PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Church’s One Foundation; Matthew 16:18

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090104_the_church_1.mp3

1/04 The Church; Community founded on the Identity of Jesus and United by the New Birth

I want to take the next few weeks and look at the church. As we’ve come into the new year I’ve spent some time thinking about what my life looks like, what I want it to look like, and what adjustments I need to make so that I can be who I want to be and do what I want to do. I’d like to encourage us as the church to do the same thing. So I want to look at the church in the bible; who are we supposed to be and what are we called to do. I want you to investigate with me what Jesus says about his church and invite you to imagine with me how we might be the church. Let’s dream together what it would look like for us to be who we are called to be and do what we are called to do.

I want to start today by looking at the identity of the church. The church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth. We will spend the rest of our time today filling out and understanding this definition.

Next week I’d like to look at the origin and destiny of the church. The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and will overcome.

In the following week, I’d like to look at more of the nuts and bolts of what the church is and does – who we are called to be and what we are called to do in our community and in the world.

Let’s start by looking at the word ‘church’ and define what it is that we are talking about. The Greek word translated ‘church’ in our New Testament is the word [ekklhsia ekklesia] which refers to an assembly or gathering of people. The word comes from the root [ek ek] out of; and [kalew kaleo] to call; literally it means the called out ones; and can be translated congregation or assembly. In classical Greek it was used for the summons to the army to assemble. The church is a group of people who have something in common. As I said earlier, the church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth.

I want to center our attention on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:18

Matthew 16:18 …on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Let’s look at the whole passage:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

The identity of Jesus is what’s at stake here. Jesus raises the question- ‘what’s the word on the street? Who do people say that I am?’ And he receives three answers; John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah or one of the prophets. I think it’s worth asking why people identified Jesus with these three figures.

John the Baptist would have been fresh in their memories. John was the cousin of Jesus, and he was a radical who lived in the desert, wore camel’s hair, ate bugs, and got in the face of the religious and political leaders of his day. He called the religious authorities names in front of the people they were supposed to be ministering to, and he sparked a revival in the masses. He meddled in the private sex life of the political leader of his day, telling him that God was displeased with his sexual sin, and this got him thrown in prison and eventually beheaded. Herod, who feared John, was paranoid and thought that Jesus was John raised from the dead. (Mark 6:14ff) Apparently Herod’s paranoia sparked a rumor that Jesus was this greatest of all prophets raised from the dead.

Elijah; [1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2] Elijah was a prophet from the Old Testament around 873-843 BC; about 50 years after King Solomon, at the time of Ahab, the evil king of Israel, and his wicked wife Jezebel. At his word there was a drought in Israel for three years. God supernaturally provided food for him during the drought. Elijah raised a young man from the dead. He challenged the idolatrous worship that was taking place in Israel to a showdown between Baal and Asherah, and YHWH, the true God of Israel. He had all the false priests executed. God took him to heaven in a whirlwind with chariots of fire and horses of fire. There was an expectation that he would reappear at the end times:

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

But why Jeremiah?

Jeremiah was a priest and a prophet who was called by God to speak to rebellious Israel who were unfaithful to the Lord. He preached during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiachim, and Zedekiah (627-587 BC) until Judah was carried off into captivity in Babylon . He was called to speak against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people (1:18). Jesus quotes this prophet when he says

Luke 19:46 …“It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jeremiah 7:11 ‘Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord… 20 therefore thus says the Lord God: behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched… 25 From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. 26 Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. 27 So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.

Jeremiah was called to prophesy to the nation of Israel with the advance knowledge that his preaching would not bring repentance and restoration but rather greater accountability and condemnation. Because of this he was know as the weeping prophet. Yet he faithfully preached to the people up to the day they were carried off into captivity, even suffering arrest and abuse at the hands of the leaders of Israel.

I think this gives us some insight into the temperament of Jesus. Jesus was known as ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’

Isaiah 53:3 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.

