Precious Faith (2 Peter 1:1-2)

This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ.

I am writing to you who share the same precious faith we have. This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior.

2 May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

2 Peter 1:1-2 (WEB)

I have written a lot about the Proverbs lately, and decided to switch gears and move into a New Testament letter. I was reading Peter’s second letter a few days ago, and so thought I would share a few thoughts.

Slave and Apostle

The opening is straightforward enough, and we learn that this letter, like the first one, comes from Simon Peter. Peter is probably Jesus’ most well-known disciple, and a man infamous for leaping in, putting his foot in it and thinking more highly of himself than he ought. He even once dared to “correct” the Lord (see Matthew 16:22).

Yet, for all his pride, Peter denied Christ and this event likely humbled him deeply. As he introduces his second letter, he depicts himself as an apostle yes, but a slave also. Peter could have bowled in, laying down his apostolic rights and demanding to be respected, but instead he refers to himself as a slave. And notice, he says slave first, then apostle.

May I be known as a writer, yes, but a slave first. May others see me as husband and father, of course, but primarily as a servant of Christ.

May I be known as a writer, yes, but a slave first. May others see me as husband and father, of course, but primarily as a servant of #Christ. #Bible

Whatever you “are” in your life, let your servanthood of Jesus be at the top of the list. The word “slave” (rightly) has negative connotations to us, and indeed we tend to prefer servant (although not a great deal more!) If indeed Christ is our Master, and we are fully submitted to Him and His authority, then slave is not a wholly inappropriate term.

I yearn to follow Him more deeply and more fully. I know He loves me and has good things planned for me, and so I joyfully submit to slavery in His care.

Precious Faith

Peter does not address his letter to a particular group. It is not written to a church location, nor to the Jewish believers in a certain place. Instead, he writes to “those who share the same precious faith”

Christians often find many things to disagree about. I could write a list but not sure that would be the most encouraging! Be it points of doctrine, interpretation of Scripture, or the colour of the curtains in the vestry, we can usually find something to debate!

Despite our variety and differences, Peter unites us in sharing “like precious faith.” Whatever our background, whatever our age, whatever our language; whatever else that may differ about each of us, the thing that brings us together is our faith in Jesus Christ.

This faith is not to be taken for granted. Our faith is precious, meaning of great value. We treat precious things with a certain respect, and our faith is no different.

This faith, precious as it is, is not something we have bought or earned. If we read Peter’s words carefully, we learn that our faith has been given to us by God. This is truly astonishing because it shows us that we could not believe in Jesus had God not first placed faith in us.

In my post – Hope Comes Looking – I referred to a course I am currently studying, and the topic of the Lent season was on “predestination”. This is about whether God chose us, or if we chose Him. There are different views, but I now tend towards a view that God first chose us, and that even our faith in Him is entirely dependent on His Sovereign choice. This verse from Peter’s letter shows that even the faith we depend upon is given to us by God.

The WEB translation says we have been given this faith because of Jesus’ justice and fairness. Fairness is one of the reasons some do not agree with the view that God chose whoever He willed, because they deem it “unfair.” It is “unfair” for God to choose some for salvation and not others. I have said it before however, and state the same again now, we do not want fairness from God – we want mercy. Fairness from God is for Him to save no one, and leave us in the sin that stains us.

So, how do we read the above? Most other translations seem to render the words “justice and fairness” as simply “righteousness.” That, to me at least, feels a much better word. God is indeed righteous, and we praise and thank Him for bestowing this precious faith upon us.

Verse two says:

May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

2 Peter 1:2 (WEB)

What a powerful little blessing this is. I pray this over every one of my readers today. May you indeed grow in the knowledge of the Lord (and I pray in some small way this post helps with that), and as you do so, may He give you more and more grace and peace.

May God’s grace be evident in your life more and more, and may His peace rule in your heart and your homes today.

Thanks for reading!

Comfort Is No Indicator (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

When we step out in faith, perhaps for a new ministry venture or simply to share the Gospel with a friend, and it does not go according to plan… it can be all too easy to think that we completely missed God’s will.

Maybe you have experienced this yourself at times. You felt God lead you in a certain direction, took a step out, and suddenly encountered one problem after another. Or, similarly, you felt a prompting to bless an enemy, but just could not believe God would ask you to do such a thing!

In such times, comfort is no indicator of God’s will. God never promised us that following Him would always lead to a trouble-free existence.

Look at Job from the Old Testament. He was exceptionally blessed, seemingly following God’s will and then he lost absolutely everything in one day. He and his friends wrestled with what had happened to him, and never really got an answer. Unlike us, he could not see behind the curtain and understand that there were spiritual forces at work.

Similarly, look to the Apostle Paul. He was arrested, beaten, put in prison, shipwrecked and far more besides. The author of most of the New Testament faced unimaginable trials, and yet, was smack bang in the middle of God’s will.

