A Hope Filled Relationship

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One of the painful facts of life is that the people of God do not always get along with each other. You would think that those who walk in hope and holiness would be able to walk in harmony, but this is not always true. From God's divine point of view, there is only one body (see Eph. 4:4-6); but we see a church divided and sometimes at war with human eyes. There is today a desperate need for spiritual unity.
In this section of his letter, Peter emphasized spiritual unity by presenting four vivid pictures of the church.
1. We are children in the same family (IPETER 1:22-2:3
1 Peter 1:22–2:3 (KJV 1900)
22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
When you consider the implications of this fact, you will be encouraged to build and maintain unity among God's people.
The only way to enter God's spiritual family is by spiritual birth, through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:1-16). Just as there are two parents in physical birth, so there are two parents in spiritual birth: the Spirit of God (3:5-6) and the Word of God (1 Peter 923). The new birth gives to us a new nature (2 Peter 1:4) as well as a new and living hope (1 Peter 1:3).
Our first birth was a birth of "flesh," which is corruptible. Whatever is born of flesh is destined to die and decay. This explains why mankind cannot hold civilization together: it is all based on human flesh and is destined to fall apart. Like the beautiful spring flowers, man’s works look successful for a time, but then they decay and die. From the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, to
"Babylon the Great" in Revelation 17 and 18, man's great attempts at unity are destined to fail.
If we try to build unity in the church based on our first birth, we will fail; but if we build unity on the basis of the new birth, it will succeed. Each believer has the same Holy Spirit dwelling within (Rom. 8:9). We call upon the same Father (1 Peter 1:17) and share His divine nature. We trust the same Word, which will never decay or disappear.
We have trusted the same Gospel and have been born of the same Spirit. The externals of the flesh that could divide us mean nothing when compared with the internals of the Spirit that unite us.
Peter used two words for love: Philadelphia, "brotherly love," and agape, which is Godlike sacrificial love. We must share both kinds of love. We share brotherly love because we are brothers and sisters in Christ and have likenesses. We share agape love because we belong to God and can overlook differences.
By nature, all of us are selfish; so it took a miracle of God to give us this love. Because we "obeyed the truth through the Spirit," God purified our souls and poured His love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5). Love for the brethren is evidence that we truly have been born of God (1 John 4:7-21). Now we are "obedient children" (1 Peter 1:14) who no longer want to live in the selfish desires of the old life.
It is tragic when people try to "manufacture" love, because the product is obviously cheap and artificial.
"The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords" (Ps. 55:21). The love that we share, and with a lost world, must be generated by the Spirit of God. It is a constant power in our lives, and not something that we turn on and off like a radio.
Not only is this love spiritual, but it is a sincere love ("unfeigned"). We love "with a pure heart." Our motive is not to get but to give. A kind of “success psychology” popular today enables a person to manipulate others to get what he wants subtly. If our love is sincere and from a pure heart, we could never "use people" for our own advantage.
This love is also fervent, and this is an athletic term that means "striving with all of one's energy."
Love is something we have to work at, just as an Olympic contestant has to work at his particular skills. Christian love is not a feeling; it is a matter of the will. We show love to others when we treat them the same way God treats us. God forgives us, so we forgive others. God is kind to us, so we are kind to others. It is not a matter of feeling but of willingness, and we must constantly work at this to succeed.
We have two wonderful "assistants" to help us: the Word of God and the Spirit of God. The same truth that we trusted and obeyed to become God's children also nurtures and empowers us. It is impossible to love the truth and hate the brethren. The Spirit of God produces the "fruit of the Spirit" in our lives, the first of which is love (Gal. 5:22-23). If we are filled with the Word of God (Col. 3:16ff and the Spirit of God (Eph. 5:18ff, we will manifest the love of God in our daily experiences.
1 Peter 2:1–3 KJV 1900
1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
God's Word has life, gives life, and nourishes life. We should have appetites for the Word just like hungry newborn babes! We should want the pure Word, unadulterated because this alone can help us grow.
When I was a child, I was not particularly eager to drink milk (and my father worked for the Borden Dairy!), so my mother used to add various syrups and powders to make my milk tastier. None of them ever worked. It is sad when Christians have no appetite for God's Word but must be "fed" religious entertainment instead. As we grow, we discover that the Word is milk for babes and strong meat for the mature (Heb. 5:11-14; 1 Cor. 3:1-4). It is also bread (Matt. 4:4) and honey (Ps. 119:103).
Sometimes children have no appetite because they have been eating the wrong things. Peter warned his readers to "lay aside" certain wrong attitudes of heart that would hinder their appetite and spiritual growth. "Malice" means wickedness in general.
"Guile" is craftiness, using devious words and actions to get what we want. Of course, if we are guilty of malice and guile, we will try to hide it, producing "hypocrisies." Often the cause of ill will is envy, and one result of envy is evil speaking, conversation that tears the other person down. If these attitudes and actions are in our lives, we will lose our appetite for the pure word of God. If we stop feeding on the Word, we stop growing and enjoying ("tasting) the grace that we find in the Lord. When Christians grow in the Word, they are peacemakers, not troublemakers, and they promote the church’s unity.
2. We are stones in the same building (IPETER 2:4-8
1 Peter 2:4–8 (KJV 1900)
4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
There is only one Saviour, Jesus Christ, and only one spiritual building, the church. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church (Eph. 2:20), binding the building together. Whether we agree with each other or not, all true Christians belong to each other as stones in God's building.
Peter gave a full description of Jesus Christ, the stone. He is a living stone because He was raised from the dead in victory. He is the chosen stone of the Father, and He is precious. Peter quoted Isaiah
28:16 and Psalm 118:22 in his description and pointed out that Jesus Christ, though chosen by God, was rejected by men. He was not the kind of Messiah they were expecting, so they stumbled over Him.
Jesus referred to this same Scripture when He debated with the Jewish leaders (Matt. 21:42ff, and see Ps. 118:22). Though rejected by men, God exalted Jesus Christ!
The real cause of this Jewish stumbling was their refusal to submit to the Word (1 Peter 2:8). Had they believed and obeyed the Word, they would have received their Messiah and been saved. Of course, people today still stumble over Christ and His cross (1 Cor. 1:18f. Those who believe on Christ "shall not be confounded [ashamed]."
In His first mention of the church, Jesus compared it to a building: "I will build My church" (Matt.
16;18). Believers are living stones in His building.
Each time someone trusts Christ, another stone is
into the building. It may LOOK to us at the church On earth is a pile of rubble and ruins, but God sees the whole structure as it grows (Eph. 2:19-22). What a privilege we have to be a part of His, church, "an habitation of God through the Spirit." Peter wrote this letter to believers living in five different provinces, yet he said that they all be. longed to one "spiritual house." There is a unity of God's people that transcends all local and individual assemblies and fellowships. We belong to each other because we belong to Christ. This does not mean doctrinal and denominational distinctive are wrong, because the Spirit must fully persuade each local church. But it does mean that we must not permit our differences to destroy our spiritual unity in Christ. We ought to be mature enough to disagree without in any sense, becoming disagreeable.
A contractor in Michigan was building a house, and the first floor’s construction went smoothly.
But when they started on the second floor, they needed help. None of the materials from the lumber yard would fit properly. Then they discovered the reason: they were working with two different sets of blueprints! Once they removed the old set, everything went well, and they built a lovely house.
Too often, Christians hinder the church’s building because they follow the wrong plans.
When Solomon built his temple, his workmen followed the plans so carefully that everything fit together on the construction site (1 Kings 6:7). If all of us would follow God's blueprints, given in His Word, we would be able to work together without discord and build His church for His glory.
3. We are priests in the same temple
1 Peter 2:5 (KJV 1900)
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:9 (KJV 1900)
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
We are a "holy priesthood" and a "royal priesthood.” This corresponds to the heavenly priesthood of our Lord, for He is both King and Priest (see Heb. 7). In the Old Testament, no king in Israel served as a priest; and the one king who tried was judged by God (2 Chron. 26:16-21). Our Lord's heavenly throne is a throne of grace from which we may obtain by faith all that we need to live for Him and serve Him (Heb. 4:14-16).
In the Old Testament period, God's people had a priesthood; but today, God's people are a priest-hood. Each individual believer has the privilege of coming into the presence of God (Heb. 10:19-25).
We do not come to God through any person on earth, but only through the one Mediator, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:1-8). Because He is alive in glory, interceding for us, we can minister as holy priests.
This means that our lives should be lived as though we were priests in a temple. It is indeed a privilege to serve as a priest. No man in Israel could serve at the altar, or enter the tabernacle or temple holy places, except those born into the tribe of Levi and consecrated to God for service. Each priest and Levite had different ministries to perform, yet they were together under the high priest, serving to glorify God. As God's priests today, we must work together at the direction of our great High Priest.
Each ministry that we perform for His glory is a service to God.
Peter especially mentioned the privilege of offering "spiritual sacrifices." Christians today do not bring animal sacrifices as did the Old Testament worshipers, but we have our sacrifices to present to God. We ought to give our bodies to Him as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2), as well as the praise of our lips (Heb. 13:15) and the good works we do for others (13:16). The money and other material things we share with others in God's service is also a spiritual sacrifice (Phil. 4:10-20). Even the people we win to Christ are sacrifices for His glory (Rom. 15:16). We offer these sacrifices through Jesus Christ, for only then are they acceptable to God. If we do any of this for our pleasure or glory, then it will not be accepted as a spiritual sacrifice.
God wanted His people Israel to become "a kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19:6), a spiritual influence for godliness; but Israel failed Him. Instead of being a positive influence on the godless nations around them, Israel imitated those nations and adopted their practices. God had to discipline His people many times for their idolatry, but they persisted in sin. Today, Israel has no temple or priesthood.
It is vital that we, as God's priests, maintain our separate position in this world. We must not be isolated, because the world needs our influence and witness; but we must not permit the world to infect us or change us. Separation is not isolation; it is contact without contamination.
The fact that each individual believer can go to God personally and offer spiritual sacrifices should not encourage selfishness or "individualism" on our part. We are priests together, serving the same High Priest, ministering in the same spiritual temple. The fact that there is but one High Priest and heavenly Mediator indicate unity among the people of God.
While we must maintain our personal walk with God, we must not do it at the expense of other Christians by ignoring or neglecting them.
Several social scientists have written books deal-
ing with what they call the "me complex" in modern society. The emphasis today is on taking care of yourself and forgetting about others. This same attitude has crept into the church, as I see it. Too much modern church music centers on the individual and ignores the church’s fellowship. Many books and sermons focus on personal experience to the neglect of ministry to the whole body. I realize that the individual must care for himself to help others, but there must be balance.
4. We are citizens of the same nation (I Peter 2:9-10
1 Peter 2:9–10 (KJV 1900)
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
The description of the church in these verses parallels God's description of Israel, in Exodus 19:5-6 and Deuteronomy 7:6. In contrast to the disobedient and rebellious nation of Israel, God's people today are His chosen and holy nation. This does not suggest that God is through with Israel, for I believe He will fulfill His promises and His covenants and establish the promised kingdom. But it does mean that the church today is to God and the world what Israel was meant to be.
We are a chosen generation, which immediately speaks of the grace of God. God did not choose Israel because they were great people, but because He loved them (Deut. 7:7-8). God has chosen us purely because of His love and grace. "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" (John 15:16, NIv).
We are a holy nation. We have been set apart to belong exclusively to God. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), so we obey heaven's laws and seek to please heaven's Lord. Israel forgot that she was a holy nation and began to break down the walls of separation that made her unique and distinct. God commanded them to put a "difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean" (Lev.
10:10); but they ignored the differences and disobeyed God.
We are the people of God. In our unsaved condition, we were not God's people; because we are. longed to Satan and the world (Eph. 2:1-3, 11-19).
Now that we have trusted Christ, we are a part of God's people. We are a "people of His special possession" because He purchased us with the blood of His own Son (Acts 20:28).
All of these privileges carry one big responsibility: revealing the praises of God to a lost world. The verb translated "show forth" means "to tell out, to advertise." Because the world is "in the dark," people do not know the "excellencies" of God; but they should see them in our lives. Each citizen of heaven is a living "advertisement" for the virtues of God and the blessings of the Christian life.
Our lives should radiate the "marvelous light" into which God has graciously called us.
After all, we have obtained mercy from God!
Were it not for His mercy, we would be lost and on the way to eternal judgment! God reminded Israel many times that He had delivered them from the bondage of Egypt so that they might glorify and serve Him, but the nation soon forgot, and the people drifted back into their sinful ways. We are God's chosen people only because of His mercy, and it behooves us to be faithful to Him.
We live in enemy territory, and the enemy constantly watches us, looking for opportunities to
move in and take over. As citizens of heaven, we must be united. We must present to the world a united demonstration of what the grace and mercy of God can do. As I write these words, the newspapers are reporting “dissensions” among the men who serve with the President of the United States. What do unsaved people think when they see the citizens of heaven and servants of God fighting among themselves?
Each of these four pictures emphasizes the importance of unity and harmony. We belong to one family of God and share the exact divine nature. We are living stones in one building and priests serving in one temple. We are citizens of the same heavenly homeland. It is Jesus Christ who is the source and center of this unity. If we center our attention and affection on Him, we will walk and work together; if we focus on ourselves, we will only cause division.
Unity does not eliminate diversity. Not all children in a family are alike, nor are all the stones in a building identical. It is the diversity that gives beauty and richness to a family or building. The absence of diversity is not unity; it is uniformity, and uniformity is dull. It is fine when the choir sings in unison, but I prefer that they sing harmoniously.
Christians can differ and still get along. All who cherish the "one faith" and who seek to honor the
"one Lord" can love each other and walk together (Eph. 4:1-6). God may call us into different ministries or to use different methods, but we can still love each other and seek to present a united witness to the world.
After all, one day, all of us will be together in heaven (John 17:24); so it might be a good idea if we learned to love each other down here!
St. Augustine said it perfectly: "In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”
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