Friday, March 17, 2017

Harmony in Christ (1 Peter 3:8-9)

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 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.” (1 Peter 3:8–9, NASB95)

After settling the fact of our salvation in the first part of chapter 1, Peter began a series of responses that are to characterize us as belonging to Jesus Christ. In 1:13-15 Peter instructs us to prepare our minds for action, to stay sober in spirit and to fix our hope completely of the hope we will realize at the coming of Christ. Doing so means that we are to live holy lives like the Holy One who called us, not as we once did in ignorance. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;” (1 Peter 1:13–15, NASB95)

Chapter 2 then beings with the need that we have to continually set aside the things of the flesh as we long for the truth of God as found in His Word which directs us in our walk with Him. “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,” (1 Peter 2:1–2, NASB95) In the verses that followed Peter affirmed the radical change that has been made in us and the resulting priority of our living differently. He concludes these verses, prior to getting into specific areas of struggle in our lives, with an overarching instruction concerning how we are to walk differently in the world before those who know no difference. “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11–12, NASB95)

The next several sections of his letter deal with three critical areas of life in which struggles are common. In verses 13-17 we are instructed about how to walk in the world and our need to submit to those in authority. Included in here is the understanding that the government may not be friendly or right. Our response is important as we even demonstrate their foolishness not by our pointing a harsh finger, but by the way we live our lives in response. He summed it up in verse 17 with these words, “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17, NASB95)

In verses 18-25 he deals with what in today’s structure is our work environment and those situations where we are under the authority of another outside the home. Very pointedly, Peter goes to the area of suffering in this situation and our accompanying response. Here he interjects the example of Christ who endured great suffering for us so that we might walk in His steps. In verses 21-24 we read, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:21–24, NASB95)

Heading into chapter 3 we also head into the home. First dealt with is the wife and how she is to respond to her husband even if he is disobedient to the Word. Her response is to follow directly from the example of our Lord who we read of in the verses just before. This is made evident with the simple truth found at the beginning of the verse; “likewise” or “in the same way.” Jesus suffered at the hands of man to bring our salvation for the glory of God, and He did it without reviling those who persecuted him. In the home, we read the hope that even the disobedient husband would be won, even without a word, by the behavior of his wife. Also, beginning with the same word, in verse 7 we find that the husband is to walk similarly with his wife, not letting his position become one of abuse but one from which he honors her as joint heirs of the grace of God.

All of these bring us to verse 8 where we have the Greek words “to de telos.” Simply put these words translate into one English word, “finally.” Having said all of these things about how we respond to suffering and difficulty in our lives because of who Christ is and what He has done and is doing in us, we are to “finally” respond this way…. In all the storms of life, here is an umbrella for us in them. Summing it all up, this is how we are to walk with others, particularly those of in Christ, when things get messy. We read that this applies to all of us. This is an inclusive statement of all who have trusted in Christ for their salvation. This is clear from the context of 1 Peter where he speaks of how we as believers are to live, and it is specifically pointed out in 1 Peter 2:2-3, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” (1 Peter 2:2–3, NASB95) When it comes to believers there are none that are not included in everyone. All means all.

Outside the body of Christ, this instruction also has application as we remember that God created man in His image, and that His Word instructs us concerning how we are to live with all men. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:18–21, NASB95)

Particularly, as believers, we are all to be harmonious or of one mind with one another. The Greek work here is “homophornes,” where “homo” means the “same” and “phren” translates to “understanding” or “mind.” There is no mincing this one, and the mind that we are to seek is the mind of Christ who we have seen revealed in this letter and throughout Scripture. In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote, “But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:15–16, NASB95) The one who have come to know Christ and who seeks after Him learns about Him so as to think like Him. But he also followed these verses with a harsh indictment of the current condition of these believers, saying, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1–3, NASB95) They needed to grow up, and the first step in growing up was to walk in accordance with what they knew of Christ and then continue from there as they replaced the things of the flesh with that of the Spirit according to the Word.

Sure, there are passages that we may not fully understand and over which we may not fully agree, but even in disagreement we are not to be disagreeable with each other. We are together to encourage and build up one another in Christ as we continue to grow in knowledge, understanding, wisdom and resulting practice. In Philippians 1:27 we read, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;” (Philippians 1:27, NASB95)

Recognizing that I am far from perfect in this area, and that I have treated others wrongly, in my time as a Christian there have been times when I knew that I rightly could not stand with another “so-called” Christian. But I also know that there have been far more times when I have stood with believers who, for one reason or another, we have had some difference or lack of total unity. Either case may have been over a theological distinctive or it may have been over a behavioral practice. Most churches have doctrinal statements of faith, and in those statements, there are some beliefs that are considered non-negotiables and others over which they understand others who hold the same non-negotiables may differ in understanding. The organization of pastors and churches in our community known as the Church of the Valley. This is a practical example of walking in harmony with one another because of our common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ who is our only means of salvation, and in our walking, we also worship and serve side by side.

Differences may also surface in the area of behavior. I know that I stumble in my walk with Christ and I know that others do as well. Scripture calls us to build up and encourage one another, to exhort each other, to walk alongside one another in the difficult things, and to be longsuffering and forgiving toward one another. These “one another’s” come with the understanding that we have not arrived. As believers in Christ we are 100% forgiven, but in these bodies and with our hearts and minds, we are not 100% changed. God is doing a work in us to grow us into the image of His Son. We are called to be personally responsible in that growth process as we also help others to do likewise. We are not to let the offense of the moment drive a wedge in the oneness that we have in Christ. Sure, there may be instances where the process of biblical discipline might have to be taken beyond one on one, but even then, it is with the heart of restoration to the oneness of walk that we have in been eternally granted in Christ.

Being of one mind is looking to ourselves and to others with mind of Christ, and to what His love for all of us moved Him to do on our behalf.

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