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1 Peter 2:24-25; The Purpose of His Death

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090222_1peter2_24-25.mp3

02/25 1 Peter 2:24-25 The purpose of His death

Today we come to 1 Peter 2:24-25. This is really Peter’s inspired commentary on the Old Testament passage out of Isaiah, so I want to start by reading that passage in its entirety:

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at you–– his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind–– 15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

1 Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Peter is teaching us how to live in such a way that we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. That’s why we were created. We exist to bring glory to our great God. One of the primary ways we glorify God with our lives is to show him to be great and worthy through our response to suffering, particularly unjust suffering. It is to this that we have been called. Peter holds out Jesus as our pattern – the one who suffered the ultimate injustice; the perfect, faultless Son of God, falsely accused, illegally arrested, declared not guilty and yet condemned to die, beaten viciously for no reason but to appease the angry mob, mocked, spit upon, shamed openly, nailed hands and feet to a wooden cross and publicly executed as the worst of criminals. And Peter says:

2:22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting [himself] to him who judges justly.

Then Peter goes on to explain what Jesus accomplished by his sacrifice. He is expanding his thought from verse 21 ‘Christ also suffered for you’

24 He Himself bore our sins in his body on the tree

This is one of the most beautiful declarations in the scriptures! Jesus himself bore our sins. This is the foundational truth of the good news. Isaiah 53:4-6 says ‘surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’

verse 8 says he was ‘stricken for the transgression of my people’

verse 10 says ‘when his soul makes an offering for guilt’

verse 11 says ‘he shall bear their iniquities’

verse 12 says ‘he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.’

We see these same truths expressed by the various New Testament authors in these words:

Romans 3:24-25 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

1Corinthians 15:3 …Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, …

Colossians 2:13-14 And you, who were dead …, God made alive …, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, …

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 3:5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Jesus is the sin bearing substitute. He took the penalty for our sins and satisfied the justice and wrath of God in our place.

Peter uses the word ‘tree’ to remind us of Deuteronomy 21-22-23 which is explicitly applied to Jesus in Galatians 3:13:

Deuteronomy 21:22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,

23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us––for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”––

Look back at verse 24. Jesus bore our sins for a purpose. He had a goal in mind. If we were writing the bible it might look different than it does. We might finish the sentence this way; ‘he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might live with him in heaven some day’ or ‘Christ suffered for you, so that you might escape from pain and live healthy, wealthy and wise’. But that’s not what God’s word says. Look at what it does say:

2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

The purpose of him bearing my sins is my dying to sin. There is a parallel between v.21 and v.24; Christ suffered for you / He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that you might follow in his steps / that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. The purpose of Christ suffering for you, the purpose of bearing our sins is that we might follow in the steps of Jesus; following Jesus means dying to sin and living to righteousness. We would be more inclined to say ‘Jesus died to give you eternal life’. That is true, but it is also true to say that ‘Jesus died so that you would die to sin’ and that is what Peter focuses our attention on here. He uses a unique word – not the usual word for dying; this word literally means ‘to be done with, to put away, or to be removed from’ (apogenomenov). This is the good news; Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree so that we might be done with sin. With his blood he purchased a place for us in heaven, yes. But with his blood he also sets us free from the domination of sin in our lives right now today! Because of the cross you and I can be done with sin. Jesus won the decisive battle with sin on the cross. Our sin was carried by him and once and for all dealt with. God’s justice was satisfied and he will never punish us for what Jesus bore for us.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Every sin I have ever committed, am now committing, or will in the future commit was nailed to the cross and it is gone! Because of that truth, I can be done with sin. The power of sin in my life is broken. I am eternally free of the guilt of my sin. Does that mean I will never sin again? No, but when I do, I never have to wonder if that was the sin that will separate me from God forever. I can boldly turn to the cross and say ‘thank you Jesus for bearing that sin for me. I see it nailed there on your broken body and I know that it was dealt with.’ This does not set me free to turn my back on Christ and wallow in my sin. I know that sin is lethal. Peter said:

2:11 …abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

If I turn my back on my crucified Lord and embrace sin, I demonstrate who my true master is. But with the weight of sin off my shoulders, no longer being crushed by its guilt, I can now fight the sin that ‘wages war against my soul’. I can be done with sin in my heart and in my affections. I look at Jesus hanging on the tree and I see how hideous my sin is. My sin is no longer attractive. I see it for what it is. It is ugly and sinister and wicked and deceitful. It is an offense against the God who created me and loved me enough to send his own Son to be crushed in my place. Sin lies to me and says ‘I can bring you pleasure’. There is no greater pleasure than fellowship with the God who loved me and gave himself for me. If I can be done with sin in my heart and in my affections, I will see that victory worked out in my actions. The only sin that we can have practical victory over is a forgiven sin.

