PaStor's pen

'Wives and Husbands' (1 Peter 3:1-7)

Our God is a God of order and He has established order in different areas of life. In marriage, Peter, as does Paul, instructs that wives are to be in submission to their husbands. The word “submissive” means ‘to rank under’ and is not about better or worse but is God’s ordained order. For those who are married to unbelievers, Peter gives the encouragement that God can use such godly submission in the home to win the unbelieving spouse to Christ. He also emphasises how it is not the outer appearance that matters but the inner person, the heart, and speaks of “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” For husbands, Peter gives a number of instructions but one that spoke particularly to me is where he says to “dwell with [your wife] with understanding”. It is one thing for a husband to know their wife’s likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, dreams and aspirations, concerns and fears. It is another thing, and for more important, that the husband acts upon this knowledge and takes such understanding into account in the way he dwells with his wife. Much pain in marriage is caused by the wife usurping the husband’s role as head in the home and by the husband either relinquishing that role or using it to domineer in an unloving way. For those who are married, it is good to read God’s words to us regarding marriage and to live in obedience to it.

'Commendable Conduct' (1 Peter 2:18-25)

In this passage, Peter is speaking to Christian slaves in the early church with the exhortation being to live in submission to their earthly masters. We made a connection to Christians being obedient to their employers in the workplace. Peter says that it is commendable – speaking of an action which is beyond the ordinary course of what might be expected – “if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.” 

We considered three key applications. First, if you are suffering today, take comfort and learn from Jesus’ example. Jesus suffered and suffered wrongfully but He did not respond in kind. He did not revile or threaten but instead He committed Himself to God’s righteous judgment. When it comes to suffering, Jesus is our example. He is the one we are to copy, trace and follow in His footsteps. Second, if you are suffering today, know that God can use it to draw others to Jesus. When a person is wronged, the expected response is to become bitter, to fight back, resist and even demand one’s rights. It is commendable, pleasing to God, that, when suffering wrongfully, we His children endure, forgive and love. This kind of conduct is ‘other-worldly’ and can be used as a mighty witness for Christ. Third, be reminded of all that Jesus endured for you. Whatever you're suffering, Jesus suffered worse. However you’ve been wronged, Jesus, being the sinless Son of God, was wronged to an infinitely greater degree. And He did it all for you. All that He endured – the reviling, the beating, the scrouging and ultimately being nailed to the tree – He did it with your salvation in mind. It is good for us to remind ourselves of the good news of how much God loves us and the lengths God went to to save us. Unworthy, undeserving, unlooked for, dead in our sins – the grace God has shown us in Christ is truly extraordinary.

'Submission to Government' (1 Peter 2:13-17)

Submission to government is an issue which is much in mind for some in view of all things Covid so it was timely to do a deep dive on this topic. The command to submit is a strong one. In three New Testament passages we are commanded to submit and in 1 Peter 2 submission is connected with God’s express will. As Christians, we recognise that all governing authorities are appointed by God and also recognise the important purpose that government has in punishing evil and praising good. In context, Peter is particularly concerned about our Christian witness. Being a people that are submitted to the governing authorities is something that is noticed by unbelievers and testifies of Christ. For these reasons, and others also, the proper Christian attitude is one of willing submission. That submission is not, however, without its limits.

 

There are constrains to submission. We considered seven instances in the Bible where believers disobeyed government because a higher law, God’s word and doing right by Him, prevailed. The Hebrew midwives and Moses’ parents disobeyed Pharaoh’s command to murder Jewish boys. The wise men disobeyed King Herod. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue. Daniel disobeyed the lawfare targeting him when he continued to pray as he had always done. Esther courageously disobeyed. Finally, Peter, the one who writes the command to submit, disobeyed, along with John, the Jewish religious authorities’ command not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. In response, Peter said: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge” and “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19 and 5:29). The principle then is that we are to submit except when commanded to sin or otherwise act against God’s word (which is to sin).

