Let The Body Match The Head (Part 2)

1 Peter 3:8-12 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

 

INTRODUCTION
Jesus of Nazareth, in dramatic contradiction to the impotent caricature generally presented by our culture, was and is the Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:15-16).

Grace, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. He walked on water, healed the sick, raised the dead, taught with power never before experienced, suffered, died, was buried, and rose from the dead to save God’s elect.

He is “the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:18-20).

He now sits at the Father’s right hand advocating for the people of God and awaiting the fullness of time when he will return to earth, judge the living and the dead, restore all that sin has distorted and killed, and rule forever in goodness and power and love and glory unimaginable. Drink that in, Grace. Be amazed at the nature of Jesus. Indeed, he “is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

It is because this is who Jesus is that he is also “the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:17-18a). As we saw last week from 1 Peter 3:8-9a (which picks up from 2:21-24), Jesus’ headship of the Church—perhaps shockingly—indicates not only that He is the Church’s leader, the one in charge, but also that that God means the Church to be and feel and live in such a way as to match our Head. That is, everyone who looks at the gathered Church must see no contradiction between the Jesus I just described and those who claim to be his followers. Let that sink in for a moment. Our church, along with all of God’s people are meant to look like Jesus.

Last week’s sermon highlighted Peter’s description of what the Church, the body of Christ, must look like (particularly in times of suffering) if we are to match Jesus our Head. We saw that within the Church we must have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, tender hearts, humble minds, and as we relate to non-Christians we must be marked by blessing (not seeking vengeance on), even toward those who cause our suffering.

This morning we’re going to look at the second half of 3:9-3:12. In this section Peter offers a good deal of help to the Church as we fight to match our Head. The help comes primarily in the form of explanation. That is, we’ll see today that we must have the things listed by Peter because they are a part of God’s calling on our lives, for the purpose of gaining God’s blessing, as a part of God’s much larger plan. Let’s pray that God would be pleased to cause the revealing of his grounds, reward, and story to motivate and encourage us to fruitful action.

THE POWER OF EXPLANATION
Most of us have had countless commands given to us over the years. Some have been easy to follow (“Come into the kitchen to get your ice cream”). Some have been less easy (“Clean your room before playing with your friends”). In my experience there is just one simple thing required to turn obedience from burdensome to joyful. All we need is an understanding of the goodness of the command.

To a kid playing, the command “come here now, Billy” might initially sound burdensome. But what happens if Billy is told “come here now so that we can leave for the amusement park?” Well that changes everything, doesn’t it? The more Billy values the reason behind or sees the goodness of the command the more eager he is to obey it over and above whatever competing desires he might have.

Before going any further, Grace, hear this: we ought to obey God because he is God. That’s reason enough. That’s good enough. God is not required to give us any further explanation for his commands. Thus, when we find the commands, “Have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless…”—when we hear those commands—we ought to obey them because they are from God.

But God loves us and so there’s more. That is, God has chosen to reveal to us the simple fact that all of his commands are good for all of his people all of the time. That is, even if we aren’t given a specific explanation of the nature of the goodness of a command, we can obey it in full confidence that it truly is good. We obey in the certain knowledge that any apparent lack of goodness is the result of our deficient eyesight rather than an actual lack of goodness in the command.

The section of 1 Peter that we’ve been in for the last several months is filled with commands that sound preposterous on the surface. At first, they don’t seem good. They seem scary and dangerous. Keep subjecting yourselves to your government even if it is unjust and oppressive. Keep subjecting yourselves to your boss even if he or she abuses you. Keep subjecting yourselves to your husband even if he is disobedient to God. Those are hard commands to follow. Even without explanation we ought to obey those commands because they are from God. And yet, our obedience is made at least somewhat easier with the general knowledge that all of God’s commands—including these—are good, even if we don’t see it at first.

Sometimes, however, God gives even more help by giving more specific reasons behind his commands (thus revealing their goodness more clearly). Again, that’s the case for the hard commands of 2:13-3:12. God’s people are told that by obeying them we put the gospel on display, glorify God, and give unbelievers the chance to be saved. That more specific explanation ought to make our obedience much more palatable, even joyful.

Again, then, the commands in 3:8-9a (which we looked at in detail last week) ought to be obeyed even without explanation. However, because of his love for us, God has given several additional reasons/grounds for these commands. In fact, Peter gives three specific reasons/grounds as to why Christians ought to obey 3:8-9a.

In short, Peter’s logic, is this: Christian, in your suffering treat other Christians well and bless your persecutors, because this is God’s call on your life, because by doing so you will receive a blessing from God, and because all of this is part of God’s larger, eternal plan for displaying his glory and blessing his people. Let’s consider each of Peter’s reasons.

TO THIS YOU WERE CALLED
The first reason given by Peter, which we see in the second half of v.9, is that we ought to treat others (Christians and non-Christians) well because (for) “to this you were called.” Simply, we are to have these things (the things of 8-9a) because they are what God made us for. Unity, sympathy, love, tenderness, humility, and blessing in the face of opposition are what we were made to have. They are a part of God’s calling on our lives in this sense, then, in that they describe what it means to be fully human and to fully bear God’s image until Jesus returns.

More than that, though, God’s calling isn’t merely his design or purpose. Because he is God, and because of the cross, it is also his certain result. That God calls Christians to certain things means that they are what we ought to strive for, but also that they are what God is successfully working out in us. It is God’s great promise in Jesus that all who truly hope in Jesus will experience full obedience to God’s calling. God’s calling is both the direction and the power. It is both the ideal and the certain. It is both the command and the guarantee.

This dual understanding of God’s calling shows up a number of times in 1 Peter. It shows up specifically in the salvation of God’s elect. We are saved by believing on the name of Jesus. That is, the NT is clear that God calls all people to hope in his Son for the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. And yet, the NT is also clear that anyone who believes, believes because God effectually called them to believe (1:14-15, 2:9, and 5:10). Believing in Jesus is something God calls everyone to (that is, he commands it), and it is something he uniquely calls the elect to (that is, he brings about the effect of believing).

Please pause for a moment here and consider the amazing grace of being called by God in this second sense. You and I who have nothing other than treason against God to claim, have been called by God into fellowship with God. Under ordinary circumstances, the greater someone is, the less we imagine being allowed into his or her presence, much less their plans. Do any of you expect Lebron James or Melinda Gates or Yoyo Ma to think about you today? How much less do you imagine any of them making plans that contain you? The greatness of God is beyond all other greatness and, therefore, the thought of him paying us any mind ought to be utterly inconceivable.

If you want to press into this amazing grace later today, I commend to you Psalm 8 (which we know now is ultimately about Jesus, but certainly has all mankind in mind). In these few verses, the psalmist declares the greatness of God at the beginning and end. And in the middle he marvels at the fact that in light of his majesty God would give any thought to mankind—much less love and care for him. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? As the Psalmist understood, what we would ordinarily expect to keep us from someone’s presence and plans, is the very reason we’re allowed into God’s. Amazing!

Again, all of this is offered by Peter as a powerful means of help for God’s people as we fight to experience the calling of God (8-9a) which we will certainly experience. Fight to have these things, Grace, aided by the knowledge that to them you were called, and therefore, God is already working them in you.

TO OBTAIN A BLESSING
That leads to Peter’s second reason. Why obey God’s commands? Because we’re called to. Why are we called to? In order “that you may obtain a blessing” (v.9). Billy, come here now because we’re going to the amusement park has nothing on that! Christian, obey Peter’s charges to bless other Christians and minister to non-Christians in order that you would receive the blessing of God! Bless others (even and especially in times of suffering) in order that you might be blessed. This is a remarkable idea, and one found throughout the NT.

Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good… and your reward will be great

Matthew 6:3-4 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

1 Cor 3:14 If the [gospel] work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.

Obedience to God’s commands results in blessing and reward! But we might ask, “What is the blessing; what is the reward?” Peter writes of it in chapter 1.

1 Peter 1:3-5 … According to [God’s] great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Our reward, Peter wrote, is salvation to a heavenly inheritance. But what is that? It is unhindered, uninterrupted, undiluted, unending, unfading fellowship with God, Father, Son, and Spirit. While many long for heaven as the place where all their worldly desires will be filled, the great hope of the Christian is that it is the place of experiencing the fullness of God’s presence and pleasure. The great help offered by Peter for obedience to the commands of Peter is the explanation that through obedience (which Jesus won for us), God’s people will receive the blessing and reward of everlasting joy in God.

Again, Grace, marvel at this. Don’t allow your heart not to be moved by this. Obey Peter’s commands because those who do will be blessed by God, with God. That’s help. But there’s more still.

THAT WAS SECURED BEFORE YOU WERE MADE
Obey (3:8-9a) because it is God who commanded it. Find help for obedience in the knowledge that God’s commands are good. Find more help in the knowledge that you are called by God to this command and will be rewarded beyond measure when you do. Find more help still in Peter’s third reason: the knowledge that this has been a part of God’s plan from the beginning. To make this part of his argument clear, Peter quoted Psalm 34.

10 For

“Whoever desires to love life and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

My point in this sermon is not to fully explain Psalm 34, but to explain why Peter quotes it here. He does so for the simple reason that Psalm 34, written hundreds of years earlier, calls God’s people to sing of the goodness of the things Peter has just written about. That is, Peter has just called the Church (particularly in 2:13-3:9) to do good in the face of evil because God calls his people to it and because God rewards his people for it. That’s the point of Psalm 34 as well. It reminds God’s people that if we want to be blessed, if we want to “love life and see good days” (and the assumption is that we most definitely do want those things), then we need to turn from evil and do good. We ought to do this because God’s eyes and ears (his blessing and salvation) are on and for those who do, and away from and against those who do not.

In other words, it’s always been the case that God delights in and blesses people who walk in righteousness. Just as it has always been the case that God despises and crushes people who walk in unrighteousness. Again, then, Peter offers this reminder (in the form of Psalm 34) of God’s constant plan to do exactly what he has just been trying to explain.

This does not mean that we must work for our salvation. It does mean, however, that our salvation works. Grace, we must understand this…especially in a world that doesn’t. The salvation won by Jesus accepts us as we are, but will not leave us as we are. The surest mark of a true Christian isn’t a prayer they prayed or an experience they had. It is an increasing hatred for sin and love for righteousness. The surest sign of salvation is holiness.

Look back at 2:24 (did you notice this the first time?). Jesus did not just die to forgive our sins. He also died to kill our appetite for sin. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Peter’s help here is in reminding God’s people of the powerful fact that those who obey him will live (because their obedience evidences the fact that their faith is genuine) and those who do not obey him will die (because their disobedience evidences the counterfeit nature of their faith.

Grace, find great help to put on unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, tender hearts, humble minds, and blessing for unbelievers in the knowledge that all of God’s commands are good. Find greater help still in the knowledge that you were called to these things, that they lead to blessing, and that God’s blessing for Christians has been secured before we were made.

CONCLUSION
What a passage. What a section. What a calling on our lives. And what a remarkable amount of help God has given to his people as we seek to live out the calling he’s given us. Our charge is to use our entire lives (especially our suffering) to point people to Jesus, and our great help is the knowledge that Jesus accomplished that for us on the cross. All that awaits us as we fight to be what we are is the certain, imminent blessing of God because of the cross of Jesus. Praise God, Grace. And in/as your praise, obey. Amen.

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