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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Works vs Fruit; Galatians 5

05/21 The Work of the Spirit and the War Against the Flesh [Galatians 5:13-21; 24-26]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170521_works-vs-fruit.mp3

Today we begin a series on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. I believe this will be very practical and helpful, and I would invite you to be praying with me that God the Holy Spirit would be at work through his word to produce his fruit in the lives of his people for his glory.

~prayer~

Paul is in anguish over the Galatians. He is astonished that they are deserting Jesus and turning to a different gospel. These Gentiles are being pressured to submit to the Jewish law. Paul is fighting to preserve the truth of the gospel, the good news that we are declared right before God not by keeping the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. The Christian life is not me attempting to live up to some standard, but Christ living in me, a life lived “by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal.2:20). Paul is eager to embrace the freely given grace of God, and he understands that if righteousness could come through the law then Christ was crucified in vain.

Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ

He says in chapter 3

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—

The Christian life is begun by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. I hear with desperate dependence the good news proclaimed that Christ was crucified for me. The Holy Spirit is at work in me so that as I hear the gospel I trust not my abilities but Christ alone. The Spirit works this in me. Having freely received the Spirit through faith, is it now up to my flesh to finish the work he began in me? Of course not! If the beginning of the Christian life is a work of the Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, so the continuance and completion of the Christian life is all a work of the Holy Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Sanctification by Grace through Faith in Christ

Paul says in Galatians 4

Galatians 4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Paul’s longing is that Christ would be formed in them. Christ – himself – formed in you. Christ – who lives in me. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This is no human effort. Paul’s heart is that they would live in complete daily dependence on the Spirit in them to produce the character of Christ in them.

In chapter 5 he warns not to fall away from grace, to turn from the freely given gift of God who is at work in us by his Spirit, in order to attempt to obtain righteousness by our own effort.

Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

We do not work, we eagerly wait. We wait for the hope of righteousness; a confident assurance of a righteousness that God will bring about in us. We trust. We depend. We believe. Through the Spirit. By faith. We wait. It is not our effort. Not what we do or don’t do that “counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” It is not me working, but faith working. Dependence on God is at work, and it expresses itself in love.

Freedom to Want

In verse 13, Paul warns against misusing this freedom we have in Christ, our freedom from the law, in a way that allows the flesh to gain traction.

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. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are set free in Christ to fulfill the law by serving one another through love. So many misunderstand freedom as a freedom from any authority. Rather freedom in Christ is freedom from the tyranny of a cruel slave-master to be back under the good and right authority of the God who is love. It is a freedom at the heart level. We are no longer under debt and an obligation to live up to the standards of the law. Instead we are freed to do what we want. We are set free at the level of our desires. We are set free from the suicidal desires that compelled us to pursue things that destroy; we are set free at the heart level to hunger and thirst after the things that truly satisfy.

War of Desires

Paul warns:

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Life by the Spirit is war. There is war outside and war within. Paul warns; if you bite and devour one another, watch out; our fleshly desires stir us up against one another. If we follow the flesh (and often we do) we will be biting and devouring each other.

But as believers in Jesus, we have been given the Holy Spirit of God. We still have the old nature, the flesh. And our sinful flesh will not just roll over and admit defeat. It will not go down without a fight. So we have a war on our hands; a war within. It will be long – lifelong. It will be messy – there will be casualties. But we are assured of victory – the outcome is certain. We battle a decisively defeated foe. The flesh was defeated at the cross. If we are in Christ, if we have identified with him in his death and resurrection, the victory has already been won. Jesus conquered sin and death and hell on the cross. And my flesh was crucified with him on that cross.

