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The Cities of Refuge Deuteronomy 4:41–43; 19:1–13

The people of Israel were greatly blessed. They had the Lord God for their King, a wonderful land for their home, and a holy law for their guide, and yet they faced some of the same problems that society faces today. But human nature being what it is, nations will always have to deal with “man’s inhumanity to man,” because the heart of every problem is still the problem of the heart.

Laws are necessary to bring order to society, to restrain evil, and to help control behavior, but laws can never change the human heart. Only the grace of God can do that.

If this section of Scripture emphasizes anything, it’s that God holds human life precious and wants us to treat people fairly, for they are made in the image of God (Gen. 9:1-7).

God’s concept of justice and the value of life is illustrated by the provisions made for six cities of refuge to be designated after the conquest of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 4:41-43 (ESV)
41  Then Moses set apart three cities in the east beyond the Jordan,
42  that the manslayer might flee there, anyone who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without being at enmity with him in time past; he may flee to one of these cities and save his life:
43  Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland for the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites.

In the nomadic societies of Moses’ day, the possibility of an immediate blood revenge, carried out by the next of kin, sometimes prevented a proper trial. Jehovah’s concept of justice is first introduced in Exodus 21:12, 13: “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee.”

God’s wisdom is seen in His provisions for His creation. His provisions are realistic, for He knew offenses would come. He provided a way of escape for the innocent. The cities of refuge were provisions for justice. A regard for human life is far more important than a regard for private property.

God’s thoughtfulness for human life is impressive. No life was to be impatiently wasted. The entire nineteenth chapter deals with justice for the defenseless: justice for the unintentional killer (19:1–13), justice for the landowner (19:14), and justice for the accused (19:15–21).


Deuteronomy 19:1-13 (ESV)
1  “When the LORD your God cuts off the nations whose land the LORD your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses,
2  you shall set apart three cities for yourselves in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.
3  You shall measure the distances and divide into three parts the area of the land that the LORD your God gives you as a possession, so that any manslayer can flee to them.


The Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier called justice “the hope of all who suffer, the dread of all who wrong.” That’s the ideal, but it isn’t always achieved in real life. Without justice, society would fall apart, anarchy would take over, and it wouldn’t be safe for people to leave their homes. Israel didn’t have the elaborate police system we have today, so locating and punishing guilty criminals depended primarily on the elders and the judges. By singling out the “cities of refuge,” the Lord promoted justice in the land.

The cities of refuge were part of the distribution of the Promised Land among the twelve tribes of Israel. Only one tribe, the Levites, was not given land to develop. Instead, they were to be the priests of the Lord and the overseers of the tabernacle and all its rites and furnishings. Only the Levites could carry and set up the tabernacle (Numbers 2:5-13).

As the Levites were to have no territorial domain allocated to them like the other tribes in the conquest of Canaan, they were to be distributed throughout the land in certain cities appropriated to their use. Part of their inheritance consisted of forty-eight cities spread throughout the land (Numbers 35:6-7). Of these forty-eight cities, six were designated as cities of refuge. The cities were Kedesh, Shechem, Hebron, Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan (Joshua 20:7-8).

The Mosaic Law stated that anyone who committed a murder was to be put to death (Exodus 21:14). But for unintentional deaths, God set aside these cities to which the murderer could flee for refuge (Exodus 21:13). He would be safe from the avenger—the family member charged with avenging the victim’s death (Numbers 35:19)—until the case could go to trial.

The congregation would judge to find if the attacker acted unintentionally. If he did, he would return to the city of refuge and live there safely until the death of the high priest who was in office at the time of the trial, at which point he could return to his property. If the attacker left the city of refuge before the death of the high priest, however, the avenger would have the right to kill him (Numbers 35:24-28).

After Jehovah had cut off the enemies of Israel in Canaan and Israel was living in the cities and houses of the former inhabitants, Moses stipulated: You shall set aside three cities for yourself in the midst of your land, which the Lord your God gives you to possess. You shall prepare the roads for yourself, and divide into three parts the territory of your land, which the Lord your God will give you as a possession, so that any manslayer may flee there (19:2, 3).

The first three cities were to be set apart in the midst of the land. They were to be within easy reach so that anyone who killed a man would be able to flee to them for temporary protection. Moses specified that these cities were to be equally spaced geographically. The land was to be divided into three parts, and the cities were to be placed in each area.

No part of the land would be more than thirty miles from one of these cities. They were to build roads to make them accessible for those in need of immediate sanctuary. It is emphasized that the Israelites should take care that a slayer who killed ignorantly was within easy reach of a city of refuge (19:3, 6).

Kedesh in Naphtali, Shechem in Ephraim, and Hebron in Judah were set apart in Canaan as the first cities of refuge (Joshua 20:7). Provision was made in the law for more cities of refuge as Israel acquired more territory.

4  “This is the provision for the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past—
5  as when someone goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down a tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live,
6  lest the avenger of blood in hot anger pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and strike him fatally, though the man did not deserve to die, since he had not hated his neighbor in the past.
7  Therefore I command you, You shall set apart three cities.
8  And if the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land that he promised to give to your fathers—
9  provided you are careful to keep all this commandment, which I command you today, by loving the LORD your God and by walking ever in his ways—then you shall add three other cities to these three,
As Israel’s territory was enlarged with the destruction of the two Amorite kings, three other cities were to be added to those found in Canaan. In 4:41–43, in a parenthetical statement, Moses, while Israel was on the plains of Moab, set apart three cities of refuge on the east side: “Bezer in the wilderness on the plateau for the Reubenites, and Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites.”


Moses revealed the primary purpose for the cities of refuge in these words: lest innocent blood be shed in your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, and so the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.
11  “But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities,
12  then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die.
13  Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may be well with you.

These sanctuaries were in no way to be an interference with the proper procedure of justice. The word “manslayer” or “slayer,” in 19:3, refers to intentional or unintentional killings. The term “manslayer” is the participle of the verb rasah, which seems to denote anti-social killing rather than killing in war or in the administration of justice.

The word “murder” does not seem to be an accurate translation, since rasah covers both cases of murder and of accidental killing. The cities of refuge would be open to either for temporary safety. They were not appointed to provide permanent asylum for the intentional manslayer, but they did assure that every man who killed his neighbor might find protection until the time of his trial.

The manslayer who fled to the city would live as one who killed his neighbor unintentionally or ignorantly and without any previous feelings of hatred toward his neighbor. To illustrate the difference between a willful murder and an unintentional murder, Moses gives an example in 19:5: As when a man goes into the forest with his friend to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down the tree, and the iron head slips off the handle and strikes his friend so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live.


Murder was one of several capital crimes in Israel. Others were idolatry and sorcery (Lev. 20:1-6), blasphemy (24:10-16), violating the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36), willful and repeated disobedience to parents (Deut. 21:18-21; Ex. 21:15, 17), kidnapping (Ex. 21:16), bestiality (22:19), homosexuality (Lev. 20:13), adultery, and the rape of an engaged maiden (Deut. 22:22-27).

Israel was a theocracy and her laws were God’s laws. To break the law was to sin against the Lord and defile the land, and the people needed to understand the seriousness of such actions. In 1972, the United States Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional but then reinstated it in 1976. Capital punishment may not restrain every would-be murderer from taking a life, but it does magnify the preciousness of human life as well as honor the law.

The cities of refuge offered protection “lest the avenger of blood pursue the manslayer in the heat of his anger, and overtake him, . . .” (19:6).

The avenger was the nearest male relative, the one responsible for redeeming a relative’s property (Leviticus 25:25), for marrying a relative’s widow and rearing children in the name of the deceased (Ruth 3:12, 13; 4:5–10), and for avenging the death of a relative (Numbers 35:19).

The kinsman was directed by law to pursue the manslayer and to seek the payment of life for life. It was not a feat which would be lightly undertaken. In fact, it was one of those duties which a person would shirk if he could.

It would take an individual who had courage and self-denial to fulfill this part of the Mosaic code.

This rough ministry of justice which was fulfilled by the avenger was needed in the early days. It strengthened the family ties. It fostered a spirit of brotherhood. It was a shield for the weak and defenseless.

Vengeance under the law seems dreadful to many of us because we live in an organized system of public justice. But if we were translated to some uncivilized country where each one is forced to fight for his own family, we would regard it less painfully. We must recognize it as a necessary assertion of judgment. “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19) seems dreadful only to those who have not appreciated the need of a good and somewhat reliable civil justice.

This divine law of vengeance, through the avenger, was perfect in the sense that there was and could be no appeal. If one man had slain another, the presumption was that it had been maliciously done, and prompt vengeance was prepared for him. He needed to make a serious flight from the sudden reprisal that could come even “though he was not deserving of death” (19:6).

Immediately after the death of the friend, the slayer could be killed in a hasty decision while “the avenger of blood pursue[d] . . . in the heat of his anger” (19:6).

He had to bid a hasty adieu to his family and travel quickly for the nearest refuge city. He had to constantly be on guard because behind every bush and rock the avenger might be lurking in ambush.

The cities of refuge were Levitical cities which would give further security for the manslayer (Numbers 35:6). There would be men who knew the law and could apply it objectively.

The manslayer was able to come to the gate of the city and explain his case to the elders of that city. If the elders were satisfied that the death was unintentional, he would be provided with lodging, and they would not turn him over to the avenger of blood. There he would be protected from the relatives of the deceased who would otherwise seek revenge. If granted asylum, he would be expected to stay there.

If he were found elsewhere, the avenger of blood would be allowed to kill him. The manslayer lived in lonely exile until the death of the high priest. Upon the death of the high priest he could, if he chose, return to his own home (Numbers 35:25–28). The milder sentence, however, was preferable to a violent death. The opportunity was afforded of examining himself and of being penitent for his sins.


The fugitive might yet be handed over to the executioner even though he arrived at the city. What the city of refuge gave was an opportunity for full investigation. It safeguarded a suspected man if he was innocent of a greater crime. It taught men to draw a clear line between unintentional injury and premeditated murder. It shielded the innocent from useless and needless death.

Trial of the escaped manslayer was provided, and the guilty were turned over to the avenger. God did not intend to provide protection for the one who killed out of greed, hate, or jealousy. A willful murderer was not granted asylum, but was surrendered to the elders of the slain man’s hometown. They were responsible for the final decision (9:12). The elders were in a position to decide the guilt of the man without being emotionally involved or influenced by a sense of loss. If the elders found him guilty, they delivered him to the kinsman who would exact blood revenge. The avenger of blood was the divine instrument designated by the law to carry out the death penalty.


The sojourn in the city of refuge corresponds spiritually to those who have taken themselves to Jesus under a sense of their sin and blood guiltiness to find under His wings protection from condemnation (Romans 8:1). If the manslayer had left the city of refuge, he would have still been liable to the avenger.

Likewise, one must abide in Christ or still be liable for his transgressions. “Life in Christ” is indicated by the sojourn in the city of refuge. But liberty through the death of Christ is indicated by the release at the death of the high priest (Hebrews 4:14–16; 6:18–20).

It takes many relations to bring out the truth as it is in Jesus. He is our avenger, as we have seen: “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

He is our city of refuge. He is our high priest whose death secures the return from exile. While cities of refuge protected only the innocent or unintentional killer, Christ provides salvation for the penitent, even though guilty. Judgment is not removed.

There will be a day of reckoning and destruction of the wicked. There is a way of escape in Christ, to whom we flee in refuge. He is within reach of us all. As there was an equal number of cities on each side of the Jordan, so there is equal salvation to Jew and Gentile, bound and free. Each must avail himself of this escape. “Be saved from this perverse generation!” (Acts 2:40).

The cities of refuge can be seen as types of Christ, in whom sinners find a refuge from the destroyer of our souls. Just as a person could seek refuge in the cities set up for that purpose, we flee to Christ for refuge:

Hebrews 6:18 (ESV) so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

God confirmed his promise with an oath (6:17), because these two things are unchangeable. Why are they unchangeable? Because it is impossible for God to lie. God provides us security because of his own character. Patience is our part whereby we hold on to his promise with confidence.

The phrase “we who have fled to him for refuge” pictures a person who fled to one of the cities of refuge that provided protection for someone who accidentally killed another (Numbers 35). Christians also have fled for safety to the place of security and protection from the punishment against them. Christ provides the safest place, the hope we count on, the encouragement we need.

6:19-20 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

We run to Christ to escape the danger we are in from the curse and condemnation of the law, from the wrath of God, and from an eternity in hell. Only Christ provides refuge from these things, and it is to Him alone that we must run. Just as the cities were open to all who fled to them for safety, it is Christ who provides safety to all who come to Him for refuge from sin and its punishment.

For the Christian, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). The first word in the verse directs us to the infinite, all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving, all holy, and just being. It is emphatically declared that, for troubled times, God is our refuge, our strength, and our help.

Who else can always be called on to understand and sustain in times of trouble? Is God a source of comfort for your troubles? Can you, with confidence, call Him to your aid? Or, due to your present state of rebellion and disobedience, is He your enemy?

What must you do to enlist Him on your side in order to assist you with your troubles? The Son of God said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavyladen, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light”


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Posted by on May 11, 2023 in Sermon


1 Corinthians #10 – Becoming all things to win some  1 Corinthians 10:19ff

1 Corinthians 9:1–27 (ESV) - 1 Corinthians 9:1–27 ESV - Am I not free? Am…  | Biblia

9:19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.

In our text today, Paul asserted that he was free to yield certain rights in matters that did not compromise the gospel message. In such a way, he could vary the style of his message or other minor matters, becoming a slave to his audience so that [he] might win more of them.

Paul’s goals were to glorify God and to bring people to Christ. Thus he stayed free of any philosophical position or material entanglement that might sidetrack him while he strictly disciplined himself to carry out his goals.

By being a slave to all, Paul was communicating the heart of his mission strategy. He had a willingness to accommodate and adjust to different settings. When with Jews, he ate kosher food; when with Gentiles, he ate regular food. In Philippi, he accepted support; in other places, he did not.

Was Paul a chameleon, merely adapting to each environment? In some ways, he was; but his principles were higher than self-protection. He wanted people of all cultures and backgrounds to listen to the gospel. Whenever missionaries go to another culture, they should consciously embrace and adapt to every element in that culture that doesn’t hinder the gospel or violate biblical ethics.

9:20    To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.

Paul never compromised the doctrines of Scripture, never changed God’s Word in order to make it more palatable to people in any given place. He never went against God’s law or his own conscience. In matters that did not violate any principle of God’s Word, however, Paul was willing to become like his audience in order to win them to Christ. Three groups are mentioned in these verses: Jews, Gentiles, and those with weak consciences. By saying, to the Jews I became like a Jew, Paul was stating that, when necessary, he conformed his life to the practices of those under the law even though he himself was no longer under the law (because of his freedom in Christ; see Acts 16:3; 18:18; 21:20–26). If, however, Paul had gone into a Jewish synagogue to preach, all the while flouting the Jewish laws and showing no respect for their laws and customs because of his “freedom in Christ,” he would have offended the very people he had come to tell about Jesus Christ. But by adapting himself to them, by conforming to their regulations and restrictions (Paul had been a Pharisee), he had gained an audience so that he might win those under the law. Again, Paul was careful never to violate any of God’s commands in his attempts to serve his listeners. He never conceded that those regulations had to be kept in order for people to become believers, but he conformed to the laws to help the Jews come to Christ. The line was a difficult one to walk, for the book of Galatians records a time when Paul rebuked Peter for acting like a Jew among the Gentiles (see Galatians 2:11–21).

9:21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  As Paul conformed himself to the Jews, he also conformed to those not having the law, referring to Gentiles. Paul met them on their own turf, becoming like one not having the law. This did not mean that Paul had thrown aside all restraints and was living like a pagan in hopes of winning the pagans to Christ! As he explained, he always remembered that he was not free from God’s law but [was] under Christ’s law. Paul lived according to God’s law and his conscience, but he did not put undue constraints on his Gentile audiences. Unlike some false teachers of the day, called Judaizers, Paul did not require the Gentiles to follow the Jewish laws in order to become believers (see Acts 15:1–21). Instead, he spoke a message that would win those not having the law (see, for example, Acts 17:1–34).

