Peter wrote the letter titled First Peter when the church was in dispersion all over the known world. Persecution had come upon the church and the church was then spread out all over the place. This letter was most likely written in the mid sixties when the persecution had really intensified. In A.D. 64, on July 19th, Nero set the city on fire and then blamed it on the Christians. He did this to rally his empire back to him and to expand. My friends, government has done these types of things throughout history. They create many of these strategies in order to use them to further their cause and their purposes. That is exactly what Nero did. This led to many of the Christians being killed and slaughtered including, eventually, Peter himself. History tells us that he was crucified upside down. He refused to be crucified in the same way Jesus was, as he considered himself unworthy to do so. Peter was writing these instructions and exhortations to a church that was suffering greatly and yet he gives charges to the elders to lead well and to the people to serve God with great humility. Our circumstances, whatever they may be, do not give us a free pass to not lead and serve in obedience unto Christ and His word.
"Our circumstances, whatever they may be, do not give us a free pass to not lead and serve in obedience unto Christ and His word."
Be Clothed with Humility
God hates pride in all forms, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Pr. 6:16-19). God hates passive aggressive pride. He hates hypocritical pride. He hates authoritarian pride. He hates know-it-all pride. He hates pride at all levels. He hates pride in young men who are unwilling to follow the leadership of others, even those who are faithful elders. He hates pride. He hates pride so much that He even opposes the person that is full of it. Peter quotes this proverb in writing to the church, “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble” (Pr. 3:34). God hates pride and places Himself in opposition to the person that is full of it.
Therefore, Peter says be sure to clothe yourself with humility. The term “clothe yourself” gives a picture of putting on an apron and tying it up in a bow. More specifically it is a picture of a servant putting on their apron and tying it up to go and serve their master. Everyday the servant chooses to put the apron on and then every night they choose to take it off. That is the picture that we can put on and take off humility that easy. We choose whether or not to put it on. Peter tells the church that is facing such extreme persecution that their response is to put on humility. Humility is not acting like Eeyore. Humility is emptying yourself of pride in order to honor and serve King Jesus. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself at all. It is not being a retreatist but standing unconcerned with what others may say or do. That is true humility. Jesus is the picture of humility.
"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's not thinking of yourself at all."
Specifics About Humbling Yourself
Peter then gives some specifics about the how and why the church should always be sure to clothe themselves with all humility. First, he says that the church is to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. It is not man, the Roman empire that demands this humble obedience to them, but it is to God. We humble ourselves to God and strive to obey Him, which may mean that we humbly serve Him by resisting the wickedness of the government unconcerned about the consequences. It is the mighty hand of God that we must fear. The mighty hand of God flooded the entire earth and wiped out all people except for one family. The mighty hand of God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Humble yourselves under his mighty hand, not anyone else's. If anyone else tries to place a mighty hand over you, whether in the government, church, or home, you resist it as it is only God’s mighty hand that you humble yourself under.
Second, Peter says that you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and allow Him to exalt you at the proper time. In this context He is obviously talking about the destruction of Jerusalem that was imminent and then the exalting of the New Covenant church that was about to take place. He is also talking about the final consummation when Christ’s Kingdom will be exalting over Satan’s Kingdom. His people, His church, will be exalted at that time.
Third, humbling yourself before God means you stop attempting to play God as it relates to future events and you cast all of your anxieties on Him. Anxiety is a form of great pride. We become anxious when we are worried about the future. We are worried about how things are going to play out. At the core we are anxious as we want to control the future. God says to humble yourself by casting your anxieties on Him. Why? Because He cares for you. He cares for you like no one else. He knows what you are going through like no one else. Often when I preach a funeral sermon I preach the story about Lazarus. Part of the sermon I talk about how Jesus wept with Mary. He wept because He is compassionate. God is compassionate and God cares for us.
"Humbling yourself before God means you stop attempting to play God as it relates to future events and you cast all of your anxieties on Him."