And we are told that he wept over Jerusalem;

Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” 45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

John tells us:

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

So the people identified Jesus with John, who confronted the evil of his day and sparked a major revival; and Elijah, a fiery prophet who performed miracles, feeding the hungry and even raising the dead; and Jeremiah, the weeping prophet who foretold the fall of Jerusalem and was rejected. There is an element of truth in all these identifications of Jesus, but they all fall short.

Jesus said John was the greatest of men (Matt.11:11). But John was discouraged in prison and sent word to Jesus asking if he was the Christ or if they should look for another. Elijah was afraid of Jezebel and ran into the desert to hide and wanted to die. Jeremiah complained to the Lord. These were all prophets of God, used by God to do mighty works, yet they were all mere men, and they all had their own flaws and shortcomings. No one in Jesus day thought that he was just a good man or a great moral teacher or a really nice guy. They recognized him as a person invested with supernatural power and eloquence. He was a radical prophetic voice in the world. But their analysis fell short of who he really is. Jesus is the great Prophet; he is our great High Priest; he is a mighty worker of supernatural signs. But he is more than a man with faults and flaws. He is messiah, the anointed King of kings, the divine Son of God.

When Peter responded with the right answer, Jesus commended him and called him blessed, but he also clarified the source of this information. Peter did not come up with this on his own. The fact that Peter recognized Jesus for who he is was evidence of divine intervention; supernatural revelation from the Father.

16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The identity of Jesus is the foundation stone of the church, and the true identity of Jesus comes as a revelation from the Father. Men may conclude that Jesus was a good man or a great moral teacher or even a prophet of God, but God bears witness about his Son that he is God in the flesh, the fulfillment of all the prophecies. There was a Pharisee who came to Jesus at night and had his own perception of who Jesus was. He called him ‘Rabbi’ and identified him as a teacher who came from God doing signs. Jesus challenged him on his need for a spiritual transformation so that he could see Jesus for who he really is:

John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus went on to reveal his identity as the only Son of the Father sent to bring eternal life and salvation to a world condemned by sin.

…14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The new birth is necessary to see Jesus for who he is, and it is a work of the Spirit of God. Paul describes this as being immersed or baptized by the Spirit into one body – the body of Christ, his church.

1 Corinthians 12:12 …so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body––Jews or Greeks, slaves or free––and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

…27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church…

The church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth and united by the new birth. The identity of Jesus is pivotal and foundational.

17 …“Blessed are you, …For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

We must have our lives built on the rock of Jesus. We must have his identity revealed supernaturally by the Father. We must be born again by the Spirit of God to truly know him for who he is. The identity of Jesus is the foundation of the church.

Jesus, we want to see you; to see you for who you really are. To get a vision of you in all the radiance of your glory; universe Maker, Lion of the tribe of Judah, King of kings and Lord of lords, infinite Word, exalted Son, Love incarnate, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, God with us – Jesus. Father, remove the scales from our eyes so that we can see Jesus for who he really is. Lord, if there are any here who have not been transformed by Jesus, I pray that you would cause them to be born again; cause them to come to you, to trust you, to be set free by you, to experience the abundant life in you. Holy Spirit, fall on us and overpower us.

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January 4, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:22-25

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20081102_1peter1_22-25.mp3

11/2 1 Peter 1:22-25 love one another

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 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, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

1:22 tav qucav umwn hgnikotev en th upakoh thv alhyeiav eiv filadelfian anupokriton ek kardiav allhlouv agaphsate ektenwv 23 anagegennhmenoi ouk ek sporav fyarthv alla afyartou dia logou zwntov yeou kai menontov 24 dioti pasa sarx wv cortov kai pasa doxa authv wv anyov cortou exhranyh o cortov kai to anyov exepesen 25 to de rhma kuriou menei eiv ton aiwna touto de estin to rhma to euaggelisyen eiv umav