Before we go on, we need to define sin. Just what do we mean when we use the word sin? Is it an arbitrary list of things that we are not supposed to do?

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Sin is ultimately not giving God the glory that is due to him. In whatever form or expression it takes, sin is dishonoring God.

That’s the negative half of the purpose of God in the suffering of Jesus – that we be done with sin. Now let’s look at the positive half:

2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might … live to righteousness.

What is righteousness? If Jesus took our sin for the purpose of our living to righteousness, then it is critical that we understand what it is we are to live for. Simply put, righteousness is the opposite of sin. If sin is dishonoring and defaming God, then righteousness is giving God the honor and glory and fame that he deserves. We see this most clearly in Romans 1. In verse 18, we are told that God’s wrath is revealed against the unrighteousness of men (unrighteousness is another name for sin). In verse 20 he goes on to talk about God’s invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature. In verse 21 unrighteousness or sin is described as ‘they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him’. In verse 23 it says they ‘exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images’ and in verse 25 he says ‘they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.’

If unrighteousness is not honoring God and not worshiping him and not giving him the glory that is due, then righteousness is doing what is ultimately right; honoring and glorifying and worshiping God. This fits exactly with what Peter has said about our ultimate purpose so far. He said:

1 Peter 2:9…that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

And we are to live our lives:

1 Peter 2:12 so that … they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Now Peter is telling us that the basis for living to righteousness or glorifying God or proclaiming his excellencies is the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ. He carried the shame and dishonor and reproach that we placed on the name of God so that we could be set free to live lives that proclaim his excellencies.

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Literally it says ‘by his wound you have been healed’. Now I believe that it is because of Jesus’ death on the cross that every sickness and every disease and every sorrow is healed – either right now through the miraculous demonstration of God’s power, or on that day when we see him face to face and he wipes away every tear from our eye and we are changed in a moment. But that is not what Peter is talking about here. It is a false and dangerous application of this verse to rip it from its context and tape it to your fridge and say ‘because Jesus suffered for me I no longer have to put up with the common cold’. That is exactly the opposite of what Peter is saying in this passage. He is telling us that we are called to suffer and to be treated unjustly, and that our suffering is an opportunity to put the glory of God on display as we follow the pattern of Jesus and keep on entrusting to God who judges justly. To claim exemption from suffering in this life is not following in the steps of Jesus. What we are healed from is defined both before and after this statement. We are healed from a sick and sinful heart that seeks our own glory rather than the righteousness of honoring God. We are healed from a sinful tendency to stray away from our true caregiver. Our straying hearts were healed and we are returned to our Shepherd so that he will bind up our wounds.

25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Jesus has two beautiful titles here. He is the shepherd of our souls. It does not say that he is the shepherd of our bodies. These bodies are temporary tents that are wearing out and will one day be changed. Jesus is caring for our souls – the eternal part of us. Paul said:

2Co 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

Jesus is the shepherd of our souls. He is ensuring the safety and security of our souls. He is keeping us in the sheepfold. He is vigilantly watching out for unseen danger ready to act for our protection. He is leading us in green pastures and giving us what our souls need to thrive. He will faithfully come after us when we stray and bring us back home to himself.

And Jesus is the overseer of our souls. The word is (episkopov) bishop or overseer, and refers to one who has authority to watch over something or someone. Jesus is the guardian or superintendent of our souls. What a beautiful Savior we have. He not only bore our sins in his body on the tree, but he is our Overseer and he is our Shepherd. He has secured our forgiveness from sin so that we can live to his glory. He is vigilantly watching over our souls to provide for our needs, keep us on the right path, and protect us from danger. Indeed our God is mighty to save!

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[from Wikipedia] “It Is Well with My Soul” is a very influential hymn penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss.

