Monthly Archives: January 2020

Obedience (2) – 1 Peter 1.2, 22

Obedience (2) – 1 Peter 1.2, 22

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After last week’s blog on ‘obedience’, how are you feeling about women in the church and with their husbands? And has it in any way affected your attitude to government and law?

In that blog we observed how hupakouo and hupotasso occur quite frequently in 1 Peter 1.2, 22; 2.13, 18; 3.1, 5/6. Now we need to look at the other two words which are often translated ‘obey/obedience’ – peitho and peitharcheo. Although the New Testament uses peitho very commonly, strangely Peter never uses it at all except in its negative form (apeitho: 3.1; 4.17). Peitharcheo  only comes four times in the New Testament (Acts 5.29, 32; 27.21 and Titus 3.1).

 

Peitho

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“Please do not walk on the grass!” Some people react rebelliously to such notices and immediately make a point of walking defiantly across that area of green. Peitho particularly forbids such attitudes. It carries the sense of yielding to persuasion. In fact it is quite often rightly translated in the New Testament with the words ‘persuade’ (e.g. Acts 18.4; 26.28; 2 Corinthians 5.11; Hebrews 6.9), ‘yield’ (e.g. Acts 23.21) and ‘believe’ (e.g. Romans 11.30/31). But the old Authorised Version commonly uses ‘obey’ for ‘peitho’.

 

In Hebrews 13.17 NIV states “Obey (peitho) your leaders and submit (hupakouo) to their authority”. This would be more accurately translated as ‘Yield to your leaders and listen humbly’. We may note that the Greek does not mention ‘authority’ at all. As Christians we are called so to respect our leaders that we generally expect their suggestions to be right. Normally therefore we should follow what our leaders say, but their words are to be carefully and biblically weighed. They have no right to demand obedience – we may remember from our study of hupakouo and hupotasso that they do not mean total blind obedience, so leaders should not expect it.

As a lecturer at All Nations I never ordered a student to do something, but always suggested it and, where necessary, gave my reasons why I thought it would be right. Normally I expected students to respect my position as a tutor with the knowledge and experience God had given over the years. But if they with good reason rejected my wishes, they would have my support. They were within their rights. But at our wedding, Elizabeth and I still followed the traditional Marriage Service and so she promised ‘obedience’. Together we have long since agreed that wives should not be expected automatically to obey their husbands. Of course this applies equally to Christians with their church leaders and to citizens with their government and laws. But again we need to stress that rebellious behaviour goes right against the word of the Lord. It is good to respect and honour one another with humility. Let us therefore respectfully yield to good biblical persuasion!

 

Peitharcheo

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Now at last we come to a word which really means ‘obedience’! We immediately notice that it relates closely to peitho, but it has the additional ‘arch’. The English language has taken over this Greek form in words such as ‘monarchy’, ‘oligarchy’ or ‘archbishop’. ‘Arch’ carries the idea of authority in Greek, as in English.

 

In Acts 5.29 the High Priest strictly ordered the apostles not to teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 5.27/28), but Peter and the other apostles replied “we must obey (peitharcheo) God rather than men”. They then observe that God has given his Holy Spirit “to those who obey (peitharcheo) him” (Acts 5.32). While respectful yielding to persuasion should characterise our attitude to leaders, obedience to authority is due only to God, not to other human beings whatever their position in the church or society.

Although we should only peitharcheo God, not other people, actually Paul tells sailors that they should have ‘taken his advice’ (Acts 27.21). Paul here uses the word peitharcheo, thus making it clear that his words had been God’s command to the ship’s officers. The fierce storm they now faced and the impending ship-wreck resulted directly from disobedience to God, not just to Paul. What amazing confidence Paul had! He knew for sure that his warning had been from God (Acts 27.9/10).

