PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 12; the Church made up of Individuals

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090125_the_church_4.mp3

1/25 The Church; Made up of Individuals with Spiritual Gifts

We’ve been talking about the church. We’ve been focusing on the big massive truths about the church. We saw that the church is a community of people called out from the world by the Lord Jesus Christ, founded on his identity, and united by the new birth. We saw that the church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of Jesus and she will overcome. We took a look at what characterized the early church; they were filled with awe at the awesome works of God, they were filled with joy and generosity and praise, and they devoted themselves to studying and hearing God’s word, to intimate community life, to worship and remembering Jesus’ finished work, and to seeking God in intimate conversation with him.

Today I want to ask the question ‘so what’s my part?’ Paul says:

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

So if we are Christ’s body, the church, and the church is made up of individual members, then what is my specific role and function in the group? As an individual member, what part do I play? What do I contribute? We are going to look at spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.

There’s a lot of confusion in the air on the topic of spiritual gifts. In some churches there is an overemphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, especially a few particular gifts. In other churches, there resistance and fear to even talk about the gifts. Paul tells us that he doesn’t want us to be ignorant or uninformed about the gifts. We can’t afford to go through life not knowing what God has uniquely shaped us to do.

We went on vacation one year to visit family for Christmas, so we were out of town for my work Christmas party. A few days after I had returned to work, they were cleaning up the holiday decorations and a co-worker came to by cubicle and said ‘hey, did you ever pick up your gift?’ What do you think my response was? ‘Eh. Whatever. Can’t you see I’ve got work to catch up on? I don’t have time for a gift.’ How many think that’s how I responded? How would you respond? ‘Gift? Gift! What is it? Where is it? I want it….now!’ How many of you know that it is more blessed to give than to receive? How many know that it is still pretty blessed to receive?

The word translated ‘spiritual gifts’ in our bible is just one word in the original; ‘pneumatikon’ [pneumatikwn], which simply means ‘of the spirit’ or ‘of the air’. You have pneumatic tires on your car. We had a pneumatic shop where I worked. Pneumatic simply means ‘of or relating to air; powered by air’. We built elaborate control systems that would operate by air power. We had a giant air compressor in a shed outside the building, and air lines piped in and run all over the ceiling, with air drops for connecting pneumatic equipment. We had pneumatic drills and pneumatic wrenches and pneumatic screwdrivers and pneumatic presses and pneumatic nail guns. Each tool had its specific function, but they all ran on air. When they were not connected to the air lines they were useless. When they were connected to the air source, they had great potential to get a lot of work done efficiently and effectively. They also had the potential to do a lot of damage if they were misused. The air press would neatly and efficiently press a part into place, but it also had the potential to permanently disfigure your finger if you misused it. The air nailer would effortlessly and precisely pound a nail into a 2×4, but it would just as effortlessly put that nail through your foot if you weren’t careful, as one of my co-workers found out. The things that are of or pertaining to the ‘Pneuma’; the Spirit are powerful tools for good, but they can also be used inappropriately and result in harm.

That’s one of the main reasons that Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church. This church was misusing the gifts of the Spirit to their own harm. They were selfish and boastful and proud and Paul wrote to correct their problems and put them back on the right track. So Paul tells them up front ‘I do not want you to be uninformed concerning spiritual gifts.’ There are things you need to know about the gifts of the Spirit. Not just that there are gifts and which ones you have, but how to use them in a way that builds up the body and brings honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at what he says in v.2:

2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Notice he’s talking about being under the influence or control of another. The word he uses of being ‘led astray’ was the word commonly used of leading a condemned person away for execution. That’s the picture we have of our life before Christ – being led to worship worthless things by demonic powers. Paul is concerned not with the fact that what you say was supernaturally induced but where it came from. The spiritual source is revealed by the content of what you say. God’s Holy Spirit would never induce you to say something against Jesus. On the flip side, here’s a true gift of the Spirit of God: acknowledging that Jesus is your King! As Jesus told Peter ‘flesh and blood has not revealed this to you’; surrendering to Jesus as Lord and King is a supernatural work of the Spirit of God in your life.

