Malachi Lesson One

Malachi 1:1-5 – God’s Covenant Love

Malachi Lesson One 1:1-5 – God’s Covenant Love

An oracle:  The word of the Lord  to Israel through  Malachi. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you ask: “How have You loved us?” “Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?” This is the Lord’s declaration. “Even so, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau. I turned his mountains into a wasteland, and gave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Though Edom says: “We have been devastated, but we will rebuild  the ruins,” the Lord of Hosts says this: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called a wicked country and the people the Lord has cursed  forever. Your own eyes will see this, and you yourselves will say, ‘The Lord is great, even beyond  the borders of Israel.’ (HCSB)

Author: There is widespread disagreement on who the author is. The word “malachi” in Hebrew means “my messenger.” In the Septuagint, the name is translated as angelou autou, or “his angel/messenger.” If “Malachi” is used to designate a function and not a person, then the book is anonymous, an easy position to support as there is no information given about the writer. On the other hand, some scholars believe the writer may have been a priest or Temple prophet and witnessed the corruption of the priesthood from a first-person vantage point.

There is an early Jewish tradition recorded in the Talmud that the book was written by Ezra, and there are many similarities in the content of the two books. In addition, one Aramaic Targum manuscript adds after “Malachi” the words “whose name is Ezra the Scribe.” In contrast, Jewish tradition has personalized the name and considers it a proper name just like the other prophetic works. However, we shouldn’t let that distract us from the message of the book, where forty-seven out of fifty-five verses are personal addresses of the Lord.

Date: The book contains no specific facts that allow accurate dating; the contents of the book and its position in the canon argues for a date during the Persian empire but after the rebuilding of the temple in 515 B.C. The majority of scholars prefer a date prior to the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Form: The book is in the form of speeches by Yahweh to His people through the prophet. 

Message: The book is an indictment against the religious leaders of the period and chastises God’s people for their spiritual apathy and their cynicism about God’s plan for their future. It calls for the people to correct their wrong attitude concerning worship by trusting God as the living Lord. It also warns the people of their sinful behavior toward each other and calls repentance so they won’t be fearful of the coming of the Lord. The message weaves together three main ideas.

  • Situation: The failure of the priests of Judah to fear the Lord and serve the people faithfully. This ushered in, again, a period of apathy toward Yahweh by the Israelites.
  • Command: Malachi commands them to return to Yahweh by following His instructions and restoring worship that honors Him.
  • Motivation: Yahweh’s love (verse 1:2), spiritual and covenant unity with God and each other (verse 2:10), assurance of the coming of the Lord that brings final redemption and judgment, blessing those who fear God and casting out the wicked (3:1-6 and 3:16-4:3).

Verse 1

The phrase “to Israel” may seem somewhat unusual as the letter is dated around the beginning of the post-exilic period, and one could argue that “Israel” no longer existed as a nation. However, Judah’s leaders knew that God still recognized them as the remnant of His covenant people, as well as the continuation of God’s redemptive plan. Therefore, the remnant of the Israelites to whom Malachi wrote were still recipients of God’s promise to Israel and was obligated to obey the regulations of the covenant.

Verses 2-5

These verses contain the first exchange between Yahweh and Judah focused on the issue of God’s love for His people. However, Judah does not grasp the truth of the statement. In both pre and post-exilic Israel, the people had turned from God but for different reasons.

  • Pre-exilic – The abundance that Israel experienced resulted in forgetting that they depended on God for their blessings. 
    • Deuteronomy 8:12-14 – When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.
    • Hosea 13:4-6 – I have been Yahweh your God ever since the land of Egypt; you know no God but Me, and no Savior exists besides Me. I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought. When they had to pasture, they became satisfied; they were satisfied, and their hearts became proud. Therefore they forgot Me.
  • Post-exilic – The people allowed their difficulties to rob them of God’s loving presence.

Verse 2

Starting in this verse and following in other places through the book, the Israelites display an “attitude” with Yahweh by repeating His statements or questions and countering with their own questions. Malachi reminds the people of God’s love for them as a rebuke against those who were questioning whether God loved Israel. It would appear that the people had a short memory regarding God’s love and faithfulness.

  • The remnant who returned from exile in Babylon must have been awestruck by God’s faithfulness to the Abrahamic covenant. 
    • Nehemiah 9:8 – You found his heart faithful in Your sight, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites – to give it to his descendants. You have kept Your promise, for You are righteous.
    • Nehemiah 9:17 – They refused to listen and did not remember Your wonders You performed among them. They became stiff-necked and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in faithful love, and You did not abandon them.
  • But the sense of being awestruck didn’t last long, and they soon returned to their pattern of sinful behavior. 
    • Like self-centered children, they started to take Yahweh’s love for granted and became blind to it.
    • They responded to discipline with an attitude of, “you don’t love us anymore.”
    • Their misunderstanding of Scripture had skewed their understanding of the experience of the exile.
      • God hates evil.
      • God hates idolatry.
      • God hates hypocritical worship.
      • God will, sooner or later, reject the wicked.
      • God loves righteousness.
      • God welcomes the upright.

Yahweh now goes on to prove His love by referencing Esau, which is expanded on in the following two verses.

Verses 3-4

The contrasting concepts of love and hate attached to Jacob and Esau need some explaining to properly understand how the original hearers of the message would view these two words. The words “love” and “hate” are not referring to emotions in the context of this message. Those emotional words would have been understood by the Israelites as actually referring to a covenant relationship. In the context of the passage, it refers to the covenant relationship that Yahweh had with Jacob (love) and the lack of a covenant relationship with Esau (hate). Jacob and his family line were chosen by Yahweh, while Esau and his family line were not, becoming a side note to the story of God’s activity in the Bible.

The contrast between the two is the fruition of what Yahweh had told Rebekah.

  • Genesis 25:23 – And the LORD said to her: Two nations are in your womb; two people will come from you and be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.

The same idea was used in the context of marriage.

  • Genesis 29:31 – When the LORD says that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was unable to conceive.
  • Genesis 29:33 – She conceived again, gave birth to a son, and said, “The LORD heard that I am unloved and has given me this son also.”
  • Deuteronomy 21:15a – If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved.

As we reflect on this concept, we need to remember that Yahweh was not imparting complete abandonment on all of Esau’s line (Edomites). Therefore, it was possible for individual Edomites to enter into a covenant relationship with Yahweh.

  • Deuteronomy 23:7-8 – Do not despise an Edomite, because he is your brother. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you were a foreign resident in his land. The children born to them in the third generation may enter the LORD’s assembly.
  • Amos 9:12a – So that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that are called by My name.

We also need to remember that Ruth, a Moabite, was not prevented from entering into a covenant relationship by swearing allegiance to Yahweh, as well as Rahab.

Although God is troubled by the sinful nature of people regardless of them being in or out of the covenant relationship, His response is different.

  • Those inside the covenant relationship face discipline. Judah’s devastation by Babylon was temporary.
  • Those outside the covenant relationship face wrath. As a nation, Edom faced complete and permanent destruction.

The message here is more than an example between Jacob and Eau. The judgment that Edom received is a message that evil will face justice. The passage in Isaiah 34:5-17, although it references Edom, is actually a message against all the arrogant nations who oppose Yahweh, clearly stating that they will receive divine judgment and destruction.

  • Isaiah 63:1-6 – Who is this coming from Edom in crimson-stained garments from Bozrah – this One who is splendid in His apparel, rising up proudly in His great might? It is I, proclaiming vindication, powerful to save. Why are Your clothes red, and Your garments like one who treads a winepress? I trampled the winepress alone, and no one from the nations was with Me. I trampled them in My anger and ground them underfoot in My fury; their blood spattered My garments, and all My clothes were stained. For I planned the day of vengeance, and the year of My redemption came. I looked, but there was no one to help, and I was amazed that no one assisted; so My arm accomplished victory for Me, and My wrath assisted Me. I crushed nations in My anger; I made them drunk with My wrath and poured out their blood on the ground.
  • Ezekiel 36:5 – This is what the Lord GOD says: Certainly in My burning zeal I speak against the rest of the nations and all of Edom, who took My land as their own possession with wholehearted rejoicing and utter contempt so that its pastureland became plunder.

When Esau despised his birthright and sold it for one meal, it was the equivalent to despising Yahweh’s promises.

Hebrews 12:16-17 – And make sure that there isn’t any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal. For you know later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected because he didn’t find any opportunity for repentance, though he sought it with tears.

