Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Christ’s Exaltation - May 25, 2014 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Text: 1 Peter 3:13-22
What is our purpose in life? That is the question asked by many today. Some answers that are given are that our purpose in life is to do something for God, to praise Him, to work for Him, to do His bidding, to please Him, to appease Him and so forth. The assumption behind these answers is that God needs something from us. My question is, “What kind of a God does one worship who needs something from us?” That sounds a lot like the gods Paul was referring to in our first lesson when he addressed the Athenians on Mars Hill. And so, as Paul says, I say to you, we worship “24The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24,25). Therefore, our purpose in life is simply to be loved by our God who created us to love us.
In our text for today, Peter continues encouraging us in our own faith life. He encourages us especially in times of suffering. We being in our text at verse thirteen, “13Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (v. 13-17).
If we are good people, as we often believe ourselves to be, if we do good, that is, if we follow the law, if we do not speed, do not steal, do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not gossip, and so forth, then we need not fear harm. If we are being good and are doing what we are supposed to be doing and not doing what we are not supposed to be doing, then we really do not have anything to fear in this life.
On the other hand, and this is where Peter is encouraging us, if we suffer for doing good, then we are to rejoice. If we suffer, especially because we are Christians, we are to rejoice. Now, I have said it before, I do not believe that this affects us much here in the United States of America, at least not yet, but I do know for a fact that there are Christians throughout the world that are suffering, that are persecuted simply because they bear the name of Christ, that is, because they are Christians. And they rejoice in their suffering.
Verse fifteen is one of my favorite verses, especially in the context of what we are to be doing for our Lord, or at least what we think we are to be doing for the Lord. Thinking in terms of what is our purpose in life, for many years we have all heard the great commission and how the great commission tells us how we are to go out and tell others about Jesus, and I would never discourage you from doing so. However, I believe Peter gives us a better way. Peter tells us that our response of faith is to have a natural consequence and flow that is that as we are living lives of faith we are to always be ready to give a defense of our faith and certainty of heaven. As we live lives of faith and as others ask about our faith we are to give the reason, the answer or as our text literally says, an apology, that is a defense of our faith and we are to do this in gentleness.
Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “Kill them with kindness,” or as Paul says in Romans (12:20), “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” In other words, in our making a gentle defense of our faith against those who work to slander us, we put them to shame. So, here, Peter reminds us, it is certainly better, as a Christian, in God’s eyes, to suffer for doing good than to rightly suffer for doing evil.
But Peter is not done. He goes on to give us Christ’s example. We pick up reading at verse eighteen, “18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (v. 18-22).
Rather than simply encourage us, Peter gives us the example of Jesus who suffered unfairly. Jesus, who was without sin suffered for our sins. Of course, that is the reason Jesus came into this world; that is the reason He was born, to restore our broken relationship with Himself. Jesus came to pay the price for sin, the price of eternal spiritual death, the price that was set in the Garden of Eden. And that is what Jesus did. He who was without sin, took our sins upon Himself and He suffered, on the cross, the eternal spiritual death penalty, for us, in our place, and not only for us, but for all those who had already lived, for us living today and for all those who ever will live.
After suffering on the cross and dying, when Jesus descended into hell it was not to suffer any more. His suffering was completed on the cross. His descent into hell was to declare victory over the devil as well as His victory over sin, death and the power of the devil.
And then Peter gives us the example of God’s patience in dealing with us, His sinful human beings. Some may wonder why God is waiting so long to end the world. Some may be wondering how long the Lord will put up with this world. The answer is seen in God’s patience and not wanting anyone to perish, but in giving enough time as possible for as many people as possible to come to faith. The answer is seen in God’s patience in the days of Noah and how long He waited to send the flood, giving enough people time to see what Noah was doing so they might repent. In the same way He is waiting today for His return.
And now we get to Peter’s words on Baptism. Notice how Peter tells us that Baptism saves. Let me say that again so we do not miss it, Baptism saves. We see Baptism save every Sunday we witness a Baptism. We see how those being baptized are saved through the waters of Holy Baptism. They do nothing, but their Baptism saved them. Baptism saves because Baptism is God’s doing. Unfortunately there are those who reject these words of Peter suggesting that baptism is something we need to do to show our obedience to God. They say this because they do not understand how simple water and God’s Word can do such great things. Here Peter tells us, as he says, “Baptism now saves.” Baptism saves because we put the focus back where it needs to be, not on us, but on God who does the work in and through theses simple means, water and God’s Word, God’s name. Peter gives the example of the flood. In the flood, the water killed the evil and the ark saved the righteous. Water saved the eight in the ark. Interestingly enough, those who believe that the only valid baptism is a baptism by immersion need to see that they find little support for their views here. Notice, the only persons who are immersed were those who were drowned by the flood waters, not the ones who were saved. In Holy Baptism water washes away our sins and saves us through the putting on of Christ’s name. In Holy Baptism God is doing all the work, God is doing all the doing and we are the ones who are being done to and being given to. And notice how we get it right when we get the focus right.
And now, Peter reminds us that Christ is exalted and He is seated at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, not that He cannot be anywhere else, because we know He is God and as God He can still be all places at all times, but Peter tells us He is at the right hand of the Father so we might find comfort in knowing that He is there watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us.
And so, now in good Lutheran fashion we ask, “What Does This Mean?” First, we understand that there is a difference between suffering as a consequence of sin and suffering for one’s faith. Certainly there are times that we suffer as a consequence of our actions, but we need to be assured, that we never have, nor will we ever suffer the eternal punishment for our sins, because that is what Jesus suffered for us on the cross. Yet, when the time comes and it may come in even in our own country, and soon, but when the time comes that we may suffer for simply the fact that we are Christians, Peter encourages us that we would rejoice in our suffering for our faith.
And in those times of suffering for our faith, God’s will is that we would give a defense for our faith. In other words, God will give us the strength to bear up, and He will give us the words to say in defense of our faith.
Notice, again, how we get it right when we get the focus right. When focus on ourselves, on what we must do, or have to do, then we tend to get confused about our purpose in life, we get confused like the Athenians on Mars Hill. But when we get our focus right, that is when our focus is on what God has done, what God does, and what God will continue to do for us, then we get it right, then we get our purpose right, then we get our lives right. God gives, and we are given to.
Jesus has done it all and He gives it all to us. And we have the assurance that Jesus is exalted and He is seated at the right hand of the Father where He continues caring for us. And we say, thanks be to God.
And so, finally, I again encourage you, brothers and sisters in Christ, be zealous in doing good, let your light shine, have no fear of the troubles of this world, instead, focus on Christ and all that He has done, does and will continue to do in and through you knowing that He has taken care of your eternal life. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.