He goes on to talk about the unity of the body in the diversity of the gifts:

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Gifts ‘charismaton’ [carismatwn] is from the root ‘charis’ [cariv] grace or free gift; there are varieties of gifts, there are varieties of service, there are varieties of activities; but the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God gives and empowers. Notice the triune God here? God is one; but God gives a unique manifestation of the Spirit to each individual. Pay careful attention to the last phrase: ‘for the common good’. That is key to the discussion of spiritual gifts. Your gifts are not for you. Your gifts are for others. My gifts are for your benefit. Selfishness and pride are contrary to the purpose of the gifts. You can’t hoard the gifts you have been given and you can’t boast about the gifts you have – they are gifts given freely by God as he chooses. The gifts are for the common good.

Let’s look quickly at some of the gifts. Understand there is no comprehensive list of gifts given in the bible. We’ll look at a few passages that list some of the gifts – but the point is not to exhaustively list them but to give us an idea of what kinds of gifts and abilities God has given to his church to use for the common good. And remember, don’t just go down the list checking off ‘that’s not my gift, that’s not my gift, does not apply…’ The gifts are for the common good, so although no one has all the gifts, we all benefit from the gifts of those around us, so an awareness and appreciation of those gifts in others will be beneficial to you as an individual and to us as the church. [I am indebted to pastor James MacDonald for the definitions of the gifts.] Buckle your seat belts, here we go.

8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,

Wisdom is the spiritual ability to understand God’s perspective on life situations and to share those insights in a simple understanding way; it is a capacity to relate the truth of scripture to real life situations.

and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

Knowledge is the spiritual ability to know things that were not learned through normal channels.

9 to another faith by the same Spirit,

Faith is the spiritual ability to trust God for what cannot be seen and to act on God’s promises. Faith is confidence in God. All believers have faith in God, but the gift of faith is an extraordinary ability to believe God for the impossible.

to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

Healing is the spiritual ability to be God’s channel to restore health. This is similar to the gift of faith, but specific to healing. I don’t believe this is limited to physical healing, but can include emotional and spiritual healing as well.

10 to another the working of miracles,

Miracles is the spiritual ability to receive and display exceptional interventions of God’s power in ways that bring him glory. By definition miracles are not frequent and typical but unusual and exceptional. Miracles are things that are not explainable by natural causes.

to another prophecy,

Prophecy is the spiritual ability to publicly communicate God’s word in an inspirational way that convinces unbelievers and challenges and comforts people. It is the ability to persuasively declare God’s word in a way that makes the truth come alive and people sense God himself is speaking. The gift of prophecy speaks God’s word with authority, bringing conviction of sin and awareness of its consequences. The gift of prophecy is not the same as the office of prophet. There are people today with the gift of prophecy, but we do not call them prophets.

to another the ability to distinguish between spirits,

Distinguishing spirits or discernment is the spiritual ability to distinguish right from wrong and to separate truth from error. It is the ability to discern motives and agendas. A word of caution is in order here. There are many so called discernment ministries that are hyper critical and find something wrong with every ministry and demonstrate no love or grace. The gift of discernment used in the flesh is a destructive and dangerous thing.

to another various kinds of tongues,

Tongues is the spiritual ability to speak a message from the Lord or to the Lord through divinely anointed utterances which are languages

unrecognized by speakers and hearers. Like all the gifts, the purpose of tongues is for the edification of the church. The whole point of this section is that tongues is a gift, but it is not the most important gift and it should not attract all the attention in the church. We have two main parameters that will keep us balanced in our thinking about tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:30 tells us that not all believers speak in tongues. It is a gift given to some but not all in the church. 1 Corinthians 14:49 makes it very clear that we are not to forbid speaking in tongues. If we stay between these two boundaries, we can maintain a biblical balance.

to another the interpretation of tongues.

Interpretation of tongues is the spiritual ability to make known to the church the message or interpretation of the one who spoke in tongues. It is in combination with the interpretation that tongues edifies believers. That is why Paul demanded:

1 Corinthians 14:27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.

Lets jump down to verse 27 where he adds some other gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles,

Apostles. The bible is clear that the office of apostle is closed.

Ephesians 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

The foundational offices of apostle and prophet are not repeated, however there are people today with apostolic gifting. This is the spiritual ability to start new churches and ministries and oversee their development; these are ministry entrepreneurs with a boldness to take the gospel to uncharted territories.

second prophets, third teachers,

Teachers have the spiritual ability to educate God’s people by clearly explaining and applying the bible in a way that causes others to learn. It is the ability to equip and train people for ministry.

then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping,

Helping is the spiritual ability to recognize unmet needs in the church family and take initiative to provide practical assistance to others quickly, cheerfully, and without need for recognition. Thank God for those with the gift of helping.

administrating

Administration is the spiritual ability to ascertain the gifts of others and recruit them for ministry. They organize and manage resources for effective ministry. Administrators have the ability to coordinate many details and execute the plans of leadership.

and various kinds of tongues.