Covenantal, committed love serves as a model to the church today. Jesus calls on us to love one another.

  • John 13:34 – I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.
  • 1 John 4:7 – Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

As fellow members of the body of Christ, we don’t exist in a sentimental and fleeting type of love. On the contrary, the love that believers have for each other is based on the mutual need and benefit of all participating parties. At the same time, this type of love must be subject to discipline when necessary. This is true even if the discipline removes the offender from the relationship for a period of time, just as Israel was removed from the promised land, only to return later.

Verse 5

The point of this verse is that someday a repentant Israel will witness God’s judgment on all of His enemies, and they will praise God for His greatness and His covenant faithfulness and power. Yahweh is the God of all creation and the one to whom everyone must answer. Unlike other books of the Bible, Malachi is not one of universal acceptance of all people (which is true) but of  universal lordship over all creation.

Applications

  • Do we fear God in a way that acknowledges that He is the creator of everything?
  • Do we understand that if we are in a covenant relationship with God (faith in Jesus), we will face discipline for our sinful behavior, but we won’t face eternal destruction? In contrast, those outside a covenant relationship with God (no faith in Jesus) will face eternal destruction?
  • We are called to be in a loving covenant relationship with fellow believers in the church. Do you pursue these relationships, or are you lukewarm to fellow believers?
  • Don’t worry over the supposed lack of judgment against evil or evil people. God will judge them in His time.

2 Peter Lesson One

2 Peter 1:1-15 – Growth in Faith

Simeon Peter, a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ: 

To those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. 

May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature,  escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. 11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you. 

12 Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you have. 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, 14 knowing that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has also shown me.  15 And I will also make every effort that you may be able to recall these things at any time after my departure. (HCSB)

Verse 1

The use of the term “Simeon” instead of “Simon” is the first curious feature of the letter. The spelling of his name is Semitic and would be directed at a Palestinian setting. The only other place where Peter is called Simeon is in Acts 15:14, likely because of its Palestinian setting. 

In calling himself a slave of Jesus, he means that he’s placed himself under the authority of Jesus and submits to His lordship. It also implies a sense of honor to be Jesus’ servant. There is some Old Testament connection with the use of the term “servant.” 

  • Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – Exodus 32:13a Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.
  • Moses – Deuteronomy 34:5a So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab.
  • Samuel – 1 Samuel 3:9-10 He told Samuel, “Go and lie down. If He calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came, stood there, and called as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel responded, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.” 
  • David – 1 Samuel 17:32 David said to Saul, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged by him;  your servant will go and fight this Philistine!” 

It was also used in the New Testament  for Paul, James, and Jude. It denotes not only humility but also honor in serving Jesus. Additionally, not only was Peter writing as a servant, but he was also an apostle of Jesus. Such a title would denote authority within the infant Christian church.

Verse 2

Peter’s greeting here is similar but not an exact copy of his greeting in 1 Peter. 

As we grow in our relationship with Jesus and God, our knowledge of them increases. We understand God’s unconditional acceptance through grace as we place our trust in Jesus. When this happens, a transformation begins in our hearts, which is evident in our behavior. As the transformation grows, we experience abundant grace and peace not only with God but also with others.

Verse 3

The first question to ask when reading this verse is, “who is Peter referring to with the term ‘divine power?’”

  • Jesus
    • Jesus is called “God” in verse 1.
    • Jesus appears last in verse 2, making a reference to Jesus natural.
    • Power refers to Jesus in verse 16 of this chapter.
  • Father
    • Due to holding the primary place in the Trinity.
    • Peter would likely view the Father as the one who possesses divine power.

Therefore, it is likely that Peter is referring to Jesus, although the ambiguous nature of the passage infers that Peter is not distinguishing between God the Father and Jesus.

The main point is that Jesus has provided everything that believers need for “life and godliness.” Also, the term “us” refers to all Christians and not just apostles or Jewish Christians. Additionally, salvation is accomplished by understanding Jesus’ glory and goodness, and they trust God with their salvation.

Verse 4

The phrase “by these” ties in neatly with “glory and goodness” from the previous verse. As believers, we inherit the promises of God as we grow in the knowledge of Jesus and become more like Him. 

The phrase “divine nature” creates a tension of already-not yet. When we become a Christian, we inherit a divine nature and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. However, we still have a sinful nature and won’t be fully perfected until we dwell in heaven. 

The word “corruption” refers to sin in the world and the way it corrupts everything, especially us. We escape corruption as followers of Jesus.

Verses 5-7

The phrase “for this very reason” links verses 5-7 to verses 3-4. However, holiness doesn’t happen by chance or inaction. Instead, it requires effort on our part to pursue holiness. The virtues presented, starting here and ending in verse 7, should not be viewed as a template to follow in order. However, we should take note of the first and last virtues in the list.

  • Faith – the root of all virtues.
  • Love – the goal and climax of the Christian life. 

Trusting God is the foundation on which all other virtues build. 

  • Knowledge – Rooted in God’s grace. True knowledge discerns the difference between truth and lies, right versus wrong.
  • Self-control – One of the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:23 and a requirement for knowledge. It is the inner strength to control our sinful desires and cravings.
  • Endurance – The characteristic of endurance for a believer is found in numerous Scripture passages and is particularly important to the recipients of Peter’s letter. Courage to deal with difficult periods in our lives.
  • Godliness – Living a life of obedience to God’s commands. It is understood as reverence and obedience.
  • Brotherly affection – The love bond between fellow believers and the family-like care and devotion that should set apart the Christian community. 
  • Love – A spirit of love is the ultimate expression and proof that a person is a Christian. To share in each other’s burdens. Those who have love possess all the other virtues.

Verse 8

The phrase “these qualities” points back to the list contained in verses 5-7. There are three main points Peter is making.

  • The list of virtues needs to be apparent in the lives of believers.
  • There must be spiritual growth (increasing) through the process of sanctification. 
  • Unbelievers and false Christians will lack virtues listed in the preceding verses. 

Verse 9

Some translations use the term “nearsighted,” but a better translation is the one in the HCSB, shortsighted. Peter is saying that those who do not possess the virtues listed above have become blind to the saving grace and forgiveness of sins that they once embraced. They are not living as forgiven sinners but as unconverted people. Believers who live immoral lives signify that forgiveness of sins is not valued, while those who treasure being forgiven live in a way that pleases God. They are in a state of spiritual illness.

Verse 10

“Therefore” connects this verse to the previous one. Peter is exhorting the reader to hold fast to their faith through concentrated effort and not by being lax. We must be careful to understand that Peter is not endorsing work’s based salvation but evidence of salvation because of behavior and virtues that the believer displays. When a believer has an active faith that pursues God, they will not stumble. The correct understanding of “stumble” is not that we won’t sin but that we will not forsake God or commit apostasy. Believers who possess the virtues described in verses 5-7 are daily growing their relationship with God. Additionally, God has no doubt about our eternal state. Instead, the believer may have doubts about their eternal destiny, causing them to stumble.

Verse 11

Peter now turns to the eschatological kingdom, the one that believers will enter on the Day of the Lord and the one that the lost will never see. Peter is once again inferring that entrance into heaven is based upon salvation with works, much like James talks about. Salvation without works is either a bare existence salvation or a false salvation. For those who do enter heaven, the reward we will receive goes beyond anything that we deserve.

Verse 12

This is a simple verse but a stark reminder of how weak our faith and commitment can be. For those who have experienced the saving grace of Jesus, that should be something we never forget. However, how many of us do fall away or go through periods of intentional disobedience? How many times have we read of some ministry leader who has wandered from the path and fallen into sin? Think about the Exodus generation. They witnessed miracles first-hand yet were openly disobedient. We fool ourselves if we think that could never happen to us. Therefore, we need pastors, elders, deacons, family, and spiritual friends to constantly remind us and encourage us to stay on the narrow path. We need to do the same to those around us. It is easy to get complacent in our faith. Peter is calling for us to be focused and intentional to prevent this complacency. 

Verse 13

Peter is using an illustration, bodily tent, to denote his physical body. As long as he was still alive, he felt called to be a constant encouragement to those around him. He would rouse those who had fallen into a spiritual stupor to wake up and press into God.

Verse 14

Peter understands that this life is short, even if we live to 80 years. At some point, our “bodily tent” will give way, and we will pass into eternity through one of two doors. None of us know when that will happen to us; some may die young, and some may live a long time. Our next breath is never guaranteed. Additionally, in the context of this letter, Peter may have begun to observe the persecution that would soon fall upon the church from the Roman government, and he knew that danger was swiftly approaching.