Likewise in Titus 3.1 Paul directs that his readers should hupotasso their political authorities and then adds the much more authoritative word peitharcheo. He considers such political leaders to be acting on behalf of God himself in so far as it leads to ‘doing whatever is good’ which includes “slander no-one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show humility towards all people”. So we may observe that we only peitharcheo other people when their commands carry the nature of God and lead therefore to “whatever is good” – in the Bible God is revealed as “good”, so true goodness reflects the very character of God himself. Commands that lead to true goodness may therefore require absolute obedience, as to God himself (peitharcheo, not just peitho, hupakouo or hupotasso).

 

As we have examined the biblical words used in 1 Peter and the rest of the New Testament, we discover that the translation ‘obey’ for each of these four Greek words has sometimes misled us in our attitudes to leadership, in marriage and in other relationships.

 

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Salvation and Grace – what follows? (1 Peter 1.13-25)

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Salvation and Grace – what follows? (1 Peter 1.13-25)

In 1.3-12 Peter waxed eloquent concerning the awesome gift of salvation, rebirth into new life, mercies and grace to come, a living hope and the working of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Good News. Now Peter adds to these glories as he exhorts his readers with the consequences of our salvation. So he starts 1.13 with the word “therefore” and in 1.17 he develops this further with the words “and if . . . ” (NIV “since”). The active verb in 1.13 is “hope” which is qualified by the two participles “Reviving (literally ‘bringing to life again’) your minds” – we are reminded of John’s emphasis in his writings on life, abundant life and eternal life – and “being watchful”. What a combination – new life and careful watchfulness! The glorious grace of God which will be our portion in the future goes together with new life and vitality now in our thinking and use of our minds. It also requires a watchful care lest the pressures of the world around us spoil our sure hope of his amazing grace at the final revelation of Jesus Christ (1.13). And the confident expectation of that grace goes hand in hand with our intercession to the Father with his impartial and righteous judgment (1.17).
In this passage we may note Peter’s emphasis on what we were like in the past, what we are called to be now in the present and what awaits us in the future.
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The Past

“Previous desires”, “ignorance” (1.14), “empty/vain way of life handed down to you from your forefathers” (1.18). As I join Peter’s audience in looking back to my life before I became a Christian, “ignorance” clearly stands out as a major characteristic. The truths and glories of life with Jesus didn’t impinge on my thinking at all. Neither I nor my associates knew anything of such fundamental elements which lie at the heart of the Christian faith. We were indeed “ignorant”. And life without Jesus at its heart will always incline to ambitions and “desires” which Peter rightly describes as “empty”. He also points out that such “desires” have been handed down from generation to generation. They have therefore become a natural part of our society and culture. People without Christ will take them for granted – ambition, materialism and love of money, self-centred lack of altruistic love, sexual and alcohol abuse, search for excitement to compensate for purposeless boredom etc. What a tragic list of evils which plague our society and for which no government has adequate solutions. Life without Jesus at the centre can easily consist of overwork for the sake of money and ambition while largely neglecting our family, as also our spiritual, mental and physical health. The possible list of wrong or inadequate desires is limitless. For example, Islamic cultures, as also many others, assume the rightness of a desire for revenge when they feel they have been wronged. Such chains of violence and cancerous bitterness cause very considerable damage personally, in society and internationally.
As Christians we can look back at our previous lives with deep repentance and rejoice that the Lord in his grace has delivered us and saved us.
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The Present

