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The Righteous Branch April 23, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 23:1-8.

Summary: In this passage, God condemns the spiritual and political leaders of Judah – as they have failed to care for His people. In spite of their neglectfulness, He promises to:

  • restore at least some of His exiled people to their native land
  • install the Messiah as their wise, just and righteous King.

Indeed, this act of deliverance will surpass that which He effected for their forefathers when they left Egypt.

Thoughts: Here, we see that the miracles that God performed for His people in leading them out of Egypt are not worth comparing with the miracles that He performs in establishing His earthly kingdom – with Christ as its King. This highlights the sublimity of the spiritual transformation that God continues to work in us; the task of convincing the most powerful man on Earth to free a group of slaves appears enormous, yet even that task is trivial compared to the task of freeing all mankind from the power of sin and death. I must admit that I often struggle to grasp the enormity of what God has done for us through Christ – yet I know that as long as I continue to advance the principles of His earthly reign, I am acknowledging Him as my true King.

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The Day of the Lord July 30, 2014

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Here are my thoughts on 2 Peter 3.

Summary: Peter begins by speaking affectionately to his readers, stating that he has written them two letters to arouse them to godly life. He wants to focus their attention on Old Testament prophecy and apostolic teaching.

Peter then states that his exhortation is based on the fact that during the close of the Messianic dispensation, false teachers will appear; they will:

  • scoff
  • live evil lives
  • be skeptical about the First and Second Coming of Christ, since they assume that the world has not changed since the Old Testament times.

Yet these false teachers are willfully evil, as their assumption regarding the immutability of the world is incorrect – the Flood occurred. At that time, God used water to change the world; now, He can use fire to change the world.

Now Peter states although God has yet to use fire to change the world, there is a difference between the divine and human computation of time. In particular, His perseverance extends to these false teachers; His patience is balanced by His justice, though. The Second Coming of Christ is certain, and at that time, the world and the heavenly bodies will be burned up.

Peter then exhorts his readers to have an attitude of godly fear in light of this terrible event. They must display holy behavior, which stems from their holy character. They must earnestly long for this coming event – when they will meet Christ without shame and dwell permanently in their new, righteous home.

Peter reminds his readers that in Paul’s letters, he addresses the same themes that Peter has discussed in this letter; thus, he associates the letters of Paul with the Old Testament Scriptures as the Word of God. He states that unfortunately, unsteadfast souls are twisting Paul’s letters, especially the doctrine of justification.

Now Peter exhorts his readers to be watchful, since there are many dangers around them, and they might fail in facing them. He concludes by exhorting them to continue to grow in divine grace and have divine fellowship with God – who is worthy of all praise.

Thoughts: In verses 8-10, Peter discusses the Second Coming of Christ; in particular, he states that it will suddenly come upon us. Admittedly, when I read this passage, I started pondering the eschatological implications of Peter’s note on how “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”; perhaps since Christ ascended into heaven around 30 A.D., can we expect him to return around 2030 A.D., as that mark the “third day” since his ascension into heaven? I then remembered that dwelling on eschatology is rather unproductive, since I could put my time on this planet to better use by living a “holy and godly” life – especially in light of Peter’s exhortations. I hope to be found faithful when Christ returns, and so I must maintain my focus on that great Day without getting distracted by eschatology.

In verses 15 and 16, Peter discusses how Paul’s letters are equivalent to the Old Testament Scriptures. Thomas offers some insights on this point:

Ignorant and unsteadfast souls were already twisting Paul’s writings. Probably the reference is a general one, or it may be specifically to Paul’s letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians, included in the churches of Asia Minor, to which Peter was writing (1 Peter 1:1). It is thought with great probability that it was St. Paul’s doctrine of justification that was particularly causing their own destruction (verse 16).

I am certainly eager to meet Peter and Paul in the next life and delve into their relationship; in particular, I would like to know how Paul viewed Peter’s letters. Did Paul know about Peter’s letters? If so, and if he also knew about Jude’s letter, how did he react to the common links between this letter and Jude’s letter? On a slightly different tack…if false teachers in Asia Minor were already twisting Paul’s teaching regarding the doctrine of justification, how did they respond to this letter? How many of Paul’s letters did Peter read? Did he have a special affection for any of Paul’s letters?