This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the S.S. Ville du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems follow the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone.” Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford

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1 Peter 2:24-25 ~ 20090222 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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February 22, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 2:21-23; Tracing His Steps in Suffering

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090215_1peter_2_21-23.mp3

02/15 1 Peter 2:21-23 God honoring Conduct; tracing his steps in suffering

Peter laid down some massive truths in the beginning of his letter. He gave his readers their identity; they may have become outcasts and exiles in society because they chose to follow Jesus, but they are chosen by God and precious to him. They have been selected by God for obedience to Jesus Christ. They have been birthed by God into a heavenly inheritance. They are no longer to conform to the foolish passions of this world, but they are to live distinctly, set apart from those around them. They are to fear only God. They were ransomed by Jesus Christ set free to hope in God. They are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, and their ultimate purpose and destiny is to bring glory to God.

Lest we get the wrong idea and feel that because we are aliens in society we can justifiably rebel against all social institutions, Peter gives us clear instructions as to how we are to relate to the government, to employers or masters, and as husbands and wives. All our submission to authority is for the express purpose of fulfilling our destiny; to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. The goal is that they would see our good works and glorify God on the day of visitation. He started with our relation to government. We are to submit to government because government is instituted by God for our good. A government rightly functioning is a blessing to believers as it punishes evil doers and praises those who do good. Then he moves to the master/servant or employer/employee relationship. Here he raises the possibility that the master may not be good and gentle, but rather crooked and unjust. Even in this situation, a believer in the fear of God is to submit to his master. This is a hard thing to swallow. Peter encourages us that it is grace in the sight of God when we suffer for doing what is right, and now he points to our Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate example of one who suffered well.

2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 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. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Notice that suffering is not a detour from the path of following Christ. Suffering is central to our calling. We have been called to suffer unjustly for the sake of the reputation of Christ. We have been called out of darkness and into his marvelous light so that as the spotlight of suffering shines on us, we can put God’s great grace on vivid display. We do this by following in the footsteps of our master.

It says ‘Christ also suffered for you’. Peter could have said ‘Christ also suffered, leaving you an example’. Those two words ‘for you’ are essential. Some have understood Christ’s suffering as nothing more than an example. Jesus was a great moral teacher in his life, and even in his death he taught us by his example. They would say what his death accomplished for us was to set the pattern so that we could follow in his footsteps. It accomplished nothing for us other than to pave the way and show us what we must do to be right with God. Peter is pointing to Jesus as an example for us to follow, but he very carefully guards against the error of limiting the work of Christ to setting an example. Jesus suffering is an example for us to follow, but the central purpose of Jesus’ suffering was ‘for you’. In verse 24 Peter will spell out even more clearly the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death. That’s where the power to suffer unjustly comes from. We are enabled and empowered to do good and suffer unjustly because Jesus suffered on our behalf.

If you are following the example of Jesus, your suffering is not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of those around you. ‘Christ also suffered for you’. Jesus’ suffering was on our behalf. So we also suffer for the sake of other people. Remember, our purpose is to proclaim the excellencies of him to those around us. Jesus suffered for you!

Our calling is to follow in the footsteps of our master, who suffered unjustly for us. The word ‘example’ (upogrammon) that Peter chooses gives us the picture of grammar school, where students trace the letters written by their master so that they learn how to form them correctly. We look to Jesus in order to know how we must shape our lives.

Peter points us first of all to the sinless perfection of Jesus in what he did not do. ‘He committed no sin’. That is an absolute statement of the perfection of Jesus from a follower who knew him intimately. Jesus, the sin bearer, was completely without sin (Jn.8:46; 14:30; 2Cor.5:21; Heb.4:15; 7:26; 1Jn.3:5). Peter said in 1:19 that Christ is like ‘a lamb without blemish or spot’. ‘Neither was deceit found in his mouth’. Peter has in mind Isaiah 53:9

Isaiah 53:9 … because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Jesus’ speech passed the most rigorous scrutiny of his enemies.

Jesus never sinned in action, and he never sinned in his speech. Jesus had enemies looking for opportunity to accuse him, and the testimony of those that interrogated him was ‘I find no guilt in this man’ (Jn.19:4,6). James tells us:

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.

