Monthly Archives: November 2015

1 Peter 5: The Flock

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As Peter concludes his first letter, he turns his thoughts to those who are the leaders of the church – the elders.  The term elder means “overseer”.  They are given the responsibility to be like a shepherd caring for his flock of sheep and to be an example to them.

They are implored to do this well, not just for pay (do we pay our elders? – if not, should we?) but from a desire to serve their “flock”.  In our own church we have one appointed “Elder” and several “Deacons”.  The term deacon derives from the word which means servant.  We also tend to have a “Pastor” who generally is the one who is salaried, but it is clear that the term Pastor/Overseer/Elder are interchangeable.  The Pastor tends to be the one who does the preaching and is generally given responsibility for the running of the church but from what Peter is saying here, they could equally be called and Elder.  Paul in 1 Timothy 3 says that the elder must be able to teach.   Some churches treat and expect their “Pastor” to live as a pauper on a low wage on the basis that he should be doing the work for God not for money, but as we have seen elsewhere, a worker deserves his pay, they should (if the church can afford it pay an appropriate wage.  I.e: a large church with a wealthy congregation should not be paying their Pastor/Elder a pittance, similarly they should not be paying an over inflated wage that the Pastor is living in luxury while his congregation are struggling.

I think Agur sums this well in Proverbs 30 v 8 & 9

Keep me from lying, and let me be neither rich nor poor.  So give me only as much food as I need.  If I have more, I might say that I do not need you.  But if i am poor, I might steal and bring disgrace on my God.

In verse 3 Peter tells them not to try and rule over them but to serve and be an example.  If they do this well then they will receive reward when Christ returns as the “Chief Shepherd”

We remember that after Peter denied Jesus 3 times, Jesus told him 3 times to “Feed my sheep” in John chapter 21.

In verse 5, he tells the young men to submit to their elders.  Now I have always interpreted this to mean “older” but clearly it can be both the men that are older and therefore (hopefully) wiser and the people who hold the position of “Elder”

They are not to be proud, but humble .

Humble yourselves then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time.   Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.(v6 & 7)

He will help us at just the right time if we continue to trust Him.

Be alert, be on the watch! Your enemy the Devil, roams around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (8)

There is a big clue here – not only are we to be alert and wise to his schemes to lead us away from God, but he roars – if we are alert, we will hear him coming and can send him on his way.  Jesus scolded the disciples for their lack of ability to stay awake when it was needed.  We need to be alert to the things which may tempt us and lead us away from God.

But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who calls you to share his eternal glory in union with Christ, will himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation.  To him be the power forever! Amen. (v10 -11)

Quotes from the Good News Bible

1 Peter 4: Managing gifts

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In 1 Peter chapter 4, Peter picks up again from where he digressed at verse 18 of chapter 3 – back onto the subject of living for God and coping with suffering.

The early Christians were being mocked for not joining in with the life of drunkenness, idolatry and indecency.  Things are no different now, in fact it sounds very much like our modern world’s behavior which seems to almost expect this type of behaviour and trys to portray it as normal.  As Christians we have left that lifestyle behind and must try to live our lives under God’s control and will rather than our own earthly desires.  This challenges us to think about our behaviour – do you still drink perhaps more than you should? Go to watch movies that are perhaps a little “risky”?  There are so many ways we can be subtly  drawn into the worlds ways and it is not easy to make a stand and say, “No”, Thank you, but I don’t want to do that any more.  We may get abuse, teased etc, but Peter says in verse 5 that they will have to give account for their behaviour (as will we).

Verse 6 is again a complex verse;

That is why the good news was preached also to the dead, to those who had been judged in their physical existence as everyone is judged; it was preached to them so that in their spiritual existence they may live as God lives (v6)

I’ve struggled a bit trying to understand this verse as following the comments in chapter 6 about Jesus going back to preach to the dead, it may sound like this is referring to a similar situation.  Again there seem to be several interpretations.

Some of the original meaning appears to have been lost in translation.  The original text apparently words this in such a way that indicated that the preaching took place while they were still alive in the body.  Hebrews 9 v 27 makes clear that there is no “second chance” after death

Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God

Perhaps that helps clarify a little the theory we looked at with the people of Noah’s time – they were effectively judged before death when God sent the floods.

The simplest explanation that I have found is that Peter was addressing concerns of the Christians at that time about what happened to those that had died before Christ’s death and resurrection.  The “Good News” was announced while Christ was on earth in the physical body, but had been taught through the prophets, priests and the law before that even through Noah.  God will judge fairly according to how they had responded to that word.