Verse 15

Here Peter is basically restating what is contained in verse 12, that he will never cease to look after fellow Christians and steer them back onto the narrow path. There is also an inference that his writing will be a guide even after he has been killed.

Applications

  • We must ask the question, “Are we truly a Christian?” If the answer is yes, we all have the Holy Spirit living within us to empower and equip us to live a victorious life. If the answer is no, I pray that the truth of the Gospel will be revealed to you, and you will surrender your life to Christ.
  • Our spiritual state will only grow if we are intentional to cultivate it through: Bible study, prayer, worship, fellowship, and service. Just as the athletes we watch or the musicians we listen to, their ability was cultivated through countless hours, weeks, or years of dedicated practice. The Christian life requires the same, or even more, dedication.
  • We must take responsibility to pursue godliness. However, it isn’t done in our power but in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Take an inventory of how well you display the virtues in verses 5-7. Then ask your spouse, children, close Christian friends, or co-workers how they would rate you. Then take that feedback and address the areas where you are lacking.

1 Peter Lesson Ten

1 Peter 4:7-19 Lesson Ten – End Times and Suffering

Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and disciplined for prayer. Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. 

12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. 13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation  of His glory. 14 If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit  of glory and of God rests on you. 15 None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. 16 But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God? 

18 And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty, 

what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?

19 So those who suffer according to God’s will should, while doing what is good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator. (HCSB)

As we look at this passage, it is split into two parts. The first part contains verses 7-11 and deals with the end times. The second part contains verses 12-19 and deals with suffering.

Part One – verses 7-11

Verse 7

First, we need to define the concept “end of all things is near.” The birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus have ushered in the “last days.” Although we don’t have any idea when Jesus will return, and even He said only the Father knows, we do know His resurrection begins the last period before His second coming.

  • 1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 
  • 1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard, “Antichrist  is coming,” even now many antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour.
  • Romans 13:11-12 Besides this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you  to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
  • James 5:7-8 Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.

Peter’s exhortations in this paragraph all revolve around the idea of the return of Jesus. Because He is coming back, and we don’t know when believers should live in a spirit of obedient expectancy.

Another point to remember about New Testament eschatology is that there are no passages that encourage the setting of dates or any charts that predict the future. Instead, eschatology is used to encourage believers to live in a godly way. Nor does Scripture encourage believers to withdraw because the end is near and look to the sky for Jesus’ second coming.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 About the times and the seasons: Brothers, you do not need anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. When they say, “Peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains come on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in the dark, for this day to overtake you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness. So then, we must not sleep, like the rest, but we must stay awake and be serious. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, we must be serious and put the armor of faith and love on our chests, and put on a helmet of the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord  Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. 

The truth that the end could happen at any moment has led some believers to act foolishly. Instead, we should focus on God and think about how short our physical life is compared to eternity. We should spend our time in prayer, realizing that at any moment, Jesus could return. Prayer also demonstrates our dependence on God and that any good that happens in the world is due to God’s grace.

Verse 8

Peter encourages the reader to maintain a spirit of love with each other, especially as the “end of all things is near.” Jesus also warned the disciples about this. Matthew 24:12 Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.

Verse 9

The theme of love continues here in the form of hospitality without grumbling. Hospitality was, and still should be, a central characteristic of Christians.

  • Romans 12:13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
  • Titus 1:8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled,
  • Hebrews 13:2 Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.

Hospitality was also a requirement for the early church as it often met in homes.

  • Romans 16:3-5 Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in  Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life. Not only do I thank them, but so do all the Gentile churches. Greet also the church that meets in their home.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia  greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, along with the church that meets in their home.

Those who open their homes may become tired after a period of time. Therefore, Peter encourages hospitality “without complaining” to encourage continued hospitality.

Verse 10

Here Peter switches to a discussion on spiritual gifts. These gifts are bestowed by Holy Spirit through the grace of God to enable believers to contribute to the work of ministry. The verse also implies that every believer receives at least one spiritual gift after placing their faith in Jesus. These gifts should not be viewed as a privilege. Instead, we should view it as a responsibility on our part to utilize the gift(s) that we are given to build up the church and edify others. They are not to used to build up our self-esteem or make ourselves look good. Neither should we look at gifts in a hierarchal mentality, with certain gifts being viewed as better than others. Each of us should be thankful for the gift(s) that we are given and use them for God’s glory.

Verse 11

Peter continues his discussion on spiritual gifts. Here he breaks them down into two categories.

  • Speaking (Romans 12:6-7, 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28-30, Ephesians 4:11)
    • Apostleship.
    • Prophecy.
    • Teaching.
    • Tongues.
    • Exhortation.
  • Serving (Romans 12:8, 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, 28-30)
    • Giving.
    • Leading.
    • Mercy.
    • Helps.
    • Healing.
    • Miracles.

All of us must utilize our gifts through the power of God and not in our own strength.

Peter then adds a doxology, which has led some to believe the letter actually ended here. However, there are other New Testament letters that have a doxology before the ending of the letter:

  • Romans 11:36
  • Galatians 1:5
  • Ephesians 3:21
  • Philippians 4:20

It makes more sense to view the doxology as the end of a major section of this letter, 2:11-4:11.

Part Two – verses 12-19

The theme of suffering is central to this section. Peter uses “suffering” or “suffer” four times in this section. The term “fiery ordeal” is vague and could be interpreted in a couple of ways.

Verse 12

  • God uses trials to shape and mold believers for further service. This idea would follow Old Testament theology.
    • Proverbs 27:21 A crucible for silver, and a smelter for gold, and a man for the words of his praise.
    • Psalm 66:10 For You, God, tested us; You refined us as silver is refined.
    • Zechariah 13:9 I will put this third through the fire; I will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say: They are My people, and they will say: Yahweh is our God.”
    • Malachi 3:1-4 “See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire—see, He is coming,” says the Lord of Hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who will be able to stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire and like cleansing lye. He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord as in days of old and years gone by. 
  • It could also be referencing the persecution that began under Nero. In Rome, Christians were being pulled from their houses, dipped in tar, and then lit on fire to provide light in Nero’s gardens. 

I believe the correct interpretation is to view the “fiery ordeal” as any trials that God allows us to experience in order to refine us for further/future service. Especially when we view the passage from Malachi 3:1-4 where God comes to purify His house (temple/church). When viewed in this light, the suffering should not be viewed as an absence of God but His purifying presence.

Verse 13

Peter is encouraging the readers to rejoice in present suffering so that later they will be able to rejoice when Christ returns. Acts 5:41 Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonored on behalf of the Name. 

Peter is also implying that those who groan and complain now don’t truly belong to Jesus.

Verse 14

This verse builds on the previous. We are called to rejoice in suffering, but we are actually blessed by God when we are insulted by people for being a follower of Jesus. Peter is echoing Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:11-12 You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

We are blessed because we have God’s favor through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 15

Not all suffering qualifies for a blessing. The first three sins listed here are easy to understand. Murder, theft, and doing evil are clearly sins. The fourth one listed, “meddler,” presents an interpretive challenge. The original Greek word used doesn’t appear anywhere else in the New Testament, the Septuagint, or any Greek literature written before 1 Peter. The most likely interpretation of “meddler” would be words like “agitator,” “disrupter,” or “troublemaker.” Those who act in this manner disrupt peace and harmony in the church and the community. Suffering for being a “meddler” in the business of others is not righteous suffering.

Verse 16

Peter has an implied charge in this verse. Those who would act in a shameful manner are actually denying Christ before unbelievers. Peter viewed this action as apostasy.

  • Mark 8:38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful  generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
  • 2 Timothy 1:8 So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner.  Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.

Verse 17

The reference to “God’s household” is an Old Testament reference to the temple. However, under the New Covenant, there is no temple; each believer is the temple. God’s judgment will begin with His people to purify those who truly belong to God. There is also an unstated implication in this point. If believers, who fall under the grace of God, face suffering and trials before we receive our glorified bodies in the new age, how much worse will unbelievers suffer for all eternity as they face judgment and eternal separation from God? Unbelief leads to disobedience. Hence, those who disobey the Gospel display unbelief in the truth of the Gospel.

