It is Finished

Recently, I came across this line in a commentary: ‘the cross of Christ is the decisive and uniquely sufficient means to rescue sinners from death’ (Moo, BECNT: Galatians, pg. 71).

As I considered these words, the below song and video came to mind.  Listen and celebrate.

There’s no deed that can redeem us
There’s no rite, no magic word
Only by the work of Jesus
Can salvation be secured

It is finished! He has done it!
Let your weary heart rejoice
Our redemption is accomplished
Raise a shout with ragged voice

And go bravely into battle
Knowing he has won the war
It is finished, lift your head
And weep no more

There’s no sacrifice to offer
There’s no penance to complete
Freely drink of living water
Without money come and feast

Let every sinner rejoice
Hear the dying victor’s cry
Raise up your voice
Sing it out through earth and sky

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Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices; Part Two: The Hook

Stratego is quality. Cross Guess Who? with Risk, and you’ve pretty much got Stratego. It’s a game for two players. The aim is simple: capture your rival’s flag. But, this simple aim requires careful strategy. Soldiers, castles, spies, and generals all must be carefully regimented, if you’re going to win.

But, here’s the catch: you’ve no idea where your opponent’s pieces are. All you can see is the identical back of each of their pieces. You’ve got to move; you’ve got to attack. But, you’ve got no idea what you’re attacking! Every move is risk.

Is your life like Stratego? When it comes to fighting sin, are you wandering blind about the battlefield? Have you carefully considered Satan’s strategies? Sin’s tactics? Your heart’s weak-spots? If not, you’re at risk.

Thomas Brooks was concerned. In his seventeenth century generation, Christians Brooks - Precious Redemiesincreasingly appeared oblivious to the necessity of mortifying sin. And those that did had no idea where to start. So, in Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, Brooks wants all Christians to consider Christ, Scripture, their own hearts, and Satan’s strategies (or devices), to help them identify sinful patterns, and encourage them – by Christ’s mighty sin-crushing power – to mortify them.

In this series of posts, we’re considering Satan’s devices, and then considering the remedies put forward by God in Scripture (see part one here).

Device #1: Satan shows us the bait, but he hides the hook.

If you’re currently human, you’ve experienced temptation. You’ve been shown the pleasure, the profit, the exceedingly sweet comfort you’d delight in, if you just put down your convictions for two seconds, and grabbed hold of that sin. There’s no catch, right?

The catch; the hook is hidden. Your brain refuses to connect “the wrath and misery that certainly follow the committing of sin” with what you’re about to do. Isn’t this how our first parents fell? “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).

This is the bait. Satan promised that their minds would be opened to moral joy. He hides the hook. His intention was never joy; it was shame and confusion. He gave them an apple, and it was paradise they exchanged for it. The bait was displayed; the hook was hidden.

And, if you think about it, this is how Satan tempted Jesus. He offered Christ all glory, without suffering, provided Jesus disobeyed His Father and bowed down. But, Jesus resisted. In Christ, we’re joined to this victory. We don’t have to fall for the bait. There are, in Christ, remedies against this device.

Remedy #1: Don’t play with the bait.

“Don’t play with your food!”, my parents often shouted when I tried to build potato castles. “Don’t play games with your food”, because they knew the gravy-based disasters that would inevitably unfold. Stop fooling around with the bait Satan extends. Don’t entertain it. Don’t play with it. “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9b). That word, “abhor”; it means to hate with horror.

Go as far as you can from the bait held out before you. Flee lies. Retreat from lust. Vacate the premises, before anger explodes. Running as far as you can from the appearance of evil is the wisest and safest thing to do. Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife; David didn’t retreat from his roof. Joseph avoided the bait, and therefore the hook; David swallowed bait and hook in one gulp. Sin is infectious. Give it a little ground, and it attacks your conscience like a virus. Stay away from the bait, and from a distance you’ll see the hook. Don’t play with the bait, so you don’t fall for the hook.

Remedy #2: seriously consider how sin is bitter-sweet.

There’s a sweetshop in Dublin which sells the world’s sourest sweet. Take more than one at once, and your throat might blister. But, you don’t taste the bitterness at first. For just a moment, it tastes fine. But, then; all you’re left with is the throat-blistering sourness.

