit continues this sanctifying work by giving you power to overcome sin. This does not mean that you don’t blow it. Just remember the apostle Paul’s life in the Spirit. Listen to his struggle in Romans 7:15, 19, 21-25:

15 “I do not know what I am doing. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . .”

19 “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. . .”

21 “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

22 “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;

23 “ but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

24 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

25 “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

This was Paul’s struggle with sin after becoming a believer. It will be yours too. However, you will be set apart to live a sanctified life by the work of the Spirit. This is how Paul described it in Romans 8:13, “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.”

Application:

Do you struggle with sin? I do! If you are finding it difficult to gain victory over a particular sin in your life, you must seek the Lord’s help and, perhaps, Christian counsel. However, since we are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) and to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed” (James 5:16), why don’t you speak to a Christian friend after the service or phone a friend whom you trust and ask for assistance? God uses the counsel and prayer support of other Christians. We are not lone ranger Christians. We need one another.

If people are brave enough to confess their faults to you, please don’t ever break that confidence. I want to tell you honestly that I’m wary of confessing my sins to people in the church because I don’t know what they will do with that information.

The Spirit, also, gives us assurance of sins forgiven (Rom. 8:16). The Spirit helps us with new ways of living – for example, the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22).[19]

Imagine if everybody in this church treated each other with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control! Imagine what would happen if you treated your boss, your husband or wife, fellow employees, your children, your parents, this way?

That is the sanctification God is calling us to. And it is absolutely possible through the Spirit’s work.

D. FOURTH, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH IN OBEDIENCE TO JESUS CHRIST.

Do you know one of the things that really bothers me about preaching,

my preaching, the pastor’s preaching? I am deeply concerned about how many of us leave this place, after hearing a message, and have no real desire to obey the message that was preached.

Parallel verses to I Peter 2 are Romans 8:29-30: “For those God foreknew he also predestined [or elected].” For what purpose? “To be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Rom. 8:30 goes on to say that “those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified he also glorified.”

God elects the church with a purpose in view. In Romans 8, it is so that we might become more like Jesus in our thoughts and actions.

Or we could paraphrase Romans 8:29, “Because although he foreknew us, although he understood all about us and our weaknesses, yet he gave us this great destiny and task of becoming more like Jesus so that people will be attracted to the Master.”

Here in I Peter, the purpose is “obedience to Jesus Christ.” Same thing, isn’t it? I’m reminded of . . .

James 1:22-25:

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror

24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

As an example of what this means, Jesus said: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). The aim of being God’s elect is that we will be obedient to Jesus Christ. Romans 1:5 reminds us that this is “obedience that comes from faith.”

Our obedience is based on faith. I will never obey God’s word if I don’t

have absolute faith in God. However, the other side of the coin is that my obedience springs from faith. Because of my faith, I want to obey. Faith and obedience are like identical twins. “When you see one you see the other. A person cannot have genuine faith without having obedience.” There will be no consistent obedience without true faith.[20]

We see this wonderfully illustrated in the Book of Romans:16:19 Paul writes, “Everyone has heard about your obedience…”

When you become a true Christian, it is “by means of obedience of faith.”[21] To talk of a Christian who is full of faith in Jesus Christ and is not obedient to Jesus, is a paradox. To have genuine faith in Christ, you must be obedient. There is no other alternative. If you do not obey Jesus, your faith must be called into question.

clip_image017Application:

How are your faith and obedience going?

clip_image017[1]What does God say in His word that you are rebelling against?

clip_image018If your thought life became visible before our eyes, what would you be ashamed of?

Would Christ be pleased with what you have thought about this last week?

clip_image017[2]Has your viewing been to the glory of God? I find this a very helpful question: If Jesus sat beside me, would he approve of the books and magazines I read? What about the TV programs and videos I watch?

clip_image017[2]A Christian family sat in my counselling office a few years ago and said, “We don’t allow our kids to watch much TV. But they do enjoy, “Home and Away.” Have you ever considered the values that are promoted in “Home & Away” that are contrary to God’s word and holy living? I think you’d be surprised.

clip_image017[3]What about your conversation? Has your language been pleasing to God this week? To your wife, husband, kids, the boss, other employees, the person at the store?

clip_image018[1]How have I treated other people this week?