In verse 18, Peter highlights the importance of “knowledge” in the Christian life, especially as believers anticipate the Second Coming of Christ. Thomas offers some insights on this point:

Knowledge of God here, as elsewhere, implies personal experience and conscious fellowship, and this is one of the prime secrets of Christian steadfastness and progress. Thus the letter ends as it began, with its keynote of knowledge.

When I was in the fourth grade, I received a Bible from my Sunday School teacher, and she wrote this verse on the front endpaper. I still use that Bible when I 1) teach Sunday School and 2) participate in small group Bible studies, and I’ve occasionally pondered this verse. Now that I have completed my stroll through this letter, I have a new perspective on the concept of “knowledge.” Indeed, I now see that while it is good to have some understanding of God at an intellectual level, I must not be satisfied with my progress in that regard – I need to have divine fellowship with Him in order to truly know Him. If it is His will, I hope to know Him more in that regard.

Prophecy of Scripture July 20, 2014

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Here are my thoughts on 2 Peter 1:12-21.

Summary: In light of Peter’s exhortations in the previous passage, he now reminds his readers that:

  • the truth that he has taught them is important
  • they have a constant need of it – since they face great dangers.

Thus, he is strengthening them in this letter. Moreover, he knows that his physical death is imminent, and so he alludes to the Gospel of Mark, which will strengthen them after his death.

Peter then states that he did not waste his time in carefully tracing out many sophisticated myths when he preached the Gospel message to them; instead, he told them the truth regarding the first and second coming of Christ. His message was confirmed by the Transfiguration, when he heard God the Father testify that Jesus is God the Son.

Now Peter asserts that the first coming of Christ was the fulfillment of prophetic testimony, and so his readers should carefully study this testimony in the Old Testament. Indeed, the Old Testament is a light that reveals the dirt and filth of sin. They should also study the Old Testament in glorious expectation of the second coming of Christ. Peter concludes by asserting that the writers of the Old Testament did not unfold their own prophecies; instead, these prophecies came from God.

Thoughts: In verses 16-18, Peter uses the example of the Transfiguration to prove that he was an eyewitness of Christ and His power. Thomas offers some insights on this point:

The apostle thus shows that the Father’s testimony to his Son was the crowning proof of the power and authority of the gospel message…Once again the apostle introduces his own testimony. Not only did he see the glory of the Son, but he heard the voice.

While the resurrection of Jesus Christ may have been the driving force behind Peter’s faithful service as an apostle, this passage shows that the Transfiguration also influenced Peter’s ministry. I assume that whenever he reflected on this awesome event (in light of the resurrection), he was reminded that Jesus Christ – given the testimony of God the Father – truly is the Son of God, and this great fact demanded that he respond to it appropriately. Indeed, this great fact demanded that he give his whole life in service to Jesus Christ, and so he suffered to the point of being crucified upside down. Perhaps if I had been in Peter’s position, I would have walked the same path in light of this overwhelming experience of Christ and His power.

In verses 20 and 21, Peter asserts that the writers of the Old Testament were guided by the Holy Spirit. Recently I thought about how the Bible is “divinely inspired.” My understanding of this phrase is that the Holy Spirit did not dictate the exact contents of each book to its author. Instead, the Holy Spirit called each author to convey one message (or set of messages, depending on the book) to their readers. Given this message (or set of messages), the author was given the freedom to determine how to convey it to their readers; the final result is the set of books that Christians have enjoyed for centuries. For example, Paul displays his clear, logical mindset in his masterpiece, Romans. Also, Jeremiah pours out his passions and sorrows for his country in his eponymous book and in Lamentations. In addition, Solomon’s writing in Ecclesiastes is marked by his weariness from chasing after temporal pleasures. We can be thankful that the Holy Spirit allowed each writer to convey His message in their own words – allowing us to relate to His message.

Strolling Through the Book of Second Peter July 15, 2014

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I’ve recently started reading through the Second Epistle of Peter with the aid of a commentary by Griffith Thomas. I should note that I’ve previously read through 2 Peter. As in my recent stroll through the book of 1 Peter, I hope to comprehend 2 Peter as a whole. In particular, I would like to compare 2 Peter with 1 Peter and Jude.

I plan to blog about this experience as I read through both the epistle and Thomas’ commentary. Each post will correspond to a specific section in the NIV translation.

For starters, here are my thoughts on 2 Peter 1:1-2.

Summary: Peter begins by referencing his life before and after discipleship to Christ; he also references the general and special aspects of his relationship to Christ. He addresses his readers by highlighting their spiritual privilege and describing its foundation – Christ Himself.

Peter concludes by greeting his readers and wishing that they would receive God’s divine favor and its attendant blessings – which will flow from their mature knowledge of God.

Thoughts: In verse 2, Peter wishes that his readers would receive God’s blessings through their knowledge of Him. Thomas offers some insights on this point:

The reference to knowledge as the source of grace and peace at once brings into prominence the keyword of the letter. The Greek is epignosis, full or mature knowledge. It is found fifteen times in St. Paul, once in Hebrews, four times in 2 Peter, and nowhere else. All spiritual grace comes from our personal knowledge and experience of God (see verse 3). Those who “know their God” will be strong…

As I stroll through this letter, I will determine if it is based on epignosis. I am definitely curious as to how this apparent focus on the knowledge of God compares/contrasts with Peter’s focus in his previous letter:

  • God has called his readers from a life of futility to a life of eternal blessings
  • their lives should reflect this calling – even in the face of persecution.

Now perhaps the “experience of God” that Thomas notes above is a critical aspect of living a holy life – enabling a believer to maintain their standing in Him despite the attacks of unbelievers. Once a believer has come to know God on an intellectual level and an experiential level, they cannot depart from Him, as their understanding and emotions are inextricably tied to Him. I certainly hope to make progress in this regard, especially in terms of the experiential aspect of mature knowledge…

To Elders and Young Men June 29, 2014

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Here are my thoughts on 1 Peter 5:1-11.

Summary: Peter begins by exhorting pastors to feed Christ’s followers; he is qualified to make this exhortation, as he:

  • is also a minister of the Gospel message
  • was an eyewitness of Christ’s sufferings
  • will receive a rich inheritance at Christ’s Second Coming.

They should not:

  • be reluctant to feed Christ’s followers
  • exercise their authority in a tyrannical fashion.

Instead, they should:

  • choose to obey their calling
  • take delight in feeding Christ’s followers
  • be a pattern with which Christ’s followers will stamp their spirits.

In this way, they will be kings at Christ’s Second Coming.

Peter then exhorts younger believers to respect and obey their pastors; he also exhorts all believers to work hard to be the lowest. To support the latter point, he quotes from Proverbs 3:34, where it is stated that while God singles out those who flatter themselves as His enemies, He shows His divine favor to those who abase themselves. Thus, they should abase themselves before God – who is all-powerful – and He will refresh them in His wisely appointed time. Moreover, they should lay their desires and cares before God, since He orders everything for their benefit.

Now Peter exhorts his readers to be sober-minded and watchful, since Satan – who is strong, diligent and cruel – wants to destroy their souls. They must not allow Satan to destroy their souls; they must take hold of God’s promises. Moreover, they should be encouraged by the fact that Satan wants to destroy the souls of all believers; thus, they are not being singled out for temptation.

Peter then prays that God, who:

  • is the spring of divine favor
  • has united them to Christ
  • allowed them to behold and enjoy Him forever

would:

  • enable them to progress toward perfection
  • allow them to grow in their graces
  • support them against Satan’s attacks
  • help them to fix on the sure foundation of Christ.

Peter concludes by praising God, stating that He has everlasting authority and royal sovereignty.

Thoughts: In verse 8, Peter states that Satan wants to destroy the souls of believers. Leighton offers some warnings on this point:

He usually hides himself and lies hidden until he attacks us when we are least expecting it…He studies our nature and attacks with suitable temptations. He knows our bias toward lust and worldly ways and pride…He waits for his opportunity and then pounces with a fierce assault…He goes around and spots their weak points and then attacks them where they are least able to resist.

I have found that Satan often attacks me after I experience a “spiritual high,” e.g. after I have strengthened and encouraged a new believer. Before each of those attacks, I was confident that I was making progress in my spiritual walk; some of those attacks caused me to stumble, though. Thus, this passage is a helpful reminder of the importance of being sober-minded. Also, I should stress that I need the help of the Holy Spirit when repelling the assaults of Satan, as Satan preys on my inherent sloth and complacency. Lastly, I should stress that I have achieved some victories over Satan in these battles, which is a great encouragement in this lifelong struggle.

In verse 10, Peter reminds his readers that God has called them to share in an awesome inheritance that He has prepared for them in heaven. Leighton offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

Notwithstanding all the mercies multiplied upon us, where are our praises, our songs of deliverance, our ascribing glory and power to our God who has gone before us with loving-kindness and tender mercies? He has removed the strokes of his hand and made cities and villages populated again that were left desolate of inhabitants. [This was most probably written in 1653. The years 1652 and 1653 were remarkable for fine weather and plentiful harvests; and under Cromwell the country was enjoying a security and peace it had never known before and was already beginning to recover from the desolating influences of sword, pestilence and famine. – Editor’s note.]

In light of the pestilence and other above-mentioned troubles, Leighton and his readers had many reasons to praise God. I am eager to meet Leighton’s readers in the next life and see how they responded to Leighton’s challenge. Did they offer genuine praise to God in light of His external blessings? Did they later fall into complacency after experiencing His blessings for a long stretch of time? Did they endure subsequent “sword, pestilence and famine” and praise God in the midst of those difficulties? Leighton offers many challenges in his commentary, and hopefully his readers responded positively to them. On a somewhat-related note, it would be neat to meet other believers in the next life who, while not belonging to the set of Leighton’s contemporaries, read his commentary and were strengthened by his exhortations.

Suffering for Being a Christian June 27, 2014

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Here are my thoughts on 1 Peter 4:12-19.

Summary: Peter begins by exhorting his readers to acquaint their thoughts and hearts with suffering. Indeed, if they commune with Christ in suffering, then they will be filled with joy at His Second Coming; thus, they should rejoice. When they are taunted by unbelievers, they are blessed, since they have been anointed with the Spirit of Christ. Now the suffering that they should be acquainted with should not stem from their living in an impure and unholy way; instead, this suffering should stem from their communion with Christ. He asserts that believers will suffer before the Second Coming of Christ; after His Second Coming, though, unbelievers will suffer terribly. To support this point, he quotes from Proverbs 11:31, where it is stated that:

  • those who endeavor to walk uprightly in the ways of God will encounter great difficulties in the process
  • those who do not endeavor to walk in the ways of God will encounter even greater difficulties after they die.

Peter concludes by asserting that believers – who suffer according to God’s good pleasure – should place their souls in His safekeeping and follow His will in everything.

Thoughts: In verses 12 and 13, Peter states that the Christian life necessarily entails some degree of suffering. Leighton offers some thoughts on this point:

The ungodly world hates holiness, despising the Light. And the more the children of God walk like their Father and their future home, the more unlike they must be, of necessity, from the world around them. Therefore, they become the target of all the malice of their enemies. And thus the godly, though the sons of peace, are the occasion of much disturbance in the world.

Believers who live in nominally Christian nations such as the United States may have difficulty applying this passage to their context – compared to believers who live in nations where the political structure is directly opposed to Christianity. As a believer in a nominally Christian nation, I am thankful for the separation between church and state along with the freedom to practice my religion…yet I feel disadvantaged in that I wonder if this passage truly applies to me. Indeed, many of the New Testament epistles were written to believers who were enduring persecution. Now one might note that members of the Christian right can apply this passage to their context, as they have endured their fair share of insults and verbal assaults from those who oppose their views on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Yet one might ask: has the Christian right truly acted in a “godly” way in advancing their agenda? Can a believer in a nominally “Christian” nation truly incur “all the malice of their enemies” by acting in a godly way?

In verses 14-16, Peter states that when believers suffer, their suffering should stem from their holy lives. Leighton offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

So what if you are poor, mocked, and despised? The end of all this is at hand. This is now your part, but the scene will be changed. Kings here, real ones, are in deepest reality mere stage kings. [If, as there is good reason to believe, these words were written soon after the battle of Worcester, September 3, 1651, they have a special significance, referring to the dethronement and tragic end of Charles I. – Editor’s note.] But when you are no longer the person you now are, how glorious will be the result. You appeared to be a fool for a moment, but you will truly be a king forever.

I was inspired to learn about the Battle of Worcester, and my research clarified that Charles II, not Charles I, was defeated at that decisive engagement. My research also revealed that Charles II opposed Presbyterianism in Scotland, implying that Leighton struggled under his reign. Thus, it can be inferred that Leighton applied this passage to his context, essentially stating that Charles II and his supporters persecuted him for living a holy life. Did God approve of Leighton’s thoughts in this regard? Since Charles II was a member of the Church of England, was Leighton making a legitimate application of Peter’s exhortations (i.e. could a conflict between two Christian denominations be viewed as an example of persecution)? Perhaps if Charles II was only a nominal Christian, then Leighton would have been justified in his application of this passage. I am eager to meet Leighton in the next life and probe him on this section of his commentary.

Living for God June 17, 2014

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Here are my thoughts on 1 Peter 4:1-11.

Summary: Peter begins by telling his readers that since Christ suffered in their place, they must conform to Him by suffering in their bodies – ceasing from sin. Instead of walking in the ways of impiety, they are living sacrifices entirely offered up to God. Before their conversion, they had conformed to the world by walking in the ways of impiety. Now that they have been saved, they do not pour out their affections on ruinous vanities – and so unbelievers revile them. Yet at the supreme and final judgment, God will call these unbelievers to account for their insults. He also encourages them by reminding them that all deceased believers:

  • were converted at some point
  • ceased from sin after their conversion while enduring the insults of unbelievers
  • are now united to Christ.

Peter then reminds his readers that the supreme and final judgment will soon occur; thus, they should be sober and watchful – enabling them to pray in an acceptable way. Moreover, each of them must:

  • follow their primary duty of strongly seeking the good of others – enabling them to forgive their mutual failings
  • supply the needs of others based on the previous exhortation
  • use their endowments to seek the good of others, as God has given believers a variety of endowments.

Peter concludes with the following exhortations:

  • those who preach the Gospel message must speak wisely and in a holy way
  • deacons must depend on God’s strength when performing their duties

and so their service will be for God’s glory – spurring him to add a doxology to his exhortations.

Thoughts: In verse 9, Peter exhorts his readers to show kindness to fellow peripatetic Christians. Leighton offers some insights on this point:

One practical way to supply the necessities of our brothers is to cut back on our own excesses. Turn the stream into that channel where it will refresh your brothers and enrich yourself, and let it not run into the Dead Sea. Your vain excessive entertainments, your gaudy variety of clothing, these you do not question, for you think they are yours…You are a steward of all your possessions. If you do not share them, you are committing robbery. You are robbing your poor brothers who lack the necessities of life while you lavish on yourself what you do not need.

A quick scan of my e-mail inbox reveals that various entities tug at my purse strings. For example, an online retailer recommends that I purchase a book from their enormous inventory. Also, an airline encourages me to purchase a round-trip fare for a weekend getaway (along with renting a car and booking a hotel, if possible). In addition, my alma mater exhorts me to make a financial gift that will enable a current (or future) student to earn a life-changing diploma. Given all of these demands on my resources, how can I use my money wisely for the kingdom of God? I believe that it is important for Christians to formulate a financial plan so that they can give with a good conscience. This plan should be guided by the following compatible principles:

  • Christians do not need to sell all of their possessions
  • Christians should not be enslaved to their possessions.

In verse 11, Peter exhorts ministers of the Gospel message to preach with great caution. Leighton offers some thoughts on this point:

The Word is to be spoken wisely. By this I mean, it is to be delivered seriously and decently. Flippant remarks and unseemly gestures are to be avoided. You should speak with authority and mildness. Who is sufficient for such things?

I have discovered that during small group meetings, I have a tendency to say the first thing that comes to mind without considering its impact on the other attendees. Interestingly, another attendee has consistently challenged me when I have made unprofitable comments. While I still struggle to accept his criticisms, I have come to see that his primary concern is the spiritual welfare of our small group. This has spurred me to focus on presenting thoughts that can help the other attendees grow closer to God and to each other. Indeed, I have improved in terms of actually thinking through the implications of a particular statement or question before I verbalize it during our meetings. Perhaps this is God’s way of enabling me to tame my tongue, though I certainly have a long way to go in this regard.

Suffering for Doing Good June 11, 2014

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Here are my thoughts on 1 Peter 3:8-22.

Summary: Peter begins by exhorting believers to:

  • be of one mind
  • have compassion
  • love each other in Christ
  • be humble.

When they are attacked, they must seek the good of those who attack them, since they have been called to receive a holy inheritance. To support this point, he quotes from Psalm 34:12-16; in light of that passage, they must:

  • avoid profane speech, impious words, and speaking evil about people
  • loath evil and desire God’s glory
  • seek external peace with others.

Indeed, while God is angry with the wicked, He loves those who desire to walk with Him, and He answers their prayers.

Peter then notes that if his readers are ambitious to imitate God, then unbelievers may be overcome by their actions. Yet even if unbelievers attack them, they should be happy; to support this point, he quotes from Isaiah 8:12; in light of that passage, their souls should not become confused in the midst of the attacks of unbelievers. Instead, they must:

  • worship Christ
  • be ready to gently defend their faith when unbelievers attack them – by speaking about their faith with reverence.

Their inner nature must remain holy, so that those who attack them by speaking ill of them will acknowledge that their accusations have no merit. Moreover, if it is God’s will for believers to be attacked by unbelievers, then they will benefit from these attacks. To support this point, Peter reminds them that Christ suffered and died so that everyone could be received into friendship with God; Christ – in terms of His human nature – died violently, yet His human nature was then united to the spring of life. Also, Christ spoke through Noah to his contemporaries and warned them that He would judge their sinfulness; He bore with them, yet they did not believe His messenger, Noah. God then brought a flood on the earth, and only Noah and his family survived in the ark. This story also reminds believers that their baptism confirms their salvation; their souls are now at peace with God, and the resurrection of Christ confirms this great fact. Peter concludes by noting that Christ:

  • has ascended into heaven
  • has supreme dignity
  • is supreme over all of the elect angels.

Thoughts: In verses 19-21, Peter connects the flood that Noah and his family survived with the water of ritual baptism. Leighton offers some insights regarding baptism:

Thus, we have a true account of this power, and so of other sacraments, and we find the error of two extremes. First, that of those who ascribe too much to them, as if they worked through a natural, inherent value and carried grace in them inseparably. Second, the error of those who ascribe too little to them, making them only signs and badges of our profession. Signs they are, but more than signs that merely represent something. They are the means exhibiting and seals confirming grace to the faithful.

I would say that I am guilty of the latter error that Leighton notes above, as my perspective on baptism is that it constitutes another step in a believer’s spiritual walk. Now I should add that baptism is a distinctive step in this journey, as it typically entails the first public declaration of a believer’s faith. As for the former error that Leighton notes above, I have seen fellow believers place undue weight on baptismal ceremonies; also, I know people who were baptized and later wandered away from their faith. Perhaps any believer who is preparing for their baptism should consider how this public declaration of faith should spur them to make further progress in their spiritual walk. In particular, when I was baptized about ten years ago, I felt compelled to set a good example for others through my subsequent words and deeds, and I achieved some success in this regard.

In verse 22, Peter encourages believers in light of the fact that Christ is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. Leighton offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

Would death be a terrifying word? Would it not, indeed, be one of the sweetest thoughts to make us rejoice, to bring our hearts solace and rest, as we look forward to the day of freedom? This infectious disease may stay here all winter and break out again more strongly again next year. [A plague ravaged Lothian in 1645 and first appeared at Newbattle in July 1645 and did not end until the end of 1646. – Editor’s note.] Do not flatter yourselves and think it has passed. But consider how Christ wishes us to contemplate our union with him.

A quick Google search revealed an interesting article on the plague that Leighton references above. Clearly Leighton and his readers were deeply affected by the plague, as about half of the population of Leith perished as a result of the disease. In the midst of great fear and panic, Leighton used this passage to encourage his readers to focus on their awesome status in Christ. Black rats, infected fleas, gangrene, etc. could cause great physical and emotional trauma, yet these temporal troubles could not affect the eternal inheritance that God had stored up for them in heaven. Perhaps we should heed Leighton’s advice in the midst of our contemporary troubles and difficulties by asking God to help us view these setbacks through His eyes.

Submission to Rulers and Masters May 17, 2014

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Here are my thoughts on 1 Peter 2:13-25.

Summary: Peter begins by exhorting his readers to submit to all civil powers, since God has:

  • appointed civil government as a common good among men
  • commanded believers to obey it.

Moreover, God desires that believers submit to all civil powers so that they can muzzle those who speak evil of them. While He has given them Christian freedom, they should not use it to live in disobedience to any civil power; instead, they should be obedient to Him. Since they do not want to displease Him, they should honor all people; they should display a special love for other believers and obey all civil powers.

Peter then exhorts Christian slaves to keep their place under their masters – even masters who are enslaved to their own passions. Now diligent slaves who keep their place under their masters may still suffer at their hands, yet since they know God and do not want to displease Him, He will reward them. Also, they should maintain their diligence since the actions of Christ on Earth should be copied by His followers. As an example, Peter quotes from Isaiah 53:9 – since Christ was perfectly holy, all of His words flowed from a pure spring. He maintained His holiness in silence when He was tormented, since He placed His life into God’s hands. Now the sins of all people were transferred to Him when He was crucified – enabling them to hate sin and delight in God’s will; His suffering has opened up a way for people to repent and be freed of God’s wrath. Peter concludes by reminding his readers that although they had wandered from God, they have now come to Christ, who provides for them and heals them.

Thoughts: In verses 13-17, Peter exhorts believers to obey the governing authorities – thereby vindicating themselves in light of the accusations of non-believers. Leighton offers some insights on this point:

One of the most false yet common prejudices the world has had against true religion is that it is an enemy of civil power and government. The enemies of the Jews made this accusation as Jerusalem was being rebuilt: “In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place of rebellion from ancient times. That is why this city was destroyed” (Ezra 4:15).

It is safe to say that believers in the United States have little difficulty submitting to their government, which is not the case for believers in nations such as China, Indonesia and Egypt. On one hand, believers who are subject to oppressive regimes can draw great strength from this passage in the midst of their suffering, as they can readily identify with Peter’s original readers. On the other hand, believers who are not being persecuted by their government can feel rather disconnected from this passage; should they merely file it away for future reference? Perhaps this passage should remind them to give thanks to God for His blessings in allowing them to reside in a particular country, and it should spur them to consider how they can be better political subjects.

In verse 25, Peter notes that Christ guides believers as their Shepherd. Leighton offers some thoughts on this point:

Young and weak Christians, and also older ones when weak and weighed down with problems, are led gently and with the tenderness that their weakness requires. The Shepherd provides for his flock, heals them when they are injured, washes them, and makes them fruitful.

I thought about Psalm 23, which portrays Christ as the Shepherd of believers, who are His sheep. We picture Christ leading us in a peaceful setting with an abundance of green grass and gently flowing streams; brilliant sunshine and a beautiful breeze complete the picture. While this is assuredly the case in the next life – and also describes this life to some extent – it seems that the context of this passage implies that we, as sheep, experience many difficulties in this life. Perhaps this passage pictures Christ leading us through ravines and thickets, helping us navigate dangerous mountain passes, fending off a host of hungry wolves, etc. These sobering realities should spur us toward greater thankfulness to Christ as our Shepherd.

Be Holy May 3, 2014

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Peter 1:13-2:3.

Summary: Peter begins by exhorting his readers to:

  • gird up their affections
  • keep watch
  • rest perfectly on the salvation that they will fully receive at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Since they are the children of God, they must separate themselves from the polluted habits that resided in their hearts when their souls were in complete darkness. He quotes from Leviticus 11:44 to drive home this point: since God is set apart from the world, they must also be set apart from the world.