Peter has spent the first 12 verses celebrating what God has done to make us his forever. In verses 1-3, he chose us and caused us to be born again through the resurrection of Jesus. In verse 4 he is keeping our inheritance safe for us. In verse 5, he is guarding us by his power for our salvation through our faith. In verses 6-7, he is testing our faith by the fire of trials so that it is proved genuine. In verses 8-9 he points to our joy in Jesus as evidence of our genuine belief that will result in our salvation in the end. In verses 10-12 he encourages us that prophets and angels and evangelists, through the Holy Spirit were all working together to bring us salvation. Then in verse 13 he inserts a critical ‘therefore’ to give us commands; the commands hinge on and flow from an understanding of the doctrinal truth he has presented. Because of what God has done to make you his forever, this is how you should respond. So far, he has given us three commands. In verse 13, set your hope fully on future grace, in verses 14-16, be holy – highlight the priority of God in you actions and attitudes, and in verses 17-21, live in fear – fear of treating the infinitely precious sacrifice of Jesus as something impotent and insignificant. These three imperatives are primarily Godward – they define our relationship with and attitude toward God – we are to hope in him, to be holy like him, and to live in fear of displeasing him.

Now in verses 22-25, Peter turns his attention to our horizontal relationships that flow out of our vertical relationship:

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Peter now gives us a fourth command – ‘love one another’. We need to understand what he is commanding us to do, why he demands it, and how he expects us to do it. He is demanding that we love one another. We might initially react against this. How can you command love? Isn’t love an emotion? You can’t command me to feel something that I don’t feel. I’ve often hear the comment: ‘I know I’m commanded to love them, and I do, but I don’t have to like them’ By studying what Peter has to say, we should come away with a better understanding of our obligation to our fellow believers and some practical advice on how to put it into practice.

Peter starts us out by reminding us of our conversion and what it accomplished. In verse 2, Peter told us that we are elect ‘for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.’ He now points us to our obedience to the truth as what has purified our souls. In the New Testament, obedience to the truth and belief in the truth are synonymous concepts. Believing the gospel message is the same thing as placing yourself under the authority of God and his word. Nowhere in the bible is faith a mere mental agreement with the historical facts of the gospel message. Always faith engages the whole person and demands a new affection and and is produced by a new life. Embracing the good news about Jesus means subjecting yourself to the authority of the truth about God and living consistently with it.

Peter points us to the purifying effect of embracing God’s truth. And he points to a decisive past action rather than a continuing process. If you have embraced Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection as the substitute for your sins, then you have been purified. You have been decisively washed by the blood of Jesus.

Remember when the disciples came into the upper room, and they had been arguing about who was the greatest and none of them would stoop to do the menial task of washing the feet of the others? To their shock, their Rabbi laid aside his clothes and wrapped himself in a towel and stooped to wash their feet. When Jesus came to Peter, Peter said ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ (Jn.13:8-10). Jesus replied ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me’. So Peter ambitiously answered ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus replied ‘the one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean…’ Peter had been washed from his sins by trusting Jesus.

In Acts 15:9, Peter said that God cleansed the heart of the Gentiles by faith; here he says that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth.

Acts 15:9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.

You have purified your soul by obedience to the truth for an intended purpose. That purpose is ‘a sincere brotherly love’. Jesus washed you so that you can love your brothers. This is sibling love – blood relations are strong. I have a brother who is 8 years older than I am and we are good friends today. But this was not always so. I was the little kid that was into his stuff and he loved to torment me. But I remember one glorious day when a bigger kid was bullying me and made the mistake of pursuing me all the way home. He didn’t expect to run into my big brother, and he suddenly found his feet dangling a few inches off the ground as my brother explained in graphic detail what would happen to him if he was ever found bothering me again. Blood relations run deep. Relationships bought with the precious blood of Jesus run even deeper. We are blood brothers and sisters. We have a new family bond because of being born into God’s family.

