2 Corinthians 9:6-15 Commitment to Charity

2 Corinthians 9:6-15    Commitment to Charity                  WC McCarter

As you know, I usually do not plan sermons around holidays, except for Easter and Christmas.  The same is true of this sermon on Palm Sunday, the first day of the remembrance of the Holy Week (also known as Passion Week).  Yet, a sermon on Christian giving is certainly linked with the Passion.  In fact, I think that the giving of Christ on the cross is the supreme example for our own practice of generosity.  It is the foundation, the motivation, and the pattern for all Christian giving.  Eph 2:8 says that our salvation is not our own doing but is a gift of God by grace through faith.  Rom 6:23 says that eternal life in Christ Jesus is a free gift of God.  Of course, we all know John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  And 2 Cor 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”  You have to look no farther than Christ to find an example, the supreme example, of sacrificial generosity.  As we begin this sermon today, contemplate Christ’s giving of Himself to pay the penalty for your sin and the sin of the whole world.

Disclaimer: I have relied heavily on the work of others for this sermon.  I want to be careful to present to you what the Bible says and not my own thoughts.  I have mainly relied on Garland in the New American Commentary and McKnight in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, especially for background information.

Jerusalem Collection
The text we are going to look at today comes in a very specific context.  As 1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 8:1-4; and 9:2 show us, the apostle Paul was rallying churches all over the known world, including the Corinthians, to raise funds for the Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering from severe poverty.  Let me share with you the purpose and historical context of this Jerusalem collection so that we can then make proper application for our giving today.

The Purpose: (1) To relieve the poverty of Christians in Jerusalem; (2) To fulfill an obligation from the Jerusalem Council to remember the poor; (3) To show solidarity between Jewish and Gentile Christians; and (4) To demonstrate the success of the Gentile mission.

Historical Context: There may have been several reasons why the Jerusalem church had been struck with severe poverty.  For example, (1) The relief of more and more widows may have been overwhelming; (2) Pilgrimages of the elderly and Galileans to join the Jerusalem church may have been too costly; (3) Communal life (everyone selling what he had to give to those in need) may have run out or even backfired; (4) Famine may have cause economic hardships; and (5) There was most likely economic persecutions.

While the apostle has been discussing the very specific project that the churches had launched into for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem, he now turns to a theology of Christian giving.  The ministry of giving is now shown to be related to the Gospel and the glory of God.  In our verses today, general principles are provided for the type of generosity that God expects of His people.  And, this is nothing new.  Back in the Old Testament, the Lord spoke about these things.  For example, in Deut 15:10-11 the Lord commands, “You shall surely give to [your poor brother], and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.  For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’”  From the First Covenant to the New One inaugurated by Jesus Christ, the Lord has always expected His people to be generous.  There is a deep doctrine of generosity in the Bible.  We can gain a few of those godly principles for giving today as we look into 2 Corinthians 9.

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Connective: The brief article in the NKJV Study Bible calls 2 Corinthians 8-9, “The most detailed passage on giving in the New Testament. . . .”  There are several passages that could be included in this study, but if you want one passage to study to know what the New Testament says about Christian giving, this section is possibly the best place to look which is the reason I have chosen it for our study this morning.

Proverb about Giving (6)
Firstly, the apostle begins by sharing a basic proverb about farming.  Whether you live in a purely agricultural society or not, you can understand this proverb.  The first phrase, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,” views a stingy farmer who is tightfisted when he goes out to the field as he clutches his seeds closely.  He only puts a few seeds here and a few there so that he can save some for the following year.  On the other hand, the second phrase, “He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully,” pictures a farmer using generous swings of the arm as he throws out his seed.  He is not careless.  He is confident.  The one who sows this way completely trusts God for a future harvest and for the seed to sow the next year.  It is a simple principle: the more seed you cast out the greater potential for the harvest that will be returned.  A great harvest allows the farmer and his family to eat well, make a good living, share with his neighbors, and have plenty of seed to sow for the following year.