‘When he was reviled, he did not revile in return’. I can’t imagine a much more difficult situation to keep your mouth shut than when you have been falsely accused of something you clearly didn’t do by men who are guilty of the very thing they accuse you of. Justice demands that you exonerate your name from the false charges. Justice screams that the guilty be punished and the innocent go free. Jesus was accused of being possessed by a devil. They called him a Samaritan, a glutton, a drunk, a blasphemer, demon-possessed, on the side of Beelzebub, a perverter of the nation and a deceiver of the people. When we follow the pattern of Jesus we “must learn to die to (our) reputation as well as to other things for His sake” (Nesbit, p.107)

‘When he suffered he did not threaten.’ The words of a Jewish martyr are recorded “You seek to terrify us with your threat of death by torture. … But you, because of your foul murder, will suffer at the hand of divine justice the everlasting torment by fire you deserve.” (4 Maccabees 9:5-9). Polycarp recorded the words of early Christian martyrs “You threaten with that which burns for a time. … you do not know the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment that awaits the ungodly”Peter has in mind Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

How did Jesus maintain sinless perfection in the face of such unjust treatment? How can we possibly follow in his footsteps? Peter gives us insight into what was going on in the mind of Jesus as he silently stood before his accusers. It says ‘but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly’. The word ‘himself’ in our English translation is an attempt to clarify an open-ended statement. Literally it says he ‘continued entrusting or handing over to him who judges justly’. Jesus was continually handing over to God, giving over to God. Jesus took the injustice and entrusted it to God. Jesus took the slander and entrusted it to God. Jesus took the abuse and entrusted it to God. Jesus took the pain and entrusted it to God. In everything Jesus kept entrusting to God. Jesus gave himself and his enemies over to God. He kept entrusting to God. Christianity never demands that we stoically tough it out and absorb the injustice with a smile. Justice must be done. But it is not our place to ensure that justice be done. God says

Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (cf. Deut.32:35)

This is an amazing statement. Jesus certainly has the capacity to judge justly, yet he submitted to the authority of the Father in judgment. We have a tendency to judge unjustly by either demanding excessive punishment, or by letting sin slide and not demanding justice. How much more should we be eager to entrust to God who judges justly. Our sense of justice is warped and must be retrained by the word of God. Jesus’ sense of justice is flawless and he had the authority to pass judgment, yet he refrained and entrusted it all to God.

But Peter is not simply encouraging us to face suffering with silence. Silence can mask a bitter, hateful, resentful, unbelieving, hard, calloused heart. Remember, God is not concerned merely with outward appearances. He looks at our heart. Jesus’ heart found expression when he did speak as he hung suspended by the nails:

Luke 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Jesus’ heart was full of compassion and forgiveness toward his enemies.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We can’t think that we are following in the footsteps of Jesus when we silently suffer and pray ‘I’m not going to pay them back for what they’ve done, I’m entrusting the situation to you – you get ’em God! Make ’em pay! Let justice prevail!’ That’s not ‘entrusting to him who judges justly’; that’s declaring the verdict and asking God to be your executioner. This is not what Peter has in mind, and clearly not what Jesus taught and patterned for us. Ultimately it all comes from pride. My rights were violated. I was not treated fairly. I just want people to treat me with the respect I deserve. No one in the history of the planet was more worthy of respect, had more claim to rights than Jesus. And no one has suffered more unjustly at the hands of perverse men than Jesus. Jesus found strength to do good while suffering unjustly by continually giving it over to his Father.

In verse 13 Peter told us to be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. In verse 19, he told us that it is grace when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. In verse 12 he told us that our conduct should cause unbelievers to glorify God on the day of visitation. In verse 9 he told us that our purpose is to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us. Our suffering is to be a Godward suffering, a God honoring suffering, suffering that proclaims his excellencies. Let’s get real practical. What excellencies of God do we put on display in our suffering unjustly?

First, loving our enemies is an entirely supernatural attitude. It runs absolutely contrary to our fallen human nature. Living in this way puts God on display by showing strong evidence of his awesome power to overcome the self-centered pride in our life.

The other side of that is our God consciousness. Mindful of God we endure sorrows while suffering unjustly. We put God on display when our minds are oriented around a new central theme – God is worth thinking about – all the time.

When we trade in our comfort for suffering, we show God’s comfort and approval is of greater worth than our temporary comfort and the approval of men

When we surrender our rights and suffer, we show that we are trusting in a God who is just and holy and will right every wrong.

