This is my sermon from this past Sunday, from Mark 10:32-34. In this passage, Mark shows us the third time Jesus prophesies about the manner of His own death. To appreciate this prophesy, we look at what Jesus’ favorite title “Son of Man” means, and what it means in light of the prophesy of His own betrayal, execution and resurrection. Finally, we consider the comfort that fulfilled prophesy gives Christians as we consider promises that have yet to be fulfilled.
Here, in Micah 5:2-4, the prophet gave us probably the best-known passage in his book, and one of the most precious promises of the coming Christ. It’s a beautiful prophesy, and full of hope. Many Christians quote it this time of year, but fewer consider the real context of this prophesy.
If you picture God sitting before a crackling fire, passing around hot apple cider and chocolate truffles, telling the Israelites the wonderful story of the Coming King with a twinkle in his eye, tears of tender love flowing down His cheeks and a warm, fuzzy feeling in his heart … then you’re wrong!
In reality, God is promising all this to them even though (by and large) they’re complete religious hypocrites who hate God and hate His law. Let me say this plainly, because it’s the same message God sent Micah to preach to these Israelites, and it’s the same context in which he preached this prophesy of the Messiah:
- If you’re faking your faith, God knows it – so repent and believe the Gospel!
If you don’t repent and believe, then this prophesy of the King from Bethlehem isn’t Good News for you – it’s bad news. Listen below for more. The sermon notes are here.
The prophet Zephaniah wrote his little book during King Josiah’s reign in the southern kingdom of Judah (ca. 640 – 609 B.C.). Josiah was a godly man (2 Chr 34:1-5) who implemented a whole host of religious reforms. The rot had spread far in his day. It was so bad, in fact, that a priest stumbled upon the law of Moses in the temple, and brought it forth in wonder – he’d never heard of it before (2 Chr 34:13-21)!
Not good! It makes you wonder what on earth the Israelite priests thought they were doing every day . . .
But, the reform appears to have been superficial and external, in many cases. Zephaniah tells us so. He doesn’t mince words (Zeph 3:1-8):
Woe to her that is rebellious and defiled,
the oppressing city!
2 She listens to no voice,
she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the Lord,
she does not draw near to her God.
3 Her officials within her
are roaring lions;
her judges are evening wolves
that leave nothing till the morning.
4 Her prophets are wanton,
her priests profane what is sacred,
they do violence to the law.
5 The Lord within her is righteous,
he does no wrong;
every morning he shows forth his justice,
each dawn he does not fail;
but the unjust knows no shame.
6 “I have cut off nations;
their battlements are in ruins;
I have laid waste their streets
so that none walks in them;
their cities have been made desolate,
without a man, without an inhabitant.
7 I said, ‘Surely she will fear me,
she will accept correction;
she will not lose sight
of all that I have enjoined upon her.’
But all the more they were eager
to make all their deeds corrupt.
Nevertheless, God is still there, showing forth His justice. Yet, “the unjust knows no shame.” He has shown His favor to Israel. He has destroyed pagan nations, and utterly annihilated enemies. Surely, Israel will reverence, respect and obey Him! Right?
Wrong. Instead, the prophet concludes with this:
But all the more they were eager
to make all their deeds corrupt.
On that day you shall not be put to shame
because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me;
for then I will remove from your midst
your proudly exultant ones,
and you shall no longer be haughty
in my holy mountain.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God (Rom 5:1-2).
Moses is an important prophet. Aaron and Miriam forgot that once. They probably didn’t forget again. God struck Miriam with leprosy for her sedition and rebellion against Moses, His appointed prophet and leader of His covenant people. Behold! Here is the passage (Numbers 12:1-10):
Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married (for he had married an Ethiopian woman). They said, “Has the LORD only spoken through Moses? Has he not also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth.)
The LORD spoke immediately to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam: “The three of you come to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them went. And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent; he then called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward.
The LORD said, “Hear now my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known to him in a vision; I will speak with him in a dream. My servant Moses is not like this; he is faithful in all my house. With him I will speak face to face, openly, and not in riddles; and he will see the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he departed. When the cloud departed from above the tent, Miriam became leprous as snow. Then Aaron looked at Miriam, and she was leprous!”
Aaron and Miriam didn’t like Moses’ wife. It’s even possible the phrase they used to refer to her (“Cushite woman”) was a racist, derogatory term. But, their problem wasn’t really her – it was Moses and the unique position he had.
“Are you really that special?” they asked. “Does God really only speak through you? What about us!?”
God heard what they said. God hears everything you say. He knows everything you think. He understands what you’re plotting. He knows what you’ve done, what you are doing, and what you will do. I wonder how far sin would go if each Christian paused before doing something wicked and stupid, and thought about this:
- “And the Lord heard it.”
- “And the Lord saw it.”
- “And the Lord knew it.”
God calls for a meeting. He isn’t happy. I want to spend the rest of our time considering what God says about Moses.
God speaks to prophets in visions; in dreams. We get this. Daniel had visions. The Apostle John had visions. Ezekiel had visions. The Holy Spirit moved these men (and others) to write down their prophetic messages in books. We have those books today. They’re hard books, full of hard sayings. This is why the pop-prophesy industry will always be busy churning out slop for the gullable masses who throng the Christian bookstores. Yesterday it was silliness about blood moons. Perhaps vanilla locusts are next!
