Thursday, January 28, 2010

Glorifying God on the Day of Inspection

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1Peter 2:11-12)
Peter continues his exhortation in a tender and personal way, addressing his readers as, “Beloved.” Though they are exiles in foreign lands, they must be careful to abstain from “fleshly lusts,” the passions of fallen human nature. These are not neutral or inconsequential but work against us. The Message renders it this way, “Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul.” The apostle Paul draws the contrast between the lusts of the flesh and the fruit God wants to produce in us by His Spirit:
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:16-21)
Now look at what the Holy Spirit is working to bring forth in us:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25)
The Spirit of God wants to bring forth the life and character of Jesus the Messiah in us. This is the sort of excellent behavior and honorable conduct Peter has in mind. Part of the difficulty these scattered believers were experiencing was that the surrounding Gentiles did not understand what this faith in Jesus was all about. Jews were often slandered by Gentiles, and now those Gentiles who began to believe in the Messiah, they were included in that slander.

Gentiles thought Christians were atheists because they did not bow to any of the pagan idols; that they were disloyal to the state because they proclaimed that Jesus, not Caesar, is the divine King; that they were cannibals because they spoke of eating the body of Jesus and drinking His blood (at the Table of the Lord). Gentiles were also critical of Christians because they upset the institutions of marriage, family and slavery, giving women, wives, children and slaves new dignity. The Christian message also undermined lucrative pagan practices such as temple prostitution and the market for idols.

Peter’s answer to that was to live a noble lifestyle of love and good works. He knew the Gentiles would be “observing” — the Greek word means that they would be watching, carefully inspecting how these believers in Jesus lived. His expectation was that, by being good citizens, good servants, good husbands and wives, and having love for all, their manner as well as their message would cause their Gentile neighbors to give glory to God. This echoes what Jesus preached: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

What Peter especially has in mind here is that the Gentiles might glorify God “in the day of visitation.” The Greek word for “visitation,” episcope, signifies oversight, investigation, inspection. Peter is talking about the day of inspection, when God comes to set things right — judgment day! As the Gentiles inspected the lives if Christians, perhaps it would cause them to trust in Jesus the Messiah, so that on the day they were inspected by God, they would gladly give Him glory.

Keeping the Faith When Things Get ToughKeeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

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