May the Lord convict you about what is not pleasing to Him and help you, starting today, to have these things sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit.

E. FIFTH & FINALLY, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE YOU ARE SPRINKLED BY HIS BLOOD.

My mother told me just a few weeks before she was called home to glory in 1997 that one of our relatives asked her, “Why is your Christianity such a bloody religion?” And he wasn’t swearing! To those who don’t understand, this is unusual language—sprinkling of blood—as the core of what it means to be God’s elect people. Jesus’ death is not mentioned in this phrase, but that is certainly what is meant.

“It is by means of the death of Christ that election is made possible. His death opened the way back to God [and caused the church – God’s chosen people – to come into being.]

The image of sprinkling with blood comes out of the Jewish sacrificial system. The blood of a bird was sprinkled on a leper when he was healed to signify cleansing (Leviticus 14:1-7). Blood was sprinkled on priests to signify that they were set apart for the service of God (Exodus 29:20-21; Leviticus 8:30). The primary Old Testament reference, however, is to the acceptance of the covenant by the people of Israel (see Exodus 24:1-8). God expressed his choice of Israel by means of a covenant in which he agreed to be their God and they agreed to obey him. To certify their acceptance of this covenant, Moses took half the blood of the sacrificial animals and sprinkled it on the altar and the other half he sprinkled on the people.[22]

The Spirit applies the death of Jesus to you and me (the church) to make us more like Jesus. Get the picture?

When the going gets tough, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD. What hope and encouragement we have, knowing that God has chosen us for obedience and provides the means through the cross of Christ, applied by the Spirit.

Notice the involvement of all the members of the Trinity here:

clip_image020 God the Father’s foreknowledge of you;

clip_image020[1] The Son’s blood that was shed; and

clip_image020[2] The Spirit’s sanctifying work.

No wonder Peter can greet these believers, scattered throughout the Turkey region today, with “grace and peace be yours in abundance.” Wow! What a statement about what is ours in Christ. God’s grace, his favour to rotten, rebellious sinners, which we don’t deserve, has been extended to human beings who will believe. “Peace” (in the Hebrew it’s Shalom) places emphasis on well-being. Peter’s prayer is that these divine mercies of grace and peace will be ours in abundance.

F. Conclusion

The concept of chosen or elect people comes originally from the OT. In Deut. 14:2, Moses told the tribes of Israel, “Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Isaiah often spoke of Israel “whom I have chosen” (Isa. 41:8; 44:1; 45:4).

But here Peter shifts this thought to the Christian community. We, the born-again people of God—the church—are the elect. How is it possible for people who were enemies of God, rebels and hostile towards Him, to be chosen by God? How could this take place?

I remember two different funerals I attended in the last few years. One I went to, this fellow was preached into heaven with all Christians. I knew him. He was a nice guy, but in my experience he never gave evidence of knowing the Lord Jesus personally. I left that funeral, saying to myself: “I must live so that the preacher can tell the truth at my funeral.”[23]

The other funeral I attended was that of a friend of my family, George Clarke (whom some of you might have known. George was Brad Clarke’s father. Brad & Deb attended Central Baptist until they went to Brisbane.) George was a former criminal, a gangster, whom God radically changed when he repented of his sin and trusted Christ alone for his salvation. His funeral was a time of sadness, but a time of rejoicing, because we knew that calling George a Christian meant that believers would meet with him again at Christ’s return. He was one of God’s elect.

Are you among God’s elect? Do you really know the Lord? Where will you be one minute after your last breath? Are you sure about your eternal destiny? If you have doubts, please talk with me after the service or talk with the pastor.

What will you take away from this sermon that you will obey before God this week?

G.  Notes


[1] This sermon was preached at Gin Gin Baptist Church, Qld., Australia, 25 May 2003.

[2] Open Doors, “North Korea Tops Open Doors ‘World Watch List,’” Available at: http://www.odusa.org/ArchiveDisplay.asp?ID=9AB1FC24-64C7-4E23-8B6D-BB63E9C32D05&Category=Articles (Accessed 11 October 2004).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jayson Casper, Christianity Today, “The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian (2020),” January 15. Available at: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/january/top-christian-persecution-open-doors-2020-world-watch-list.html (Accessed 13 January 2022).

