He Alone is Worthy

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (I Peter 1:3).

The last time we met, we briefly examined that according to I Peter 1:3, God and God alone is to be the object of the believers worship, honor, praise and celebration. Rather than ourselves, or anyone or anything else for that matter, He alone is worthy to receive our worship. Peter briefly tells us why?

First, it is because of God’s great mercy. Peter says that God’s mercy is great. It is a big deal. What is meant by mercy? The word for mercy in the Greek is ἔλεος (eleos) meaning compassion, or showing kindness to someone in need.

Second, what was our need as fallen sinners? The Bible says we were dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). Spiritually separated from God. What we needed was new life. This is what God has provided through regeneration (Titus 3) or being born again (John 3:1-8; I Peter 1:23; James 1:18) by the Holy Spirit.

Notice that we are not the cause of our new birth in Christ. There is no magic or prescribed formula whereby we are the cause of our new birth. Being born again is not a commandment to obey. Rather, our new birth in Christ is due to God’s great mercy whereby He sovereignly brings to life those whom He chooses. These are the elect, or chosen, to which Peter referred to previously (1:1).

Third, this new birth results in a living hope. Hope (ἐλπίς; elpis) is not a wish but rather a confident expectation that what God has promised He will fulfill. God has promised eternal life in His Son, Jesus Christ, and this is a promise, along with all the other promises God has made, that He will keep.

Fourth, the singular act involving Jesus Christ assuring God’s promise of eternal life for the sinner is the resurrection. Preceding the resurrection of Christ is the virgin birth, sinless life, and His substitutionary death. But climaxing the work of Christ is the victory over sin, death and hell (I Corinthians 15) by His bodily resurrection.

I Peter 1:3 gives us but a few reasons to praise, honor, worship and bless the Lord today. But oh my, what a list.

Take time throughout your day today to thank and praise God for His great mercy which resulted in Him giving you new life, and a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Read today John 3, Titus 3 and Ephesians 2:1-10.

Soli deo Gloria!

Blessed Be…

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Peter 1:3a)

There is a lot of confusion regarding the subject of praise. Confusion reigns regarding who we praise, how we praise, when we praise, where we praise and why we praise. Praise, from the Greek word εὐλογητός (eulogetos) from which we derive the word eulogy, means to bless, worship, honor and glorify.

There has been much discussion, or arguments, regarding the types of music with which believers praise: ranging from traditional, contemporary or blended. Everybody wants what they want and no one seems to be willing to compromise and understand the other person’s point of view.

Then there are the questions raised regarding traditional worship sanctuaries vs. multipurpose auditoriums. Pews vs. stackable, padded chairs. Communion every Sunday vs, only observing the ordinance occasionally. Don’t let me get started regarding fog machines.

What about worship service times? Is 8:00 am too early, 11:00 am too late? 10:30 am just right? Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning? After all, if you have an 11:00 am service, the critics say, Sundays are pretty well shot regarding anything else to do. Therefore, have a worship service on Saturday late afternoon and get it out of the way. Makes sense, right?

Lots of questions needing biblical answers. There is, however, one question which can be addressed here today. That is, who is to be praised? I Peter 1:3a, along with the rest of Scripture, leaves us with no confusion regarding this matter. The only object of our praise, worship, honor and glory is God.

Christians are called and commanded to only worship God. This does not mean God primarily, and entertainers, athletes, politicians and pastors secondarily. No! God and God alone is to be the object of our worship. Worship and praise is to be accomplished with our whole heart and according to Scripture (John 4:24).

This worship can only be accomplished through the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is through the imputed righteousness of Christ that believing sinners have the privilege and responsibility of worshiping the One, True God. That’s right! Worship and praise is a privilege and responsibility. Worship is not to be an afterthought, but our primary thought. Worship is not an intrusion into our schedules but rather the priority to our schedules. Worship is not just one day a week but everyday of the week.

Examine your thoughts and attitudes about worship today. Repent of any casualness or complacency towards approaching the One, True God of our salvation. Replace complacency with reverence and awe. God is worthy of our worship. Read John 4, Exodus 20 and Psalm 150.

Soli deo Gloria!

Grace & Peace

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (I Peter 1:2b).

One of the most familiar phrases found in the New Testament Scriptures, particularly in the epistles, is grace and peace. The Apostle Paul uses this expression in various forms in all of his writings. So too does the Apostle Peter. This was a common greeting during the first century.

Grace, meaning unmerited favor from God to sinful man unto salvation, was an important word for Peter. He used it ten times in this epistle ((1 Peter 1:2, 10, 13; 2:19–20; 3:7; 4:10; 5:5, 10, 12). Grace is not only the basis for God saving sinners, but also for conforming us to be more like Christ.

Peace is freedom from worry. Peace is not necessarily tranquility because of our circumstances, but rather often in spite of our circumstances. Also, notice that the word grace always precedes peace. Peace is a result of God’s kindness and goodwill and not the other way around. We do not make peace with God and therefore earn His grace. Rather, He by his grace choses to save sinners resulting in peace (Romans 5:1).

What Peter is saying is that he hopes that believers, because of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’s work in their lives, will recognize God’s abundant and multiplied grace in their lives. This grace is not just God’s work in saving them from the penalty of sin but also from the power of sin resulting in peace.

The Lord is continually at work in our hearts and souls, whether we recognize it or not. Hopefully, because of this passage, we will remember and thank Him for His faithfulness to complete the work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).

Have a blessed day as you worship the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

Elect & Scattered

“According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:” (I Peter 1:2a).

Yesterday we read from I Peter 1:1 that believers are elect or chosen exiles who are often scattered because of their faith in Christ. What is the basis and purpose of these identifying marks of the believer?

Peter says that believers in Christ are elect and scattered exiles because of the foreknowledge of God the Father. This foreknowledge is not only knowledge before something occurs, but also it means to be for-ordained.

God’s foreknowledge refers to His predetermined plan to not only save sinners by grace alone, but to also conform believers to the image and character of Christ (Romans 8:28-30). God often does this through difficulties which help mature us. Our persecutions are not mere chances of impersonal fate, but rather the result of the predetermined plan by our loving and sovereign God.

Peter also says that believers are elect and scattered exiles in the sanctification of the Spirit. The word Spirit specifically refers to the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is growing in holiness. The purpose of persecution is so believers will increasingly become separate from sin and conformed to the holy character of God.

Finally, Peter says that believers are elect and scattered exiles for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood. Obedience means to hear and be submissive to God’s Word (Ex. 24:7; Rom. 1:5; 15:18; 16:26). The blood sprinkling is reminiscent of the Old Testament priestly work at the tabernacle (Lev. 7:14; 14:7, 16, 51; 16:14–15; cf. Heb. 9:13; 12:24), which resulted in obedience on the part of the people.

When you face difficulties, remember the three-fold work of the Trinity in your soul. May these truths give you the strength and courage to persevere.

Soli deo Gloria!

Elect Exiles

“To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” (I Peter 1:1b).

From the very outset of his epistle, the Apostle Peter identifies believers by three specific words: elect, exiles and scattered (of the Dispersion). The purpose of using these words was to comfort and encourage Christians facing persecution for their faith. What was true of Peter’s original audience remains true today.

First, believers are elect. The word elect comes from the Greek word ἐκλεκτός (eklektos) meaning chosen. Throughout the New Testament, believers in Christ are identified as ones chosen by God unto salvation (Mt. 22:14; Mk. 13:20; Lk. 18:7; Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; 2Ti. 2:10; 1Pe. 2:9; Rev. 17:14). Believers in Christ are God’s elect. This is not by chance or human decision but rather by God’s sovereign, unconditional and gracious choice made before the foundation of the world (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 1:3-4).

Second, believers are exiles (parepidēmois). The word means alien, sojourner, stranger or temporary resident. Christians are therefore chosen exiles who live in this world only for a relatively brief period of time. This is because this world is not their eternal home.

Thirdly, believers are scattered (diasporas) or dispersed ones. This word, much as it is used in James 1:1, refers to Christians who had been scattered like salt due to increasing persecution by non-believers. Within the context of I Peter, the believers to whom he was writing were scattered in five Roman Provinces which comprise much of modern day Turkey.

Today, believers in Christ continue to be chosen exiles who are often scattered like salt because of their faith. Rejoice and rest today in the truth that your salvation, from beginning to end and everything in between, is a sovereign work of God.

Remember, God is in control not only in what you experience as a Christian, but also that you are a Christian!

Soli deo Gloria!

What Is An Apostle? (pt. 2)

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,” (I Peter 1:1a).

Peter was not his own man. He belonged to someone who ruled him, used him and was glorified by him. Peter belonged to Jesus. Jesus was who Peter obeyed, served and sought to glorify. By no means was Peter perfect, but neither are we.

The name Jesus means Savior, while the title Christ means anointed One. Peter belonged to and served the One who saved his soul and was Lord of his life.

The Apostle Paul shares this same thought in I Corinthians 6:19-20 which says, “19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Too often today, the church is focused more upon itself than the Lord. Churches seek to find unique ways to bolster their attendance, make worship more entertaining or fill the pulpit with so-called rock star communicators rather than entrust the numerical growth of the church to God (I Corinthians 3:5-9), ensure worship is done in spirit and truth (John 4:24), and that men who fill the pulpit are preaching the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:1-5) and not just sharing entertaining stories.

As one pastor explains, “Over the past, few decades, we have seen many silly and irreverent things introduced into worship to draw a crowd and keep people entertained. To do such things, however, is to play with fire. We must follow God’s prescriptions for worship.”

Believers are called to serve and worship Christ, and not the other way around. We belong to Him. He is our Master. Let us serve Him.

Soli deo Gloria!

What Is An Apostle?

Good morning.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,” (I Peter 1:1a).

What exactly was or is an “apostle?” Was the position of apostle only found in the early church or is it available today? There is disagreement.

The word apostle, of which Peter is specifically identified as one holding this office and title, generally means messenger. It was an individual who was sent with orders from a commander. Within the context of the church, this general meaning could refer to anyone who communicates the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are God’s messengers who are commanded to share a specific, unchanging message (Matthew 28:16-20).

However, there was also a specific definition for apostle which restricted its usage to a select few. This definition is found in Acts 1:21-26. As the eleven apostles sought to replace Judas Iscariot, they stipulated or insisted that Judas’ replacement meet the following qualifications as an apostle. First, one who accompanied and followed Jesus from the beginning of His earthly ministry from John’s baptism to Jesus’ ascension. Two, an apostle had to be a witness of the resurrection of Christ.

There were only two, of the 120 disciples present at that time (Acts 1:15) who were so qualified: Joseph called Barsabbas who was also called Justus, and Matthias (Acts 1:23). Peter’s apostleship qualified him to be a writer of Scripture, which became for the early church a standard to determine what ancient books were to be included into what became known as the New Testament.

God has a specific plan for each of His children by which we can serve Him. God had a plan for Peter. God has a plan for you and me.

Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!

An Apostle of Jesus Christ

Good morning.

I Peter begins with these words: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,”

Today, letters, emails, texts and even tweets begin with either an address to whom we are speaking or the subject of which we are writing. Very rarely, if at all, do we begin a written document by identifying who is doing the writing.

Not so in the first century. Letters, or epistles as they were known, normally began with the identity of the person doing the writing. The Apostle Paul’s epistles began this way. So do Peter’s.

What does the name “Peter” mean? In the Greek language the word is petros, which refers to a rock or a stone. Jesus gave Simon the fisherman his new name in Matthew 16:18. Jesus did so in anticipation of Peter’s role in the early church as one of the original twelve apostles.

Jesus would use Peter in a most significant way by choosing him to be the first person to publically present the gospel to the Jews (Acts 2:14-36). Peter would authenticate Phillip’s gospel ministry to the Samaritans (Acts 8:4-25), who were a people resulting from the intermarriage between Jews and Gentiles. Peter would also be the first individual to share the gospel to a Gentile named Cornelius (Acts 10).

God used Peter in a most unique way. How is God using you? Are you willing to pray that you are available for what He would have you to accomplish for His glory? It may not be the exact same ministry as Peter, but it will be unique.

Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!

Restoring the Rock

The Epistle of I Peter demonstrates the Holy Spirit’s ministry of inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21) through the apostle. Peter’s letter to persecuted Christians is also an example of the apostle’s teaching ministry which began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36).

However, Peter’s preaching and teaching precedes even the events of Acts 2. To see why Peter is so focused before his listeners in Acts 2, and before his readers in his two epistles, we need to focus our attention on the written account found in John 21.

In John 21, we see Jesus restoring and recommissioning Peter from the despair and disillusionment of his threefold denial of his Lord and Savior prior to the crucifixion (Matthew 26:58; Mark 15:54; Luke 22:54; John 18:15-18). Peter rejoiced with the other disciples over Jesus’ resurrection (John 20), but believed he had forfeited the right and responsibilities of being a witness to the resurrection because of his denials. He emphatically meant this when he said, “I am going fishing” (21:3). He was going back to the life he knew before he met Jesus.

Yet Jesus lovingly and gently takes Peter aside and three times he asks Peter whether or not Peter loves Him (John 21:15-17) more than the fish he has gone back to catching. Jesus asks Peter this question three times to parallel Peter’s three-fold denial. Jesus also gives Peter a three-fold commission: feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep (21:15-17).

Jesus tells Peter to no longer seek for fish, but rather to feed and tend the sheepfold of God: the believing community or the church. “My lambs” and “my sheep” refer to “my church” (John 10:14, 26-27; Matthew 16:18). Peter urges his fellow elders to do the same (I Peter 5:1-2). The food upon which the church grows is the Word of God.

Peter’s preaching and teaching reflected the restoration he received from Jesus. We can experience the same restoration from the Savior as Peter did due to our own failures and failings. It is when we receive this forgiveness by faith, we can once again be a vessel the Master can choose to use (I John 1:9).

Ask God right now to forgive you of your failures and sin, and also for Him to begin using you for His glory. All you have to do is ask.

Soli deo Gloria!

Central Themes

What are the themes of the Epistle of I Peter? What is God teaching us through this apostle?

There are several significant doctrinal themes contained in I Peter. First is the reality that Christians will be persecuted for their faith (1:6; 2:12, 19-21; 3:9, 13-18; 4:1, 12-16, 19). This parallels not only truth found in the Old Testament (Psalm 69:26; Isaiah 50:6; 53:7; Jeremiah 15:15; Daniel 3:28; Zechariah 2:8), but also in other New Testament writings (Mark 10:30; Luke 21:12; John 5:16; 15:20; Romans 8:35; 2 Corinthians 1:10; 4:9; 2 Timothy 3:12). This suffering eventually results in the believer’s maturity (I Peter 5:10-11).

Secondly, there is the recurring theme of the character of God. Several of God’s manifold attributes are mentioned in I Peter. These include God’s accessibility (1:17; 3:18), faithfulness (4:19), holiness (1:15-16), justness (1:17), long-suffering (3:20), mercy (1:3), and righteousness (2:23).

Thirdly, the person and work of Jesus Christ is a central theme found in this epistle. Several aspects of Christ mentioned by Peter include Christ’s sufferings (1:10-12; 2:24; 4:12-13), perseverance (1:13-16), and Christ being the believer’s hope in a hostile world (1:3-4). Preeminent among these is Christ’s substitutionary atonement for sinners (2:24).

Along with these doctrinal themes are several key words. These include the following: (1) word or logos (1:23; 2:8; 3:1) referring to the gospel message; (2) example (2:21) referring to Christ being our example of godliness and wisdom in the midst of persecution; and (3) love or agape (4:8) which refers to a self-sacrificial love of the will towards strangers and fellow believers.

These doctrinal themes and words are just as applicable to believers today as they were to the first century church.

Soli deo Gloria!