By flesh the Bible doesn’t mean physical bodies. Our bodies are not inherently evil. Our physical bodies will be resurrected glorified. We will enjoy a sinless existence in our physical bodies in the presence of God for eternity. God created Adam and Eve with physical bodies in the garden and he said it was all very good. Our bodies are not the problem. The flesh is the problem. By the flesh, the Bible means that fallen part of us that desires other things more than God. It is that part of us that wants to be our own master, determine our own destiny, live for our own glory, be our own god. As believers, we now have the Holy Spirit living within, and we now have competing desires. The flesh has its desires, and the Holy Spirit brings with him his desires, and these two are in conflict. The Holy Spirit desires to magnify Jesus above all.

These competing desires ‘keep you from doing the things you want to do.’ We are in a battle. But who is the you? You are either giving in to the flesh, biting and devouring one another, or you are led by the Holy Spirit, free from the law, through love serving one another. So who is the you? What is your identity? Do you embrace the flesh, with its passions and desires, or do you embrace the Spirit, and allow him to transform you? This is a big deal.

Works of the Flesh

In verse 19, he moves from talking about the desires of the flesh to the works of the flesh.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The flesh manifests itself. There are fifteen words that divide into four categories here. The first three words have to do with sexual sin; sexual immorality, sexual impurity, uncontrolled lust. Then there are two words dealing with religious pursuits; idolatry and sorcery. The flesh makes an idol out of just about anything; family, relationships, work, success, kids, power, reputation. Sorcery is an attempt to gain control by manipulating the spiritual realm. The next 8 are relationship words. And most of these are in the plural; they have multiple manifestations, they may take multiple forms. Enmity – hostile feelings and actions; strife- contention and discord; jealousy – an envious rivalry; fits of anger – bursts of temper; rivalries – selfish ambitions; dissensions – uprisings or controversies; divisions – creating factions; envy – ill will or spite. Most of these are inward attitudes and feelings, attitudes of the heart. The last two, drunkenness and orgies, have to do with excess; excessive drinking, excessive feasting or partying. The desires of the flesh display themselves in works of deviant and destructive sexuality, dark religious practices, self-centered and damaging relational dynamics, and excessive overindulgence.

Recognize, this is a big deal. This is a warning. Paul says ‘I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.’ So this is a salvation issue. If you have embraced the desires of the flesh, if your life is characterized by the works of the flesh, if there is no battle between flesh and Spirit, then you may not know Jesus. But don’t be discouraged; if you are not winning the battle all the time, if you are still struggling against the same sins. The fact that there is a battle going on and you are convicted over your sins is a good sign.

We could look at Jesus’ story of the prodigal and see these fleshly desires manifesting themselves in the works of the flesh. The prodigal idolized money and freedom from all authority and sinful pleasure. He indulged in sexual immorality, excessive drinking and partying.

We could look at his unforgiving older brother and see enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy.

These are the normal outworkings of the flesh. But when the Spirit comes in, then there is war.

Of course we could look at the father in the story and see the fruit of the Spirit on display; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We will look at these characteristics in the coming weeks.

How is the Fruit of the Spirit not a list of moral virtues? (070218)

We need to understand how the lifestyle of the morally upright around us fits in to this overall picture. We acknowledge that many that don’t know Christ personally live lives that we would describe as ‘good’; they are kind, patient, faithful, gentle, self-controlled, they exercise patience, they are peace loving, they show love to others, and they seem happy. Does this mean that the Spirit is at work in their lives? Is this evidence of the Holy Spirit, and should we conclude that people who live this way must be justified believers, because Jesus says ‘by their fruits you shall know them’? In fact we probably can think of people we know that do not follow Jesus that we would say have more of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives than we do. Do we have biblical categories in our minds to fit these facts into? Or does this confuse us and cause us to question and doubt?