Sin is like this bitter sweet. At first, sin tastes alright. Our conscience isn’t that pricked. Our lives don’t seem much worse. But, for the believer, that sweetness is momentary. In fact, that sweetness is an illusion; “sin is just a seeming sweet”. The mirage quickly fades, leaving only lasting shame, sorrow, horror and terror. You’ve got to think about this. You’ve got to seriously consider how vile sin is. It is a “murdering morsel”; with every bite it kills you. So, don’t try it. Recognise how disgusting sin is; how momentary the pleasure it offers is.

Job puts it well: “Though evil is sweet in his mouth, though he hides it under his tongue, though he is loath to let it go and holds it in his mouth, yet his food is turned in his stomach; it is the venom of cobras within him” (Job 20:12-14). Don’t “meddle with the murdering morsels of sin”. They give you no nourishment. They give you no comfort. They fully satisfy none of your desires. All sin does is tear your stomach. Sin is poison to your soul. It’s bitter, masquerading as sweet.

Finally, Remedy #3: seriously consider how sin is bewitchingly deceitful.

Sin is the great deceit. The greatest lie the devil ever pulled isn’t convincing the world that he doesn’t exist; it’s that sin is beneficial, virtuous, and self-improving. Sin “will kiss the soul, and pretend fair to the soul, and yet betray the soul forever”. We’ve just considered sin as an infectious poison, which attacks your conscience to destroy your soul. How does it achieve this? By spreading bewitching deceit. It convinces us that it is absolutely integral to our personality. It seduces us with lies: Sin convinces us that our sin is exceedingly useful. It assures us of the lunacy of trying even to fathom our lives without particular sins: “I was born this way; it’s part of me”, “I can’t change that; that would totally ruin me”.

Antiquity tells of Theotimus, whom doctors told to cease from “drunkenness and uncleanness”, or he’d lose his eyes. His reply typifies someone bewitched by sin’s bait; it points clearly to one who has swallowed sin’s hook and savours sin’s lies. “You’ll lose your eyes”, Theotimus’s reply: “then farewell, sweet light”.

Sin bewitches us with deception. It makes us rejoice in its vainglory, while it crushes our windpipe, stops our breath and kills us. If you’re totally bewitched by sin, you’re only giving Satan the Accuser grounds to accuse you. If you don’t see the hook, and allow the bait to seduce you into grabbing it, then it’ll make you rather lose God, Christ, heaven and your own soul before you let go. So, don’t be deceived. Understand that sin kills secretly, insensibly and eternally. Cling to the fountain of truth; not the broken and ruined cisterns of sin.

So, Satan loves the bait and hook. If we’re going to fight, we can only do it in Christ’s strength. We need Jesus to open our eyes to the reality of sin. It is bitter and deceitful, and so we must flee it. Prayerfully consider your own heart, asking: am I being deceived by sin? Do I know how bitter sin is? Am I fooling around with sinfulness? My prayer is that we see the hook behind the bait, and cling closer to Christ in our efforts to kill sin.

A Long and Tortuous History

Currently I am wading my way through Carson’s tome, The Gagging of God. It is a testing read at times as Carson scans the (then) contemporary religious pluralism scene, poking and prodding at its assertions and exposing faults and errors. The range and volume of both academic and popular writings from this field that Carson has a handle on is truly impressive. However, even in amongst this academic rigor, a pastor’s heart shines through from time to time. The following passage is one such example:

What the Bible says about the love of God cannot adequately be studied by focusing on merely one or two word groups…It turns no less on the entire biblical storyline. The God who made us and could have written us off, chose instead to pursue rebellious men and women across a long and tortuous history – men and women who often show they are fickle and prefer to think of themselves as the center of all things, and who find idols more congenial than knowledge of the living God. (pg. 239)

The phrase which struck me when reading this was ‘The God who made us and toward hopecould have written us off, chose instead to pursue rebellious men and women across a long and tortuous history’. It is truly incredible to consider God’s redemptive love expressed to a rebellious people over a long and tortuous history. And as I meditated on this incredible thought I considered it’s execution on three planes of history.

Biblical History

I do not wish to separate biblical history from what others may term ‘real history’. Rather, I am seeking to put a bracket around a particular period of history. Within the canon of Scripture we do find a contained history – from the creation of the world to the creation of the church, with an appendix which promises and looks forward to a new creation. Indeed, Carson proceeds to acknowledge God’s pursuit of rebellious men and women on this plane of history:

God’s love is demonstrated in his dealings with Adam and Eve after the fall, in his call and protection of Abraham, in his preservation of this fledgling people of God in a world of polytheism, dubious security, moral failure, and even famine. The establishment of the covenant with Israel is the result of God’s invasive, intervening love; the gift of his Son is the supreme result of that same love. (pg. 239)

Whenever we take even the shortest of time-spans for biblical history, for example Nehemiah 9, we still have a God which in love has pursued his people for thousands of years.

