So…..What's the Point?

Musings from a Fellow Struggler

Archive for the month “November, 2011”

Thoughts on Peter’s First Letter, cont’d- Chapter 1, verse 2

We discovered from earlier blogs that the people to whom Peter writes are enduring persecution for their faith and living as “foreigners” in a hostile society. This is especially helpful for us because I see a time coming when we Christians will see increasing hostility towards our faith and our Lord.

A theme that emerges in chapter 1 is salvation (vv 5, 9, 10), what it is, how we got it and what it means. Peter teaches his readers about what God has done for them and, by so doing, show how special, privileged and powerful they really are.  This is a ‘push-back’ against the tide of persecution, not by retaliation but through a proper attitude, faith and, most importantly, witness.

An exceedingly important part of the Christian faith is Trinitarianism or the belief that God’s essence, while remaining singular, is also a plurality; i.e. One God, Three Persons. We learn from this verse (and many others throughout the New Testament) that very early on Christians believed in the triunity of God and, by necessity, they believed and preached that Jesus Christ was God. It was only later after the passing of the apostles and during the great Christological debates that the Triunity of God and the divinity of Jesus became controversial.

For Peter, each person of the Trinity plays a distinct role in salvation. So, God the Father elects, God the Son’s blood is shed for the elect, and God the Spirit sanctifies the elect. Taking these in turn, divine election (ἐκλεκτοῖς) is a “choosing out from” humanity-at-large a people who will be His possession, an inheritance and given a special relationship with Him as sons and daughters. We learn from other New Testament passages that this election occurred before the world was even created. The word is related to ekklesia which is translated ‘church’ or “called out ones” expressing the idea that Christians are called out of society at large and, while part of that society, exist separate from it as holy ones or ‘saints’. Of course, this fits together with Peter’s concern that the “exiles” to whom he is writing live as saints within the surrounding hostile society.

It is important to note that it is God the Father who does the choosing; i.e. there is nothing we can do to sway the choice one way or another because it is compelled by His mercy and grace, neither of which we deserve. But, in response to those who might see this as unfair, that those not chosen never had a chance in the first place and therefore human free will is a false notion (predestination is sometimes thought to prove this), note the words “according to the foreknowledge of God”.  Given God’s omniscience and eternal point of view He can quite easily know who will and who will not embrace His love and forgiveness in Christ. Just because Jesus died for the sins of all doesn’t mean all will accept Him. Those that do are the elect, those that don’t, the damned.

Now, it is often the case that when the Trinity along with divine election, foreknowledge and predestination are discussed, eyes start to roll, brains freeze up and television becomes an attractive alternative. The truth is we simply won’t ever ‘get it’ about these matters because the very nature of our existence is finite; we don’t have the capacity to see it all clearly, no matter how hard we try. It’s like trying to pour the entire ocean into a single glass; it simply escapes containment. We become horribly misguided if we ever think understanding a glass filled with part of the ocean means we understand the whole ocean. So it is with God but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try;  we only need advance with humility and admit that not everything has to be fully understood to be fully believed.

But I digress. The point here is that Peter’s audience is part of the elect, the chosen of God.  They are the recipients of His love. They are the called ones set apart for Him alone and no man, no city, no magistrate, no government can separate them from Him. And no one of any rank or any authority or any power can enter into this relationship except they be called. They are elevated above princes, principalities or powers whether human or demonic; they are the holy ones of God. This is the push back, that knowing their election is secure they can advance into their world as light advances before darkness and though they might appear weak and endure derision from others, they are in fact more powerful than can be imagined even to the point that death itself cannot overcome them. They can, therefore, be calm and confident before their accusers knowing their weakness is occasion for God’s power to strengthen them against the tide and make their message all the more real to those who have ears to hear.

And this is as true for us today as it was for them. We need not apologize for, nor hide our faith for we are sons and daughters of God the Almighty. We are His elect, and need not cower before, nor fear anyone who resists us, nor ever doubt that what we believe is anything but eternal truth.


Who do we think we are, really?

It’s clear there is an increasing anti-Christian sentiment growing
in our society.

As it increases, and I believe it will, we take our place alongside those of past centuries who endured the same kind ridicule and venom by the same sort of societies under dominion by the same spirit of antichrist. This perpetual resistance to Christianity and the faith that overcomes it is one of the profound similarities that exist between the Church of today and the ancient Church. Jesus said it would be like this to His followers then, so it shouldn’t surprise us who follow Him now. Yet, I find myself asking the rhetorical question “Just who do these people think they are, railing against God’s people?”