[5] Unless otherwise stated, all Bible verses are from the NIV.

[6] John Calvin, ‘A treatise of the eternal predestination of God, etc. etc., Section IV [Online], available from Calvin’s Calvinism, transl. Henry Cole, at: http://www.the-highway.com/Calvin_sectionIV.html [11th October 2004].

[7] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (3.21.5), transl. Henry Beveridge [Online], available from: http://www.ccel.org/c/calvin/institutes/bookiii/bkiii25.htm [11th October 2004].

[8]R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992, 161-62.

[9] Thiessen, H. C. 1949, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 344.

[10] Today’s New International Version, available from: http://www.tniv.info/pdf/TNIV_NewTestament.pdf [11th October 2004].

[11] Progn?nsis: Thayer states that the verbal form, progin?sk?, means “to have knowledge of beforehand; to foreknow.” For the noun form he simply defined as “forethought, pre-arrangement” [Thayer, JH (transl, rev., enlarged) 1962, Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 538]. Progn?sis, the noun, only appears twice in the NT at Acts 2:23 and I Peter 1:2.

[12] Thiessen, p. 126.

[13] Based on Thiessen, p. 124.

[14] From Thiessen, pp. 124-125.

[15] The above Scriptures are based on ibid., pp. 125-126.

[16] R.C.H. Lenski, An Interpretation of I and II Epistles of Peter, the three Epistles of John, and the Epistle of Jude. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966, 21.

[17]Lenski, 21-22.

[18]Lenski, 22.

[19] Suggested by Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace, A Study Guide for the Book of 1 Peter (Mastering the Basics). Littleton, Colorado: Serendipity U.S.A., 1988, 17.

[20] Based on William Hendriksen, Romans Chapters 1-8 (New Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1980, 45.

[21] Hendriksen, 45.

[22] Coleman & Peace, 17.

[23] This was the funeral of Ray Martin, Director of YACCA, YMCA Bundaberg, who dropped dead of a heart attack in Bundaberg, in May 2003.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 January 2022.

"Wholesome thinking" is more than getting sex off your mind

(2 Peter 3:1-10)

by Spencer Gear PhD

A. Introduction

I exhort you to have

3d-red-star-small “pure thoughts in your mind,” (GNB)[1] to

3d-red-star-small have a “pure mind,” (Moffat’s translation)[2] to

3d-red-star-small do some “wholesome thinking,” (NIV)[3]

3d-red-star-small To stir “up your sincere mind” (ESV)

3d-red-star-small To clean up your mind.

What do you think I am referring to?

Some may think that I am telling you to keep away from x-rated videos that are now called “non-violent erotica” or porn on the Internet. Others would think that certain magazines are off limits.[4] Or get your mind off the sensual and sexual.

Today I want to “stimulate you to wholesome thinking.” (NIV)[5] But I want you to get your mind off sex. “‘Wholesome thinking’ is more than getting sex off your mind” — that’s the title of my message.

Read 2 Peter 3:1-10

These two letters of 1 & 2 Peter were written to “stir up your pure minds” (KJV), according to 3:1. Other translations speak of:

  • “sincere mind” (RSV, NASB, RV, ESV),
  • “honest thinking” (Contemporary English Version),
  • “unsullied (sincere) mind” (Amp. Bible),
  • “unclouded understanding” (New Jerusalem Bible)
  • “minds uncontaminated with error” (J.B. Phillips),

The idea is this: If you read chapter two of 2 Peter, you will see that the church of the first century was faced with what is happening in Australia today. False teachers and false prophets were propounding their destructive heresies.

Peter says: “Dear friends,” or “Beloved” (he uses this word 4 times in this third chapter, vv. 1, 8, 14, 17), suggesting that Peter had an “affectionate interest in his readers.”[6] But he was desperately concerned that they might be led astray by false teaching. He began to address this in chapter 2 of this epistle. So here, he wants to stir up their “minds” or “stimulate” them in their thinking.

This is not the normal Greek word for mind, nous. Rather, this is dianoia. It is referring to our ability to “reflect,”[7] our “understanding.” [8] It’s a similar idea to what we find in I Peter 1:13, “Prepare your minds for action.”[9]

Peter is calling upon these believers (and us, by application) to have thinking that is “uncontaminated by the lust and heresy all around them.”[10] “Pure” or “wholesome” is in the sense of “unmixed”[11] with error and impurity.