With Moses, however, things are different. God speaks to him plainly, simply, forthrightly. This is why John Hagee will never write a pop prophesy volume about the Book of Numbers. Never happen. It’s too plain, too clear, too . . . open. God said:
Numbers 12:8 With him I will speak face to face, openly, and not in riddles; and he will see the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
God speaks to Moses face to face. He doesn’t use riddles or difficult sayings. He’s plain, clear, concise, direct. Moses even saw the form of the Lord. He didn’t see Yahweh in His unveiled glory, of course, but he came much closer than any man has ever come to that glory (Ex 33:22-23) – until perhaps Peter, James and John (cf. Mk 9:2-3).
Why, then, are Aaron and Miriam not afraid to rebel against Moses, their appointed leader? This is a rhetorical question; the kind of thing your mother asked you before she “corrected” you. This is a serious matter. They just rebelled against the jurisdiction and authority of the only man in human history since Adam whom God has ever spoken to openly, plainly, face to face with. What happened next couldn’t have been very comforting:
Numbers 12:9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he departed.
Not a good sign.
In many ways, Moses is a shadow of the promised Messiah, Jesus. Remember what Moses prophesied, and consider how clear it is when compared to, say, Revelation 12!
Deuteronomy 18:15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you – from your fellow Israelites; you must listen to him.
Deuteronomy 18:18-19 I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command. I will personally hold responsible anyone who then pays no attention to the words that prophet speaks in my name.
Here is what Moses told the Israelites a very, very long time ago:
- God will raise up another prophet
- This prophet will be like Moses – having the same kind of personal, close and direct relationship with God Almighty
- This prophet will be an Israelite (“from among you”)
- The Israelites will have to listen to him
- This prophet will communicate God’s message perfectly
- Everybody will be held responsible to listen to and obey this coming prophet, who will speak in God’s name
Who is this prophet? Read the Book of Acts and see the inspired, inerrant answer (Acts 3:21-23, 7:37). It is Jesus, the Messiah. The Christ.
Think about this. If you do not listen to Jesus and obey His command to repent and believe the Gospel, God will essentially ask you the same question; “Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant?” What will you say? Were you busy? Tied up? Didn’t care? Don’t fool yourself. Remember what the Scripture says: “And the LORD heard it.”
If Aaron and Miriam were punished for rebelling against Moses, how much more will rebellious, criminal sinners be punished for their continued hatred of God and His annointed One, Jesus?
Read the Gospel. Repent and believe the Gospel. Listen to the angel from the Book of Revelation:
Revelation 14:7 Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has arrived, and worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water!
Don’t be a fool.
- You’re worthless to God (Rom 3:12).
- You’ll never be good enough for Him. If it were possible to be good enough, then Christ died for nothing (Gal 2:21).
- Jesus willingly and voluntarily emptied Himself, left heaven and came here for His children’s sake.
- He lived the perfect, sinless, holy, righteous and lawful life you can never live.
- He was tortured and murdered, suffering the penalty for the crimes you deserve to pay for.
- He died, was put in a tomb, and rose from the dead three days later to defeat the curses of sin and death for you, in your place. When He rose from the dead, He defeated Satan for you, too.
- He was seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses, and ascended back to heaven where He is seated beside the Father, interceding and working on behalf of all His children, all those who are “partakers of the heavenly calling,” (Heb 3:1).
Why are you not afraid to speak against God’s servant, Jesus? To echo the words of the learned philosopher Rodney Dangerfield, why does Jesus “get no respect” from you?
If you repent and believe the Good News He came, lived, died, and rose again to bring to you, then you will be reconciled to God, perfectly and completely forgiven. God’s anger against you will be gone. You’ll be adopted into His family.
Of course, you don’t have to obey Jesus’ command (Mk 1:15) to repent and believe the Gospel. There’s always this alternative:
Numbers 12:9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he departed.
Because I’ve been too busy to write much lately, I thought I’d make a short video, instead! I recently spoke to a group of young boys at our local Trail Life USA troop. I spoke briefly, but was able to share the Gospel from Psalm 32. In this video, I offer some important thoughts about King David’s words, and why they matter for you today:
The Book of Revelation gives God’s people some very precious glimpses into His heavenly throne room. The Book of Hebrews tells us all the rituals, furniture and setup for the holy place in the tabernacle in the wilderness and, later, King Solomon’s temple was just a figure, a representation of the real throne room (ἀντίτυπα τῶν ἀληθινῶν) in heaven (Hebrews 9:24; cf. Exodus 25:40, 26:30, 27:8, etc.). Throughout Revelation 4-5, God gave us a look at His real throne room.
The scene opens on the Apostle John being granted a vision of supreme importance; a vision so vital that God chose to have Him write it all down in a book which is preserved in your Bibles even today. John saw a scroll in God’s hand. The scroll had writing on both sides, and was sealed with seven seals. A mighty angel proclaims with a loud voice,
. . . who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon (Revelation 5:2b-4).
But, all was not lost. A man enters the throne room. One of the 24 elders motions to John and says,
Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof (Revelation 5:5).