9:22–23 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  “The weak” refers to those with a weak conscience, a subject Paul had discussed in chapter 8. In that chapter, Paul had explained that believers who were free in Christ ought to set aside certain freedoms in the presence of another believer with a more sensitive conscience. Paul followed his own advice, saying that he became weak when with such people (meaning that he had set aside his freedoms and had lived by their restraints for a time) so that he might win the weak. The “weak” were already believers, but they needed to grow into a deeper knowledge of Christ and a deeper understanding of their freedom in Christ. Paul did this delicately, becoming as they were in order to gain their listening ears. He chose to become all things to all people (the Jews, the Gentiles, and those with weak consciences, 9:20–22) in order to save some. Paul never compromised the gospel truth, God’s law, or his own conscience; in other matters, however, Paul was willing to go to great lengths to meet people where they were. He had one focus:  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.  Paul’s life focused on taking the gospel to an unbelieving world. He did not preach with pride, counting the numbers of converts; instead, he preached with love for the gospel and for people, so that in the end, he and all believers could share together in the blessings of knowing Christ.

First Corinthians 9 reveals several basic principles for effective ministry:

  1. find common ground with others
  2. avoid a know-it-all attitude
  3. make others feel accepted
  4. be sensitive to others’ needs and concerns
  5. look for opportunities to tell about Christ.

Paul immediately practiced his strategy of identifying with his audience by using an athletic lesson. Because Corinth was the site of the Isthmian Games, Paul knew that the Corinthians would be able to understand that winning a race requires purpose and discipline.

Paul used this illustration to explain that the Christian life takes hard work, self-denial, and grueling preparation. As Christians, we are running toward our heavenly reward. The essential disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and worship equip us to run with vigor and stamina.

Don’t merely observe from the grandstand; don’t just jog a couple of laps each morning. Train diligently—your spiritual progress depends upon it.

He wanted every believer to run in such a way that you will win. In other words, every believer should be putting out the kind of effort for the reward of God’s kingdom that an athlete puts out to merely win a wreath. The athletes practiced strict self-control so as to win a prize that will fade away.

Believers, therefore, ought to willingly practice self-control with a focus on bringing others to Christ because they are running toward an eternal prize. They have all already “won”; the prize is not dependent on how they run the race. Because they already are assured of the prize, they should live for God with as much focus and enthusiasm as did the ancient runners at the games.

Paul pointed to the self-control of runners. They must make choices between good and bad. Christians’ choices are not always between good and bad. At times we must even give up something good in order to do what God wants. Each person’s special duties determine the discipline and denial that he or she must accept. Without a goal, discipline is nothing but self-punishment. With the goal of pleasing God, denial seems like nothing compared to the eternal, imperishable reward.

9:24–25 Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  Paul’s exhortations in the previous verses—for the believers to give up their own rights, to think of others first, to be wholehearted in their focus on bringing others to Christ—called upon the Christians to deny themselves as they looked forward to future reward. Paul compared this to a race, picturing the ancient “games.” The Olympics were already operating in Paul’s time. Second in popularity only to the Olympic games, the Isthmian games were celebrated every two years at Corinth. Athletes would come from all over Greece, and the winners of the games were accorded the highest honor. To get into the games, and especially to emerge as victors, required that each athlete prepare diligently with self-denial and dedication. Typically, for ten months prior to the games, the athletes-in-training denied themselves many ordinary pleasures in order to prepare and be in top condition for the competition. Each put forth his greatest effort during the contest, setting aside all else in order to win the prize. Everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. The coveted prize, and the honor accorded with it, meant the world to these athletes. They would give up everything else in order to obtain it.

9:26–27 So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.  Paul not only preached the gospel message and encouraged the believers to self-discipline and self-denial, he also practiced what he preached. He too had to live by the gospel, and he too practiced self-denial like the athletes just described. Paul did not run the race aimlessly, nor was he like a boxer who misses his punches. Instead, he kept his eyes focused on the goal, running straight for it, with purpose in every step. He did not allow himself to be sidetracked and he did not waste time becoming lazy. He kept on, disciplining and training his body. Paul pictured life as a battle. Believers must not become lazy—for Satan seeks to cause them to stumble, sin continues to buffet, and sorrow and pain are a daily reality (see Romans 7:14–25). Instead of being bound by their bodies, believers must diligently discipline themselves in their Christian lives in order to stay “in shape.”


Whatever happened to self-control? Many books and speakers guide wandering souls to self-fulfillment, self-satisfaction, and self-awareness. Not many tackle self-control.

Self-control requires an honest look at your strengths and weaknesses, with emphasis on the latter. It means building the will to say no when a powerful appetite inside you screams yes.

  • No to friends or situations that will lead you away from Christ.
  • No to casual sex, saving intimacy for marriage.
  • No to laziness in favor of “can do” and “will do.”

Self-control is a long, steady course in learning attitudes that do not come naturally, and channeling natural appetites toward God’s purposes.

This passage describes the spiritual maturation process, the period of growth during believers’ lives on earth when they are living “in” the world while not being “of” it.

The time between a person’s acceptance of Christ in that burial in water in order to have sins forgiven….and his or her death is the only time when growth in Christ can occur. Paul wanted to grow diligently and receive a reward from Christ at his return.


Perseverance, persistence, the prize! Christ never promised us an easy way to live. These verses (9:26–27) remind us that we must have a purpose and a plan because times will be difficult and Satan will attack. We must be diligent, all the while remembering that we never run alone. God keeps his promises.



The Purpose


The Plan


The Prize


1 Corinthians 9:24–27


Run to get the prize.
Run straight to the goal.
Deny yourself whatever is potentially harmful. Discipline your body, training it.


A crown that will last forever


Galatians 6:7–10


Don’t become weary in doing good.
Don’t get discouraged and give up. Do good to everyone.
Sow to please the Spirit.


Reap eternal life.


Ephesians 6:10–20


Put on the full armor of God.
Pray on all occasions.
Use all the pieces of God’s armor.


Holding your stance against the devil’s schemes


Philippians 3:12–14


Press on toward the day when you will be all God wants you to be.


Forget the past; strain toward the finish line ahead.


The prize for which God calls you heavenward


2 Timothy 2:1–13


Entrust these great truths to people who will teach them to others. Be strong in Christ’s grace, even when your faith is faltering.


Endure hardship like a soldier and don’t get involved in worldly affairs. Follow the Lord’s rules, as an athlete must do in order to win. Work hard, like a farmer who tends h crops for the harvest God always remain faithful to you and always carries out his promises.


You will live with Christ; you will reign with him.


Walk in My Shoes” by Victoria T Zicafoose

Walk in my shoes just one step, you will feel my pain and how I have silently wept.

Walk in my shoes just one foot, you will feel how I struggle every day to stay strong and be tough as wood.

Walk in my shoes, just one yard, you will feel my heart ache and be able to empathize how some days are truly hard.

Walk in my shoes, just one mile, you will feel the frustration I feel in having to keep a phony smile.

Walk in my shoes for a day, you will suffer the pain I feel, when the judgment you subtly pass is so obvious to me.

Walk in my shoes for a week, you will then come to realize how much respect you really have for me.

No need to walk any further, for you are able to step out of my shoes. You will now know all the struggles it takes to survive and all the stress that is juggled.

Before you judge me, just try a walk in my shoes, even if it is for a moment.

For you will never know when you will be wearing the same shoes too.

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Posted by on December 15, 2022 in Sermon


1 Corinthians #9 – The Limits of Christian Liberty 1 Cor. 8:1-13

After answering their questions about marriage, Paul turned to one of the most controversial subjects in the letter he received from the Corinthian church: “Can Christians eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols?”

Many behaviors are not commanded, commended, or forbidden in Scripture. They are neither black nor white, but gray. Such issues in one age or area may not be the same as those in other times or places; but every age and every place has had to deal with the gray areas of Christian living.

The first major council of the church, reported in Acts 15, was called primarily to deal with such issues. Some Jewish believers were insisting that all male Gentile converts be circumcised (v. 1) and others were afraid to socialize with believing Gentiles, especially over a meal, for fear they would break Jewish dietary laws. These issues were ‘real’ for that time when Christianity for both Jewish and Gentile believers was involved.

The apostles were represented and the council decided that Gentiles need not be circumcised (v. 19) but that believers “abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood” (v. 20). By following those policies they would “do well” (v. 29).

The practices mentioned were not in themselves sinful, but the council advised the churches to abstain from them in order not to needlessly offend Jewish brothers who had strong convictions about them.

Two common extremes are often followed in regard to doubtful things. One is legalism; the other is license.

Legalism believes that every act, every habit, every type of behavior is either black or white. Legalists live by rules rather than by the Spirit. They classify everything as either good or bad, whether the Bible mentions it or not. They develop exhaustive lists of do’s and don’ts. Doing the things on the good list and avoiding the things on the bad list is their idea of spirituality, no matter what the inner person is like.

Their lives are law controlled, not Spirit controlled. But refraining from doing things is not spirituality; walking in the Spirit is spirituality. Legalism stifles liberty, stifles conscience, stifles the Word, and stifles the Holy Spirit.

License is the opposite extreme. It is like legalism in that it too has no gray areas—but neither does it have much black. Almost everything is white; everything is acceptable as long as it is not strictly forbidden in Scripture. Such advocates believe that Christian freedom is virtually absolute and unqualified.

As long as your own conscience is free you can do as you please. That seems to have been the philosophy of the group Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 8. They probably agreed with him that believers should “maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16). Beyond that, however, they wanted no restrictions.

But Paul teaches that it can also be wrong to offend the consciences of fellow believers when they are less mature (“weak”) and when what we are doing is not necessary in our service to the Lord.

In preparation for giving the principle, Paul responds to three reasons some of the Corinthians gave for feeling completely free to act as they pleased in regard to practices not specifically forbidden by God.

The reasons were: (1) We know we all have knowledge; (2) We know that an idol is nothing; and (3) We know that food is not an issue with God.

The apostle agrees that each reason is basically valid, but then goes on to show how none of those reasons should be applied to practices that might cause someone else to stumble spiritually.

There were two sources of meat in this ancient world: the regular market (where the prices were higher) and the local temples (where meat from the sacrifices was always available).

Idol offerings were divided into three parts. One part was burned on an altar as the sacrifice proper. The second part was given as payment to the priests who served at the temple, and the remaining part was kept by the offerer. Because of the large number of offerings, the priests were not able to eat all of their portion, and they sold in the marketplace what they did not need. That meat was highly valued because it was cleansed of evil spirits, and was thus the meat served at feasts and to guests.

The eating of meat offered to idols therefore had the same two associations for Christians, especially for those who had grown up in that religious atmosphere. The meat was associated with pagan gods and goddesses, having been part of an offering to them, and it was associated with the superstition that it had once been contaminated by evil spirits.

Some sensitive Gentile believers refused to buy such meat because it brought back memories of their previous pagan lives or because those who saw them buy it might think they had reverted to paganism. Also many believers, both Gentile and Jewish, were reluctant to eat at the homes of pagan Gentiles—and even of some Christian Gentiles—because they were afraid of being served that meat. Such food could only be doubly unclean according to Jewish dietary law—from which many Jewish Christians found it hard to separate themselves.

On the other hand, some Christians were not bothered. To them, meat was meat. They knew pagan deities did not really exist and that evil spirits did not contaminate food. They were mature, well-grounded in God’s truth, and their consciences were clear in the matter. That group gave Paul the three reasons for freely exercising their liberty.

The strong members of the church realized that idols could not contaminate food, so they saved money by purchasing the cheaper meat available from the temples. Furthermore, if unconverted friends invited them to a feast at which sacrificial meat was served, the strong Christians attended it whether at the temple or in the home.

All of this offended the weaker Christians. Many of them had been saved out of pagan idolatry and they could not understand why their fellow believers would want to have anything to do with meat sacrificed to idols. (In Rom. 14-15, the weak Christians had problems over diets and holy days, but it was the same basic issue.)

In the present passage he uses a simple argument. He says that in Corinth there were men who all their lives, up until now, had believed in the heathen gods; and these men could not quite rid themselves of a lingering belief that an idol really was something, although it was a false something. Whenever they ate meat offered to idols, they had qualms of conscience. They could not help it; instinctively they felt that it was wrong.

So Paul argues that if you say that there is absolutely no harm in eating meat offered to idols you are really hurting and bewildering the conscience of these souls. His final argument is that, even if a thing is harmless for you, when it hurts someone else, it must be a consideration and given up, for a Christian must never do anything which causes his brother to stumble.

Nothing ought to be judged solely from the point of view of knowledge; everything ought to be judged from the point of view of love. The argument of the advanced Corinthians was that they knew better than to regard an idol as anything; their knowledge had taken them far past that.

There is always a certain danger in knowledge. It tends to make a man arrogant and feel superior and look down unsympathetically on the man who is not as far advanced as himself. Knowledge which does that is not true knowledge. But the consciousness of intellectual superiority is a dangerous thing. Our conduct should always be guided not by the thought of our own superior knowledge, but by sympathetic and considerate love for our fellow man. And it may well be that for his sake we must refrain from doing and saying certain otherwise legitimate things.

This leads to the greatest truth of all. No man has any right to indulge in a pleasure or to demand a liberty which may be the ruination of someone else. He may have the strength of mind and will to keep that pleasure in its proper place; that course of action may be safe enough for him; but he has not only himself to think about, he must think of the weaker brother. An indulgence which may be the ruin of someone else is not a pleasure but a sin.

So far, it is the strong Christians who are ahead. Why, then, are the weak Christians upset with them when their position is so logical? Because you don’t always solve every problem with logic.

The little child who is afraid of the dark will not be assured by arguments, especially if the adult (or older brother) adopts a superior attitude. Knowledge can be a weapon to fight with or a tool to build with, depending on how it is used. If it “puffs up” then it cannot “build up [edify].”

Paul’s responses to the reasons were directed to that group of more mature believers. But his responses centered on the other group. He told the mature believers not to focus on their liberty but on the spiritual welfare of those who were less mature. He was saying, “Don’t look at your freedom; look at their need. Your own freedom should be limited by your love for fellow believers. If you love them as God calls you to love, you will not use your liberty in any way that will offend, confuse, or weaken their faith.”

Among the many spiritual problems of the Corinthian Christians was arrogance, a word Paul uses six times in relation to them. They were proud and self-satisfied. They had knowledge without love. As they are reminded several chapters later, a person who has all sorts of abilities and virtues but has no love is “nothing,” and “love does not brag and is not arrogant”(1 Cor. 13:1-4).

Division in the church may be caused by problems of behavior as well as problems of doctrine. When some believers insist on exercising their liberty without regard for the feelings and standards of fellow believers, the church is weakened and frequently divided.

Love is the key to behavior. Knowing what is not forbidden is not enough. When we “do not merely look out for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4), we are on the road to mature, loving Christian behavior.

Love sets the limits of Christian liberty.

You cannot force-feed immature believers and transform them into giants. Knowledge must be mixed with love; otherwise, the saints will end up with “big heads” instead of enlarged hearts. A famous preacher used to say, “Some Christians grow; others just swell.”

Conscience (vv. 7-13). The word conscience simply means “to know with,” and it is used thirty-two times in the New Testament. Conscience is that internal court where our actions are judged and are either approved or condemned (Rom. 2:14-15). Conscience is not the law;, it bears witness, to God’s moral law. But the important thing is this: conscience depends on knowledge. The more spiritual knowledge we know and act on, the stronger the conscience will become.

Some Christians have weak consciences because they have been saved only a short time and have not had opportunity to grow. Like little babes in the home, they must be guarded carefully.

Other saints have weak consciences because they will not grow. They ignore their Bibles and Christian fellowship and remain in a state of infancy.

Some believers remain weak because they are afraid of freedom They are like a child old enough to go to school, who is afraid to leave home and must be taken to school each day.

The conscience of a weak Christian is easily defiled (1 Cor. 8:7), wounded (1 Cor. 8:12), and offended (1 Cor. 8:13). For this reason, the stronger saints must defer to the weaker saints and do nothing that would harm them.

It is important to note that the stronger believer defers to the weaker believer in love only that he might help him to mature. He does not “pamper” him; he seeks to edify him, to help him grow. Otherwise, both will become weak.

It is also true that some fall into the category of being “willfully weak.” What does that mean? It is that person(s) who has had plenty of teaching and time to know God’s will in a matter…and they choose to use the “weak argument” to get their way or hold back a congregation. This person also keeps the congregation “weak” when they refuse to grow up!

