Tag Archives: command

Peter, Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ  (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

John 21:18-22

Three times Peter denied Christ before those who murdered Him. Three times Jesus commissioned Peter to care for His Church. Peter received his marching orders, given a specific directive and mandate to teach and care for those who follow Jesus.

Jesus also hints to Peter what will happen in his future. While Jesus gives general predictions about what some Christians may suffer because of their relationship with Him, Peter receives a strong, pointed indication of how he will die. He feared standing before the authorities, who accused Jesus of blasphemy, desiring to kill Him. Peter ran when confronted by a mob and lied when confronted by a servant girl. Jesus taught His disciples that they would stand before authorities and to not worry about what they would say.

Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:17-20 ESV)

Jesus indicated that Peter would die in the same way Jesus had died, by crucifixion. But, Jesus was standing before Peter, resurrected from death, telling him these things. Peter would stand before the authorities and speak to them about his relationship with Christ. He would not deny Christ or lie about that relationship. And he will suffer the same death His Master suffered.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18 ESV). Peter would suffer for righteousness’ sake.

John wrote his gospel after Peter’s death. His next statement is parenthetical. “(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God)” (John 21:19 ESV). John lived a long life of witness and persecution, finally being exiled toward the end of the century, to the island of Patmos where he died. His brother, James, was the first martyr of the disciples, murdered by Herod, who also imprisoned Peter. “He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:2-3 ESV). Peter was miraculously delivered from prison by angels (Acts 12:6-11). It was not time for him to die. All people will die only when God determines their lives in the world are completed.

Jesus gave Peter the same command here that He had given when He called the disciples. “And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 21:19 ESV). Jesus expects absolute obedience to His commands from the person called. We are not afforded the luxury of comparing ourselves with others. Nor does Jesus command groups to follow Him. His summons is for the individual. We are called to stand alone before the authorities and give our witness of Jesus. When Peter turned and asked about another disciple, Jesus once again rebuked him. He did not want to go alone but, in the end, was willing. Death is an individual thing. Though large groups die together each dies separately. “When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:21 ESV).

There were two parts to Jesus’ answer. First was the will of God. That God has a purpose for each person becomes evident in this statement. That His purpose for one may affect others and does not preclude the demand all obey. “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22 ESV). Jesus has told His disciples they must pick up their crosses and follow Him. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38 ESV; see Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23-24, Luke 14:27).

Secondly, Jesus reiterates the command for Peter to follow Him. “You follow me!” (John 21:22). It does not matter what others do or believe. It does not matter what happens to others. They are responsible to God. Each is responsible for their actions, motivations, thoughts and words. If they follow Jesus, good. If they do not follow Jesus, you must. Our following Jesus is not dictated by the circumstances we encounter in the world but by His call and our obedience.

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Conversation

Studies in Genesis 3

Nowthe serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You   shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1 ESV

Eve is asked a question from a creature not made in the image of God, who cannot have a personal relationship with Him and who is subject to both God and Man. “Did God actually say” suggests God may not have said what Adam heard from God and what he told Eve God said.

The serpent does not refer to God by the name He has been using for Himself, LORD God, the self-existing One who rules because He is God. The serpent simply calls Him “God,” even suggesting He could be one of possibly many gods. Whatever is speaking through the serpent does not hold God in the highest regard but lowers Him, making Him less than who He is. Here is the essence of rebellion, claiming God is less and therefore, does not have full authority or control.

By implication, the serpent is suggesting to Eve God made a mistake, is not perfect, does not have control, has not done what He said He has done, and does not love her.

We do not get to know why the serpent suggests God is not God, or where the serpent came by the thought. We can assume from Scripture that Lucifer, a fallen angel, inhabited the serpent to cause destruction to God’s creation, but there is no way for Eve to know this. Eve knows only what she has learned since her creation, from Adam and from God. Some may suggest she and Adam were created with extensive knowledge of all things. If they were, her response to the serpent would have been completely different. They were created perfect but not complete, with an innate knowledge of God because of His image in them, and with speech, the ability to reason and name. But they were also created with the ability to learn and grow in knowledge of God, of each other and of the world in which they lived. Eve was confronted by a creature of God that exhibited characteristics that fell outside of her experience.

Engaging in a conversation is not wrong. Conversation is one way to learn from another. Relationship requires communication. Adam talked to Eve just as Eve talked to Adam. Both talked with God just as God talked with them. How do we know this? God had already talked to Adam about his responsibilities and limitations. God listened to Adam as he named the creatures and approved the names. Eve was not startled when the serpent began speaking to her. Yet, healthy conversations do not try to deceive but acknowledge truth and seek to explore truth and its ramifications. To begin a conversation with an untrue statement or to lead to a conclusion not based upon truth is deceptive. There is no place in God’s presence for deception.

True Freedom

Studies in Genesis 2

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV)

God’s first recorded words to Adam were not those of a friend or acquaintance. Nor were they the words of a father to a child. His words were of a God, who owns all He has created, to a created being to whom He has giving authority over part of His creation. “Command” means to give a charge, or a commission, an assignment, a boundary. God spoke to “the man” (adam) setting the wide parameters of what he could eat, not where he could go or what he could do. Adam’s natural inclination is to work, taking care of the creation under his God ordained authority. Part of his work is to grow more fruit-bearing trees. He couldn’t possibly eat all of the food growing on these trees. Adam could eat anything he wanted from any tree except one tree.

God does not treat Adam like all of the other creatures He has created. He speaks to him face to face. “Saying”, in its various forms, means to speak one’s heart, to show intention and promise, to be told, to answer. This is not casual conversation. Yet, God’s words are not mysterious to Adam either. God spoke clearly. Adam understood completely.

God makes a promise in His command. We think of God’s promises as positive, yet He recognizes the propensity of the negative in those created in His image. His intent is to train those who are His to restrain and control the negative they will encounter in themselves, not to suppress the negative. Ultimately, He wants those who have an intimate relationship with Him to know the difference between good and evil and have the freedom to always choose the good. This is true freedom.

His words are not a threat but a statement of fact. This is not a covenant. A covenant is an agreement between two where the greater blesses the lesser, guaranteeing a promised outcome when certain criteria is met. God promises an outcome for disobedience but not for obedience. God’s expectation is for obedience from Adam, not disobedience. He did not create Adam for disobedience but for relationship. God’s omniscience gives Him the foreknowledge that Adam will disobey but this does not mean God created Adam for disobedience.

Adam, like everyone, must grow in his intimate knowledge and intellectual understanding of God. But he had an advantage we cannot ignore. He saw God. Before the fall, Adam was sinless and able to come into, or be in, God’s complete presence. God spoke to Adam face to face. God enjoyed His creation and was intimate with Adam, who was created in His image for relationship and intimacy. Adam enjoyed God. Growing and maturing is not limited to his natural surroundings but to the spiritual realm in which God dwelt. Adam could see there was more than the physical world every time he was in God’s presence. Thus to “eat, eat” shows more than physical food and nourishment just as “die, die” implies more than physical death. There is a spiritual second death just as there is a spiritual food, and by implication, life. Eating from the tree of life brought a second life just as eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as an act of outright rebellion brought spiritual death. God was training Adam to live.

More Than Food

Studies in Genesis 2

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV)

There is a tree of life. There is not a tree of death. Nor is there a tree of decision. God gave Adam the freedom to choose and permission to eat from any tree in the garden but one. God commanded Adam to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He did not say to Adam stay away from the tree. He didn’t say to Adam that he didn’t have to take care of the tree. The Garden was Adam’s home and he was responsible for everything in his home. His total responsibilities were given him by God. Adam was first and foremost responsible to God and under His authority.

God uses the word “eat” four times in these two verses. Most translations will show only three times. Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat (eat). But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou may not eat of it. For in the day that you eat you surely die (die)” (Gen 2:16-17 Authorized edited by gfw). To “eat” means to consume or devour for food, to cause to eat. God is telling Adam the fruit of every tree in the garden may be eaten or devoured to sustain his life. The trees are God’s, given to Adam to take care of and use for their intended purpose.

If we view “die die” as both natural death and then execution, or a second death, so we should view “eat, eat” as both natural consumption of necessary food and a second eating. God gave Adam food to consume beyond the physical. There is a second food for him to eat, implying there is life beyond the physical, just as there is a death beyond the physical.

Adam was supposed to eventually eat from the tree of life. He is already alive and he eats from the fruit of the trees to keep living. Just as there is a second death, a death other than physical, so there is life beyond physical life. Since every tree of the garden was beautiful to look at and good for food, I believe, without having absolute verifiable evidence, God would eventually give Adam permission to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If every tree is good for food, sustaining the body then there would come a time, at God’s discretion and according to His purpose, when Adam would be ready for such knowledge.

There was only good in the Garden. This does not mean there was no evil in creation. Creation is more than the earth in the physical universe. Adam needed preparation and training to face evil when it was time. His training begins with obedience to the command of God. Don’t eat was not a request.