'Sojourning Saints' (1 Peter 2:11-12)

We were focusing on the importance of our Christian witness. For some people, the only Bible they read or church they visit so to speak is your life’s witness. Some people, be they family, friends or colleagues, know very little of Christianity but they do know and see you. A good witness can lead people to Christ but a bad witness can lead them away from Christ. With this in mind, Peter instructs us as “sojourners and pilgrims”, those who are settled down amongst unbelievers but yet who are different from them, to live a certain way. First, we are to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul”. That was the old life and, though our flesh lives on in us this side of eternity, we are now governed by a new principle which is the life of Christ in us and empowering us by the Holy Spirit. A good witness is one who keeps away from worldly desires and cravings. Second, Peter says, “having your conduct honourable among the Gentiles”. The word “honourable” means admirable or comely and speaks of a beauty and goodness that strikes the eye. Unbelievers willd disagree with and even speak evilly of what we believe, what we say and how we live as Christians. However, the goodness of our lives, a life that is known for its “good works”, is a powerful witness that God can use to ultimately bring them to Christ. And in the day of their visitation, when they receive God’s grace and mercy for themselves, “they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God.” May our lives bring glory to the Lord this week as we walk with Him and seek to be the very best witnesses we can be for Him.

'Cornerstone' (1 Peter 2:4-10)

In this awesome passage, Peter refers to Jesus as “a living stone” and, quoting from Psalm 118, the “chief cornerstone”. The resurrected Jesus is the foundation of the church and the One that holds it together. Even as the physical temple relied on a perfect cornerstone to ensure the structural integrity of the building, so it is that the church is built on the perfect Son of God. Even as the cornerstone had two angles going off it for the walls of the building, so it is that Jewish and Gentile believers are one in Christ. Jesus was rejected by His own but He is “chosen by God and precious” and in Him is salvation for all.

 

Peter wonderfully describes the spiritual realities for Christians who are vitally connected to Christ – we who are ‘in Him’. Jesus is a living stone and so we are living stones. Jesus is our holy Great High Priest and so we are holy priests in God’s “spiritual house”. Jesus, of the superior order of Melchizedek, is both King and Priest. Because we are in Him, we are a “royal priesthood” (see Revelation 1:6 and 5:9 – 10). Jesus offered Himself up as the perfect sacrifice for our sins and, in response, we are to “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God” through Him. The world doesn’t much care for the church of God. But we should be greatly encouraged when reminded of who we are in Christ. Don’t let the world define who you are but let yourself be defined by the word of God. We are “a chosen generation”, “a holy nation” and “His own special people”. May our lives bring praise to Him who loves us and has shown us such mercy!

'Love and the Word' (1 Peter 1:22-2:3)

During our time together, we talked about how Peter used two different words for love. First, he commended those he was writing to for their “sincere love of the brethren”. The love spoken of here is phileo love. This is the love of liking, affection or fondness for others because you share similar personality characteristics or priorities in life. You share the same likes and dislikes. As Christians, it is good for us to phileo love another – to enjoy spending time with each other because of the commonality we have in Jesus. Second, Peter commands us to “love one another fervently with a pure heart.” The love spoken of here is agape love which is the highest form of love. It is a love of the will and a sacrificial love. This is how God has loved us! The Father gave the Son and the Son went willingly and sacrificially to the cross. As one commentator says, “The exhortation is to love one’s brother Christian because he is precious to God, and to love him with a love that is willing to sacrifice one’s self for the benefit of that brother.” We live in divided days. There is much division in the world and in our society over many things. As Christians, we are to be known for our love for one another and we are to love one another the way Jesus loved us. Let’s be praying for continued unity within our church body and for a fresh outpouring by the Holy Spirit of God’s agape love for one another. May the world around us know that we are Jesus’ disciples by the great love that we have for each other.

'Barnabas Fund' (Hebrews 13:3)

On Sunday we had Jeff Woollett from Barnabas Fund with us sharing on the persecuted church. Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them – those who are mistreated – since you yourselves are in the body also.” As Jeff emphasised, the church is Christ’s body in the world and part of that body are the many millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith. As the scripture says, it is good for us to remember those who are mistreated for Christ’s sake, to pray for them and, where we can, support them practically and financially. Barnabas Fund as a ministry provides ‘hope and aid for the persecuted church’. Calvary Wellington has for a long time provided monthly support to Barnabas Fund and it’s a ministry that I would encourage you to get behind. As we are studying First Peter, with a key theme being suffering and glory, it is good also to be reminded that suffering for the faith, whether to a small or large degree, is something to be expected in our lives as Christians. It’s not something that we desire or go out of our way to attract. However, if suffering does come then we should accept it, rejoice that God has counted us worthy to suffer for His sake, and we should seek to glorify Jesus in the midst of it.