The voice of a Christian’s conscience is the instrument of the Holy Spirit. If a believer’s conscience is weak it is because he is spiritually weak and immature, not because the leading of his conscience is weak. Conscience is God’s doorkeeper to keep us out of places where we could be harmed. As we mature, conscience allows us to go more places and to do more things because we will have more spiritual strength and better spiritual judgment.

A small child is not allowed to play with sharp tools, to go into the street, or to go where there are dangerous machines or electrical appliances. The restrictions are gradually removed as he grows older and learns for himself what is dangerous and what is not.

In deciding about whether or not to participate in any behavior that is doubtful, the following principles make a good checklist to follow.

Excess. Is the activity or habit necessary, or is it merely an extra that is not really important? Is it only an encumbrance that we should willingly give up (Heb. 12:1)?

Expediency. “All things are lawful for me,” Paul says, “but not all things are profitable,” or expedient (1 Cor. 6:12). Is what I want to do helpful and useful, or only desirable?

Emulation. “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). If we are doing what Christ would do, our action should not only be permissible but also good and right.

Example. Are we setting the right example for others, especially for weaker brothers and sisters? If we emulate Christ, others will be able to emulate us, to follow our example.

Evangelism. Is my testimony going to be helped or hindered? Will unbelievers be drawn to Christ or turned away from Him by what I am doing?

Edification. Will I be built up and matured in Christ; will I become spiritually stronger? “All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (1 Cor. 10:23).

Exaltation. Will the Lord be lifted up and glorified in what I do? God’s glory and exaltation should be the supreme purpose behind everything we do.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).


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Posted by on December 12, 2022 in 1 Corinthians, Sermon


1 Corinthians #8 – Christian Liberty and Sexual Freedom 1 Cor. 6:12-20

As we begin, we should remember that prostitution in Corinth was a “religious act of worship.”

Corinth took pride in the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, which had 1,000 cult prostitutes. In the name of religion, men can indulge their fleshly appetites. The Greeks have a proverb about the city of Corinth, which tells us much of its moral decay: “It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.”[1]

Those who are worldly wise use the verb “to corinthianize” to describe an act of immorality. “Corinthian girl” was a synonym for a prostitute.[2] For a Corinthian saint, concluding that whatever is legal is also moral leaves him a great deal of latitude. There isn’t much he can’t do under this definition of morality.

Freedom in Christ was a truth Paul never tired of emphasizing. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.… For you were called to freedom, brethren” (Gal. 5:1, 13).

The Corinthian church had been taught this truth many times while Paul was among them, but they were using it as a theological excuse for sin. They ignored the truth, “only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13), which he surely had also taught them.

The use of any Christian liberty should be subject to the following questions:

(1) Does this practice contribute to my own spiritual growth and maturity?

(2) Does this practice contribute to the growth and maturity of fellow-believers?

(3) Does this practice further the gospel?

(4) Does this practice glorify God?

     The Corinthians had perverted this truth to justify their sinning. They possibly used the same argument that Paul anticipated when he was explaining grace to the Roman church: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Rom. 6:1). They pretended to have theological justification for living as they wanted.

They may have had a philosophical argument for their sin as well, perhaps implied in 6:13, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.”

Much Greek philosophy considered everything physical, including the body, to be basically evil and therefore of no value. What was done with or to the body did not matter. Food was food, the stomach was the stomach, and sex was sex. Sex was just a biological function like eating, to be used just as food was used, to satisfy their appetites. The argument sounds remarkably modern.

Like many people today, the Corinthian Christians rationalized their sinful thinking and habits. They were clever at coming up with seemingly good reasons for doing wrong things. They also lived in a society that was notoriously immoral, a society that, in the temple prostitution and other ways, actually glorified promiscuous sex.

To have sexual relations with a prostitute was so common in Corinth that the practice came to be called “Corinthianizing.” Many believers had formerly been involved in such immorality, and it was hard for them to break with the old ways and easy to fall back into them. Just as it was hard for them to give up their love of human wisdom, their worldliness, their pride, their divisive spirit, and their love for suing, it was also hard for them to give up their sexual immorality.

The Law of Expediency (v. 12)

  1. All things are lawful.”
  2. Must be considered in context.
  3. 1 Corinthians 9:21 – We are always under law to God and Christ.
  4. 1 Corinthians 10:23 – All things are lawful, but not everything edifies.
  5. Paul is discussing those things which are morally neutral.
  1. All things are not expedient. Three considerations regarding expediency.
  2. It must be lawful – Command, example or necessary inference.
  3. It must be edifying or that which builds up.
  4. It must not be enslaving.
  1. Things which are morally indifferent.
  2. Eating meat.
  3. Eating meat offered to an idol; but stay away from the idol temple because of one’s influence.

In 6:12-20 Paul shows three of the evils of sexual sin: it is harmful to everyone involved; it gains control over those who indulge in it; and it perverts God’s purpose for the body.

Sexual Sin Harms

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything (NASB).

“Everything is permissible, for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything (NIV).

“I am free to do anything,” you say. Yes, but not everything is for my good (New English Bible).

“For me there are no forbidden things”; maybe, but not everything does good (New Jerusalem Bible).

In this passage Paul is up against a whole series of problems. It ends with the summons, “Glorify God with your body.” This is Paul’s battle cry here.

The Greeks always looked down on the body. There was a proverbial saying, “The body is a tomb.” Epictetus said, “I am a poor soul shackled to a corpse.” The important thing was the soul, the spirit of a man; the body was a thing that did not matter. That produced one of two attitudes. Either it issued in the most rigorous asceticism in which everything was done to subject and humiliate the desires and instincts of the body. Or—and in Corinth it was this second outlook which was prevalent—it was taken to mean that, since the body was of no importance, you could do what you liked with it; you could let it sate its appetites. What complicated this was the doctrine of Christian freedom which Paul preached. If the Christian man is the freest of all men, then is he not free to do what he likes, especially with this completely unimportant body of his?

The particular type of sin Paul has in mind here (vv. 13-20) is sexual sin. No sin that a person commits has more built-in pitfalls, problems, and destructiveness than sexual sin. It has broken more marriages, shattered more homes, caused more heartache and disease, and destroyed more lives than alcohol and drugs combined. It causes lying, stealing, cheating, and killing, as well as bitterness, hatred, slander, gossip, and unforgivingness.

The dangers and harm of sexual sin are nowhere presented more vividly and forcefully than in Proverbs. “The lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech” (Prov. 5:3).

The basic truth applies to a prostitute or to any other woman who tries to seduce a man. It also applies to a man who tries to seduce a woman. The point is that sexual allurement is extremely enticing and powerful. It seems nice, enjoyable, and good. It promises nothing but pleasure and satisfaction. But what it ends up giving “is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of Sheol. She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it” (vv. 4-6).

The first characteristic of sexual sin is deceit. It never delivers what it promises. It offers great satisfaction but gives great disappointment. It claims to be real living but is really the way to death. Illicit sexual relationships are always “unstable.” Nothing binds those involved except the temporary and impersonal gratification of physical impulses.

Another tragedy of sexual sin is that often those involved do “not know it” is unstable, do not realize perhaps for a long time that their relationship cannot be lasting. Thus they fall deeper and deeper into the pit of their doomed relationship, which makes the dissolution all the more devastating and painful.

Those who consider all sex to be basically evil, however, are as far from the truth as those who consider all sex to be basically good and permissible. God is not against sex. He created and blessed it. When used exclusively within marriage, as the Lord intends, sex is beautiful, satisfying, and stabilizing. “Let your fountain he blessed,” Scripture says, “and rejoice in the wife of your youth.… exhilarated always with her love” (Prov. 5:18-19).

The Bible’s advice for avoiding sexual involvement outside marriage is simple: stay as far away as possible from the persons and places likely to get you in trouble. “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8).

When we unavoidably get caught in such a situation, the only sensible thing to do is to get away from it as quickly as we can. Passion is not rational or sensible, and sexually dangerous situations should be avoided or fled, not debated.

Involvement in illicit sex leads to loss of health, loss of possessions, and loss of honor and respect. Every person who continues in such sins does not necessarily suffer all of those losses, but those are the types of loss that persistent sexual sin produces. The sex indulger will come to discover that he has lost his “years to the cruel one,” that his “hard-earned goods” have gone “to the house of an alien,” and that he will “groan” in his latter years and find his “flesh and [his] body are consumed” (Prov. 5:9-11). The “stolen water” of sexual relations outside of marriage “is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant”; but “the dead are there” (Prov. 9:17-18). Sexual sin is a “no win” situation. It is never profitable and always harmful.

Sexual Sin Controls

“Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.

Paul was free in the grace of Christ to do as he pleased, but he refused to allow himself to be mastered by anything or anyone but Christ. He would not become enslaved to any habit or custom and certainly not to any sin. “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).

No sin is more enslaving than sexual sin. The more it is indulged, the more it controls the indulger. Often it begins with small indiscretions, which lead to greater ones and finally to flagrant vice. The progression of sin is reflected in Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (v. 1). When we willingly associate with sin, we will soon come to tolerate it and then to practice it. Like all other sins that are not resisted, sins of sex will grow and eventually they will corrupt and destroy not only the persons directly involved but many innocent persons besides.

The Corinthians were no strangers to sins of sex, and unfortunately many believers there had gone back to them. In the name of Christian freedom they had become controlled by their own fleshly desires.

Paul wrote the Thessalonians, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4:3-5). The context argues that “vessel” is here a synonym for body rather than for wife, as many interpreters hold. Every believer is to rightly possess, rightly control, his own body. If we are living in the Spirit, we “are putting to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).

It is not as easy to be in control of ourselves as we sometimes think. Many people are deceived in thinking they are perfectly in control of their thoughts and actions, simply because they always do what they want. The fact, however, is that their desires and passions are telling them what to do, and they are going along. They are not masters of their desires, but are willing slaves. Their flesh is controlling their minds.

Paul himself testifies that he had to “buffet [his] body and make it [his] slave, lest possibly, after [he had] preached to others, [he himself] should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). Buffet (hupōpiazō) means literally, “to give a black eye, or to beat the face black and blue.” To keep his body from enslaving him, he had to enslave his body. Otherwise he could become disqualified, not for salvation but for holy living and useful service to God.

Sexual Sin Perverts

Paul’s teaching in our text is but an abbreviated version of what he has taught in Romans 6. The Christian dare not feel free to “live in sin,” because he or she has “died to sin” when joined by faith to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Dying to sin is symbolized in Christian baptism. By going under the water, we proclaim in a symbolic way that we died in Christ, and were buried. By coming forth from the water, we proclaim that we have been raised from the dead, in Christ, now enabled to live an entirely new life. To continue to live in sin is to deny everything we believed when we were saved, and everything we symbolically proclaim when we were baptized.

Sexual sin not only harms and controls but also perverts. It especially perverts God’s plan and purpose for the bodies of His people. A Christian’s body is for the Lord; it is a member of Christ; and it is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Body Is for the Lord

13  “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”–but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14  By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

Food and the stomach were created by God for each other. Their relationship is purely biological. It is likely the Corinthians were using this truth as an analogy to justify sexual immorality. The Greek text says literally, “The foods the belly, the belly the foods.” Perhaps this was popular proverb meant to celebrate the idea that “Sex is no different from eating: the stomach was made for food, and the body was made for sex.” But Paul stops them short. “It is true that food and the stomach were made for each other,” he is saying, “but it is also true that that relationship is purely temporal.” One day, when their purpose has been fulfilled, God will do away with both of them. That biological process has no place in the eternal state.

Not so with the body itself. The bodies of believers are designed by God for much more than biological functions. The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. Paul had a better proverb in mind with that statement. The body is to be the instrument of the Lord, for His use and glory.

Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Our bodies are designed not only to serve in this life but in the life to come. They will be changed bodies, resurrected bodies, glorified bodies, heavenly bodies—but they will still he our own bodies.

The stomach and food have only a horizontal, temporal relationship. At death the relationship ceases. But our bodies are far more than biological. For believers they also have a spiritual, vertical relationship. They belong to God and they will forever endure with God. That is why Paul says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:20-21). We need to take serious care of this body because it will rise in glory to be the instrument that carries our eternally glorious and pure spirit throughout eternity.

The Body Is a Member of Christ

15  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17  But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18  Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

Paul referred to the Creation account (Gen. 2:24) to explain the seriousness of sexual sin. When a man and woman join their bodies, the entire personality is involved. There is a much deeper experience, a “oneness” that brings with it deep and lasting consequences. Paul warned that sexual sin is the most serious sin a person can commit against his body, for it involves the whole person (1 Cor. 6:18). Sex is not just a part of the body. Being “male” and “female” involves the total person. Therefore, sexual experience affects the total personality.

Paul’s next point follows logically. For a Christian to commit sexual immorality is to make the members of Christ… members of a harlot. It is to use a part of Christ’s own body in an act of fornication or adultery. The idea is incomprehensible to Paul, as it should be to every believer. May it never be!

Sexual relations involve a union; the man and woman become one flesh. This indicates that the most essential meaning of the phrase one flesh (see Gen. 2:24; etc.) is sexual union. God takes sexual sin seriously because it corrupts and shatters spiritual relationships, both human and divine.

Christ’s people are one spirit with Him. That statement is filled with profound meaning and wondrous implications. But for his purpose here, Paul uses it to show that a Christian who commits sexual immorality involves his Lord. All sex outside of marriage is sin, but when it is committed by believers it is especially reprehensible, because it profanes Jesus Christ, with whom the believer is one (cf. John 14:18-23; 15:4, 7; 17:20-23). Since we are one with Christ, and the sex sinner is one with his partner, Christ is placed in an unthinkable position in Paul’s reasoning. Christ is not personally tainted with the sin, any more than the sunbeam that shines on a garbage dump is polluted. But His reputation is dirtied because of the association.

Paul’s counsel regarding sexual sin is the same as Solomon’s in the book of Proverbs: Flee immorality. The present imperative of the Greek indicates the idea is to flee continually and to keep fleeing until the danger is past. When we are in danger of such immorality, we should not argue or debate or explain, and we certainly should not try to rationalize. We are not to consider it a spiritual challenge to be met but a spiritual trap to be escaped. We should get away as fast as we can.

Paul does not elucidate on what he means by Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. I believe he is saying that, although sexual sin is not necessarily the worst sin, it is the most unique in its character. It rises from within the body bent on personal gratification. It drives like no other impute and when fulfilled affects the body like no other sin. It has a way of internally destroying a person that no other sin has. Because sexual intimacy is the deepest uniting of two persons, its misuse corrupts on the deepest human level. That is not a psychological analysis but a divinely revealed fact. Sexual immorality is far more destructive than alcohol, far more destructive than drugs, far more destructive than crime.

The Body Is a Temple of the Holy Spirit

19  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

God the Father created our bodies; God the Son redeemed them and made them part of His body; and God the Spirit indwells our bodies and makes them the very temple of God. How can we defile God’s temple by using our bodies for immorality?

As Christians our bodies are not our own. Paul puts sting into this verse by framing it as a sarcastic question. They are the Lord’s, members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit, who has been given by God to indwell us. So Paul calls for sexual purity not only because of the way sexual sin affects the body, but because the body it affects is not even the believer’s own. Understanding the reality of the phrase the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God should give us as much commitment to purity as any knowledge of divine truth could.

To commit sexual sin in a church auditorium, disgusting as that would be, would be no worse than committing the sin anywhere else. Offense is made within God’s sanctuary wherever and whenever sexual immorality is committed by believers. Every act of fornication, every act of adultery by Christians, is committed in God’s sanctuary: their own bodies. “For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16). The fact that Christians are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit is indicated in passages such as John 7:38-39; 20:22; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:9; and 1 Corinthians 12:3. The fact that God sent the Holy Spirit is clear from John 14:16-17; 15:26; and Acts 2:17, 33, 38.

We no longer belong to ourselves because we have been bought with a price. We were not “redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from [our] futile way of life inherited from [our] forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Christians’ bodies are God’s temple, and a temple is for worship. Our bodies, therefore, have one supreme purpose: to glorify God. This is a call to live so as to bring honor to the person of God, who alone is worthy of our obedience and adoration.