These allusions probably seem strange and bizarre to a non-believer, or to a Christian who ignores the Old Covenant books. These are deliberate allusions, freighted with all sorts of Messianic and triumphant implications. The man is Christ Jesus. He is the “lion” who sprang from the Jewish tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9ff). He is the “root” descended from King David’s father, Jesse (Isaiah 11:1ff). This is the risen Christ who has been continually interceding for His people since He returned to His Father’s house in the days after his resurrection (Acts 1:9ff). This is the Savior of whom John the Baptist declared, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
This is the crucified, resurrected, co-equal and co-eternal Son of God who came to give His life a ransom for many (cf. Mk 10:45). John the Baptist continued, “This is he of whom I said, ‘After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me,'” (John 1:30). Jesus is greater than John, because he existed before John. And yet, John the Baptist is several months older than his cousin, Jesus! How can John be younger, then? It is because Jesus is the co-equal, co-eternal Son of God . . .
whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:2b-3).
This is who has strode into God’s throne room. This is why the Apostle John need not dispair. Someone worthy has been found to open the seven-sealed scroll and unleash the terrible but righteous judgments of God upon a rebellious and wicked world (cf. Gen 6:5).
But, why is Jesus Christ so particularly worthy? The 24 elders are angelic beings and are perfectly holy – why can’t they open the scroll? What about the four living beings who are also before God’s throne? Are they tainted in some way? Our passage tells us why only Jesus is worthy:
Then he came and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne, and when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders threw themselves to the ground before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp and golden bowls full of incense (which are the prayers of the saints) (Revelation 5:7-8).
Pay attention to what these angelic beings say, to what they sing in praise and worship to Jesus Christ. Here it is, in my own translation (detailed translation notes are available here):
and they were singing a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slaughtered, and by your own blood you bought for God [people] from every tribe, language, people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will rule on the earth’ (Revelation 5:9-10).
First, they make a simple statement – “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals.” Only Messiah, the Anointed and Chosen Son of God, can perform this task. Why? How is He uniquely qualified? There are several reasons:
1. because you were slaughtered
He was murdered, slain and slaughtered like a sacrificial animal. He died to take away the sins of the world. More than that, He did it willingly and voluntarily. He wasn’t checkmated into it. He wasn’t cornered and out-manauvered. He didn’t struggle valiently and die fighting. He deliberately, passively and meekly allowed His enemies to destroy Him (cf. John 14:28-31). He let Himself be slaughtered. What do you think about that?
2. and by your own blood
We observe the Lord’s Supper because of Jesus’ shed blood, which is a synonym for His death. It is through His death, by means of that death, that Jesus Christ perfectly saves men, women, boys and girls on this earth from slavery to the kingdom of darkness and transfers them to His own kingdom (Colossians 1:13). His death is the instrument which accomplishes this miracle.
3. you bought for God [people] from every tribe, language, people and nation
Jesus’ death has purchased people for God from everywhere on earth. This purchasing was done in the past, when He died. It happened in the past. From God’s perspective, all His chosen people from all over the world already are saved. It’s so certain and sure that He regards it as a done deal. The angelic beings in God’s heavenly throne room sing about it as an accomplished fact. Jesus is not buying; He bought. Jesus did not die intending to save every single person in the world. Everybody is born hating God (Romans 3:18). Everybody is born inherently worthless to Him (Romans 3:12). Many people continue to hate Him until their dying day, or cloak their hatred in a noxious shroud of good works intended to bribe the Lord and “earn” His favor, as if such a thing were even possible (cf. Galatians 2:21). Jesus died to save His chosen people, and those chosen people are from every tribe, language, people-group and nation in the entire world. The Gospel isn’t restricted by racial divide, the highest mountainpeaks, the lowest valleys, the most treacherous waters or the most bigoted, sinful and hateful prejudices of sinful men. It is intended for all people, and among all people, Christ has already purchased His own for God!
4. and you have made them a kingdom and priests for our God
God’s people want to serve Him. Christ is building His kingdom, which is not here yet. His people are priests in the sense that they have direct and personal access to Him which outsiders do not have. If you do not have salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, then you do not have God (1 John 2:23). You have no access to Him. He is actively angry with you. You reject Him and His Son. You hate Him. You are a criminal in His world. His people, however, make God known to those who hate Him. They tell others about God and His dear Son, Jesus Christ. They mediate the Lord to a pagan world. They don’t offer up literal sacrifices, they offer up their own selves as spiritual sacrificies to Him for His work (Romans 12:1f, 1 Peter 2:5). They regard themselves as slaves for His sovereign, holy and appropriate use. And, again, this is presented as an accomplished fact, a done deal, a past event with ongoing results.
5. and they will rule on the earth.
God’s people will rule with Him in eternity. God’s enemies will suffer for all eternity.
Jesus Christ is worthy because of what He did. He died to save sinners. When this scene takes place, the world has definitively rejected Him and the Good News He suffered and bled and died to bring to people. The world deserves judgment. He and His Father are the Ones the world is rejecting. It is only fitting that the “Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world” be the One who unleashes His Father’s righteous judgment on the very world which rejected Him and has “no cloak for their sin,” (John 15:22).
There is a host of misinformation and lies in the world about the human condition. The Bible makes things very clear. You need to be rescued. You need to be rescued from Satan’s clutches and from his fiery orphanage of the damned. That last bit isn’t hyperbole on my part; after all, a rescue implies some kind of mortal danger, doesn’t it? What on earth do you need to be rescued from?
12Giving thanks to the Father, who made you acceptable to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light, 13who rescued us from the kingdom of the darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14in whom we now have the redemption, that is, the forgiveness of sins.
