The Use of Stone Imagery in the Portrayal of Christ, Believers, and Unbelievers: Exegesis of 1 Peter 2:4-10

capstone

Introduction

The epistle of first Peter is one of the New Testament (NT) letters that has instructed, challenged, and encouraged Christians across centuries as they live their faith in an unfriendly world. Evidently, this letter was addressed to Christians in the Greco-Roman world who were suffering because of their faith in Christ.[1]With numerous quotations and allusions to the OT and reference to the life of Christ, the author of 1 Peter brings hope to believers in distress. The same letter remains much relevant today to Christians facing rejection, persecution, and suffering because of faithfully living their faith in a pluralistic world.

The author of 1 Peter uses the stone imagery in 1 Peter 2:2-10 and quotes other “stone” passages in the Old Testament (OT) to show what Christ is to believers; to instruct believers on their new status and position of honor in Christ, and to remind them of unbeliever’s impending downfall. Therefore, this exegetical study of 1 Peter 2:4-10 explores on the use of stone imagery in depicting Christ, believers’ identity, and unbeliever’s miserable destiny. Believers have an initiate relationship with Christ and also they have been given a new identity and life through Christ; while, on the other hand, unbelievers shall eventually experience shame and destruction because of their unbelief. The next section briefly deals with the background information concerning the letter of 1 Peter.

Background Information of First Peter

Authorship

Internal evidence (1:1) identifies Peter, the prominent apostle of Jesus Christ, as the author of 1 Peter. But this position has been challenged by some section of scholars. Basically, these scholars in their arguments raise four objections against Petrine authorship; claims that have also been largely refuted. First, they argue that the polished Greek, the rhetoric, and the extensive vocabulary of the letter is far too high for a Galilean fisherman who in Acts 4: 13 was described as ἀγράμματοί εἰσιν καὶ ἰδιῶται (lit. uneducated and unskilled).[2] These scholars argue that due to this drawback Peter must have received some help from Silas (5:12); but Clowney notes that the Greek in 1 Peter is not as polished in style as has sometimes been argued.[3] Also, the bilingual culture in Bethsaida in Galilee is always not considered in these arguments[4] Clowney 20. On another front, if Peter was formerly not educated, it does not mean that he remained the same over the years without the desire to learn the lingua franca of his time.

Secondly, opponents of Petrine authorship claim that the persecution alluded to in the letter did not occur till after Peter’s death.[5] This objection assumes that the persecutions experienced by Christians were official and general; the opposite could also be true, that the oppressions or persecutions might have been local, unofficial, and sporadic.[6] It could just have been unofficial harassment here and there rather than organized state initiative.

Thirdly, these scholars, against Petrine authorship, claim that the letter is much like Pauline writings. On this, it is worth noting that apostles in their writing generally followed a common tradition, a pattern of sound teaching.[7] Therefore, expectedly, themes and expressions are prone to overlap.

The fourth argument maintains that the letter contains traditional teaching materials from the early church that makes it improbable to have been written by an apostle during apostolic age. Clowney clarifies this idea by arguing that Peter, in the letter, was not giving a personal testimony or narration of the life and works of Jesus because that had been done in the gospel accounts, but giving an interpretation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.[8] These and other objections, remain insufficient to disqualify the traditional attestation and the biblical claim of Peter’s authorship. Therefore, Peter, as one of the eyewitnesses to the earthly life of Jesus, gives us a solid interpretation and implication of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

Audience

In the first verse of the letter (1:1) the readers are identified, “to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” Geographically, these areas covering Asia Minor, most of modern Turkey, can be best construed as regions than official provinces.[9] From the letter, the churches in these regions comprised both Jews and Gentile believers.

Place of Writing and Date

In chapter 5:13, Peter sends his greetings from “Babylon”. This may not be necessarily the Babylon in Mesopotamia because severally in the Bible, Rome is symbolically called ‘Babylon’ (16:19; 17:5; 18:2). It is highly possible that Peter used it symbolically to be in line with his message of depicting Christian believers as being resident aliens.[10]

The assumption that Peter is the author of the letter, situates the date of writing the letter at AD 62-63. Tradition records that Peter was in Rome only at the end of his life; and since there is no mention of Paul in the letter, it is likely that Peter wrote the letter after Paul had been released from his imprisonment in AD 62, but also before Nero’s persecution (AD 63).[11] Also, noting that official persecutions had not yet broken out, the approximate dating of this letter would be AD 62-63.

 

The Literary Context of 1 Peter 2:4-10

The preceding context (1:13- 2:3) of this pericope has a doxology directed to God the Father for the “new birth” he has given believers into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1:3). Also, the preceding context presents an exhortation to believers (also portrayed as strangers) to live holy lives (1:13-16), that is, lives that are consistent with God’s holy character. The first three verses in chapter two of the letter is an admonition for believers to grow up in salvation. Notably, verse 3 ends with a quotation from Psalm 34:8, “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Therefore, the author discusses the pericope at hand in light of the “new birth” (1:3) or in other words, believers having tasted the Lord and found Him to be good. The author now expounds on the relationship between Christ and believers, believer’s identity, and the destiny of the unbelievers. The subsequent section after 2:10 continues the theme of Christian living as aliens and strangers; and is followed by an admonition to submit to every authority.

“Stone” Passages in the Bible

This passage (1 Peter 2:4-10) begins with the use of stone imagery to depict the relationship between Christ and believers. It is worth noting that the metaphor employed in this passage is not exclusive to apostle Peter. The stone metaphor is an imagery borrowed from the OT (Ps. 118:22-23; Isa. 8:14-15; 28:16); and significantly, all these three passages are quoted in 1 Peter 2:6-8.

In the New Testament, Jesus identified himself with the rejected stone (Mk. 12:10-11; Matt. 21:42-44; Lk 20:17-18). In Acts 4:11, the stone that builders rejected is identified by apostle Peter as Christ. The stone image is also employed in other epistles (Rom. 9:32-33; Eph. 2:20-22). Jobes notes that,

Peter uses the traditional Jewish understanding of the stone metaphor, but applies it to Jesus Christ, as Jesus himself had. He finds in the stone imagery an expression of both the rejection and exaltation of Jesus Christ, a soteriology based upon divine election, an ecclesiastical mandate for believers, and a basis for judgment of those who reject the Stone.[12]

The exegesis of this passage and explorations of the quotations will be helpful in understanding the use of this imagery in 1 Peter.

 

Verse by Verse Exegesis of 1 Peter 2:4-10

A. Christ as living Stone and believers as living stones (Verse 4, 5a)

Greek text, Verse 4: πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι, λίθον ζῶντα, ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον παρὰ δὲ θεῷ ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον.

Translation of Verse 4: As you come to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.

Verse 4 of 1 Peter 2 makes a complete shift from the metaphor of Christians as infants in the preceding verses to a stone metaphor. Peter begins this pericope with the phrase πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι[13], (as you come to him); this refers to believers coming to the Lord, Christ. Specifically, believers come to the λίθον[14] ζῶντα[15] (living Stone); who is Christ, identified in verse 3 as ὁ κύριος. Generally, a stone is lifeless thing, but here Peter qualifies it with the adjective ζῶντα in order to apply it to Christ who is the living God. It has been noted that this participle (ζῶντα) is a “characteristic Petrine signal”[16] that shows that the author is using the word “stone” in a metaphoric rather than literal sense.

This living Stone was ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων[17] μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον[18] (rejected by men). Here, Peter generally identifies those that rejected the living Stone as ἀνθρώπων (men) without further specification. The next part of the verse is joined by a contrastive conjuction δὲ; it reads, παρὰ δὲ θεῷ[19] ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον[20] (but in the sight of God chosen and precious). That is, the very stone that mankind (as builders) rejected as unfit is the stone was ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον (chosen and precious) in God’s eyes. The verb ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον is contrastively held in parallel with ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον; while ἀνθρώπων is contrasted with θεῷ. God’s approval of this Stone (Jesus) brings into mind a similar affirmation during the transfiguration of Jesus, “this is my Son whom I love; with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”(Matt. 17:5c). Jesus in his earthly life was rejected as had been prophecied; and precisely, the cross experience was in itself a sign of rejection. From this verse we can note that one can either reject or come to this chosen and precious Stone. But each case has some implications as we shall see in the subsequent verses.

Notably, the first part of verse 5 completes the idea in verse 4, of believer’s relationship with Christ. Believers (identified using the pronoun and nominative subject αὐτοὶ- they) come to the living Stone (Jesus), ὡς λίθοι[21] ζῶντες[22] – as living stones. Significantly, believers share the life of Christ, and share the same identity with Christ as stones.