We already talked about tongues. Let’s turn over to Ephesians 4 to see some more.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. … 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists,

Evangelist is the spiritual ability to effectively communicate the good news of Jesus Christ to unbelievers; the ability to sense opportunities to share Christ and lead people to respond in faith. Understand, we are all commanded to do evangelism;

2 Timothy 4:5 As for you, …do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

But some are specially gifted and evangelism comes naturally.

the pastors

Pastoring is the spiritual ability to care for the needs of a group of believers and equip them for ministry; ability to nurture people in spiritual growth and assume responsibility for their welfare.

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Notice again the emphasis on mutual edification. Let’s turn over to Romans 12 to see some more.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving;

Service is the spiritual ability to recognize unmet needs in the church family and to invest personal resources to meet that need. A person with the gift of service delights to do get the job done.

the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation;

Exhortation or encouragement is the spiritual ability to motivate God’s people to apply and act on biblical principles especially when they are discouraged or wavering in their faith; ability to bring out the best in others and challenge them to develop their full potential.

the one who contributes, in generosity;

Giving is the spiritual ability to generously contribute money and other resources so that the body of Christ might be strengthened and expanded; this person experiences tremendous freedom and joy when they give – they are open handed and open hearted with singleness of purpose.

the one who leads, with zeal;

Leading is the spiritual ability to communicate a compelling vision in a way that produces followers.

the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Mercy is the spiritual ability to recognize people who are hurting and take action to relieve their suffering. This person is extremely compassionate and gladly carries the burdens of others without feeling inconvenienced.

This was a fast overview of some of the gifts that God has blessed the church with. You might be asking ‘how do I know what gifts I have been given? You can get online and find spiritual gift inventories and questionnaires that will help you identify your gifts, but here’s the best way to really find out. Get involved! Show up. Be part of the body. Get involved in each other’s lives. Step out of your comfort zone. Be stretched and try new things. When you do, there will be three main indicators that tell you you’ve found your place: you will be satisfied; God will be glorified, and people will be edified.

If you have gifts that you are not aware of, or are hiding, we all are suffering. We simply can’t afford to go through life together not knowing what God has uniquely shaped us to do.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Romans 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

January 25, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:10-12

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080928_1peter_1_10-12.mp3

9/28 1 Peter 1:10-12 what prophets and angels long to know

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.

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

1: 10 peri hv swthriav exezhthsan kai exhraunhsan profhtai oi peri thv eiv umav caritov profhteusantev 11 eraunwntev eiv tina h poion kairon edhlou to en autoiv pneuma cristou promarturomenon ta eiv criston payhmata kai tav meta tauta doxav 12 oiv apekalufyh oti ouc eautoiv umin de dihkonoun auta a nun anhggelh umin dia twn euaggelisamenwn umav pneumati agiw apostalenti ap ouranou eiv a epiyumousin aggeloi parakuqai

Peter is addressing Christians who are being persecuted for following Jesus. They are experiencing trials. They have been ostracized in their communities. And Peter is writing them a brief letter

1 Peter 5:12 …exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

Peter wants to see them stand firm in the true grace of God in spite of the trials. So first, he has acknowledged their alien status in their communities. They are exiles, aliens, sojourners. But then he points them to their status in God’s eyes. They are choice, precious, elect. The triune God is at work in them to secure their future hope. And this leads him into doxology – giving praise to God. He says ‘blessed be God’. And his blessing or praise has three parts. In verses 3-5 he finds the foundation for praise in our new birth which God brought about and which brings us into an inheritance that is kept securely for us and we by God’s power are being securely kept for it. Verses 6-9 point to the purpose of our present experiences. In this salvation, our new birth and future hope, we rejoice while at the same time we are grieved by trials, because we know the trials are a necessary part of our salvation. Trials prove our faith to be genuine. Our genuine faith is displayed by our love for Jesus, our trust in Jesus, our inexpressible joy in spite of our struggles. That joy in Jesus is an expression of worship or praise. And now in verses 10-12, we are pointed to the greatness of our salvation in contrast to the experience of prophets, evangelists, and even angels as fuel for our worship.

