PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART XXXIII

Suffering, that results from being followers of Christ, is full proof that the Holy Spirit is present in the believer’s life. Peter remembered the Words of his Lord, Jesus the Christ, and so did John Zebedee, James the brother of Jesus, Saul called Paul, and Luke the companion of Paul. The Holy Spirit would be with them in their trials:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep your also (John 15:18-21).

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

But before this (the fall of Jerusalem) they will lay hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony.

Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for may name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives (Luke 21:12-19).

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful creator (I Peter 4:12-19).

WHAT DID PETER MEAN BY “ARM YOURSELVES WITH THE SAME THOUGHT?

What was on Peter’s mind that urged him to emphasize holy and clean living, and to avoid using the body for physical pleasure? Peter knew what had happened to Christ was also going to happen to him and that all the believers, who would die rather than give up their faith. Also, suffering would reduce their desire of the flesh and that would prepare them for the reappearing and the revealing of Christ to judge the living and the dead. An event was about to shake the world, more powerful than the “Exodus from Egypt.” That event would be a catastrophic demonstration of the heavenly power, which would transform the world. Christians, of all people, must prepare to welcome Christ back and so to complete their salvation. For that reason, Jesus, too, preached to the living and to the dead. It would be a time when the Lord Christ would take charge and set things right for his people. Peter believed, as so many have done since his time, that the signs of his day indicated an immanent return of Christ. However, according to Moses, what a human being believes and predicts, is not necessarily what God wills or what God does (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). Christians, in particular, should be aware of such presumptions:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same though, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God. Let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passion drunkenness, reveals carousing and lawless idolatry. They Are surprised that you do not now join them in the same wild profligacy, and they abuse you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God.

The end of all things is at hand; keep sane and sober for your prayers. Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudging to one another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (I Peter 4:1-11).

This is now the second letter that I have written to you, beloved, and in both of them I have aroused your sincere mind by way of reminder; that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.” They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist have been stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord Is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire. But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him (II Peter 3:1-15).

WHOSE TASK IS IT TO PREPARE THE DISCIPLES FOR THE DAY OF THE LORD’S APPEARANCE?

Did Jesus give Peter the power to bind or loosen people for heaven as many presume Jesus did (Matthew 16:19)? The problem is that the binding and the loosening mean the same thing and require the will of man to be consummated. It is more in line with the Gospel of John where Jesus passed on the Holy Spirit to his disciples for the purpose to forgive (John 20:21-23). Forgiveness is also the responsibility of every believer, for that is the rule God will use to forgive those who want to be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15). When we add it all up, Peter was only feeding the sheep and showing them how to forgive their enemies and therewith become eligible for the day Christ would reveal Himself (John 21:15-17). Jesus was not asking anymore than what He, Himself, did when He forgave those who were crucifying Him (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness is mystical and magical because it removes all the obstacles between man and man; and that also induces God to remove all that is in the way between Him and man. During trials, ordeals, and persecutions animosity and hatred swells, but forgiveness paves the way for redemption. Every individual must be charged with the task to secure his/her own salvation! And God has endowed every one with the ability to do so. Peter was apprehensive about the influx of false leaders impacting the Christians. They had become more threatening than the worldly people. Peter’s description of the enemies was what Jesus warned about; namely, calling someone a fool (Matthew 5:22). Will men like Peter be also held accountable on Judgment Day for every careless word they have spoken (Matthew 12:36)? Jesus, too, was angry at the leaders who had abused the Law of Moses (Matthew 23:18-29), and with the people who were defiling the temple (Luke 19:45-46). Jesus was edgy with his disciples, who were slow to understand why He had come (Luke 9:41; 24:25-27). According to Ephesians 4:26, one can and ought to be angry at sin, but one must not sin. That is why repenting and forgiving are endless chores in human redemption (Matthew 18:22).

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these things is blind and short sighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, tough you know them and are established in the truth that you have I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things (II Peter 1:3-15).

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentiousness, and use of them the way of truth will be reviled. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep (II Peter 2:1-3).

Bold and willful, they are not afraid to reveal the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a reviling judgment upon them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct born to be caught and killed, reviling in matters of which they are ignorant, will be destroyed in the same destruction with them, suffering wrong for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime.They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their dissipation, carousing with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who  loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a dumb ass spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

These are water-less springs and mists driven by a storm; for them they nether gloom of darkness has been reserved. For, uttering loud boasts of folly, they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better  for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire (II Peter 2:10b-22).

PETER’S INSTRUCTIONS TO THE ELDERS WAS SIMILAR TO WHAT HE WAS INSTRUCTED BY THE LORD

Peter was angry and concerned with his Jewish brethren, who were falling prey to the false prophets and false teachers. He appealed to those who still believed and served, hesitantly. Peter played the head-shepherd and set an example as he, himself, had been taught (Matthew 20:25-28).

So I export the elders among you, as` a fellow elder and witness of the suffering of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed.Tend the flock of the God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen (I Peter 5:1-11).

HOW DID IT ALL END FOR PETER?

Peter hoped that Christ would return in his lifetime. And under Jesus’ leadership, Peter would manage one of the tribes; however, this did not happen. Peter, too, had become aware that God’s timing could not be predicted by man. Jesus, the Son of God, Himself, was not cognizant of His own return to earth (Mark 13:32). Jesus had told Peter that he would be led by others against his own will and die by their hands (John 21:1-19). Being in Babylon (Rome), Peter’s time to shed the body had become apparent (II Peter 1:14). The question was, would Jesus’ followers also be raised from the dead and would they also ascent to be with Christ as He promised (John 14:1-4)? There also was the question of whether God, who could not change, would abandon His Promise and His Covenant that Israel would reign over the kingdoms of the world (Romans 11:28-29)? Then, where would “Jesus invisible Kingdom” settle, if not in Jerusalem and Judea (John 18:36; Luke 17:20-21)? The Apostles Paul and John Zebedee supplied the answers in our next chapter. According to the Book of Revelation, the Apostle Peter was with Christ, and he would return with Christ to judge and reign over the world from Jerusalem. That was the vision John Zebedee presumed to have seen.

Then I (John) looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like he sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are chaste; it is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes; these have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are spotless (Revelation 14:1-5).