In working through these “blogs” I am noticing just how much of the Old Testament is repeated in the New – even Jesus taught based on the scriptures that would have already been known to many

Peter then moves on to discuss our “Gifts”

Each one, as a good manager of Gods different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God (v 10)

We are told to;

  • be self controlled and alert to be able to pray
  • love one another earnestly
  • open our homes to each other (without complaining)
  • be a good manager of the gifts he gives us
  • use those gifts for the good of others

It is no use us having these gifts unless we use them to benefit those around us.

He created us all with different skills, we are not all preachers, but the majority of us can help put the chairs out or make the tea and coffee.  Some are more “outgoing” and are better at meeting people at the door and welcoming them.  Some are musical and can serve in the worship team or are good at technology and can make the sound system work properly.

Whatever our gifting, we are to use it to God’s glory.  Sometimes though we need to just step in and do something practical like making the teas and coffees so that those who have more “up front” ministry gifts can focus on those rather than having to rush around trying to do everything as seen by the Apostles in Acts 6.

Peter then returns again to the topic of suffering for being a Christian.

The time has come for judgement to begin, and Gods own people are the first to be judged.  If it starts with us, how will it end with those who do not believe the Good News from God? As the scripture says;

It is difficult for good people to be saved; what, then will become of godless sinners? (v 17-18 and Proverbs 11 v 31)

This seems to indicate that these trials and persecutions were part of the process of judgement for the believers.  They were being purified though this so that when the final judgement day arrives they would be found righteous.

So then, those who suffer because it is God’s will for them, should by their good actions trust themselves completely to their creator, who always keeps his promise. (v 19)

Quotes from The Good News Bible

1 Peter 3: Part 2 – Suffering and Noah

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One of the main themes of Peter’s letter is suffering as a Christian.  As we finished part 1 with the instruction to be kind and love one another, he continues with the instructions not to pay back evil with evil or cursing, but to pay back with a blessing.  This of course is not easy to do as our natural desire is to get revenge but God say that he will do that (see Deuteronomy 32 v 35 and Romans 12 v 19.

Whoever wants to enjoy life and wishes to see good times must keep from speaking evil and stop telling lies.  They must turn away from evil and do good; they must strive for peace with all their heart.  For the Lord watches over the righteous and listens to their prayers but he opposes those who do evil (v 10-12)

Peter reminds us again that if we continue to behave with gentleness and respect. doing good with a clear conscience, those who try to speak against us will be ashamed.

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if this should be Gods will than for doing evil (17)

If we do evil and suffer for it; well, we probably deserve it.

Change of subject?

In verse 18 onward, Peter continues by talking about Jesus suffering on our behalf, but then he makes a comment in the middle which despite many years of reading I have never noticed or thought about and is a little mind-blowing – I had to go and read up a little more on it which is why it has take a day or two longer…

He repeats again how Christ was crucified once and for all to lead us to God, but then he says this…

He was put to death physically, but made alive spiritually, and in his spiritual existence he went and preached to the imprisoned spirits.  These were the spirits of those who had not obeyed God when he waited patiently during the days that Noah was building his boat.  The few people in the boat – eight in all – were saved by water, which is a symbol pointing to baptism, which now saves you.  It is not the washing away of bodily dirt, but the promise made to God from a good conscience.  It saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone to heaven and is at the right-hand side of God, ruling over all angels and heavenly authorities and powers. (v 18-22)

Now I know about baptism and Jesus rising from the dead and ascending to heaven, but had never noticed or thought about the comment of Jesus preaching to the “imprisoned spirits”.  What was this?, When? How?  Why have I never heard this in 40 years?

I suppose that one of the reasons it that depending on your interpretation, it challenges our belief on salvation and death.  The bible teaches that we will be judged on death depending on how we have lived and our relationship with Christ and acceptance of his gift of salvation, but here Peter seems to be saying that while Jesus was in the tomb, he went and preached to the lost souls, perhaps giving them a second chance.

It had never occurred to me to think about what Jesus was doing in that time.  I guess most of us think in human terms that he was dead and that was it until God raised him on the third day.

(Incidentally, although we traditionally remember Jesus crucified on the Friday being the day before the Sabbath, John’s account tells us that it was a special Sabbath, not the regular Saturday.  The Passover is celebrated at a fixed time in the same way that we always celebrate Christmas on the 25th December,  the day of the week changes.  Historical records follow this and indicate that the Passover in the year Jesus was crucified probably began on the Wednesday or Thursday meaning that Jesus was crucified on one of these days rather than the Friday – this then makes fitting in the 3 days before the resurrection clearer.)