World History

This can then be broadened to consider world history. In this I mean the history of all nations, peoples and tribes, from their beginning until the present day. Whenever we begin to consider world history in this way we continue to see God’s love in the pursuit of his people.

While I cannot rehearse anything close to a substantial history of the world here, what is possible is the noting of God’s pursuit seen in significant developments. Throughout world history we have seen the growth of the visible church; the sending of (millions of?) missionaries to all over the globe; the protection of Christianity through men such as Luther and Calvin, and groups such as the Puritans.

I wish to express some hesitancy about making proclamations about modern individuals and groups, because their impact is yet to be assessed. However, surely God’s pursuit of his people is seen also in the gift of men like Don Carson and John Piper to the church; groupings such as The Gospel Coalition, Nine Marks, Together for the Gospel, Desiring God, 20schemes; the vast array of Bible Colleges, seminaries and training schemes available. If these have anything close to the legacy of the reformers, Puritans and missionaries of previous eras then certainly they have been another expression of God’s relentless love for a disobedient people.

In addition to the above mentioned there are also ‘secular’ individuals and events which could rightly be understood to be part of God’s love for his people over a long a tortuous history right up to the present day. Through all of the visible things we view in world history the Bible teaches that God’s hand is at work in it all for his glory (See the books of Ruth and Esther for examples of this).

Personal History

These two planes of a long and tortuous history then lead to this final plane – personal history.

While none of us have been alive for thousands of years, plenty of us have a long and tortuous history whenever it comes to God’s love for us. We know ourselves to be fickle, often preferring to place ourselves at the centre of life and finding mediocre and passing joy in idols. And all of this since God’s saving of our souls, bodies and minds.

Each of us know that on a daily basis we dismiss God’s will for our lives, we ignore Christ’s love, we neglect a life worthy of our calling and we turn our backs on God – a God who has pursued us, continues to pursue us and promises to pursue us evermore. This is a long and tortuous history and yet God chooses to pursue rebellious men and women like us.

This is a glorious thought which should both rebuke us for our small thoughts about God, and yet comfort us in the reality of his relentless love. Not many of us, I would suggest, would pursue a rebellious spouse for more than a matter of months, or perhaps even years. But God is not like us, and so he delights in pursuing us for each individual day of our own personal lives, which over history translates into the pursuit of his church over thousands of years. Therefore,

What the Bible says about the love of God cannot adequately be studied by focusing on merely one or two word groups…It turns no less on the entire biblical storyline. The God who made us and could have written us off, chose instead to pursue rebellious men and women across a long and tortuous history – men and women who often show they are fickle and prefer to think of themselves as the center of all things, and who find idols more congenial than knowledge of the living God. God’s love is demonstrated in his dealings with Adam and Eve after the fall, in his call and protection of Abraham, in his preservation of this fledgling people of God in a world of polytheism, dubious security, moral failure, and even famine. The establishment of the covenant with Israel is the result of God’s invasive, intervening love; the gift of his Son is the supreme result of that same love. (pg. 239)

Three Implications of the Second Coming

About a month ago I posted on the blog Old Testament Origins of the Second Coming. In that post we acknowledged, in passing, a small selection of the vast number of New Testament references, so we won’t rehearse those here. Rather, today I want to note three implications of this doctrine for our Christian lives.

Be Ready

Jesus, in Matthew 24, taught his disciples that the Son of Man will come. In jesus-christ-755018-mspeaking of the Son of Man he was making reference to himself and his promised return.

Immediately after stating that the Son of Man will return, Jesus proceeds to tell the parable of ten virgins. In more modern vernacular, ten bridesmaids are waiting for the bridegroom to arrive so the wedding party can start, but the bridegroom is a long time coming. So, all of the women go and grab their torches – but only five of them lift some extra batteries for their torches. The bridegroom is so long in coming that eventually all the women fall asleep. But, in the middle of the night the call goes out, ‘the bridegroom has arrived.’ The bridesmaids with their extra batteries are able to replace the worn out batteries in their torches and join the party, but the bridesmaids who lifted only their torches must go find batteries and as a consequence end up getting locked out of the wedding party! What is Jesus’ teaching point from this parable? Well he tells us himself: ‘Watch…for you know neither the day nor the hour’ (Mt. 25:13). He then goes on to make a similar point with another parable immediately afterwards. In essence Jesus is saying be ready for his return.