We were purified for sincere brotherly love. The word is literally ‘un-hypocritical’. Our love toward our brothers and sisters is to be real; genuine; not fake; not the putting on of a mask and pretending to love. That is all too common in the church and we need to repent of that. Peter’s argument here is ‘since you have been purified for un-hypocritical love, then love! He changes the word from ‘philadelphia’ to ‘agape’. This describes unconditional purposeful love – to intentionally bring the highest good to the other, even at the expense of self. This love that has no conditions- ‘I’ll love you as long as you are part of my natural circle of friends’ ‘I’ll love you as long as you respond appropriately and gratefully’ ‘I’ll love you if you are somehow deserving of my love or if I am able to see some growth or effort on your part’; I’ll love you if you are lovable’; ‘I’ll love you if the demand is not too high or the duration is not too long’… Agape love is love with no conditions. Love that puts the needs of others before your own – self-sacrificing love.

And this love is descried in two ways. It is an earnest love and it is from the heart. The word ‘earnest’ carries the idea of being stretched to the limit or exerting your full capacity to love. Love in earnest and love from the heart. This is not a superficial kind of love. This is love that originates in the core of your being. We might say ‘love with all your heart and soul’ – love with full intensity with a love that is heartfelt and genuine.

This brings us back to the question – how can Peter command heartfelt un-hypocritical love? I can do the loving thing because I know I ought to, but I can’t manufacture this full-on heartfelt intensity of love that Peter demands. I can act loving even when I don’t feel like it, but how do I eliminate hypocrisy from my love? How do I love sincerely, from the heart, in earnest? How do I become not merely willing, but eager to love my neighbor like I love myself? How do I not quit loving when I get tired and worn out? Peter gives us his answer in the next verse:

23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

Peter grounds his command for agape love in our regeneration. You can love like I am commanding you because you have been born again. In verse 3 he said ‘blessed be…God…’ because…

3…According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again…

Our new birth results in a new family relationship. We love one another because God is now our common spiritual father through new birth. We love one another because the nature of the father – who is love- has been passed on to us. We can keep on loving one another because the new life we have in Jesus is indestructible.

In verse 4, Peter told us that our inheritance is imperishable. In verse 18, he told us that we were not ransomed with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. Now he tells us that the seed or sperm that produced our new life is not perishable but imperishable. We have imperishable DNA through our new birth!

Our new birth came by means of God’s word.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Peter here tells us that God caused us to be born again through or by means of his word. His word is living; so we have life. His word remains; so we will persevere. God’s word will not perish, so we who trust in God’s word will never perish. Peter substantiates his claim with a quote from Isaiah 40:6-8. The context is a proclamation of comfort to Israel, because although they will be carried off in captivity to Babylon, God will restore them from their exile. He will blow on their enemies and they will wither like grass, but his promises will never fail. Peter is writing to the elect exiles in Asia Minor, and he is encouraging them to love because God’s word has created new life in them. No nation, no matter how strong, not Babylon, not Rome, not the people that are now persecuting you, can thwart God’s purposes. God is keeping an inheritance for you, and God is keeping you for your inheritance. God’s word has birthed new life in you, and that life is imperishable. God’s word is powerful and will accomplish its purpose.

Isaiah 55:11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Jesus said:

Mark 13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

And God’s purpose for his regenerating word is to create a community, a family who hope in his grace, who love what he loves and are holy like he is holy; who esteem Jesus so highly that they fear treating with contempt the value of the cross; who love one another sincerely, earnestly, un-hypocritically, from the heart.

And Peter concludes ‘and this word is the good news that was preached to you.’ This indestructible word, this life creating word, is the good news, the gospel message that was preached to you. Prophets prophesied, searched and inquired about the grace that was to be yours; they served not themselves but you; these things have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (1:10-12).

