Sunday 30 May
Sermon 1 Peter 4:7-19
To Suffer in grace
A preacher’s job is to plagiarise the text on which they are to preach. This is called exegesis and is about drawing out the true meaning, sometimes correcting errors of translation and misunderstandings and adding the depth that is not always clear.
‘Eisegesis, is reading in things that are not there and not what the Bible is teaching and is wrong. Heresy is “opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted” and contrary to “what is accepted as orthodox Christian doctrine.”
This past week at the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, an overture – legal term aimed at changing church law was approved. There were arguments placed for and against the new legislation which would allow church ministers to solemnise same sex marriages. Under what is known as the Barrier Act, this legislation will now come to the Presbyteries’ and be debated and voted upon. The outcome there could lead to a departing from the churches existing position, which asserts that “marriage” is between one man and one woman. If it does, it will also be departing from scripture too. The Bible is unambiguous on this topic and always categorises same sex sexual intimacy as “sexual immorality” along with other things like bestiality, fornication and adultery. During the debate those who were for this new legislation offered NO Biblical support to their arguments and this is despite the fact that all ministers and elders have taken a solemn oath at ordination which includes the words “always in accordance with the word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments”. The legislation is a departure from the churches current and traditional position on marriage which the Bible and Jesus affirms as being between one man and one woman and is a clear departure from the vows we have taken. Of course, there will always be people who are pleased with this change which has been driven by today’s liberal culture and it seems that they are being blown about by every wind of new doctrines and ideas which the scriptures also warn against. Yet for those who love the word of God, who stand upon it as holy and as our “rule of life and faith”, this kind of push causes great grief and much suffering in our spirits.
How are we to live in the midst of suffering in a world for the moment which is in a pandemic and with these spiritual challenges is a question all Christians need to ask regularly. Today this is the subject of our passage.
As people come under God’s word preached, it is about placing ourselves under a spotlight of God’s standards. It was prepared in order that we may receive it, share it, wrestle with it, pray about it and of course live it out.
Sometimes God’s word preached has a powerful effect, but that is usually when people are truly open to God. We read in from verse 7 but our first new verse today is verse 10.
As we live for God, we are administrators of God’s grace – let that sink in!
Do you ever see yourself with an opportunity to bestow God’s grace upon others? We are to think like this. The great thing is that you have a unique set of talents, character and potential; as does everyone. That’s why you are the right person in some situations where God places you. Yet this is about more than good works or kindness as verse 11 alludes – we are to share God’s words from scripture. Once again, do you ever do that? Yes, and if you feel weak, that’s okay, because Peter assures us that we increase our courage by relying on the strength which God provides. How often do we feel weak and avoid speaking the truth in love or doing the right thing? Losing an opportunity is not how God wants us to live. It also curtails our chance to bring glory to God. That will sometimes be gratefully received, but not always.
Verse 12 says, don’t be surprised if you suffer for living your faith out publicly. Often an attack on your faith is precisely because our enemy, Satan, does not like you being a good witness or evangelist and he is testing your commitment to God, especially of it means you are to suffer for it. So, Peter wants us to be ready and not shocked when suffering comes as we live out our faith.
Further verse 13 we are to rejoice for being considered worthy to suffer for Christ and, we will be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. It’s a double blessing which we are investing in, by living for Christ. Verse 14 reiterates this, but then builds upon it with the phrase “for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” In verses 15 and 16 Peter explains our suffering is not like suffering which we deserve. A murderer or criminal, a meddler gets their just rewards to tug at their consciences. Christians suffer for Christ and ought to bear no shame but instead are able to offer praise to God.
So, we have had a number of positive reasons to encourage us, but in verse 17 comes a warning. A day of reckoning will take place at some point. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”. The gospel calls for sinners to repent and be baptised. To turn away from all immorality – not to ask for God’s blessing for it.
So, if we care, truly care for sinners, we must obey the gospel and teach and live according to God’s Holy word. There is truly good reason for doing so – so that they might just be saved and so that we might be also verse 18. Lastly though is that we cannot allocate all the suffering we face to God’s glory if we are suffering because we are doing, saying or living wrongly verse 19. Only the suffering we face for living within God’s will, doing good and living as this chapter and indeed the whole scripture teaches us to do. I wonder if anyone
has heard God speak to them in a powerful way today? I noticed that after last time no new people came to the Prayer meeting.
Yet I may preach, its only through God’s Holy spirit and open hearts that we may hear and apply God’s Holy word in our lives – precisely so that we are actually living for Him –and not ourselves, with a little bit of homage to Him.
But let’s not be discouraged – we are all works in progress, myself included. The important thing is that we progress but do not allow God’s means of grace to be side-lined. Amen