For the Christian, this means we are to be found faithful. We are to live in such a way that we exhibit the belief that Jesus could come back at any time. One of my friends on Facebook recently posted that she was doing four weeks of food shopping and cleaning in one day before her parents arrived home from holiday! This confession revealed that she hadn’t been living faithfully, but she planned to be ready when her parents arrived home. The difficulty for Christians is that we do not have the luxury of knowing when Jesus will come back – imagine if my friend’s parents had arrived home four days early. They would have found her lying on the sofa in her pj’s, scoffing Doritos, with a mountain of washing overflowing the washing basket, dust sitting thick on all the furniture, bin stuffed full of takeaway wrappers and food crumbs on the floor! She would not have been ready.

Jesus tells us he shall come – when he does will he find us ready? Faithfully serving him or dozing on a spiritual sofa so to speak?

Be Obedient

One theologian writes:

Why, then, does Scripture have so much to say about the last days?…So that we can reorder our lives in the light of Jesus’ coming. So far as I can see, every Bible passage about the return of Christ is written for a practical purpose – not to help us develop a theory of history, but to motivate our obedience. (John Frame, ST, pg. 1094).

This is exactly the point that James makes toward the end of his letter:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. (5:7-9)

One of James’ major themes is speech and the use of the tongue. It makes an appearance again and again in his letter (1:19; 3:1-12). Therefore, it is safe to assume that the church or churches he is writing to have an issue with their use of the tongue, with the way they speak to each other. Here at the end of the letter James uses the fact that Jesus is coming to motivate obedience in controlling the tongue. He shall come, so do not grumble against one another.

One day we will stand be Jesus, face to face with the king of kings, victor of all and we will have to give an account for our actions. That tax return that we dishonestly filled out, that lustful look at the skimpily dressed lady on the TV, that angry outburst at our family, that gossip we spread or listened to, that inappropriate emotional connection with a work colleague, that arrogance in conversation – all of that and more we will have to answer for. But look again at James’ phrasing, not only do we have to answer for it…the judge is standing at the door, he may open it and catch us in the act! The return of Jesus is always taught with ethical implications, it is always taught to encourage us to be obedient.

Be Comforted

In 1 Thessalonians Paul spends a lot of time talking about the Second Coming. Part of the reason was that Paul was concerned for his friends in the Thessalonican church. His concern is their grief at the death of loved brothers and sisters in Christ. To comfort these grieving brothers and sisters Paul tells them Jesus will come again, and when he does our brothers and sisters in Christ who are dead will come with him and we will be caught up to join them! The fact that he shall come should encourage us to be comforted. This is how Paul words it:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (4:13-18)

The fact that Jesus will come again should comfort us as beloved brothers and sisters who have died will be seen again; as death, sickness and pain will cease; as injustice will be eradicated. He shall come, and that should encourage us to be comforted.

 

There are numerous other implications to eschatology, but these three are among the most prominent in Scripture as I understand it. For further reading I suggest the Systematic Theologies of Louis Berkhof, Millard Erikson, John Frame and Wayne Grudem.

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices; Part One: Who Cares?

“Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts and Satan’s devices are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched” (15).

Brooks - Precious RedemiesSo begins Thomas Brooks’ seventeenth century analysis of the human heart and it’s predilection towards sin: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. Create a pie-chart for your mind; what percentage, if any, of your thought is devoted to considering Christ, the Scripture, your own heart and Satan’s devices?

Scarily scant, isn’t it? Brooks goes right for the last one. He argues that, in seventeenth century England, Satan’s methods of drawing souls towards sin were the last thing on the Church’s mind. This is a deadly state of affairs. Extrapolate that into twenty-first century evangelicalism. How far down the list does this kind of thinking come? I would suggest beneath gender-issues, Mark Driscoll and the flower rota.

I am embarking on a seven-part series of articles outlining, summarising, and applying Brooks’s first set of Satan’s Devices – twelve devices to draw the soul towards sin –, and the remedies Brooks proposes.

But, before we get there, allow me to consider why I think I need to study this; and the reasons Brooks gives for his study.