For cross-references see: Prov 11:24-25; Job 4:8; Psalm 126:5; 19:17; 22:8-9; Mal 3:10; Luke 6:38; and Gal 6:7-8.

Christian Giving (7)
Just as a farmer can throw out as little or as much seed as he would like, each Christian should decide is his or her own heart how much to give.  This is also taught in Acts 11:29 and 1 Cor 16:2.  This principle is about inward resolve.  You should determine for yourself and your family how much you will give off of the top of your income.  You may base that figure on a percentage or a dollar amount (many people base their regular giving on the 10% principle from the Old Testament, but you may want to set your figure at 12% or 15% or more).  The standard figure is whatever you decide, but that number should be given regularly.  You should discipline yourself to take it off the top, set it aside, and give it on the first day of the week.

Once that regular amount has been decided, the Christian should give it cheerfully.  These gifts are neither given reluctantly, as if painful; nor are they given under compulsion, as if there is no alternative.  The main point here is that God knows our hearts.  The amount does not matter as much as the attitude.  God knows whether you trust Him or not.  He knows if you are being stingy or generous.  Let me say one more thing about being a cheerful giver.  To be a cheerful giver is to imitate God who is the most cheerful giver of all.  God “loves” the cheerful giver in the sense that He “approves” of generosity.

The Graciousness of God (8-10)
As often as the regular amount is given, it is replenished by divine grace.  That is taught here in Scripture, I believe it with my whole heart, and I could call up numerous examples of folks in this room who have given regularly to God for decades, and the Lord has always made sure that they had enough to keep living and keep giving.  This is a promise of Scripture that we should claim.  So, we are not self-sufficient, but dependent on an all-sufficient God.

God is ready to provide everything necessary for generous giving.  Notice how the term “all” becomes a keyword in this paragraph.  All grace; all ways (times); all sufficiency (necessities); all things; and all good work.  Let me put it this way: God is All-Resourceful.  God promises to give us all that we need, not just for ourselves but enough to give to others as well.  Yet, He does not promise to give us all the money we want; just enough for ourselves and to share.  Let me challenge you to think along the lines of Rom 8:32: if God gave us the best gift that could be given in the delivering up of Christ Jesus for our sins and eternal life, why would He not give us all things?  It is an argument from the greater to the lesser.

So, generosity pays handsome dividends.  God’s bounty is full, and His liberality is that much greater.  Verse ten builds on verse six so that if you give generously and joyfully, God will always make sure that you have what you need for life and giving.

Thanksgiving as a Result (11-15)
God blesses the giver so that he or she can go on giving.  The greater the giving, the greater the blessing, but not in a material sense.

The seeds of generosity bring forth a great harvest of thanksgiving to God. Several benefits of giving are identified here: (1) Giving helps those in need []; (2) Giving makes one spiritually rich [9:8-10]; (3) Giving causes thanksgiving to God [9:11-13]; (4) Giving causes the recipients to pray for the givers [9:14]; and (5) Giving advances Christian unity [9:13-14].

Conclusion and Christian Application:
If we are to pull together principles from not only this text but also from 1 Cor 16:2, we may say that giving should be (1) Regular [1 Cor 16:2]; (2) Proportionate [1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 8:11]; (3) Generous [2 Cor 9:6]; and (4) Joyful [2 Cor 9:7-8].

(1) This is not a sermon against wealth or wealthy people.  If you are well-off, then congratulations.  Yet, God expects you to be generous with that wealth.

(2) If there is only one thing that you hear today, it should be this:
We are to be generous people.

(3) This is not a call to legalistic observance but to grace.  We have been shown great grace from God, and we ought to show grace to our brethren.  Now, there may be an element of sacrifice here.  The great example of the generosity of the churches of the Macedonian region was that they gave out of their own poverty.  Thus, you may have to reduce your own wants so that you can share with others.  The question is, what do you treasure (Matt 6:21)?

(4) Decide how much you will give and stick to it.  Also, go above and beyond your set amount whenever needs come up in the church or in your sphere of influence.