Anyway – It is clear that Peter, having spent time with Jesus afterwards was informed of what went on in the meantime.  One of the difficulties we have with several of the letters in the New Testament is that they very often refer to things that have been taught or spoken of, but we do not have written down so are sometimes left with things like this where knowledge appears to be assumed.

There are several “theories”on this part of the passage;

  1. Jesus went and preached through Noah to the wicked generation of that time while in his pre-incarnate state – this is unlikely as it does not specify the timescale being between his physical death and resurrection.
  2. Between his death and resurrection, Jesus went to the fallen angels and evil spirits and declared his victory and/or gave them opportunity to repent
  3. Jesus went to the place of the dead and preached to the the spirits of the dead indicating that there may have been a chance of repentance to those who died before this.
  4. Jesus went and preached to those who were lost in the flood of Noah’s time and were given a “second chance” due to God’s promise never to destroy the earth in that way again – that they were treated unfairly by God when he destroyed the earth.
  5. The comments about baptism which immediately follow this declare Christ’s victory over evil both in the time of Noah where only 8 were saved to now where we are baptised and represent that death and resurrection

As it is not said what was preached it is difficult to draw any conclusion on which, if any, of these theories are correct so I am certainly not going to attempt to try and make any.

What is clear though is that Jesus as God, remained active, even when apparently dead in our understanding.  That we are made up of body and spirit – the physical body dies, but the spirit lives on.

This verse brings up a lot of questions which I am not qualified to answer and certainly the commentaries I have looked at do not seem to be able to give a definitive conclusion either,  but it does go to show that no matter how well you think you know your bible – there is always more to learn.

 

Quotes from the Good News Bible

 

1 Peter 3: Part 1 -Submission

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In the same way you wives must submit to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe God’s word, your conduct will win them over to believe.  It will not be necessary for you to say a word (v1)

Many people read this verse and interpret it as a “male domination” instruction, that the wife is inferior to her husband and by that women are inferior and must submit to all men – that is not what Peter means.

Peter is addressing this letter to believers who are struggling with living in a world that is oppressing them and yes – the culture of that time certainly tended to treat women with less respect than men but Peter also shows that we should treat each other with equal respect (see verse 8).

With that in mind, Peter is addressing this first instruction primarily to believing women who have unbelieving husbands, showing them how to live in such a way that will win their husbands to Christ.

I suspect that most churches have women with unbelieving husbands in the fellowship but not many men with unbelieving wives.  Why is this the case? Why is it that these husbands are not coming into fellowship with God too?

Peter effectively says to the wives; stop preaching, keep quiet, maybe subtly “stop nagging”(by the way; I am a wife – thankfully with a husband who loves God).

He tells them that if they live quiet Godly lives, considering their husband and giving him due respect (even if we know they are wrong….) and not being always out at church meetings and activities (we need to be selective in this, ensuring that we get fellowship and teaching but balancing his needs too) but caring for their husband in a quiet, gentle manner; this does more to win him over than all the words.  He advises them to live in such a way that he wants the peace and joy that you have – the time will come for words later

Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect (v15-16)

He goes on to explain that it is their character that makes them and the life in Christ attractive to their husbands more than the expensive clothes and jewellery.  It is this that will make their husbands want to be with them and begin to ask about the hope, peace and joy that they have and share in that.  Incidentally, Peter is one of the disciples who we know had a wife.

I remember meeting a couple many years ago who had been going through divorce proceedings when the wife came to Christ.  Her husband was an alcoholic and a very heavy drinker who would regularly came home with all the unpleasant behaviour that follows that.  When she came to Christ, she began to just quietly clear up after him and stopped complaining.  He was so amazed at the change in her that it was not too long before he had to find out more and came to Christ himself.  Not only that; He miraculously stopped drinking immediately and went on to become a much loved and respected member of their local fellowship and they went to court to cancel the divorce proceedings.

It follows then that Peter should also have a word of advice for the husbands about how to treat their wives.

In the same way you husbands must live with your wives with the proper understanding that they are weaker than you.  Treat them with respect, because they also will receive together with you, God’s gift of life.  Do this so that nothing will interfere with your prayers.(v7)

The wives may be physically weaker and not have some of the social status that the men have, spiritually they share the same rewards.  So as the wives are to give their husbands respect, the husbands too are to give their wives the respect they deserve and to love their wives as Christ does (Ephesians 5 v 25) and in doing this they continue to earn that respect from their wives making it an awful lot easier for them to submit.