Remedies and I

So, firstly: me. Why am I writing a blog about Satan’s Devices? Is it simply an opportunity for me to take some cheap-shots at contemporary Christian piety?

I need to study this, because I’m a sinner. The kind of person who deliberately seeks out a volume called Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices is the kind of person who struggles in sin. I’m reading this book because I really want to mortify the sinful patterns of my flesh. I want to think hard about the ways in which I stumble into temptation. And By the Spirit’s work, I long to strive to Christ’s holiness. I want to wrestle with the Devices, and be thankful for the Remedies. Above all, I want to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. This isn’t a holier-than-thou quest; this is a I’m-sinful-but-repenting mission to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. After-all, this is one of the New Testament’s most frequent ethical commands to the church (3 John 6, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, Colossians 1:10, Philippians 1:27, Ephesians 4:1).

But, in some ways, this is easy to read about it and think that because I’ve read about it, I’m suddenly undefeatable. It’s a Rocky Montage Theology. It trades the hard-work and serious reflection, for a brief series of feel-good snapshots.

Brooks foresaw that tendency in his readers:

“it is not hasty reading, but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul…the doing man, that at the last, will be found the happiest man…if it be not strong upon thy heart to practice what thou readest, to what end dost thou read? To increase thy own condemnation?…Therefore read, and labour to know, that thou mayest do, or else thou art undone forever” (21-22).

This is Precious Remedies’ introduction. When you open the book, you pretty much walk into these words. That’s not exactly bestseller, light’n’fluffy, Rocky Montage material. The nature of the topic is so eternally significant, it demands reflection. Writing will help engage my brain in this reflection process.

Remedies and Brooks

So, what about Brooks? Why does he place such eternal significance on Precious Remedies? Is it hyperbole of the most puerile kind?

“Satan being fallen from light to darkness…makes use of all his power and skill to bring all the sons of men into the same condition and condemnation with himself…he can no sooner tempt, but we are ready to assent; no sooner have a plot upon us, but he makes a conquest of us” (15). The threat is real. The threat is serious. The sin that our fallen personalities and characters are most prone towards; that’s the very think he’ll push us towards. Sin, to keep us in a constantly dull, drab, and mediocre Christian life.

As his central text, Brooks choses 2 Corinthians 2:11: “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs”. After a brief exposition of the verse’s context – the penitent sinner should be drawn back into the church – Brooks focuses on Satan’s character. He is a “greedy merchant, that seekth and taketh all opportunities to beguile and deceive others…that devoureth men’s souls” (26). We have all experienced Satan’s designs. We all know his plots, through which he’s outwitted us all, since Adam’s forbidden fruit. We’re not ignorant in that sense; but, do we truly recognise his devices? Do we know the things through which he “deceives, entangles and undoes the souls of men” (26)?

Before we rush to accuse Brooks of dualism – that Satan is an equal and opposite opponent for God on the great spiritual battlefields – or of man-made perfectionism – that Christians, by acting thusly, can attain a state of spiritual perfection in this life – let’s consider:

“My desires for you are, ‘That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God’ (Ephesians 3:16-19)” (18-19).

For Brooks, there can only be precious remedies against Satan’s devices because of God’s great work of salvation. There is no hint of dualism: the Spirit of Christ’s rule in the heart of man is guaranteed to those who believe. Brooks’ desire isn’t for perfectionism, but that “ye would endeavour more to be inwardly sincere than outwardly glorious” (20). He’s exhorting believers to grow in tangible holiness in this life. He asks his readers to pray for his heart, that he “might understand the power of these things on [his]” life (20). Not perfectionism, but repentant sinners prayerfully committing themselves, by the Spirit’s work, to greater Christ-likeness.

So, I hope you’ll join me as we consider the precious remedies we find through the work of grace, and their impact against Satan’s devices. Hopefully, we’ll strive for holiness together.

“For a close, remember this: your life is short, your duties many, your assistance great, your reward sure; therefore faint not, hold on and hold up, in ways of well-doing, and heaven shall make amends for all” (20).

Why not buy a copy of Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, read along, and comment your thoughts below!

Obedience in the Face of Opposition, Holiness in the Midst of Hostility

Thomas à Kempis, a fourteenth century Christian, once wrote:

It is a good thing that we have to face difficulties and opposition from time to time, because this brings us back to ourselves; it makes us realise that we are exiles and cannot pin our hopes on anything in this world (The Imitation of Christ, pg. 52).