I do not write any of this to discourage you. I am not urging you to resist God’s will to avoid such trouble! For Job, although he lost everything, he was restored in the end. Not so for Paul (on this earth at least). The point I am making is that sometimes God’s will leads us into blessing, and sometimes it leads us into trouble. Our comfort or discomfort is no gauge of whether we are well following God or not.

Do not assume that because you are facing times of difficulty that you have somehow missed God’s plan. Often the presence of trouble is a sign that the enemy is resisting you, and you are precisely where you need to be.

Seek the Lord in your trials, as there is always a reason why He has brought them. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable place, do not just run from it, as you may be running from God. We need not seek trouble of course, but let each of us seek God with our whole hearts instead.

Where will God lead you this week?

From an Apostle to the Saints

Ephesians

My recent wanderings through the sovereignty of God led me to study the book of Ephesians in my quiet time. I am not certain if this will turn into a series, but it is such a rich letter with so much to explore that I’ll no doubt write a few posts about it.

In fact, in my study time, I’m still in chapter 1, which has more than enough to keep me occupied!

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:1-2 (ESV)

Like any letter, Paul begins by introducing himself. We often skip over these opening verses to get to the “meat” of the letter, but by doing so, miss out on important things.

Paul not only gives his name, but his role as well. “Paul, an apostle…”

An apostle is simply “one whom is sent,” but in the church context it is one of the founders of the church – often a church planter or one who has seen the Risen Lord.  The role of apostle was mentioned as one of the five-fold ministry gift or positions, which we will later encounter in Ephesians.

While “role” is one word, another is calling. Paul is not just some self-appointed saint, but is an “apostle by the will of God.” I’ve thought a lot lately about the will of God, and we will see in this first chapter of Ephesians that it comes up time and again. We cannot escape or resist God’s will.

We are sometimes a bit obsessed with our calling. We ask people, “What is your ministry?” or “What is God calling you to do?” While these questions have their place, I think sometimes we spend our lives searching for some grand call on our lives instead of getting on with the business of life.

Am I saying that calling is not important? Certainly not. I believe all Christians have a calling and should live it out as best we can. For many, if not all of us, we can summarise our calling as follows: we should glorify God in our life right where we are.

Certainly we should be listening to God for His direction, and this also should come from our relationship with Him. God is not a stone idol we pray to with nothing in return. Our prayer life should be two-way, and too many of us are talking when we should be listening.

It can be hard to achieve of course (regular and constant communication with God), but I believe life is to be lived with Him. Set times of extended prayer are definitely important, but so are moments of prayer throughout the day. Living like this, we can serve God wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

So we see this letter is from Paul, but to whom is it written?

The saints at Ephesus

It may be that this letter was in reality a circular which was shared among several churches. Some manuscripts omit the words “at Ephesus” and the lack of personal greetings suggest this. The letter was likely written around AD 60 while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Some scholars dispute the date, believing it to have been between AD 80-100, and also that Paul was the author at all.

It is interesting to me that the New Testament epistles are always written to “saints,” “holy people,” or “consecrated ones.” We never see a letter written to the “sinners in Ephesus,” or the “heathen in Rome…”

This is an important point because I often feel we misunderstand our identity.

We sin, no argument from me, and we did so both before and after we gave our lives to Christ. Sin is a critical issue for the world at large, and is indeed the whole point of Christ’s coming.

Some churches focus too much on sin, and too little on the completed work of Christ. Other churches focus too little on sin, and fail to instruct their people on the dangers of committing “sins” and the overall effect of “sin” on the world.

Christ is the cure for sin. If we continue to think of ourselves as “sinners” after the work of the cross, then we are in danger of making that work of little effect. What do sinners do? They sin. And what ought we not to do in our lives? Same answer.

Rather, our identity (in Christ) is not as an old sinner saved by grace, but rather as an imperfect saint. When we give our lives to Jesus, God puts a new heart inside of us. That is the born again experience. That new birth is something which happens inside of us (in our spirits, not our internal organs). From that time on, we are re-training our mind, will and emotions (sometimes called “the flesh” or “sinful nature”) to come into line with what God has done in our spirits.

If you are still just a “sinner” then what has the cross achieved for you?

I appreciate this is partly down to semantics, and may not seem a point worth labouring, but I think it helps in our reading of the rest of this chapter. Paul emphasises what is ours in Christ, and that must begin by us accepting we are transformed in Him.

As we work through chapter one, I will point out some of the things that belong to us in Christ. Not things we have earned, but rather things which were bestowed upon us because of God’s great grace.

Grace is where Paul begins his letter, and it’s where I’m going to draw this post to a close. He wishes the saints both grace and peace from God. A deeply meaningful greeting and opening to his epistle.

Likewise, I pray God’s grace and peace on you this week.