 B. Believers as spiritual house and Christ as the cornerstone of the house (vv.5b-6a)

Greek Text, Verse 5: 5 καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες οἰκοδομεῖσθε οἶκος πνευματικὸς εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον, ἀνενέγκαι πνευματικὰς θυσίας εὐπροσδέκτους θεῷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Translation of Verse 5: you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

In addition, “coming to him” is part of God’s grand agenda because believers οἰκοδομεῖσθε[23] οἶκος πνευματικὸς (are being built up as a spiritual house). The phrase οἶκος πνευματικὸς is a predicate nominative. Elliot comments that a ‘spiritual house’ is “a metaphor for the community where the Spirit of God dwells.”[24] A “spiritual house” is therefore, God’s goal in building a community/house with each individual stone. By coming to him, believers are being built up εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον, (to be a holy priesthood). The construction in this phrase as introduced by the preposition εἰς and an accusative is an example of accusative of termination with focus on status. The identiy and nature of the priesthood under the spiritual house is to be holy. The adjective ἅγιον here serves to modify ἱεράτευμα.

The function of this holy priesthood under the spiritual house is depicted by the purpose infinitive (ἀνενέγκαι- to offer); and what is offered is πνευματικὰς θυσίας[25] (spiritual sacrifices). The adjective πνευματικὰς qualifies the direct object (θυσίας). It has been suggested that ‘spiritual sacrifices’ may be “all behavior that flows from a transformation of the human spirit by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (1:2),”[26] or “the whole of life is the offering up of sacrifice.”[27]It more probable, in light of Romans 12:1, that ‘spiritual sacrifices’ refer to offering of oneself to God for His purposes.

The quality and suitability of what is offered up is based on God’s terms εὐπροσδέκτους[28] θεῷ[29] διὰ Ἰησοῦ[30] Χριστοῦ[31] (acceptable to God through Jesus Christ). A single adjective (πνευματικὸς- spiritual) has been used to modify the house (οἶκος) and the nature of sacrifices (θυσίας) to be offered in that particular house. Admittedly, Peter is using a spiritual language with the priesthood and temple background and functions in perspective. This is a view that Mbuvi argues when he comments that 1 Peter exibits “reshaping and re-appropriating the institutional elements of the OT cultus within a new framework of Christian experience.”[32] Peter uses the temple language to show that believers, are now given a new status and identity in Christ which was previously enjoyed by Israel. Structurally, the first part of the next verse completes the though that has been taught in verse 5.

Greek Text, Verse 6: διότι περιέχει ἐν γραφῇ, Ἰδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ’ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ.

Translation of Verse 6: For it is contained in Scripture: “Behold I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen (and) precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will not be put to shame.”

With the use of OT passages Peter shows that in the spiritual house that belivers are being built up to be holy priesthood and to offer sacrifices acceptable to God, Christ is the very cornerstone of the house. The verse begins, διότι περιέχει[33] ἐν[34] γραφῇ[35] (for it is contained in Scripture).

From verse six to verse eight, the author quotes or alludes to six LXX passages: Psalm 118:22 (117:22 LXX); Exodus 19:5-6; Isa. 8:14; 28:16; 43:20-21; and Hosea 2:23 (2:25 LXX). Apparently, he quotes from all the major sections of the OT: Torah, Writings, and the Prophets. These extensive quotation and allusions from the OT undoubtedly reveals the centrality of God’s word to Peter in his reflections on the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.

What is it that is contained in Scripture? In Zion, God has laid a stone, chosen and precious cornestone, (τίθημι[36] ἐν Σιὼν[37] λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον). The two adjectives (ἐκλεκτὸν and ἔντιμον) are the same adjectives used in verse 4, perhaps for emphasis on the centrality of Christ in God’s building project. Jesus in verse 4 is depicted as living Stone, but in relation to the spiritual house that believers are being built into, Jesus is the foundational stone, the cornerstone (ἀκρογωνιαῖον).

C. Believer’s honor (vv.6b-7a); and unbeliever’s and stumbling and sownfall (7b-8)

The second part of verse 6, which is a quotation from Isaiah 28:16 shows the consequences of coming to Christ (verse 4) or trusting in the living Stone, the Cornerstone of the spiritual house. This part begins, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων[38] ἐπ’ αὐτῷ (and the one who trusts in him). Those whose come to him trust in him. To these people, they οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ[39] (will not be put to shame). Through this quotation, Peter wants his readers to know that they shall never be put to shame rather they shall be honored because they have trusted on the one who God has approved.

The Isaiah 28:16 context is a judgment against the house of Ephraim, but verse 16 and the following verses speaks God’s pronouncement of hope to their distressful situation. When compared with the LXX, 1 Peter 2:6 raises several textual issues that we should observe. Peter omits the first part of the verse in LXX (διὰ τοῦτο οὕτως λέγει κύριος – “therefore thus says the Lord”[40]) and replaces it with διότι περιέχει ἐν γραφῇ (for it is contained in Scripture). The LXX has ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ (I will lay) but Peter chooses a different word- τίθημι, in the present tense to replace ἐμβαλῶ which is a future tense. He also omits the pronoun ἐγὼ, perhaps relying on the morphology of the verb. Peter omits εἰς τὰ θεμέλια (“for the foundation”) in LXX and MT and adds the preposition ἐν before Σιὼν. Also, on LXX, Peter also omits πολυτελῆ (“precious”) and εἰς τὰ θεμέλια αὐτῆς (“for its foundations”). From these observations, we can conclude that Peter might have been quoting the LXX from memory or expressing the Isaiah quotation in a freer way. Now, do these variations affect the meaning? I don’t think so. Also, Beale agrees that the meaning of the passage remains intact.[41] Peter understands that Jesus fulfiled the prophecy by Isaiah, that he is the cornerstone that God has laid in Zion. So Peter assures his audience that those who put their trust in Jesus will never be put to shame. Verse 7 continues to describe the honor that believers shall receive by quoting Psalm 118:22.

Greek Text, Verse 7: 7 ὑμῖν οὖν ἡ τιμὴ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν· ἀπιστοῦσιν δὲ λίθος ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας.

Translation of Verse 7: Now, this stone is honor, to you who believe. But to those who do not believe, “The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the very cornerstone,”

The first part of verse 7 directly addresses those who believe τοῖς πιστεύουσιν[42] ὑμῖν (to you who believe), to them this stone is  ἡ τιμὴ[43] (honor/precious). In light of verse 4, we can say that those who believe have come to see the Stone through God’s perspective, as precious (ἡ τιμὴ). It has been widely noted that the in Mediterranean culture honor and shame were contrasted; honor “concerned the positive social standing, reputation, and status rating of individuals and groups in the opinion of others and of God,” while shame “…entailed sensitivity regarding loss of honor or the actual loss of honor.”[44] Although Peter’s audience sufffered rejection and shame in their present context, the promise to these believers is that in God’s sight are honored.

The second part of the verse is introduced by the contrastive δὲ and addresses ἀπιστοῦσιν[45] (the unbelieving). He writes, λίθος[46] ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν[47] οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες[48] ({The} stone which the builders rejected). He says οὗτος ἐγενήθη[49] εἰς κεφαλὴν[50] γωνίας[51] (this has become the very cornerstone). Speaking of the cornerstone, in this verse, the author chooses to use a phrase (κεφαλὴν γωνίας) as opposed to ἀκρογωνιαῖον in verse 6. Believers (as builders) embrace this rejected stone but those who do not believe realize that the stone they rejected has become the Cornerstone. By implication, those who do not believe in the foundational Stone (the cornerstone) find themselves building without a long-lasting foundation.

The quotation from Psalm 118 (117:22 LXX) was a psalm sung by Levites during the Passover feast, celebrating deliverance. In their singing, they remembered God who has become their salvation. The LXX rendering of MT in this verse raises no textual issues. It suffices to only note that the words “cornerstone,” or “capstone” are a true rendering of the Hebrew לְרֹ֣אש פִּנָּֽה (the head of the corner) and LXX phase εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας.

The next verse (vv.8), connected by καὶ is another OT quotation that looks at the destiny of those who do not believe by quoting from a section of Isaiah 8:14.

Greek Text, Verse 8: καὶ λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου· οἳ προσκόπτουσιν τῷ λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες, εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν.

Translation of Verse 8: and, “A stone that causes stumbling and a rock of offense,” for being disobedient to the word, into which they were also appointed.

The cornerstone that has been rejected by men in their unbelief, according to verse 8, has become λίθος[52]προσκόμματος[53] (a stone of stumbling). This thought is synonmously parallel, with the next section connected by καὶ, πέτρα σκανδάλου (a rock of offense).

The second part of vere 8, after the quotation, gives the reason for the stumbling. In verse 4, the unbelievers reject the foundation stone, in verse 7 their reason for rejection is due to unbelief, but additionally in verse 8, they προσκόπτουσιν[54] τῷ λόγῳ[55] ἀπειθοῦντες[56] (they stumble for being disobedient to the word). And εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν[57] (into which they were also appointed or destined for).