Although I would not subscribe to all of his theology, this is a very pastoral observation and one which rings true with the circumstances of 1 Peter. The people Peter wrote to were Christians spread across Asia Minor facing fierce opposition and hostility. For that reason Peter’s message throughout his letter is that his readers should maintain the rock-collage-1274923-mhighest standards of holy living as a witness to those persecuting them. He calls his readers to exhibit obedience in the face of opposition, holiness in the midst of hostility.

The point I find significant and interesting about Peter’s argument is not the call for obedience in the face of opposition, and holiness in the midst of hostility, but how he constructs this call.

The Glorious Gospel: Redemption

Ed Clowney points out the significance in Peter’s argument. He observes that ‘Peter does not begin to exhort Christian pilgrims until he has celebrated the wonders of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ’ (Bible Speaks Today: 1 Peter, pg. 61).

In the opening twelve verses of chapter 1 Peter praises God for the great mercy shown to Christians in giving them a precious inheritance, won through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in their place. In other words he waxes eloquently about the gospel. Peter writes:

            Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and enquired carefully, enquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1:1-12)

His purpose in dwelling on the gospel is to equip the Christians, to whom he is writing, to be able to endure hardships in this life because of the joy of the next. This becomes clear in verse 13, ‘Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ This verse speaks of final salvation whenever Jesus returns. Peter in effect says look to the final salvation, when Jesus will return, we will be made perfect and life will be lived in the new creation.

Toward the end of chapter one then Peter dwells on the gospel again. In verse 18 Peter reminds the Christians he writes to that they are rescued from an old way of life. Each and every Christian used to live in the ways inherited from their forefathers, in sin. It doesn’t matter if we became a Christian at age 4, 14 or 24 – we all lived in sin prior to God saving us. But, by God’s grace in Jesus we have been rescued from that way of life. Peter’s words are:

knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (Vv. 18-19)

The idea in these verses is one of buying freedom. At the time when Peter was writing this letter it would have been common for slaves to take a large sum of money (silver and gold) to the temple of their local deity. In giving this money to their god, their god would then be enabled to ‘redeem’ them from their slavery. In other words, rescue them, release them; activate them as common citizens. This meant that in the eyes of their master and the society at large they were now free people. Peter makes it clear to his readers that this is what God has done for Christians – God has redeemed them from a life of slavery to sin. However, we have not had to pay with silver and gold, our redemption is not achieved by handing over money, but by the death of the perfect Jesus in the place of immoral sinners. God has actually paid the price for this freedom with the precious blood of Jesus, the death of his only Son.

Peter has spent a considerable amount of time in chapter one dwelling on the glorious gospel: redemption.

The Only Option: Obedience

It is only against this backdrop that Peter can then say the only option is obedience. Given that God crucified his only Son; given that Jesus willingly went to the cross; given the glorious gospel, there is only one option – obedience! As we said above though this call for obedience in the face of opposition only ever comes after the proclamation of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. This exhortation from Peter is found in the middle of chapter one:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (Vv. 14-16)

Here Peter quotes Leviticus 19:2 (LXX) exactly, and the point he is making is that the God who saved us calls us to holiness that is characteristic of him. You must be holy, because I your God, your Saviour, am holy. We must note here that ‘The call is to live differently, not just practice religion differently’ (K. Jobes, BECNT: 1 Peter, pg. 113). This is not just one aspect of life that is to change; our whole lives are to be transformed by this salvation we have experienced.

If the gospel has taken root in our hearts, Peter argues, we are to live very different lives from those we used to live and from the lives of others around us. We are to be totally different from those around us who are not Christians. The only option is obedience.

Another Walked this Way

The significance of the way Peter constructs his argument is found in the reality that another has walked this way before us. Due to this other person there is obedience demanded. All ethical exhortations in Scripture follow the reality that Jesus has given his life for ours.

Peter is encouraging his readers to remember that God knows what it is to offer obedience in the face of opposition, holiness in the midst of hostility. The Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, took on flesh and walked this earth. While in the flesh he faced fierce opposition and hostility to what he taught and how he lived. Ultimately, this ended in his brutal crucifixion, and sin-bearing death.

So as we look toward another week, month, or year; as we resolve to live obediently in the face of opposition; as we desire holiness in the midst of hostility, we do so knowing Jesus has walked this road before, and in walking that road has won our redemption.

The only option? Obedience.