Let’s look at what Jesus said:

Matthew 7:16-20 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Now that sounds pretty clear-cut. If you can see the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life, then they must be O.K. with God, right? If they are loving, kind, good, gentle, patient and self-controlled, then they must be on the right track. Be careful not to jump to conclusions before you’ve read the whole passage. Let’s keep reading and see what Jesus says next:

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So, apparently there will be people who on the surface appear to have it all together; even people who sincerely feel that they have it all together, who will be very surprised on judgment day. They will say things like ‘but Jesus, we acknowledge you as Lord; we believe in you’. And Jesus says, ‘no, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’. They will say ‘but we did that; we prophesied, we even cast out demons in your name; we did many mighty works in your name’. So they were doing good works. They were performing great acts of love. And not just that; there were supernatural things going on. Prophecies were being given; people were being delivered from evil spirits. Obviously the Spirit was at work in their lives. But on this ground they were not welcome in heaven. What was it that they lacked? Jesus says the critical thing is not what you do; it’s who you know. Jesus says ‘I never knew you. You may have done some amazing things. You may be the most loving, kind, generous person around, you might have even done these things in the name of Jesus, but we had no relationship. I never knew you.’ And Jesus sends them away and calls them ‘workers of lawlessness’. How can he say that when they were doing good works? In God’s eyes all their love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control were filthy rags in his sight. Their good works were valueless because they didn’t stem from a relationship with Jesus.

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Contrast Works and Fruit

Notice the flesh is always working, striving, exerting effort to attain its unwholesome desires. The Spirit grows fruit. It is an organic thing. It is not manufactured. If the right seed is planted, the right plant sprouts up. Whatever kind of tree it is, that is the kind of fruit that will be produced. There are ways to encourage and enhance fruitfulness; preparing the soil, watering, fertilizing, pruning. But ultimately the fruit is determined by the nature of the tree. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in keeping with his nature.

Notice also, the fruit of the Spirit is singular, where the works of the flesh are plural. There are various and disjointed manifestations of the fleshly desires. But the Spirit produces wholeness, integration, integrity. This is one fruit. It has different sides, different aspects; but it is one. It is one multifaceted fruit.

And take encouragement here. If you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit of the living God living within you.

Romans 8 tells us

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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.

And he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1Jn.4:4). And he who is in you is greater than your flesh. God wins! He will be victorious in your life. If the Spirit is there, he will produce his fruit in your life. He will not fail. If God could take the one who was crushed down under the weight of the sin of the world and raise him up to life again, he is fully able to overcome your fleshly desires and produce the satisfying fruit of the Spirit. Christ will be formed in you!

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

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May 22, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 20:22-26; The Need for Sacrifice

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20111002_exodus20_22-26.mp3

10/02 Exodus 20:22-26 Worship and Sacrifice in Response to God’s Law

We are in Exodus 20:22-26. God has saved his people and brought them to himself. He has thundered from heaven and given them his expectations for life in relationship with him. The people responded with terror and begged Moses to intercede for them. The next section, roughly the next 3 chapters, is referred to as the Book of the Covenant, a name that comes from 24:7. This is a collection of case laws or examples of how to apply the ten commandments to specific circumstances in Israelite society. These examples are not exhaustive, covering every possible scenario, but instead give a broad sampling of issues so that anyone with a good portion of common sense could reason from the examples to the specific issue in question and apply the principles found here to render a judgment. We will see how this works as we go along.

Begins and Ends with God

This Book of the Covenant covers issues of social responsibility; how to live in community with other people, but it is instructive to note where God begins in these instructions. He begins and ends with worship. Worship is central. How we treat others flows out of a life lived in relationship with God.

Exodus 20:22 And the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. 26 And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’

In the context, these are God’s first words spoken to Moses privately after he thundered his ten words to all the people and they begged for Moses to serve as intermediary. God is speaking now to Moses and Moses is to relay God’s words to the people.

Right up front in the application of God’s standard is provision for failure. It’s as if God is saying ‘here is my perfect standard, and I know you can’t live up to it, so I’m letting you know up front that I have planned for your failure.’ What a merciful God we worship! What a great God, who understands the weakness of his people. What a compassionate God, eager to provide forgiveness for the failings of his people. Here is my perfect standard, and here is what to do when you blow it.