This is probably why the J.B. Phillips’ paraphrase is pretty close to the mark. We must have “minds uncontaminated with error.” But what kinds of error? It was the kind of error that was around in the first century and it is is with us today.

Yes, we can engage in unwholesome thinking when our minds are bombarded with sex. But there’s other dangerous, unwholesome thinking that is more subtle than that. And we are subjected to it in deluge proportions today.

B. We are to clean up our thinking in four areas:

Firstly: Peter says: This world is dominated by very naturalistic thinking. There is nothing supernatural, just matter – some say. Human beings do not have a soul or spirit. I was talking to a Christian drug counsellor in Brisbane recently and he said that a psychiatrist raised his voice at him and thumped his fist on the table: “We are nothing but flesh, and legal drugs are the only cure for our ills.” Matter is all that matters.

Peter challenges us: that is “unwholesome thinking.”

Secondly: Your “unwholesome thinking” can get you to think that it is NOT God who acts in human history, but the USA, the United Nations, and the Australian government as a small player. Look at Kosovo, Vietnam, Uganda, Iraq, September 11 2001, and the Middle East. If you think this way, your thinking is not pure. It is mixed with error.

Thirdly: Peter wants you to meditate on this: even though there is evil, slaughter and strife all around us, God’s delay in acting (holding back Jesus’ second return) is not because God is powerless. God has excellent reasons for stalling Christ’s return.

Fourthly: Human history is not going around in circles (as my doctor said to me), it is heading for an enormous climax. President Joe Biden (USA President 2022) and Scott Morrison (Australian Prime Minister 2022) will not be in control. Neither will the United Nations be able to do it.

While there may be what looks like a repeat of certain events in world history, God’s pattern is NOT cyclical. God’s view is teleological. That’s a big word, but it comes from the Greek, teleos, meaning “ultimate purpose and design.”[12]

This world is heading towards God’s GRAND conclusion to the world and it is right on track. God has a design and nobody in this world will change it.

Let’s see how Peter challenges us to “wholesome thinking.”

C. First Challenge (v. 3),

scoffers (mockers) will come “in the last days”.

When are the last days? This is not just the time immediately before Christ’s second coming. The “last days” is the period that extends from Christ’s first coming to his second coming.[13]

What were these mockers saying?

  • “scoffing”; It’s an interesting phrase, “scoffers will come, scoffing” (v. 3). They are “mocking at holy things.”[14] These scoffers will be:
  • “following their own evil desires”; Sounds like today!
  • “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” they ask;
  • “everything does on as it has since the beginning of creation” (vv. 3-4).

This is a description of Australia today—we have droves of people who deny biblical truths and live in ungodly ways.

I have done a little writing in “letters to the editor” to local papers down through the years, opposing the use of marijuana and showing how dangerous it is, from a scientific perspective. Also, I do not hide my Christian commitment when I write, if it is relevant to the point being debated.

A person responded to some of the issues others and I have raised with this language:

  • “right-wing religious zealots who dominate much of our local anti-drug groups”;
  • “effective drug policy should never be confused with moral crusades”;
  • “Some may ask why I seem [so] interested in drug issues?
  • The reason is that I have probably seen more pain and suffering caused by drug abuse than all our born-agains put together.”
  • “our local anti-marijuana crusaders”;
  • “Right wing anti-drug groups.”[15]

The Bible is right on target, “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing, and following their own evil desires.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher of the 19th century, influenced Adolf Hitler and his super-race mentality. Nietzsche wrote:

“Christian morality is the most malignant form of all falsehood… It is really poisonous, decadent, weakening. It produces nincompoops not men… I condemn Christianity and confront it with the most terrible accusation that an accuser has ever had in his mouth. To my mind it is the greatest of all conceivable corruptions. . . . I call it the most immortal blemish on mankind.”[16]

It was Nietzsche who described modern people this way: “God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed Him.”[17] It’s easy to think that this happened a century ago with Nietzsche. It is NOT relevant to us in Australia, right now.

I encountered a classic example of what the Bible is talking about, a few years ago—here in Australia. I was walking the streets of one of our capital cities, inviting people, young and old, to come to a Christian coffee shop we were operating on a voluntary basis.