In this passage Peter elaborates on our redemption from the emptiness (1.18) and evil (1.14) of our previous lives. Our redemption has been bought for us by “the precious blood of Christ” (1.19). The adjective “precious” just underlines the amazing wonder of Jesus’ sacrificial death which atones for all our sin. The absolutely perfect “lamb without blemish or defect” has fulfilled the whole purpose of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Knowing that the Father judges impartially and with absolute justice, we could grovel in abject fear because of our sin and inadequacy, but wonderfully we can rejoice in God’s undeserved love and mercy because our sin is washed clean by the very precious blood of Jesus. This leads on to the climactic truth that God the Father has “raised him from the dead and glorified him” (1.21). The supreme basis for our faith and hope lies in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. God stepped into the tomb and raised the hopelessly cold and dead body of Jesus to new life. And if the Father can raise up Jesus from the absolute hopelessness of death, he can also raise us up too. And then after the resurrection comes the ascension when the Father glorified his Son. All this comes to us “through the living and enduring word of God (1.23) – through Jesus as the living Word of God and then also through the preached word of God in the Scriptures. And we too now live in the light of these fantastic truths. As 1 Peter 1.21 declares with impressive simplicity, “and so your faith and hope are in God” (1.21).
The outworking of these foundational realities of the shed blood, resurrection and ascension of Jesus stands clearly before us. We are called now to live lives of holiness. Peter quotes from Leviticus that we are to “be holy, because I am holy”. We are called to be like the God we worship and follow. He is in his essential nature holy and his deeds therefore are also holy. We too are to be holy in our basic character and also to “be holy in all you do“. Our inner nature must be evidenced in our outward behaviour.
When I first became a committed Christian back in the 1950s, moral standards in society were still quite high even among non-Christians. We therefore often wore Christian badges to distinguish us as Christians. But now godly lives of holiness will contrast sharply with our surrounding society. So, let our lives shine as light in a dark world!
In these verses concerning the glories of our faith and the consequent holiness of life, the great outworking is found in our love for each other as the people of God (1.22). We are of course here reminded of John’s constant emphasis on our love together as sisters and brothers in Christ, children of our heavenly Father.  Such loving fellowship among Christians must be the outworking of “obeying the truth”. This challenge comes to us again that we stress this genuine love in our teaching and preaching. We ask ourselves too, what are we doing in our church to foster a growing love for each other?
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The Future

As we have already observed, we look forward to the day when Jesus will be fully revealed to us. Already we know and love him, but our grasp of his absolute splendour and glory remains still distinctly limited. We still see “but a poor reflection as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13.12), but we eagerly await the time when we shall be engulfed in the awesome glory and beauty of Jesus. How I remember two students at All Nations falling head over heels in love (a common college experience!). They commonly had their lunch on one plate between them as they sat opposite each other. Eating together from the one plate, they gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes! We shall surely thrill with the glorious love and perfection of Jesus, adoring and worshipping him in total peace and joy. What a future!
In that glory we shall be entirely covered in the righteousness of Jesus, so that through and in him we will be welcomed right into the direct presence of our loving heavenly Father. We know that we deserve to be condemned because of our sin, but “happy is the person whose sins are covered”, “happy are those whose sin the Lord will never count against them” (Romans 4.7/8).  So Peter declares that we should set our hope fully (1.13; the adverb used refers to the ultimate future climax and goal of our faith) on God’s grace.
This passage in 1 Peter concludes with the natural death and impermanence of all humanity like grass or flowers. What a contrast with the “living and enduring word of God” which “stands for ever” (1.24/25)! This word is the glorious good news of Jesus’ grace which “was preached to you” (1.25).  This message of God’s loving kindness and grace will remain throughout all eternity – and we shall never tire of it, but shall continually revel in its absolute glory.
In concluding we may note that in 1.24/25 Peter is quoting from Isaiah 40.6/7 where the context reveals that God’s “good tidings” apply specially to Jerusalem and the Jewish people, but also to “all people”. Peter particularly quotes the reference to “all people”. Although Peter’s mission calling was mainly to his own Jewish people, he joins with Paul in emphasizing that the good news of God’s saving grace is for all people of every background. The call to preach the good news to all people remains, so that people of every background may gain a living hope of God’s perfect grace when Jesus is fully revealed.
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Such a Salvation! (1 Peter 1.10-12)