One notable variation between MT to the LXX is the fact that the MT explicitly identifies Yahweh as the stone that causes people to stumble and fall. But the LXX rendering makes it ambiguous, (“and you will not ecounter him as a stumbling stone caused by a stone, nor as a fall caused by a rock”). But Peter in his quotation, bypasses the LXX and reverts to the idea in the MT thus depicting Christ as the one who causes stumbling. So in rendering this verse, Peter exercised some amount of freedom in reverting to the MT whenever he saw he saw some sort of ‘misrepresentation’ in the LXX.

McKnight reflects on verse 7and 8 and comments, “God’s act of appointing Jesus as the living Stone has become both honor for believers and judgment for unbelievers; this was God’s design, and everything happens according to his will.”[58] Emphatically, those who believe in this living Stone rise and those who dont believe in him stumble and fall.

D. Believer’s new status and calling (vv.9-10)

Verse 9 highlights the newfound identity of believers in Christ and their reason for their calling. Verse 10 compares the present status of believers to their former state of unbelief. These two verses contain allusion to Exodus 19:6 (in the Sinaitic context when the covenant between God and Israel was cut); and Isaiah 43:20-21 (in the context of God’s promise to embrace his people after the exile experience). In verse 10 he also makes an allusion to Hosea 2:25 (referring to Israel who had become wayward according to the covenant terms- he uses this passage to show God’s unconditinoal love and mercy to those he has punished). From these contexts, Peter applies to Christians terms that were exclusively applied to the nation of Israel. In doing this, Hagner writes that the church is understood to possess fully the status and privileges of Israel.[59]

Greek Text, Verse 9: 9 Ὑμεῖς δὲ γένος ἐκλεκτόν, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, ἔθνος ἅγιον, λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, ὅπως τὰς ἀρετὰς ἐξαγγείλητε τοῦ ἐκ σκότους ὑμᾶς καλέσαντος εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν αὐτοῦ φῶς·

Translation of Verse 9: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for (God’s own) possesion, that you may proclaim the moral excellence of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Believers are contrasted with unbelievers but by the use of contrastive Ὑμεῖς δὲ (but you). Believers and unbelievers do not share an identiy or calling. Believers, built on the foundational stone, that the unbelievers rejected, now occupy a central place under God’s house and purposes. Peter now makes known the privileged status (status of honor) that believers enjoy in Christ.

First, believers are a γένος ἐκλεκτόν (chosen race). The adjective ἐκλεκτόν qualifies γένος. They are favoured people in the face of the earth. The term “chosen race” is from Isaiah 43:3, 20; applying to the exiles in Babylon, who were naturally the descendants of Abraham. But because of their belief in Christ, believers from all backgrounds are now one race in Christ; “Peter here makes the radical claim that those who believe in Jesus Christ- whether Jew,Gentile, Greek, Roman, Cappadocian, Bithynian, or whatever- though from many races, constitute a new race of those who have been born again into the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”[60] God is forming one community from people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Secondly, believers are βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα (a royal priesthood). The adjective βασίλειον qualifies ἱεράτευμα. This is certainly a language from the covenant and priesthood that we also find in verse 4-5.  Jobes highlight the mediatorial role of the priests, “Peter writes, applying the identification to the people of the new covenant in Christ, who are now ordained with the role of a royal priesthood mediating God in Christ to the nations.”[61] But Beale empasizes the character and the priestly function of the people of God as “to be holy and offer sacrifices to God, and only in that context mediate between God and fallen humanity.”[62] Therefore, Christians now have a mediatorial role between God and men and at the same time the obligation to reflect God’s holy character. The phrase ‎ מַמְלֶ֥כֶת כֹּהֲנִ֖ים(kingdom of priests) in Exodus 19:5 is rendered by both LXX and Peter as βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα (“royal priesthood”).

Thirdly, from an allusion to Exodus 19:6, believers are ἔθνος ἅγιον (a holy nation). The adjective used (ἅγιον) tells us of our identity in relation to God. God who had cut a covenant with his people is a holy king and therefore God’s people needed to be holy just as He is holy.

Fourthly, believers in Christ are λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν περιποίησιν[63] (a people for God’s own possesion). This alludes to Exodus 19:5 during the exodus experience and and Isaiah 43:20-21 referring to the Israelites in the Babylonian exile.

Precisely, the purpose and calling for believers is ὅπως τὰς ἀρετὰς ἐξαγγείλητε[64]τοῦ ἐκ σκότους ὑμᾶς καλέσαντος[65] εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν[66] αὐτοῦ[67] φῶς (that you may proclaim the moral excellence of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light). The accusative ἀρετὰς is a direct object, while ὑμᾶς is used as a double accusative. The genitives ἐκ σκότους is a genitive of place, the place of darkness. Believers now have the wonderful opportunity and privilege to declare the praises of God who called them our of the kingdom of darkness into his wonderful light. On this aspect, Beale and Carson comments,

The excellencies of God that Isaiah has in view are manifested in the deliverance of his people from the exile; the excellencies of God that Peter has in view are manifested  in the salvation and transformation of his people, along with the hope that they enjoy for the consummating transformation—all of which was which was achieved by the ministry, death, and resurrection of God’s own Son[68]

The last verse in this pericope (verse 10) is a reminder of the the change that has been brought by this life transforming calling.

Greek Text, Verse 10: οἵ ποτε οὐ λαὸς νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ, οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι νῦν δὲ ἐλεηθέντες.

Translation of Verse 10: Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

This verse contrasts believers and unbeliever’s status before God. Here ποτε (once) refers to the time before the ‘coming to him’. Believers, as the nominative subject (λαὸς) expresses, were were formely οὐ λαὸς (not a people) but now they are not mere people but νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ[69] (but now the people of God). He also reminds believers in Christ that formerly οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι[70] νῦν δὲ ἐλεηθέντες[71] (you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy). Their coming to God in search for mercy was not in vain. They received it and both their status and calling changed. In the allusion to Hosea 2:3 (2:25 LXX) Peter assumes that his readers are a fulfilment of that prophecy. In Hosea 1-2, the people God calls “not my people” are Israelites who had broken their covenant with God and Hosea profoundly illustrates this through the naming of his childrem. Although God had called them  לֹ֣א עַמִּ֑(not my people) God embraced them again by showing them his great mercy.

 

Implications of Believer’s New Identity and Calling in the Contemporary Context 

The fact that believers as living stones are being build up into a spiritual house should cause the church today to value community because it is God’s idea. Each individual person finds identity and purpose in the unity of the entire body. In this spiritual house each person belongs and shares the identity as living stones. It should be highlighted here that for a christian community to flourish Jesus should occupy the center stage. It is unfortunate that sometimes Jesus is relegated to the periphery and other factors like politics, socio-economic status or a charismatic figure become the rallying factor in fellowships and churches. For a lasting and meaningful fellowship, Jesus should remain the cornerstone. This is a key factor that DeSilva underscores by noting that, “the privilege of being God’s house and priesthood draws the hearers in the centripetal direction Peter desires—toward Christ and one another, committed to Christian community—and offsets the centrifugal forces of society’s pressures.”[72] Oneness in a community helps its constituent members manage the external pressures from the world.

Another application point that comes from this pericope is the redefinition of what it means to be “God’s people.” Peter redefined what it means to be ‘God’s people’ by showing that all those who believe, whether Jews and Gentiles, are now God’s special possession. He then refers them as: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possesion, and a people who have received mercy. Although he was a Jew by birth, he did not advantage Jews or his heritage in his arguments as a special people of God over others. Therefore, in a context where the issue of negative ethnicity abounds (even in churches), we need to redefine what it means to be “God’s people”. Peter acknowledges that there are only two races: those who have come to Christ and those who have not, those who have received mercy and those who have not. The rest of other distinctions misses God’s view of things.

Conclusion

Through this study 1 Peter 2:4-10 has clearly highlighted that Christ, the one chosen and precious in God’s sight, has an intimate relationship with believers. Believers, as living stones, are being build up into a spiritual house to be holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable by God. Peter’s in this passage breathes comfort and encouragement, even today, to those who have come to Christ, believed in him, and obeyed his word. The world may alienate, shame, discriminate, or reject them but in God’s eyes they are precious. Assuredly, honor belongs to those who believe but to those who do not believe shame and destruction is their allotment. Knowing this should cause believers to fulfil the purpose of their calling- declaring God’s excellencies in an alien world.

Bibliography

Achtemeier, Paul J., and Eldon Jay Epp. 1 Peter: A Commentary on First Peter. Hermeneia–a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress Press, 1996.

Aland, Kurt, and Barbara Aland, eds. The Greek New Testament. 4., Ed., [4. Dr.]. Stuttgart: Dt. Bibelges, 1998.

Beale, Gregory K, and Donald A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Baker Academic Apollos, 2009.

Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005.

Clowney, Edmund P. The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Pr., 1992.