He is There and He is Not Silent

The first thing God highlights for us is that he is a speaking God. ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven.’ They saw lightning and fire and smoke and thick darkness, they heard the thunder and they felt the earth shake. But what God wants them to take away from this experience is ‘you have seen that I have spoken.’ That is a funny way to put it. Not ‘you heard me speak’ but ‘you saw me speak.’ Your perception of me was that I have spoken to you. Our God is a speaking God. God reveals himself in words. Do we have any sense of appreciation for what a blessing this is? God could have been content to wrap himself in mystery and leave us guessing as to how we must please him. Throw our virgin daughters into the volcano, walk on fire and cut ourselves, cast our sons in the ocean, trial and error, see what seems to appease him and what has no effect. How do we know where we stand, what are the standards, what happens next, how good is good enough, have we measured up? Praise God, he has not left us guessing! ‘I have talked with you!’ Our God is a God who reveals himself to us in words.

The First Two Revisited

God goes on to reiterate the first two commands. The original reads like this:

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Here by way of reminder he simply says:

23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.

No matter how expensive or elaborate, you must not make physical representations of God. You must not give your worship to anything or anyone but me. I think we could turn this around and say ‘you must not make silver your god, nor shall you make gold your god. We are to worship only, exclusively, the one true God.

Sacrificial Altars

After this introduction and reminder to keep God first, God gives instructions on the construction of altars. ‘Here is my character and my expectations for life in relationship with me. You will fall short of my perfect standard. When you do, I have provided a way for you to demonstrate both the severity of your guilt and the greatness of my honor; I will accept the sacrifice of a substitute.’ An innocent animal must die in the place of the guilty person. Blood must be shed. The wages of sin is death. Listen to God’s gracious provision:

24 An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. 26 And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’

Burnt Offerings and Peace Offerings

Right after the giving of the ten commandments, God points to the sacrificial system. Remember, this was the reason for leaving Egypt in the first place. They were to tell Pharaoh:

Exodus 3:18 … go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ (cf. Exodus 5:3,8,17; 8:8,25-29)

For those who have fallen short of God’s perfect standard, sacrifice is God’s provision to cover our sins and allow us back into his presence. Two of the primary types of sacrifice are mentioned here: burnt offerings and peace offerings. There are 5 types of sacrifice listed in Leviticus 1-7, the burnt offering being the first and foundational. This sacrifice didn’t start here, it was offered by Noah, Abraham, and Job, and although the word is not used, this was probably the sacrifice of Abel and originated after our first parents rebelled in the garden. The burnt offering is foundational, because it is designed to address our sin problem.

Leviticus 1:4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

The purpose of the burnt offering was to make atonement. The animal was accepted by God as a substitute, dying in the place of the sinner and making atonement, or covering guilt and bringing reconciliation. The procedure was to acknowledge guilt and symbolically transfer sin by laying the hand on the head of the animal, and then slaughter the animal and burn the whole thing (except for the hide) on the altar. This sacrifice is sometimes referred to as the whole burnt offering. The whole animal went up in smoke to God.

None of the other offerings happened on their own; they had to follow the burnt offering. The peace offering was to be placed on top of the whole burnt offering. The peace offering takes its name from the Hebrew word shalom. It is sometimes referred to as the fellowship offering or even the communion meal, because it celebrates the shalom that results from having sins atoned for. A portion of the sacrificial animal was burnt on the altar, and the rest was barbecued and eaten by the worshipers in the presence of God.

Deuteronomy 27:7 and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God.

The peace offering was a celebration of fellowship with God, that had been restored through the whole burnt offering.