So in verse 10 he refers us back to ‘this salvation’. This is the salvation he mentioned at the end of verse 9; ‘the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls’. Salvation is a word we as Christians throw around a lot. I think it will benefit us greatly to pause and contemplate what we mean by the words we use. Salvation, or being ‘saved’ has two aspects; what we are saved from and what we are saved for. Let me illustrate these two aspects by using the word in different sentences. ‘The firefighter broke through my bedroom window and carried me down the ladder, saving me from the blaze that engulfed my house.’ Or ‘I am saving every extra penny for our vacation to Hawaii’. Or a young woman might say ‘I am saving myself for marriage’. In the first, there is a danger that would destroy us that we are rescued from. In the second, something or someone is being kept for a higher purpose, rather than being wasted. Both of these concepts are carried by the word ‘salvation’. Implicit in the word itself is the concept of being saved from a danger that would destroy us – elsewhere in scripture we find the danger identified as the wrath of God or hell, death, and the power of sin. We deserve to suffer under the fury of the Almighty because of our sins. Salvation means we are rescued from that coming punishment and escape out from under the penalty of our sins. Peter focuses our attention in the context more on the other side of salvation; we are kept from wasting our life because there is something so much better to spend it on. We are being saved from the attraction of the world and from wasting our life serving the devil and and for our great inheritance.

Salvation is at the center of the good news message. The good news answers the cry ‘what must I do to be saved?’ and the good news answer is ‘believe on the Lord Jesus’ (Acts 16:30-31). Salvation is not your own doing – it is something that is done to you. The firefighter came crashing through your window and woke you up and carried you down the ladder. Your money doesn’t save itself up for your vacation. By a conscious act of the will it has to be set aside for that purpose. Salvation is ‘by grace through faith’ (Eph. 2:8). Peter has explained the ‘by grace’ part of salvation when he describes his readers as ‘those who are elect… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit’. And he points to the ‘through faith’ part when he says ‘for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood’. He points to the ‘by grace’ part when he says that it was God’s great mercy that caused us to be born again’ and the ‘through faith’ part when he says you ‘are being guarded through faith for a salvation’ and in spite of not seeing Jesus you love and trust and rejoice in him, and obtain ‘the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls’.

It is this salvation of his readers that he has talked about in the first nine verses of his letter that he now points to as the topic of inquiry for prophets and angels. This salvation is also called ‘the grace that was to be yours’. We could describe our salvation, our rescue from judgment and for an inheritance simply as God’s grace extended in our direction. Literally he says ‘the to you grace’. It is undeserved kindness intended for you. The grace that you are right now experiencing from God was the topic of careful search and inquiry of all the prophets who prophesied. Peter is looking back over the entire Old Testament revelation and saying that the grace of God you are experiencing today is the focal point of it all. We learn some things about our bible from these verses. We learn how to use it, where it came from, what its central message is, and what it is meant to do.

I take the instruction on how to use the bible from the phrase ‘searched and inquired carefully’. In the Greek original, the phrase is ‘exezhthsan kai exhraunhsan‘, two words that sound similar and have very similar meanings to give emphasis to the intensity of their search. ‘exezhthsan‘ indicates an intensive search or investigation that considers the matter from every point of view. ‘exhraunhsan‘ indicates a search for something that is hidden. These words are not passive. They indicate strenuous effort and persistent mental exertion. The prefix of both words is ‘ek‘ which means ‘out of’. There are treasures buried in scripture that are waiting for us to exert the effort to get them out. We don’t come to the text bringing our treasures and ideas and try to plant them there. Instead we come with our tools and try to uncover what is really there, waiting to be discovered. If the prophets themselves made such careful search and inquiry into their own prophecies, should we not do the same? Some people might ask why we have spent five weeks on only 12 verses of 1 Peter, examining each phrase and looking behind the English translation to the Greek original. My reply is ‘exezhthsan kai exhraunhsan‘! God spoke to us. He preserved his word for us. He gave us the tools we need. He gave us a brain and the capacity for curiosity and investigation. Doesn’t God’s word deserve our careful attention?