DeSilva, David Arthur. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation. Downers Grove: Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press; Apollos, 2004.

Elliott, John Hall, ed. 1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. 1st ed., The Anchor Bible, v. 37B. New York: Doubleday, 2000.

Hagner, Donald Alfred. The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2012.

Jobes, Karen H. 1 Peter. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.

Mbuvi, Andrew Mũtũa. Temple, Exile, and Identity in 1 Peter. Library of New Testament Studies 345. London; New York: T & T Clark, 2007.

McKelvey, R. J. The New Temple: The Church in the New Testament. Oxford Theological Monographs. London: Oxford U.P, 1969.

McKnight, Scott. 1 Peter: The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text.to Contemporary Life. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 1996.

Michaels, J. Ramsey, David A. Hubbard, Glenn W. Barker, Bruce Manning Metzger, and J. Ramsey Michaels. 1 Peter. Word Biblical Commentary, [General ed.: David A. Hubbard; Glenn W. Barker. Old Testament ed.: John D. W. Watts. New Testament ed.: Ralph P. Martin] ; Vol. 49. Waco, Tex: Word Books, Publ, 2004.

Ngewa, Samuel. Companion to Greek Exegesis. Lecture Notes Africa International University. Unpublished, Nairobi, 2018.

Pietersma, Albert, and Benjamin G. Wright, eds. A New English Translation of the Septuagint: And the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under That Title. New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Wallace, Daniel B., and Daniel B. Wallace. The Basics of New Testament Syntax: An Intermediate Greek Grammar. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 2000.

 

Footnotes Section: 

[1] Paul J. Achtemeier and Eldon Jay Epp, 1 Peter: A Commentary on First Peter, Hermeneia–a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress Press, 1996), 29–36. Achtemeier here discusses in considerable detail the probable nature of persecutions at this time by giving three categories: a general official persecution, official local persecution, and unofficial local persecutions. Whichever the case suffering was evident.

[2] Donald Alfred Hagner, The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2012), 688.

[3] Edmund P Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 19.

[4] Ibid., 20.

[5] Ibid., 20.

[6] Achtemeier and Epp, 1 Peter, 35.

[7] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005), 644.

[8] Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, 20.

[9] Ibid., 16.

[10] Ibid., 23.

[11] Ibid., 23.

[12] Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 144.

[13] Simultaneous participle. The action is simultaneous to the action of the main verb (οἰκοδομεῖσθε- being built up) in verse 5

[14] Accusative of direct object

[15] Used in this case as a predicate participle. Also, the concept of ‘living’ is applied elsewhere in the scriptures: living water, living bread (Jn. 4:10; 5:51); living hope, living God, and living stones in 1 Peter.

[16] J. Ramsey Michaels et al., 1 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary, [General ed.: David A. Hubbard; Glenn W. Barker. Old Testament ed.: John D. W. Watts. New Testament ed.: Ralph P. Martin] ; Vol. 49 (Waco, Tex: Word Books, Publ, 2004), 98.

[17] Genitive of agency.

[18] Complementary participle. As an extensive perfect- it focuses on the ongoing rejection that began in the past.

[19] Dative of reference/respect.

[20] With the use of παρὰ these two accusatives (ἐκλεκτὸν and ἔντιμον) are accusatives of comparison.

[21] Nominative of apposition, explaining further the nominative αὐτοὶ.

[22] Modal use of participle to express manner, “as…”.

[23] This is the main verb of the participle προσερχόμενοι in verse 4. I am taking it as a passive indicative to mean “you are being built up”.

[24] John Hall Elliott, ed., 1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, 1st ed., The Anchor Bible, v. 37B (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 153.

[25] Accusative of direct object.

[26] Jobes, 1 Peter, 151.

[27] R. J. McKelvey, The New Temple: The Church in the New Testament, Oxford Theological Monographs (London: Oxford U.P, 1969).

[28] The word can be taken as an epexegetical accusative which expounds further on the preceding accusatives; alternatively, it can be an accusative absolute, that is, because of its independence from the rest of verse, occupying the place of nominative.

[29] Dative of direct object.

[30] Genitive of agent.

[31] Epexegetical genitive, further explaining Ἰησοῦ.

[32] Andrew Mũtũa Mbuvi, Temple, Exile, and Identity in 1 Peter, Library of New Testament Studies 345 (London; New York: T & T Clark, 2007), 37.

[33] Static present

[34] Dative of place

[35] Dative of direct object

[36] Historical/dramatic present- action in the past dramatized as if happening now.

[37] Dative of place.

[38] Substantival participle

[39] The construction μὴ + aorist subjunctive (καταισχυνθῇ) is an expression of prohibition; those who trust in God have never been put to shame and they shall never be put to shame.

[40] The LXX translations I am giving here and thereafter in quotation marks are based on the NETS: Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, eds., A New English Translation of the Septuagint: And the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under That Title (New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

[41] Gregory K Beale and Donald A Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic ; Baker Academic Apollos, 2009), 1026.

[42] Perfective present- the focus is on the present reality of a past action; attribute usage of a participle.

[43] Nominative subject.

[44] Elliott, 1 Peter, 427.

[45] Substantival use of participle.

[46] Is an anarthrous noun, the context demands that a definite article be supplied.

[47] Constative aorist.

[48] Substantival use of participle.

[49] Resultative aorist.

[50] Accusative of termination with focus on the result.

[51] Genitive of direct object.

[52] Nominative subject.

[53] Genitive of cause.

[54] Durative present

[55] Dative of direct object

[56] Simultaneous participle.

[57] Inceptive aorist.

[58] Scot McKnight, 1 Peter: The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text to Contemporary Life, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 1996), 109.

[59] Hagner, The New Testament, 695.

[60] Jobes, 1 Peter, 159.

[61] Ibid., 160.

[62] Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1031.

[63] Accusative of termination with focus on relationship.

[64] Subjunctive expressing purpose: there is the use of ὅπως+ Subjunctive.

[65] Resultative aorist- “who has called you” as opposed inceptive “who called you”

[66] Accusative of termination with focus on present reality.

[67] Qualitative genitive- God’s marvelous light as opposed to any other type of light.

[68] Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1031.

[69] Qualitative genitive. People belonging to God as opposed to belonging to oneself or other persons.

[70] Intensive perfect- focusing on state of things. As a participle it is antecedent to the action of the main verb.

[71] Resultative aorist.

[72] David Arthur DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation (Downers Grove, Ill. : Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press ; Apollos, 2004), 849.

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The Lord will Fight for You…

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In several instances the Bible presents Yahweh as Warrior; a mighty Warrior who’s strong in battle. He wages his own wars and wins.

In life we are faced with many battles. As a matter of fact, spiritual warfare is one of the inevitable battles we must face and win because our union with Christ gives us power, strength, and victory.

Few weeks into the wilderness, during the exodus from Egypt, the nation of Israel found themselves trapped between an enemy behind them and a mass of water (Red Sea) before them.

Related, read One more night with the frogs

They had heeded the call of God through Moses to journey to the Promised Land. In a great way, God had demonstrated his power against the powers of Pharaoh and his gods.

But now God’s chosen people were in for a new colossal challenge. With their enemies advancing quickly in pursuit of them, their options to escape and life were dwindling by seconds! It was a real defining moment!

The only available option was to either to surrender to Pharaoh’s might and be slaves forever or fight a losing fight and die.

But Moses provided the third option. He brought in the God-perspective; a perspective that the people were blind to.

Moses knew something about God’s power and presence. He knew God is a miracle worker, a way-maker and performs the impossible. He knew that God presence means victory. He knew that God is a sure and near help to everyone who calls on Him.

These thoughts (though written years later) must have been going through the mind of Moses:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea– (Ps. 46:1-2).

And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me–               (Ps. 50:15).

A horse is prepared for battle but victory belongs to the Lord (Prov. 21:31).

He therefore courageously told the complaining and terrified crowd, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on” (Ex. 14:13-15).

This situation also speaks to our situations today…

Four Principles to help/assure us in times of need:

  1. Fear Not (vv. 13)

For sure, fear had crippled the Israelites when the saw the Egyptian army pursuing them. Behind them was an enemy, in front of them was a great sea. The only option, which Moses refocused them to see, was to look up.

Fear is something dangerous in your life. It paralyzes your potential and kills your faith. Fear leads to doubt, complaining, self-pity, and faithlessness. In your situation replace fear with faith and confidence in God. Make a deliberate decision to look up to God in faith. Rise above your fears and believe that you will make it by faith. Remember, God did not give you the spirit of fear but of courage, sound mind and love. Fear not.

Why should we not fear? It should be because God is on our side. We have seen God’s hand and faithfulness the far we have come. Choosing to response in fear does not solve the situation at hand; it only makes you more and more vulnerable to the enemy.

  1. Stand firm and be still (vv.14)

God wants us in our very time of need to be unmoved and to be still. To be unmoved by the number of the enemies, to be unmoved by the weapons they have, and to be unmoved by the powers ‘they’ claim to possess. On our side is a mighty Warrior.

Stand firm because you have a strong Deliverer. On your side is the One who is mighty in battle; the One who shields you in the day of battle.

  1. Be still (vv.14)

Be still because God is in control. Be calm and have a serenity of heart because the battle belongs to the Lord. He will fight for you (be sure to be engaged in battles that God is involved in). He will ensure your bones are not broken. Be still. Be still because by your own efforts you cannot win.

Be still and trust in the Lord, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5,6).

  1. The Lord will fight for you (vv. 14)-

This is a wonderful promise. The Lord shall fight for you.

You have the One who is an enemy to your enemies on your side. Worry not; for victory is your portion. Engage Him in your battles and he will fight for you.

  1. Therefore move/go forward (vv. 15)-

The next order from God to Moses was “God forward!” God wanted his people to take steps of faith; not by walking round the challenge but by going through it. Lack of faith can make us stagnate in one level and be comfortable with the status quo. As they edged to the coastlines of the sea Moses raised his rod and lo and behold the waters parted!

The people walked right in the middle of the sea with the mass of water against them. Move forward, don’t get stuck in the past with its entanglements like unforgiveness, but move forward with hope, optimism, and confidence in God.  In whichever circumstance, sober up and move on…

-The Lord will fight for you; because the battle belongs to the Lord!-

Singular Focus in Life

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Life presents us an opportunity to pursue many things; but what is that one overarching thing that defines all that we pursue?

This attitude, of pursuing one thing over others, is explicit in the lives of prominent figures in the Bible. They had one chief and principal thing that they pursued wholeheartedly. This helped focus their attention, and energies to a productive end. Briefly, let’s look at biblical examples in which we see prominent figures who had singular focus/desire in life and ministry.

  1. Joshua: 15 “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

In a generation that was experiencing a growing apostasy, Joshua desired to serve the Lord despite the strong opposition around him.

2. David: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Ps. 27:4).

David, desired, above all, to seek the Lord…and to experience the beauty and the tender care under God’s wings. His desire was a life-long desire; he will follow it through till the end of his life. Also, he commmitedly seeks what he has asked of the Lord. Did he fulfill this desire at the end of his life? A resounding yes, Acts 13:36 records that after David had served God’s purpose in his generation he rested with his forefathers.

3. Solomon: (when given the opportunity by God to ask whatever thing he needed): “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9).

This man asked God to give him wisdom (a wise and discerning heart to be able to administer justice). In response, God gave him wisdom but also in addition gave him all the other things he did not  ask for like wealth, and long life. Solomon’s priorities at least at this early stage of his life were focused. He asked God for ONE thing.

4. Agur son of Jakeh: 7 “Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God (Prov. 30:7-9).

This little known man of the Bible asked of God two things. His focused desires reveal that he longed for contentment, truthfulness, and  honoring of God.

5. Jesus: 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work (John 4:34).

Our Lord, talked of accomplishing the will of God as his “food” (a daily necessity)

Also, Jesus instructed, 33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33-34).

We know Jesus accomplished his singular focus, when at the cross he said, “it is finished”.

6. The merchant in the parable of Jesus: 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:45-46).

Why this the merchant in the parable sell EVERYTHING just to buy ONE thing? It is because the ONE thing he had found was of GREATER value than EVERYTHING he had.

7. Martha (the one thing that is needed): 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

One thing is needed, and that is what Martha chose; something that cannot be taken away from her! For Martha, it was to be with Jesus, to seat under the counsel of Jesus.

8. Paul: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:10-11).

Paul’s desired to “know Christ”; to know how wide, and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Paul achieved his purpose because at the end of his life he was able to confidently declare, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…” (2 Tim 4:7).

These desires consumed the lives of these key characters in the Bible. Notably, they desired what ultimately brings true joy and contentment. These men desired what counts eternally. Why is it important to have a singular desire/focus: we end up seeking what we desire, “one thing I have desired; that I will seek after”;  singular focus in life leads to simplification of life; it focuses our energies and pursuits; when we have our desires defined it is easy to turn them into prayers. Life is a process of simplification…

Read Satan’s thesis statement and Jesus’ Offer

Read- One more night with the frogs

Living in Anticipation of the Lord’s Return

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The doctrine of eschatology (end times) is broadly taught in the Bible. Central to this teaching is the return of Jesus Christ for his church. Believers are not ignorant of the things that will happen in the future because the Bible talks of signs, promises, and warnings concerning the return of Jesus Christ. Through the Bible, God’s eternal plan into the future has been revealed. Jesus not only gave us the promise to return but he also gave us the signs that will precede his return and the warnings that we should beware of.

Promises:

  • Jesus promised to come back soon (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 1:7; Rev. 22:20).
  • He went to prepare a place for believers (Jn. 14:3). A place where evil and suffering will be no more. A city where there shall be no more Satan, death, tears, pain, and imperfections; for the former order of things will have passed and the new come. In this city, believers will be in the very presence of God.
  • These promises give believers/church a solid hope.
  • During his second coming the righteous will be vindicated and the wicked condemned.

Do you BELIEVE in these promises?

Signs that will precede Christ’s return:

  • Preaching of the gospel to all nations (Mk. 13:10; Matt. 24:14).
  • Great tribulation (Mk. 13:7-8, 19-20).
  • False prophets performing signs and wonders (Mk. 13:22),
  • Signs in the heavens (Mk. 13:24-25).
  • The coming of the man of sin/antichrist and the rebellion (Rev. 13; 1 Jn. 2:18).
  • The salvation of Israel in the future (Rom. 11:12; Rom. 11:25-26).

Warnings:

  • Although Jesus promised to return, he did not indicate the time of his coming. Well, is this problematic? Jesus warned that the day will come like a thief, he will come at an hour you do not expect him (Matt. 24:44; 2 Pet. 3:10). Since he did not state the exact time, is it logical to say that he has delayed? And also, if he said he would come in two or a hundred year’s time, imagine what we would be doing in the meantime.
  • Also the Bible warns of the coming judgment- the day of the Lord will bring vindication to the righteous and condemnation to the wicked. In the day of the Lord, people will be held accountable for their actions and words.

Because of Jesus’ promise, revelations, and forewarnings, WE HAVE HOPE– specifically, the hope that Christ will soon return: the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

This hope is not a passive hope. It is a hope that should accomplish something in us. This hope should transform the way we live, think, work, handle relationships, and circumstances.

2 Peter 3:11-15 reminds us that that we ought to be doing something in anticipation of the Lord’s return. The knowledge of these promises and warnings should presently shape our lives.

How should we live NOW in light of this hope of the second coming of Jesus?

  1. Live a Holy life– Longing for Christ’s glorious appearance should cause us to be holy.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure (1Jn. 3:2-3).

The promise that Jesus will return should cause us to desire to be holy; in other words, to be like Christ. This hope should produce the fruit of righteousness in us. This blessed hope should make our lives free from any entanglement of sin.

This hope brings alongside the manifestation of God’s grace to all men. It teaches us “to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we await for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:12-13).

Notably, this hope should change our actions and attitudes in a way that reflects a holy character.

The more we are unholy the more we will be unprepared for his coming.

The fact that Christ will return anytime should make us purify ourselves from sin, grudges, unforgiveness, and to be presentable before God as holy and blameless.

  1. Live as Strangers in this World

Living with an eternal perspective means living in this world as strangers, pilgrims, and sojourners.

Jesus revealed to us our true identity. We are God’s children, and citizens of heaven but temporarily in a foreign land (Phil. 3:20). As God’s children and ambassadors we are in the world but not of the world. Eternal perspective will remind us not love the world or follow its patterns.

We explicitly see this eternal perspective in the lives of Israel’s patriarchs. We are told, Abraham and the other patriarchs, because of eternal perspective, lived “like a stranger in a foreign country”. They lived in tents (temporary dwelling). Why? For these patriarchs were “looking forward to the city whose foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

Life in this world, to a believer, should be lived as an exile. Eternal perspective should make us not to hold the things of this world dearly to our hearts. The world and the things therein are passing. Human life in this world is brief and fleeting. We are aliens in a foreign land. For international students here today, the KPP’s, Alien Cards, and Passports we carry around remind us of our temporary nature of our residence. Believers in Christ are equally strangers in this world.

As strangers in a foreign land we are called to manifest kingdom values. Life in this foreign land, as foreign people should cause us to pray and long for the full manifestation of his kingdom.

  1. Be Patient

Living as aliens in a strange world comes with challenges. Faithful living of our hope brings rejection, persecution, and sorrow. Expectedly, our hope demands that we swim upstream; that is, living in a way that stands in opposition to the values that a fallen world upholds.

When we face such opposition, we should remember the world of Paul. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Cor. 4:16-18).