A very popular word today used even in Christian circles is the psychological word, “addiction.” Virtually every malady known to man is described as an “addiction.” Men and women, under the bondage of sexual immorality are said to have a “sexual addiction.” Alcoholism is spoken of as an addiction, one for which the individual under bondage is hardly seen to be responsible (after all, it was genetically predestined). Food is an addiction. And now, co-dependency is an addiction. Where will these addictions end? I think I know. They end with a new Master, Jesus Christ. We can serve but one master. When that Master is our Lord Jesus Christ, all other “masters” must be set aside.


[1] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 3.

[2] D. H. Madvig, “Corinth,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev. ed., Geoffrey W. Bromiley, General Editor (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), vol. I, p. 773.

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Posted by on December 5, 2022 in 1 Corinthians, Sermon


Scoffers, the Second Coming, and Scripture – 2 Peter 3:1-13

We Americans do not handle delays very well as we saw in the recent airline attendants’ strike. When numerous flights were canceled and many others were delayed, no one found the delays pleasant. Our culture simply does not like to wait. Yet we wait less today than men have ever waited. We travel at high speed waiting less to arrive at a distant place.

Communications which formerly took months now are completed in seconds. Meals which used to take hours to cook are now done in minutes in microwave ovens. People used to have to wait until they had cash to purchase a new car or home. Now these things are bought on credit. We do not have to wait. Fewer and fewer people are willing to wait until marriage to enjoy the pleasures of sex. We Americans are not accustomed to waiting.

Men do not enjoy waiting for anything, or anyone, including God. But the trust is men have been waiting on God all through history. Noah waited a good 100 years or so for the flood to come upon the earth (compare Genesis 5:32; 6:10; 7:6). Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for the birth of the son God had promised them (compare Genesis 12:4; 21:5).

Abraham did not even possess the promised land in his lifetime, and it was more than 400 years until his descendants took possession of it (compare Genesis 12:1-3; 15:12-16). Asaph felt for a time that he had waited too long for God’s promised blessings (Psalm 73).

From their constant questions about the coming of our Lord’s kingdom, it was evident the disciples were not excited about waiting either. When Jesus tarried three days before going to the place Lazarus had fallen sick and died, both Martha and Mary cautiously chided Jesus for coming too late (see John 11:21, 32).

God’s promises never come too late; in truth, they are never “late” at all. When the Scriptures indicate a time for God’s actions, the fulfillment is always precisely on time (see Exodus 12:40-41). When Jeremiah prophesied that Judah would be expelled from the land and held captive in Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12), the fulfillment of this prophecy would take place precisely at the end of 70 years. Knowing this, Daniel prayed accordingly (Daniel 9:1-3ff.). Likewise, the birth of the Lord Jesus came about exactly on schedule (see Daniel 9:24-27; Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:4-5; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

God is never “late;” He is always “on time.” But there are mockers who seek to convince themselves and others that the promise of our Lord’s second coming is false based upon the passage of much time and compounded by no visible evidences that He will come at all. In the college classroom, students allow an instructor five minutes to arrive for class, and then they leave. A full professor, being more important, is given up to ten minutes to arrive after the bell has rung. Mockers believe they have given God plenty of time to fulfill His promise to return and thus have now concluded that His time is up. “If He hasn’t come by now,” they say, “He simply isn’t coming.”

In chapter 3 of his second epistle, Peter exposes these mockers, along with the folly of their denials. He does so by reiterating his commitment to remind his readers of the truths of the Scriptures as revealed through the Old Testament prophets, the Lord Jesus, and His apostles (3:1-2). Peter then describes the mockers of whom he warns his readers, both in terms of their lifestyle and their creed (3:3-4). Verses 5-7 he expose the folly of their thinking, especially as it relates to the role of the Word of God in Old Testament history and in prophecy.

Peter then turns his attention to the saints in verses 8-13. While mockers deny the Scriptures, true saints base their hope and their conduct on the promises of the Word of God. In verses 8 and 9, Peter gives a divine perspective of time and presents a very different explanation for the apparent delay of the Lord’s return. This he does by focusing on God’s attributes: His eternality, His omnipotence, and His mercy.

In verses 10-13, Peter explains why the nearness of the “day of the Lord” is not evident to unbelievers and how the Lord’s return should impact the saints who look forward to the “new heavens and a new earth.” Verses 14-18 conclude this chapter and the entire epistle with some final exhortations to the saints regarding their relationship to the Scriptures.

Peter’s Ministry of Stirring Up the Saints (3:1-2)

1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandments of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

In his first chapter, Peter exhorted his readers to diligently pursue holiness (verses 1-11) and then conveyed his resolve to remind his readers of the truths of the inspired Scriptures:

12 Therefore, I shall always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you [already] know [them], and have been established in the truth which is present with [you.] 13 And I consider it right, as long as I am in this [earthly] dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my [earthly] dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you may be able to call these things to mind (2 Peter 1:12-15).

Peter reminds us in verses 16-21 of his certainty in turning our attention to the inspired Word of God. Because of the Father’s testimony concerning the identity of His Son at the transfiguration, we have the “prophetic word made more sure,” a word “to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (1:19).

Now, once again, Peter speaks of his intention to remind his readers of the truth of God. Here it is not the certainty of that Word but the source which seems to be in view. Peter strongly implies that no longer is new revelation needed and that what God has revealed is entirely sufficient. There once were “false prophets,” but now there are only “false teachers” (2:1). These false teachers do not communicate new revelation from God; rather they seek to deny and distort the Scriptures which have once for all been revealed (see 2 Peter 3:4, 16).

The natural man is always more interested in something “new” than in being reminded of that which is “old” (see Acts 17:19-21). Our technological age sees “old” as inferior and “new” as better. When I recently tried to order a laptop computer to take with me to India, laptops rated as “best buys” three months earlier were already obsolete! The “new” laptops were indeed superior. But we not find this so with respect to truth. Here, the “old wine” is better, and the new is the first to be forgotten.

Peter has little “new” for his readers. Like the rest of the apostles, he continually turns his readers to the truths of the Scriptures. There is a continuity and a climax to Scripture because God has progressively revealed His truth to men in the course of history. This revelation culminated in Christ, God’s “final word,” which was communicated to us by the apostles (Hebrews 1:1-3; 2:1-4). The truth of God is therefore found in the writings of the “holy”62 Old Testament prophets, whose teachings are affirmed, clarified, and further explained by our Lord, whose teachings were recorded by the apostles. There is no need for any additional revelation (see Revelation 22:18-19).

Peter wants us to view the Scriptures as sufficient, as reliable, accurate, and true. He also wants us to see these Scriptures as authoritative. These are not merely words which claim to be true; they are the only absolute truth God has revealed. But they are not truths submitted to the bar of human judgment. They are not divine suggestions; they are divine “commands.” You will remember that in the so-called “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20) of our Lord, He instructed His disciples to teach “all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). God spoke not just to inform us but to instruct us about what we are to believe, and thus how we are to behave. To disregard God’s word is to disobey Him.

Mockers: Their Lifestyle and Their Logic (3:3-4)

3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”

It should come as no surprise that men would arise who deny the second coming of our Lord. One of the most common falsehoods referred to in the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 15:32; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2), this false teaching had an adverse affect on some of the saints (2 Timothy 2:18). To deny the second coming is not only to deny the Christian’s future hope but also to deny the judgment of sinners at the return of Christ. No wonder these “mockers” denied the second coming. These were those who were “following after their own lusts” (verse 3). How much more comfortable it was to practice sin with the false assurance that they would not give account to God.

How ironic are Peter’s words. In the last days, mockers will come with their mocking. Dominated by their own lusts, they will deny the second coming. Yet their very existence is a fulfillment of Scripture and confirmation that indeed we are living in the last days. These mockers point to the nearness of the day of judgment by mocking it. In the last days there will be mockers. There are mockers. These are the last days.

The term “mockers” is found elsewhere only in Jude 18. I understand these “mockers” as the equivalent of the “scoffers” referred to in Proverbs. Proverbs speaks of those who are simple, naive, and easily led astray due to their youth, thus a lack of knowledge and experience. Some are fools, who are more willfully ignorant and morally stupid. But the scoffer is a hard-core fool, a fool who vehemently opposes truth and wisdom.

Peter wants us to “know” something first of all: expect “mockers” in the last days. We see that he believes we are living in the last days. These mockers were compelled to deny the second coming of Christ, not by the weight of the evidence, but due to the guilt and deceit produced by their sin. They are led astray by their impure lusts, not by pure logic.

Peter summarizes their argument in verse 4. Like so many heretics, their doctrine is posed in the form of a question. This use of a question well suits their character as mockers.

Their logic appears to be:

(1) The “day of the Lord” will entail a cataclysmic change.

(2) There has been no such change since the death of the patriarchs (“the fathers”), and there is no indication that there will be.

(3) Since the Lord has not returned for such a long time, and since there is no indication that He will, we must conclude He is not coming.

(4) Since the Lord promised to come to establish His kingdom on earth and He has not, we must conclude His promises are not reliable, and His word cannot be trusted.

This kind of logical process is not new. We see the same reasoning in Asaph’s description of the wicked in Psalm 73:

3 For I was envious of the arrogant, [As] I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pains in their death; And their body is fat. 5 They are not in trouble [as other] men; Nor are they plagued like mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them. 7 Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of [their] heart run riot. 8 They mock, and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. 9 They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return to this place; And waters of abundance are drunk by them. 11 And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased [in] wealth (Psalm 73:3-12).

The wicked may have gone about their sinful ways tentatively at first, but when they perceived that no punishment was meted out to them, they became arrogant and blasphemous. They publicly sinned and mockingly declared that God either did not exist or He did not care.

Notice the apparent piety of the language of denial in verses 3 and 4 of our text. These mockers have used all the right theological buzz words. They deny the faith with stained glass words. They speak of the “fathers,” of the “promise,” of the creation of the world, and they even speak of death as “sleep.” They use orthodox terminology, but they have created a heretical theology.67 Truly these are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). These are those who wish to appear orthodox, who will “secretly introduce destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1).

Peter is about to show the fallacy of these mockers’ theology in the following verses. But before moving on to consider his rebuttal, notice a very subtle but important inference contained in the statement of the mockers’ theology. No direct reference is made to the Lord Jesus Christ here. These heretics make a sweeping statement covering a large expanse of history going all the way back to the “beginning of creation.” They insist there is no evidence to support the Lord’s promised “coming,” but there is not so much as one word about the first “coming” of the Lord Jesus. “Nothing of any significance has happened,” they maintain, “which would support the biblical promise of the Lord’s coming.” The first coming is not even given so much as an honorable mention. Yet it was during this first coming that Peter, James, and John witnessed the transfiguration and beheld the glory and splendor of His second coming. It was at this time that the Father testified to the identity of the Lord Jesus as the promised Messiah (2 Peter 1:16-19).

When the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, the angels spoke these words to the disciples:

10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; 11 and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11).

The worst form of insult is ignored: the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, His miraculous birth, His sinless life, His mighty miracles, His amazing teaching, His death and resurrection from the grave; none of these seem to have any significance to the scoffers. Jesus does not even merit an “honorable mention.”

These scoffers daringly said nothing of significance had happened since the time of the creation to lend credence to the promise of God to come and establish His kingdom on the earth. They looked back to the beginning of time. But in so doing, they overlooked the coming of Christ just a few short years before. What an amazing oversight. In the following verses, Peter points out a number of biblical truths which must be overlooked (see verses 5 and 8) if one doubts or denies the certainty of the second coming.

Leaks in the Logic of the Mockers (3:5-7)

5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men [emphasis mine].

If I understand Peter correctly, the false teachers of whom he wrote are unbelievers, whose fate is eternal destruction (2:1, 3-13, 17). While they represent themselves as true believers and even participate with the saints in worship (2:1, 13; Jude 12), they are not really believers. Jude tells us they are “devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 19). This being the case, false teachers lack saving faith.

The mockers’ lack of faith is evident in their response to our Lord’s apparent delay in coming to establish His kingdom on earth. If they had faith, they would believe not in what they see but in what God has said; they would believe God’s Word (see Hebrews 11:1-3). But lacking such faith, they live only on the basis of their interpretation of what they see and touch and smell. Worse yet, lacking experiential knowledge, they act purely on impulse, or as Peter says, “instinct” (2 Peter 2:12).

In contemporary terms, we might say these men do not live by faith but by the scientific method. Please do not misunderstand: I am not opposed to the scientific method as long as it is applied to scientific investigation. But I am opposed to the scientific method as the basis for one’s spiritual life. The Christian’s life is based solely on what God has said, on God’s Word. The scientific method looks only at what can be seen, analyzed, and tested. It is unwilling to take anything on faith.

We see much reliance today in Christian circles on the scientific method when dealing with the spiritual life. Their banner: “All truth is God’s truth.” “Christian experts,” whose training and experience is dominated by the secular world, speak with authority about matters of Christian living. All too often, they Christianize secular principles, using more spiritual labels and often sprinkling their words with a few biblical terms or concepts. Their listeners buy up their advice as though it came straight from God, when they might hear the same advice from an unsaved expert minus the spiritual verbiage.

Peter’s words in verses 5-7 dramatically demonstrate how different the Christian’s perspective is, based upon the Scriptures, from the perspective of the unbeliever who will believe only what he can see. In verses 5, 6, and 7, Peter concentrates on the “Word of God” in relation to creation and judgment.

Do these mockers doubt and even deny the Word of God? How can they claim to be orthodox in their doctrine and speak of the creation of the world without acknowledging that the world was created by the Word of God? In the seven-day creation account of Genesis 1, every step of the creation began with the spoken Word of God. Each day begins with the statement, “And God said … ” (see Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24), shortly followed by the statement, “And God called … ” (see Genesis 1:5, 8, 10).

The “beginning of creation” to which these apostate mockers refer was a dramatic demonstration of the power of God’s Word. When God spoke, He spoke creation into existence. God’s Word transformed the chaotic mass of land and water into a world that would sustain life. It is the same “Word of God” which reversed the process of creation at the flood so that the land was covered with water, destroying all life by those saved by the ark (2 Peter 3:6). The same expressions found in the creation account of Genesis 1 (“God said” and “God saw”) are now repeated in Genesis 6 (see Genesis 6:1-8). The Word of God which created all life was now the Word by which all life was destroyed.

Creation and the flood both involved “water.” The “promise of God’s coming,” which the scoffers deny, involves “fire.” In verse 7, Peter reminds us that the present heavens and earth are “being reserved for fire.” It will take but a word from God, and this judgment will take place. Until that time, it is the Word of God which sustains creation as it is.

Once again, scoffers miss the point the Word of God makes so clear. They point to the constancy of life on this planet as evidence of God’s lack of involvement and proof that His Word is not true. Peter points to this same continuity (sameness) as proof of the sustaining power of God’s Word. He is the living Word, who not only created this world but who also sustains it:

16 For by Him all things were created, [both] in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).

What we “see” should not cast doubt on our trust in the promises of God and our hope of His coming. What we see, when interpreted in the light of God’s Word, is further evidence of the power of God’s Word. By His Word, the world as we know it was created. By His Word, the world was destroyed by the flood. And by His Word, the present heavens and earth are being preserved for the day of judgment which God promised.

The “promise of His coming” is the promise of Scripture.69 The promise of His coming is the word of God. Peter’s rebuttal in verses 5-7 focuses on the power and reliability of the word of God. From the scoffers’ perspective, history provides ample evidence the Word of God is impotent. From the perspective of the Scriptures, history provides ample evidence the Word of God is certain, because God is omnipotent.

The Word of God and the Character of God (3:8-9)

8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Verses 8 and 9 continue Peter’s argument against the scoffers’ contention that the second coming will not come to pass and that God’s promise and His Word are not trustworthy. Peter continues also to remind his readers of things which may have escaped their notice. But there is a clear and important change beginning at verse 8. Verses 3-7 focused on the mockers and their mocking the second coming. Now, beginning at verse 8, Peter focuses more on the saints than the scoffers. He changes pronouns from “they” and “their” to “you.”

The scoffers have rejected and ridiculed the Word of God, the very Word which could deliver them from the wrath to come by pointing them to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Since they have rejected the Word, there is nothing more that can be said to them or of them. And so Peter turns to the saints and to the Scriptures to explain biblically why the Lord’s return has taken so long and has not yet occurred.