Verse 18

The “difficulty” Peter refers to here is not that the believer was saved at the last moment or that they barely escaped judgment. What he means is that believers must undergo trials and suffering to be purified. The salvation referred to here is an eschatological salvation. Just as in the previous verse, if the life of a believer is difficult due to suffering, how much worse will the eternal torment of those who disobeyed the Gospel be?

Verse 19

Peter states that the suffering we undergo in the refining and shaping process is all part of God’s will for our eternal benefit. Because God is the creator of everything, He is sovereign over it. We can take solace that God will not allow us to suffer beyond our limit and that He will provide the strength we need to get through it. We show our trust in God by continuing to do “what is good.”

This passage provides nine principles for us to follow.

  • We should not be surprised when we suffer shame because of our faith.
  • Suffering shame for Jesus should be viewed as a test in preparation for God’s final judgment.
  • We should welcome the opportunity to share in the sufferings of Jesus.
  • We should focus on the eternal rather than the temporal. Whatever we suffer through here is short in comparison to eternity.
  • Regardless of our trials, we should be thankful for the Holy Spirit, who guides us through this life.
  • When we suffer, we need to continue in our good behavior and not deny Jesus.
  • We should focus on God’s glory and not our shame as we face persecution.
  • Because we will be judged, we must strengthen our resolve to be obedient regardless of the suffering.
  • When suffering in the name of Jesus, we must continue to do good works as an expression of trust.

Applications

  • Do you live as if Jesus could return at any moment? Our lives should be covered in prayer, obedience to what is contained in Scripture (which means we read and now it), and loving others. 
  • Do you know what your spiritual gift(s) is/are? If not, you need to determine what they are. 
  • Do you use your spiritual gift(s) in serving others and glorifying God? If not, you need to start.
  • Do you stand firm in the face of persecution? This includes both physical and verbal. We will never truly know how we will react when it comes, but if you prepare yourself, you will be much better equipped to face the trials. Spend time each day reading Scripture, praying, and serving each other.
  • Do you trust God regardless of your circumstances? Although it can be challenging, we are called to trust God no matter how severe the trials we go through.

1 Peter Lesson Six

1 Peter 3:1-7 Husbands and Wives

In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives. Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming.

Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (HCSB)

Let me start by saying this passage challenges us and rubs some people the wrong way. However, a correct interpretation and understanding should eliminate any concerns the reader may have. This passage is split into two parts. The first, covering verses 1–6, pertaining to the wife. The second part, verse 7, relates to the husband.

Verses 1-6

Verse 1

Let’s note some key points in the first verse.

  • By starting with, “In the same way,” does not mean that Peter is comparing the husband/wife relationship in identical terms with the master/slave relationship. Not only is that a wrong interpretation, but it also perverts the idea of a man and woman becoming “one flesh” in the marriage covenant. Wives submitting to their husbands doesn’t mean inequality before God.
    • Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no ‘male and female’; you are all one in the Messiah, Jesus. I must make one note regarding this passage as it’s been hijacked by the LGBTQ community to justify same-sex marriage and to include anything that is not male/female. This passage doesn’t support more than two sexes or more than two sexualities.
      • Genesis 5:2a  He created them male and female.
      • God never changes, and His Word never changes. There are men and women…period.
    • Ephesians 5:22-33.
    • Colossians 3:18  Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
    • Titus 2:4-5 so they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered.
    • Just as wives submit to their husbands, Christ submitted to the Father 1 Corinthians 15:28 And when everything is subject to Christ, then the Son  Himself will also be subject to the One who subjected everything to Him, so that God may be all in all.
  • The word “submit” does not mean that wives blindly follow their husbands. If their husband wants them to do anything contrary to Scripture, the wife has an obligation not to obey in those circumstances. Each Christian has an obligation first to God’s commands and then to earthly commands. If those two sets of commands don’t agree, follow Scripture.
  • Not all of the wives being addressed here have Christian husbands. Regardless of whether their husband was a believer or not, wives are expected to submit to their husband, except in the circumstances listed above.

Verse 2

This verse explains how unbelieving husbands are won to the faith. This is a short verse, but there are a couple of essential points.

  • The old adage “actions speak louder than words” applies here. Unbelieving husbands may tune out or ignore wives who witness with words. However, they may be drawn by the Christ-like lives of the wives.
  • The word “reverent” is understood in Greek to be “in fear.” But the fear is not towards the husband; it is towards God. The actions of the wives should be in reverent fear (respect) towards God. Wives submit to their husbands because of their relationship with and trust in God.
  • As in verse 1, this submission should never include doing anything against Scripture.

Verse 3

A few points about this verse.

  • A woman’s inward beauty should always outshine outward beauty. It is the character and love of God that are most important.
  • Peter is not prohibiting styling hair, nice clothes, or wearing jewelry. He is directing them not to spend too much on their outward appearance.
  • In today’s society, clothing can easily be an issue that conflicts with Peter’s instructions.
    • The need for expensive or name-brand clothing, when less expensive clothing, would suffice.
    • The wear of immodest or revealing clothing. I have personally seen some outfits at church that cause me to shake my head in disbelief, wonder what the wife was thinking (or not thinking), and how the husband could allow his wife to wear that particular outfit to church.

Verse 4

As noted in the discussion on verse 3, it is the inner beauty that is most important. Wives should focus on their relationship with God and their identity in Jesus, the inner self. Gentleness and a quiet spirit are characteristics of godly behavior that will draw husbands to faith in Jesus.

1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees,  for man sees what is visible,  but the Lord sees the heart.”

Verses 5-6

These two verses provide historical examples of women who submitted to their husbands.

  • Sarah
  • Just as Isaac and Jacob were considered patriarchs because of the tie to Abraham, the following women could also be considered matriarchs because of the connection to Sarah.
    • Rebecca
    • Rachel
    • Leah

Verse 5 also explains why they submitted to their husbands.

  • Not because they were inferior intellectually or spiritually.
  • Because they were confident that God would reward those who placed their trust in Him.
  • These women adorned themselves with the virtues of a gentle and quiet spirit and not focusing on the external.

Verse 6 gets more specific, and we should note the following implied characteristics.

  • Wives should submit to the leadership of their husbands. As always, being faithful and obedient to Scripture takes priority over obeying a wayward husband.
    • This could result in persecution from the unbelieving husband towards the believing wife.
    • Peter is encouraging them, in these circumstances, to place their trust and faith in God.
  • Paul also addresses issues of marital responsibility and care between the husband and the wife.
    • 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 A husband should fulfill his marital responsibility to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband. A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive one another sexually—except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
    • We must be careful not to distort or twist this passage. In no way should marital sexual relations be forced on one of the partners or for them to be encouraged to do anything they aren’t comfortable with. God created sexual relations to be a beautiful and mutually satisfying act between a husband and wife. Anything that would make one of the partners uncomfortable stains the experience.

Verse 7

Husbands are to treat their wives with understanding, according to God’s will.

  • Wives are physically weaker (in most cases).
  • Both are heirs of the grace of eternal life.
  • Both will reside in heaven together.
  • Failure to follow these instructions will result in prayers that are hindered or not answered. God does not bless those in a position of authority who abuse those under them.
  • A husband who lives according to God’s requirement shows respect to his wife.

Before starting the applications, let’s summarize some key points and thoughts regarding this passage.

  • As Christian couples, where do we get our examples and guidance from?
    • From the world.
      • Hollywood examples.
      • Secular advice books.
      • Non-Christian counseling.
    • From the Bible and Jesus.
      • Willing submission.
      • Willing obedience.
      • Desire to serve the other.
  • Historical/cultural setting.
    • The world of the original hearers of this message lived in a male-dominated society.
    • Abuse was not uncommon.
    • Because of this, good behavior would be more effective than engaging in dialogue from the wife to the husband.

Even though the passage is heavily weighted with more instructions towards the wife, the applications will be balanced.

Applications.

  • Are our clothing and accessories modest and respectful, or is it expensive and extravagant?
  • Do we let our actions speak for our convictions and beliefs, or do we sound like a clanging gong?
  • If you are married or engaged to be married, use the following questions as an evaluation tool.
    • Are you partners or competitors?
    • Are you helping each other become more Christ-like?
    • Do you depend on the externals or the internals, the artificial or the real?
    • Do you understand each other better through time?
    • Are you sensitive to each other’s feelings and ideas, or do you take each other for granted?
    • Are you seeing God answer your prayers?
    • Are you enriched because of your marriage or robbing each other of God’s blessings?
  • Periodically going through these questions will almost certainly enrich and strengthen your relationship.

