The church of today is under the microscope. Recent events that have brought discredit to the name of our Saviour and a trend towards marginalising the Christian faith within our nation, has meant that more than ever, what we do and say as God’s people matters. And that is why love also matters, because love is the key to our witness to the world. Jesus said this in John 13:35 and Peter reinforced this in 1 Peter 1:13-25. Not just the world’s definition of love, but the love that springs from knowing the God who has loved and loves His people.
(Message by PCV Moderator, Rev Robert White, pictured here with his wife, Sue)
Life is full of dangers. Believers face dangers too. In 1 Timothy 6:3-10, Paul wrote to Timothy concerning very real dangers at Ephesus. To make that clear, Paul reminded Timothy first of all of the root and fruit of sound doctrine. The gospel was not invented by the apostles but came to them direct from Jesus. The aim of such teaching is godliness, a life transformed by grace. Paul also wrote of the root and fruit of false teachers. Not all who profess to follow Jesus adhere to his truth and false teachers often have false motives and the reult of these motives will become clear in their divisive behaviour. Paul also spoke of the root and fruit of the desire for material wealth. It is the love of money that can become a root of all kinds of evil. Jesus said ‘where your treasure is there your heart will be also’. God’s people need to guard their hearts against the dangers of false teaching and the more subtle danger of the love of money.
In 1 Peter 5:6-14, Peter writes his final comments to his readers, urging them on to continue strongly towards the finish line, with an attitude of humility toward one another, watchfulness with the regard to the evil one, hopefulness with regard to the future and steadfastness with regard to the gospel. Jesus said ‘he who endures to the end will be saved’. Even in those dark days of the first century when God’s people were being persecuted, they were called to hold their heads high and remain faithful. In these days, God’s people are to respond to the world’s renewed hatred in the same way.
In 1 Peter 5:1-5, Peter called upon the elders of the churches he was writing to, to do all that they could to pastor and shepherd the people under their care in a way that showed them to be faithful servants of Jesus the Chief Shepherd. Just as Jesus loved and served his people, so also elders are to serve those under their care willingly, unselfishly and faithfully. In response to this, God’s people are to submit to the lead of their elders and all alike, leaders or followers, are to be clothed with the apron of humility. It was Peter’s hope that by doing this, the believers would remain strong if and when persecution came upon them. Healthy churches display healthy inter generational relationships that glorify God.
In 1 Peter 4:12-19, Peter encourages his readers who were facing intense persecution, with some important teaching regarding trials in the Christian life. The ‘fiery trial’ Peter’s readers were facing was nothing that should come to them by surprise and in the midst of the trials these believers should rejoice because of God’s purposes and plans in them. They also should examine their own ways as well as trust themselves to their faithful Creator. Trials are hard to endure, but because God is in control, they will prove our faith to be ‘more precious than gold’ (1 Peter 1:6-7).
In 1 Peter 4:7-11, Peter called his readers to note that this world will not last forever and that the second coming of Jesus was not far away. In the light of this fact, the believers were to be sober minded so that they could devote themselves to prayer, to loving one another and to servicing one another using their God-given gifts to build up His people and to increase God’s glory. In short, Peter expected his readers to be all that they should be. In these times, the same applies. The return of Jesus may not be far away meaning that our response in these ways is all the more urgent.
In 1 Peter 4:1-6, Peter called his readers to a life of purity and holiness in a world where they were often maligned and even put to death. The motivation that Peter gives for living a holy life was the reminder that Jesus suffered on the cross to deal with our sin and will soon return to judge all men for their deeds. The means that Peter gives for living a holy life include the reality of persecution from the world, the daily struggle with our own sinful natures and doing our best to avoid becoming like the people of the world around us. To grow in all of this, our will needs to align itself with God’s will.
In 1 Peter 3:18-22, Peter reminded his readers that Jesus suffered much on the cross when he gave Himself on the cross to save His people. However, not all of what Peter says is no so clear, and in mentioning that Jesus preached to those who lived in the days of Noah, some have assumed that Jesus did this between his death and resurrection. It is better to understand this to mean that Jesus preached the gospel through Noah, who was a herald of righteousness. Either way, Peter’s conclusion is clear; Jesus was vindicated by God the Father who will do the same for all His children who suffer for the gospel.
Peter’s readers, who lived in the first century world, faced much hostility from all kinds of peoples who did not understand the truths of the Christian faith. It was for this reason that in 1 Peter 3:13-17, Peter exhorted his readers to always be ready to give an account of the hope that they have in Christ. They were to do this with gentleness and respect, but yet be faithful to the gospel they had come to know and believe. Peter’s command remains a challenge for believers in this generation who often face a similar kind of hostility from this world.
While the world proclaims that the ‘good life’ is all about money and things, in 1 Peter 3:8-12, Peter tells us that ‘the good life’ consists of harmonious relationships – first with God and then with others. Living in relationship with others can be hard, so Peter also tells us that the key to relationships is found in the way we live before others (our walk) and in the way we speak to others (our talk). As a response to God’s grace, we are to be tenderhearted, brotherly and sympathetic. In our speech we are to be careful not to retaliate to verbal abuse and to use words that build others up. In short, we are to be like Jesus.