Tag Archives: Sanctification

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

Learning to Walk

Walking is a universally known concept.  It’s one of those basic fundamentals that transcends from countries, societies, ethnicities, and classes.  While it’s granted that not everyone has the ability to walk, and some others may have lost the ability to walk, generally speaking walking is a given.  It’s typically not a matter of if (again granting those situations mentioned earlier), but when.  This is why we make a big deal about a baby learning to walk and even brag when our children are “early walkers.”  Given this, we understand that we do not come out of the womb walking, it’s a process of developing coordination, muscle strength, balance, and just plain old want to (desire).  Once the clumsiness and tendency towards frequent falls have been overcome, walking seems intertwined with daily life.  Apart from physical limitations, we rarely give walking a second thought.  Once mastered, it becomes as routine as breathing and blinking.  As a behavior, walking gets us where we need to be, from point A to point B and it represents progress along that path.

For these basic, universally understood reasons, perhaps it’s an easy explanation for why the concept of walking is used so often in a metaphorical sense to refer to the Christian life.  Of particular interest is the letter to believers at Ephesus.  Surveying this letter, we find the commonly translated word for walk, peripateo, used no less than seven times throughout the book.  This word is a compound word from peri, a preposition meaning of, for, about, and pateo, meaning to tread.  It’s easy to see that to walk is a reasonable translation.  However, we’re talking not so much about literally one foot in front of another, but metaphorically.  Given what we know about walking and then applying it to the Christian life, we can come up with a working definition such as, “the consistent direction, pattern, and progress of the Christian life.”

In Ephesians, we have the following uses of walk:

  • Ephesians 2:2 – refers to our old pattern of walking as unbelievers
  • Ephesians 2:10 – refers to walking in the good works, which God prepared beforehand
  • Ephesians 4:1 – an exhortation to walk in a manner worthy of your calling
  • Ephesians 4:17 – an exhortation to no longer walk as the Gentiles (pagans), in the futility of their minds
  • Ephesians 5:2 – An exhortation to walk in love
  • Ephesians 5:8 – An exhortation to walk as children of the light
  • Ephesians 5:15 – An exhortation to monitor how we walk, not as unwise, but as wise.

Clearly, at least according to the divinely inspired apostle’s letter, the Christian walk matters.  In parallel with our physical walking which we discussed above, our new birth in Christ supplies us with the ability to walk in a manner consistent with our profession of faith in Him.  However, our spiritual muscles need to be strengthened, our theological coordination and moral balance need developed, and our hearts need to have the desire to progress and move.  These can only happen as the Holy Spirit works in our lives through the Word of God.  Furthermore, this walking happens more efficiently with someone holding our hand, encouraging us to take a step, one foot in front of the other, ready and willing to help us should we fall (Philippians 3:17).  In a sense, this is a picture of discipleship.  Once we learn to walk, there’s of course no guarantee we wont stumble (James 3:2), no promise that a limb will not be disjointed or become lame (Hebrews 12:13), nevertheless walking in a consistent, godly manner should become as secondary nature as breathing (Romans 6:4; 8:4; Galatians 5:16).  We should therefore encourage and exhort others in their walk, picking up those who stumble, and guiding those who have yet to learn to walk.

The Christian walk is how we know and are known.  It is the measure of our growth and progress in the Christian life.  It is not enough to make a profession of faith in Christ, we need also to have a walk that reflects the reality and truthfulness of that profession.

“So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” Colossians 1:10

 

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.