1 Peter Lesson Four

1 Peter 2:11-17 A Call to Good Works

11 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.

13 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority 14 or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. 15 For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. 16 As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor. (HCSB)

In this passage, Peter exhorts the believers in the church in Asia Minor to live godly lives, shine their light to the unbelievers around them, respect authority, and use their freedom for good.

Verses 11-12

In these two verses, Peter characterizes the identity of the recipients of his letter in four ways.

  • Peter has Christian affection for the recipients, addressing them with the term “dear friends.” Peter is invested in their spiritual growth and wellbeing.
  • In the first chapter, Peter had already identified the recipients as sojourners or aliens. By joining the two words, Peter reinforces the fact that as believers in a fallen world, this is not their permanent home, and to the lost around them, their behavior would make them stand out as being different (strangers) in comparison to them.
  • At first, it may appear peculiar that Peter would tell the believers living in Asia Minor to act in a Christ-like manner among the unbelievers around them. To the Jews, anyone who was not a Jew was considered a Gentile. However, Peter is making the point that believers are grafted into Yahweh’s chosen people. They are now different from those around them.
  • The recipients of the letter are facing persecution in the form of slander from non-believers around them. This is the first explicit mention of hostility directed at believers in the letter. Let’s consider several factors here:
    • What qualifies as “evil” is often subjective and depends on the person viewing the action. Because of Christian resistance to Roman traditions/laws, they were viewed as criminal or evil in their behavior.
      • Acts 16:20-21  20 Bringing them before the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews 21 and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.”
      • Acts 17:6-7  When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too, and Jason has received them as guests! They are all acting contrary to Caesar’s decrees,  saying that there is another king—Jesus!”
      • Acts 19:24-27  24 For a person named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis,  provided a great deal of business for the craftsmen. 25 When he had assembled them, as well as the workers engaged in this type of business, he said: “Men, you know that our prosperity is derived from this business. 26 You both see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this man Paul has persuaded and misled a considerable number of people by saying that gods made by hand are not gods!  27 So not only do we run a risk that our business may be discredited, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be despised and her magnificence come to the verge of ruin—the very one all of Asia and the world adore.”
    • They are to resist the cravings of the world by Christ-like living.
      • The cravings that believers experience can often be strong as the enemy desires us to stumble or fall.
      • Believers are at war with the powers of darkness.
      • We should never underestimate the powers of darkness and do all we can to resist the temptations of the world.
      • Do we desire holiness or pleasure? The one we feed is the one that will take control.
      • Fleshly desires are motivated by a spirit of selfishness.
      • They make us spiritually weak and ineffective.
    • These verses start a section that is a call to missions.
      • They are to live among the Gentiles, engaging them and being a living witness to the power of Jesus.
      • They are not to withdraw and live a life of isolation.
      • Their incarnational living will draw the lost to submit their lives to Jesus.
    • Believers are not to retaliate or engage in self-defense against those persecuting them.
      • They are to pursue virtue and goodness.
      • By doing this, it would contradict the false accusations being placed against them.
    • The day of visitation is the moment of salvation for the Gentiles around them who submit to Jesus because of the witness of the believers.
      • Peter is convinced that some will convert because of their behavior.
      • The unbelievers may persecute the believers, but some will join Yahweh’s spiritual family because of their faithful lives.
      • God is glorified when this happens.

The summary of these two verses is this. Live holy lives in the middle of secular chaos, and let God take care of everything else. Peter is calling the churches in Asia Minor to live radically different from the surrounding culture to please God and cope with their circumstances. Peter’s point is a timeless point. In today’s world, the church also needs a call to holiness as the modern church, especially the Western church, is under heavy influence from the culture around us.

Verses 13-17

This section is challenging, if for no other reason, that in today’s world, there is an overall element of government/leader bashing. As we look at this section, there is an important divergent point in the discussion. Does the government/leader position go against Scripture, or does it go against your personal preference? The answer to that question is important both in how we understand this passage, and how it should affect our behavior. Now, let’s understand what Peter is saying.

  • Believers should submit to governing authorities.
  • It’s God’s will for believers to submit to authority.
  • Believers don’t submit to human authority with a subservient spirit but as one who is free in Christ.
  • Freedom doesn’t give license for evil.
    • Creating political chaos.
    • Moral irresponsibility.
    • Christians should choose to be orderly citizens.

Verse 15

By submitting to authorities, believers demonstrate the following characteristics.

  • They are good citizens.
  • They are not anarchists.
  • Unbelievers can’t criticize them for their disobedience.

Peter is not saying that authorities will always be on the side of believers or even recognize and reward them for good behavior. He is saying that such behavior will reduce the slanderous attacks on believers.

Verse 16

Peter is focusing on what motivates the behavior of submission. He uses three phrases to explain how Christians should live when subordinating them to governing authorities.

  • As free people:
    • The blood of Jesus has redeemed them.
      • Freedom from the power of sin over our lives.
      • Freedom from the guilt of our sins.
      • Freedom from the impossibility of earning God’s favor through obedience.
    • They no longer are subject to the futile lifestyle of the lost.
    • Their submission is not out of a position of weakness but strength.
  • Not engaging in evil.
    • Genuine freedom allows believers to do what is good.
    • Engaging in evil shows they were never free in the first place.
    • Wickedness is the definition of slavery.
  • Submit as slaves of God.
    • Believers are not given unrestricted freedom.
    • Freedom is exercised under the authority of Yahweh.
    • The understanding of New Testament liberty is the freedom to do what is right.
    • Only slaves of God are truly free.

Let’s draw some conclusions to the concepts of subservience and freedom, as is discussed in this passage.

  • Our ultimate submission is to God.
    • Governments don’t get a blank check pass in our submission to them.
    • Peter never intended his words to mean that we blindly follow governments.
    • As believers, we must weigh what governments are telling us against Scripture.
    • When those two sources of authority over us are in conflict, we must choose what is contained in Scripture.
    • Our ultimate loyalty is to God, not Caesar or any of our current leaders.
    • As believers, we are free from fearing our earthly leaders.
  • Under normal circumstances, governments will punish evil and reward good, as understood through Scripture.
    • At these times, believers can follow the dictates of their government with a good conscience. This is important to avoid unnecessary civil unrest.
    • However, Peter is saying that when governments propose what is evil of demand that believers can’t worship God, then we must not obey the dictates of the government.
    • Practical examples.
      • Abortion clinics – it is ok to protest peacefully against them.
      • Civil rights – again, peacefully demonstrate.
    • Tragically, most of the examples we see today of protests are violent and destructive in nature.

Verse 17

Peter concludes with four commands for the believers in Asia Minor.

  • Honor everyone – treat everyone with dignity and respect since we are all created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27 26 Then God said, “Let Us  make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.  They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth,  and the creatures that crawl  on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.
  • Love the brotherhood – we should show love to all members of our spiritual family.
  • Fear God – only God is deserving of our fear (respect) in our actions. Matthew 10:28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
  • Honor the Emperor – we are to honor our leaders and show respect to the position they hold.

The famous preacher, Jonathan Edwards, had six points that follow Peter’s teaching on how the church should operate today.

  • Christians have a responsibility to society beyond the walls of the church. We must not engage in isolationism.
  • We shouldn’t hesitate to join hands with non-Christians in working towards common moral grounds. At the same time, we must not compromise our Christian beliefs in cooperative endeavors.
  • Christians should support their government but be ready to criticize when the circumstances dictate that.
  • Politics are not important in the long run. Our first responsibility is to Jesus and only then to our government. No matter how much we do or want to respect our government, we should respect the church of Jesus more.
  • Christians should be aware of nationalistic pride. In the history of the church, there’s never been a truly Christian nation. As a Christian, our identity is in Jesus…period.
  • Christians must display an attitude of mercy for those less fortunate. If our God is a God of compassion and mercy, then we as Christians need to display those same characteristics.

Three main points in summary before I list some applications.

  • As the church, we can’t isolate ourselves from the world. The early church didn’t do that; they engaged the world, often leading to martyrdom.
    • The early church faced mostly physical persecution.
    • In most parts of the world today, the threat isn’t overt physical violence; it’s a slipping away from correct teaching and doctrine, leading to weak or false Christians.
  • Holiness means in all areas of our lives.
    • It isn’t restricted to spiritual disciplines; Bible reading, prayer, attending church, bringing our offering to God.
    • It includes all aspects of our lives.
      • Sexual practices.
      • The words we speak/don’t speak, write/don’t write.
      • How we spend our money.
      • Recreational pursuits.
      • Vocation.
      • Theological decisions.
  • The church needs to call all of its members to holiness. They should collectively fight against the sin in our society.
    • Casual sex.
    • Drugs.
    • Alcohol abuse.
    • Discrimination of any kind.
    • Gambling.
    • Oppression.
    • There’s a multitude more, and they vary in different locations around the world, choose those that fit your context.

Applications

  • First, no matter our circumstances, we must remember that our lives on earth are temporary. When we go through difficult times, face persecution, or just resentment for being a Christian, we must not forget that we weren’t the first, nor will we be the last. Rest in the assurance that Jesus is our strong tower, and He has already overcome the world.
  • We must resist the temptations that the world throws at us and seek holiness in our lives. If we struggle in an area, do we put up safeguards? Do we have an accountability partner?
  • Do we engage the lost world around us with the truth of the Gospel message? Jesus didn’t tell us to avoid the world; He told us to take the Gospel to a lost and dying world.
  • Do we respect our leaders both in action and word (spoken/printed/social media)? Disagreeing with our leaders does not give us the freedom or right to disrespect or slander them. If their words or actions are in conflict with Scripture, we have the freedom and responsibility to disagree with them in a respectful manner and/or peacefully demonstrate against whatever they do contrary to Scripture. Acting in accordance with Scripture goes against everything the world would tell us. However, we must remember application point one above, we are temporary residents here, and our identity is Jesus. If we act like the world, nobody will confuse us with the description of a Christian in the Bible.
  • Do we treat everyone with honor and respect?
  • Do you demonstrate love to your spiritual family?

1 Peter Lesson Three

1 Peter 2:1-10 – Living Stones

2 So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good. Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God— you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it is contained in Scripture:

Look! I lay a stone in Zion,

a chosen and honored  cornerstone,

and the one who believes in Him

will never be put to shame!

So honor will come to you who believe, but for the unbelieving,

The stone that the builders rejected—

this One has become the cornerstone,

and

A stone to stumble over,

and a rock to trip over.

They stumble because they disobey the message; they were destined for this.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people for His possession,

so that you may proclaim the praises 

of the One who called you out of darkness

into His marvelous light.

10 Once you were not a people,

but now you are God’s people;

you had not received mercy,

but now you have received mercy. (HCSB)

The focus of Peter’s message in these verses is on community relationships. The previous passage focused on the need for love among fellow Christians. In chapter two, Peter begins with a call to get rid of actions that disrupt the community of believers.

Verse 1

  • The sins listed in the first verse tear at the social fabric of the church, ripping away the love that binds them together.
    • Malice – an attitude similar to hatred with a desire to inflict pain, harm, or injury to another person. It includes holding and acting on grudges.
    • Deceit – refers to deliberate dishonesty. Anything less than speaking the full and honest truth from the heart is deceit. This is a selfish, two-faced attitude that deceives and hurts others for personal gain.
    • Hypocrisy – a person who is acting out a part and concealing their true motives.
    • Envy – a desire to possess what belongs to someone else and a feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others.
    • Slander – to speak against someone, to run others down verbally, assaults the character of a person, speech that harms another person’s status or reputation.

Verse 2

The central theme of the paragraph is in this verse, “desire the pure spiritual milk.” There are several themes associated with the “spiritual milk” theme.

  • Consuming spiritual milk results in growth.
  • Newborn babies crave milk; believers should have just as strong a craving for spiritual milk.
  • Milk is the very substance of life that enables Christians to grow spiritually.
  • The need for spiritual milk is not an indicator that they are new believers.
  • The milk believers are to long for contain two characteristics.
    • Pure – unadulterated and uncontaminated. Contaminated milk can produce sickness or death.
    • Spiritual – the root of the Greek word used for spiritual is logos, which means word.
  • The spiritual milk here is nothing less than the Word of God. But an underlying warning is contained here.
    • Pure milk leads to healthiness and growth.
    • Contaminated mild would lead to sickness or even death.
    • Correct teaching/preaching leads to spiritual growth. False or heretical teaching leads to sickness or death. False or heretical preachers are sickening or killing their congregation with tainted Scripture interpretation. As believers, we must be careful that those we listen to are not tainting the message.

Verse 3

Those who have truly experienced the love, mercy, and grace of Yahweh should, as a result, actively pursue Him in worship and obedience. The desire to grow spiritually comes from experiencing the Lord’s kindness. The believer is filled with a desire for more, never fully satisfied that they have enough of the Word and Yahweh. This shouldn’t be interpreted as a sense of frustration but rather as desiring more of God.

Verses 4-10 The Living Stones

This next section focuses on the concept of living stones, both Jesus as the living stone and those who make up the church as living stones. This is an amazing and beautiful picture, which I’ll unpack, hopefully giving you a better sense of its full meaning.

Verse 4

This verse is a little tricky as there are connections to the Old Testament from verse 3, Lord, but in this verse called the “living stone” as well as references to the Old Testament in the following verses. The use of the Old Testament term being linked to the living stone is important from a Christological standpoint as it infers that what is true of Yahweh is also true of Jesus.

Jesus is the living stone.

  • Living because of His resurrection.
  • Rejected by man.
    • Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
    • Isaiah 28:16 Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakeable.”
    • Acts 4:11 This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone.
    • Romans 9:33 As it is written: Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over and a rock to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame.
  • Chosen by Yahweh.
    • This contrasts with the rejection by man.
    • He is exalted through His resurrection.
  • These two ideas follow the situation of the Christians Peter is writing to.
    • They were despised by the unbelievers around them.
    • They were chosen and honored in Yahweh’s eyes.
    • They are destined for vindication after their earthly suffering.

Verse 5

In verse 4, Peter identified Jesus as the living stone. In verse 5, he calls followers of Jesus “living stones.” Why does Peter use the phrase “living stones?”

  • Because of their faith in the resurrected Christ.
    • When we place our faith in Jesus, we are buried and resurrected into the resurrected life of Jesus in the present.
    • We also wait for our new body at the end of the age.
  • This is the only place in the New Testament that believers are called living stones.
    • In other places, believers are called God’s temple or house.
      • 1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
      • Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.
      • Hebrews 3:6 But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.
      • The illustration is of a house in which believers make up the stones of the building.
    • The house (believer) is spiritual because it is animated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
  • Peter is identifying the New Testament church as the new temple, replacing the concept of the Old Testament temple.
    • Believers, as living stones comprising a spiritual house, are being built up through the teaching and discipleship that occurs in the New Testament church.
    • The function of the “building” (believers) is to function as a holy priesthood.
  • The idea of a holy priesthood should not be viewed in an individualistic context. Instead, Peter views this as the corporate church whose members are a holy priesthood.
    • Western society tends to view the concept of priesthood in an individualistic mindset.
    • Under the New Covenant, all believers have a priestly identity.
    • All believers have direct access to God through the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.
    • However, we should focus on the corporate body of Christ rather than individual members.
  • Priests offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.
    • Prayer.
    • Thanksgiving.
    • Praise.
    • Repentance.
    • Offering our bodies to God for His service.
    • Offering of financial gifts.
    • Loving service to others.

Verse 6

This verse is taken from Isaiah 28:16 Therefore the Lord God said: Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakeable.

The context of Isaiah 28 is a judgment on Ephraim for disobedience and unbelief. The theme that Isaiah emphasized throughout the book is captured here, those who trust in the Lord will escape judgment, those who don’t will perish.

  • Isaiah 28:16 is fulfilled with the coming of Jesus.
  • A cornerstone establishes the design and structure of a building.
  • Jesus is the fortress, refuge, and stronghold.
  • Those who believe in Jesus will never be put to shame.
  • Just as Jesus is chosen and honored by God, believers will also be vindicated on the last day.
  • Believers will not experience the embarrassment of judgment but the glory of approval.

Verse 7

Depending on the translation you use verse 7 could have the word honor, as in the HCSB, or precious. The correct understanding of the original Greek is honor.

  • Honor for believers on the day of judgment.
  • Eschatological honor for Jesus.
  • The stone (Jesus) rejected by the builders (unbelievers) is the stone that believers rest their faith on.
  • Unbelievers reject the Gospel, which is the cause of their stumbling or tripping. This should be interpreted as judgment and eternity in hell.

Verse 8

The ideas in this verse are the Gospel message, Jesus, and unbelievers.

  • Jesus and His message, the Gospel, is offensive to many.
  • When unbelievers choose not to believe the Gospel and place their faith in Jesus, the very message that could bring them life instead causes them to stumble.
  • Disobedience is the cause, and all disobedience is because they fail to trust in God.
  • The stumbling mentioned in these verses is not accidental tripping; it is a willful rebellion by refusing to submit to the lordship of Yahweh.
  • The same thing led to the crucifixion of Jesus, refusing to submit and fulfilling their own desires.

Verse 9

There’s a lot going on in this verse, which contains three main themes; a royal priesthood, holy nation, and purpose of God’s people.

  • Royal priesthood.
    • God has chosen them.
    • A reminder that we serve royalty.
    • It is predominately corporate in nature.
      • But it doesn’t deny the fact that individuals serve priestly functions.
      • A proper understanding is that believers have priestly functions but always as members of a group who exercise priestly functions.
    • Both Israel as a nation and the church of Jesus are identified as a royal priesthood.
      • Exodus 19:6 “And you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.” These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.
      • Revelation 1:6 And made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father – the glory and dominion are His forever and ever. Amen.
  • Holy nation.
    • Holy means to be set apart.
    • Both Israel and Jesus’ church are to be different than the world around them. They will be set apart by their holiness in obedience to Yahweh.
    • A people for His possession.
    • Individual believers all make a valuable contribution to Jesus’ church.
    • Christians are the true people of God, continuing His purpose that began with Abraham and Moses.
  • Purpose of God’s people.
    • To proclaim the praises of Yahweh.
      • They were called out of darkness (death).
      • They now live in marvelous light (life).
      • 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
      • Conversion is an illustration of moving from darkness to light.
        • Acts 26:18 To open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified.
        • Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.
    • Isaiah 43:21 The people I formed for Myself will declare My praise.
    • Isaiah 43:7a Everyone called by My name and created for My glory.
    • Components of praising God.
      • Worship.
      • Evangelism.

Verse 10

The verse presents an amazing picture of God’s grace and mercy. There is also a connection to Hosea 2:23 I will sow her in the land for Myself, and I will have compassion on No Compassion; I will say to Not My People: You are My people, and he will say, “You are my God.”

  • This was a renouncing of Israel as God’s chosen people because of continuous sin. Yet, Yahweh vows to have mercy on them and restore them as His chosen people.
  • It is also the experience of the church of Jesus and Gentiles.
    • Gentiles once lived in darkness but have now been restored by the light.
    • Gentiles are now grafted into God’s chosen people.
  • Gentiles are the recipients of God’s grace and mercy through faith in Jesus.

Applications

  • Take the list of sins that is in verse one and do a self-assessment on whether or not you stumble in any of these areas. Even better, ask your spouse or close friends/co-workers. If you have sinned against anyone, you should apologize and ask for forgiveness. They may or may not give it, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are to ask forgiveness.
  • Do you desire spiritual milk for growth? With our busy lives, it can be challenging, but we should be reading Scripture every day. We should read through the entire Bible each year. The only way to know God, be obedient to His Word, and defeat the spiritual powers of darkness is by being immersed in Scripture. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, He quoted Scripture.
  • Do our lives reflect being a member of a holy priesthood? Are we any different than the world around us? If not, we need to confess our sins and do a course correction.
  • Do we rest in the security of the fortress of Jesus? There is nothing in this world bigger than Jesus. If we really trust Him, we will be secure no matter what the world throws at us.

1 Peter Lesson Two

1 Peter 1:13-25 – Holy Living

13 Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. 15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.

17 And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence. 18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold,  19 but with the precious blood of Christ,  like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For

All flesh is like grass,

and all its glory like a flower of the grass.

The grass withers, and the flower falls,

25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.

And this is the word that was preached as the gospel to you. (HCSB)

There are three imperatives in this passage.

  • Unshakable hope in Jesus, verse 13
  • Holiness, verse 15
  • Live in reverent fear, verse 17

Verses 13-16

Verse 13

The word “therefore” reaches back to the first twelve verses in the letter. The readers are encouraged to live a godly life because they have a foundation in God’s saving work explained in verses 1-12. Order is essential here.

  • What God has done for us.
  • How we should live our lives.

If the order is reversed, we have a works-based righteousness instead of holiness being a result of God’s grace and power and our response to the love Jesus displayed by going to the cross.

  • Minds ready for action – means to be ready to undertake serious work.
  • Be serious – some translations have “sober” here. Sober is to be understood as having clear minds not impaired, distracted, or controlled by the things of the world.

Verse 14

There are several ideas flowing beneath the surface of this verse.

  • Even as followers of Jesus, we struggle with the temptation of this world and the danger of falling away from God.
  • However, as God’s children, we are to fight those temptations by living a life of obedience through faith and in God’s power and strength.
  • Just as children often have similarities with their earthly parents, we are to be similar to our heavenly Father.

Verse 15

  • The idea of being “called” should not be viewed as an invitation. Instead, it is a picture of God’s power in drawing people from a life in darkness to a life of light, from death to life.
  • Once again, the order is important. God’s power has pulled us from darkness and now equips us to live in holiness if we are obedient.
    • God’s people are to live differently from the world.
    • God’s people separate themselves from the evil desires of the world.
    • To be holy means to be apart from evil.

Verse 16

  • Why are we to be holy?
  • Because God is holy, and if we are God’s people, we should reflect God’s character.
    • Leviticus 11:44-45 For I am Yahweh your God, so you must consecrate yourselves and be holy because I am holy. You must not defile yourselves by any swarming creature that crawls on the ground. For I am Yahweh, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy.
    • When thinking about Old Testament covenants, before Israel could be a blessing to other nations, they first had to be holy.
    • Holiness is the starting point for God’s covenant people.
  • Holy doesn’t mean sinless perfection. That is impossible in this life. It does mean to be set apart. If we are God’s children, then we should be acting like Him.

Verses 17-21 Theme is to live in reverent fear.

Verse 17

  • Believers are to live in fear of Yahweh.
  • The question is, what type of fear is Peter talking about?
    • Reverent fear – a feeling of utmost respect and honor towards Yahweh.
    • Terror fear – a feeling of trepidation and apprehension.
    • From the context of the passage and the general concept of the Christian life as being a life filled with joy, it seems clear that Peter is talking about reverent fear.
    • At the same time, we need to examine whether our reverent fear is still…reverent or if it has become dull over time.
    • A responsible and confident driver also has a healthy fear for the damage that their vehicle could inflict on others through reckless behavior.
  • Our loving Father will also be our impartial judge on the last day.

Verse 18

The first idea to note is that verses 18-19 together form a negative/positive couplet. First, Peter illustrates what does not redeem someone with what does redeem someone.

  • Redeemed
    • Signifies liberation.
    • In this verse, it signifies leaving the emptiness of life they inherited from their fathers.
    • In the Old Testament emptiness is often associated with the idol worship practiced by pagans.
    • In the New Testament, it illustrates pre-Christian life.
      • Romans 1:21  For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their senseless minds were darkened.
      • Ephesians 4:17  Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts.
    • The life of unbelievers is a life characterized by futility, emptiness, and chasing after false gods.
      • Pursuing money.
      • Pursuing possessions.
      • Both are temporary.

Verse 19

The details of the purchase price are now revealed.

  • In contrast to the temporary things the lost pursue, believers are purchased with the everlasting and infinitely precious blood of Jesus.
  • Jesus poured out His life to redeem sinners.
  • Early Christians believed that Christ’s sacrifice as the sinless lamb fulfilled:
    • The Passover.
    • The prophetic suffering servant.
    • The entire Old Testament sacrificial system.

Verse 20

There are two main thoughts here:

  • Before the foundation of the world.
    • It was not mere chance that brought Jesus into the world at that particular time and place.
    • It was part of God’s plan.
    • Ephesians 1:4  For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.
  • Revealed at the end of the times.
    • Followers of Jesus enjoy the blessing of living at the time God is fulfilling His saving promises.
    • “The end of the times” signifies the time that started with the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
    • This does not mean, and should not be confused with, the eschatological end times.
    • Peter indicates that Jesus’ birth, life, and death ushered in “the end of the times.”

Verse 21

  • We are believers in God through Jesus, not through any other means. John 14:6b  No one comes to the Father except through Me.
  • Believers put their faith in God because of the finished work of Jesus.
  • Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation of the living hope found in 1:3.
  • A holy life is a life that trusts in God’s promises.
  • A holy life is one in which God is prized above all things, in which believers trust and hope in His goodness.

Verses 22-25 The theme is a command to love each other.

Verse 22

  • Purpose of their conversion is to love fellow believers.
  • It is achieved by obedience to the truth – faith in God’s promises of salvation.
  • It rises from a pure heart that has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
  • Peter uses two different Greek words for love in this verse.
    • One is brotherly love.
    • One is divine love, agape.
    • Unbelievers can display brotherly love to each other. However, it takes a Christian controlled by the Holy Spirit to show agape love.

Verse 23

  • Peter explains the origin of their birth.
    • Not of a perishable seed – human birth.
    • But of an imperishable seed – the Word of God.
      • Romans 10:17  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.
      • Galatians 3:2  I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?
    • A seed and the Word have similar characteristics.
      • A seed is small but, once planted has the power of life in it and produces fruit.
      • The Word is small and seemingly insignificant. Yet, it has power and life within it. The Word must be planted to do good, but when it is planted in a person’s heart, it produces good fruit.
      • Fruit produced by the Word is lasting, eternal fruit, but things of the flesh don’t last.

Verse 24

  • Peter quotes the text from Isaiah 40:6-8 here.
    • Israel will be restored from their exile in Babylon.
    • Babylon was viewed as invincible at the time that Israel was taken into exile.
    • Those persecuting the recipients of Peter’s letter may have been viewed as invincible.
    • In both cases, Peter is saying that their power is short-lived and that Yahweh and His people endure forever.

Vese 25

  • God’s Word is enduring.
  • It is imperishable.
  • Nothing can overpower God.
  • The promises contained in Isaiah are fulfilled in the proclamation of the Gospel.

Applications.

  • Do you take your faith seriously and prepare yourself for spiritual work? Peter’s words at the beginning of this passage exhort us always to be prepared and to have the proper attitude towards our salvation.
  • Do you take the holiness of God seriously and have a reverent fear of God? We love to read the passages that tell us how loving and merciful God is, which is true. But we often neglect or ignore the passages that tell us that God is also our judge. An infinitely holy God can’t be in the presence of sin. Will our lives allow us to enter into God’s presence or will we be cast out of His presence? We would do well to remember Matthew 7:23 Then I will announce to them, “I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers.”
  • Do we immerse ourselves in the Word? We need to be reading the Bible daily, feeding on the truths contained in it. Those seeds of truth will plant themselves in our hearts and grow, producing fruit in our lives.
  • Do we have agape love for our brothers and sisters? Many countries have large megachurches, which in themselves are not necessarily bad. However, they often feel impersonal, and there is little to no connection with other believers. When we look back at the church in the book of Acts, we see a church that closely connected believers together. Make sure you are connected with a church that promotes connecting in smaller groups, replicating the intimacy that is found in the early church.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Ten

Love Your Enemies – Matthew 5:43-48

Part ten in my discussion on the Sermon on the Mount is one of the more challenging messages…from the perspective of our human nature. How do we love someone when that person is anything but loveable, or they are outright antagonistic towards us?

43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those whopersecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (HCSB)

Jesus begins with His now familiar phrase, “You have heard that it was said.” Once again, Jesus is going to correct faulty thinking regarding Scripture and teach His followers the true meaning.

The first thing to note is that the phrase, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” is not entirely from Scripture. The first part comes from Leviticus 19:18b, “but love your neighbor as yourself.” However, the second part does not appear in the Old Testament. Some scholars point to various passages of Scripture as an implicit allowance for hating an enemy (Blomberg):

  • Deut 23:3-6  No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the Lord’s assembly; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, may ever enter the Lord’s assembly. This is because they did not meet you with food and water on the journey after you came out of Egypt, and because Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram-naharaim was hired to curse you. Yet the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam, but He turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you. Never seek their peace or prosperity as long as you live.
  • Deut 25:17-19  17 “Remember what the Amalekites did to you on the journey after you left Egypt. 18 They met you along the way and attacked all your stragglers from behind when you were tired and weary. They did not fear God. 19 When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, blot out the memory of Amalek under heaven. Do not forget.
  • Psalm 139:21  Lord, don’t I hate those who hate You, and detest those who rebel against You?

When we succumb to our sinful, human nature, it is easy to believe and follow the second part of the quote.

What can be understood from Jesus’ stating, “You have heard that it was said,” is that the practice was accepted in Israel at that time.

However, a correct understanding of the term “neighbor” undermines the belief that “hate your enemy” is a proper attitude. Let’s look at three points to support this.

  • God loves all people. At the same time, it is true that God will judge and punish the wicked, but that is not His first choice. God would prefer that all surrender to the Lordship of Jesus and be obedient followers.
  • A proper understanding of Luke 10:25-37 will lead us to conclude that every person we come in contact with is our neighbor. There are no enemies.
  • Matthew 22:34-40  We are to love others the same as we love ourselves.

The proper conclusion is that we are to extend love to everyone.

But what kind of love is Jesus talking about? There are four different Greek words for love found in the New Testament.

  • Eros – sensual or romantic love
  • Storge – love for family members
  • Philia – love that unites fellow believers
  • Agape – God’s love for humanity

Jesus is talking about agape love here. This is an unexplainable love that exists entirely apart from the possibility of being loved back. Where do we see this love? Where is it demonstrated? The answer is that we see it only in Jesus Christ and in His sacrifice on the cross. A review of New Testament passages will reveal that in almost all instances that talk about God’s love, there is also an explicit or implicit reference to the cross.

  • John 3:16 God’s love and the sacrifice on the cross.
  • Galatians 2:20 Paul being crucified with Christ and Jesus’ love.
  • 1 John 4:10  God loving us sending Jesus to atone for our sins.
  • Romans 5:8  God demonstrating love for us and Jesus’ death on the cross.

What is so amazing about Jesus’ sacrifice is that He did it for sinners like me and you, true agape love.

Looking at verse 45, we see that God provides common grace to all people. All of His creation is worthy of care. God desires the evil and unrighteous, the tax collector, and the Gentiles (understood as pagans) to become children in the spiritual family of God. This doesn’t take away from the fact that each of us will stand before the throne of judgment and be held accountable for their life.

Verses 46-47 present a bridge from the beginning of the passage to the final verse. In essence, if we love those who love us and treat us well, we are no different than any lost person in the world. If we act like that, nobody will discern that we are followers of Jesus.

Verse 48 presents a challenge. How are we to be perfect just as God the Father?

Jesus used teleios, a Greek word that means “having reached its end, mature, complete, perfect.” The goal for the kingdom servant is to behave like his Father, and to reach the mature level of supernatural transformation (Weber). To put it in another way, the Greek idea of perfection is functional. A thing is perfect if it fully realizes the purpose for which it was planned, designed, and made. A thing is teleios if it achieves the purpose for which it is intended; human beings are perfect if they achieve the purpose for which they were created and sent into the world (Barclay).

As we reflect on our journey to perfection, we should examine Philippians 1:6, I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

When we think about what this passage says, we must remember that God’s Word is true, and He never changes. God will complete what He has begun. All true believers of Jesus will undergo a process of perfection, although it won’t be complete until we are resurrected in our new bodies.

Jesus is saying that the Law has never pointed to legal restraints, shortcomings from our hardened hearts, or even the law of love. It has always pointed to God’s perfection, as demonstrated by this first part of the Sermon on the Mount. This is the perfection that followers of Jesus must obey if they are true disciples.

We enter into Christ’s perfection when we learn to forgive as God forgives, unconditionally, and learn to love as God loves, unconditionally.

How do we apply this passage to our lives?

  • As hard as it is, and it is, we are called to love all people. When I look around me, and at the news from around the world, it is clear that mankind, including many Christians, fall far short of this standard. At times I am as guilty as anyone. Do we really love others regardless of how different they are from us? It doesn’t matter our skin color, country of origin, ethnicity, gender, social status, wealth, I could go on and on. Jesus is weeping over the hatred on prominent display around the world. We can either get sucked up in this spiral of hatred, or we can be a vehicle for change. Which will you be?
  • Are we really different from the lost in the world? If someone who didn’t know you could observe you secretly for one or two weeks, would they come to the conclusion that you are a Christian? Do an honest assessment of yourself. You may not like what you discover. But, discovering it means you can work on fixing it. Not in your strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Look back on the early church, especially the Book of Acts. Walking in the strength of the Holy Spirit was the difference. Let’s do the same.
  • Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. At the same time, don’t give up in despair. If you are a faithful follower of Jesus, God will complete the work He started in you.