The Bible tells us you need to be rescued and delivered “from the kingdom of darkness” (ἐκ τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ σκότους). Some translations render this as “delivered,” but I don’t think this is brutal, stark or arresting enough. It’s too dainty, too proper, too high-brow. You don’t need to be delivered, you need to be rescued from Satan’s kingdom.
This phrase is usually translated two different ways; as “power of darkness” (Tyndale, KJV, NKJV, NET, ISV) or “domain of darkness” (LEB, ESV, NASB). The idea of darkness is very clear in Greek, but the word ἐξουσίας is expressing the idea of sphere of control or rule. Another interesting possibility is jurisdiction. Altogether, you have several good translation options, each of which paints a dark and forbidding picture of who we really are. We are, all of us, people who desperately need to be rescued from the jurisdiction, power, domain and kingdom of darkness.
Darkness is the domain of Satan. It isn’t any wonder that our popular culture depicts evil in sinister shades of black (for example, think Darth Vader and “the dark side”), and good in glowing robes of white. This is Biblical imagery.
- People are trapped in the dark clutches of sin, their hearts and minds veiled by Satan’s cloak, and it is the “light of the glorious Gospel of Christ” which shines in unto His elect people (2 Corinthians 4:4-5), casting aside this vile net of iniquity and delusion “so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel.”
- An unbeliever’s understanding is “darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,” (Ephesians 4:18). Thus, this darkness isn’t literal; it’s spiritual. An unbeliever cannot know God, please God, or understand God because of this spiritual darkness.
- The Apostle Paul admonished the Christians in Ephesus, “for ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light,” (Ephesians 5:8).
- A Christian is somebody whom God has called “out of darkness into his marvellous light,” (2 Peter 2:9).
- The Apostle John, echoing His Lord’s “new commandment” (Jn 13:34-35), wrote that external behavior revealed the true state of one’s heart. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now,” (1 John 2:9).
- Jesus Christ Himself is depicted as the bright and shining light, sent from God with the precious message of salvation, redemption and reconciliation; “in him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not,” (John 1:4-5).
This is not good news. The Apostle Paul did not beat around the bush. Elsewhere, he made it clear that an unbeliever is spiritually dead, wallowing in his own trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Every single person in the world naturally lives according to the normal course of this sin-cursed and condemned word, according to the “prince of the power of the air,” who is Satan. People are born with Satan as their spiritual father (cf. John 8:44ff), their wills, minds, hearts and souls enslaved to him and all the wickedness he stands for. It is Satan who is working right now, every moment of every day, in his children’s lives, whom Paul calls the “children of disobedience,” (Ephesians 2:2). Even worse, the Bible tells us that everybody is born, by our very nature, makeup and constitution as sinners, as “children of wrath,” (Ephesians 2:3).
This is what you need to be rescued from, and this is what Christ has, is and will infallibly accomplish (cf. John 6:37) for all those who are His. You are born under the jurisdiction of Satan, subject to his laws, his standards, his will, his character, his nature and his wickedness. You reflect those qualities, you live according to these characteristics and you echo your spiritual father’s criminal spirit. As the Bible says, you are inherently unprofitable and worthless to God the way you are (Romans 3:12). You are under his domain and power, subject to his control, his influence, his whims and his regulations. He is the rudder of the ship of wickedness, sin and rebellion that is you. You were born a citizen of his vile, unrighteous and evil kingdom – a kingdom of darkness – and you will remain a resident in that kingdom unless or until you repent of your sins and believe the Good News which Jesus Christ willingly and voluntarily suffered, bled and died to bring to you.
There is Good News (εὐαγγέλιον – “Gospel”) to combat this Bad News. Jesus Christ came to save sinners. You are a sinner. He came to save, reconcile, redeem and forgive people from every tribe, tongue people and nation on earth; to rescue them from the kingdom of darkness and transfer them to His own kingdom. You can be adopted into Jesus’ kingdom. This is why Paul told the Christians in Colossae to be “giving thanks to the Father,” because Jesus, “made [them] acceptable to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.” Hopefully you, too, can join the saints from Colossae in thanking God for the wonderful gift of salvation in Christ Jesus!
 Article VII, in The 1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith, in The Creeds of Christendom, ed. Philip Schaff (New York, NY: Harper & Bros, 1882), 3:774.
Peter told us last week that we ought to be Holy, because God is holy. Today he tells us why it’s so important – why He cares about it so much. Last week, we saw that Peter said:
“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:13-16).
Today, he continues . . .
|17||And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:|
Peter basically says we should never take God’s mercy and salvation for granted. He writes,“if you call upon the Father” (e.g. if you’re saved and a believer) then pass your temporary stay here on this earth with fear!” Why does Peter say this? Peter tells us “because God judges every man according to His deeds, and doesn’t play favorites!”
Peter is telling us we should have a loving respect and fear for God. Not the fear a dog shows to a cruel master, but the kind of loving fear and respect a small child has for his father. Fear and respect not based on threat of punishment, but based on not wanting to disappoint or upset our Heavenly Father. If we have this fear, and we ought to have it, we’ll never take His grace for granted. I don’t think anybody would be ok with taking a gift from a friend while stabbing him in the back at the same time. In the exact same manner, no Christian should ever think it’s acceptable to claim to be a Christian while at the same time deliberately living in sin and not caring – being unrepentant about it. That’s more than hypocritical – it’s sinful
You may wonder, what does Peter mean when he says that God doesn’t play favorites when He judges? After all, Jesus said that if we’ve been called by God, drawn by the Holy Spirit and saved, that nobody can pluck us out of His hand!