A young man, about 18-years-old, wandered into the coffee shop. I was engaged in some good conversation with him. But when I began to share the reality of Jesus Christ and his need to repent, it was as if all hell broke loose.

He sneered, scoffed and then began shouting at me, “You Christians must be out of your mind. How ridiculous you are. You’ve been preaching this stuff for 2,000 years. Jesus will save you, make you clean, and he’s coming again. What rubbish! You’ve been preaching this myth for 2,000 years.”

He began to laugh loudly, “Ha! Ha! Where’s this Jesus you’re talking about? Where’s this promise about His coming again? It’s all hot air. You’ve got to be joking.” I turned to 2 Peter 3 and shared this passage with him. His head dropped, but he walked away – scoffing!

These scoffers in Peter’s day continued:

  • “everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Pet 3:3-4).

This is the argument of evolution, called uniformitarianism. Harvard University’s astronomer, Harlow Shapley, said a few years ago:

“Some say, ‘In the beginning God. . .’ but I say, ‘In the beginning hydrogen.'” What he essentially meant was, “Give me hydrogen, time, and the natural laws, and I will give you the universe. Then we can be done once and for all with myths and fables about God or gods.”[18]

So, are the scoffers correct? Has everything gone on “as it has from the beginning of creation”?

On the one hand, “Yes.” I am glad that the sun will rise tomorrow morning as it has done for thousands of years, millions of days. It does it like clockwork. And yet it’s not the sun rising at all. It is the earth revolving around the sun.

I am happy gravity operates consistently. It would be impossible to live in a world where, one minute I throw a ball out of the window and it falls to the ground. Another time that ball goes up, up and away into orbit. Imagine what it would be like living in such an unpredictable world.

If there was no uniformity to the way things happen, scientific investigation would not be possible. Yes, some things happen as they have since the “beginning of creation,” and we are glad.

On the other hand, DEFINITELY NOT! Peter reminds us that things have NOT gone on in a uniform way since creation. There have been massive interventions by God into our world that floors any argument for evolution’s uniformitarianism.

3d-red-star-small First, “By the word of God, the heavens existed [were created] and the earth was formed out of water and with water” (v. 5). How? By the supernatural intervention of God at creation. Read about it in the first chapter of Genesis.

3d-red-star-small Second, Everything had not gone on in a uniform way and 2 Peter 3:6 gives us a striking picture of the Great Flood that came at Noah’s time: “By water also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.”

3d-red-star-small There’s going to be a third time. Note v. 7, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

When judgment comes at the close of this age, the heavens and the earth will be burnt up in a great inferno, and ALL ungodly people will be judged. NOBODY will get away with anything before God.

That’s why our proclamation of the gospel is so urgent in these days of cultural crisis. Most will turn away, but God will be about the work of saving some. We dare not be negligent in these dangerous, materialistic days in which we live.

Peter challenges us to “wholesome thinking.” Here, Peter is saying that your “pure mind” has nothing to do with sex. Your “pure thoughts” will know this: First (v. 3), scoffers (mockers) will come “in the last days.” Don’t be surprised when you are mocked for your faith.

There’s a second dimension to this “wholesome thinking”:

D.   (v. 8), if you overlook God’s perspective on time, your thinking will be putrid, not pure.

You must get the Lord’s perspective on time:

  • “a day is like a thousand years,” and
  • “a thousand years are like a day.”

What does this mean? There is a parallel verse in Ps. 90:4, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”

Everyone in this church, everyone in the world, will accept one of two positions in life:

  • First, you will accept the ideas of human beings and their philosophies of history and their forecast for the future of the world.

I noticed on the TV news one time that one of the missions of a USA spacecraft was to further investigate the origins of the universe, billions of years ago.

For the Christian, this is “unwholesome thinking.” If you are looking to the world’s ideas of how time began, when and how the world came into being, as human beings think – this is ungodliness.

God’s views of creation and time are radically different.

  • There’s s a second position. You can accept God’s perspective on time and where the world is heading — from the Bible (The Word of God), the prophets and apostles God has chosen. They will give you God’s account of the world and history. The truth, not human speculation.