Are you tempted to be impatient in you walk with God?  Factually, the challenges we face are: “light and momentary” and achieves for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. The glories of heaven far outweigh our temporary challenges. We, therefore, should be patient in tribulations.

In our patience, we should also continually express our longing for the Lord’s return: “our Lord, Come!” (Maranatha) 1 Cor. 16:22); “Amen, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

  1. Walk not by Sight but by Faith

Expectation of Christ’s return should cause us to live by faith. The ancients were commended not based on what they were or what they possessed but for their faith in God. We know that without faith it is impossible to please God.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Cor. 4:18).

We should keep our hope by fixing our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. As a matter of fact, not all reality is seen. If you only live for what is seen then you are acutely limited in your perspective.

Living in light of eternity involves keeping in step with the Spirit; living under the guidance of the Spirit.

Eternal perspective should enable us to store our riches in heaven rather than on earth (Matt. 6:20).

It takes faith to live as a foreigner in the world.

  1. Serve the Lord with Passion

Eternal perspective should lead us to SERVE God diligently, and with excellence; for we know our service and faithfulness will be rewarded. Such a perspective will make us serve without grumbling or seek praises from men. This eternal perspective certainly changes our perspectives on money, people, career, and work.

The hope of Christ’s return gives us the wisdom to know that we should work while it is still daytime for night is coming when there will be no opportunity to work. It teaches to maximize on every opportunity to do good to all people. If you truly have this hope it will make you invest your time in what counts eternally.

On the other hand, lack of eternal perspective makes us to live life centered on “here and now”. Such a perspective blinds us to the realities of tomorrow.

Significantly, living in light of eternity will make us WIN SOULS for Christ. Also, this hope will make us realign our purposes with God’s purposes.

  1. Be Watchful

Sometimes when we think about Christ’s return the question that comes straight to our minds is “when?” I.e. when will Christ return? But every time Jesus was asked this question, he redirected it because the question misses the point. The main point/question is: how can I live now in light of Christ’s promise to return? (Ref. Acts 1:6-8).

Knowing that Christ will return in an unknown hour should cause us to live watchfully and prayerfully.

Be on guard! Be alert! (Matt 24:42-44; Mk. 13:32-36; 25:1-13).

Watch your way of life, your testimony, and your doctrine. Watch against false teachers/preachers.

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!'” (Mark 13:35-37).

Finally…

Has the hope of Christ’s return transformed the way you live your life here on earth?

Interestingly, it is said that what we think about heaven determines what we think about the present. C.S. Lewis once said, “it is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.”

So, when Christ returns will you be ready? Will our garment be clean? Will you wish that certain priorities in your life had changed? I want to close by saying, you have the opportunity now to live in light of the hope that Christ will return.

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Celebrating Unity in Diversity: Interview Links

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Africa International University is a Christian chartered university in Nairobi Kenya. Thankfully, I have had the privileged to study at this great university for my postgraduate studies. The university has students, staff, and faculty from over 30 nations of the world. This richness of diversity here is a representative reflection of God’s diverse plan for humanity at large!

The interview link below (and photos) features some of the  remarks by the Deans from the schools of the Graduate School of Theology (NEGST), Education/Art and Social Sciences, School of Economics and Business (SBE) and the Institute for the Study of African Realities (ISAR). I had an opportunity to interview them on their views on unity and diversity. This comes at a time in Kenya and Africa when nations are facing with challenges of negative ethnicity, cessation demands, and political polarization. As Christians, how should we handle our differences… Should it be the source of our of division or celebration….

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Some of the Questions Asked are:

  • What is culture?
  • Is unity in diversity attainable or is it just good-sounding oxymorons?
  • How does Christ redeem culture?
  • What is the importance of celebrating our cultures, especially as Christians?
  • How can we be truly biblical and truly cultural?
  • How can culture be a threat to unity?
  • What are some of our precious cultural values that we have lost or risk losing?
  • Is true unity achievable in our world today? What are some of the ways in which Christians can promote unity in the society?

For more information on their responses, kindly follow the following links:

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Notable Points:

  • Our diversities are a gift and blessing from God to be celebrated.
  • Sameness is boring but God’s idea of diversity is beautiful and glorious!
  • As diverse peoples and cultures we need to:
    • Learn from each other,
    • Tolerate each other,
    • Appreciate one another, and
    • Find ways of celebrating our differences.

 

God’s Power to Achieve His Purposes No Matter What

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From the scripture we know that the Sovereign God is all-omnipotent to eliminate evil, pain, and suffering. But experientially, he does allow his beloved children to go through dark moments; not because he is unable but because in his sovereignty he is ultimately able to turn evil for our good (Rom. 8:28). As a matter of fact he turned the evil and hatred intended against Joseph by his brothers to bring about the salvation of many (Gen. 50:20). In his power and wisdom he allows and disallows.

When God allows his beloved to go through a hard and trying moment, he ensures he ultimately brings out something good and beautiful, for his own glory and purposes.

Apostle Paul clearly understood this biblical fact. That is why in Philipians 1:14-30 Paul’s experiences and especially his responses to situations presents to us a challenge to embrace new situations, both good and bad, with new lenses/perspectives/attitudes informed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul knew that:

  1. God is able to use our dark moments to accomplish his purposes (vv. 12-14):

Paul’s imprisonment, chains, and suffering for the sake of the gospel was in a profound way used by God to bring about something beautiful:

  • It served to advance the gospel- The whole palace guard and everyone was now aware that Paul is in chains- for Christ.
  • It became an encouragement to many Christians to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Through Paul’s chains, God was achieving something far greater and better…

Paul did not lament over his present predicament but chose to trust in God because he knew that God was at work in fulfilling his greater purposes through lives (living sacrifices) that are fully committed to Him. He knew everything happens under God’s direction. He knew God is able to bring good out of a bad circumstance/suffering. He knew he was chained, but God’s word was not.

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2. God is able to use envy and rivalry to advance his mission (vv. 15-20)-

  • In Philippi, like today, there are those who preached the gospel out of envy and rivalry- Doing it out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, stirring up trouble. Such people do ministry to build a name/glory for themselves and not to save lives. They do not preach the true gospel. They teach another gospel which is not gospel at all. Does this matter?
  • The second group preaches out of goodwill- Paul represented this category of preachers. They did ministry in love, sacrificing their all.

In both of these cases, either with good or bad motives, Christ is preached and the gospel is advancing and bearing fruit. The spread and multiplication of God’s word is not limited by evil motives. God can use any means; He can use any raw material to advance his gospel. He can use our enemies to bring some to salvation. Even through the ministry of defrauders God can save some!

He is able. And so we should rejoice that God is able to use evil intentions to accomplish his purposes. No weapon formed against the church shall prosper.

In all these Paul maintains a joyful attitude. He has plenty of reasons to complain but he chooses to be joyful, But why? He says “I know” (term used in v 12, 19 and 25). He knows that in the end:

  • Things will turn out well for him- He admits that eventually things “will turn out for my deliverance” v.19. Deliverance from prison and/or salvation in the next life- through prayers and help from the Holy Spirit.
  • In the final run he will not be ashamed- v, 20.
  • It will result into sufficient courage- to do more, suffer more? v20.
  • Christ will be exalted- by life or by death-v20.

3. God is able to use our life or death to promote his glory (vv. 20-26)

God is not limited by what we do in the span of this life.

Being conscious of this, Paul found himself in a dilemma.

He was torn in between two alternatives:

  • Continuing to be in the body– To him this meant an opportunity to engage further in a fruitful labor. He admits this option is necessary for the Philippians because he will have opportunity to work for their progress and joy in the faith. Also being with them will make their joy I Christ Jesus to overflow on his account. This alternative is good for “them”.
  • Departing to be with Christ– To Paul this means being separate from the body that is prone to weaknesses and evil plots of men. It means being in the very presence of God where there shall be no prison, pains, cry, sin, sicknesses, and death. It is an option that guarantees eternal joy and fellowship with Christ. This alternative is a true gain for Paul!

Through our lives and ministry we are building a spiritual legacy that will outlive us. In our lives, accomplishments, and service Christ should be exalted/glorified.

4. God is over all Circumstances of Life (vv. 27-30)- 

Whatever happens”- they say, life happens. Life is full of happenings. But believers in Christ should:

  • Conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel (not circumstances). Circumstances change but we should not change because our lives/attitudes and responses are anchored on the solid and unchanging gospel. The ‘manner worthy of the gospel’ involves imitating Christ, and living a holy life.
  • Stand firm in one spirit– contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.
  • Be courageous and strong in Christ– Not frightened by those who oppose you, because they also oppose God.

Because of God’s sovereignty, we should be joyful and hopeful in every circumstance. Knowing that God is able; and that we have been called not only to believe in him but also suffer for him.