Peter then reminds his readers that since they are the children of God – who will fairly assess all actions, words and thoughts – they should be:

  • mindful that the Earth is not their permanent home
  • reluctant to displease God.

They know that God did not use temporal things – even items that people value most highly – to free them from a life of slavery to sinful habits and vain religious devices. Instead, He caused His perfect Son to suffer for them; He planned this before the beginning of time, and now He has manifested His Son through His incarnation, which has perpetual value for them. Thus, Christ – through His work – has placed Himself between them and the Father, and so they can place their faith in the Father.

Now Peter states that since his readers are being renewed through their obedience to God’s rule of purity, they should genuinely seek the good of others. This stems from the fact that the abiding Gospel message has made them the children of God. He quotes from Isaiah 40:6-8 to drive home this point: while everyone will eventually turn to dust, the Gospel message that they have received is incorruptible.

Since Peter’s readers are the children of God, they must not:

  • wish evil on others
  • be jealous of the goodness of others
  • carry these evils around under better appearances.

Instead, they must act like infants by exhibiting a vehement desire for the Gospel message, which transforms and enlightens them. Peter concludes by reminding them that this vehement desire should be their natural response to God’s kind disposition toward them.

Thoughts: In verse 13 of chapter 1, Peter exhorts his readers to prepare themselves for the Second Coming of Christ. Leighton offers some thoughts on this point:

Therefore it is a day of grace, and all light and blessedness to those who are in Christ, because they will appear with him. If Christ is glorious, they will not be without honor and ashamed. If we were then to be confronted by our secret sins and have them exposed to the view of everyone, who could look forward to that day? This is how all unbelieving people view that day, and so they find it most frightening.

I wonder if many believers – especially Christians who dwell in First World countries – consciously live for the time when Jesus will return to the Earth. Living in a comfortable setting enables us to enjoy the pleasures of life; moreover, we often derive our security and satisfaction from these pleasures. Does this imply that all Christians must relocate to Third World countries in order to properly anticipate the return of Christ? Can we truly live for the Second Coming in a comfortable setting? I find this concept to be quite challenging in that I wonder if I can truly long for the Second Coming if I am not being persecuted or suffering for His Name. I certainly need more wisdom and strength from God as I wrestle with this issue.

In verse 17 of chapter 1, Peter exhorts his readers to live in a way that will not displease God. Leighton offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

In the great judgment all secret things will be revealed. As all secret things are already open to the eye of this Judge, so they will then be opened to all people and angels.

I wonder if the “secret things” of believers “will be revealed”; was Leighton only thinking of unbelievers? Clearly all believers have entertained sinful thoughts at some point in their lives, as no one is perfect. If the “secret things” of believers “will be revealed,” then their sinful thoughts are “opened to all people and angels” at the Last Judgment. Will a believer experience a temporary sensation of embarrassment and guilt at that time before God declares that the blood of Christ has covered them? Will this revelation determine one’s standing in heaven, i.e. those who have entertained the fewest sinful thoughts will receive the highest places in heaven? I am definitely curious as to how God will answer these questions.

In verse 2 of chapter 2, Peter exhorts his readers to have a burning desire for the Gospel message. Leighton offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

And because it is natural, it is, second, an earnest desire. This is no cold, indifferent wish. The Greek epipothe sate signifies vehement desire – like a baby who will not be satisfied until it has breast milk, even if you offered it gold and silver. The baby ignores these, for they do not meet its desire, which must be satisfied.

Since I am fairly disciplined, I have no difficulty maintaining my habit of studying God’s Word. Now I wonder how I can reconcile my habit with Peter’s point that we:

  • must consciously seek after God’s Word
  • will feel satisfied after studying God’s Word.

I experience this feeling of satisfaction every now and then, especially after I read a memorable passage or come across an insightful thought by a Bible commentator. It is safe to say that some believers, including mature Christians, experience this feeling of satisfaction more often. Perhaps as I allow the Word to challenge me more often, I will have more of a “vehement desire” for it; putting the Word into practice can be painful, but it often leaves a deep impression on the soul.