When we endure sorrows for Christ’s sake, we display God’s ability to replace our deepest sorrows with his soul satisfying joy.

When we persist in doing good even when we suffer for it, we display God’s sustaining grace and power to keep us against all odds.

When we humbly accept God’s call to suffer for doing good, we magnify God’s grace and mercy toward sinners as he uses our conduct to open blind eyes to see the excellencies of his character.

1 Peter 2:21-23 ~ 20090215 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 15, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , | 1 Comment

1 Peter 2:18-21; God Honoring Conduct While Suffering Unjustly

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090208_1peter_2_18-21.mp3

02/08 1 Peter 2:18-21 God honoring Conduct; subjection to crooked masters

Peter is writing to believers scattered across Asia Minor, who have become outsiders in their own communities because they are now followers of Jesus. They are aliens and exiles to society, but to God they are elect and precious. They have been selected by God for obedience (upakohn) to Jesus Christ. They have been birthed by God into a new inheritance that is kept for them in heaven. They are looking forward to a future salvation and their trials here are only temporary. They are to fix their hope fully on this future grace. They are no longer to conform to the foolish passions from which they came, but they are to live distinctly, set apart from those around them. They are to fear only God. They were ransomed from the futile ways of their forefathers and set free to hope in God. They are to love the community of believers. Everything else will wear out and fade away, but they have been born again of imperishable seed. Jesus, their cornerstone, was also rejected by men, but in the sight of God chosen and precious. They are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. They will be honored by God when others are put to shame. They are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, and their ultimate purpose and destiny is to bring glory to God.

Based on the facts of who they are in Christ, these believers who find themselves in a hostile society, could draw some wrong conclusions, and Peter warns against these. One danger is that they would use their freedom and position in Christ and say “I’m a king’s kid and I have a royal inheritance. As a child of the king I’m entitled to a life of pleasure and ease.” In 2:11 he warns us to ‘abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul’ and in 2:16 he tells us to ‘live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God’.

The other danger is to take their position in Christ and say “I am an alien to your society and I am no longer under its laws. I fear only God and I obey a new master, the Lord Jesus Christ. My citizenship is in heaven and I am no longer obliged to obey you or your laws or customs.” In 2:12 Peter says ‘Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that … they may see your good deeds and glorify God’. And in 2:13 he says ‘be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution’ particularly the government under which you live.

Peter has laid out our freedom and privileged position in Christ very clearly, and now he gives some very practical instructions on how to flesh this out in society. In relation to the state, we are to give honor and live in obedience in so far as our conscience and respect for God’s ultimate authority allow. In the remainder of chapter 2, he addresses our relation to unjust masters or employers and he points to Jesus as our example; in chapter 3 he addresses our relationships within the family. Let’s read the passage in its context, then we’ll focus our attention on verses 18-21

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover–up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 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. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

In this section Peter is addressing servants or slaves. We might be inclined to think that since we have abolished slavery in our country, what he says here has no relevance to us today. We need to understand who he is addressing, so that we don’t make the mistake of tuning him out. The word is (oikethv), a household servant or domestic slave. This was a semi-permanent employee without legal or economic freedom. Peter probably doesn’t use the more common New Testament word (doulov) for ‘slave’ because he just used that in verse 16 where he commanded all believers to live as slaves of God. Here he’s focusing on those who serve a human master. Although we don’t have the same social structures, what he says is applicable to our employer/ employee relationship. He is specifically addressing servants, but in verse 19 he says ‘when one endures’, widening his application to anyone who ‘endures sorrows while suffering unjustly’. The master/ servant relationship is just one example of where unjust suffering can take place.

Peter is putting his practical instruction in the context of our ultimate purpose: we are

1 Peter 2:9 …a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Last time we saw that our submission to the state is not so that we might live peaceful comfortable lives but that ‘they may see your good deeds and and glorify God’. We are not to be submissive for our own sake, but ‘for the Lord’s sake… that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Our obedience is to be a God centered God honoring obedience. By our actions we seek to proclaim the excellencies of God.