Simplicity of Altars

God here gives clear instructions on how an altar for sacrifice is to be constructed. Make it out of dirt. If you use stones, use natural stones. No steps. Simplicity. The altar is not to attract attention. Dirt, rocks, nothing fancy. The altar is not what is important. What happens on the altar is what is significant. The blood shed, the death of the animal as a substitute sacrifice for sin – that is what is important. Two things in altar construction are expressly prohibited; if you wield your tool on it you profane it and if you use steps to go up to it your nakedness will be exposed on it.

First, use only stones as found in their natural state. Don’t use cut stones. Why would God say that using a tool defiles or profanes the altar? There was to be nothing about the altar that showed man’s skill or workmanship. We could argue ‘no, I’m making it ornate and beautiful, something worthy of God.’ God says, ‘no, your work pollutes and defiles it, makes it common and unfit for spiritual use.’

Isaiah 64:6 …all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. …

Even our best effort is offensive in God’s sight. It is God who accepts the offering to make atonement. It is God who saves.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy,…

Salvation is:

Ephesians 2:8 … not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Works will follow, but if we attempt to apply any of our own workmanship to God’s finished work of salvation, we pollute and defile it. Our good works are in response to God’s finished work of salvation and put on display that we are indeed God’s workmanship.

The second prohibition is ‘you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’ Steps were something the Canaanites used for their altars, and the Canaanites included sexually perverted practices as part of their worship. There was not to be even a hint of this among God’s people.

Also, steps would require human effort to ascend. God would allow no human effort in the way he was approached. There are no steps to climb up in our relationship with God. There is nothing we can do to bring ourselves closer to God. We cannot elevate ourselves. Steps would only expose our vulnerabilities and shame us. So there is to be no human workmanship and no human effort allowed when dealing with our sin problem, because our skill would only defile and our effort would only expose our shame. We are to acknowledge our guilt and our need for a substitute, and trust God to transfer our guilt to the sin-bearing substitute who is consumed in our place, restoring peace with God and opening the door to sweet communion with him.

The Blessing

Did you notice the gracious promise of God in this passage?

24 ..In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.

When we approach God on his terms, humbly confessing our sin before him, refraining from applying the tool of human ingenuity or taking even a step of human energy, when we approach him by means of the appointed substitute, we can know that he is causing his name to be memorialized. He is putting his character on display. The fame of his name is being proclaimed. And that name is Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, God’s only Son put forward as the propitiation for our sin. The whole sacrificial system, the altar, the offerings, all point to Jesus! God says ‘I will come to you;’ this is the greatest blessing we could possibly hope for – God’s presence with us! The name ‘Immanuel’ means God with us. This is applied to Jesus in Matthew 1:23 (Isa.7:14), who is God with us, God in the flesh, God come down to us, to seek and to save that which was lost. I will come to you and bless you. We have this promise

Hebrews 13:5 … “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jesus said:

Matthew 28:20 …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

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

October 2, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 2:11-12

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20081130_1peter_2_11-12.mp3

11/30 1 Peter 2:11-12 conduct that glorifies God

2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation– 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 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.

11 agaphtoi parakalw wv paroikouv kai parepidhmouv apecesyai twn sarkikwn epiyumiwn aitinev strateuontai kata thv quchv 12 thn anastrofhn umwn en toiv eynesin econtev kalhn ina en w katalalousin umwn wv kakopoiwn ek twn kalwn ergwn epopteuontev doxaswsin ton yeon en hmera episkophv

Peter has reminded us of our identity in verses 9-10. We have been chosen by God, to be priests to God, set apart as holy for God, we are now the possession of God, in order to make proclamation about the great worth of God. God called us out of darkness by an act of his great mercy. Our ultimate purpose is to proclaim his excellencies. We have been chosen, set apart, given the office of priests, possessed by God so that we can make proclamation to others about the greatness of God. Our primary purpose is proclamation. And the content of our proclamation is God – the beauty of his nature and the excellencies of his character. We are to noise abroad the supreme worth of our redeemer who by his life giving word called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. We exist to make him known.