'While You Are Here' (1 Peter 1:13-21)

Peter takes us from the wonderful heavenly realities of our salvation in Christ to the practical realities of how we are to live today. As Christians, we should be heavenly minded – looking forward to all that God has in store for us as His children – and this heavenly mindedness should cause us to be of great earthly good. Among the various instructions Peter gives, he says in verse 17, “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear”. As pilgrims, sojourners, exiles on earth, we should live in godly fear. We should have a godly fear towards our Heavenly Father and seek to live in holiness as obedient children for God is holy. It is also a thing of fear to remember that God is also our judge and that what we have done during our lives as Christians will be subject to the judgment seat of Christ. And, above all, we should have such awe and reverence at the infinite cost of our redemption. As we read in verses 18 – 19, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” When you consider the cost of our redemption – that we have blood-bought from sin’s slave market by the Son’s sacrifice given by the Father – how can we not but live for Him?

'Living Hope' (1 Peter 1:3-12)

We considered seven truths regarding our salvation. First, you have a living hope! When the Bible speaks of hope it is a guaranteed thing, an absolute certainly. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, and you as a Christian are in Christ, this hope is alive in you today and you will be with Jesus forever. Second, you have an inheritance in heaven! You are an heir with Christ, He is preparing a place for you and there are heavenly rewards that await. All this is “reserved in heaven for you” with the idea being that your inheritance is being guarded under the watchful eye of God. Third, you are kept by the power of God through faith! Literally, God is garrisoning you, protecting you, keeping you while on earth for the inheritance He has in store for you. Fourth, you should rejoice in expectation of Christ’s coming! Peter specifically speaks of our great rejoicing in our glorification, that final separation from sin and wonderful bodily transformation, that will take place when we are in the Lord’s presence at His coming. It is right that we rejoice and look forward to the day that Jesus comes for us. 

 

Fifth, your genuine faith will bring Jesus glory! The Christian life is full of “various trials” including trials related to health issues, relationship issues and the loss of loved ones. Trials are of course the common lot of all mankind, however, we should be encouraged to know that God has a purpose in them. Even as the eastern goldsmith would keep the metal in the furnace until he saw his reflection in it, trials prove and test “the genuineness of [our] faith” with the goal being that, once we’ve been refined in the fire, we come out looking more like Jesus. Sixth, our salvation was prophesied by the prophets! Seventh, our salvation intrigues angels! I find this last thought pretty cool. That the angels, knowing how weak and sinful we are, are intrigued at the salvation God has given us and the elevated status we receive as children of God and co-heirs with Christ. How amazing it is to think on these heavenly realities! I pray that the living hope you have in Jesus will encourage and strengthen you this week as you serve the Lord and walk with Him.

'Living as Exiles' (1 Peter 1:1-2)

We started our new ‘Exiles’ series in 1 Peter This short book was written by the Apostle Peter to believers living in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) who faced the very real and soon coming prospect of persecution. Peter was himself writing from “Babylon” (C5:13), which is commonly understood as being a reference to Rome, the capital of the Empire. And he was writing during the reign of a wicked tyrant, Caesar Nero. Whether written before or after the Great Fire of Rome in 64 A.D., the fires of state-sponsored persecution would soon spread throughout the Empire. With this context in mind, what is the encouragement that Peter gives?

 

More than any other book in the New Testament (twice as much in fact), Peter speaks of suffering. Suffering for doing good and suffering for being a Christian. It’s not a topic that any of us, I think, particularly want to think about. However, I’m reminded of Paul’s word in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Suffering and persecution have always been part and parcel of the Christian package. Peter over and again links our suffering to Jesus’ suffering – He is our example. But, almost as much as he mentions suffering, Peter speaks often about glory. Suffering and glorifying God go hand in hand. Other key themes in the book are God’s grace, submission and the revelation of Jesus. In the very first verses, we see that Peter is writing to ‘elect pilgrims’, also translated ‘chosen strangers’ or ‘elect exiles’. That’s us! Elect, chosen by God and citizens of heaven! But we are citizens in exile. We are both ‘picked out’ out of the world by God and ‘scattered throughout’ the world by God. We are temporarily on earth for a season and a reason. We are here to glorify God and to make Him known. I’m looking forward to our time in 1 Peter. Please be praying that God would minister to us great and important truths in the weeks and months ahead.   