The same is true as he talks about our submission to unjust masters. He says ‘Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect…’ The word translated ‘respect’ is literally the word ‘fear’. It’s the same word that he used in verse 17 when he told us that we are to fear God alone. I don’t think he’s telling us in one breath not to fear the emperor and in the next telling us to fear our earthly masters or employers. Literally he says ‘servants, be subject to your masters in all fear’ He’s referring us back to what he just said. Fear God. In all fear of God, be subject to your masters. And look at verse 19: he doesn’t say that you are blessed simply because you tough it out and endure while suffering unjustly. We can endure unjust sufferings for many wrong reasons. We might put up with mistreatment because we feel like we have no choice and are powerless to do anything about it. We might put up with unjust suffering because we feel like it is the noble thing to do. Or we might put up with it simply because we are too lazy to do anything about it. None of these reasons in and of themselves has any virtue with God. He says ‘when, mindful of God you endure – that is a gracious thing’. It is a conscious intentional seeking to show the surpassing worth of God in our suffering that has merit with God.

He tells us that we are to be subject, not only when it’s convenient and easy, but especially when it’s hard. He describes masters as ‘unjust’; the word is (skoliov) from which we get our word scoliosis. It literally means ‘crooked or perverse’. Peter goes on:

19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

He says ‘this is a gracious thing’; literally ‘this is grace (cariv) … this is grace in the sight of God.’ Enduring sorrows – emotional grief or mental anguish as a result of unjust treatment – is reason for God to show favor. Peter draws the contrast in verse 20: ‘what credit is it if you sin and endure a beating?’ That’s not something that deserves honor or fame, and it certainly doesn’t bring glory to God. But if you do good and endure suffering, that is grace before God.

This is the same teaching in the same language Jesus used in Luke 6:

Luke 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit (cariv -grace) is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit (cariv -grace) is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit (cariv -grace) is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

If we only do what is normal and common and expected, it requires no grace and merits no reward. But to do what is extraordinary and noteworthy, we need God’s gracious help, and we bring pleasure to God and praise to him as people see our good deeds and give glory to God. If we endure sorrow and patiently bear injustice, this proclaims the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. When, mindful of God; in trusting awareness of God’s presence and never failing care; we endure sorrow while suffering unjustly; having confidence that God will ultimately right all wrongs and do justice, we can in fear of God submit to an unjust master without resentment, rebelliousness, self-pity or despair.

Notice the next verse:

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.

Because to this you have been called. Did you know that you and I have been called to suffer unjustly in order to bring glory to God? That is our calling. We are called to be saints (Rom.1:7); we are called to belong to Jesus (Rom.1:6); we are called according to his purpose Rom.8:28); we are called ‘beloved’ (Rom.9:25); we are called ‘sons of the living God’ (Rom.9:26); we are called into the fellowship of his Son (1Cor.1:9); we are called in the grace of Christ (Gal.1:6,15); we are called to freedom (Gal.5:13); we are called to hope (Eph.4:4); we are called to into his own kingdom and glory (1Thess.2:12); we are called in holiness (1Thess.4:7); we are called to eternal life (1Tim.6:12); we are called to his eternal glory in Christ (1Pet.5:10); we are called to his own glory and excellence (2Pet.1:3); we are called children of God (1John3:1); but did you know we are called to suffer? Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples:

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 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. …

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Paul and Barnabas taught

Acts 14:22 … that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Paul encouraged the Thessalonian believers:

1 Thessalonians 3:3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.

Paul told Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

Friends, we are called to be aliens in our culture. And we are called to suffer for doing good if that should be God’s will (1Pet.3:17). We have been called out of darkness and into his marvelous light, and we have been called to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us.

1 Peter 2:9 …a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

One of the main ways we proclaim his excellencies is by suffering well even under unjust circumstances:

1 Peter 2:12 …so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Suffering is not a sidebar in the Christian life. Suffering is the main way through which God brings us to possess the promised inheritance, and in the process we bring him glory and praise.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 8, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 2:13-17; God Honoring Conduct; The State

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090201_1peter_2_13-17.mp3

02/01 1 Peter 2:13-17 God honoring conduct; subjection to political authority

This morning we are going to jump back into 1 Peter 2:13-17. We haven’t been in Peter for 2 months, so we need to start with some review to put this passage into its context.

