Category Archives: Church

Study 1 – 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

The Faithful Work of God

Discussion Question

What makes a church great?

Background

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he commanded his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). The gospel started in Jerusalem and spread out into the world. One unexpected disciple was Saul who began as a persecutor of the church but was dramatically converted and became the greatest missionary the world has ever known. In Acts Chapter 18, we read of him preaching the gospel in the city of Corinth and, although there was great persecution there, he sowed the seeds of a church.

He now writes a letter to this church to encourage, correct, rebuke and train them in righteousness. Paul knew this church personally, having spent 18 months with them at the beginning, but has been absent as the church continued to grow in their knowledge of the gospel. Rather than predict what issues had arisen before reading the letter, it is sufficient to simply read the text and allow the story to unfold before us.

Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

What did you see?

Structure

  • From Paul via God (1-3)
    • Who is the writer? (1)
    • Who are the readers? (2)
    • A relationship made in heaven (3)
  • Evidence of God’s work in them (4-6)
  • Confidence in God’s faithfulness (7-9)

From Paul via God (1-3)

“…called to be an apostle” Paul did not climb the ladder seeking to be a world-wide missionary for God – he was called. Paul (FKA Saul) was miraculously reborn on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Paul began many letters with this credential because he does not speak from human philosophy or religion but as a servant of Christ Jesus (Romans 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1). See Galatians 1:1 and 2:8.

Apostle” means messenger – someone commissioned by another to represent him in some way. Like every word in the bible, it is just a word but when used in context, it refers to those commissioned by God through Christ to represent Christ in the world.

“…and our brother Sosthenes…” This is the same synagogue leader who was beaten by fellow Jews for allowing Paul to preach in his synagogue. The beatings did not stop him from being a follower of Jesus! See Acts 18:12-17. What a glorious picture of a man who will choose truth over earthly protection. He, like Paul, had given up everything to serve the gospel of our LORD.

To the church of God…” The letter is addressed to a brotherhood of believers meeting in Corinth. They are…

“…sanctified in Christ…” ie, made holy in Christ. This is not to be overlooked as we begin a journey through 1 Corinthians. They are not a church becoming holy but a church that IS holy in Christ. That is, for all who call upon the name of Jesus, they are saved, redeemed and made righteous in the eyes of the LORD. Paul expands on this later in these first 9 verses.

…called to be his holy people…” As holy people in Christ, they are called to be holy! We are not saved in order to return to our old selves. Sanctification is a now and progressing language in the bible. We cannot progress TO holy without being MADE holy by grace. And we must not remain in sin once we have been called out of it!

…together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours…” The gospel is the gospel no matter where you go. There is only one way to be saved and it is through Jesus Christ. Likewise, there is no super church anywhere that has better access or higher knowledge than any other church of God anywhere in the world. An illiterate man saved by God is just as sanctified as a multi published theologian. As God has called us to be holy, we call on the name of the Lord to be saved (Gen 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 21:33; 26:25; 1 Kings 18:24; Psalm 116:4; Joel 2:32; Zephaniah 3:9; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Calling on the name of the LORD is a sign that you are putting your trust and hope in Him – it is a way of describing faith. This is not a personal invite to the Corinthians but an invitation to the whole world to call on Jesus to be saved.

…Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” At the end of this first section, which is the announcement of who is writing to who – we see the reason the letter is being written. Namely, that because of God, this relationship exists. Without God, who is Paul and who are the people in Corinth? Both are nobody! Neither is anybody. Both those sentences are true! Paul’s authority comes from Christ to write to them; the people’s assembly is in the name of Jesus, otherwise it would not be a church of God made holy in Christ; and the relationship that exists is on the basis of grace and peace that only God the Father through Christ the Son can have achieved! Church exists because of the grace of God and the peace of God. Outside of this dome of truth, Paul is a nobody to these people and why should they care to listen further?

Evidence of God’s work in them (4-6)

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” Paul was a prayer. His letters are filled with the prayers that he offered up for the church. An excellent book by Don Carson called “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” takes the prayers of Paul in the Scriptures to show us the heart of a faithful prayer praying the mind of God for the church. The simple reason for Paul’s thankfulness for the church in Corinth is for the gospel of Jesus being effective among them. He doesn’t praise them for what he hears. He thanks God for what he has heard. And he doesn’t praise the Corinthians for being anything but he praises Christ for his grace reaching the church in Corinth! Paul is thankful that his grace is at work in Corinth. The church is not brilliant apart from the grace of God.

For…” because – and here is the proof…

“…in [Christ] you have been enriched in every way…” Their speech and their knowledge are examples of how they have been enriched but notice that their deposit book is filled already with the grace of God. They have been fully enriched. There is no lacking area of investment yet to be accessed and deposited. The church may be boastful about their speech and their knowledge, but Paul reminds them that this is from God. So don’t get cocky.

“…God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you.” This appears to be Paul saying that they are showing signs of the gospel taking root in their lives. The confirmation of salvation is in their conduct and enriched lives of faith. In other words, Paul came and told them about Jesus (his testimony about Christ), and God confirms the testimony about Jesus by bearing fruit in the lives of the Corinthians.

Confidence in God’s faithfulness (7-9)

Therefore…” and so. It follows, that since God has blessed you and enriched you fully…

…you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” Firstly, what we do now that we are saved is wait for the return of Christ. We have been living in the last days since the resurrection and ascension. Secondly, there is no second blessing. God has saved the church by bringing the testimony of Jesus to them and the evidence of conversion is in the way that the church talks about God and Christ and faith. There is not second blessing of the holy spirit to await, no special gift that we need to beg God to bring to seal the deal. The church in Corinth have every page in their Kingdom of God passport stamped already – and each was a free gift of grace through Christ.

He will also keep you firm to the end…” A promise of God to the saved. Not only is there no second blessing, but there is also no higher order of working hard to stay saved. Those called by God will be kept safe by God. That is why it is called grace. Be careful of who we might call ‘strong Christians’ since God has promised to keep all of his little ones safe.

…so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul said in Colossians 2:6-7 that we grow up in Christ be sticking with him. We are made righteous by Christ and we will be kept righteous by Christ on the last day. This is God’s promise. NB that it is called the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. A day when all will see him as Lord of all.

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” See how Paul is on point here? He has begun the letter describing the church of God in Corinth as sanctified, called to be holy, made holy by Jesus, given everything they need for salvation and sanctification and reminded that God will continue the work that he begun in them till the end. They have no reason to boast in themselves and every reason to give thanks and praise to God for his grace shown to them in Christ Jesus.

What did we learn?

See Verse 9!

Now what?

Topic A: Getting grace right. Christianity 101 is about the grace of God. Can you explain God’s grace with ease? What issues arise when you try to explain it? Discuss.

Topic B: Prayer as faith speaking. Although this passage is not about prayer at the heart, it shows the natural flow of Paul giving thanks to God for what he sees happening in the church. Prayer has been described as ‘talking to God’. But real prayer is much more than that because it flows out of a relationship and true knowledge of God. We pray the very things that God has promised to answer and out of thankfulness for everything we see that God is doing. Prayer is faith speaking. What we pray for is a reflection of our knowledge and trust in God.

Topic C: What is church? Discuss what we can say of church from this passage. Are we able to correct or train our thinking about church because of this passage? For example, church is not about rosters or watered grounds, or a 75 minute meeting once a week. What is church then?

Study 12 – Luke 19:28-48 (41-44)

The King Has Come

Context

Luke has not let us forget that Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. Having fixed his eyes on that destination in Luke 9:51 we finally have arrived with Jesus. On his journey to this place he has taught about the nature of discipleship and the urgency to separate oneself from this world and commit to God’s kingdom now. But we have been told that on arrival into Jerusalem, Jesus will be arrested, handed over to the Romans, mocked and killed but three days later he will rise from the dead. Many, including his disciples, had thought that when Jesus arrived, he would usher in the kingdom of God right there and then.

Jesus is at the doorstep of Jerusalem and crowds have followed him. Among the crowds are the disciples who have left everything to follow him, others who have embraced Jesus as Lord, general onlookers who are enjoying the healings and teachings but have perhaps not yet jumped on board with Jesus. And then there are the Pharisees. We leave this whole series on Luke here with the anticipated arrival into Jerusalem.

Read Luke 19:28-48 (41-44)

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”t

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

Observation

Structure

  • 28-31 Jesus sends an advance party
  • 32-40 Jesus’ reception
  • 41-44 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem
  • 45-48 Jesus stirs the pot

 

28-31 Jesus sends an advance party

“Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives…” Bethphage is a village on the Mount of Olives near the road from Jericho to Jerusalem and near Bethany. So, Jesus stops here first before entering the city of Jerusalem itself. Bethany is about 3km from Jerusalem. This is where Mary, Martha and Lazarus live. Also the home of Simon the Lepar where Jesus’ was anointed with perfume (Mark 14:3-9). The Mount of Olives was frequented by Jesus (Luke 21:37; 22:39; see also Matt 24:3; 26:30).

“…you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.” Jesus’ instructions to the two disciples are quite precise, including his prediction of what they might be asked and how to answer. Either Jesus had arranged this colt with the owner on a previous visit or, he is the Sovereign God who knows stuff like this, just like he knew the name of Zacchaeus and that he’d be sitting in a figtree waiting for him. Jesus is deliberately fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. This is a donkey which the Messiah will enter Jerusalem on in victory. As we will see by the response of the people, Jesus is preparing Jerusalem to view Jesus as their King.

“…say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” As just mentioned, Jesus is priming everyone to notice what is happening as he enters. He doesn’t wish to sneak in quietly this time like times before. This entrance into Jerusalem is the one when he comes to be anointed as King.

32-40 Jesus’ reception

“As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.” The two disciples that went ahead of Jesus with the message that “The Lord needs the colt” seems like enough info to get a welcoming crowd to respond with a makeshift red carpet welcome! This is a scene like a true kingly reception. Huge crowds had been attracted to Jesus’ teaching while he travelled toward Jerusalem, so word may have easily reached the city that Jesus was on his way.

“When he came to the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives…” At this point, the journey into Jerusalem becomes real. The road coming out from the Mount of Olives down into the Royal City of David pushes out from the trees to reveal the city in full view. I found a tourist website which contains images of a track down this mountain (important not to wear flip-flops on this road!). https://www.verywellfit.com/mount-of-olives-palm-sunday-and-holy-thursday-walk-4020347

“…the crowd whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God…” As Jerusalem bursts into view, the disciples in the crowd burst into cheer. It is the travelling company of Jesus who have been part of his background crew who stimulate the praise and worship session. It is an exciting moment as they arrive at the city. This is likely to be more than the 12 disciples but those in the crowd who are buzzing for Christ to arrive in Jerusalem.

“…for all the miracles they had seen…” Their witness is of all the amazing things they had seen Jesus do. What accompanied Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God was the affirmation from God through signs and wonders that the Messiah had come. They saw the blind see and the lame walk and they believed that this is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! See Psalm 118:26; Luke 13:35. Psalm 118 is a resounding song of national victory as all of Israel are called to praise the LORD for his victory.

“…Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” Some Pharisees were unimpressed by apparent blasphemy and gave Jesus the opportunity to correct his disciples. IF, for some weird reason, Jesus had accidently chosen the wrong animal to ride into Jerusalem on and give the wrong impression, now was the time for Jesus to apologise and set the record straight with, “I am not the Messiah, sorry to steer you all wrong!” But instead, he says,

“…if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” An exaggeration from Jesus to make the point that the disciples are only doing what the world and creation ought to be doing! They are exactly right for saying what they say and for getting excited. They are using the correct emotion for the occasion. Besides, the rocks were relieved that people had finally got something right! See Isaiah 55:12. It is no small moment for the promised King of Israel to finally arrive in the Holy City to claim His eternal throne. We should not overlook this moment as though it is a day like any other day. Jesus is on the move! His face was set on Jerusalem, to win victory for his people, and he is now arriving. The week that follows this arrival will be a week that changes the world.

41-44 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” While the crowd of disciples were celebrating and praising God, Jesus was mourning. He not only knows what is laying ahead for him but he knows that Jerusalem has already been left desolate by God (Luke 13:35). Although the disciples are responding correctly with their joy, Jesus is also correct to be sorrowful for the city that He has been preaching to and shepherding for 1000 years since David took it from the Jebusites and shepherding its people for 1000 years longer when he called Abraham to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldeans and move to the promised land.

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace…” The Kingdom of God has been spoken of in secret all this time. Only after the cross and resurrection, did the converted apostles understand all that had been written about God, the Messiah and the people of Israel. The revelation began in Genesis 3:15 and has been sprinkled across the pages of the Old Testament. The people wanted the Messiah to come to bring peace but the way it would come was not expected by anybody.

“…but now it is hidden from your eyes.” In God’s sovereignty, the people who receive him with gladness today, will either flee or join in on the cries to crucify Jesus in less than a week’s time. They see a triumphant King riding into Jerusalem, but peace will come when that same King gives up his last breath on the cross.

“The days will come upon you when…they will not leave one stone on another…” Jesus must be referring to the destruction of the Temple which took place in 70AD. The Jews who were waiting for the Messiah and did not see him arrive on that day (did not recognise Him as the Messiah) but crucified the carpentar from Nazareth, will have their place of worship taken from them. It is on par with the exile of the people into Babylon. Many still wait for the Messiah to return and are buried on the Mount of Olives so that when he finally arrives, they will rise to life and march into the city. But, the Kingdom of God has already come and it has left the building! When Jesus rose from the dead he instructed his disciples to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations. This Temple has no purpose for God any longer and it never will.

“…because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.” Once Christ has risen, his kingdom will expand to the ends of the world and many in Israel saw the Messiah but did not recognise him.

45-48 Jesus stirs the pot

“…Jesus entered the temple courts…every day he was teaching at the temple.” Jesus has come to his Temple and stands right in the heart of Yahweh worship to teach people. His ministry is not secretive and he is not preaching in upper rooms or small villages any longer.

“…he began to drive out those who were selling.” People had found a money making venture at the place of prayer and worship. Isaiah 56:7 describes the true purpose of the Temple. It was not an exclusive place but for all to come with welcomed sacrifices. Trading money for acceptable sacrifice had become a profitable trade. This robs the place of God of its true purpose.

“But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.” It is just too sad a state of affairs. All of the people listed were to be shepherds to Israel, leading them to repentance and true worship but instead, they want to put the Messiah to death. The betrayal of Jesus illustrates how damning our human race is and how loving God is to put up with us.

“Yet they could not find any way to do it, because the people hung on his words.” So ironic. If only they would hang on his every word too! Don’t you just wish the world would stop speaking for a day and listen to the word of God! This also helps us to see why they needed to find a secret way to arrest Jesus and put him on trial at a secret hour.

Meaning

When Jesus arranged for a donkey to be ridden into Jerusalem, he was making the statement that the Messiah has come. The crowd with him were praising God and giving testimony to the many great things they had seen Jesus do. Returning to the house of prayer every day, the Word of God was present in the Holy City, but rather than being embraced by the leaders, he is hated. Jerusalem will not see the King that is right in its midst. Jesus will bring peace despite Jerusalem’s blindness and hate. The city will be destroyed, but the Messiah will bring the victory of Yahweh and extend peace throughout the world.

 

Application

Topic A: Considering the Holy Land. Jerusalem was the place that God himself had allocated as the position of the Temple. The Temple was the place that God had allocated to meet with His people. The Mount of Olives was the place where Jesus was baptised (tradition holds in the Jordan just passed the Mount of Olives), where he raised Lazarus from the dead (in Bethany), where he arrived victoriously into Jerusalem, where he spent many nights sleeping and praying and where he prayed in anguish the night of his arrest. But the gospel has moved on from there. God dwells with man through the Holy Spirit and by his Word. Where two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, he is there with them. Jerusalem and the surrounding places now serve as historic sites but they are no longer where Jesus has his throne now will it be for there will be a new Jerusalem and a new heaven and a new earth.

Topic B: Praising God with joy! Read through Psalm 118 and spend time rejoicing that God has won the victory over sin and death through Jesus. The day Jesus arrived into Jerusalem is remembered as Palm Sunday because of the other gospels which mention palms as well as cloaks. A joyful Sunday because Jesus actively pronounced himself as King that day and arrived to fulfill prophecy.

Topic C: Hanging off the words of Jesus. We will love Jesus and know Jesus, know God and love God, follow Him and obey Him when we listen to Him. A closed heart, closed ears and closed bible will bring a rebellious response to God. Come to the Lord and listen to him before it is too late.

Study 10 – 1 Peter 5:5-14

She in Babylon sends you greetings

Context

We’ve reached the end of the letter by the apostle Peter to the church scattered in the northern regions of the Mediterranean. He has not addressed the letter to several churches named but to the elect of God dispersed across parts of the world. What binds the readers to gether is their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the hope of grace that comes through him. He has been encouraging Christians to stand firm in their faith despite suffering through persecution in this world. This world is not their home. His letter concludes with the returned theme of encouraging believers across the globe to trust God who is in charge and who cares. In the previous verses, Peter has been specifically addressing the elders of God’s community whose task is to shepherd God’s flock.

Observation

Structure

  • 5:5-6 Humble yourselves
  • 5:7-11 Know where the power and care lies
  • 5:12-14 Greetings from the other scattered saints

5:5-6 Humble yourselves

“In the same way…” Peter has used this same phrase to speak with wives (3:1) and husbands (3:7) and refers to his instruction back in 2:18 to do everything in reverent fear of God. All relationships fall under his headship and it is in reverence to Him that we decide how to treat one another. Slaves to masters, wives to husbands, husbands to wives and now young to elders.

“…you who are younger submit yourselves to your elders.” The word ‘elder’ means whatever the word means in it’s context. In a different context it would refer to people older than you. But following from verses 1-4 speaking directly to the shepherds of the church, this is not about age but about that responsible role of caring for the household of God. The younger, would then be a generic term for those who are not recognised as elders in the church. This generally had a correspondence with age but not necessarily (see 1 Timothy 4:12).

“…submit yourselves…” It is not the responsibility of the elders to squash the church into submission or shame them into obedience or manipulate them into assimilation. It is for the young in the faith to respect to their elders. The message of the kingdom of God is designed to be handed from one person to another and from one generation to the next. Those who have known their LORD longer and know how to handle the word of God ought to be respected and trusted as they teach and exhort others. Church life is truly a community.

“All of you clothe yourselves with humility…” Both elders and younger people, wives and husbands, slaves and masters – the entire household of God are to be humble toward one another. As the younger submit to the elder, as the wife submits to the husband and so on, the outcome is not domination or power plays but humility from everyone toward everyone else in the community.

“Because, God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.” Just as submission is given freely out of reverence to God, so too humility is displayed because this pleases God. Humility is not about pretending to know nothing or acting like you are insignificant but about using your gifts, talents and wisdom to serve others and not yourself. Jesus is the ultimate example of humility (Philippians 2:5ff)

“Humble yourselves…under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” This segues nicely between this section and the next. We know that God has the power to elevate us and glorify those worthy of praise and so leave it to him. No matter how good we may feel we are, we are always subordinate in every way to God. But he is no cruel master, as the next verse shows us.

5:7-11 Know where the power and care lies

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Christians do not need to fight for recognition or wealth or anything because we know that God is the giver of all good gifts. Knowing that God is all powerful and that he cares are the two most comforting truths in the bible. He has a mighty hand and he cares for us. Now, anxiety is not a sin but we need to be careful what we do with it. On a biological level, anxiety is that natural reaction to things that threaten us. As humans, we have the capacity to worry about things that are not of immediate danger (like not being ready for an exam or being disliked or afraid of failing). When we have these feelings of worry and deep concern, we have the privilege of taking them to God in prayer. Casting our anxiety on God is like throwing all of our concerns at him and then resting in his promises to do good with our request. Faith is trust. If we trust God then tell him about our worries and keep moving. If you keep worrying, keep talking to God about them. Note that talking to others is helpful and sometimes necessary too so that we indeed get good advice on how to think rationally about things that we may have irrational reactions to. But God’s ear is always the first and ongoing ear to speak with about our worries.

“Be alert and of sober mind.” We heard this phrase in 1:13 and 4:7. With clear heads, set your hope on the grace of Christ and know that the end of all things is near. The reality of the world as we know it in Christ ought to give us clarity to resist the devil and pursue what is right and good.

“Your enemy the devil…” The gospel writers, Moses, and Paul, to name a few, each described the devil as real. He is not the boogeyman.  When Adam and Eve made the mistake of their lives, the devil was talking in their ear. When Job was living a godly and holy life, it was the devil who spoke to God to get permission to cause suffering for him. The devil is not equal with God because he is a created being. But the bible does not show any signs that the devil will repent and come back to God nor that he has the option to.

“…prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The image given by Peter is enough to know that the devil is a predator. He is shark-like in his wanderings across the earth (Job 1:6-7). He sought to destroy Eden, he sought to destroy Job, he sought to destroy even Jesus Christ. Anybody who is found without sober judgment with respect to God and His kingdom are easy prey for him. But there is a defense…

“Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” What Satan really desires is for all of humanity to deny God’s rule and promises. For all to regard God as a liar or worship him falsely. But standing firm in the faith – the knowledge of the gospel and the hope that comes through Jesus Christ – is the response to his attacks. All temptation, whether from the world, the flesh or the devil, is to be combatted with resistance. Speak truth to yourself. Pray to God for help and stand firm.

“…because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” No attack from Satan is new. It’s the same old thing. The persecution in this world has the support of the devil.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,” If it is God who has called you 1:1-2, then no power of satan can alter that. Peter is closing his letter with the same themes of calling and grace that he began with. Standing firm in the faith requires remembering who called you, what you have been called to (eternal glory) and what power or proof has been given for this calling (the life, death and resurrection of Christ). Be aware that the devil is on the move but know for sure that God has already won you and paid for you and prepared a place for you in Christ!

“…after you have suffered a little while…” Recall the great theme of suffering that has taken up a large portion of this letter. Suffering is not a sign that God is losing. That is the flavour of life this side of heaven – during this time of testing.

“…will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” God himself, not you, not an elder of the church, but God himself will restore you. During times of temptation, stand firm and come to God in prayer – casting your worries on him because he cares for you – he will restore you and give you strength and conviction to stand firm. Next time you become aware of temptation, come to God in prayer and see what happens.

“To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” Although Peter tells us about the devil, and about the fiery ordeal of this life but does not want us to lose sight of who is always in control.

5:12-14 Greetings from the other scattered saints

“With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother…” Silas is mentioned often in the book of Acts and referenced in a number of epistles. Acts 15:22. He joined Paul on his journeys. How Silas has helped Peter to write is unclear. Perhaps he was the scribe or perhaps they co-wrote it. The way that Peter starts to conclude his letter though is to encourage the scattered church with news from the church in other parts of the world.

“…encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.” There is no other gospel in other parts of the world. There is only one gospel and one truth about God and salvation. There is no such thing as localised truths and communities who manufacture their own beliefs. There is only one truth and Jesus Christ is at the heart of it. Stand firm in that.

“She who is in Babylon…” Although there are different arguments about what this phrase might mean, it seems most likely to match the phrase in Peter’s opening to the letter. He addresses the ‘scattered’ or the ‘temporarily residing abroad’. They are aliens and strangers. The city of Babylon was famous for where the exiled Jews lived for a time. They sat by the waters of Babylon and remembered their homeland. Peter is most likely using this metaphore to refer to the rest of the church (in the feminine) who are also scattered in different parts of the world. It could be specifically Rome but there is nothing to suggest this for certain. Peter is closing his letter to address the Christians scatterd in Asia Minor with encouraging words from the Church or household of God in other locations.

“…chosen together with you…” Peter mentions again that under God there is only one church. God has chosen all of his elect across time and space to belong to his royal priesthood. A Christian in a mega-church in Dallas is no greater than a Christian struggling to be fed in the 3rd world and no different to a saint in Campbelltown.

“…sends you greetings…” Peter’s theme here is to encourage all of God’s elect to stand firm because the people of God, thought scattered, are one in the faith that they stand firm in.

“…and so does my son Mark.” The writer of the second gospel record is also known as a close companion to Peter. (Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37, 39). Here he is referred to as Peter’s son although this is a spiritual relationship, not a blood relationship.

“Greet one another with a kiss of love.” While there is suffering and persecution from the outside placed on the church, Peter encourages mutual love and affection. This is a cultural reference to respect one another but the adjective to the kiss is love – not a fake kiss but authentic.

“Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” Peter ends the letter addressing the same readers he greeted at the beginning. Not just all who read the letter but all who are in Christ. This phrase, ‘in Christ’ is such a beautifully concise way of signalling that all of our hope, peace, trust, identity, motivation and future is wrapped up in Christ. We are not citizens of this planet but known and proud to be known as Christians.

Meaning

Peter’s final note is for all who are in Christ to stand firm and know that God is more powerful than any enemy we can face. While the dangers of this world are real (even if unseen) our defence against the devil and his attacks is to stand firm in the faith. We can be encouraged that this is the same faith shared across the globe by God’s faithful household. Even in the midst of the worst of humanity, the church of God is there and will survive. More than that, at the right time, God’s elect will be delivered to their eternal glory in Christ. Do not be concerned about the evils of this age, when you know that God cares and his power is above all and forever.

Application

  • Topic A – Helping yourself and the church grow. Peter provides a formula for the younger Christians to submit to the overseers in the church. To the younger, it is wise to submit because there is much to learn in the Christian faith. To the elder, it is important to show wisdom with humility. This is a wonderful formula for church growth and maturity. Do you see where you fit in the process of maturing one another in the faith at church?
  • Topic B – Anxious prayer. We must understand how important prayer is. What causes you worry, concern or anxiety? Do you take it to the LORD in prayer? Read Psalm 55 to hear how the psalmist talks to God and listen for the echoes to 1 Peter. Perhaps you could use this Psalm in your groups to pray together.
  • Topic C – The community of saints across the globe. We can always bring our brothers and sisters in Christ to God in prayer who are scattered across this planet. We are not identified by race, class, culture or denomination but as those who stand firm in the true grace of God. We don’t wear badges. We don’t have a secret handshake. But we call Christ our LORD and Redeemer and we have all been born again into a living hope through the blood of Christ. Do you identify with this community?

 

Prayer of the Week

Lord God, we thank you for your universal church, distinguished by race, gender or class, but set apart by your Son and your call to stand firm in the faith. May we be sober of mind and encourage one another daily while we wait for your kingdom to be revealed. Amen.