In verses 8 and 9, Peter explains the Lord’s “delay” by reminding us of the character of God. Viewed from the divine perspective, what the scoffers see as a deficiency in God’s character is actually a display of His infinite wisdom, power, and grace. In verse 10, Peter refutes the error of the scoffers from the nature of divine judgment, especially the final judgment of the “day of the Lord.”

Peter challenges us in verse 8 to look at the “delay” in our Lord’s coming from a divine perspective rather than our very limited human perspective. From a human perspective, the mockers noted that considerable time had lapsed from the time of creation to their day, and yet the Lord had not come as promised. Worse yet, in their minds, there were no indications He would come. They thus concluded God was not coming and that His promises were untrue.

Peter challenges us to look at these same facts from a different perspective—the divine perspective. We must view the length of time God has tarried from the standpoint of who God is rather than from our own limited vantage point. God is eternal; we are mere mortals. God has no beginning and no end. If we live 70 years or perhaps a few more, we think we have had a full life. George Burns may make it to his 100th birthday, but what is 100 years compared to eternity?

Peter derives his theology from the Old Testament. Verse 8 draws heavily from the psalm written by Moses in which he meditates on the meaning of time and eternity:

1 (A Prayer of Moses the man of God.) Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born, Or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. 3 Thou dost turn man back into dust, And dost say, “Return, O children of men.” 4 For a thousand years in Thy sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or [as] a watch in the night. 5 Thou hast swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. 6 In the morning it flourishes, and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades, and withers away. 7 For we have been consumed by Thine anger, And by Thy wrath we have been dismayed. 8 Thou hast placed our iniquities before Thee, Our secret [sins] in the light of Thy presence. 9 For all our days have declined in Thy fury; We have finished our years like a sigh. 10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is [but] labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away. 11 Who understands the power of Thine anger, And Thy fury, according to the fear that is due Thee? 12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom. 13 Do return, O LORD; how long [will it be]? And be sorry for Thy servants. 14 O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad according to the days Thou hast afflicted us, [And] the years we have seen evil. 16 Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, And Thy majesty to their children. 17 And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And do confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands (Psalms 90:1-17).

One cannot help but wonder at what point in the life of Moses this psalm was written. I am inclined to think it was later in his life, when the first generation of Israelites were dying off in the wilderness. What a time to ponder the finiteness of man in contrast to the eternality of God.

Peter draws upon the meaning of time to the eternal God as described in verse 4: “For a thousand years in Thy sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or [as] a watch in the night.”

To God, who is eternal, there is no hurry. We are in a hurry for God to establish His kingdom on the earth because our time is running out. Our days are numbered; His are not. We are in a hurry to see things happen; He is not. For one who lives less than 100 years, a thousand years is a long period of time. But to God, a thousand years is but a drop in the bucket.

Time does not limit God in any way. A long period of time in the eyes of men is nothing in the eyes of God. Conversely, a very short period of time in our sight is not short in God’s sight. This truth is based not only upon God’s eternality, but also on His great power, His omnipotence.

Time and ability are very much related. Few of us can buy a new house and pay for it in cash. But given enough time, we can buy a home far beyond our immediate ability to pay. What we are not able to do in a short time, we can do over a longer period of time. Conversely, we may be able to do some things for a short period of time that we cannot do for a longer time. For example, we cannot go on vacation for 11 months of the year because we cannot afford it. We have to work. God can take all the time He pleases, because His resources are unlimited.

God has no need to hurry, because He is not only eternal, He is omnipotent. He can do in a very short time that which would take us forever. For example, God was able to “compress” an eternity of judgment into those few hours our Lord suffered on the cross of Calvary. Yet, God was also able to delay the fulfillment of His promises to the patriarchs for thousands of years so we and they might experience the fulfillment of God’s promise at the same time (see Hebrews 11:39-40).

Peter challenges us to view the length of time our Lord has tarried in terms of just who God is rather than in terms of who we are. When viewed from the standpoint of who God is—His attributes—the time He has apparently delayed is inconsequential. Only from a human perspective can it be deemed “too long.”

In the mockers view, this length of time reflected badly on God’s ability or unwillingness to bring His kingdom about. In truth, the delay reflects the opposite as Peter moves in verse 9 to another of God’s attributes directly relating to His apparent “delay”—the patience of God. The length of the Lord’s delay in coming to establish His kingdom is directly proportionate to His patience and longsuffering toward sinful men.

9 The Lord is not slow71 about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

The patience of God is toward His elect. In Peter’s words, He is “patient toward you (emphasis mine). God’s judgment will fall upon the wicked, but His grace is toward those hearts He opens, who therefore turn to Him in faith (see Acts 13:48; 16:14). The sovereignty of God in salvation may be difficult to accept for some, but it is certainly true, and it involves His longsuffering toward those who are doomed as well as toward the elect:

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And [He did so] in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 [even] us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles (Romans 9:19-24; see also Romans 3:25).

Our response toward the patience of God should be to regard the delay in terms of salvation (verse 15). The delay of God in judging sinners has made possible our salvation. It also provides the opportunity for others to be saved and for us to be instruments in their salvation by proclaiming the gospel. How beautiful the “delay” of God’s kingdom now appears in light of God’s patience and the salvation of lost sinners, including us.

These words of Peter in verse 9 are sometimes misinterpreted:

9 … not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9b).

Does this mean that for God “wishes” do not come true? Does this mean that God wants all men to be saved, but He is not able to do so? Some sincere Christians say so, but I believe they are wrong. What God purposes will take place. Period. Neither man’s unbelief, his apathy, his rebellion, or his weakness will prevent it from happening. God causes all things to “work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Even when men sin against Him, they achieve His purposes (see Acts 2:22-23; Romans 11).

God does as He pleases:

3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases (Psalms 115:3).

6 Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps (Psalms 135:6).

35 “And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And [among] the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’ (Daniel 4:35).

Peter shows in this text that God does not delight or take pleasure in the suffering of men but in their salvation (see Isaiah 28:21; Lamentations 3:33). Our Lord, in one sense, did not take pleasure in His death at Calvary, but He submitted to it as the Father’s will (see Matthew 26:39, 42). The Father surely did not delight in the suffering and torment of His Son. God’s sovereign will includes that which gives Him pleasure as well as that which does not. Peter is simply telling us that God does not desire (as a pleasurable thing) that any should perish in their sin, but He does purpose it (see Romans 9:1-23; 1 Peter 2:8; Revelation 13:8; 17:8).

God’s pleasure would be the salvation of every sinner, but Peter knows full well His purpose is to save some. The delay in the return of the Lord Jesus to subdue His enemies and rule over His kingdom is not so that someone might come, but so that He might draw His elect to Himself (see John 6:44; Acts 13:48; 16:14). Specifically, Peter says the Lord’s delay is so we (literally, “you”) might be saved (verse 9). God is patient toward us (“you”). Our salvation is the result of His patience and longsuffering. The unsaved may attempt to explain God’s delay as a flaw in His character, but the Christian can only praise Him for withholding His wrath until we are brought to faith. The “delay” of our Lord is not a pretext for accusing Him but another occasion to adore Him.

6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (Exodus 34:6).

15 But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth (Psalm 86:15).

4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).

22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (Romans 9:22).

20 Who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through [the] water (1 Peter 3:20).

The Day of the Lord as a Day of Destruction (3:10-12)

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!

The coming day of judgment is now called by its Old Testament name: the “Day of the Lord.” The day of the Lord is a day when destruction is dramatic and intense:

“He uses one very vivid phrase. He says that the heavens will pass away with a crackling roar (roizedon). That word is used for the whirring of a bird’s wings in the air, for the sound a spear makes as it hurtles through the air, for the crackling of the flames of a forest fire.”

It is a dramatic destruction, a destruction by fire involving great heat so intense it literally melts the earth and the elements (verse 11). And the passing away of the heavens is accompanied by a noise, a roar.

The “Day of the Lord” is a day of destruction such as has never been seen before. At first, verse 12 appears to be a mere repetition of verse 10 at first, but it is more than this for it describes a destruction unlike any ever before. It is not all that difficult to imagine an entire city like Sodom, for example, being burned up. But Peter says that while the destruction of the Day of the Lord will be by fire, this “fire” will destroy things which do not appear to be flammable. The heavens will be destroyed by burning and so will the elements of the earth. Peter describes a fire so intense that seemingly indestructible matter is completely destroyed.

We have no way of likening this fiery destruction to any previous “fire” of judgment. It is beyond demonstration, let alone human comprehension. We have only one reason to believe it will happen, and that is because God has said it would. Our belief in the coming Day of the Lord is based solely upon our confidence in God and His Word. No wonder those who do not trust in God or His Word mock the possibility of such a day of divine judgment.

God’s judgment in the Day of the Lord will come unexpectedly on a scale never before witnessed in the history of mankind. The flood destroyed all mankind (except those on the ark) and much of nature. But the earth remained, and when the waters subsided, life went on. Cities like Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, but life went on. But when the Day of the Lord comes, all God has created (as recorded in Genesis) will be destroyed. All of life, all of the elements, and even the heavens. Nothing will be spared. All previous judgments are examples of divine judgment, but none convey the magnitude of the judgment yet to come.

The Day of the Lord is a future day which will come upon an unsuspecting world “like a thief.”16 Life will be going on as usual with men going about their normal routines (see Matthew 24:37-39). Do mockers reject God’s Word because the world goes on as usual with no indications of impending doom? That is exactly as our Lord said it would be. Yet there is a warning message. Now, as in days of old, God has sent His messengers to proclaim a two-fold message of coming judgment and of salvation and deliverance. If men will be saved, they will be saved by believing in God’s Word, and not by signs and wonders (see Luke 16:27-31).

Peter’s words about the nature of the Day of the Lord are written to us, the saints. Apart from divine enlightenment, his words fall on deaf ears as far as the unsaved are concerned. But what do these words say to us? How can we apply them to our lives? Peter sums our responsibility in verses 11 and 12:

11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!

The first application for believers is godliness. Early in Peter’s first epistle, we were called to holiness, a theme Peter never ceases to emphasize:

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR [God’s] OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe [them,] glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:9-12).

8 To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For, “LET HIM WHO MEANS TO LOVE LIFE AND SEE GOOD DAYS REFRAIN HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING GUILE. 11 “AND LET HIM TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; LET HIM SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT. 12 “FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE UPON THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL” (1 Peter 3:8-12).

1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).

5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in [your] moral excellence, knowledge; 6 and in [your] knowledge, self-control, and in [your] self-control, perseverance, and in [your] perseverance, godliness; 7 and in [your] godliness, brotherly kindness, and in [your] brotherly kindness, love (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Peter points out in chapter 2 of 2 Peter the sharp contrast of the believer’s holiness to the fleshly indulgence of the false teachers. The one without hope beyond this life gives full indulgence to the flesh (see 1 Corinthians 15:32). But the one who lives in hope denies fleshly lusts, in light of the blessings God has promised in the life to come (1 Peter 2:11-12).

In verses 11 and 12, Peter is not talking about the blessings of the coming kingdom of God but the outpouring of God’s wrath upon sinners. He is speaking of the devastating consequences of sin and its corruption. Even though the Christian will not experience this judgment, he should learn from this. The Christian should be reminded of the holiness of God and His hatred of sin. If God deals with sin in His creation this way, how does God feel about sin in our lives? We must learn to hate what God hates. We must seek to be holy, as He is holy. We must flee from sin and its corruption and live godly and holy lives.

The horror of that day for sinners, and the finality of their judgment, should greatly motivate us to bear witness to our faith and seek to turn men from God’s wrath to His salvation:

22 And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 And others save with fear, pulling [them] out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 1:22-23).

9 Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences (2 Corinthians 5:9-11, emphasis mine).

A second application of the Day of the Lord should be “looking for and hastening” its coming. We believe that Day is coming because God’s Word tells us so. We need no “signs and wonders” to prove its imminence; we know because God’s description of the “last days” indicates the day is near. Let us not be caught by surprise when that great day arrives, for we know it is coming, and the time is near. Let us be watching for that great day, as our Lord and His apostles instructed us (Matthew 24:42-43; 25:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 4:7; Revelation 3:2; 16:15).

We can more easily understand how we are to “look for” the “Day of the Lord,” but how do we “hasten its coming?” Before answering, let us also consider another question: “Why would the Christian want to hasten the coming of the Day of the Lord?” It is a horrible day for the wicked, a day of complete destruction. Why would we ever wish the hastening of this day?

The answer might best be found in the Psalms. That day is the day justice is accomplished on the earth, when wrongs will be made right, and evil-doers will receive just punishment.

1 O LORD, God of vengeance; God of vengeance, shine forth! 2 Rise up, O Judge of the earth; Render recompense to the proud. 3 How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked exult? 4 They pour forth [words], they speak arrogantly; All who do wickedness vaunt themselves. 5 They crush Thy people, O LORD, And afflict Thy heritage. 6 They slay the widow and the stranger, And murder the orphans. 7 And they have said, “The LORD does not see, Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed” (Psalms 94:1-7; see also 6:3; 13:1-6; 35:17; 74:4-11).

The Book of Proverbs also explains why the righteous rejoice at the thought of the coming of the Day of the Lord, the day when the wicked are punished and our Lord Jesus Christ, the Righteous King, rules over all creation:

10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, And when the wicked perish, there is glad shouting (Proverbs 11:10).

15 The execution of justice is joy for the righteous, But is terror to the workers of iniquity (Proverbs 21:15).2 When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan (Proverbs 29:2).

The New Testament Book of Revelation portrays the rejoicing of the righteous at the judgment of the wicked:

4 And the third [angel] poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous art Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One, because Thou didst judge these things; 6 for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it. “ 7 And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments” (Revelation 16:4-7).

1 After these things I heard, as it were, a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; 2 BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and HE HAS AVENGED THE BLOOD OF HIS BOND-SERVANTS ON HER” (Revelation 19:1-2).

The saints rejoice at the thought of the coming Day of the Lord, for God will punish the wicked and establish His throne in righteousness. We may wish that day would come soon. Peter does not list how we may “hasten its coming,” but he expects us to know. Among the ways we can “hasten His coming” are these:

(1) By living righteously and suffering unjustly for doing so. The Lord hears and heeds the cries of His people, who suffer for living as saints.

4 Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. 5 [This is] a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 6 For after all it is [only] just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and [to give] relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thessalonians 1:4-9, see also 1 Peter 2:12).

(2) By proclaiming the gospel to lost sinners.

14 “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matthew 24:14).

(3) By praying. Our Lord Himself instructed us to pray in this way:

9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. 10 ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10).

The Positive Side of the Day of the Lord (3:13)

13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

Peter does not leave the subject of prophecy on the somewhat sour note of the destruction of creation. Instead, he turns once again in verse 13 to the “blessed hope” of the believer. We are not those who await judgment; we await God’s salvation. The destruction of this present creation is a necessary step in preparation for the “new heavens and a new earth” which are to come. The destruction of this creation in the Day of the Lord is like the demolition of an old building to make way for the construction of a new one in its place. Our hope is not just for God’s judgment but for the kingdom He will bring in which righteousness dwells. And since that kingdom is one characterized by righteousness, we should live in a manner consistent with our destiny (compare 1 Peter 3:8-12). We should live righteously.


Borrowing from the words of Francis Shaefer’s book, “How Then Shall We Live?”, how should the truths of this passage affect the way we think and the way we live out our lives on this earth? Consider how these implications might apply to your lives.

First, our text tells us a lot about false teachers so that we can more readily recognize them—and then avoid them. False teachers will certainly deny and distort the Scriptures. One doctrine they will attack is the believer’s future hope. They will emphasize the here and now, and minimize, if not deny, the hereafter. Rather than exhorting us to live now in the light of eternity, they will encourage us to live for the present, as though there were no eternity, and indulge the flesh. They will surely deny the Scriptural teaching of divine judgment. Their teaching is but a thinly veiled excuse for their own self-indulgent lifestyle. They are those who “follow after their own lusts” (2 Peter 3:3).