If God has the power to stop what is going on in the world, why doesn’t he? Why doesn’t he stop what’s going on in Bosnia, the slaughter of tourists in Uganda, and stopping the floods in Bangladesh that killed so many?

Let’s remember this:

  • We must not be curious about “times and seasons.” The disciples

asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” What was His reply? “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:6-7).

Quit worrying about times, dates and seasons in God’s timetable. They are in the capable hands of the Lord Almighty. By the limitations of our humanity, we cannot fully understand the mind of God. Leave the future with Him, while we go about, as v. 11 says, living “holy and godly lives.”

Also remember:

3d-red-star-small God’s relationship to time is so far removed from our thinking.

3d-red-star-small God is above time. He made time, but he chooses to act in time.

3d-red-star-small Listen to these words from Genesis concerning people and time: “Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal. . . .” (Gen. 6:3); “For the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:16).

God’s striving to get through to the human heart will end one day. Think of what the Lord did in a day!

3d-red-star-small The days of creation.

3d-red-star-small The day on which Noah’s Flood came.

3d-red-star-small “If we think of the last day of our Lord’s Passion, how much affecting human history, and affecting angelic history, and affecting even God himself, was crowded into it”[19] – ONE DAY?

We think of a day as a short time, almost like an insignificant period of time, and a thousand years as a long period of time. Not so with God. “A thousand years may be a short time with God”[20] who is beyond time.

Just think of the enormous world-wide influence of one day — our Savior’s death. That one day will have more profound influence than thousands of years of human history.[21]

Many people can waste away 70 years of life and accomplish very little. It is not the years that count in your life. It’s the thought, love and action that measure a good life, not the hands of the clock and the lapse of hours and years.[22]

Thank God he’s eternal, the God of eternity. The psalmist put it so profoundly when speaking about God, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. . . . From everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps. 90:4, 2).

There’s a third dimension to your “wholesome thinking”:

E. Third (v. 9), there’s a reason why God doesn’t end world history NOW. His delay is because of His grace.

If I said to my wife, I will mow the lawn and I don’t do it, she has every reason to say that I am slack, I break my word, and cannot be relied on.

Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).

But he hasn’t returned! We have been waiting 2,000 years and he hasn’t honoured his promise. If I don’t mow the lawn, I can be accused of being slack, breaking my word, and not being reliable. Can the same accusation be made about Jesus? That’s what the mockers of Peter’s day were doing. Look at v. 4 of this chapter in 2 Peter 3 that we are studying: “They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?”

From v. 9, it seems that the Christians to whom Peter is writing, are beginning to accept what the mockers were saying. R. C. H. Lenski put it this way:

Since the [Second Coming][23] has not yet come, and since time keeps going on, ‘some’ who are unable to account for this ever-increasing delay and who let what verse 8 states escape them, get uneasy and think that the mockers are perhaps right in claiming that there is nothing to this whole promise of Christ’s return.[24]

So, what’s the answer? Do we have an unreliable, slack Jesus who can’t keep his promises?

Peter says in v. 9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.” That word “slow” in the NIV, “slack” in KJV, means, “The Lord is not tardy.”[25] “The word implies, besides delay, the idea of lateness with reference to an appointed time.”[26]

If you are thinking, like these early Christians, that Jesus’ delay in not returning makes him tardy and slack, you are engaging in unwholesome, impure thinking. This kind of slackness can NEVER be attributed to God. If God says he will do something, and we think it is not fulfilled in OUR puny way of thinking of time, there is a REAL reason for the delay. And it has nothing to do with a slack, impotent God.

v. 9 gives us the clear reason for the delay: “He is patient [or longsuffering, KJV] with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

There is one and only one reason for the delay of Christ’s second coming: It’s the grace of God towards sinners.

God uses time so as to serve his purposes of grace. For that purpose a single day is as a thousand years to him, a thousand years as a single day. To him time, whether it is brief or long, is an entirely minor matter just so his gracious purpose is accomplished. Look at it this way. Then you will not think of delay, procrastination],[27] emptiness of promise. Then you will see that the Lord’s waiting is his longsuffering toward you, his holding out long with the blessed intention[28] . . . that none are to perish.”[29]

The reason for the delay is the patience of God. He is extending time, putting off the Second Coming of Christ. “What is a thousand years to the Lord if he can thereby bring many to repentance?”[30]

God said through Ezekiel: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways” (Ezekiel 33:11).[31]

Christ has not returned because God is extending the time so that we, the church, can get off our backsides, become active in proclaiming the Gospel so that God will bring many more into the kingdom.