Peter is writing from a prison in Rome, awaiting his own execution under the evil emperor Nero. Peter is writing to persecuted Christians scattered across Asia Minor, encouraging them to suffer well. At the close of the letter he says:

1 Peter 5:12 …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

He addresses the believers as ‘elect exiles’ (1:1) or ‘chosen outcasts’ or ‘the selected rejected’. Because these people had embraced Jesus as their God, they had become strangers in their own hometowns. They no longer fit in to society. They maintain a distinct identity. They don’t think and feel and act like the rest of society, and because of this they are rejected and persecuted. But their rejection is because they are objects of God’s great mercy and his special favor. They have been selected by God to be his. This is a position of safety and security. So Peter goes on to tell them about their inheritance (1:3-5). They have become heirs because God caused them to be born into his family. Their inheritance is being kept safe for them and they are being kept by God’s power safe for it. Any trials they face serve to prove the genuineness of their faith so that the outcome will be the salvation of their souls (1:6-9). Their salvation has been the focal point of prophets, evangelists and angels (1:10-12).

Peter has begun this letter by unveiling the bedrock foundation of our security in Jesus. He spent the first 12 verses pointing us to massive truths about God’s work of redemption as a ground for joy and worship. Then, in verse 13 he shifts gears from telling us our identity and security as recipients of God’s great mercy to giving us big broad commands of how we are to live our lives. Because the triune God is at work to secure your salvation, this is how you must respond; this is what you must do. His very first command is this: you must fix your hope fully on future grace (1:13). Hope! Hope in God and all that he promises to be for you in Jesus Christ! Look back on what he has done to initiate your salvation and be convinced that he will finish what he has started. Then he commands us to be holy (1:14-16). You have a new driving passion in your life so live set apart and devoted to God. Be passionate about God; be consumed with delight in who God is. Be holy. Next he commands us to fear (1:17-21); fear living in such a way that indicates Jesus’ blood is not precious to you. Hope, be holy, fear and love. Love one another with genuine un-hypocritical heartfelt self-sacrificing love (1:22-25). Then he commands us to crave milk (2:1-3). God has brought about new life in you. Long for those things that will sustain that new life. Consistently feed on things that will make you grow.

In 2:4, Peter moves to talk about the corporate existence of those who come to Jesus. We are built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering sacrifices that are acceptable to God. We are a distinct people for his own possession and our reason for existence is to proclaim the excellencies of him (2:9). We have been shown great undeserved mercy and we can now point others to a God who is rich in mercy to undeserving sinners. We were made to give glory to God. We are made recipients of God’s great mercy so that we will bring glory to our great God. Peter continues in this present section to tell us how to live our lives in such a way that we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us. He says:

2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Peter’s prescribed method for bringing glory to God is both positive and negative. Negatively, abstain from the passions of the flesh, because these will destroy your soul and you will make shipwreck of your faith and bring reproach to the God you claim to follow. Positively, keep your conduct honorable and your good deeds observable. Be known in the community as someone who has genuine integrity and love for others. Perhaps from observing your faithful God honoring life, God will visit them with mercy and they will be brought to trust in Jesus. The goal is God’s glory, the means is their salvation, and the method is our life of integrity. Peter points us to our relations to the government, to our employers or masters, and to our husbands and wives as arenas where we can put the glory of God on display. Today we will look at the arena of the state as an opportunity to glorify God.

2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover–up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Peter reminds us that the primary motivation for a godly life is the glory of God. We don’t live a godly life because there are health benefits or tax benefits or social and economic benefits. We must live in a way that puts God on display and represents God well to our community so that God gets the honor and attention that he deserves. We are told to submit to human institutions for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ; not because it is good for us, but because it is good for him. We want to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light; we want people to see our good deeds and glorify God. So how do we live in relation to our government so that the glory of God is put on display?

Peter tells us to ‘be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution’. Literally the text says ‘to every human creature’ or ‘every human creation’. The point is that all people are created by God and in the image of God, and as such are worthy of honor and respect. Peter may be reminding his readers that the emperor is not divine, but a part of God’s creation. Paul says:

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

All authority that exists has been instituted and appointed by God. They are God’s servants for your good, as well as God’s servant to carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. In Daniel 2 we are told of God that

Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;

Peter, in prison in Rome under the maniacal emperor Nero, acknowledged that it is right to be subject to those God has placed in authority over him. He even specifies the king or emperor as supreme, and more immediately applicable to his readers, the governors that are sent out by the king to rule various areas.