Such a Salvation! (1 Peter 1.10-12)
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Peter picks up the theme of “the salvation of your souls” in 1.9, “the goal/climax of your faith”. ‘Salvation’ is a wonderfully wide and all-embracing word which is founded on the great reality of restored relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit. Wonderfully our ‘souls’ (1.8) receive God’s gift of salvation. John would call this ‘eternal life’ and Paul would rejoice in the redeeming, justifying, atoning work of Christ on the cross to save us from our sin. God’s work of salvation is so rich that no one author can possibly describe it in all its splendour. Let us rejoice in the fullness of our salvation as we turn to Peter’s elaboration in 1.10-12 of what ‘salvation’ means! And let us also bear in mind the yet wider glories of ‘salvation’ in the eyes of other New Testament writers! Each author is somewhat limited in their description of ‘salvation’, but through them together the Holy Spirit reveals the awesome wonder of what the Lord has done and is doing for us. Rejoice!
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Grace (1.10)
The Holy Spirit was working in the Old Testament prophets to give them a sense of “the grace that was to come” (1.10/11). As a result they sought and searched desperately to discover what the Spirit was pointing to. They came to understand that it didn’t only relate to their own times, but particularly to the salvation which would come centuries later and which now Peter’s readers had received. And the heart of that ‘salvation’, Peter affirms, is ‘grace’.

Some years ago I was  in a home group of men who were not yet Christian and lacked any biblical or Christian background. One evening they came across the word ‘grace’ and struggled to understand what it meant. They knew that some people say a prayer before meals and call it ‘grace’, but this didn’t seem to fit the biblical passage they were looking at. Then one of the men wondered whether ‘grace’ somehow related to the adjective ‘gracious’, pointing out that the Queen’s words are called ‘gracious’. But again the New Testament passage didn’t seem to mean upper-class speech. Such basic biblical vocabulary can be foreign to people who have not yet come into the orbit of the church. Finally our home group came to see the amazing wonder of the heavenly Father’s grace, his totally undeserved love for us. We can never understand why God loves and wants to relate to people like us. We can only marvel, rejoice and dedicate our lives to him in gratitude.
May I suggest that before you read further in this blog, it may be helpful to pause and revel in this incomprehensibly brilliant reality that in his grace the all-glorious God has chosen you and loves you. Rejoice!
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Glories (1.11)
As we rejoice in the glories of our salvation, we remember that Peter is writing to people who are suffering for their faith. Even in the midst of their sufferings Peter reminds them of the glories which will follow. So it was for their Saviour, Jesus Christ. His agonies on the cross led to the life-giving brilliance of the resurrection. Death was the gateway to the fullness of life. It is only when a corn of wheat goes down into the ground and dies that it brings forth fruit. Now Peter’s readers and we too can be reassured that the glories of new life on earth and eternal life in the Father’s presence will surely follow from our sufferings. In the cosy comfort of a relatively tolerant society it is easy to compromise our faith and witness, thus avoiding the suffering of opposition and rejection. And if we do face such suffering, how easy it is just to wallow in self-pity or to entertain a cancerous spirit of revenge or criticism. But the Holy Spirit longs to point us to the glories of the Lord which are our sure hope for the future.
In most Bible translations this verse (1.11) refers to “the sufferings of Christ”, which is a possible translation. However, it may be better to understand the original Greek differently. Literally 1.11 speaks of “the sufferings eis/into or unto Christ”. When the ascended Jesus met with Saul/Paul on the Damascus Road, he asked him, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9.4). In persecuting Christians, Paul unknowingly was attacking Jesus himself. By his Spirit Jesus lives in us, so our sufferings for his sake are also his sufferings. We are not alone when we are suffering opposition as Christians; Jesus shares with us in all that we suffer.
What privileged people we are! Such awesome salvation! Such grace! And such glories awaiting us! The Old Testament prophets tried desperately to discover what the Holy Spirit was pointing to and when it would come to pass. The angels too earnestly desire to look into these glories. But neither the prophets nor the angels received full revelation concerning God’s wonderful salvation through Jesus Christ. We, however, have been told (in the Greek this word reminds us of Gospel ‘good news’) by those who have “preached the gospel to you by  the Holy Spirit” (1.12). We have the enormous blessing of having heard the glory of the Gospel – and now we have the challenge and privilege of sharing and preaching this same Gospel to others.
As we began, so we conclude on these verses – “such a salvation!” Rejoice!
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