Be Humble and Serve
Let me give a very practical illustration and point for all of us to apply today. I will illustrate it through my failure. Failure is a great teacher as long as we are looking for the lesson. Early on in my conversion I felt a calling to serve Jesus as an elder. There was a burden to preach, teach, and lead. Like many young men, though, there was certainly a pride that lived within me. It was a quiet pride, but it was a pride nonetheless. I lusted after getting a “position” and after getting a “title.” I wanted people to recognize me as a leader. So, when I served and attempted to lead I wanted everyone to notice and to give me a pat on the back. I wanted them to say, “Job well done!” God eventually broke me of this and I read in a book that when we serve and obey Jesus we are not doing anything extraordinary -- we are just doing what is expected of us. The book said to begin to serve and don’t expect anything in return. That truth drove right through me. It was a moment in which I was praying to God and I recall making a commitment to Him that whatever His plan was for my life that I would do it with joy. That did not mean I was not going to strive and work hard, but certainly I would do whatever was placed before me with great joy and excellence. I specifically committed that if He wanted me to work at the restaurant and teach a Sunday school class for the rest of my life that I would do it with joy. I committed by saying, “I am going to be as faithful as I can with what you place before me and to allow you to exult to the next opportunity.” Clothe ourselves with humility.
"When we serve and obey Jesus we are not doing anything extraordinary -- we are just doing what is expected of us."
Are you troubled by the stage of life that you are in. Perhaps you are younger and worried that you might be “stuck” doing what you are doing right now for the rest of your life. You want more. You feel you deserve me. Be faithful with the little that you have. Perhaps you are in the middle of your life and you are saying, “How did I get here?” Keep serving Him faithfully with joy. Perhaps you are later in life and feel like you deserve more of a platform. Be humble. Serve Jesus and serve others. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16)
A great Puritan evangelist, John Rodgers, warned his congregation against neglecting Scripture by telling them what God might say, “I have trusted you so long with my Bible...it lies in [some] houses all covered with dust and cobwebs, you care not to listen to it. Do you use my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer.”
Rogers then picked up his Bible and started walking away from the pulpit. Then he stopped, fell on his knees, and took on the voice of the people, who pleaded, “Lord, whatever Thou dost to us, take not Thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses, destroy our goods; only spare us Thy Bible, take not away Thy Bible.”
“Say you so?” the minister replied, impersonating God. “Well, I will try you a while longer; and here is my Bible for you. I will see how you use it, whether you will search it more, love it more, observe it more, and live more according to it.”
Thomas Goodwin was so moved by Roger’s dramatic presentation that when he left church he wept upon horse’s neck for fifteen minutes before he felt strong enough to mount it.
Do we feel that strongly about the Bible?
The Bible is Divinely Inspired
Paul wanted Timothy and the church at Ephesus to know that they could trust the words of Scripture. He wanted them to know that the words of Scripture were actually divinely inspired by God. They could trust that these words were in fact God’s words. He told them that “all scripture is God breathed.” This word is synonymous with the Hebrew word in the Old Testament when God breathed life into Adam’s nostrils, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7). This word is also synonymous with the Greek word John used when describing when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto the apostles, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Take your hand and breath on it. Did you feel that? God did that when writing the Scriptures. He breathed on the men insuring that the words were divinely inspired.
To what extent were they inspired? Some would say that the Bible only contains God’s inspired word, but not all of it can be trusted as so. All of it is inspired. How God penned it was He would move men to write the words of truth. Men would write through their own personality and style and God word ensure that every word was accurate and true. Men did not write as dictators just writing what God told them, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).
Paul writes that “all scripture” is divinely inspired. That is given to us by the breath of God. What is “all scripture”? In this specific context Paul is specifically writing affirming the divine inspiration of the Old Testament scripture. The New Testament had not yet been formalized. It was being written. The Old Testament had been though. It is interesting to note that most contemporary evangelicals practically discard the Old Testament as simply a book of history, yet Paul wanted his readers to know that it was inspired and profitable for them.
"It is interesting to note that most contemporary evangelicals practically discard the Old Testament as simply a book of history, yet Paul wanted his readers to know that it was inspired and profitable for them."
What about the New Testament then? Peter affirmed in the New Testament from the verse quoted a moment ago that the writings of the Apostles were scripture as well. There were strict standards to determine what the New Testament canon books should consist of. Here are five important things that were used to test the canonicity of the New Testament writings:
Now the next question becomes what about our English Bibles: can we trust them as being divinely inspired? Let me assure you that God has preserved His word. We can take our Bibles and compare them to the various manuscripts, the various translations and the various quotes from the church fathers (pretty much the entire bible has been quoted) and in comparing them you will find just a slight variance of 3-5% and none of these variances lose the meaning that the original author willed to convey. Yes, you can trust the Bible! You can trust the Bible that you are reading today.