(5) You see, when you give to the local congregation, you are not “sowing” into a ministry that has nothing to do with you.  Practically speaking, it is right to support the local church for:
          A.  A Pastor (this is biblical as well)
          B.  A Staff
          C.  Various Ministries
          D.  Mission Work
          E.  Benevolence
          F.  Keeping up the Property

Hebrews 10:19-25 Radical Commitment to Church

Hebrews 10:19-25        Radical Commitment to Church           WC McCarter

There are so many directions I could take a sermon with this title. It could be very topical, and I could just tell you what I think about commitment to church. I could tell you that (1) Being committed to church is being committed to the encouragement, support, and uplifting of the local congregation. I could also tell you that (2) Being committed to church is being committed to the ongoing growth of the church not only locally but around the world; that sending missionaries to do Gospel work throughout the nations is of utmost priority; and that we need to continually pray for missionaries and send as many resources as possible. I could take this all sorts of directions, but I have decided to teach/preach Heb 10:19-25. You and I need to know what the Lord says about these things. So, we will cover only part of it from this passage.

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We have Boldness and a High Priest (19-21)
The “therefore” summarizes at least 4:14-10:18. In fact, there is great overlap of this passage with what was said in 4:14-16. The writer calls on the brethren, that is, the brothers and sisters in the church, to act a certain way in light of what he has said throughout these several chapters. On the basis of Christ High Priesthood, we have (1) boldness to enter the Holiest and (2) a High Priest.

Let’s look at the first part. We now have boldness to enter in the Holiest. The “Holiest” is the Most Holy Place or the Holy of Holies. In the Temple there were sections and courts. The Most Holy place was the most inner place where God came down and met with the High Priest. Only the High Priest could go into that area and only at designated times. Thus, only one man had access into the full and glorious presence of God. Hebrews now says that we can have boldness to enter into that place, that is, into the presence of God on the basis of the blood of Jesus which is a new and living way. What is so new about it? We may enter into God’s presence not by the blood of bulls and goats but by the precious blood of Jesus. That is new. We could list off several things that are new about this way, but let us suffice it to say that another important part of this that is new is the fact that Jesus’ blood provides access into the presence of God for not only one, or some, but for all us. What makes this way living? The primary reason that this is a living way as opposed to a dead way is because Christ has laid down His life as a sacrifice, and He has been raised from the dead. The resurrection ensures that this is a living way.

This is something that only Christ could consecrate for us. He is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Just as the ancient Temple had a large, heavy curtain which separated everyone from the presence of God and it was literally and physically torn from top to bottom when Christ died on the cross, here Jesus’ flesh is seen as that veil. Christ’s body was torn on our behalf. His flesh was ripped for us. The wrath of God fell upon His soul in order that we would have a new and living way into the presence of God. Thus, we have boldness to enter God’s presence because we do so on account of the blood of Jesus.

The second thing we have is a High Priest. We know that this is a major theme in the book of Hebrews. We are now the people of God. Those who were not God’s people are now God’s people. We are the house of God, and Jesus is our High Priest. He is our go-between. We have no need to look to any other thing or any other person to get us to God; no priest, or pastor, or system. We go to God the Father through God the Son. It is on this basis that the author will now exhort us to do three things. These three each begin with, “Let us.”

Let Us Draw Near (22)
Since we have boldness to enter God’s presence and since we have a High Priest, let us draw near to God (1) with a true heart [genuine, sincere; the heart is usually meant to refer to the mind] (2) in full assurance of faith [assurance takes place in the life of the mind] (3) having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience [in the ancient Jewish system there were several ceremonial cleansings, but here it must refer to the work of God in our lives for regeneration] and (4) having our bodies washed with pure water [along the same lines of the ceremonial washings, the author says that our bodies have been washed with pure water, that is, we have been cleansed from all sin]. No longer pull away from God. No longer dabble into the things of the world. Draw near to God. Let your confidence be sure as you draw near to Him.

Let Us Hold Fast the Confession of Our Hope (23)
Since we have boldness to enter God’s presence and since we have a High Priest, let us hold fast the confession of our hope (1) without wavering (2) for He who promised is faithful. “Without wavering” literally means to not bend. Christian hope does not change because it is rooted in the finished work of Jesus Christ. He does not change. What He has accomplished is established and firm. These are things that happened outside of us, back in history. The only thing that might change is your steadfastness. What about you? Therefore, on the basis of Christ’s finished work, we should not waver. Our hope should be straight. God has been shown to be faithful throughout time. When we put the pieces together and consider that God made this plan of redemption even before the foundation of the world, He was faithful to and through the nation of Israel, and then He sent His Son into the world in order to save sinners. His faithfulness was put on full display when Christ came into the world and fulfilled the plan of redemption. The life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection of Christ was the faithfulness of God. If He has already done, what seems to me, the hard work, why would He then not give us everything else? He will surely, then, be faithful to His promises about our future. He has proven Himself throughout time, mainly in Christ, and He will in the future.

Let Us Consider One Another (24-25)
Think of where the author has come in the development of these points: Christ is God’s final word on all things; Christ is greater than the angels, greater than Moses, greater than Joshua, He is more excellent than any who have come before. He has done the greatest work in history, the work of salvation. Since we have boldness to enter God’s presence and since we have a High Priest, let us consider one another in order to (1) stir up love and (2) stir up good works. To do this we will have to (1) not forsake the assembling of ourselves together and (2) exhort one another.

It is not only about one or some getting across the finish line. We can all get across the line. I know many who run marathons. They celebrate the completion the race, even if they finish two hours after the person who took first place. The same is true of the Christian life. It is not about who gets there the quickest. It is about all of us getting across the finish line. We only have to finish the race of faith that is before us. It is my goal as your pastor to get all of you across the line. It should also be our goal as a church to get each of us across the finish line.

Another motivator for being together so that we can exhort one another is because “the Day,” that is, the Judgment Day is approaching. We get into our regular routines, taking care of our responsibilities at work, at home, and in the community, and we forget that this will all be over one day. This life does not last forever. Either you will die soon or Christ will return.

A commitment to regular attendance in worship is a commitment to the other people here. It is rooted in your thoughtfulness and love for one another. If you are going to stir up love and good works in one another, you have to be together. If you are going to exhort one another, you have to be face-to-face.

Conclusion and Christian Application

The Scriptures call on us to not consider a commitment to church to be a commitment to some religious duty; rather, we are to consider church to be a commitment to one another, a commitment to the people who are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Luke 14:25-35 Radical Commitment to Christ

Luke 14:25-35    Radical Commitment to Christ                WC McCarter

If I were to take a survey this morning—pass a blank page to everyone here—asking you to write down what it means to be committed to Christ, do you think that we would have mostly the same responses written down? Would it only be the most positive things or the most enjoyable things? Or, would you mention the whole truth such as the suffering and hardship?

Commitment seems to be an issue for Americans today. Whether it be at school, work, in the home, or in the Christian life. Employees are lazy, wandering in late, taking long lunches, and never helping to pick up slack. In the home commitment to parenting and marriage is lacking today. In the Christian life we have equated it to calling oneself a “Christian” and of having “eternal” life which really doesn’t have anything to do with this life. But, we know that commitment to Christ means much more than that.

What does it mean to commit to Christ? That is the subject of today’s sermon.

Take a look at the context with me. Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath who had dropsy, that is, some kind of abnormal swelling of his body. There were lawyers and Pharisees who kept a close eye on Him and surely were not happy about Him “working” on the Sabbath with He performed the healing miracle. So, Jesus told two parables about eating at the great banquet of the kingdom. Before the people could get comfortable and excited about entering into the kingdom of God, Jesus teaches them in verses 25-35 what the costs are of entering into that kingdom. The way to the banquet is long, hard, and narrow.

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Hating Your Family (25-26)
The first qualification of following Christ is that you must hate your own family. Now, Jesus does not promote hate. We all know that to be true. But, what does He mean? This has been shown to be a Hebrew idiom, that is, a figure of speech that does not mean what it seems to mean on the surface. Take a look at Rom 9:10-13, “And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger’ (Gen 25:23). As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated’ (Mal 1:2-3).” The idiom of hating someone is about preference. Just as God preferred Jacob over Esau, we are to prefer Christ over our families and all relationships. Just as God chose Jacob over Esau, we are to choose Christ over all other people.

If you cannot do this, then you cannot be Christ’s disciple.

Bearing Your Cross (27)
The second qualification that the Lord gives to those who may be His disciples is that they must bear their own crosses and go after Him. Now, we know that this cannot refer to the same kind of cross that Jesus bore. He was the unique and perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world. His sacrifice was a substitutionary atonement in behalf of all those who will come to Him by faith. The cross that Jesus bore was a once-for-all sacrifice. So, bearing your cross cannot be the same thing as the cross that Jesus bore, but it must still refer to sacrifice. It obviously refers to pain, suffering, hardship, even death, and it refers to sacrifice. That sacrifice that Jesus’ followers must give is not the same as His. It is not for sin. It is not for your sin or any other sin. It is not to secure eternal life for yourself. Only Christ’s sacrifice can offer heaven and eternal life. The cross that we must bear as Christ’s disciples is a sacrifice for the cause of Christ. It is certainly related to hating one’s own life. You are called to prefer and choose heaven over earth, the kingdom over the world, Christ over just a few years in this age.

If you are not willing to live as a “living sacrifice” for the cause of Christ, then you cannot be His disciple. If you are not willing to lay down your life for the cause of Christ, then you cannot be His disciple.

Internal Summary: Before you get too excited about the offer of eternal life, the hope of heaven, and entrance into the great banquet of the kingdom, Jesus wants you to understand the whole picture. He gives two warnings about the commitment required for discipleship: (1) Hating your family and own life, and (2) Bearing your cross and following after Him.

Two Parables about Commitment (28-32)
First Parable: The Tower Builder
Anyone who enters into a building project must first count the cost. There is probably no greater shame for a builder than to start the project and not be able to finish it because they have run out of funds. That kind of builder is mocked by the world around him.

Second Parable: The Warring King
No king, or president for that matter, goes to war with another nation without first considering how many troops will be needed to defeat the enemy. For example, will it take 10,000 soldiers or 20,000? The king who does not figure these things, and figure them well, is put to great shame and must send out a delegation to the rival nation asking for peace. He will have to submit to the rival.

Internal Summary: What is Jesus point with these two parables? You better count the cost of discipleship before committing to Christ.

Two Warnings about Commitment (33-35)
First Warning: Willingness to Give Up Possessions
Is this equivalent to what Jesus tells the rich young ruler, that is, you must go and sell all your possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and then follow Christ? I do not think that Jesus calls on all of us to do the same thing, but the principle is the same. If you trust your possessions more than Christ, you cannot be His disciple. You must treasure Him above all your treasures here. I think that is why Jesus said what He did to the young ruler—He knew his heart. That young man trusted in his possessions more than he did in God. What is it in your life that if the Lord asked you to give it up, you would have to think about it, and maybe would not even be willing to give it up? For the third time, Christ has given this warning—if you cannot do __________, then you cannot be My disciple.

Second Warning: Uselessness of Unseasoned Salt
Jesus uses salt on more than one occasion as an illustration of single-minded devotion (“for example, you are the salt of the earth”) here in the context of discipleship. As one commentators says, It “applies to the characteristics Jesus has just enumerated: the readiness ‘to renounce kin, comfortable living, and life itself for the sake of being Jesus’ disciple.’ A false form of discipleship may look like salt, but the gradual process of leaching leaves only a zestless pile of waste” (Garland).

Conclusion and Christian Application
So, Jesus challenges those that think that they are righteous, based on their own standards, and the multitudes to single-minded devotion, calling on all of us to reevaluate, to count the cost. He teaches us about the total demand of discipleship, single-minded devotion, calling on us to renounce all things in preference for Himself. He warns us to count the cost of following Him, but I would leave you with this: count the cost of not following Him as well. What would you be left with? A nice house, new cars, a little bit of money in the bank, somewhat comfortable living in this life? The treasures of this world do not compare to the eternal rewards in the next for those who follow Christ through suffering into glory.

A person’s commitment to Christ is the chief priority above all else, and, at the same time, every other commit flows from it.

1 Peter 4:12-5:14 Suffering, Shepherding, Submitting: First Peter's Final Lessons

1 Peter 4:12-5:14                        WC McCarter

Preview the sermon by listing the six main points for everyone to mark down.

In the book of First Peter we have discussed the Christian lifestyle—what it means to live in this age as a Christian. We have clear revelation from God as to how we are to live in this life. We do not have to go at this alone. A major part of this discussion has been the subject of suffering. Now, suffering can take many forms, but Peter has particularly been interested in the kind of suffering that is caused precisely because we are “Christians.” In America, we have yet to experience this kind of suffering in a widespread manner, but I think the application is that we need to prepare for suffering. As a matter of fact, many scholars believe that Peter’s audience had not yet suffered the “fiery trial” which he talks about. If that is the case, then Peter was preparing the Christians for the persecution to come. We should certainly take this to heart.

It is better to talk about suffering before it happens rather than after it happens. You ought to be prepared, on the watch, well-equipped. That is the goal of pastoral preaching—so that when life hits, and it hits hard, no one falls away from the Faith. There is also a secondary application of how Christians should deal with suffering in general. There are various forms of suffering: death, poor health, financial ruin, relationship struggles, etc. God not only wants us to survive these things, but to do so well. God wants us to suffer well.

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#1 Suffering as a Christian is Not Strange (12-16)
Christians are strangers in this world, but we do not find suffering to be strange. Why is that? We don’t find suffering to be strange because the Lord taught us that the world hates us. This is what you signed up for when you became a Christian—to take up your cross and follow Him. Do not think that the fiery trials you go through are anything strange. Instead, rejoice because you are partaking in Christ’s sufferings. Through baptism, you have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection, and during this age you may be united with Christ in His sufferings. If you are united with Christ in His sufferings, you will surely be united with Him in His glory. This is something that should bring about overwhelming joy.

If you suffer for the name of Christ, as a “Christian,” there is great blessing from heaven. Jesus Himself stated this clearly in the Sermon on the Mount.  Matt 5:10-12 records the Lord teaching, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” Peter promises that the blessing in this kind of suffering is the Spirit of glory and of God resting on the believer. So, here is another sign that you have been united with Christ. You know if the Spirit of God is working in your life. You will produce the fruit of the Spirit—Love and all the others. He will you’re your spirit that you are a child of God. Although unbelievers blaspheme God in persecuting Christians, believers bring God glory in suffering well. There is no shame in suffering as a Christian—none. There is no shame when financially, you are not as well off as you would like to be because you are doing God’s will. There is no shame in abstaining from doing what your employer asks you to do that is clearly against the word of God. He will see you through it. If you lose your job, you will find another one.

The kind of suffering that God does not look favorably upon is the kind brought upon oneself as (1) a murderer, (2) a thief, (3) an evildoer, and (4) a busybody. No one likes a busybody. No one likes the person who acts like they are busy but are really doing nothing at all.

#2 Salvation from Judgment (17-19)
I had my Aha! moment in studying this paragraph. Suffering and persecution, which are not always the same thing, are for the God-ordained purpose of purifying the church. Only those who are truly born-again and persevere until the end will be saved from the righteous judgment of God. When suffering comes on the church, what happens? There is a divide between those who are truly Christians and those who are not. When tragedy comes upon a family and they become stronger in the Faith, they have passed the judgment of God. When tragedy hits another family and they forsake the Faith, then we know that they have not persevered until the end. They will not be saved.

To suffer well, we must commit our souls to God who is a faithful Creator. Two of Peter’s key terms show up once again in verse 19: “suffer” and “souls.” It is not about your body, your resources, your finances, or your family, but it is about your soul. A faithful Creator is one who is also a Sustainer. We are to trust our souls to Him. Thus, suffering is a spiritual exercise more so than physical, emotional, or anything else.

#3 Shepherding and Serving the Flock (1-4)
In his final instructions, Peter speaks to the elders of the churches. Why do you think he speaks to the elders? They have to shepherd you through suffering, the hard times, and the judgment of God. He exhorts the eldership as (1) a fellow elder, (2) a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and (3) a partaker of the glory that will be revealed. Peter does not pull rank here, although he could as an apostle, but speaks to the elders as a fellow elder. Peter may not have seen every minute of Christ’s sufferings, including His time on the cross, but Peter was certainly an eye-witness to much of the sufferings of Christ. Not only was he an eye-witness, but he was one who testified until his death of those sufferings that Christ endured. Third, Peter says that he is also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed. Peter, all the elders, and all believers will partake of the glory that will be revealed when Christ returns. That coming glory should serve as a motivator to lead well, serve well, and to continue living the Christian life. This age will one day come to an end. Christ will usher in the new age, the kingdom of God in all its fullness, and we will enter into our Father’s glory, see Christ face-to-face, and enjoy Him forever. Notice, again, that it is through suffering that we attain glory.

What does he exhort them to do? (1) Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, and (2) serve as overseers. They are to shepherd and serve (1) not by compulsion—but willingly, (2) not for dishonest gain—but eagerly, (3) nor as being lords over those entrusted to them—but being examples to the flock.

Notice that elders are those who shepherd (pastor) the congregation, and serve as overseers. These three terms are used interchangeably as titles in a technical sense and simply function to state who and what they are as leaders.

Ultimately, shepherds in congregations today are under the authority of the Chief Shepherd. Christian shepherds are not above what will take place in the end when Christ appears. Leaders will have to give an account of their lives, their families, and their churches. That is why the phrase “among you” is used twice and why the people within the congregation are called “those entrusted to you.” If we shepherd and serve well, we will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

#4 Submitting to Elders, One Another, and God (5-7)
The “likewise” may refer back to church shepherd submitting to the Chief Shepherd. At any rate, the younger people are to submit to the elders. Let me first ask, how can the apostle instruct younger people to submit to the elders if both age groups are not a part of the local congregation? A healthy church has both older members and younger members. A healthy church has an eldership which folks can respect and follow. Second question, why are the “younger people” highlighted specifically as those who need to submit to the elders? Younger folks, which possibly refers to teenagers but more likely refers to younger adults, are well-known as those who seek independence, buck trends, and sometimes rebel. Yet, Christian young people are to submit to their elder.

In fact, all Christians are to be submissive to one another. This is the way of Christianity. Christ did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. Humility is to be our clothing. God favors the humble.

Not only are young people to submit to the shepherds of the congregation, and all Christians are to submit to one another, but we all also must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Although we are humbled for a time, we will be exalted by God when He deems that the time is right. Humble yourself before almighty God and cast all your cares upon Him. We have good reason to take our cares to God because He cares for us.

#5 Spiritual Warfare (8-11)
Beginning in verse eight, we have several exhortations especially regarding spiritual warfare: (1) be sober, (2) be vigilant, and (3) resist the devil. Now, look at the description of the devil in verse eight. He is our adversary, that’s where he gets his name “the devil.” He is out to oppose us at all costs. He is actively working against us at all times. He is our enemy. He walks around like a roaring lion. He is intimidating and rightfully so. He seeks whom he may devour. He wants nothing more than to destroy us, to consume us. He wants to bring us to an end.

#6 Salutations (12-14)
“Verse 12 summarizes the letter as a whole. Peter wrote the letter to exhort believers and to testify to God’s grace. The grace of God consists of what God has done for believers in Christ. In 1 Peter the gracious work of God in Christ is communicated. . . . The summons to stand in the grace God has given summarizes the message of the entire letter. Suffering is at hand, but believers must stand in the grace God has given and resist apostasy. . . . The final words are a benediction of peace for all believers” (Schreiner, 247).

Conclusion and Christian Application

So, even in the midst of suffering, you can have peace. You can know that you are suffering well because you are doing God’s will. And, if you want some specific application for today, greet one another with a holy kiss before you leave this place!