 I think sometimes we treat these assaults, caricatures, lies and distortions as if there were something true about them. The early Christians seemed to, so much so that much of the New Testament was written to Jewish and Gentile converts who suffered a kind of cultural inferiority complex because of their faith, some even to the point of denying it (1 Peter comes to mind). And the picture the New Testament paints is breathtaking by describing us as magnificent creatures in Christ dead to this world but forever alive to God and who possess a wisdom, knowledge strength, love and joy that belongs to beings destined for eternity. So, I’ve learned that a better question to ask is “Who do we think we are as Christians?” The answers we give go a long way in dispelling any feelings of inferiority.

So, for example, we are the sons and daughters of God the Father and therefore royalty because of our lineage to the One that was, is and is to come, the Alpha and Omega, the eternal Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus the Christ. Nothing, or no one, in this world can even remotely come close to the majesty, power, wealth and dominion of the very least in the kingdom of God. You who are His child, no matter if you are sick, crippled, weak, poor or any other such thing, are more glorious than can be possibly imagined by the those who see you as inferior or useless. This creation and the one to come, even heaven itself, is your inheritance through Him who loved you and gave Himself for you.

Consider secondly that we are priests to God.  No higher honor or position is possible than serving God in the performance of worship; it cannot even be matched by the angels who continually serve Him. But, as priests we serve the needs of others, including the ones who see us as ignorant, uninformed or deluded. By interceding for them the power to change the course of their eternal destiny and the destinies of whole families and even nations flows through us. Perhaps the most important task we have as priests is standing in the breach and praying for those who curse us, hate us, spitefully use us and persecute us so that they too might come to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour; and the greater the resistance the greater the power that flows through us.

Consider thirdly that we are saints. Simply put, a saint is a ‘holy one’, someone separated from ‘normal’ humanity and set apart solely for the Lord’s bidding. In order to serve the Lord, a saint is first purified and then consecrated. They then take their place among a holy and consecrated people. We are called saints in the Bible because we are separated from the world, the flesh and the devil, purified by the blood of Jesus Christ and consecrated by the Holy Spirit for the sole purpose of serving God and serving others. In this capacity we act very much like priests unto God. However, the real significance is that we are ‘different’ from mainstream humanity because we are not citizens of this world anymore but pilgrims who already possess a destiny beyond imagination. We await its fulfillment while representing God’s kingdom here on earth just like an ambassador from one country to another.

We never can, nor will we, ‘fit in’ with popular culture as long as we resist sin and champion righteousness. If we try we will fail unless we abdicate our citizenry and fall into lock-step with a world in open rebellion against God. The truth is by trying to readjust our calling with the expectations of the world we become pathetic creatures who are neither good citizens of the world nor of heaven and whose effectiveness as ambassadors is lost. To openly reject the world, the flesh and devil, to live as ‘holy ones’ invites ridicule and rejection from those who have yet to know Christ as their Lord. They may be our families, our friends, our business associates or even other Christians so-called. But, whatever the case, we are commanded to stand fast in the faith we have received for we owe the world nothing but to God we owe everything.

Consider fourthly that we are members of the Body of Christ. Among other things, this means we are the hands, feet, ears, eyes and mouth of Jesus. As member of His Body we have a part in saying and doing the very same things Jesus did that changed the lives of people forever. A kind word, a thoughtful gesture, a kind look, the delivery of much-needed food or healing in lock-step with preaching the good news that salvation is available to all are but a few examples of our work.  And, notice, that as the members of His Body all that we do is a service to others, not ourselves. It is always an outreach and a sacrifice with no thought of getting anything in return; the reward is the service itself.

This idea that each of us is part of a larger whole is an important counter to the destructive individualism that our culture claims is a virtue. The truth is that societal individualism is the breeding ground for all kinds of self-serving enterprises under the guise of ‘success stories’. I understand this description does not fit all instances but a daily reading of any major newspaper suffices as proof that self-serving individualism ruins many, many people financially, emotionally, spiritually (yes, even Christians can be guilty), and politically.

Finally, consider that we are the Bride of Christ, a people destined to be joined with Him forever, cleansed by His blood, clothed with His righteousness and given life everlasting, a resurrection life that is the final triumph over sin and death. We are His inheritance and His inheritance is ours. His Father is our Father, His Spirit is our Spirit, His reign is our reign, and His eternal destiny is our destiny. We are joined with Him and nothing in heaven or in hell can separate us from His love.

This is who we are, really and no amount of derision, persecution, mockery or disdain from the world or the Devil (they are allies you know) makes one iota of difference.  What does make a difference is how we think of ourselves. Let God define who and what you are and leave the opinions of the world far behind on your journey with the Lord of heaven and earth.

By the way, there are other descriptions of the Christian in the Bible besides the ones I’ve pointed out. It might be interesting for you to search those out. Let me know what you find.

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