These false teachers seem to have far more questions than answers. And the very things which should cause them to trust God and praise Him are the things for which they accurse Him. Turning reality upside-down, when the Lord tarries graciously, giving men the opportunity to repent, these mockers accuse God of forsaking or at least failing to fulfill His promises. And when the world (and the universe) continues to function in the way it has since creation, they do not praise the Lord for sustaining it (see Colossians 1:16-17) but condemn Him for not giving any spectacular indications that the end is near. Ironically, even the presence of these false teachers is one of the indications that we are in the “last days” (see 3:3).

This text has so much to teach the Christian. Peter not only instructs us about false teachers, he also repeatedly reminds us of the truth. To Peter, as should be so for us, the Scriptures are foundational and fundamental. In both of his epistles, he turns our attention to the truths of the Word of God, truths which have been consistently taught by the Old Testament prophets, the Lord Jesus, and His apostles (3:1-2). It is the Word of God which false teachers attack and deny (3:3-7); if they cannot do this, they will attempt to distort them (3:14-16).

To Peter, the Scriptures are absolutely vital to Christian growth and stability. They are the source of divine revelation. They are the standard to which all teaching and practice must conform. They are absolutely sufficient, providing the believer with “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” They are the basis for our faith and hope and the believer’s sole source of revelation concerning the future. They speak of the Lord’s return to judge the wicked and destroy the existing creation. They speak as well of the glorious kingdom He will establish after this.

As the basis for our faith and hope, the Scriptures also give us a perspective which enables us to see through the distortions and deceptions of this world. We do not view the truths of the Word of God through the cloudy eyes of our culture or of this age. Indeed not! We view this age through the clear-eyed perspective of the Scriptures. The world is not as it seems; reality is revealed through the light of the Scriptures.

The prophecies of Scripture play a significant role in the life of the believer. They reveal all that we can now know about the future and assure us the Lord will return to this earth to judge the wicked and to establish His kingdom. The Scriptures stimulate us to godliness, knowing how God will deal with sin and its effects. Prophecy should also motivate us to evangelize, knowing the time is short and that sinners will suffer the eternal wrath of God. Prophecy informs us that materialism is folly, for all the things of this world will be burned up. Only God’s Word and people will endure for eternity, and these must be our priorities. Prophecy enables us to deny ourselves and to endure persecution for the sake of the gospel, for these cannot compare to the glory which lies ahead.

Our text also shows us the relationship between time and eternity. A long time may have passed, but it is put into its proper perspective when seen in the light of eternity. Time is our opportunity to enter into eternal life and to invest our lives for eternity. It is also our opportunity to tell others of the salvation God has provided through Christ.

This passage underscores the importance of viewing life from the vantage point of the character of God. The attributes of God are not abstract theological assertions of truth; they are the ultimate basis for our faith and hope. Prophecies (the promises of God) are of little value if God is not sovereign and omnipotent (all-powerful) and able to bring them to pass. Promises made centuries ago would have little value unless they were made by an eternal God, who is not bound by the limits of time. And a delay of centuries would seem to be cause for concern unless we view it from the standpoint of God’s patience, His mercy, and His grace.

Indeed, the attributes of God are no mere propositions; they are the description of the nature and character of the God whom we worship and serve. When life brings difficulties which seem to have no answers (even clear, biblical ones), we may rest confidently in who God is and what He is like. We see this often in the Psalms where the psalmist frequently cries out to God, presenting his problems, and lamenting no solution. But in the final analysis, the psalmist finds comfort and consolation in who God is, and thus he trusts in God and worships Him even though his immediate problems may remain. The great question in life is, “Whom do you trust?” We see from the attributes of God that we can only trust God.

The psalmists were not reticent to ask God questions. But we know from the Psalms they did not always receive a quick answer. This is why they based their trust and hope in God’s character. But there are different kinds of questions, and some should not be asked. Scoffers ask, “Where is the promise of His coming?” The godly ask, “How long, Lord, how long?” A world of difference exists between these two questions. One is a question rooted in sin and unbelief. The other is founded on faith and hope.

I dare not conclude, my friend, without asking you about your eternal future. Do you look forward in hope to the “new heavens and a new earth,” or is your destiny eternal destruction? The difference between these two destinies lies in your response to Jesus Christ. He came to the earth and died on the cross of Calvary to die for sinners, to bear the penalty of God’s eternal wrath. Those who trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins need not fear the coming “Day of the Lord,” but may look forward to it and even seek to hasten its coming. Those who have not received Jesus Christ as their Savior will face Him as their Judge when He comes to the earth again. Have you trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and as God’s provision for eternal life? I pray that you have. And if you have not, I pray that you will—even now.

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Posted by on September 29, 2022 in Sermon


Mother’s Day 2021 “A Woman Worthy of Praise” – Prov 31:10-31

This is how Zimbabweans celebrated Mothers Day | Mbare Times

Mother’s Day has a very special place in the hearts of the majority of people in America. Hallmark estimates that 150 million Mother’s Day cards will be sent this year (but only 95 million Father’s Day cards), making Mother’s Day the third largest greeting card holiday of the year.

U.S. Americans spend an average of $105 on Mother’s Day gifts, $90 on Father’s Day gifts. The phone rings more often on Mother’s day than Father’s day. The busiest day of the year at car washes? The Saturday before Mother’s Day. What mom thinks still matters.

We’re calling upon a man whose name is mentioned only once in scripture, yet this choice portion of literature seems to last forever in our minds as we look for a godly woman.

His name was King Lemuel, and he had a good mother.

In verse 10, King Lemuel begins with both a question and a declaration:

Question: a wife of noble character, who can find? Answer: she is worth far more than rubies!

Verse 30 sums it all up: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Many times these verses are presented in such a way that a great deal of guilt is brought forth on the part of the women and mothers listening. If you do not get up early and buy-and-sell land or provide your family with hand-sewn clothing…these verses are still for your encouragement.

Instead of listing items of activity which should be part of the Christian woman, it is listing characteristics which are then applied to the culture in which we walk and work. The idea: be this kind of woman in your character and your activities will be determined by the particular circumstances which do apply to your life.

  1. She is diligent (vs. 13, 17-18, 27)
    1. Proverbs 31:13: “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.”
    2. Proverbs 31:17-18: “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. {18} She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.”
    3. Proverbs 31:27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
    4. This trait seems to be mixed with a pleasant spirit and a good attitude. She seems to possess pride in what she does…she’s not happy just to “get by” but in doing a good job. She looks for the best buys, she realizes a profit, and works even into the night.
  2. She’s industrious and efficient (vs. 14, 16, 24)
    1. Proverbs 31:14: “She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.”
    2. Proverbs 31:16: “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”
    3. Proverbs 31:24: “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.”
    4. She’s a thinking individual. In the investment of her time, she looks for dividends and returns. Instead of focusing on the grind, she looks to the benefits her work will bring.
  3. She’s compassionate (vs. 20, 26).
    1. Proverbs 31:20: “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”
    2. Proverbs 31:26: “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”
    3. She has a soft heart that can be touched. And this makes her unique and distinct when contrasted to the man: an illustration….a child is hurt and the two responses:
    4. Mother: How are YOU doing? What can I do? (the caring one)
    5. Dad: Why were you running? You scratched the wall! Who’s fault was it? (the investigator).
  4. She has inner beauty (vs. 22, 25).

Proverbs 31:22: “She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.”

Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

IF MARRIED: She’s a devoted wife:

  1. She maintains her husband’s confidence (vs. 11a)

Proverbs 31:11a: “Her husband has full confidence in her….”

He’s comfortable in being transparent with her. He can share his feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and disappointment and know she will keep them to herself.

  1. She meets his needs (vs. 11b).

Proverbs 31:11b: “…and lacks nothing of value.”

She’s supportive and affectionate. She encourages his pursuits, and is committed to him and his efforts.

Remember when God looked at Adam and said: “It is not good that man should be alone.” He made a help-meet that would make him complete. Woman was a special creation of God but also a “corresponding part.”

  1. She seeks his good (vs. 12)

Proverbs 31:12: “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

  1. She aids his influence (vs. 23)

Proverbs 31:23: “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”

 IF A PARENT: she’s a dependable mother.

  1. She is disciplined (vs. 15, 18-19).

Proverbs 31:15: “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”

Proverbs 31:18-19: “She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. {19} In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.”

This is not a verse teaching you into hell if you don’t make homemade biscuits early in the morning, etc. But it is teaching a principle of taking charge of your time so you can meet the family needs. If the role of the husband or father in your house is for him to fix breakfast, then, obviously, the specifics would change.

  1. She’s organized (vs. 21).

Proverbs 31:21: “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.”

This verse presents a sense of planning. She takes the challenge of a family as just that, a challenge, and seeks to meet it. It’s not just “a cross to bear.”

  1. She’s dedicated (vs. 27).

            Proverbs 31:27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

What will be the results of this kind of woman (28-31).

Proverbs 31:28-31“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: {29} “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” {30} Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. {31} Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

* Her children will bless her! * Her husband will praise her!

* Her peers will be challenged by her! * Her works will bring their own praise!

* Her Lord will be honored by her life!

A husband’s relationship to his excellent wife: (vs. 11-12, 28-29)

Proverbs 31:11-12: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. {12} She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

Proverbs 31:28-29: “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: {29} “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.””

  1. He trusts her (vs. 11). He has no cause for suspicion for her. Deep within, he holds confidence in her.
  2. He benefits from her (vs.11).
  3. He’s affirmed by her (vs. 12).
  4. He’s impressed with her and sings her praises (vs. 28-29).

Young men – look for this kind of woman! Young ladies – strive with God’s help to be this kind of woman! Fathers and married men – Thank God if you have this kind of woman!

An “Eight Cow” Woman/Wife/Mother

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Johnny Lingo, a man who lived in the South Pacific. The islanders all spoke highly of him. He was strong, good-looking, and very intelligent. But when it came time for him to find a wife, people shook their heads in disbelief. The woman Johnny chose was plain, skinny, and walked with her shoulders hunched and her head down. She was very hesitant and shy. She was also a bit older than the other married women in the village, which did nothing for her value.

But this man loved her. What surprised everyone most was Johnny’s offer. In order to obtain a wife, you paid for her by giving her father cows. Four to six cows was considered a high price. The other villagers thought he might pay two or even three cows at the most. But he gave eight cows for her!!

Everyone chuckled about it, since they believed his father-in-law put one over on him. Some thought it was a mistake.

Several months after the wedding, a visitor from the United States came to the Islands to trade, and heard the story of Johnny Lingo and his eight-cow wife. Upon meeting Johnny and his wife the visitor was totally taken aback, since this wasn’t a shy, plain, and hesitant woman, but one who was beautiful, poised, and confident.

The visitor asked about this transformation, and Johnny Lingo’s response was very simple. “I wanted an eight-cow woman, and when I paid that for her and treated her in that fashion, she began to believe that she was an eight-cow woman. She discovered she was worth more than any other woman in the islands. And what matters most is what a woman thinks of herself.


First, we see in this story the law of loyalty and support.

  • Jesus saw Peter for the first time and said, “Wishy-washy Peter, you are r”
  • He went by Matthew the publican and said, “You can pr”
  • He looked up in a sycamore tree and saw the wee little man, Zacchaeus, and said, “You can be an honest ”
  • Charles Hodge told the story of an congregation in Amarillo that was growing. He felt he knew at least one of the reasons. Those who spoke often of the congregation talked about how they had the best elders, the best deacons, the best singing, the best teens and the best teachers of any congregation around.’”

The law of loyalty and support says that leaders will become what their followers make them become. If you pray for, encourage, and push your leaders, minister, teachers, etc., they will become an eight cow person.

If you criticize them and run them down, you can reduce them to nothing. We will become what we expect them to become.


This principle is true of our spouses, our church members, and our children.

Don’t rear your children to believe they are worthless. The Bible says children are a heritage of the Lord.

If you rear your children to believe that they are a bunch of no-good bums, they will turn out to be a bunch of no-good bums. We don’t rear children that way. We tell them what they could be. We give them a dream of excellence. We tell them some things are beneath our dignity….some things we just aren’t going to do.

My mom often tells the story of members who moved into the Chattanooga area during a time when transitions were common in the congregation where she worshipped…and my dad served as an elder for some 31 years.

“How is this congregation?” The old man said, “Well,  how  was  the  congregation  where  you  came from?” “Oh,” he said, “it was the best congregation on earth.” “You will find this congregation to be like that.”

Another conversation was different when the response was, “That is the sorriest congregation there ever was.” He said, “You will find this congregation to be just about like that.” He is right, isn’t he?

If we want this church to be great, it will be great. If we want it to be bad, it will be bad. It will be what we make it. It can be an eight cow church!


All of life is a compromise. We can make it level enough, straight enough, and square enough, but it will never be perfect.

We have to take each other ’s weaknesses and liabilities along with each other ’s strengths and assets. We have to make do with what we have.

How many of you would like for your husband/children to treat you as if you were an eight cow woman? Wouldn’t that just tickle you to death? Wouldn’t you be nicer to him?

Would it be hard to love and respect a man who treats you like an eight cow woman?

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Posted by on May 10, 2021 in Marriage, Sermon


What is our greatest need?

If you’re sick, you may think, “My greatest need is to be healed of this illness.” If you’re unemployed, you may think, “My greatest need is to get a good job to provide for my needs.”

If you’re single, you may think, “My greatest need is for a mate.” If you’re in a difficult marriage, you may think, “My greatest need is for harmony in my marriage.” If you have a child who has become ensnared by drug abuse, you may think that your greatest need is for your child to be free from this addiction.

While all of these are important needs, none of them are your greatest need. The greatest need of every person, whether he recognizes it or not, is to have God forgive his sins before he dies and faces God’s eternal punishment.

        Mark 2:1-12 (ESV)
1  And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
2  And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.
3  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
4  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
5  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,
7  “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8  And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?
9  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?
10  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—
11  “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
12  And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Mark encourages us to notice the crowd in this house, or the four men who cared enough about this man to go to a lot of trouble.

What did Jesus see? NOT a man with physical ailments, BUT someone who needed his sins forgiven!

Don’t miss this point! Our greatest need? Forgiveness of sins.

Health, adequate money, and a happy family are wonderful blessings, but if you die without God’s forgiveness, these blessings will be useless. Your greatest need is to know that God has forgiven your sins and that you are reconciled to the holy Judge of the universe.

The subject of knowing and experiencing God’s forgiveness of our sins is so important that the enemy of our souls has worked overtime to sow seeds of confusion and error. Our modern pagan society often deals with the problem of guilt by telling us that we don’t need to worry about it.

In other words, since guilt doesn’t make me feel good about myself (which is my aim in life), when my conscience condemns me, tell it to take a hike. Rather than being ashamed about our sins, we now celebrate them under the guise of being “true” to ourselves.

Another ploy of the devil is to get us to invent a god who is not perfectly holy and to view ourselves as basically good people. This god is tolerant and loving. He couldn’t possibly condemn a nice person like me!

Of course, I’m not perfect, but compared to terrorists who blow up innocent women and children and perverts who abuse little children, I’m not so bad. So I can excuse my relatively “minor faults” and dismiss my need for God’s forgiveness.

Satan also sows confusion about God’s forgiveness under the guise of religion. All of the world’s non-Christian religions, some branches of Christianity, and all of the cults that claim to be Christian teach that we must do something—fasting, prayer, penance, self-denial, good works—to help pay for our sins and to earn God’s favor. Often religious people base their hope of forgiveness on the fact that they have faithfully performed certain religious rituals for many years.

Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)
3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
4  even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
6  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
7  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
8  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
9  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
10  as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
13  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  14  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Paul is saying, In Christ, we have redemption through His blood, the abundant forgiveness of all our sins.

re·demp·tion   [ri- demp-sh uhn] NOUN

  1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
  2. deliverance; rescue.
  3. Theology. deliverance from sin; salvation.
  4. atonement for guilt.
  1. repurchase, as of something sold.

Before we consider the meaning of Paul’s words here, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of these truths for your life. If you try to seek God’s forgiveness in any way other than what Paul here states, you will waste your time and endanger your soul.

If your hope of heaven rests on anything that you must do to earn it, you will hear, “I never knew you; depart from Me” on that great day. If, as a Christian, you do not understand and live daily in light of the truths that Paul here sets forth, you will not grow in godliness. You will be defeated by sin and guilt. So these truths are vital for a healthy Christian walk.

In Christ we can have redemption.