Verse 11 begins a new section of the letter. Peter starts this section of the letter by addressing his readers as ‘beloved’. He will start the next section of his letter in chapter 4 verse 12 by again addressing them as ‘beloved’. This section begins and ends with reference to the theme of God’s glory.

1 Peter 2:12 …they may see your good deeds and glorify God …

1 Peter 4:11…–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

In this section, Peter fleshes out how we are to proclaim God’s excellencies to the hostile community in which we live:

We glorify God in our lifestyle by our attitude of submission to authority; in 2:13-17 we are to be submissive to the governing authorities; in 2:18-25 slaves should submit to masters; in 3:1-6 wives should submit to husbands; in 2:21-25 Christ’s suffering is set up as the supreme example to imitate. The goal in every instance is to live in such a way that unbelievers will glorify God and repent and believe.

Verses 11 and 12 are the introduction to this new section. They give us a two-pronged approach to proclaiming the excellencies of Jesus with our lives; first negatively and then positively. Negatively, we are to abstain from certain desires; positively, we are to make sure that our conduct in the world has a certain integrity. All this is for the purpose of bringing glory to God. That’s the big picture; now lets look closer at the details of verses 11-12.

Back in the first line of this letter, Peter pointed us to God’s call or selection of us as the basis for our alienation from the world:

1Peter 1:1 …To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion..

Now he looks at our alien identity as a base from which to wage war against the desires that linger in our flesh. This is how Abraham identified himself when he was seeking to buy a burial plot for his wife Sarah.

Genesis 23:4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

He had no permanent possession. He was an outsider in their community. He worshiped a different God. His customs and culture were distinct from theirs. His world view was completely different from theirs. He understood their culture and was able to make a business transaction in it, but he maintained his distinct identity. Because of who we are – we are sojourners and exiles – our conduct should not match the conduct of the citizens. If our citizenship is truly in heaven, there should be a distinction between our conduct and our values and our desires and the conduct and values and desires of a worldling.

Peter begins by addressing us as ‘beloved’. The word is ‘agapetoi’ (agaphtoi) from the root ‘agapao’ (agapaw) which is God’s undeserved love. Peter is expressing his affection for his readers, but his primary meaning is to remind us again of our position. We are the beloved of God. And because of this, we are sojourners and exiles. This is a re-statement of what he said in 1:1-2 that we are ‘elect exiles … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’. God loves you – you are the beloved. Because you are dearly loved by God, your character must be affected.

The Apostle urges us as elect exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh. No mere abstinence from the outward acts of sin is commanded here, but an all-out attack on the root and power of sin within; an attack on the inclinations and desires of the soul. Christianity is not a list of do’s and don’ts, rules and regulations. Christianity is a genuine transformation of our wants and desires. The word here translated ‘passions’ can refer to good or bad desires. We are to abstain from our natural desires in contrast with desires that are renewed by the Spirit of God. Our desires are to be different from the desires of the world. Desires for possessions and power and honor and pride, position and prestige, comfort and leisure, these things are not to be the driving impulses of the believer. The Spirit of God produces new desires and new affections in our souls – desires to bring him honor and praise, desire to bless others, desire for God to be made much of in our lives, desire to be weak so that his strength is seen through us, a contentment with what we have, joy and delight in knowing who we are in Christ, desire to see others come to know him, desire to bring him pleasure in all our thoughts and desires.

We will never have victory over the stranglehold sin has in our lives until we dig down and sever the root of desire. We may cut off the weed at ground level, but it will grow back quicker and its roots will be deeper and stronger. Our desires must be transformed if we are to have any lasting victory in our battle with sin. We must root out the old desires and fight to cultivate new desires to take their place. I think our text hints at the solution – as the beloved of God, abstain from desires of the old nature. God loves you, so fight against the things that would separate you from that love. You are loved by God – desire to please him.