This is the gospel message:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you––unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

The good news is a message of God’s gracious love:

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

God’s love is free and unconditional:

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

Our love for others is a natural result of God’s love for us and the new birth;

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

So how do we love? The good news that Jesus died for our sins was proclaimed to us, and that indestructible message creates life in its hearers. The life that is created is life from God and will reflect God’s character of love.

So what if this morning an honest glance into my own heart tells me that I don’t find God’s love there? What should I do? Our text this morning tells me to look to God’s love in the gospel message. Look to the life transforming message of God’s grace toward sinners in the cross. Look to the magnitude of your sin against God, for ‘he who is forgiven little, loves little’ (Luke 7:47). Look to the precious blood of Jesus that ransoms us from the futile loveless life inherited from our forefathers. We are set free to love each other. Be immersed in the word of God that creates a life of love in its hearers. The good news is the power of God to save believers. Drench yourself in God’s word and allow God to shape your emotions and attitudes and actions to the image of Jesus.

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

November 2, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:3-5

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080914_1peter_1_3-5.mp3

9/14 1 Peter 1:3-5 praise God for new birth and the guarding of my faith

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1:3 euloghtov o yeov kai pathr tou kuriou hmwn ihsou cristou o kata to polu autou eleov anagennhsav hmav eiv elpida zwsan di anastasewv ihsou cristou ek nekrwn 4 eiv klhronomian afyarton kai amianton kai amaranton tethrhmenhn en ouranoiv eiv umav 5 touv en dunamei yeou frouroumenouv dia pistewv eiv swthrian etoimhn apokalufyhnai en kairw escatw

Peter is writing to encourage the suffering saints scattered across Asia Minor to stand firm in the true grace of God.

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

He points them first to their position as Christians in tension; they are the elected rejected; the chosen outcasts. And he points them to the work of the trinity in securing this position for them. The Father had foreknown them; the Spirit sets them apart; they are destined for obedience to the gospel and washing with Jesus’ blood. He points them to the origin, the experience and the destiny of their elect standing with God.

Next, and flowing out of the trinitarian work of election, he leads the suffering church in worship. This teaches us some things about worship: worship is appropriate even in hard times. Peter’s readers may have read this and responded ‘but we don’t feel like blessing God. Peter, we want you to lobby the government about our situation. Get some good lawyers to change the political landscape. Raise some funds to give us some relief from our difficult circumstances.’ But Peter starts by turning their attention away from their situation and toward God. They need to look up and have God in his awesome majesty consume their entire field of vision before they can look rightly at their own circumstances.

Another thing we learn about worship: worship is substantive. Worship is not merely a feeling or experience. It is that, but it is more. It is a feeling or experience based on and coming out of solid biblical truth. We will see what Peter points to as a foundation for their worship.

This text is a worship text. So I pray that as we study it together and learn what it says, our response is that of worship. I hope that a deep heartfelt sense of gratitude wells up inside each one of us. So after his profoundly deep theological greeting, He starts with the words ‘Blessed be’ or ‘praise be’. The word is ‘ euloghtov eulogetos‘ and it’s where we get our English word ‘eulogy’. When I think of an eulogy, I think of all the nice things someone says that may or may not be true of the person in the casket. Their strong points are exaggerated; their weaknesses are forgotten. They are painted larger than life. But when our eulogy, our praise is directed toward God, we are seeking to express what is true about him, to give him the honor and praise that is his due. That is what worship is – declaring the worth of God, speaking to him and to ourselves and to those within earshot of how truly awesome he really is.

Our worship is directed to God. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not just addressing any god. Peter specifies – this is the God that Jesus worshiped and prayed to. Jesus connected us with the God who revealed himself in the Old Testament scriptures as YHWH, the self existent creator of all things, who would send his only Son to suffer and die for our sins. This is the God and the Father of Jesus. Jesus described his relationship with God the Father in terms of the relation of a loving father to his son, and he said this was true even before the foundation of the world:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Jesus is described as ‘our Lord’; our master, our sovereign, our ruler, our king, the one we submit to as our absolute authority. And he is the Christ – the fulfillment of all messianic hope and expectation. Our worship is directed to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And then the grounds for worship are given. Why are we worshiping? Because of who God is and what he has done. Before he explains the main subject of his praise, Peter gives a descriptive phrase about the character of God: ‘according to his great mercy’. This is the origin of what follows. Just as God’s foreknowledge was the source or origin of our election in verses 1-2, now God’s great mercy is the source of his action toward us. God is a merciful God. So let’s define mercy:

mer·cy \ˈmər-sē\ noun 1 a: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment <begged for mercy> b: imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder (taken from m-w.com)

Mercy is forbearance shown to an offender; not giving the guilty party the full punishment that their crime deserves; clemency.

When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said:

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Part of God’s glory is his authority and freedom to show mercy to whom he wills. And when God declared his nature and character to Moses, he started with mercy:

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

The distinction between mercy and grace is that mercy is negative and grace is positive. Mercy is the ‘slow to anger’; grace is the ‘abounding in steadfast love’. God’s mercy is his not giving us the punishment we deserve; grace is giving us blessings we didn’t earn. From our point of view, mercy is not getting what we do deserve; grace is getting what we don’t deserve. And Peter praises God because God has ‘much mercy’. One way to encourage persecuted Christians is to remind them of what they deserve but have been spared of. These Christians might fear the emperor; if they don’t bow and worship him as a god, they might even be put to death. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

We have committed hight treason against the King of kings. We refuse to bend our knee. We think and feel and act as if we were more important than the king. We walk into his presence and expect Him to bow to us and do what we demand! If we contemplate who we are and what our sins deserve, this is grounds for worship! Praise God that he is more than just and righteous! Praise God that he has ‘much mercy’!

Peter tells us here that God’s mercy is the source of our new birth. It is according to the muchness of his mercy that he has caused us to be born again. This is the same metaphor that Jesus used with Nicodemus to describe the work of the Spirit. I want you to think for a moment about being born. I trust all of you in this room have been born, so we share that common experience. Reflect back on your conception and birth. What was your part in it? Could you in any way say that you caused your conception and birth or was it something that happened to you? You can thank God for it or you can complain to God about it, but you can’t take credit for it. That’s what Nicodemus struggles with when Jesus tells him that he must be born again. How can I do that? What do I have to do? I can’t very well get back inside my mother’s womb. Being born isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens to you. Jesus pointed to the fact that rebirth is the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter here points us to the truth that our new birth is a merciful act caused by God. And when you’re born, you’re born into something. We were all born into this cold cruel world. I was born into my family. Peter tells us that we were born again into a living hope. Jesus said:

John 10:10 …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

And when we were conceived spiritually by the Father, that new life was created in us. We were dead, but God in his mercy made us alive.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved––

Peter is writing to scattered aliens in a hostile community. People will treat us badly. They might make fun of us. They might take our stuff. They might even harm us or kill us. And Peter tells them that they have an unquenchable life force inside of them that gives an unshakable hope in the future. When the gun is at the head of the Christian we can say with joy:

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

And that’s the new life inside of us speaking. This new life comes ‘through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ We might think, since we’re talking about the Father and new birth that it would say ‘through the incarnation in the manger at Bethlehem’. But never is our new birth tied to the incarnation. The new life we have is resurrection life.

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Ephesians 1:18 …that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

And that is the power that is at work in us as a result of our new birth. And this resurrection power is securing for us our inheritance. By the Father’s great mercy he has given us new birth and since we are born into his family, we are born into his inheritance:

4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

Here’s where language fails us and disappoints. Peter doesn’t tell us what the inheritance is. All he can tell us is what it’s not. Your inheritance is so !!!! There’s no words to express it. So think of the best earthly inheritance you can think of and I’ll tell you how it’s different. Peter tells us the inheritance we have is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is free from death and decay; it is free from uncleanness or moral impurity; it is free from the natural ravages of time. And it is not kept in the stock market which can plummet on any given day. It is kept in heaven for you. Just as Jesus said:

Matthew 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

So your inheritance is incredible beyond words. It is free from all the negative implications that an inheritance might have here. The inheritance is safe. Nobody can get to it. But that may raise the question: will you be able to get to it? Is it so safe that you will not be able to access it? It is kept safe for you, but in the end will it be kept safe from you? It is safe in heaven, but what if I can’t make it safe to heaven to claim it? What if I fail along the way? Will I make it? What if I throw in the towel; give up; what if I stop believing? So Peter turns his attention from the inheritance to you, the elected rejected:

5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

So God’s resurrection power produced the new life in you, and God is keeping the inheritance safe for you, and now God’s sovereign power is keeping you for the inheritance. The word ‘guarded’ is a military term that can mean both ‘kept from escaping’ and ‘protected from attack’ [Grudem, p.58]. The issue clearly is salvation; our future final salvation. We are being guarded for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. We are not being guarded until the salvation is made ready – Jesus work is finished and perfect. The salvation is ready and waiting for the right time to be revealed. The implication is that if we were not being guarded by the power of God we might not be saved. So from what are we being guarded and how are we being guarded? Peter is going to warn us in chapter 5 to:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober–minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

So we could say that we are being guarded from the devil. But in what way is Satan seeking to devour us? We could say he is seeking to kill us. But if that is what we are being protected from, then God’s power to guard has failed Peter and countless other Christian martyrs. If Satan succeeds in killing a believer, he has only sped them on their way to heaven – remember, to die is gain! So the guarding can’t mean that they are protected physically. The only way the devil could devour a believer is to cause him to walk away from Jesus and stop clinging to Jesus. Paul warns about the potential of believing in vain:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you––unless you believed in vain.

Jesus used the image of a branch being connected to the vine and drawing its life from the vine, and he warned:

John 15:6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

So if we don’t hold fast to the gospel we will have believed in vain, and we will not be saved, and if we walk away from Jesus we will be destroyed and Satan will have won. So being guarded by the power of God must mean that God is guarding our faith. God is using his power to keep us believing. I think the context makes it clear that we are on the right track. Peter says in verse:

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––…––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

And in this verse he says:

5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

So God is not guarding us in spite of whether we keep on believing or not. He is guarding us through our faith. He has caused us to be born again, and he will nurture that life of faith so that we are indeed saved in the end. I think this was especially personal and precious to Peter. Before his betrayal and arrest, Jesus said to Peter:

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus was going to allow an intense trial in Peter’s life to sift him, so that the chaff would blow away and only the wheat would remain. The danger of this is that if Satan is allowed to sift you, there might prove to be nothing left. And Jesus says ‘but I have prayed for you’ and what was his prayer? ‘that your faith may not fail’. Jesus was sustaining Peter’s faith. And Jesus wasn’t wondering what the outcome would be. I wonder if Peter will make it. When Jesus sustains your faith, your faith will not fail. And Jesus is praying for us too:

1 John 2:1 … we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Jesus looked right through the trial to the other side and said ‘and when (not if but when) you have turned again, strengthen your brothers’. Peter was sifted like wheat. He denied Jesus three times. And he went out and wept bitterly. Those tears were produced by God in answer to Jesus’ prayer. And Peter is now strengthening his brothers scattered across Asia Minor and strengthening us by reminding us that God’s power is guarding us by keeping us believing so that we will obtain the inheritance in the end. All the resources of sovereign omnipotence are fighting for your faith. God is at work in you to keep you believing. And this is a reason to worship God. God’s great mercy has caused us to be born again and God’s great power is guarding us so that our faith does not fail and we do obtain the promised inheritance.

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

September 14, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment