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Category Archives: 1 Peter

What’s a Leader to Do?

One of the greatest leaders during the 20th Century was Sir Winston Churchill. He led Great Britain during the dark days of World War II. Among his more memorable quotes were, “Never, never, never give up,” and “If you are going to go through hell, keep going.”

In his first letter, the apostle Peter warns his readers that persecution is coming. In 3:14, he states, “If you should suffer for righteousness …” In 4:17, he points out, “It is time for judgment to being at the household of God …” During times like this, people look to their leaders for comfort and guidance. It is no surprise that in 1 Peter 5:1-4, Peter explains the role and task of the church leaders. He explains that shepherd elders willingly serve as models as they lead and care for the people God has entrusted to them.

Peter’s Qualifications (1). Peter was an apostle. He was part of Jesus Christ’s inner circle. He was a leader of the church in Jerusalem. However, Peter doesn’t play those trump cards. Instead, he writes with humility and describes himself as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s suffering, and one who will share in the glory to come.

The Task of the Leader (2a). The New Testament uses three different terms to refer to the same church leaders. The words are used interchangeably in Acts 20:17, 28, and 1 Peter 5:1-2.

Greek word

English word Focus
“poimen” Pastor/Shepherd

Attitude of the leader

“presbuteros”

Elder Character of the leader
“episcopos” Overseer/Bishop

Task of the leader

Rather than provide a detailed job description for church leaders, Peter focuses more on the HOW rather than the WHAT of shepherding. We have to turn to other passages of Scripture to get a fuller idea of the task of pastors and elders. Their task includes:

  • Protecting the flock (Acts 20:28-31)
  • Feeding the flock (Acts 2:42; 6:1-7)
  • Leading the flock (Acts 11:29-30)
  • Caring for the flock (Matthew 18:15-18; Acts 6:1-7; James 5:14)
  • Shared leadership

The Manner of the Leader (2b-3). Peter spends more time addressing the manner in which leaders are to lead, and especially what they need to guard against.

 

Avoid this – “Not”

Do this – “But” Guard against
Reason Have to Want to

Laziness

Motive

Greedy Serving Self-indulgence
Style Dictator Model

Hunger for power

The Reward of the Leader (4). Peter explains that there will be a day of reckoning. Those who lead and shepherd well will receive a crown of glory.

As church leaders, we need to ask ourselves difficult questions. Am I fulfilling my responsibility? What’s my reason? What’s my motive? What’s my style or manner?

As members of the congregation, we should pray for our leaders. We should submit to their authority in order to make their task easier. We should choose leaders based on their character.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 19, 2018. It is part of an ongoing series in the book of 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

I’m Done With Sin!

Someone once asked C. S. Lewis, “Why do the righteous suffer?” “Why not?” he replied. “They’re the only ones who can take it.”

Most of us want to avoid suffering at all costs. We long for a comfortable, risk free, ease filled life. And yet Scripture teaches that there are benefits to suffering. One of which is that suffering teaches us to withstand temptation. Suffering also teaches us to live for Christ in the present because God will judge sin in the future. These principles are found in 1 Peter 4:1-6.

The noted English architect Sir Christopher Wren was supervising the construction of a magnificent cathedral in London. A journalist thought it would be interesting to interview some of the workers. So he chose three and asked them this question, “What are you doing?” The first replied, “I’m cutting stone for 10 shillings a day.” The second answered, “I’m putting in 10 hours a day on this job.” The third said, “I’m helping Sir Christopher Wren construct one of London’s greatest cathedrals.”

Change your mind about suffering (1). In 1 Peter 3:13-17, Peter explained that it is better to suffer to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong. In 3:18-22, he showed that Christ provided the ultimate example of one who suffered for being righteous. Now in 4:1, Peter says that we need to embrace suffering by following the example of Jesus. Like a soldier putting on his armor before a battle, so we are to change how we think about suffering. In the same way that Jesus learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:7-8), so suffering helps us break free from sin. A proper attitude towards suffering can act like armor protecting us from temptation.

Live for the will of God (2). Our culture tells us to live for ourselves. We even coined the word, “selfie,” to express the desire to be the star of our own show. In contrast, Peter says that God’s will should be the compass by which we navigate our lives.

Break completely from your old habits (3). Peter tells us that we have had more than enough time to live a lifestyle of sin. It’s time to break free and stop sinning.

A catalog of sin

Sensuality

Unrestrained pleasure Sexual sins

Individual sins

Passions

Lust; evil desires

Drunkenness

Habitual nature of sin

 

Excessive drinking

Orgies

Carousing; drinking party that leads to sex

 

 

Group sins

Drinking parties

Lawless idolatry

Idol worship; bringing the world into worship

Misdirected worship

Don’t be surprised when the world acts like the world (4). If you take a stand for Christ, you may get quizzical looks. Your old friends won’t understand why you don’t want to go bar hopping with them. They may even accuse you of being “too holy.”

No one will escape the final judgment (5). God will hold everyone accountable for their actions.

Because God will judge, the gospel must be preached (6). We need to be active in sharing the gospel with those who desperately need it. Those who believe the message will have a reason and a purpose for living.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 29, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

The Triumph of the Cross

Some passages of Scripture are straightforward and easy to understand. Others are more difficult.

In our study of 1 Peter, we encounter both varieties. The commands in 1:16, “You shall be holy” and 2:11, “abstain from the passions of the flesh” may be difficult to practice, but are clear in their instructions.

1 Peter 3:18-22 is of the latter variety. These verses are a bit more confusing and challenging to understand. During the Reformation, Martin Luther commented, “This is a strange text and certainly a more obscure passage than any other passage in the New Testament. I still do not know for sure what the apostle meant.”

If we don’t handle this passage carefully, we can easily wind up with the heresy of universalism or salvation by works. If you misinterpret 3:19, “he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,” you could conclude that people have a second chance to believe after death. This would lead to universalism, the idea that everyone will eventually be saved. If you misinterpret 3:21, “Baptism … now saves you,” you can conclude that grace is not enough, that baptism is necessary for salvation. This results in the mistaken doctrine of baptismal regeneration.

When we study difficult passages of Scripture, we must remember the rules of interpretation. (1) Look for the main idea of the passage. If you spend all your time chasing cross references, you can lose the forest for the trees. (2) Study the circles of context. A verse is part of a paragraph which is part of the book which is written by an author. There should be a consistent use of a word throughout. (3) Seek the plain sense unless it doesn’t make sense. Interpret Scripture in a literal manner, taking into account figures of speech. (4) Seek agreement with orthodox theology. One verse or passage should not contradict another portion of theology. (5) Don’t build your theology on isolated and obscure passages of Scripture.

Putting these rules into practice, the main idea of 1 Peter 3:18-22 is … When you suffer for doing right, remember that Jesus died for you. Jesus’ death resulted in triumph over sin and the spirit world.

Christ died for our sins (18). Verse 18 provides the reason for Peter’s claim in verse 17 that it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. Peter provides an example of what he means.

Verse 18 is one of the shortest, simplest, and richest summaries of the meaning of the cross of Christ. In a short series of statements, Peter points out that Christ’s death is all that is necessary to provide for our salvation, the ultimate purpose of Christ’s death was to bring us to God, and that the resurrection secures and guarantees the results of Christ’s death.

Christ proclaimed victory over the spirit world (19-21). In these three verses, Peter gives two vivid illustrations to reassure us of Christ’s victory and our security. It reinforces what Peter said in the previous section (13-17) about not fearing persecution.

Illustration #1 speaks of the imprisonment and judgment of disobedient spirits or angels (19-20a). These verses raise several questions and some possible answers. Who are the spirits? (1) Unbelievers from Noah’s time; (2) Old Testament believers; (3) Fallen angels. When did Christ make his proclamation? (1) During the days of Noah—pre-incarnate Christ preaching through Noah; (2) Between his death and resurrection. What did he proclaim? (1) Salvation; (2) Victory

Looking at the various options, here are the three main views of this passage. (1) Many of the church fathers believed that between Christ’s death and resurrection, Jesus preached to the dead in Hades, the realm of the dead. (2) Many of the Reformers held to the view that Christ preached through Noah to the people in Noah’s day. (3) Most scholars today believe that before or (more likely) after his resurrection, Jesus proclaimed triumph over the fallen angels.

In Illustration #2, Peter talks about the salvation of Noah & his family. However, he is really talking about baptism. The phrase, “Baptism now saves you,” does not refer to salvation by works. Rather, it is an act of obedience that demonstrates an inner change.

As the resurrected and ascended Lord, everyone and everything is subject to Jesus (22). Christ has broken the power of evil. He now sits in an exalted position of royal authority and dignity alongside God the Father. Christ’s sovereign authority over all spiritual forces is an assurance to believers facing persecution.

Implications for Today (Adapted from 1 Peter: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, by Wayne Grudem. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988, p. 160-161):

  • Noah and his family were a minority surrounded by hostile unbelievers; so are we (3:13-14; 4:4, 12-13).
  • Noah lived a righteous life in the midst of a wicked world. Peter encourages us to live the same type of life (3:13-14, 16-17; 4:3-4).
  • Noah witnessed boldly to those around him by believing God and building the ark. We are to live good lives and be prepared to answer the questions of unbelievers (3:14-17).
  • Noah realized that judgment was soon to come upon the world. Peter reminds us that God’s judgment is certainly coming, perhaps soon (4:5, 7).
  • At the time of Noah, God patiently waited for repentance from unbelievers before he brought judgment. God is still patient today.
  • Noah was finally saved with only a few others. Though we may be few, we can have the confidence that we will be saved, for Christ has triumphed and has all things subject to him (3:22; 4:13, 19; 5:10).

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 22, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Doing Good Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

It is a difficult day to be a good person. Good people are targeted for scams and shootings. Good people are taken advantage of. We wonder, what good is it to be good?

Life in a fallen world brings suffering. There is the suffering that is common to all people—disease, death, sorrow, distress, weariness, to name a few. There are also times when we suffer for our faith. This suffering or persecution can be overt, like the Romans throwing Christians to the lions or a church being burned, or subtle like being passed over for promotion because of your Christian characters and witness.

As a Christ follower, how are we to respond to suffering? In 1 Peter 3:13-17, the apostle Peter explains that when Christ is Lord of our lives, we can face suffering with confidence, knowing that every crisis is an opportunity to witness.

When you suffer for doing right (13-14a, 17). Generally speaking, when we do right, we are rewarded. When we do wrong, we are punished. However, we live in a fallen world where Christians are persecuted for doing right. If we have a choice, it is much better to suffer for doing right than for doing evil, because those who suffer for doing right are highly favored by God. Those who suffer receive God’s blessings.

Face it with confidence (14). Because the natural temptation is to bail out and run away from suffering or persecution, Peter quotes from Isaiah 8:12-13. The historical context is that the Assyrian army is invading Israel and Ahaz, the king of Judah, is tempted to form a political alliance with the kings of Israel and Syria. Isaiah warns the king to fear God, not the enemy. Peter uses the quote to encourage his readers not to be intimidated or afraid. Because we know that persecution brings blessing, we have no reason to be afraid.

Live under Christ’s authority (15a). When we fear, we allow our enemies to take control. Instead, we are to honor Christ as Lord. Since the heart is the sanctuary where Christ prefers to be worshipped, we are to place all the areas of our lives under his authority. We are to fear displeasing Christ rather than fear what people can do to us.

Share your testimony convincingly, yet graciously (15b-16). If you want to enjoy corn on the cob in the summer, you have to plant the seeds in the spring. If you want to share your faith tomorrow, you need to be preparing your testimony today. We should have a ready answer whenever anyone asks us what we believe and/or why we believe it. We need to keep in mind, however, that we are witnesses, not prosecutors. The goal is not to win an argument. The goal is to win lost people to Christ. Thus, we need to witness with grace.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 8, 2018. It is part of a series of messages on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Will you retaliate or be a blessing?

Scripture indicates that there are different ways to respond to the events of life. Start at the bottom of the chart and work your way up.

Event

Response Scripture

Characteristic

Evil Good 1 Peter 3:9 – “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

Matthew 5:44 – “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Mercy
Good Good Matthew 5:38 – “You have heard it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” Justice
Evil Evil
Good Evil Proverbs 17:13 – “If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.” Evil

How will you choose to respond? Will you choose to retaliate or be a blessing?

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2018 in 1 Peter, Scripture

 

The Key to the Good Life

The Declaration of Independence contains the well-known phrase, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” which its author Thomas Jefferson listed as among the “unalienable rights” God gave to people. For most people today, that means the pursuit of self-gratification and pleasure such as cars, houses, vacations, stylish clothes, the best seats at sporting and entertainment events, and health and fitness.

During the twentieth century, the novelist Ernest Hemingway was the personification of a hedonistic lifestyle. However, his pursuit of the good life—heavy drinking, hunting and fishing expeditions, celebrity parties, fighting in and reporting on several wars and revolutions—did not bring satisfaction. Hemingway took his own life in 1961. In Scripture, King Solomon pursued the good life through wine, women, gold, horses, building projects, and work. And yet he said it was all meaningless without God.

In 1 Peter 3:8-12, the apostle Peter gives the key to the good life. He explains that if we want to love life and see good days, it must come as we live in harmony with one another. If we want to enjoy the blessings that God offers, we need the right attitude, the right response, the right foundation, and the right motivation.

The Right Attitude (8). With the word, “finally,” Peter indicates that he is wrapping up the middle section of his letter (2:13-3:12). He appeals to “all of you” to describe specific corporate behavior which will silence the hostility of an unbelieving world. Peter lists five character qualities and actions that relate to social relationships. The first and last, live in harmony and be humble, relate to how we think about people. The second and fourth, be sympathetic and be compassionate, relate to how we feel towards others. These four qualities are centered around the middle instruction, love as brothers. Like the fingers of a hand, they radiate from the center and work together. As Christ followers, we are to set aside our rights and serve the needs of others.

The Right Response (9). When someone harms us, our natural tendency is to fight back and get even. Peter instructs his readers to resist the temptation and break the cycle. We are to choose “blessing others” as our preferred method of retaliation. This will result in us receiving a blessing.

The Right Foundation (10-11). To emphasize his point, Peter quotes from Psalm 34. He explains that the key to the good life is found by obeying the guidelines of God’s Word. Rather than deceive others, we should speak truth. Rather than perform evil, we must do good. We should focus on ways that make peace. We must build our lives on the truth of God’s Word.

The Right Motivation (12). Peter wraps up this section by encouraging us to make it our goal to please and glorify God. God is aware of all that takes place in our lives. He is ever open to the prayers of his children. And he will punish those who commit evil.

If we want to enjoy the blessings God has for us, we must seek to live in harmony with one another.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 1. It is part of a series of sermons on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

The role and responsibility of a husband

It should be no surprise that men are confused today about what their role is. TV portrays men as idiots and women as strong. Movies and magazines tell us the measure of success is how much money you make, how fast your car is, how many women you’ve taken to bed, or how high you’ve climbed on the career ladder. Christian books and speakers tell us to be radical and wild at heart. Churches promote Bible studies for women and children, but leave men to fend for themselves.

What’s a man to do? What is the role and responsibility of a man in marriage?

Scripture explains that the role of the husband is to be the head of his wife (Ephesians 5:23, 25-27; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-9; Colossians 3:19). Headship communicates the ideas of one who is superior in rank, responsible for those under his headship, and the one who has been delegated the authority to decide and to act. By God’s design, the husband is the head of the wife and lovingly exercises his delegated authority.

1 Corinthians 11:8-9 gives two reasons why the husband is the head of the wife. Verse 8 explains that God created the man first. Verse 9 explains that the woman was created for the man. You have both the priority of creation and the purpose of creation. Headship is not dependent upon the capability, conduct, or character of the husband; rather, the husband is the head by God’s design from creation.

As the head, the husband is to be the active leader who lovingly manages and provides. Manage means “to stand before” and care for the family (1 Timothy 3:2, 4-5). The husband is to superintend and care for his family. Part of his care may be to protect his family much like a Secret Service agent is willing to take a bullet for the President. In addition, the husband is to “plan before” and provide for his family (1 Timothy 5:8).

Rather than “lording it over” or “exercising authority” over his wife, a husband is to lead “with consideration” and “respect.” “Lording it over” abuses personal power while “exercising authority” abuses personal position. Instead, we are to be considerate and understanding of our wives. We are to grant them honor and respect.

Biblical headship is countercultural. Today, we are told to pursue our own interests and be all we can be. We are entitled to our rights and privileges. However, Scripture tells us that the husband is to devote himself to his wife above children, friends, recreation, ministry, or work (Ephesians 5:25-29).

Far too often, our wives grow spiritually in spite of us rather than because of us. In contrast, we are to mentor our wives to become blameless, holy, and glorious (Ephesians 5:25-27).

While the role of the husband is to be the head, the responsibility of the husband is to love his wife (Ephesians 5:25, 28-29, 33; Colossians 3:19). As head of the wife, the husband chooses to love his wife unconditionally and sacrificially as Christ loved the church. Nowhere is a husband to become harsh and bitter towards his wife. There is no excuse for any kind of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse.

Rejoice regularly that God called you to be the Head of your wife¾and as you lead, “do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” (Colossians 3:23). Overcome any feelings of inadequacy, fear, and anxiety about your role through Biblical solutions. Enlist several respected married men to meet with you regularly for support and accountability. Take responsibility for your spiritual life and the spiritual lives of your wife and family. Demonstrate your love so that your wife feels loved.

If you choose to practice these principles, don’t be surprised if your wife doesn’t recognize you.

A man at work decided to show his wife how much he loved her, and before going home, showered, shaved, put on some choice cologne, bought her a bouquet of flowers. He went to the front door and knocked. His wife answered the door and exclaimed, “Oh no! This has been a terrible day! First I had to take Billy to the emergency room and get stitches in his leg, then your mother called and said she’s coming for 2 weeks, then the washing machine broke, and now this! You come home drunk!”

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 24, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.