So, if you lack redemption or forgiveness of your sins, you will not find it anywhere except in the person and work of Jesus Christ.


We use words such as “redeemer” or “redemption” as religious terms. But when the man of the first century heard them he immediately thought in non-religious terms.” It brought to mind the common picture of a slave being purchased and then set free. Redemption meant release from bondage by the payment of a price. Every Gentile in the Roman world would have thought of this when he heard the word, “redemption.”

The word also has roots in the Old Testament, which refers to a “kinsman-redeemer.” For example, in the Book of Ruth, Naomi’s family property, due to debt, had fallen into other hands. Because she had lost her husband, she could not afford to recover it. Boaz was a near relative who had the right to redeem the property by paying the price, which he did.

In other Old Testament contexts, God is seen as the one who redeemed Israel from bondage in Egypt (Exod. 6:6). As you know, the Jews had to put the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintel and doorposts of their homes. It was a picture of our redemption through the blood of Christ.

Paul uses the word in a spiritual sense to refer to Christ’s paying the price of our sin by His sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf. We were helplessly, hopelessly enslaved to sin and under God’s just condemnation. But with His own blood Christ paid the penalty to release us from bondage. We now belong to Him.

Implicit in the biblical doctrine of redemption is that God did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. We were enslaved to sin and had no power or means to free ourselves. God did not need our help in paying the price. In fact, it is an insult to Christ if we think that we can add anything of our own to the great price that He paid.

If someone offered you a gift that was worth thousands of dollars and you reached in your pocket to give him a penny to pay for it, you would insult him. Jesus graciously paid it all. We can do nothing except to receive His gift and then live every day in light of what He so graciously and generously did for us.


Paul does not say, “In Him, someday we hope to be redeemed.” Nor does he say, “We’re working at obtaining redemption, but we don’t know yet if we’ll get it until we see whether our good works tip the scale.” Rather, he says, “In Him, we have redemption.” It is our current possession and experience.

Knowing that should fill us with joy and gratitude and love for Christ. It should remove any fear of judgment and fill us with hope beyond the grave. It should motivate us to be holy. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as the payment for your sins, God wants you to know and enjoy the fact that He has redeemed you from bondage to sin.

So the issue is, either you trust in what Jesus Christ did on the cross as the full payment for your sins, or when you stand before God at the judgment, you must pay for your sins through eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

There will be no second chance (Heb. 9:27). That is why making sure that you have redemption through the blood of Jesus is your greatest need! Paul goes on to elaborate on what such redemption means:

Redemption through Christ’s blood is according to the riches of God’s grace, which He lavished on us.

The word “lavished” may be illustrated by ocean waves. They just keep coming and coming and coming. They never stop. God’s forgiveness is like that for those who are redeemed through the blood of Jesus. If you have trusted Christ as your sin-bearer, and responded to Him through faith that culminates with an immersion in water in order to have sins forgiven, Paul wants you to experience the extravagant, lavish undeserved favor of God in forgiving all of your sins.

We sometimes sing the old hymn, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Either that’s true or it’s not. If the blood of Jesus does not wash away all of our sins completely, then we’re all in a lot of trouble, because we all have a lot of sins to deal with.

If it only atones for minor sins, what good is that? “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us.” Thank God that is true! Cling to it and live it each and every day!

Exodus 34:6-7 (ESV)
6  The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
7  keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Exodus 34:6-7 (MSG)
6  GOD passed in front of him and called out, “GOD, GOD, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—
7  loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation.”

We read and quote John 3:16 (ESV) all the time: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

But we also need to take to heart verse 17: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.


When A. J. Gordon was minister of a church in Boston, he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, “Son, where did you get those birds?”

The boy replied, “I trapped them out in the field.”

“What are you going to do with them?”

“I’m going to play with them, and then I guess I’ll just feed them to an old cat we have at home.”

Gordon offered to buy them, and the lad exclaimed, “Mister, you don’t want them, they’re just little old wild birds and can’t sing very well.”

Gordon replied, “I’ll give you $2 for the cage and the birds.”

“Okay, it’s a deal, but you’re making a bad bargain.”

The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue.

The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ’s coming to seek and to save the lost—paying for them with His own precious blood. “That boy told me the birds were not songsters,” said Gordon, “but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, ‘Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!”


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Posted by on April 2, 2020 in Sermon


I’m Not From Around Here #3 – What To Do When Your Boss Isn’t Fair – 1 Peter 2:18-23

18  Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
19  For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.
20  But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
21  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
23  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

If you are a parent of children old enough to talk, you have heard them complain, “But that isn’t fair!” And you responded, “Life isn’t fair!” We are born with a strong inner sense of fairness and a strong desire to fight for our rights when we have been treated unfairly. Although we know that life isn’t fair, we’re prone to fight back when we’re the victims of unfair treatment.

Let’s assume that you are a conscientious worker on your job. You get to work early, you’re careful not to extend your lunch breaks, and sometimes you stay late on your own time to finish a job. You’re careful not to waste company time with excessive chit-chat. You work hard and produce for the company. Because you’re a Christian, you don’t go out drinking after hours with the boss and you don’t swap the latest dirty jokes with him.

Another worker is, in your opinion, a goof off. He often comes in late, he spends a lot of time chatting with the secretaries, he takes long lunches, and he does sloppy work which you often have to correct. But he also goes out drinking with the boss and he always has a new dirty joke that sends the boss into hysterics. When a promotion opens up, he gets the better job and you are overlooked.

Life isn’t fair! The important question is, “How do you respond when you’re treated unfairly?” How should you respond? Is it wrong to defend yourself or to stand up for your rights? How should a Christian respond when treated unfairly, especially on the job? That is the question Peter addresses in 1 Peter 2:18-23. My guess is that you’re not going to like his answer. (I can guess that because I don’t like his answer either!) His answer is,

When treated unfairly by a superior, we should submissively endure by entrusting ourselves to God, the righteous Judge.

That principle is easily stated, but not so easily applied. Not one of the fifteen or so commentators I read dealt with the tough practical implications raised here. How broadly can we apply to modern life principles given to slaves? Do these things apply beyond the realm of employment to any situation? Is it always wrong to defend ourselves or to speak out when we are treated unfairly? Are Christians supposed to be doormats? If so, how do we harmonize this text with the numerous occasions where Jesus and Paul defended themselves and verbally attacked their accusers? These are some of the issues we must think through if we want to apply this text properly. I’m going to offer five statements to seek to explain and apply what Peter is saying. You’ll have to struggle to apply it personally to your specific situation.

The situation for submission is one in which we are under authority.

Peter addresses this to “servants.” The word refers to household servants, but these were not just domestic employees; they were slaves. They belonged as property to their owners. Immediately we cry out, “That’s not fair! Slavery is evil! Slave owners are wrong! Slaves shouldn’t have to submit to unjust authority! They should revolt!”

But that isn’t the biblical approach to righting the social evil of slavery. The biblical approach was to exhort slave owners to treat their slaves with dignity and fairness. They were even to view them as brothers and sisters in the faith (e.g., Philemon). And slaves were exhorted to be good, submissive workers. If they had an opportunity to gain their freedom, fine (1 Cor. 7:21). Otherwise, they were to be good slaves, in submission to their owners. It wasn’t a quick fix to the evil of slavery. It didn’t result in a slave revolt, although eventually it did topple slavery. But in the meanwhile, it demonstrated Christ-likeness within the existing social structure in a way that led to the spread of the gospel.

How do we apply this to our cultural situation? We aren’t slaves to our employers, although we may feel like it at times. Is it wrong to defend ourselves and to stand up for our rights when they are violated by an employer? That’s the American way, isn’t it?

It may be the American way, but it’s not necessarily the biblical way. God’s way is for us to identify the nature of the relationship: Am I under the authority of the person who is treating me unfairly? That is the first question I must ask to determine how I should act in a given situation.

God has ordained various spheres of authority. He is the supreme authority over all, of course. But under God there is the sphere of human government (1 Pet. 2:13-17; Rom. 13:1-7). Also, there is the sphere of the family, in which husbands have authority over wives (1 Pet. 3:1-6; Eph. 5:22-24) and parents over children (Eph. 6:1-4). There is the sphere of the church, in which elders have authority over the flock (1 Pet. 5:1-5; Heb. 13:17). And there is the sphere of employment (either forced, as in slavery, or voluntary), in which employees must be subject to employers (1 Pet. 2:18; Eph. 6:5-9).

Once we’ve identified whether or not we are under the authority of the person who is mistreating us, we then must examine our own attitude and motives and ask: Do I have a proper attitude of submission, or am I selfishly fighting for my rights? If I’m truly in submission and I’m not acting for selfish reasons, I would argue that there is a proper place for respectful communication that seeks to clarify falsehood and promote the truth. In other words, if our attitude and motives are in submission to God, we need not always silently endure unjust treatment as Christian doormats. There is a proper place for self-defense and for confronting the errors of those who have mistreated us, as long as we work through proper channels.

I make this point because many take the overly simplistic (and erroneous) view that Christians must always endure mistreatment in silence and that self-defense is always wrong. But Jesus Himself did not do this, nor did the Apostle Paul who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For example, in John 8 the Jews attacked Jesus’ character and authority by saying that He was bearing false witness about Himself and that He was illegitimately born. Jesus did not silently endure this attack. Rather, He defended Himself as being sent from the Father and He attacked these critics by saying that they were of their father, the devil! That’s hardly a passive, silent response! Nor was Jesus passive when He attacked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23). The Apostle Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and parts of other epistles to defend his character and ministry which were under attack. He put down his critics in a strong and, at times, sarcastic manner.

How can we harmonize such vigorous self-defense with Peter’s exhortation to silent submission? It seems to me that there are several factors to consider in deciding whether to defend myself or silently to bear reproach. First, Am I under the authority of the one attacking me? If so, I need to examine my life to see if I’m doing something to provoke the attack. If so, I deserve punishment (2:20). I may need to ask the person to help me with a blind spot. I may need to explain my motivation. If I conclude that the superior is simply out to get me because of my faith, I probably need to bear the unfair treatment patiently for Christ’s sake.

A second question: Is God’s truth being called into question or ridiculed? If so, I should clearly defend the truth. During Jesus’ mockery of a trial before the Sanhedrin, He was silent until the high priest said, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus couldn’t remain silent to that question, so He answered, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:63-64).

A third factor concerns our witness to outsiders. If I am being falsely attacked on the job, I need to ask myself how I can bear the most effective witness for Jesus Christ. It may be that a quiet but confident answer would be most effective. But if they’ve heard where I stand, it may be that quiet submission, where I let go of my rights, would be most effective. More on this in a moment.

The main principle is, am I under the authority of the person who is acting unfairly toward me? If I am, then I can appeal with the proper attitude of submission. But if the appeal fails, I must submit. Does that mean that I must remain under unjust authority for the rest of my life? Isn’t there a place for getting out from under corrupt authority? The answer is, “Yes, but be careful!” There is a place for Christians to flee from a corrupt government.

There is a time to get out from under corrupt spiritual authority (as in the Reformation). There is a time for moving from a bad employer. But if you move too quickly, you may miss what God is seeking to do in the difficult situation. He may want to teach you some hard lessons of being like Christ. He may want to bear witness through you. So weigh things carefully before you make a move. If you are defiant or impulsive, you probably should stay put and learn to submit.

The motives for submission are to please God and bear witness to the lost.


When Peter says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect,” it should be translated, “with all fear.” In the previous verse Peter distinguished between fearing God and honoring the king. So here, when he says that we should be submissive with all fear, he means, “fear toward God,” not “fear toward the earthly master.”

Also, twice (2:19a, 20b) Peter says that submitting to unjust treatment “finds favor with God.” Peter’s language here reflects the teaching of Jesus in Luke 6:32-35, which was no doubt in Peter’s mind (“what credit” there is the same Greek word as “favor” here). The idea is that God gives grace (same Greek word as “credit” and “favor”) to the humble, not to the defiant, assertive, and self-reliant. If we defy an authority which God has placed over us, we are, in effect, defying God Himself. Thus, conscious of God (probably the best translation of “conscience toward God” [2:19, NASB]), we should seek to submit to please Him, trusting Him to deal with the unjust authority.

One way to apply this is consciously to recognize that you don’t work primarily for your employer; you work for God. Howard Hendricks tells the story of being on an airliner that was delayed on the ground. Passengers grew increasingly impatient. One obnoxious man kept venting his frustrations on the stewardess. But she responded graciously and courteously in spite of his abuse.

After they finally got airborne and things calmed down, Dr. Hendricks called the woman aside and said, “I want to get your name so that I can write a letter of commendation to your employer.” He was surprised when she responded, “Thank you, sir, but I don’t work for American Airlines.” He sputtered, “You don’t?” “No,” she explained, “I work for my Lord Jesus Christ.” She went on to explain that before each flight, she and her husband would pray together that she would be a good representative of Christ on her job. She sought to please God first.


The issue of a slave’s response to his master had far-reaching cultural implications in that day when there were millions of slaves. If Christian slaves were defiant, critics could have accused Christianity of stirring up rebellion and undermining the whole fabric of the society. Thus the theme of our witness to a pagan world underlies this section (as it does the previous and following paragraphs also).

Christ suffered on our behalf (2:21). His unjust suffering (Peter uses this word instead of “death” to relate to his readers’ suffering) secured our salvation in a substitutionary sense (as Peter goes on to make clear in 2:24). In a similar, but not totally analogous way, our unjust suffering can lead to the salvation of lost people if they see the character of Christ in us as we suffer. The attitude of fighting for our rights communicates to the world that we’re living for the things of this world. Submitting to unfair treatment and giving up our rights communicates the truth, that we’re living as pilgrims on our way to heaven.

If you’re being treated unfairly at work, you may be looking at a tremendous opportunity to bear witness for Christ by your behavior. If you yield your rights in a Christlike manner, people will notice and may wonder, “Why doesn’t he fight for his rights?” Maybe you’ll get an opportunity to tell them. If so, your words are backed up by the powerful testimony of your good works. You have demonstrated what it means to live under God’s authority, with a view to pleasing Him.

This raises the question of whether or not it is proper for Christians to belong to trade unions. That’s a sensitive issue, and I don’t have time to deal with it. I will say in passing that you need to think through whether you can bear witness of a Christlike spirit, in submission to God and to your employer, while belonging to an organization that seeks to fight for your rights.

Thus, the situation for submission is one in which we are under authority. The motives for submission are to please God and to bear witness.

The pattern for submission is Jesus Christ.

Christ left an example for us to follow in His steps (2:21). The word example is literally, “underwriting.” It was a school word. Teachers would lightly trace the letters of the alphabet so that students could write over them to learn how to write. Or, as in our day, teachers would put examples of the alphabet up in the room for students to look at to copy as they formed their letters. Christ is that kind of example for us. If we follow how He lived, we will form our lives correctly.

Following “in His steps” pictures a child who steps in his father’s footprints in the snow. Where the father goes, the child goes, because he puts his feet in those same footprints. In like manner, we are to follow our Savior. Peter says that we are called to the same purpose as Christ was (2:21). If our Master’s footprints led to the cross where He suffered unjustly, so we can expect to die to self and suffer unjustly. If we respond as He did, people will see our Savior in us. Many people will never read the Bible, but they do read our lives. They should see Christlikeness there, not a defiant spirit of self-will that characterizes those who are living for themselves and the things of this world.

The principle of submission involves not retaliating when we are wronged.

When Jesus was wronged, He did not retaliate in kind. He could have called legions of angels to strike down His enemies. He could have selfishly stood up for His rights (after all, He is Lord of the universe!). But He didn’t. He always acted selflessly, even when He did confront His accusers. While we’ll never be as unselfish as Jesus, it is a goal we should strive for.

Peter quotes (2:22-23) from Isaiah 53 to show how Jesus did not retaliate when He was wronged. There are four things mentioned which we need to keep in mind when we are treated unfairly. First, Jesus did not commit sin. He always acted in obedience to the Father, never in self-will. Second, there was never any deceit in His mouth. He didn’t bend the facts to win the argument or get His own way. When He defended Himself, He was always truthful. Third, when He was reviled, He didn’t revile in return. He didn’t trade insults. Fourth, He uttered no threats. He didn’t say, “Just you wait! I’ll get even with you!” In other words, Jesus didn’t respond to verbal abuse with more verbal abuse. Neither should we. Vengeance is always wrong for the Christian (Rom. 12:19).

