February 9, 2014

Scripture and Comments, February 10-15

Monday , February 10                    

Morning - Ps. 79, Prov. 26:17, 1 Pet. 1:1-12
Evening - Ps. 81, Is, 14:3-11, 1 Thes. 1

            First and Second Peter were written from Rome near the beginning of the period of persecution which the Book of Revelation calls "the great tribulation" (Rev. 7:14).  It was a time of death and suffering for the Church, beginning with Nero in A.D. 64 and lasting nearly 250 years until Constantine granted the Church official status.  Peter and Paul were martyred during this time.  John was imprisoned on Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation, and Christians throughout the Empire were tortured and killed in an attempt to wipe their faith off the face of the earth  
            1 Peter, like Revelation, was written at the beginning of this tribulation to urge Christians to keep the faith, even at the cost of their lives.  It was addressed to Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, and was hand carried to them by Silvanus (1 Pet.5:12).  Peter was probably evangelising these areas when Paul was directed by the Holy Spirit to go east into Europe (Acts 16:6-11).  Thus, by the providence of God, the lands around Israel were blessed with the teaching and oversight of three of the best known Apostles. Paul ministered along the coastal area of Asia Minor and into the heartland of Greece and beyond.  John had Apostolic oversight of Asia Minor, to which he wrote the book of Revelation.  Peter had care of the area to the northwest of Asia Minor, to which he addressed his first epistle.
            The theme of 1 Peter is faithfulness under trial based on the inheritance reserved for us in Heaven (1:4).  He reminds us that we are strangers in this world, therefore, we should not be surprised to find that the world opposes us, or that we are never quite happy with it.  But, though we face troubles and sorrows in this world, rejoice, for they are only the fire that refines our hearts for God.  And when the trials of life are over, we will receive an inheritance with Christ, and the salvation of our souls.
            Do you find that the world disappoints you?  Are you discouraged at the actions of your civil leaders?  Does the future look uncertain?  That is the way of the world.  Sinners sin, and we cannot expect them to think and act like Christians, nor can we expect their plans and activities to solve the problems of life.  Do your burdens seem heavy?  Is life filled with disappointments and trials?  Did you expect God to make things easy for you?  Worldly peace and happiness were never the goal of God for you.  Do not be discouraged.  Your "heaviness" lasts but for a "season" (1:6), your joy in Heaven will last forever (1:4).   Yes, God promises to be with His people in this life (1 Pet. 1:5), but He is with them to bring them safe at last to a place where sin and grief, sickness and death, and fear and despair are dispelled by the immediate presence of God (1 Pet. 1:3, 4, 7, 9).   

Tuesday, February 11

Morning - Ps. 82, 101, Prov. 27:1-6, 10-12, 1 Pet. 1:13
Evening - Ps. 90, Is. 14:12-20, 1 Thes. 2:1-13

            Since we are elect by the foreknowledge of God (1:2), kept by the power of God (1:5), and have an incorruptible inheritance and salvation (1:4 & 9), we are called to conduct our thoughts and lives in ways that are compatible with our faith and our God.  The whole intent and meaning of today's reading is expressed in the words of God quoted in verse 16, "Be ye holy; for I am holy."   Holiness is our goal in life.  Or, at least, it should be.  Truthfully, however, we often forget about holiness.  We try to make personal peace and comfort our goal.  We try to devote ourselves to amusements and pleasures, and to enjoying the good life instead of living quiet and holy lives with God.  But amusements and pleasures, and even the good life, can never really satisfy the needs of our souls.  In fact, they often bring more frustration than pleasure, for they usually fail to live up to our expectations.  It is much more satisfying to devote ourselves to our God given duties, and to seek holiness in every aspect of life.

Wednesday, February 12

Morning - Ps. 86, Prov.28:1-13, 1 Pet.2:1-10
Evening - Ps. 91, Is. 22:1-5, 12-14, 1 Thes. 2:17-3:13

            The first three verses of chapter two build upon the truth stated in verse 25 of chapter one; "But the word of the Lord endureth forever."  These words conclude a thought which permeates chapter one, which is that life on this planet is short, and what ever it brings to you, whether joys or trials, will be over soon.  "But the word of the Lord endureth forever."  "Wherefore," meaning, based upon this truth, chapter 2, verses 1-3 encourages a response from us, which is plainly stated in 2:2; "as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby."
            The reasoning in these verses goes as follows.  First, we have been redeemed with nothing less than the precious blood of Christ Himself, who shed His own blood to pay for our sins (1:18-19)  Second, by the preaching and hearing of the word (message) of Christ we are born again into the Kingdom of God.  Third, unlike flesh and grass, the word of God "liveth and abideth forever" (1:23-25). The "word of God" (1:23) has a dual meaning.  It is both Christ the Living Word, and the story of Christ, the Gospel, which includes the entire Biblical narrative about our creation, fall into sin, the nature and being of God, and the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, who came to give His life for our redemption (1:25).  This Word will never pass away or become outdated or irrelevant.  It "endureth forever" (1:25).  Therefore, feed on the Word.  Feed on Christ.  Feed your soul with the Gospel.  Feed your soul with the Bible.  Lay aside all impediments and sinful inclinations, and, as newborn babes desire their mother's milk, desire and be nourished with the sincere milk of the Word.
            Unbelievers, to their eternal destruction, have rejected the Word.  Thus, the same Jesus sent by God to be the foundation and cornerstone of our salvation is to them a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence (2:5-8).  They feel insulted by the teaching that they are sinners, and cannot earn their way to Heaven by their own good works.  They trip over the Gospel.  They cannot accept it.
            Finally, we see in this passage the Church of Jesus Christ.  It is first of all built upon Him.  This means He redeemed it by giving Himself for it.  We, the members of His Church, did not save ourselves by "being good."  He rescued us from death row by dying in our places.  He has brought us into a new relationship with God, and has made us to be a part of His new Israel, which He calls the Church.  He says we are living stones in His spiritual house, and a holy priesthood offering up spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ (2:5).  The image of a spiritual house, meaning, the House of God, in which we are living stones, is a beautiful word picture of the Church.  We are founded on Christ, cemented together by His Word, and if we are not in our places we leave an ugly hole in God's House.  Within the Church we offer spiritual sacrifices of love to God, true worship, and holy living.  Like Israel of old, we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people belonging to God (peculiar people) and we live to "shew forth the praises of him" (2:9).  Once we were not a people.  That is, once we were not a family.  Once we were not a nation.  Once we were not the Church.  Once we were strangers to God and each other.  But now we have been brought into the family and House of God.  We are His people, the new Israel, the Church.  There is a bond between us now.  We are one.  God's mercy makes us one.
            This truth should cause us to turn to the Word of God in Scripture (2:1-3).  It should lead us to lay aside sin and the silly diversions of earth and devote ourselves to the Word that we may grow thereby.  It should lead us to grow in our knowledge of the Word, and through it, in our knowledge and love of God.  It should lead us to grow in offering spiritual sacrifices to God.  It should lead us to grow in our love and service to His Church.

Thursday, February 13

Morning - Ps. 89:1-19, Prov. 29:11-25, 1 Pet. 2:11-17
Evening - Ps. 94, Is. 24:1-6, 10-16, 1 Thes. 4:1-12

            Our Divine rescue from the death row of souls is reason enough for us to make every effort to live a life that is devoted to God and pleasing to Him.  But there is also another reason to do so; the world is watching.  When Peter wrote this letter a fire had recently burned much of Rome, and Nero, Emperor of Rome, falsely accused Christians of starting it intentionally.  Soon Christians were being blamed for everything from crimes to natural disasters.  Christians were accused of practicing cannibalism in Holy Communion, and of stealing babies to kill and eat them in their worship.  They were accused of promoting an armed rebellion of slaves against their masters, and of urging women to desert their families.  All of these accusations were false, of course.  The flesh and blood of Holy Communion were bread and wine, just as we use today.  The equality of all people, before God and in the Church promoted peace between masters and servants based on Biblical morality and on their brotherhood in Christ.  And the equality of men and women encouraged, rather than diminished their working together in the home.  But the Romans did not understand these things.  They feared that a rise in Christianity would lead to the demise of the Roman system, and that, if allowed to increase, Christians might become powerful enough to overthrow the Roman government by force.  So an anti-Christian agenda began to spread throughout the Empire fed by official propaganda.  How would the Church respond?  Peter wanted it to respond by exemplary living which will show the Romans and non-Christians that Christians are a benefit to Rome and to their communities (2:12).  Christians should be good citizens and honour the government whenever possible (2:13-17), even a government that is hostile to them.

Friday, February 14

Morning - Ps. 92, Prov. 30:4-9, 1 Pet. 2:18
Evening - Ps.102, Is. 31, 1 Thes. 4:13

            Today's reading continues the theme of good citizenship begun in yesterday's reading.  The principle of forbearance and good will, following the example of Christ is to be the foundation of our actions and attitudes within our society.  Thus, Christians should be good workers and good people to work for. This is true even of slaves; even slaves who are kept by cruel masters (2:18-24).  It should be noted here that Peter is not justifying slavery. He is telling slaves to endure their condition as Christ endured His, and to do their work as unto God, so the Romans will have no grounds for accusations against them. Slaves should be gentle and forgiving, not pushy or vengeful, and they should bear wrongs done against them with patience as Christ also bore His suffering (2:19-24).
            Peter gives one of the most succinct statements of the Gospel message in verses 21-25.  He begins with Christ as our example when faced with unjust accusations and sufferings (2:23).  But he moves beyond that to the blessed result of Christ's sufferings for those who receive Him by faith. Christ, "in his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree (cross), that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (2:24).  Christ suffered for our sins.  He took our stripes (beating, punishment).  He died in our places, the innocent for the guilty, and the righteous for the wicked.  He suffered for us because we were like sheep going astray, lost and defenseless in a wilderness filled with danger.  By His suffering He has brought us back to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.

Saturday, February 15

Morning - Ps. 97, Prov. 31:10, 1 Pet. 3:1-12
Evening - Ps. 84, 122, Is. 47:1, 7-15, 1 Thes. 5:1-11

            Exemplary living for the sake of Christ, and in demonstration of the untruth of accusations against the Church, continues as the theme of today's reading.  While there are many reasons for the wife to be in subjection to her husband, one of the most important is to crush accusations from outside the Church that Christian women are sexually promiscuous, and are urging all women to desert their husbands and children or to become sources of family discord.  Roman women were little more than property.  They lived under strict rules regarding social activities, dress, and behaviour.  They essentially lived their lives under house arrest, only being allowed out when their husbands wished.  The Romans, hearing Christians say men and women are equals, expected Christian women to be abrasive trouble makers without sexual morals.  Instead Peter tells Christian women to be in subjection to their husbands because it is the will of God, and because it shows non-Christians that a Christian family based on love works better than a non-Christian family based on force.  So, Christian women dressed modestly because they were modest.  They looked chaste because they were chaste.  They appeared to have a gentle, quiet spirit because they had a gentle, quiet spirit.
            "Weaker vessel" (3:7) refers to both physical strength, and to the emotional/hormonal changes to which women are subject.  It is not a derogatory comment; it simply recognises that discomfort taxes any person's patience, and it requires men to take this into account.  Men are to give honour to their wives.  Unlike the Romans, whose treatment of women bordered on slavery, the Christian husband remembers that his Christian wife is an heir of grace with him.  Therefore he treats her as a fellow Christian, beloved both by himself and by God.
            Verses 8-12 guide relationships within the Church, and give principles for life in general.  Being of one mind and loving one another as brethren obviously refers to the way we relate to fellow Christians.  But the principles of verses 9-12 are for every day as well as Sunday.  They are for life in the world as well as life in the Church.