Read also more on Paul in the book of Philippians 

Reformation: Martin Luther’s 95 Theses

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As the Evangelical world marks the 500 years of Reformation, the church should be reminded of the centrality of the holy Scriptures, faithful biblical hermeneutics, as well as the rich heritage and tradition from the early church, apostolic teachings, and church Fathers. Luther’s call for reforms in his disputation emphasizes the need for the church not to lose focus on the richness of God’s word and the nature of salvation it offers.

For now, below is the Luther’s short statement and famous Ninety-five theses raising objections for debate on biblically unfounded practices in the life of the Roman Catholic Church.

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Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

  1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
  2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
  3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.
  4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
  5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.
  6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.
  7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.
  8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.
  9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.
  10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.
  11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept (Mt 13:25).
  12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.
  13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.
  14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.
  15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.
  16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.
  17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.
  18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.
  19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.
  20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words “plenary remission of all penalties,” does not actually mean “all penalties,” but only those imposed by himself.
  21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.
  22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.
  23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.
  24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.
  25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.
  26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.
  27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.
  28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.
  29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.
  30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.
  31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.
  32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
  33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.
  34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.
  35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.
  36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.
  37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.
  38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.
  39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.
  40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them — at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.
  41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.
  42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.
  43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.
  44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.
  45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath.
  46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.
  47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.
  48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.
  49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.
  50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.
  51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.
  52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.
  53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
  54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.
  55. It is certainly the pope’s sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
  56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.
  57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.
  58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.
  59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
  60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.
  61. For it is clear that the pope’s power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.
  62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.
  63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last (Mt. 20:16).
  64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
  65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.
  66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.
  67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.
  68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.
  69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.
  70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.
  71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.
  72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.
  73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.
  74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.
  75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.
  76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.
  77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
  78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written. (1 Co 12[:28])
  79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.
  80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.
  81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.
  82. Such as: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church?” The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.
  83. Again, “Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”
  84. Again, “What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, beca use of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love’s sake?”
  85. Again, “Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?”
  86. Again, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”
  87. Again, “What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?”
  88. Again, “What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?”
  89. “Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?”
  90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.
  91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.
  92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14)
  93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!
  94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.
  95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).

Attitudes that Build Unity

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The Situation: There were apparent conflicts and divisions in the church at Philippi. In Philippians 2:1-11, Paul urges believers in Christ to consider two facts that should form the basis and motivation for their unity:

  • Their union with Christ and Fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
  • The example of Jesus Christ
  1. Union with Christ and fellowship with the Holy Spirit (vv.1-4)

Believer’s union with Christ and fellowship with the Holy Spirit should be the real cause for christian unity. This divine union brings blessings to the body of Christ. As a matter of fact it should make Christ-followers to:

  • Be like-minded, and agree with one another (certainly this does not mean uniformity of thought but plurality and diversity with overarching a singular goal and purpose).
  • Have same love.
  • Be one in spirit and purpose.
  • Act not out of selfish ambition but in humility.
  • Look not only at self interests but also interests of others.

A question for reflection: Why is it that in most cases our union with Christ and fellowship with Holy Spirit does not help us much as Christians in bringing unity in churches and society today? A good question for another day…

2. The Example of Jesus Christ (vv. 5-11)

Apostle Paul points out the example of Jesus Christ as the motivation and model for our unity. In Christ we see attitudes that bring true unity. Following Christ means living just as he lived.

Here are three attitudes that build/bring unity:

A). Attitude of Humility– Jesus Christ was in the very nature God but gave up his prerogatives due to his unselfishness. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). This attitude made Jesus to consider humanity in their helpless estate and to offer himself as a sacrifice and ransom for the salvation of many.

He took human body/nature without ceasing to be God; setting aside the right to his glory and power.

An attitude of humility will enable us set aside our rights and privileges in order to serve others.

Jesus implored, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28).

B). Servant AttitudeChrist had a servant attitude. He came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as ransom for many, Mark 10:45. Servanthood came out of his love. As true servant he (temporarily) emptied himself (kenosis)of many things, for example:

  • He gave up his riches-he became poor (2 Cor. 8:9).
  • The Glory (Jn. 17:4, 5).
  • He gave up some of the joy of heaven, to become a ‘man of sorrows’ and familiar with weakness (Isa. 53:3).
  • He gave up his omnipresence for the geographical limitation of time and place.
  • He gave up the separation of sin and misery; which is part of life in heaven.
  • He came in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering Romans 8:3. Although sin was alien to his nature, He became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21).
  • He gave up his immunity from temptation so as to be tempted in every way. He learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb. 5:8).
  • Taking the very nature of a servant, a person who has no rights at all.
  • He became servant of all yet remained a master.

Believers should have/develop an attitude that makes them servants after Christ. Paul wrote, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2).

C). Attitude of Submission– Jesus Christ submitted himself to carry out the will of the Father. In his attitude of submission he became obedient to death- even death on a cross! Of course, he had within his jurisdiction, divine powers to unleash whatever fate he chose to those who crucified him; but he submitted himself to the will of the Father.

Jesus was humble, submissive, and obedient.

These are attitudes that build relationships and bring true unity. They are winning attitudes. It is what made Christ: to be exalted to the highest place, and be given a name above every name. The name that every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We should pray God for grace to constantly develop these attitudes.

Confidence in God- Philippians 1:3-11

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In these opening verses of Paul’s letter to Philippians, we see Paul’s unwavering confidence in God and not in people or temporal circumstances. He is aware that God is always at work in the lives of his people and in perfecting His church.

You need to know that Paul and his companions had earlier preached in Philippi (Acts 16). This was the city in which the jailer and his whole household, Lydia, and the slave girl who had been possessed by demons opened their hearts and believed the message of Christ.

But these conversions did not come without a cost. During their first preaching in this city, Paul and his companions were beaten and locked into prison without trial. These challenges characterized the foundation story of this young but growing church.

This church grew to an extend that they partnered with Paul in his ministry through financial support. But now all was not well. There were struggles here and there. False teachers had infiltrated their midst; and divisions among them were threatening their unity in Christ.

These were not good stories. For someone who had paid the cost of founding such a church such kind of stories can cause heartache. We know how this feels when one struggles to disciple/mentor/parent/ counsel or pastor people and instead of seeing the fruit of your labor all you see are struggles and disappointments. Naturally, it can make one to despair, blame people, be angry, discouraged, and resentful.

But what was Paul’s response in this situation?

Paul exudes confidence in God (1:3-11): Verse 6 reads: “that he who began good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.

His confidence in God made him to:

  1. Thanks God (v. 3)- Every time he received reports about this church he always remembered to thank God. Thanking Him for their salvation and for their partnership in spreading the gospel. He chose to be grateful to God irrespective of the circumstances because he realized that God is constantly at work. Imperfections in the body of Christ should not overshadow the fact that the body of Christ is Holy and is gradually becoming what God intended it to be.
  2. Pray– (v. 4)- Confidence in God also made him intercede for them with with joy. The word ‘joy’ is mentioned 15 times in the letter. The emphasis speaks volumes… The contents of his prayer are in verses 9-11. He prayed that they may grow (overflow) in their love and in knowledge and depth of insight; to be able to discern (truth from error) what is best; be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. He prayed that they may be filled with the fruit of righteousness. Also, he prayed for their spiritual growth. The emphasis here is not just prayer but also fruitfulness.
  3. Love-(v.7-8) Paul’s love and affection for God’s people was evident. He had them in his heart. He loved God and his people. Loving people is not an easy thing… because tests our our patience, emotions, concern. But also he knew love is a command.

The people we serve, like the Philippian church, are not perfect or complete. But through Paul’s example, confidence in God enables us to see the ongoing work of God both in our lives and and in the lives of other people. The ‘good work’ that God has initiated is the work of salvation- the continuing spiritual formation. Paul saw that God is at work in his life and in the lives of other people whom he has called. Like Paul, we therefore must be patient with ourselves and with other people.

It takes time for a fruit to ripen. Paul chose to be confident on the fact that God finishes what he has started. He came into terms with the fact that God’s work is undone until the day of Christ; and that it takes time for God to perfect us and to make us holy. If you believe this then, you will certainly thank God every time, pray with joy and love people unconditionally for God is constantly working in and through us (Phil. 2:13).

Is Christ’s Blood Thicker than Water?

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We live in a world that is deeply divided. A world that is divided along tribal, social, cultural, economic, religious, denominational, and political lines. And as a matter of fact, there are many things that divide than unite us. The church on the other hand is neither spared in this mix; for its membership constitutes people from all these backgrounds. What is the hope of unity in such diversity?

In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul’s audience faced a similar situation when background differences between Gentile and Jewish believers threatened their unity of faith in the body of Christ. Differences, prejudices, conflicts, biases, and divisions were a deep reality among them. With these existential problems, one might rightly ask, ‘What then did the cross or blood of Christ achieve?’

Ephesians letter is without doubt one of Paul’s most elegant letters. It was written to: strengthen believers in the faith by reminding them of their position in Christ, highlight what the death of Christ achieved for believers, and, to show the purpose of the church (Ch.1-3).  The second section of the epistle (Ch. 4-6) deals with ethical implications from the preceding teachings. In the immediate context, Paul discusses spiritual blessings in Christ (Ch.1) and the fact that believers have been made alive in Christ (first part of chapter 2).

In chapter 2:11-22 Paul presents the power of the cross as the hope of unity and reconciliation.

In a divided world, God is on a mission to bring peace where there is enmity; love where there’s hatred; and, unity where there’s division. He is on a mission to both reconcile humanity to Himself, and humanity to each other.

He has done this by:

  1. Giving us a new identity (vv.11-13)- Believers in Christ are given a new and higher identity- that of a sons/daughters in God’s family. This identity does not depend on external distinctions based on what God has done in us.

In verse 11-13, Apostle Paul reminds the Gentile believers who they were formerly (before they came to Christ). Jews and Gentiles had deeply formed biases and prejudices against each other: Gentiles were referred to as “uncircumcised” by “the circumcision” group (Jews). Jews boasted of circumcision not as some African men do (as a sign to mark transition from childhood to adulthood) but as a key sign of God’s covenanted people. This pride highlighted their special status before God in a way that the Gentiles were not.

It is worth noting here that the imperative “remember” is the only imperative in chapter 1-3. Paul wanted his listeners to be continually aware of the change that has been brought about by their union with Christ. This act of remembrance will further cause them to be thankful for what God has done.

And so formerly, the Gentiles were (verse 12):

  • Separated from Christ– They worshiped idols and had no knowledge of Christ.
  • Excluded from the citizenship in Israel– Israel was God’s nation in a way that was not true of any Gentile nation.
  • Foreigners to the covenants of the promise– God did not make any covenants with any Gentile nation but only with the Jews. Interestingly, many of the Pharisees would pray daily, “O God, I give thanks that I am a Jew, not a Gentile.”
  • Without hope– It is said that great hopelessness covered the ancient world. Philosophies were empty, traditions were disappearing, and religions were powerless to help men face either life or death. They literally had no hope to hold on to (1 Thess. 4:13).
  • Without God in the world– Although they had many gods as Paul noted in Athens (Acts 17:16-23), they in their pagan religiosity did not know the true God, YHWH.

But all these changed! They were no longer what they used to be. This is introduced by the contrast “but” in verse 13. They were “far away” but have been brought “near” through “the blood of Christ”. This is what makes all the difference! Now, because of the new identity, the blood of Christ is thicker than water (than former external identities/distinctions). They now belong to a spiritual family.

It is the blood of Christ that made the Gentiles citizens partakers of the covenants of the promise. It is through the blood of Christ that those who had no God encountered God and those without hope found hope. To Paul, this was worth remembering.

In a nation plagued by divisions, tribalism, and strong political inclinations along tribal lines, how can we apply this understanding?

Undeniably, our tribes give us our foundational identities as Kamba’s, Kalenjins, Luo’s Kikuyu’s etc. On the other hand our union with Christ supplies us with a new identity as sons/daughters of God. How do you handle these two identities? Do they conflict each other?

To be specific, How do you identify yourself? Are you a Luo/Kalenjin/Kamba/Kikuyu Christian or are you a Christian Kalenjin/Kamba/Kikuyu? If the first be the case then water is still thicker than Christ’s blood.

blood thinner

If the second is the case then, Christ’s blood has become thicker than water.

The new identity that Christ gives is a higher and brings unity across tribal distinctions. Obviously, Jesus does not obliterate our former identities but provides a higher and superior identity. When we came to Christ for salvation, he made us a new creation. He gave us a new and transformed identity that gives us new lenses of seeing and engaging the ‘other’. With this transformed view, we are able to see more than a tribe/political affiliation in a person. It makes us see God’s image in THEM. It makes us see external identities not as primary but as secondary. It makes it easy for one to bless, love, talk to, pray, and to vote for a candidate from another tribe…

The solution to our tribal politics as Christians is not in refraining ourselves from discussing politics but in rising up beyond tribal categories by living out our new identity in Christ that sees all people through God’s lenses.

  1. Making Christ our peace (vv.14-15a)- Our oneness as God’s people has been made possible by Jesus Christ, our peace. Through him, walls of hostilities fall; or must fall. Also, as our model, Jesus unites us to God and to one another.

In Christ, the vocabulary of circumcised and uncircumcised ceases. It is now possible for “THEM” to be “US” because of Christ “OUR” peace.

 In order to bring this unity Christ was able to:

A. Make the two one– Practically, how can two become one? Mathematically it can only happen by subtraction; but in Christ two can become one without subtraction. In God’s economy, two can become one through the Person of Christ. The separation between Gentiles and God and between Gentiles and Jews required peace. And Jesus Christ became that peace- the one who makes us one with God, and with one another. Inviting and involving Christ among warring parties will definitely offer a lifeline of peace and hope.

Unity is an important component in our families, relationships, churches and by extension the nation. As individuals and corporately as a church, we have a solution to the challenges Kenya and Africa is facing. The church is not part of the problem but part of the solution because of the message and mission of reconciliation that Christ has entrusted the church to bring to the world (2 Cor. 5:16-21). Therefore be a peacemaker and an ambassador of reconciliation within your social networks.

B.  Destroy the barrier/the dividing wall of hostility– Christ was able to do this through his body when he died on the cross for all people.

The “wall” here can refer to the partition that hindered Gentiles from going to the holy place in the temple. It could also be referring to the curtain in the temple that separated the holy place from the holy of hollies. Either way, the dividing wall has been broken.

By implication, there is literally nothing that can once again separate believers from all backgrounds based on race, culture or whichever background. All in Christ have been made one. In addition, Christ abolished the law with its commandments and regulations. As a result, believers are now not under the law but under grace. Barriers divide and hinder unity; they create unhealthy distinctions of “us” versus “them” therefore they must be destroyed.

What barriers of hostilities have we possibly erected as individual believers or as a church? Jesus is the wall-crusher and chain breaker of such obstacles! Demolishing of barriers that separate is necessary for peace to prevail in our relationships.

In your relationships, what are some of the issues that create disunity and strife that God is calling you today to work on?

He reconciles us with the purpose of:

  1. Forming a New Community (vv. 15b-17)- Reconciliation through the cross, is for the purpose of creating one man/one people/one body- the church. The church is the place where unity and diversity is both experienced and celebrated! The church is the convergent point of peoples from all backgrounds, tribes, languages, nations.

Reconciliation was achieved through the cross- where the hostilities, hatred and enmity were nailed. Therefore the cross of Christ is a unique sign of reconciliation.

What comes to your mind when you see the cross? Is it a sign of shame, failure, defeat or a sign victory and power? Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). The cross is the power of God. It is the hope that churches and warring communities can be reconciled.

Today, God’s reconciling power is at work in the church and through believers. God’s purpose of forming a new community/church is not in futility because Apostle John in his vision observed, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…” (Rev 7:9).

  1. Providing Access for all to the Father (vv. 18-22) – Through Christ, humanity is granted access to the Father by one Spirit. Former enemies are now considered sons/daughters in God’s household.

Both Jews and Gentiles now have access to God through Jesus Christ, by one Spirit. This access comes as a result of the destruction of the former walls of hostility.

The Gentiles are no longer foreigners and aliens but are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.

In the OT the only division in the temple was between priests and laity (1 Kings 8:41-43), but by Paul’s day architectural barriers had been introduced for non-Jews and for women. Paul claims that these barriers are destroyed in God’s spiritual temple.

The role of Jesus in the access is vital. God’s people now are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises up to become a holy temple/dwelling place in which God lives by his Spirit.

The power of the cross to bring reconciliation in our relationships is available to every believer. The message that transforms and brings together individuals, families, churches and society is available to every believer in Christ. Therefore, be reconcilers after Christ in a world full of divisions, separation, and conflicts.

Today, as we generously give toward AICMD mission work and ministries, we are reminded that our new identity and unity as believers in Christ should cause us to bring the transforming message of reconciliation to the entire world. For God is making a people for himself from every nation, people and language.

God is calling us to cross frontiers and break barriers in order to bring blessings to the end of the earth. Why support mission work to THEM? It should be because through OUR gift Spirit’s call will enable THEM become US.

I will finish where I started: Is Christ’s blood thicker than water? (Kiswahili: Je Damu ya Yesu ni Nzito Kuliko Maji? Je Uhusiano wa kiKristo ni muhimu kuliko wa kibinadamu?). Is our relationship and identity through the blood of Christ deeper and trustworthy compared to our human and external identities? It should be so; because our new birth is more important and higher than our natural birth.

Christ’s blood is and should always be thicker and deeper than water. #Baraka

blood thicker

Also read our former helpless and hopeless state and what God did to provide a divine solution.

Life of Abundance