'Conscience Matters' (Romans 14)

This week we were focusing on the issue of Covid vaccination. This issue is highly contentious, much debated, deeply personal, very emotive and potentially divisive. While we all have views on vaccination, and some I’m sure have very strong views for and against, it’s important in the church context to emphasise that this is a grey area, a matter of conscience or, as Paul puts it, a “[dispute] over doubtful things” (verse 1). It is not a salvation issue nor a matter of sin or righteousness to receive or not receive vaccination but rather is a matter of personal decision before God. During the teaching, I gave five Biblical principles for those who are undecided to take into account in making their decision. If you weren’t at church on Sunday, I do encourage you to have a listen to the recording here.  

I also gave three encouragements for us to love one another and prioritise unity in the body of Christ because you can be sure that there will be increased division over these things in the world. In matters of conscience, Paul says that we should neither judge nor despise our brothers and sisters in Christ. First, because God has received and accepted them. How were you saved? By grace through faith in Christ. That’s where our unity is found and not in any other secondary thing. We are to receive and accept each other because God has received and accepted us. We should not make distinctions – despising or judging – where God makes no such distinction. Second, they do it unto the Lord.Paul uses the example of someone who eats certain food and another who does not eat that food for conscience sake but they both thank God for what they eat. In the same, the one who has decided to be vaccinated is doing this is faith before God and the one who has decided not to be vaccinated is doing this in faith before God. The key is that each is “fully convinced” in the own mind (verse 5). Third, Christ is their judge. We should not judge one another over the issue of vaccination because, ultimately, it does not matter what you think of me or what I think of you but what matters is what Christ thinks. And it’s no small thing that our attitudes towards one another and the way we treat each other is elevated to the bema judgment seat of Christ. As Christians, we are called to unity but that doesn’t mean uniformity. We don’t all think the same on every issue. However, we are to be “like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus” when it comes to the importance of edifying one another and maintaining Christ-centred unity in the body.

'Equip & Edify Conference'

I thought, very insightful teachings on different aspects of ministry. I particularly appreciated Pastor Mark’s ‘Vision Gifted and Grown’ teaching focused on Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no revelation, the people cast of restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.” I also thought that Sunday’s teaching ‘Seasons in Ministry’ from Haggai 2 regarding the former and re-built temple is very relevant to the church today. In times of change and when facing challenges, it is good to take heart from God’s word to “be strong…and work; for I am with you” and also to be comforted by the words “My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!” God is with us and He has work for each of us to do! We are to be about the Lord’s business and to do so in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

 

This week we have our last two evangelism course sessions. As a final evangelism encouragement, I thought to remind us that an integral part of the armour of God in Ephesians 6 are the shoes that we wear! As it says in verse 15, “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. Every part of the armour is essential and cannot be left out. No military man would ever go into battle in bare feet. And so it is that every day, as we step out the door, we must put on our spiritual gospel shoes. Romans 10 emphasises the need for believers to go and share the gospel and, in verse 15, quotes Isaiah 52:7 saying, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” Gospel feet are beautiful feet! Finally, 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” I encourage you to pray each day for opportunities to share your faith and the hope you have in Jesus. And don’t surprise when gospel opportunities arise! Rather, be ready and make the most of them.

'The Way of the Master'

In Matthew 28:18 – 20 we read these familiar words from Jesus, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This is of course the Great Commission! It is a commission that still applies today and the work of the church in the world today should be focused on faithfully fulfilling this commission. Note that it is a commission for all Christians – not just for pastors, ministers, evangelists, those in full time ministry or for ‘super spiritual saints’ but for every believer in Jesus. We all have a part to play in fulfilling the Great Commission. And what is the commission? To “make disciples”. Not simply converts or supporters but disciples. Followers of Jesus who are increasingly maturing, taught to observe all that Jesus commanded. I like how pastor and commentator David Guzik puts it, “Disciples are not spontaneously created at conversion; they are the product of a process involving other believers. This making of disciples is the power of spreading Christianity.”  

 

The commission in Mark’s gospel has a slightly different focus. In Mark 16:15 Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”. The focusing here is on preaching – sharing and declaring – the good news to everyone and anyone. As a Christian, you are commissioned, called, to preach the gospel! To share with others the hope that you now have that forgiveness of sins and salvation is found through the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. So we are all called to preach and commissioned to make disciples. This should be the bread and butter of our faith. It therefore begs the question: Are you?