Peter alerts us to the gravity of the situation. These desires are waging war against our souls. This is no game. This is all-out war – life and death. The eternal destiny of your soul is at stake. If your natural desires are allowed to grow up and choke out the word so that it cannot bear fruit to God in your life, you will be thrown into the fire and burned. Natural desires unchecked are lethal to the spiritual life.

Jesus said:

John 15:5-6 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 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.

Paul says:

Galatians 5:17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. …21 …I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. … 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Your hope in the superior value of the inheritance that God has secured for you should cause you to sever the root of anything that might jeopardize the realization of that blessed hope. Our society spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince you to use the right kind of soap and drink the right brand of cola, but we give no thought to the importance of eternity and the value of the human soul. Something is seriously out of balance here. We are passionate about the trivial and totally neglect the weighty issues of eternity. The most important matter in the universe is off limits in most discussions. We must crucify the flesh with its passions and desires so that we are not robbed of our eternal joy. Crucify those things that Peter listed:

2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

Peter goes on to give the positive:

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.

Victory in this inward spiritual battle will have observable outward effects. Your walk of life will be admirable and attractive even to your enemies. And if you are following Jesus, you will have enemies.

In Peter’s day, Christians were accused of being atheists because they didn’t bow to the gods that the people worshiped. Because they refused to bow to the emperor, they were considered enemies of the state. Since the Christians did not honor the gods of the community, they were viewed as subversive and evil. The were viewed with suspicion and hostility because they did not conform to the unbelievers way of life. False accusations and slander were directed toward Christians. The reference to fellow Christians as brothers and sisters was misconstrued to indicate incestuous practices, and the celebration of the Lord’s supper won them the accusation of cannibalism.

What was to be the response of the Christian community to such accusations? Go on a truth campaign and correct all the errors? Track down the source of the rumors and put them to rest? Peter’s response was simple: do good. Keep your heart right and your actions pure. And the motive for doing good was not simply to clear your name. The motive was evangelistic. Peter’s desire was not that the Christians be exonerated. His driving desire was that God be glorified. Good deeds are never an end in themselves, and they are never a means to earn favor with God. Good deeds serve to bring glory to God as the author of the new life which produces the good deeds. Good deeds flow from a transformed life and God is the one who has caused us to be born again (1:3). Peter’s desire is that even though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God. You can proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light by continuing to do good even when you are slandered. Do good with the hope that your accusers will be persuaded by your transformed life to want what you have and come to Christ. Peter’s goal is that those who slander the Christians are persuaded by the moral integrity of the Christians to trust Jesus and so glorify God.

Peter probably has in mind the saying of Jesus recorded in:

Matthew 5:10-16 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. …14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Christians in the face of persecution and slander are to so let their light shine publicly that all those that observe will give glory to God. The good works must be public – not done in order to be seen by men and be praised for them; but a public display of the glorious mercy of God. We must let our light shine publicly in such a way that we are not given credit for our good works. Our light must shine so that God is given credit for the transformation that he has accomplished in us.

The day of visitation can have implications of condemnation or salvation. On that final day even the knees of unbelievers will bow to Jesus and give God glory, but Peter has in mind the day when God visits the unbelievers with mercy and brings them to faith in Christ. God is glorified when his people exhibit his greatness so that others are attracted to him and transformed by him. Are you being persecuted? Slandered? Misunderstood? Rejected? You have the opportunity to put God on display in such a way that unbelievers are attracted to Jesus and put their trust in him! Alexander Nisbet, a minister in Scotland, in his commentary on Peter first published in 1658 writes:

The children of the Lord should not lose their hopes nor quit their endeavours of gaining the greatest enemies to God or themselves, among whom they live, considering how soon and easily the Lord can make a change upon them: for the Apostle would have them looking upon those that were heathens and speaking against them as evil doers, as such whom God might visit in mercy, and in whose conversion they might be made instrumental…” (A. Nisbet, p.89)

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.

November 30, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment