Tag Archives: Holiness

Holy Living: The Present Reality of a Future Condition

 

Writing to those he calls pilgrims, strangers, and exiles, in his first letter, Peter, under divine inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, provides some practical encouragement to persevere through suffering on the basis of Christ’s suffering.  Indeed suffering becomes the major theme throughout the letter, no doubt because the early Christians were faced with escalating persecution that had already resulted in marginalization and plundering of property with the progression to death as a very real possibility.

Continuing this theme of Christ’s suffering and our response to living in light of that, Peter returns again to the subject of holiness (1:13-21) in the fourth chapter, seen below

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

Proceeding into our exposition of the passage, therefore sets the stage.  Typically a therefore serves as a transition point from an indicative, an action of God, to an imperative, a command that demands our obedient response.  Here, the therefore carries the weight of the discussion of Christ’s suffering, tying back to 1 Peter 3:18.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, “

Therefore, based on this finished work of Christ, in which He, “suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.”  The basis for the imperative, arm yourselves, is the suffering of Christ.  It is the foundation and motivation for how we are to approach our own suffering and how we are to live in a fallen and sinful world which wages war against our souls.  As it sounds, arm is military word expressing both the seriousness and hostility of the situation, it is a literal call to arms.  Wuest comments that the noun form of this armoring up, “was used of a heavy-armed footsoldier who carried a pike [javelin] and a large shield….The Christian needs the heaviest armor he can get, to withstand the attacks of the enemy of his soul.”

Amen.  We are long past the point of realizing that the Christian life is war.  For far too long, Christianity (more accurately Christendom), primarily in Western Civilization and specifically in America, has assumed a prosperous passivity, only to wonder why individually and collectively evangelicalism is so weak and gullible.  It’s simple, failure to realize that we’re in a war.

Next we see that this armament is not with physical weapons, rather it is spiritual, specifically as it relates to the mind.  Here, we are instructed to be armed with the same way of thinking that Christ had, who humanly speaking faced unjust suffering unto death.  Did Jesus assume health, wealth, and prosperity?  Did He object and resist suffering?  Did He  rally troops or mount up picket lines to counteract the injustices He faced in suffering without cause?  No, He went willingly.  Peter has already described our Lord’s humility and submission in suffering

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

With the command to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ, we see that this includes putting to death all attitudes of protestation, grumbling or discontent with our present situation.  It includes putting to death all desire for vindication, self defense, and restoration.  Rather it is a humble submission entrusting oneself into the hands of the sovereign God.

Moving now to the latter part of verse 1, and we reach a bit of difficulty by asking who is being referred to, Christ, or those who have suffered in the flesh”?  Perhaps a clue comes when we keep reading into verse 2, that whoever this is who has ceased from sin is called to, live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”  With this phrase, it seems more reasonable to conclude that it is those who have been united to Christ by faith, shared in the death and resurrection with Him and are now raised to walk in a life of holiness.  There is a strong contrast presented here between between human passions and the will of God.  The two are not complimentary, they do not cohabitate, rather they are at violent odds with one another.  If we note the use of time elements in this passage, essentially we are to flee from our past life of sin and are called to live our present life, holy and unstained from the world because of the reality that our future life is one of complete holiness.  This command is a practical restatement of “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16) in the light of the suffering of Christ.  

In light of the death of Christ on the cross for sin through His suffering, there ought to be an anticipation that in this world we will suffer too.  Our suffering, in whatever form or fashion will ultimately lead to death, at which point we will cease to sin.  By following in the footsteps of our Lord in suffering in the flesh, we ought to live in the present reality that we will one day cease to sin.  Because we will one day be sin free, as a result of Christ’s death, therefore, be holy now, in the present.  Live the rest of your life not fulfilling human passions or the lusts of men (or yourself), rather live for the will of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

Logical Worship

In the letter to the believers at Rome, the structure of the book should be familiar to those who have read other divinely inspired letters from the pen of the Apostle Paul.  In Romans, the section on practical application is built upon a robust doctrinal theology.  This transition from doctrine to practice occurs in chapter 12 with the familiar call to the believer’s renewal of the mind.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

It’s noteworthy that the exhortation begins with an appeal, parakaleo, essentially meaning to beg or plead.  It’s one of Paul’s most regularly used words, upwards of 50 times. This appeal from him is rooted in the ever important, therefore, which helps link what was said previously, essentially all of the book, but most notably 11:32-36, with what will follow, the exhortation to holiness and the subsequent Christian ethical commands.  In the passage noted from chapter 11, the mercies of God were central to understanding the salvation that comes through God as a product of His divine mercy, which of course was built on Romans 9:15ff.  It’s upon these mercies that this section is founded with the appeal to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.  Three ideas conveyed in this sentence links this exhortation with the Old Testament priesthood and sacrificial system, presentliving sacrifice, and spiritual worship, giving way to a New Testament priesthood and a sacrificial system flowing out of the Priesthood of Christ and the sacrifice of Himself on the cross for sinners.

First, present, was used earlier in the letter in Romans 6:13, 16, and 6:19 and is sometimes unfortunately translated as yield.  It is used commonly in the Septuagint as a technical word in the context of presenting a sacrifice to the priest and it conveys the idea of presenting something, here it’s presenting yourself, to another’s disposal.  It’s as if we presented ourselves to God and said, “Here I am, do with me what you will.”  A similar idea may perhaps be seen in the presentation of Christ in the temple, Luke 2:22-23.  As with the language of the Old Covenant sacrifices and as with the presentation of Christ, the presentation that we bring is our whole self, our whole body – the whole man, as it were.  A similar idea was discussed earlier in Romans through the passage on our union with Christ and the necessity of our sanctification,

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. Romans 6:12-13

Above, we are also exhorted to present our members, individual components of our bodies, to God as instruments for righteousness.  In other words, do not present your body to sin and Satan saying to them, “Here I am, do with me what you will,” rather, as we have seen we are to present ourselves to God in this way, fully disposed to Him for His bidding.  There are only two realities, two options towards which we may present ourselves, God and righteousness or Satan and Sin.  We ought to linger here longer.

Second, and perhaps more clearly seen as an Old Testament connection, is the calling to present ourselves as a living sacrifice.  While there is certainly a relationship between the Old Covenant presentation of sacrifices and our own New Covenant presentation of ourselves as a sacrifice, we need to be clear that the sacrifice of Christ is the fulfillment of all of the Old Covenant sacrifices, as well as the priesthood, though our Lord’s is after the order of Melchizedek.  However, what is being established here is that on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice and His Priestly mediation, we as believers by way of our union with Him, are a priesthood after the order of Christ.  Our sacrifices are ourselves.  It is not a dead sacrifice, nor is it one that is brought to die (though figuratively we do), but one that has been brought from death to life now to live a life of service unto God.  Furthermore, we see that our sacrifice is holy and acceptable, two adjectives which can only be true of those in Christ.  Just as the Old Covenant sacrifices were to be set apart, without blemish, and were made acceptable by the priest, so too have we been made holy by the blood of the Lamb and are acceptable to God on the basis on Christ’s finished work.  The appeal that is being made here is for believers, on the basis of their faith in Christ, to present themselves as a holy, acceptable, living sacrifice to the God who made them and redeemed them.

Finally, we arrive at our last idea connecting these New Covenant realities with their typological shadows from the Old Covenant here through the phrase, spiritual worship.  To reiterate, the presentation of the sacrifice in the Old Covenant was the prescribed worship that God had commanded.  Under the New Covenant, there is prescribed worship as well and for the believer it begins with the sacrifice of themselves unto the service of God.  Here, that concept has been translated as spiritual worship in the ESV, but it is translated elsewhere as reasonable service.  The word translated as spiritual or reasonable is logikos, from where we get the English word logic. It is by logic or reason that this service/worship is being offered to God.  Whereas under the Old Covenant, the worship could often be monotonous, routine, and outward, under the New Covenant it is to be logical, reasonable, and from within.

Summarily, on the basis of all that has preceded this new section in chapter 12, that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that justification is by faith alone, that we are born sinners in Adam yet redeemed by Christ, that our salvation freed us from slavery to sin, that there is a war even now in our members between the fleshly desires to sin and the spiritual desires for righteousness, that there is now no condemnation in Christ, that those whom He called, He also justified, and will also glorify, that it is on the basis on God’s good pleasure and mercy that anyone will be saved from His wrath, on the basis of all of these truth’s summarized as the mercies of God, our logical worship is to present ourselves unto this same all-sufficient and holy God to say here I am, do with me as you will.  That is what Paul pleads for believers to do, as I plead in my own heart for myself, and for all those who read this sermon.

Let’s conclude where we began, by looking at the passage again from Romans 12, this time with the translation from Kenneth Wuest, who brings out and elucidates many of the ideas which we examined above.

I therefore beg of you, please, brethren, through the instrumentality of the aforementioned mercies of God, by a once-for-all presentation to place your bodies at the disposal of God, a sacrifice, a living one, a holy one, well-pleasing, your rational, sacred service, [rational, in that this service is performed by the exercise of the mind].

 

The Emphasis on the Son

In John’s first epistle, He begins with establishing himself as an eye-witness to the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He emphatically states that he had seen, heard, touched the Lord and now from that experience He proclaims Christ.  For this purpose, we would expect the entirety of the book to be focused on Christ, and this is true, however there is a remarkable pattern that emerges when one examines how it is that John brings his emphasis to the Son, particularly through His use of the terms Father and Son.

In the opening chapter, God the Father is mentioned in 1:2 and 1:3, while the Son is mentioned in 1:3 and 1:7.  However, at the beginning of chapter 2, it is the Father who is mentioned again, not the Son, as we might expect his pattern of proclaiming Christ to proceed.  The use of Father appears in the discussion from 1 John 2:1, and again in 2:13, 2:15, and 2:16.  Meanwhile, though Jesus Christ is mentioned in 2:1, the actual use of Son does not occur again until 1 John 2:22.  This is rather shocking given that we would expect the bulk of references to be about Christ, the Son of God, given John’s own emphasis on his experience with Christ’s earthy ministry.  But then something remarkable happens.

In 1 John 2:22-24, there is a transition that takes place from emphasis on the Father to the Son.  Note the passage below

22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

Here we see the use of both Father and Son in verse 22 and again, twice, in verse 23, followed by the fourth pairing in verse 24.  These pairings single a massive shift in emphasis from the Father to the Son.  From this point forward, God the Father is only referenced 3 times in the remainder of the letter, whereas God the Son 14 times, after only being mentioned twice up to this passage.

The question we need to ask at this point is why?  Is there a purpose for John to withhold and then subsequently emphasize the Son?

Interestingly, on the heels of this shift from Father to Son, we find a passage describing believers as children of God, those marked with consistent obedience and desire holiness.  For instance, 1 John 2:29

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

then again in 3:1

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

The development of the teaching that believers are children of God extends from 1 John 2:29 to 1 John 3:10 and includes specific mention in 3:2; 3:8 (negatively stated); 3:9 (2x); and 3:10 where it is stated both positively and negatively.

This pattern is simple enough, if one slows down long enough to see it, but it brings up another question.  What is John’s purpose in connecting the emphasis on God the Son with believers as children of God?

Quite frankly, it is to show the relationship that exists between God the Father and God the Son is parallel with God the Father’s relationship with those who have been born again,

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  John 1:12-13

Similarly, as we read in Ephesians, we are co-heirs with Christ.  Not only that, but as the emphasis on the Son continues, we also see impeccability, i.e. sinlessness, righteousness, and purity attributed to Him, but not in isolation from us.  He died to remove sin from us; as He is righteous, so too ought we be righteous; as He is pure, so too will we be pure.  The relationship is familial, but also one of shared identity – holiness – through our union with Christ.

Oh the wisdom of God, who by way of simply shifting the emphasis from Father to Son, draws attention to the person and work of Christ and His holiness, but subsequently uses it to transition into our relationship as His children, that we too ought to look like His only begotten Son and walk in purity.