Friday, November 2, 2018

The Letters Of A Changed Man: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Peter. Day 15, God Shows Favor To The Humble

We begin the last chapter of Peter's first letter today. He gives instructions to the elders about leading the church, and he gives instructions to the younger church members to show respect to the elders.
He will also quote the words of King Solomon in promising us that God rewards a humble spirit.

First the apostle addresses the elders in the church. Peter himself is an elder by now and is fully qualified to instruct these leaders. "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ's sufferings who will also share in the glory that is to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them---not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5:1-4)

Peter was with Christ during His ministry, at His arrest, and at His trial before the Sanhedrin when the high priest unlawfully allowed Him to be beaten. We don't know whether Peter saw Jesus outside Pilate's palace after the Roman soldiers had viciously whipped Him. We don't know whether Peter saw Him hanging on the cross. Many scholars believe Peter did view these things from a distance, perhaps with his head or face covered out of fear that he too would be arrested and crucified. The only potential evidence we have that Peter witnessed the crucifixion is his statement that he saw "Christ's sufferings". I feel it's likely that he was present during our Lord's suffering, even though only the Apostle John specifically mentions being there. If Peter was hanging about on the fringes of the crowd then John (who was near the cross comforting the mother of Jesus) would not have seen him.

In the passage above Peter is providing his qualifications to instruct the church members regarding their behavior. He is more of an elder and an authority than any of them because he was a disciple of Christ and knew Him personally and witnessed what He suffered to save mankind. He also was commissioned by the Chief Shepherd to "feed My sheep". (See John 21:15-19) It is fitting that Peter should instruct the elders to be good shepherds, for he himself has worked diligently to fulfill his commission to be a good shepherd.

Next he instructs the younger church members, "In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders." (1 Peter 5:5a) Peter used to have a lot of difficulty submitting himself to his elders. When he was young he was bold and impetuous and outspoken. He even had the nerve to occasionally scold or instruct the Lord Jesus because he thought he knew what was best for Him. I don't know whether Jesus was his elder according to age, but He certainly was his elder according to authority, yet Peter thought he was qualified to give advice to Jesus. When he was young he thought he knew it all. He knows that the youth in the church may think they know it all, so he tells them to listen respectfully and obediently to their elders in the faith.

Everyone in the church should be humble and loving toward each other. Above all, every person in the church should maintain a humble spirit toward God and show Him the respect that is due Him. "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.'" (1 Peter 5:5b) In context, the verse Peter quotes comes from this passage, "Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways. For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into His confidence. The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the righteous. He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed. The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame." (Proverbs 3:31-35) We want the Lord to take us into His confidence. We want Him to bless our homes. We want Him to give us honor. Both the Apostle Peter and King Solomon tell us that the way to receive these wonderful things is to maintain a humble spirit.

Peter concludes today's study with these beautiful words, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6-7) We can find several examples in the Bible of men who humbled themselves under God's mighty hand and were later lifted up with honor. Jacob's son Joseph comported himself humbly and obediently in Egypt and later became second in power only to Pharaoh. The prophet Daniel behaved with a humble spirit in Babylon and was rewarded by God with a very high position in the government. David humbled himself under God's mighty hand during the fifteen years his life was threatened by King Saul, but in due time he was given the promised crown of Israel. But the best example we have of someone with a humble spirit is the Lord Jesus Christ, who humbled Himself under God's mighty hand and who now has been given the name above every name. (Philippians 2:9)

Not only does God desire to honor us for submitting to Him, but He also wants to bear our burdens. In the original Greek the word Peter uses for casting off our anxiety means to throw something heavy off our shoulders. A man in Peter's day would load a donkey by carrying his heavy belongings across his back and shoulders over to where the donkey was tied up, and then he would gratefully transfer the load from his back to the donkey's back which is much stronger. This is what God is saying to us, "My shoulders are strong enough to carry every burden. Yours are not. Transfer them to Me and trust Me with them. I don't want you bent down and staggering under a heavy load. How can You serve Me and My people that way? How can you help others with their problems when all you can think about are your own problems? I want you walking upright and strong as you work for My kingdom, so throw your burdens on Me. I care about you and I care about your problems. You can trust Me with them, so throw them onto me with a sigh of relief and get on with the things I've commissioned you to do."

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