How can we possibly live this way? Peter gives the answer in the final clause of 2:23:

The means of submission is to entrust ourselves to the Righteous Judge.

Jesus made it through the cross by continually entrusting Himself to the Father who judges righteously. He knew that He would be vindicated by being raised from the dead and enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He knew that His persecutors would be judged and dealt with according to their sins. So He “delivered Himself up” (the literal translation of “entrusted”) to God. It is the same word used for Jesus being delivered up to Pilate by the Jews and to the soldiers by Pilate (John 19:11, 16). They delivered Him up to death, but He delivered Himself up for our sins, trusting in the Father.

Jesus entrusted Himself to the Father, knowing that even though the way led to the cross, it also led through the cross to the glory beyond. Even so, we can entrust ourselves to God. The way will lead to the cross; but also, it will lead through the cross to the glory that awaits us in heaven. God is the righteous Judge who will someday right every wrong and bring vengeance on those who resist His authority. Our task is to trust Him by submitting to human authority, even when we are treated unfairly.


The great goal of the Christian life is to be like Jesus. That sounds wonderful until we realize that being like Jesus means submitting to proper authority, even if it’s unjust. It means submitting to please God and to bear witness to the lost. It means following Christ’s example, even as He went to the cross. It means not retaliating when we’re wronged. It means entrusting ourselves to the Righteous Judge, knowing that someday He will right all the wrongs.

These are not easy things for any of us to apply. But consider the rebellious spirit of our age and of our country and ask yourself if you are behaving properly toward those in authority over you, especially at work. Our response to unfair treatment should be submission, not fighting for our rights. If we put our trust in God, He will look out for us and right all the wrongs. It’s true: life isn’t fair! But thank God that Jesus endured unfair treatment on our behalf by bearing our sins so that we could receive eternal life!

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Posted by on June 10, 2019 in Sermon


I’m Not From Around Here #1 – Get Into the Word 1 Peter 2:1-3

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles…”

Have you ever relied on the expression “I’m not from around here?” It’s something I’ve said quite often when someone stops me wanting information or directions when I am visiting another city, state, or country. They understand and are quite comfortable “moving on” to find someone who can help them.

Our subject is the pilgrim life (sojourners/exiles) – the fact that we are just passing through this life, journeying toward heaven. We are on this earth only for a short while and we should feel as settled in this world as we would feel if we were traveling in Mongolia. It may be a fascinating place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to sink down roots there.

Being a pilgrim just isn’t the dominant model of the Christian life for our times. Our view of Christianity is often geared to the here and now: What will it do for my marriage? How will it help me raise my kids? Will it help me succeed in my career? Will it help me overcome personal problems?  Will it help me feel fulfilled as a person?

For some, heaven is thrown in as a nice benefit at the end of the ride. But heaven is not our focus. We want to enjoy life now and cling to it as long as we’re able. We don’t view death as the gateway to everything we’ve been living for. We see it as something to be postponed and avoided at all costs. We often don’t view ourselves as pilgrims.

There’s nothing wrong and everything right about enjoying God and the blessings He freely bestows on us in this life. But if we don’t hold the things of this life loosely and aren’t focused on God Himself and on being in heaven with Him as our goal, we are holding to a shallow form of Christianity.

If we’re just living for the good life that being a Christian gives now, we won’t last very long under persecution. We wouldn’t endure much suffering. Nor would we withstand the many temptations to indulge in fleshly desires. The only thing that can steel us to endure suffering and to seek holiness in this wicked world is to live as pilgrims, bound for heaven.

Part #1: Getting Into The Word (1 Peter 2:2-3)

In his book, A Quest for Godliness J. I. Packer reports that a Puritan preacher named Laurence Chaderton once apologized to his congregation for preaching for two hours. They responded, “Sir, Go on, go on!” Ah! Every preacher’s dream! At 82, after preaching for 50 years, Chaderton decided to retire. He received letters from 40 clergy begging him not to, testifying that they owed their conversion to his ministry of the Word (p. 57).

Packer states (p. 98): Puritanism was, above all else, a Bible movement. To the Puritan the Bible was in truth the most precious possession that this world affords. His deepest conviction was that reverence for God means reverence for Scripture, and serving God means obeying Scripture. To his mind, therefore, no greater insult could be offered to the Creator than to neglect his written word; and, conversely, there could be no truer act of homage to him than to prize it and pore over it, and then to live out and give out its teaching. Intense veneration for Scripture, as the living word of the living God, and a devoted concern to know and do all that it prescribes, was Puritanism’s hallmark.” (at a seminar at Harding University, we were told that Martyn Lloyd-Jones spend MANY years teaching just from the book of Romans.)

I assure you that I won’t preach for even 35 minutes this morning. But I this will be my feeble attempt to motivate each of us to get into God’s Word consistently. More than the food we eat, we must have God’s Word!

We must have God’s Word to grow in our salvation. 1 Peter 2:2 (ESV)

2  Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

God’s Word not only imparts life to us, it nurtures and sustains it. Apart from God’s Word, we shrivel and die like a starving child whose mother’s milk has dried up and who has no other source of food. Therefore, we must have God’s Word.

What the Word is like: The word is pure (2:2).

The Greek word means, literally, not deceitful. It means unadulterated, not watered down. Dishonest merchants in that day would add water to their milk to make more profit. This was “deceitful” milk. Peter tells us to long for the pure, not-deceitful milk.

This means that the Bible, if you take it straight, tells you the honest truth about yourself. It exposes the very thoughts and motives of your heart so that you have no where to hide.

It is not uncommon, after I preach, to have someone come up to me and ask, “Did anyone tell you about what I went through this past week?” When I assure them that no one told me anything, they say, “It seemed like you knew everything and you were aiming that sermon directly at me.” It isn’t me; it’s the Bible!

We tend to deceive and flatter ourselves. But the Word of God cuts through the deception and lays out the honest truth so that we can deal with our problems.

That’s like going to a doctor who doesn’t talk about sickness, but who gives his patients sugar-coated pills that make them feel good without dealing with the root cause of their problems.

The Bible declares that the root cause of our problems is our sin. By confronting our sin and presenting God’s remedy for it, the Bible brings lasting healing.

The word is rational.

The literal translation of verse 2 is that we should long for “the pure, spiritual milk.” The word “spiritual” also means “rational” (Greek = “logikos,” from “logos”). The only other time it occurs in the Bible is in Romans 12:1, where Paul says that presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to God is our “spiritual (or rational) service of worship.”

He means that it is a spiritual thing to do, since we don’t do it literally (as a burnt offering), but rather spiritually by yielding ourselves to the will of God. And, it is the reasonable thing to do in light of God’s great mercies to us.

This spiritual milk is rational–it is grasped with the mind.

Thus Christianity is essentially rational, but not rational in the worldly sense, but rational in a spiritual sense. Human reason must be subject to the written revelation God has given of Himself in the Bible. But you cannot know God without using your mind, since He has revealed Himself in the propositional revelation of the written Word.

This balance would correct many of the excesses of our day. Some Christians who are heavily subjective. They operate on a feeling level, devoid of solid theological content. Others emphasize theological content, but they’re afraid of emotions. The Word of God ought to fill our minds with the knowledge of God and move our hearts with His majesty and love.

The word is nourishing.

Peter is referring to a mother’s milk, as the analogy of newborn babes makes clear. He isn’t contrasting the milk of God’s Word with meat, as Paul does (1 Cor. 3:2). We are always to be feeding on this nourishing milk. It is simple enough for the youngest infant in the faith, but solid enough for the most mature saints.

God has designed a mother’s milk as the perfect food for newborn babies. It will immunize her baby from many illnesses and nourish her baby for growth. God’s Word will protect Christians from the many spiritual diseases which abound and nourish them to grow in the Lord.

A mother’s milk will make her baby grow for months without any other food. God’s Word will nourish Christians so that they “grow toward salvation” (2:2). Peter means salvation in its ultimate sense, which includes everything that God has provided for us who are His children. We never reach a place in this life where we can stop growing.

One thing about kids is that they’re excited about growing. Just about every home with children has a growth chart. Every few months you measure your kids and say, “Wow, look how much you’ve grown since last time!”

That’s what the Word of God is like: It’s pure; it’s rational; it’s nourishing milk that will make you grow toward salvation.

I didn’t understand this analogy until we had children of our own. Newborn babies have an intense craving for their mother’s milk! It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 a.m. If they’re hungry, they let you know about it and don’t stop letting you know about it until they get what they’re after! You can stick your finger in their mouth and they’ll suck on it for a minute (and what powerful cheek muscles they have!).

How do you get that kind of motivation for the Word of God?


So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

   In the context, it is clear that these relational sins (2:1) will hinder your motivation for the Word (2:2). To “put off” means to cast aside like you take off dirty clothes. They are standard operating procedure for many people in the world, especially when they get into a tough situation. But Peter says that they are opposed to spiritual growth and they must be discarded like dirty clothes.

Let me quickly go over the list:

“Malice” is a general word for wickedness of every kind, but especially having it in for someone.

“Guile” originally meant “bait” or “snare,” thus came to mean deceit. It means to tell someone something that isn’t true, so that you trick or mislead them. It involves having ulterior motives in your communication.

“Hypocrisies” (plural) comes from a word meaning to wear a mask and refers to the many ways we can project a false image to people. If we are inconsistent between how we behave at church and how we behave at home or at work, we are engaging in hypocrisies.

“Envyings” refers to the attitude behind much deceit and hypocrisy. It means being jealous of another person or their things. It was the motive behind the crucifixion of Jesus: the religious leaders were envious of His popularity (Mark 15:10).

Envy often works itself out in all sorts of “slanderings.” This word means to speak against someone. The slanderer says nice things to the person’s face but disparaging things behind his back, with the motive of making himself look good in everyone else’s eyes.

POSITIVELY, FOCUS ON THE KINDNESS OF THE LORD (2:3). …if {since} indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Since this is a quote from Psalm 34:8 (LXX), it shows that Peter believed Christ to be God (“Yahweh” for the psalmist).

Psalm 34 must have been Peter’s favorite–he quotes from it again in 3:10-12. Also, the theme of Psalm 34 is roughly the same as that of 1 Peter.

Peter here is referring especially to the Lord’s kindness or grace that was shown to us when we trusted Him as Savior and Lord and followed faith that takes us to a burial in water (immersion) in order to have our sins forgiven.

If you’re saved, you have tasted of the Lord’s kindness, because you know that though you deserved His judgment, He showed you mercy.

The cross of Christ, where a holy God made provision for me, the sinner, so that I could experience His forgiveness and receive eternal life as a free gift, ought to be the focus of every Christian every day.

If you don’t have a craving for God’s Word, there could be several reasons. Maybe you’ve never tasted the Lord’s kindness in salvation. You need to believe that He died for your sins and that He offers His salvation to you as a free gift. Take it! And start feeding on the Bible.

You may not have a craving for God’s Word because of sin in your life. Someone has said that God’s Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God’s Word. Confess and forsake it! And get back into the Bible.

You may have ruined your appetite by feeding on the junk food of this world. Read your Bible! Hunger for God’s truth. Drink it in like a nursing infant. You’ve got to have it above all else if you want to grow in your salvation.

The result?

4  As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,
5  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6  For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7  So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
8  and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
10  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

He closes this first major section of his letter by showing that our salvation must be lived out by being built upon Christ, in Christian community, with witness to the world: God’s people must keep God central, be built together as His people, and proclaim His excellencies to others.

Peter portrays the church as a living, spiritual house, with Christ as the foundation and cornerstone and each believer as a valuable element.

Paul portrays the church as a body, with Christ as the head and each believer as a contributing member. Both pictures emphasize community.

One stone is not a temple or even a wall; one body part is useless without the others.

When God calls us to a task, remember that he is also calling others to work with us. Together our individual efforts will be multiplied.

Look for those people and join with them to build a beautiful house for God.

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Posted by on May 27, 2019 in 1 Peter, Sermon


Crisis and change often bring people to times of self-examination and reflection and even prayer

Crisis and change often bring people to times of self-examination and reflection and even prayer. It was just such a time for young Isaiah when he went to the temple to pray (Isaiah 6:1-9). 

King Uzziah’s reign had begun with such promise, but unfortunately, pride overtook Uzziah and he presumed to do, in the temple, what was forbidden. He was struck with leprosy and he died, not in the palace, but the leper ward.

Any crisis, even a small one, can be an opportunity for a fresh vision of God. If we consider what Isaiah saw, it might help our spiritual eyesight. Like Isaiah, we can find new inspiration and renewed commitment.

John 15:5 (45 kb)Isaiah saw his Lord: It was a time of reverence. He needed to see God. He had placed so much confidence in a visible king that he had previously felt little need to reach out to the invisible king. He saw God in all His majesty; God was “high and exalted.” 

He saw God in His power: “The train of his robe filled the temple.” He also saw God in His holiness. The seraphs, covered in humility, sing “Holy, holy, holy.” The seraphs’ song underscores the fact that we have a holy God.

In our desire to stress the love of God, we should never rob Him of His awesomeness.

Isaiah saw his sin: It was a time of repentance. This is a natural reaction after coming to terms with the holiness of God. When we capture a vision of God, we must be willing to see ourselves as we really are, even if it grieves us. It is a refreshing thing to see that Isaiah mentioned his own sin before he mentioned the sin of his neighbors.

Isaiah saw his own sin and said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

Isaiah saw his cleansing: It was a time of restoration. God did not deny Isaiah’s sinfulness, but he did provide an escape. A seraph took a coal from the altar, where the sacrifice for sin was made, and seared Isaiah’s lips, sterilizing them.  There was no reason for Isaiah to continue to feel unworthy. He had been made pure.

Isaiah saw his mission: It was a time of recognition. When God says, “Go!” we go. There is no debating. We don’t say, “There he is, send him.” We don’t worry about how the people will respond. Isaiah was warned ahead of time that the people would not respond as they should. [1]

It doesn’t matter what the people do, we must be faithful. God sent the people a message not because they wanted it, but because they needed it. The message Isaiah would bring his people was the message he had received. There is forgiveness and purpose with God, if you will just turn your life over to his care and authority.

There is change and chaos in the world, but I say to you, “God is still on the throne.” If you doubt it, just look around. He might be closer than you think. Maybe you can say, “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, and that has made all the difference.”

How does God reveal Himself?  One way is in nature. David proclaimed that ”The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. {2} Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. {3} There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. {4} Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, {5} which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. {6} It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.” (Psalms 19:1-6)

Paul lays a heavy responsibility upon every human being, who can learn at a stated level that he is left without excuse if he does not respond with a changed life:  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, {19} since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. {20} For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. {21} For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21)

The Apostle Paul taught us that God reveals something about His holy standards through man’s conscience. (Romans 2:14-16) Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, {15} since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) {16} This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

But none of these give us very many particulars about God’s personality or nature. We need something more. We need to have Him talk with us. And He does that, not through spooky voices or mystical experiences, but through Scripture.

They are God’s words to us. They were given by the breath of His mouth: (Matthew 4:4)  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Peter 1:20-21)  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. {21} For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

In the Bible God tells us what He is like. We learn how He thinks, how He feels, and how we can expect Him to act. If we want to know God, we must begin by opening the Bible and reading what He has to say about Himself.

But God is infinite, and we are finite human beings. How can the finite ever really understand the infinite? How can the human ever truly know the divine?

It seems that God must reveal Himself to us in some way more personal than mere written words if we are ever to know Him genuinely. And that is exactly what He did through Jesus Christ. (John 1:14-18)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. {15} John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'” {16} From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. {17} For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. {18} No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (Hebrews 1:1-3)  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, {2} but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. {3} The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Jesus Christ is the out-shining of God’s glory and the perfect expression of God’s essential being. To know Him is to know God. Jesus Himself made that claim when He said: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:7).

While Jesus has returned bodily to Heaven, God has given us both the inspired record of His life as well as the spiritual faculties we need to know Him personally. We can know Christ just as intimately as if we walked with Him on earth as His first disciples did. And to know Him is to know God.

[1] Sermon Outlines For Seekers by J. Michael Shannon.
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Posted by on May 2, 2019 in Sermon

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