The purpose of government is clearly and succinctly stated here in verse 14: ‘to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good’. Governments are responsible to punish evil doers. Individuals are not to seek revenge, but to trust the authority structure to carry out justice. Governments are responsible to reward and encourage those who do good. If you are a Christian then you should be in this category, being praised by your government for doing good in your community and thus bringing honor and glory to God.

In verse 15 he gives the reason why we are to be subject to those in authority over us: ‘for this is the will of God’. There are so many Christians that are wandering through life asking the question ‘what is God’s will for me? what does God want me to do?’ Here is the authoritative word of God for you. This is the will of God for your life – submit for the Lord’s sake to those who are in authority over you! In submitting to authority and doing good ‘you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people’. ‘Put to silence’ is the word used for muzzling a wild animal. There were rumors circulating about the Christians. Because Christians would not worship the emperor, they were considered atheists, unpatriotic and dangerous. Their reference to fellow Christians as brothers and sisters was misconstrued to indicate incestuous practices, and their celebration of the Lord’s supper won them the accusation of cannibalism. Peter did not instruct them to rent billboards and take out newspaper ads to correct the public thinking and clear up the misunderstanding. Instead, he tells them to muzzle the ignorance of fools by persistently doing good. According to Proverbs 1:7, fools are those who do not fear God and walk in his ways. If you are living in a manner that is clearly above reproach, the accusations and rumors will soon be displayed as foolishness.

Verse 16 is paradoxical. Peter tells us to live as free slaves to God. Jesus said:

Luke 4:18 … He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives … to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” …36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Paul preached:

Acts 13:38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything 39 from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

And he tells us in Galatians:

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Peter told us

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ…

Revelation tells us that Jesus is the one:

Revelation 1:5 … who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

So we have been set free from our sins and we have been ransomed from a life of futility to live a life that counts for the glory of God. We have been set free by Jesus and we are free indeed.

On the flip side, he tells us:

16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover–up for evil, but living as servants of God.

There are many that misunderstand the freedom that we have in Christ. Rather than a freedom from sin, they take it as freedom to sin. This is a dangerous misunderstanding of freedom and misuse of grace. We were slaves of sin, and a return to sin is a return to slavery. True biblical freedom is the freedom to please and honor God. Paul addresses the issue extensively in Romans 6:

Romans 6:18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness… 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

In Galatians he says it this way:

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Living in true Christian freedom is really living as the slave of God in full submission to his absolute authority. True freedom is the freedom to be who we were created to be and bring honor and glory and praise to God.

Peter concludes this section with four imperatives:

17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

First, we are commanded to honor everyone. All people must be shown the respect due to those who have been created in God’s image. The brotherhood is a word unique to Peter to refer to believers. We are to self-sacrificially love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Reverential fear and awe is reserved for God alone. God alone is to be worshiped. God alone has the ultimate authority and power to determine existence. Peter concludes with the emperor, and drops back down to the level of honor, which he already said should be extended to everyone. The emperor is here explicitly included as worthy of honor, regardless of what you think of him, although not necessarily love and certainly not fear.

What Peter doesn’t say in this passage is interesting. He tells us to be submissive to every human institution. Where’s the ‘except’ clause? We know that when Peter and the other apostles were arrested and commanded not to teach about Jesus they responded:

Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

We’re waiting for Peter to say that it’s O.K. to submit to authority as long as and only until and under these conditions. Submit to authority up to this point and then you have every right to rebel. Peter doesn’t even go there. He doesn’t play the ‘what if’ game. He doesn’t list any exceptions to the rule, and there are legitimate exceptions to the rule. But our tendency is to find ourselves in the exception and ignore the rule. Most of our heroes held up for us in the media are guys who do it their own way and disregard authority and get the job done. They always have a sarcastic remark and a biting comeback. Where is the hero who plays by the rules and submits to authority and treats everyone with respect and honor? Where is the hero whose speech and conduct is above reproach? Peter is giving us the general rule. God has instituted government for our good. Even tyrannical governments do some good in keeping the peace. Our goal is not to come out looking good but to make our God look good. We proclaim the excellencies of him who called us when we incessantly do good and show honor to authority.

Pliny, Letters 10.96-97

Pliny the Younger was governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD.

Pliny to the Emperor Trajan

It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ–none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.

February 1, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment