Saturday, December 28, 2013

A church favored by God - 1 Peter 5

1 Peter 5:12-14  "Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ."

A church favored by God
In today's post I want to briefly look at what it looks like when a group of God's people or a local church are favored by God.  To be favored by God is another way of saying that we have the Grace of God.  No doubt about it - Peter's aim is to encourage and exhort this church to stand firm in the grace of God.  In today's post I want us to consider the marks of a church that is favored by God.  What traits or qualities distinguish a local church that is relying upon and is empowered by God's favor or grace? 

1. Feeds on the Word.  1 Peter 5:1-4
1 Peter 5:1-2 states - "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder andwitness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness." A church that is favored by God will be a church that loves to feed on the word of God.  Peter's commands to pastors is to "shepherd" or "feed the flock" the word of God.  Undoubtedly these words from Peter's pen echo what he heard from Jesus' lips some 30 years prior as recorded in John 21:16 "He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”  Paul too gives similar instruction to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28.  Why such and emphasis - because it is by the scripture that God has so ordained to cleanse the church (John 17:17; Ephesians 5:26); empower the church (Hebrews 4:12); enlighten the church (1 Corinthians 2:10-13) and mature the flock. (Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:1-2)  Christians who regularly feed on the Word of God will be those who exhibit maturity - knowing good from evil.  God's hand of grace will be on a church that feeds from the scriptures preached and taught by God-called men. But notice a second trait of a church favored by God...

2. Humility. 1 Peter 5:5-7
1 Peter 5:5-7 "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." Humility is the number one trait, next to love, that demonstrates Christ-likeness.  In the realm of our attitudes and actions humility is the most royal of virtues as it serves others. Passages such as Philippians 2:1-5 urges us to have this same mindset as was found in Christ Jesus - humility. When I yield myself over to another for the sake of relationship - I am demonstrating the communicable attribute of humility that is germane to God's own nature. A church body that serves others and has within it service to one another is a church that will abound in God's supernatural grace and power. So a church that has God's favor will be one that loves to feed on the Word and exercise humility, but notice thirdly...

3. Fights faith's fight.  1 Peter 5:8-11
1 Peter 5:9-10 states - "But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."  In 1 Peter 5:9 the NASB renders the opening phrase as "stand firm in your faith". Though the pronoun "your" could very well be implied in the passage, other English translations handle this passage better in bring out the emphasis of "The Faith", objective Christian faith, the "capital 'F'" faith within which my "small 'f'" personal faith in Christ resides. The HCSB renders this passage as: "Resist him and be firm in the faith...", with the KJV and NKJV following suit.  The point of the matter is that whenever a church or a Christian is operating in the grace of God, they will want to fight the fight of faith.  The emphasis on "The Faith" reminds us of Jude 3 "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints."  The Christian's personal faith rests in the gifting of faith granted by God in His grace and persists.  And so a church favored by God, or operating on the basis of His grace will be marked by feeding on the scriptures, humility and fighting faith's fight.  But notice fourthly...

4. Stand in God's Grace.  1 Peter 5:12-14
This brings us to the close of Peter's letter and the chief point for which he wrote it. The whole theme of Peter's first epistle is that of "standing firm in the grace of God." Certainly in the final few verses of Peter's letter we see God's grace weave its way throughout the verses. In 5:12 we see the command to stand firm in God's grace, followed by a challenging field in need of God's grace (Babylon) with a character who was restored as a result of God's grace (Mark).  

Mark's story, like Peter's, is a remarkable story of success, failure, and redemption.  We first meet Mark (possibly) in Mark 14:51 as an anonymous young man fleeing from the Garden of Gethesemane right after Jesus' arrest. Later on in Acts 12:12 we see Mark's house being used as a meeting place of the early church.  Mark's ascendancy within the Apostolic circles of the early church came to an abrupt halt when he deserts Paul in Acts 13. In Acts 15:37-39 Paul refuses to have Mark accompany him on his missionary journeys due to the earlier desertion by Mark of Paul and his companions in Acts 12:12. Barnabas chooses to take Mark under his wing as some sort of protege.  

It is years later in Colossians 4:10 and later again in 2 Timothy 4:11 that we learn of Paul and Mark having not only been reconciled, but somehow Mark is deemed highly useful.  Church history tells the story of Mark penning the self-named second Gospel by Divine inspiration as he listens to the Apostle Peter preaching in Rome out of Matthew and a then soon to be released Gospel of Luke.  Mark is a supreme trophy of God's grace who in becoming an aid to the Apostle Peter is actually named by the great apostle.  Truly every local church should be God's trophy case full of trophy's of grace who owe their existence and success to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In today's post we walked through 1 Peter 5 with the singular question concerning what a church favored by God looks like. We discovered four main traits that marks such a church:
1. Feeds on the word.  1 Peter 5:1-5
2. Humility. 1 Peter 5:5-7
3. Fights faith's fight. 1 Peter 5:8-11
4. Stand's in God's grace. 1 Peter 5:12-14.