Frankly, it is not a SLACK Lord, but a TARDY church. Paul, in Romans 2:4, said: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”

Matthew 24:14 gives us a further clue: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Your “wholesome thinking” again has nothing to do with sensuality in Peter’s context. God’s delay is not a broken promise, or tardiness. It is God’s grace. His desire is that ALL will be saved. Through the Cross, the convicting and drawing work of the Holy Spirit, and God’s providence in the world. God is delaying his coming so that MORE will have the opportunity to repent.

We MUST respond with evangelism in the cities and towns where we live.

We MUST be committed to world evangelism, missions. Otherwise, we are engaging in worldly, impure, unwholesome thinking. That’s Bible.

There’s a fourth and final dimension that must be a part of your “wholesome thinking”:

F. Fourth (v. 10), God will end human history suddenly.

READ v. 10:

First Thess. 5 2 confirms this: “You know very well that the day of the

Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

Jesus agrees: “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12:39-40).

By the “day of the Lord,” we are to understand it to be the glorious Second Coming of Christ. Its coming is as certain and as sure as God Himself.

Flower2 It will be an awful day;

Flower2  It will come like a thief entering your house in the darkness;

Flower2  People will be eating, drinking, partying, marrying, defacto-ing, without a thought of God, and ZAP — the end will come.

Flower2 It will be a catastrophe of humungous proportions. This will make the eruption of Mt. St. Helens look like a kids’ party.

Flower2 The crash of a world falling apart;

Flower2 The roar of destroying flames;

Flower2 The dissolution of the elements into chaos;

Flower2 The holocaust that will burn up the earth and everybody in it;

Flower2 The palaces of kings, the forts around cities, the cathedrals and church buildings, burnt up in an instant of tremendous ruin.

Flower2 This is God’s sudden judgment on a world that

cubed-iron-sm thumbs its nose at him,

cubed-iron-sm scoffs at the thought of his coming again,

cubed-iron-sm treats Christians as idiots from another planet.

On that day, the heavens that at one time sent down a deluge of water in the time of Noah, “will themselves pass away . . . with a sudden crackling, sizzling, sputtering roar.”[32]

G.  Application

Let’s pause for a moment to meditate on this message and apply it to us. You must have wholesome thinking, minds uncontaminated by error.

1. Mockers were around in the first century church. They are still with us. They scoff at holy things. Like the fellow writing to the Bundaberg, Qld., Australia News-Mail: “I have probably seen more pain and suffering caused by drug abuse than all our born-agains put together.”

Expect it. But what’s your response? Will it be gruff and

antagonistic, or considerate as you respond to a person made in the image of God? It’s hard!

2. Men and women of science will constantly come up with new theories of how the world evolved billions of years ago. Will your faith remain rock solid on the FACTS of God’s Word, “In the beginning, God [not the force of evolution] created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).

In spite of NASA sending satellites to try to discover the origin of the world and human life, will you remain firmly committed to the God of the Bible who has told us HE created it in the beginning?

No matter how sarcastic and arrogant the scientific community may become in asserting the certainty of uniformitarianism and evolution, will your faith remain solid in its commitment to the Lord of the universe?

2. Will you quit placing limitations of time on God? Will you let him be his eternal self? Pray fervently for God to save your family members, your neighbours and the people of the world, but leave the timing to him.

3. This world is becoming more putrid by the minute. People seem to sin their way into stupidity. Why hasn’t the Lord come by now? It’s His grace.

Since the second coming of Jesus has been delayed, what should your response be in sharing the gospel with family members, your neighbours, and taking the Gospel to the world? Mission societies are always struggling for funds to keep missionaries on the field. Will you become part of the financial solution, even if it is only a few dollars a week? Will you sacrifice, so that others will hear?

Wise people do not lay up treasures on earth. I plead with you to live with heaven on your mind, and not to live as though this dying, wretched world is your home.