To conclude; you must all have the same attitude and the same feelings; love one another as brothers and sisters and be kind and humble with one another(v8)

Now the rest of chapter 3 has some interesting comments which I had not noticed before so I am going to break here and go and do a bit more research – I will be back with more soon.

 

Quotes from The Good News Bible

1 Peter 2: Living Stones

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Peter calls us to become like living stones in the building of the spiritual temple, but before that we must rid ourselves of things that hinder us from being useful living stones.

  • Rid yourselves then of all evil
  • no more lying
  • no more hypocrisy
  • no more jealousy
  • no more insulting language (v1)

As we read in James 3 and 4, we need to control our tongues and be careful of our conduct.  Not living as the world lives but as citizens of heaven.  Our desires for the things of the world only lead to jealousy and hatred leading us to sin.

We are urged to be like new born babies, pure and innocent and crave only the spiritual “milk” which enables us to grow up in our faith.  It is interesting to note a comparison to Hebrews 5 v 13 where Paul comments about those who have to drink milk because they were not mature enough to eat the solid “food” of  adults – the spiritually mature.  Peter is using the term in the context of a healthy baby with a good appetite because they are growing.   We don’t stop drinking milk as adults as we still need the vitamins and nutrients that it gives as part of a balanced “diet”.

We can then come to the Lord who is the Living stone rejected by people as worthless, but as we saw in chapter 1 v20, he was chosen before the creation of the world to be the most valuable stone – the cornerstone on which the whole building depends.   So;

Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ (v5)

Peter was given his name by Jesus – it means Rock.  Peter was to be the initial foundation on which the church would be built and Peter shows that each one of us have an assigned place in the building.  Each stone is carefully selected and placed in the right place.  If you have ever watched a dry stone wall being built, the builder chooses each stone carefully and sometimes has to knock a few bits off to make it fit how he wants it.  Each stone is different in shape and size but the skilled craft-man fits them all together.  We are not like the massed produced bricks that are all exactly the same.

As these living stones we are then to serve as his holy priests

But you are the chosen race; the King’s priests, the holy nation; Gods own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvellous light. (v9)

Peter then moves on in verse 11 to remind us again that we are strangers and refugees in this world.  We are to conduct ourselves in such a way that our accusers will have no foundation.

Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers , they will have to recognise  your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of his coming (v12 – see also Titus 2 v 8)

We are to submit to authority as ultimately we are submitting to Him (see verses 13 – 15 and Titus 3 v 1)  Peter in Acts 4 v 19 was still courteous when told not to go on teaching Gods word and again in Acts 5 v 29

We must obey God , not men

Paul shows in Romans 13 too that we must submit to authority but also shows clearly that they are accountable.  By opposing them we are ultimately opposing God.  If we are doing what is right then we have nothing to fear as God is ultimately the judge but of course we must obey God first.

We are to live as free people, but that does not mean that we are free to keep on sinning or doing evil – rather our liberty means that we are free NOT to sin.

In submitting this way we know that God will bless us if we endure (see verse 19-20)  If we suffer unfairly? well Christ suffered for us and he had done no wrong – was that fair?  But through this Christ carried away our sin so that we may live and be healed.

Quotes from Good News Bible

1 Peter 1: Part 2 – Be Holy

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As we continue looking at 1 Peter chapter 1 we are told to have our minds ready for action.

So then, have your minds ready for action.  Keep alert and set your hope completely on the blessing which will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed (v13)

The NIV version includes “be self controlled”.  It means “Get ready, be prepared”. In the language of the time it literally meant to hitch up their clothing ready to run.

We saw in Hebrews 9 how the curtain in the Tent of the Tabernacle and later the Temple represented Jesus ascending through the curtain of heaven.

Hebrews 9 – The Curtain

He is away from our view at the moment, but the day is coming when that curtain will be “pulled back” and he will be revealed in all his glory and we need to be watching, ready.

Be obedient (NIV inserts children here) to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant.  Instead be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is Holy.  The scripture says “Be Holy because I am Holy” v 14-16

To be holy, means to be set apart to God, separate from sin and all that would lead us away from God.

We are reminded in verse 17 that as his children we call on, or pray to “Our Father”.  This is the model that Jesus taught in Matthew 6 v 6 and then demonstrated in verse 9 with what we know as the “Lords Prayer”.  He did not give us any other name to pray to but “Our Father”.