The Bible is Profitable
Being profitable is important. It is particularly important economically. If the work that we do does not make a profit then at some point we have to change what we are doing. In all things there is a pragmatic element to what we do. It must be profitable. Paul here uses a pragmatic argument saying that the Bible is “profitable” for us as believers.
The Bible is profitable for doctrine, which could also be said as teaching the truth. The Bible is a theological book that contains all of the essential and fundamental teachings that we need to know for salvation and for Christian living. It is profitable for us to know the truth.
The Bible is profitable for reproof. This means it is a tool that is used to persuade or convince us of our sin. The Bible is like a mirror for us and when we look deeply into it we see our true selves. A person who is living in pride and arrogance is someone who is not using their mirror. It is like leaving the house every morning without checking yourself in the mirror. Here is the reality, “The Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible.”
The Bible is profitable for correction. This means to get straightened out. The Bible is used to continually correct and get our thinking and actions back on track. A person who stays out of their Bible will be a person who continually has wrong thinking and wrong actions. We need to constantly be straightened out.
"A person who stays out of their Bible will be a person who continually has wrong thinking and wrong actions. We need to constantly be straightened out."
The Bible is profitable for instruction in righteousness. A better way to say this, that I think we will understand even more clearly, is it is profitable for the instructions in the principles of justice. As followers of Jesus Christ we are to learn the principles of justice and then we are to apply them in all areas of our lives. Only God’s word gives us the true principles of justice. All other principles will be driven by self-interest.
The Bible is to work in our lives in order to change us from the inside out. It begins by giving us a knowledge and understanding of the truths about God. Then it works to convict us of our sin and to change and confront our behavior in light of it. It must not stop at this inward change though. Our culture has been infected with this obsession that Christianity is summed up only by this inward change. It is properly referred to as pietism, which says that Christianity is all about the inward workings of the Spirit. It must continue on though and we must be people of justice. We must learn and apply the principles of justice. We must learn to think through equal scales. We must be able to sift through all of the noise of the world. You see the world has doctrine that it is attempting to teach us. It then reproofs and corrects us on the basis of their standards. It then teaches principles of justice that we must maintain.
I was reminded of this last week with what happened in Charlottesville. This protest broke out and so did the messages to me as a pastor of what I must do. Honestly I did not find out about this until Sunday morning. So, I did a little research, as I wanted to be able to draw proper conclusions. Here is what I found. The alt-right, the white supremacists are wicked and sinful people. They are full of hate and their worldview is straight from the pits of hell. The person that organized the rally though was a puppet of George Soros. Their doctrine and their worldview is straight from the pit of hell. The counter protestors were organized by a group called Antifa. You go to their facebook page and the about section says, “f*ck fascism.” Their counter response is straight from the pit of hell and their doctrine is from the pit of hell. Many supporters of black lives matter came out. Many of my black brothers and sisters are in support of this group and I understand their reaction to white supremacy and police brutality. Black lives matter is not the answer though. Consider what the group stands for. Within the movement is also a call to affirm homosexuality and transgenderism. My friends this is not the answer. The answer is for the church to rise up, know the Bible (and thus know the principles of justice), and apply those principles to all area of life. Until we do this there will be no true justice. There will only be collectivist groups who come together for self-interest of themselves and of their groups.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
“Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:2b-21).
In the beginning God, the transcendent and the sovereign one, created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). As a master architect He designed this world and everything that should inhabit it. At the end of the sixth day God created the pinnacle of His creation, which was Adam. Adam was God’s appointed agent to carry out His work -- to care for the earth that He created. Adam was created to not only care for the earth, but to continually expand out beyond the garden, subduing it. God made man in such a way that Adam could not carry out these responsibilities alone. His gifts were limited. So, God made a helper for him. God created Eve from his rib and she was designated to be Adam’s helper. She was Adam’s VP and COO. They were designed for dominion, but this task was hindered due to their sinful rebellion, which made the original task of dominion impossible for them to complete.
Adam and Eve were thus designed for more than dominion. They were designed to point ahead to the second Adam, Jesus Christ, who would faithfully complete the dominion work. Christ then created His helper to carry out the dominion task, which was the church. Jesus Christ becomes the groom to the church and the church becomes His bride. Since, the church has been wed to Christ; not only are they the bride of Christ, but they are also the mother of the believers.
Understanding this, then, should give us an understanding and framework to know what our role is as members of the Church. The church is to function as a wife and a mother, thus the helper to Christ. So, those of us filling roles inside of her must know that our aim is to not be the head but it is to assist the Head in the building of the Church. This means we are to bear children and to nurture them in obedience to the words the head has left for us. That is our role.
"The church is to function as a wife and a mother, thus the helper to Christ."
Paul has been spelling out in Timothy how the Church is to function as Christ’s bride and the mother of the believers. He has been giving them instructions on how to be a faithful bride and how to be a faithful mother. He ends this letter by driving some points home that, at times, seem disjointed. It kind of reminds me of the instructions I will give to my children before we go to someone’s home -- a series of do's and don’ts. Paul ends with that. He tells Timothy to be on guard for those in the church who would commit spiritual adultery on Christ, teaching things contrary to His words. Second, He further exhorts Timothy on how to lead to church to be a faithful bride and mother. Finally, it is an exhortation to guard the duty that had been entrusted to him as a guardian of the word.
Beware of the Spiritual Adulterer
Paul takes issue once again with the dangers of false teachers getting a foothold in the church. A false teacher is like an adulteress wife. It is a serious offense against the groom, as well as a serious offense against the children. Paul gives instructions on how to spot this person who is being unfaithful to Christ. This is in the sense of a false teacher, but also can certainly be applied to anyone who has rejected the covenant they have with Christ.
"Commonly those who are the most proud know the least. Pride and ignorance always go hand and hand."
First, is that they are always puffed up with conceit, thinking that they know everything when in fact and in reality they know nothing. This is a dangerous person in a dangerous place. As Matthew Henry stated, “Commonly those who are the most proud know the least.” Pride and ignorance always go hand and hand. This person will not allow anyone else to combat their thinking. They are the final arbiter on what the Scripture teaches. You cannot convince them otherwise. People committing spiritual harlotry always espouse to know the right knowledge and what is best when in reality they know nothing about Christ and His Word. They are their own final authority.
Second, the spiritual adulterer has an unhealthy craving for controversy and quarreling about words rather than substance and ideas. The danger of systematic theology is we can study doctrines in isolation rather than a whole and can lead people astray. Many people have gone into heresy over their obsession with words. They build their whole doctrine and whole worldview around a word. You can easily spot these types of people because you with always find envious relationships surrounding them (comparing one person's giftedness over anothers), dissension, slander (everyone else is judged by their standard), evil suspicions (everyone else is out to get them) and constant friction (none of their relationships are marked by peace). No relationships in their lives are healthy.
Third, this person has an unhealthy love of money, attempting to use the ministry as a means to get more money. Paul already settled that elders should receive compensation but that their motivation for teaching, leading, and shepherding must never be about money. The man of God must be a person marked by contentment, not the love of money. The love of money is the root of all different kinds of evils. It is interesting that all crimes committed can be reduced down to three different things: power, lust, or money. All sorts of evils come from these motivations. When a person is lured by the love of money they often make ethical and judicial decisions that are not just.
"The man of God must be a person marked by contentment, not the love of money."
Note, this text does not teach that having money and wealth in and of itself is evil. By that standard all of us here in America, even if we are on welfare, are evil because based on the world’s standards we are all in the top 5% of wealthiest people in the world. We are the rich people the bible talks about. Not just the millionaire but this is true of all of us. It is not a matter of whether or not a person has riches but what they do with them. Are we a person who is rich in good works and a person who is generous? I remember early on with my walk with the Lord when my love of money was tested as my generosity was tested. I did not want to give a tenth of my income away. I struggled with that. Why did I struggle with that? Well, the answer is easy: I loved money more than I loved obedience to Jesus Christ. Our lives come down to whose blessing we seek: God’s or someone else's?
The Danger of False Teaching
The reason why Paul labors on the point of guarding against false teaching is because of how damaging false teaching is. When false teaching is embraced it means that a person is rejecting the plain words of Christ is in exchange for someone else's word. It then comes down to who’s word do we believe in? Who’s word is trustworthy? When a person rejects the plain teachings of Christ in exchange for other teachings it always leads to a train wreck of problems.
The first false teacher, Satan, gave us insight into how false teaching works. Satan denied reality, denied negativity, and denied God’s promises of punishment for disobeying Him, “You will not surely die.” Not only does He do that but Satan is the ultimate optimist. He puts everything in a positive light. He promises, “You will become like God.” Satan only ever offers positive blessings as a result of choosing His ways. Drink that drink so you forget your problems. Let your anger rage so you feel relieved of letting them have it. Divorce your wife to find someone that meets your needs. This is Satan’s destructive approach.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.