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand,” (John 10:27-29).
Is Peter saying that if we don’t live like holy people, we’ll be damned? Scripture doesn’t lie or contradict itself, so it’s not saying that! But, Scripture does say that if God has to discipline so that we grow, He’ll do it:
“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness,” (Hebrews 12:4-10).
A whole lot was said here – let’s focus on just a few of them. First, we’re wayward children who have been saved from hell. Second, God is our Heavenly Father. Third, what kind of Father would He be if He didn’t discipline His children? No father should let his kids run around like wild animals – a good father teaches, rebukes and trains his kids!
So far so good, but what’s the point of God’s discipline? To be mean? To be petty? To get a few laughs? Not at all; we just saw the writer of Hebrews compare our earthly fathers with our Heavenly Father; “[f]or they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness,” (Hebrews 12:10). This means that God disciplines believers to help us grow and make us a holier people. The writer of Hebrews went on:
“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord,” (Hebrews 12:11-14).
God trains us by discipline. He tells us to pursue holiness – to strive after it, day in and day out. The writer of Hebrews’ point, and Peter’s point, is that if we don’t take our obligation for personal holiness seriously, then we’re making a big mistake. God will discipline us, like disobedient children. If we have this flippant, “who cares” attitude, then we’re in serious spiritual danger. Peter tells us that everybody who calls on the Father should pass their temporary time here on earth in loving, reverential fear – trying our best to please our God and Savior, not wanting to disappoint Him!
That leads us to another question or two (or three!):
- Why is it so bad to disappoint God?
- Doesn’t He know we’re sinful?
- Isn’t He willing and waiting to forgive us when we fall short?
- Is Peter trying to tell us that we have to be perfect? Who’s perfect, anyway!?
God doesn’t expect you to be sinless and perfect. God does expect you to get up every day and try your best to fight against sin and temptation because you love Him. He’s saved you, given you the gift of the Holy Spirit (your new Helper), and given you a goal-post to shoot for – to be like Christ! He will not accept the fact that we’re sinful people as an excuse for keeping unrepentant sin in your life. Keep struggling, and keep on struggling until we die or Christ returns to take believers home, whichever comes first.
|18||Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;|
|19||But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:|
Peter’s going to remind us of something very important to make his point. If you’re a believer, you’ve been redeemed by Christ – it was His sacrifice and death on the Cross that paid the price for your own sin. His blood was precious, because Christ is God, and that blood was shed for you. He entered into His own creation and lived a sinless life. An animal brought for sacrifice to atone for sins in the OT had be perfect. Christ was sinless and perfect, and was sacrificed like a lamb without blemish and without spot – for you. You weren’t redeemed by worthless things like silver or gold, but by Christ’s death.
What does this mean? What does this have to do with why we ought to try to be holy people? It’s simply this – Christ has set you free from sin, so why are you tolerating unrepentant sin in your life?
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s,” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
If you’ve been set free from sin, and given the gift of the Holy Spirit (and if you’re saved, you have!) . . .
- Then why do we tolerate sin in our lives?
- Why don’t we dedicate time and effort to actually changing the way we live our lives to be more Christ-like?
- Why are we so lazy?
Peter says you were redeemed “from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers . . .” We were rescued and bought by Christ’s blood from the road to hell we were on. He’s talking to Gentiles who never knew God or the Hebrew Scriptures, and he’s telling them, “you were redeemed from the worthless actions and attitudes you learned from your parents!” If we’ve been redeemed and set free from something, then we ought to act like that’s true.
- Do you realize that you’ve been set free from the sin that weighs you down?
- Do you realize that you can have victory over it?
God calls us to be holy people, He’s set us free from sin and death by Christ’s sacrifice, and given us a Helper in the Holy Spirit. We can overcome sin. It takes daily discipline and effort. It takes a real conviction, real repentance, real daily instruction in righteousness and real determination. But, we’ve been redeemed by Christ Himself, and we can do it. I challenge you to make a list of things you need to change in your life. I want you to realize that Christ died to set you free from those sins. I want you to realize that, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, you can have victory over those sins.
|20||Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,|
|21||Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.|
Christ’s sacrifice in your place, for your sins, as your substitute was foreordained (planned and determined) before the world even began, and He came, died and was resurrected in these days for your sakes! He didn’t just die to accomplish something when you die, so you be reconciled to God and spend eternity with Him. No, Christ died to redeem you from the “vain conversation” you were in bondage to. “Vain conversation” is “worthless conduct;” the empty and useless things you used to live for and do before you were called by the Holy Spirit for salvation. Christ died to redeem you from that unholy way of life.
Shame on all of us who don’t seize on that freedom He provided us, and continue to live unholy lives, knowing our responsibility to be holy, but not caring to even try. If you’re struggling to be holy, to have victory over a specific sin in your life – then praise God and keep on fighting today, tomorrow and forever. You were set free from this sin, and you can have victory over it by God’s grace!
 “The attitude advocated is not the craven, cringing dread of a slave before an offended master, but the reverential awe of a son toward a beloved and esteemed father, the awe that shrinks from whatever would displease and grieve him,” (D. Edmond Hiebert, 1 Peter, revised ed. [Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992; reprint, Winona Lake, IN: BMH, 2008], 100).
 This seems to be the sense of “who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work.” It is in the present tense, which indicates that God judges believers in the here and now in some fashion. Discipline (e.g. Heb 12:12:4-14) seems to be Peter’s point. For example, Jay Adams writes, “[i]t does speak of the final judgment of God among His people, but it also refers to the on-going judgment of God by which He trains and governs the members of His family (the verb is in the present tense). And, at times when He deems it necessary (because of the disgrace it brings on His name), that Fatherly judgment can be quite severe,” (Trust and Obey: A Practical Commentary on First Peter [Greenville, SC: A Press, 1988], 41-42).
Although the thrust of the passage could be referring to the judgment of believer’s works in the last days (e.g. 1 Cor 3:11-15), that really doesn’t seem to be what Peter is driving at. Wayne Grudem observes, “. . . the phrase is better understood to refer primarily or even exclusively to present judgment and discipline in this life,” (1 Peter, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988], 86). “Peter’s primary reference is to God’s present dealings with His saints in the development of holiness in their lives,” (Hiebert, 1 Peter, 99).
 “The design of Christ in shedding his most precious blood was to redeem us, not only from eternal misery hereafter, but from a vain conversation in this world. That conversation is vain which is empty, frivolous, trifling, and unserviceable to the honour of God, the credit of religion, the conviction of unbelievers, and the comfort and satisfaction of a man’s own conscience,” (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible [Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994], 2424). Emphasis mine.
This is the start of a series of messages through the Books of 1 & 2 Peter. These are essentially sermon notes that have been expanded for a reading audience. I hope these messages will be helpful!
INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT:
In the military, everybody’s favorite duty station is always (1) the place they’re heading to, or (2) the place they just left from. You might get shipped to a pretty horrible duty station in the military, but you know that it won’t last forever – because eventually you’ll get on that plane and go back home. I can still remember the joy I felt whenever I came home in leave when I was stationed overseas in the U.S. Navy. I looked forward to that magic moment when I would step off the plane and see Starbucks waiting for me in the terminal!
From a spiritual standpoint, I can get really down sometimes because I forget that, just like when I was in the military, I’ll be transferred to glory one day – because I’m a child of God! I forget to take the long view. I forget what’s waiting for me at the finish line and get caught up feeling sorry for myself in my problems – whatever they may be.
I’m not minimizing whatever you may be going through or have gone through. This is a world filled with sin, ruined by the Fall, and bad things happen. What I want to do is encourage you today about some very basic truths about the Christian life, and why you ought to smile and be happy today – no matter what kind of valley you’re in the middle of right now! So, here are some reasons from Peter why Christians ought to be happy . . .
#1 – BECAUSE GOD HAS GIVEN YOU A HOME! (V.1):
|1||Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,|
Peter wrote this letter to the “strangers” who are scattered all around Asia Minor (what we know as Turkey). Did you know that the Bible says that Christians are “strangers and pilgrims” in this world? Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us in heaven (Jn 14:2-3). The writer of Hebrews said that all the Old Testament believers counted themselves as strangers and pilgrims who looked forward to being citizens of a heavenly country. While they were alive they didn’t see this heavenly country, but they sure looked forward to it!
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city,” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Think of the border crisis. Think of a legal alien, who has a green card. What do aliens and foreigners in the U.S. have to endure? They don’t have the same rights, privileges or comforts of citizens. They can’t vote, can’t be elected to office, can’t bring family members to the U.S., and can’t get government jobs! Why not? Because they’re not citizens!
If we’re just strangers and pilgrims here, that means this world isn’t our permanent home!
- No matter what evil or wickedness we endure in this world . . .
- No matter what people do to us or say to us . . .
- No matter how hard or depressing our circumstances can be . . .
We have this sure promise – we’re heavenly citizens and we have a room waiting for us there right now!
#2 – BECAUSE GOD CHOSE TO SAVE YOU (VV.2-3):
|2||Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.|
|3||Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,|
I want you to know that the fact that God saved you means that you’re special to Him! Every single Person of the Godhead was personally involved in your salvation and rescue from hell:
- You were individually chosen (“elect”) by God the Father before the world even began
- You were made holy (“sanctified”) by the Spirit when you were born again – your heart was made clean and washed
- Your punishment was paid by Christ when He died for you in your place; His blood atoned for your sin. In the Old Covenant, a priest had to take the blood of your sacrificial animal and sprinkle it on the altar to atone for your sins. Christ took His own blood and sacrificed Himself to atone for all our sins
You are special to God, and I think we sort of lose sight of that fact in our day to day life. You ought to praise God for your salvation! Peter says that it’s because of His “abundant mercy” that you were born again. “Mercy” means that God took pity on us when we didn’t deserve it. You have a living (“lively”) hope in eternal life. Just like Christ was resurrected and went to heaven to be with God the Father, so will you . . . and it’s all due to God!
“To God be the glory, great things He hath done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son!”
#3 – YOUR SALVATION IS SECURE! (V.4-5):
|4||To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,|
|5||Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.|
Your inheritance in God’s Kingdom . . .
- Is incorruptible. It won’t rot and wither away like a piece of fruit
- Is undefiled. It’s pure; it doesn’t become contaminated by anything we do
- Doesn’t fade away. The freshest flower will fade away and die – your inheritance in God’s Kingdom won’t. Christ has prepared a place for you; it’s got your name on it, and it’s waiting for you!
#4 – ALL THIS IS WHY YOU CAN KEEP GOING (VV.6-9):
|6||Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:|
God saved you. The Holy Spirit helps you every day through life. Jesus promised to come back for you. That means you can keep on fighting each and every day, living Christ-like lives while you wait for God to make good on His promises. Why? Because you’re going to transfer home one day – Jesus has promised to prepare a place for you.
Peter knew what it was to suffer persecution; so did all these early Christians. Peter is writing this letter from Rome, where the insane Emperor Nero was on the throne! This idea of looking towards the end as a way to get through the present wasn’t some pie-in-the-sky idea to him, and it shouldn’t be to you, either! Peter told them to rejoice in what God has done and will do for them, as they struggled through problems, persecutions and everyday temptations. Look past your struggles, whatever they are, and know that God has an eternity of rest waiting for you.
|7||That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:|
|8||Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:|
|9||Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.|
One thing God does is allow trials to challenge and grow our faith. Peter compares it to gold. One method to refine gold is to melt it and use some kind of gaseous chlorine to attract all the impurities, which float to the top. The impurities are skimmed off, and you have 99.5% pure gold. Peter says, like gold, we go through bad times and suffer through terrible events, and all the while our faith is being strengthened. We see things in our Christian walk we need to fix. Impurities, bad attitudes and un-Christian mindsets are skimmed off, leaving a more authentic and real faith behind; a refined and stronger faith and a more pure faith. The gold is never destroyed by this process; it only removes the impurities.
Through it all, we keep going so we can glorify the God who saved us from hell and has done so much for us. Every single time we persevere through any struggle with our testimony and our faith intact and even strengthened – we bring praise, honor and glory to our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ! When He returns for us we’re finished struggling, and we can say we’ve done our part in honoring Him!
And again – what is our motivation? Peter reminds us that we haven’t even seen Christ, but we:
- Love Him
- We love Him and what He did for us
- That means we can rejoice with “joy unspeakable and full of glory!”
“I have found that hope so bright and clear, living in the realm of grace!”
“Oh, the Savior’s presence is so near, I can see His smiling face . . .!”
“It is joy unspeakable and full of glory . . . Oh, the half has never yet been told!”
I think this is worth being happy about!
#5 – YOU KNOW MORE THAN DAVID AND MOSES DID (VV.10-12):
You know more about Christ, salvation, heaven and God than anyone in the Old Testament ever did:
“For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them,” (Matthew 13:17).
This is a reason to be happy! You have more of God’s word than they ever did.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report,” (Hebrews 11:1-2).
This isn’t blind faith, as though Abraham just took a running, blind leap out into space. He knew what salvation was. He knew how good God was – God took care of Him. God fulfilled His promises. So, Abraham believed God when He said what He would do, based on what He had done. And, as we look back on the great faith of Abraham, do you realize that we can know about God than Abraham? You have more of God’s Word! The Old Testament saints didn’t have the Gospels, Paul’s letters, Peter’s letters or any other New Testament writing. If we can know so much more about God than the Old Testament saints ever did, because we have so much more of God’s Word, doesn’t that mean that we ought to be even more joyful than Moses or David?
David wrote: “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word,” (Psalm 119:15-16). A lot of the Psalms were written by him, and this was a man who didn’t know the details about Christ that we know now:
- He didn’t have the Holy Spirit living inside him
- He didn’t have a perfect, finished sacrifice
- He didn’t have the direct and personal, constant access to God that we do now
- He didn’t have the details about the end-times
- He didn’t have the details about the new heavens and the new earth
- He didn’t have the details about eternity in the New Jerusalem, walking in streets of gold
|10||Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:|
Daniel, Jeremiah, Hosea – all the prophets asked and searched and wondered about the Messiah who would come and set everything right.They wanted to know what we know now – it’s all the New Testament! How many Bibles do we have in our homes? How easy is it to go to Biblegateway.com, look on Kindle or go anywhere on the internet and find the New Testament – which has the answers the men in the Old Testament could only dream of having access to! We have it. You have it. You can know more about God than they did.
|11||Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.|
They didn’t know how everything fit together. They saw that Messiah would be sent from God. He would rule and reign, and His throne and kingdom would last forever. And yet, He would suffer and die . . . How did all this fit together? The Holy Spirit moved them to write the Scripture, but how could they make sense of it all!?
|12||Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.|
They didn’t know how or when all the murky details about Christ would come to pass. They figured it wouldn’t be for them to know, but for the folks who were living when it happened:
“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect,” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
The believers in the OT looked forward to the promise of Christ and believed in it by faith – even though they never saw Christ or read His words in the Gospels. We have something better than they did – we look back on what Christ already did!
If you’re a Christian, you have lots of reasons to be happy. We’re all going through something – we may be going through different things, but we’re all struggling with something. There are some people who I’d never be friends with unless we both weren’t Christians! We’re not all sitting here today because we’re from the same town, went to the same school, have the same interests or even work at the same place. What ties us together is that we’re all Christians. We can all grab hold of these simple truths:
- God has given you a home in heaven that’s waiting for you
- God decided to save you – specifically and individually
- Your salvation is secure; it’s incorruptible, undefiled and will never fade away
- You have more of God’s Word, and can know more about God than any man or woman from the OT
- Because all this is true, stay happy, and keep on keepin’ on through whatever you’re dealing with – God’s promises are real and true
Do your best to live a Christ-like life, walking worthy of our great God and Savior, while we wait for orders to ship out back home to heaven – where Christ has a place waiting for you!
 Some argue that Peter was writing to Jewish Christians. After all, Peter was an apostle to the Jews and his epistles are saturated with OT references and allusions. However, I follow D. Edmond Hiebert in assuming that Peter is just writing to Christians in general: “[i]t seems more natural to understand Peter’s use of the term metaphorically, as a picture of Christians scattered in various areas as minority groups in a non-Christian world,” (1 Peter, revised ed. [Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992; reprint, Winona Lake, IN: BMH, 2008], 47).
 “Peter is writing a travellers’ guide for Christian pilgrims. He reminds them that their hope is anchored in their homeland. They are called to endure alienation as strangers, but they have a heavenly citizenship and destiny,” (Edmund P. Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, The Bible Speaks Today [Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 1988; Kindle edition, 2014], Kindle Locations 471-472).
 “To describe what God has done to bring about his great design, Peter refers to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus Christ. God’s choosing of his people is applied to them through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood (1: 2). It is by the Spirit that God ‘has given us new birth’ (1: 3), and it is by Christ’s blood that we are cleansed and redeemed (1: 18– 19). The triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, accomplishes our salvation,” (Clowney, 1 Peter, Kindle Locations 438-442).
 I disagree with particular redemption.
 Peter’s point is not to write a theological treatise or to systematically explain soteriology. “The opening characterization of the readers as elect was meant to strengthen and encourage them in their affliction. The doctrine of election is a ‘family truth’ intended to foster the welfare of believers,” (Hiebert, 1 Peter, 46).
 “Peter will describe the political and social duties of the Christian pilgrim. But first the pilgrim must know his calling. It is not to pursue the mirage of humanistic hope. Neither is it to bow down to worship the imperial images of totalitarian power. It is to obey Jesus Christ until the day of his appearing,” (Clowney, 1 Peter, Kindle Locations 570-572).
 “God sends trials to strengthen our trust in him so that our faith will not fail. Our trials keep us trusting; they burn away our self-confidence and drive us to our Saviour. The fires of affliction or persecution will not reduce our faith to ashes. Fire does not destroy gold: it only removes combustible impurities,” (Clowney, 1 Peter, Kindle Locations 709-711).
 Hiebert suggests that we will be awarded praise, honor and glory by Christ at our glorification (1 Peter, 68-69). I am not comfortable with this idea. Everything we do is for the glory of God. Believers surely will receive crowns for their faithful service, and we will be glorified, but I am very reluctant to ascribe any glory and honor to us. “If we receive crowns of glory, it will be our joy to cast them at the feet of the Saviour,” (Clowney, 1 Peter, Kindle Location 729).
 I see the searching and inquiring by the OT prophets as being about how all the pieces would fit together, not about when. This is a major bone of contention. It also touches on the issue of the content of saving faith before the explicit revelation of Christ in the New Covenant. “The words search and inquiry imply a lack of knowledge about how the prophesies would be fulfilled, not about what they meant,” (William Baker, James & First and Second Peter, 21st Century Biblical Commentary Series, ed. Mal Couch and Ed Hindson [Chattanooga, TN: AMG, 2004], 108).
The prophets were concerned with the time of the Messiah’s explicit advent, of course, but they were worried about more than that. It wasn’t just the timing, but the manner of His appearance and the characteristics of His ministry that concerned them. John Calvin observes,
“There was a difference between the law and the gospel, a veil as it were being interposed, that they might not see those things nearer which are now set before our eyes. Nor was it indeed proper, while Christ the Sun of righteousness was yet absent, that the full light should shine as at mid-day. And though it was their duty to confine themselves within their prescribed limits, yet it was no superstition to sigh with a desire of having a nearer sight. For when they wished that redemption should be hastened, and desired daily to see it, there was nothing in such a wish to prevent them patiently to wait as long as it pleased the Lord to defer the time,” (Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles [Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010], 38–39). Calvin went on to say that “[m]oreover, to seek as to prophecies the particular time, seems to me unprofitable; for what is spoken of here is not what the prophets taught, but what they wished,” (Catholic Epistles, 39).
Not everyone agrees. Hiebert says the prophets sought only the timing (1 Peter, 75-76). So dies Tom Schreiner; “Peter’s point, of course, was that the prophets predicted these matters but did not know when they would be fulfilled, and they hoped upon hope that they would be fulfilled in their days,” (1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003], 73).
They are wrong. The confusion the disciples showed during Christ’s first advent, and the sudden flash of understanding after the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost seen to decisively tilt the argument in favor of how the prophesies about the Messiah would be fulfilled. The core issue, perhaps, is what exactly the prophets understood about Christ in the OT. I am in full agreement with Dallas Theological Seminary’s statement on this matter: “We believe also that they did not understand the redemptive significance of the prophecies or types concerning the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 1:10–12); therefore, we believe that their faith toward God was manifested in other ways as is shown by the long record in Hebrews 11:1–40.”