God will judge all by the same standard so we must spend the rest of our days on earth in reverence for him.

Our freedom was purchased at great cost, it is worth far more than can be paid with gold or silver.

For you know what was paid to set you free from the worthless manner of your life handed down by your ancestors.  It was not something that can be destroyed such as silver or gold (v18)

It was the costly sacrifice of Christ, who was like a lamb without defect or flaw (v19)

He had been chosen by God before the creation of the world and was revealed in these last days for your sake (v20)

Our human minds find it difficult to comprehend that God didn’t just come up with a plan B or C because Adam and Eve failed in plan A.  The Israelites and Jews failed to live up to their part of the covenant (Plan B??) so he then had to come up with yet another plan to save us;  It was planned before God even created the world, even Abraham knew that God would provide the Lamb.  Our minds are limited by our human understanding of time, but forget that God created time in Genesis 1.  He existed before then and the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) was hovering over the waters.

It is through Christ that we are able to believe in God and come to him as our Father

For through the living and eternal word of God you have been born again as the children of a parent who is immortal not mortal (v23)

His word will stand forever

All human beings are like grass, and all their glory is like wild flowers.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, (v24)

but the word of the Lord remains forever.  This word is the Good News that was proclaimed to you (v25)

 

Quotes from The Good News Bible

 

1 Peter 1: Part 1 – More Precious than Gold

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Peter begins his letter by addressing it to God’s chosen people.  THAT’S US!!

An interesting thing to notice here is that in the Good News Bible translation he refers to;

God’s chosen people who live as refugees scattered throughout the provinces… (Some translations refer to strangers)

He then goes on to list various places such as Asia and Cappadocia.  Compare this list to the list in Acts 2 v 8-11.  These are the people who were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  They had responded to Peter’s first message and then gone back to their homes taking his message with them and passing it on.

He refers to them as strangers and refugees, not only in the literal sense that they were living in an area and culture that was not their origin, but in the spiritual sense that we are living as strangers here on earth.  Our home on earth is only temporary.

You were chosen according to the purpose of God the Father and were made a holy people by his Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be purified by his blood (v2)

All three members of  the Trinity are mentioned here and have an active role in our salvation.

Now without going into a long discussion on the theology of who is chosen, I believe we are all chosen by God, but we are then given the choice as to whether we accept that and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us the redemption earned by Jesus’ sacrifice.  What the bible refers to as foreknowledge or predestination I believe indicates God’s supreme knowledge of who will chose to accept that calling.

Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him (Ephesians 1 v 4 )

In Matthew 22 verses 1 – 14 Jesus told the parable of the wedding feast, where those invited did not go, they made excuses

Many are invited, but few are chosen(Matthew 22 v 14)

In Deuteronomy 30 we read that God gave the Israelites a choice;

I have now given you a choice between a blessing and a curse.  When all these things have happened to you, and you are living among the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you, you will remember the choice I gave you (v 1)

If you and your descendants will turn back to the Lord and with all your heart obey his commands that I am giving you today, then the Lord your God will have mercy on you. (v2-3)

We see here that the Israelites too were scattered, they had not yet received fulfillment of the promise.  The passage goes on to give the promise of prosperity (v3), possession of the land he promised (v5), obedient hearts to love him (v6), curses against the enemy (v7) but with conditions…

You have to obey(v 10), you have a choice between good and evil, life and death (v15) so CHOOSE LIFE!!! (v19) – we have to choose to accept it.

We can be given a ticket to an event, but unless we choose to go, we don’t receive the benefit, we have to obey his call.

So then we can give thanks to our God and Father for his great mercy and look forward to receiving the blessings he has promised us (v 3-4)

Peter too implores us to persevere though the difficult times so that we will be proved to be more precious than gold.

Gold can be destroyed (v7) but our salvation stands.

Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine.  Even gold which can be destroyed, is tested by fire and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure.(v7)

You love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him although you do not now see him…..you are receiving the salvation of your souls, which is the purpose of your faith in him.(v 8-9)

Again we see that our faith has to be active, the receiving of our salvation is in the present tense, it is ongoing not yet complete although we know that Jesus has completed the work, while we are here on earth it is ongoing within us as individuals.  We have to obey and endure the testing that our faith brings with the sure hope that we have of the promised reward.

We saw in verse 3 that this is a living hope, a firm conviction that we will see the promised reward.

The second part of the chapter looks at a call to holy living so we will look at that separately in the next “blog”

 

Quotes from the Good News Bible