4. “Suddenly, instantaneously, the end will come. The Lord will need no time at all. But there will come the Lord’s day as a thief, in which the heavens with a cracking crash… shall pass away; moreover, elements, being heated, shall be dissolved, and earth and the works in it shall be burned up.[33]

Peter is so certain about this sudden destructive blaze that will envelop and destroy the entire world that he repeats it in v. 12, “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.”

In light of this FACT, Peter gives the application in v. 11, “What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”

God has intervened in judgments in the past: he did it when Adam and Eve sinned, through the World-wide Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the confusion of languages at the Towel of Babel; Israel was judged in being sent to Egypt and Babylon.

God will do it again when the world ends in a massive inferno. In light of this, I urge you to live godly lives as you live for Jesus in the town where God placed you and proclaim Christ in an antagonistic culture.

Believers, remember that v. 13 follows: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

Is your mind clean, clear, pure and wholesome in God’s way of thinking?

H.  Works consulted

Alford, Henry. Alford’s Greek Testament: Volume IV, Part II, James -Revelation (containing revisions by Henry Alford up to the time of his death in 1871). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Guardian Press, 1976,

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Geisler, Norman L. Ethics: Alternatives and Issues. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971.

Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966.

Parker, Gary. Creation: The Facts of Life. San Diego, California: Master Books, 1980

Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament (Volume VI: The General Epistles and the Revelation of John). Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1933.

Shapley, Harlow (ed.), Science Ponders Religion. New York: Appellation Century-Crofts, 1960.

Spence, H.D.M. and Joseph S. Exell (eds.), The Pulpit Commentary (Vol. 22, Epistles of Peter, John & Jude, The Revelation). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950, The Second Epistle General of Peter, exposition and homiletics by B.C. Caffin.

The Heritage Illustrated Dictionary of the English Language: International Edition. Boston: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., 1975.

I.  Notes


[1] 2 Peter 3:1, Good News Bible.

[2] 2 Pt. 3:1, Moffatt’s Bible translation, New King James Version.

[3] 2 Pt. 3:1, New International Version (NIV).

[4]Eg., Playboy, Penthouse and Picture magazines.

[5] 2 Pt. 3:1, NIV. Other translations of “wholesome thinking” are: The literal Greek means “pure mind”; “pure thoughts in your mind” (Good News Bible), “sincere mind” (RSV, NASB, RV), “sincere intention” (NRSV), “sincere disposition” (New American Bible), “honest minds” (New Century Version, Weymouth), “honest thought” (NEB, REB), “honest thinking” (Contemporary English Version), “unsullied (sincere) mind” (Amp. Bible), “minds uncontaminated with error” (J.B. Phillips), “unclouded understanding” (New Jerusalem Bible).

[6] Pulpit Commentary, vol 22, 65.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol VI, 172.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries). London: The Tyndale Press, 1968, 123.

[11] Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Vol. 1). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., originally published 1887, reprinted 1946, 703.

[12] The Heritage English Dictionary, 1323.

[13] Caffin in Spence and Exell, The Second Epistle General of Peter, 85.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Letters to the Editor, “Marijuana would remain illegal,” M. Buscombe, Bundaberg, in the Bundaberg News-Mail, March 5, 1999, 13.

[16] Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Christ. New York: Knopf, 230, in Geisler, Ethics: Alternatives and Issues, 1971, p. 33.

[17] Friedrich Nietzsche, Joyful Wisdom, translated by Thomas Common, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1960, section 125, 167-168, in Geisler, 1971, p. 33.

[18] In Gary Parker, Creation: The Facts of Life. San Diego, California: Master Books, 1980, 139. See also Harlow Shapley (ed.), 1960, 3.

[19]Spence, Exell, Caffin, 86.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Suggested by ibid., 67.

[22] Suggested by ibid., 73.

[23] The original said “Parousia.”

[24] Lenski, 345.

[25] Alford, 415.

[26] Vincent, 705.

[27] The original said, “dilatoriness.”

[28] My deleted section reads, “boulomai [in Greek characters] is often used in this sense, notably in I Tim. 2:8; 5:14; Titus 3:8; etc., Lenski, 346.

[29] Ibid., 345-346, emphasis added.

[30] Ibid., 346.

[31] See also Ezekiel 18:23, which asks: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

[32] Ibid., 347.

[33] Lenski, 346, emphasis in original.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 January 2022.