I take the source and character of the bible from the phrase in verse 11 ‘the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating’. The Spirit of the Messiah, or the Holy Spirit, was revealing or indicating or making known. ‘Prophets who prophesied’ is explained and expanded by ‘the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating’. What the prophets wrote was not mere opinion or political commentary on life in ancient Israel. It was God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, making truth known to them. Peter describes the source of prophecy in 2 Peter 1:21:

2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Paul describes it this way:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God…

The author of Hebrews quoted the Old Testament by saying:

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, …

Hebrews 9:8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that …

So scripture is God’s Holy Spirit through the prophet communicating to us. But what is he communicating?

I see the central message or content of the bible indicated by what the prophets were making careful search and inquiry about. It was ‘concerning this salvation’, and they ‘prophesied about the grace that was to be yours’. But what was it that they wanted to know? It says in verse 11 ‘inquiring what person or time’; they understood salvation by grace through faith. They wanted to know when. What would be the time and circumstances of the Christ? Or who would fulfill the office of Messiah? Later in the verse, it says that ‘he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories’. The central theme of all of revelation is God’s grace in our salvation; displayed in the sufferings of Christ and his glories. This is what Jesus pointed out to his disciples on the road to Emmaus:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

By the example of the prophets, we are encouraged to search and inquire diligently into the biblical text; we understand that the bible is God’s Holy Spirit communicating to us; we see that the central theme and the unifying message of the entire bible is God’s grace in our salvation displayed by the suffering and subsequent glories of Jesus, and in verse 12 we see the purpose of prophecy. Prophecy was not primarily for the prophets. Prophecy was not even primarily for the people to whom the prophets prophesied. Prophecy’s primary purpose was for you! ‘It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you’. The Old Testament was written with you in mind!

Romans 4:23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also…

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

1 Corinthians 9:10 Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake…

Listen to how the author of Hebrews describes the Old Testament heroes and prophets:

Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–– 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated–– 38 of whom the world was not worthy––wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

We get a glimpse into this wrestling and struggling of the prophets to understand their prophecies when we look at Daniel:

Daniel 7:15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things.

Daniel 8:15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.” …19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. …26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.” 27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

Daniel 9:2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

Daniel 12:8 I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” 9 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.

So be encouraged, Christian reader, as you stand in awe of the faithful saints of the bible, that they were serving not themselves but you! The prophets of old served you with their prophecy and now Peter brings it up to date and says that the apostles and evangelists also serve you ‘in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven’. The things the prophets diligently searched and inquired into but could not understand, have now been declared to you through those who preached the gospel. This sheds some light on the role of the evangelist. God is announcing his good news through the preacher. And the preacher is not preaching in his own power. He preaches ‘by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.

Suffering Christian, be encouraged. You are the focal point of God’s redemptive plan. The prophets desperately wanted to know what you now understand. God has hidden it from them and revealed it to you. He has empowered apostles and evangelists to proclaim the good news of God’s grace to you. And not only prophets and evangelists, but also the angels. Peter throws in this provocative phrase at the end of his doxology: ‘things into which angels long to look.’ I wish we had more time to talk about angels. We learn from texts like Psalm 148:2-5, Nehemiah 9:6 and Colossians 1:16 that angels are created beings. They were created as angels and always will remain angels. They are spirit beings who are a different class of being from humans and animals and plants. Hebrews 1:13-14 tells us that angels serve God by ministering to us for our benefit.

Hebrews 1:13-14 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Angels are similar to us in that they are personal moral beings that were created with the capacity to love and serve God or to rebel and disobey. Jude verse 6 tells us that some rebelled against God. Peter tells us

2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

God apparently did not give fallen angels a second chance. They were not spared. They are being kept until the judgment. The author of Hebrews contrasts our situation with that of angels. We too rejected God’s authority and rebelled against him and we too deserve judgment. Jesus did not become an angel. Jesus became for a little while lower than the angels so that he could taste death for mankind (Heb.2:9)

Hebrews 2:16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.

Understanding the situation of angels, it is interesting to hear that angels are intensely interested in the grace of God that is extended to us. Angels only know justice. They have never experienced forgiveness. The holy angels have never sinned. They have no need of redemption. But God’s plan of salvation for human kind reveals a new facet of the glory of God’s grace. That’s why Jesus told us:

Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Look Michael, he took another one who was on his way to hell and made him an heir of heaven! What marvelous grace! What free and undeserved love! Angels have a holy passion to see the grace of God unfold in your life! This should cause us to treasure our salvation all the more – salvation by grace through faith in Jesus – a salvation that was prophesied by the prophets, proclaimed by preachers and displayed before angels

September 29, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment