Cultivating Christ, Our Outer Life

03 Mar

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In my previous study I wrote of the first four characteristics of a disciple of Christ that need to be added to his walk with Christ. Those four were part of the seven Peter mentions in 2Peter 1:5-7. In this study I wish to point to the final three of that seven, or godliness, brotherly kindness and love. These arise out of the first four and manifest our outer life in Christ. That is, the final three visibly characterize the believer who supplies them to his life in Christ. It is as the world sees him.

The first of these characteristics that Peter mentions is godliness (eusebeia – G2150) The Septuagint uses this same word to translate “fear of the Lord” in the Old Testament (Proverbs 13:11). It refers to the believer’s outward profession of devotion to God and Christ. This word is related to the Greek word eusebes (G2152), meaning devout and is used of Cornelius (Acts 10:2) and his servant (Acts 10:7). Paul uses the verb form of the Greek word (eusebeo – G2151) to describe how the Athenians ignorantly worshiped God (Acts 17:23), showing that even an unbeliever could show eusebeia (G2150) toward God. Peter uses eusebeia (G2150) in 2Peter 1:6-7 to express the believer’s religious devotion or outward love toward God. Therefore, endurance (G5281) during times of trial breeds eusebeia (G2150) i.e. acts of devotion or love toward God, but the difference between a believer’s eusebeia and an unbeliever’s is that the believer’s devotion toward the true God breeds brotherly kindness (2Peter 1:7) or love towards men.

Brotherly kindness (philadelphia – G5360) is the next thing that Peter mentions, which must be added in faith to the believer’s new life. Philadelphia (G5360) is the same Greek word used for ‘brotherly love’ or love of the brethren throughout the New Testament. Peter’s point is that sincere devotion to God (eusebeia – G2150) should call out acts of kindness toward brethren (philadelphia – G5360) who suffer for the name of Christ.

When people first come to Christ, they often must endure hardship of some kind, because it is with much affliction that we enter God’s Kingdom (Acts 14:22). This is due to the fact that some people, especially people with some authority, forbid our believing as we do (cf. Matthew 23:13; Luke 11:52). Therefore, trouble comes from these (cf. John 12:42-43) in the form of threats of disfellowship, intimidation, public humiliation, exploitation theft etc. Even keeping company with those treated in such a manner could bring the same trouble upon the one who would dare offer his friendship (cf. Hebrews 10:32-34). Even so, sincere devotion to God (G2150) demands friendship (G5360) with those who suffer for the name of Christ.

Peter concludes his list with love (agape – G26). Jesus said “By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you have love (agape – G26) for one another” (John 13:35), and this is the point of our lives. All we do, and all we endure is done that we might be known to belong to Jesus. People cannot for long be ‘secret’ believers in Jesus (John 12:42-43). Everyone is known by the fruit they bear (Matthew 7:16-20).

Therefore, since Jesus said the only way in which one is publicly marked as his disciple is his love (G26) for the brethren, then even gifts of prophecy and understanding mysteries and knowledge, or being able to perform great miracles of faith—all these amount to nothing more than one’s own fame (1Corinthians 13:2). It doesn’t point to Jesus, only love (agape – G26) for the brethren does that. Even the act of giving all one’s goods to the poor or the act of giving oneself over to be persecuted and killed amounts to nothing at all (1Corinthians 13:2), except, perhaps, a name on a plaque or a small monument erected in the name of a man or woman. But, this doesn’t point to Jesus, only love (G26) for the brethren shows we are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35).

Finally, the believer needs to understand what kind of effort he expected to spend in supplying these seven characteristics (2Peter 1:5). Believers in Christ need to add these things with diligence or eagerness. Romans 1:28 shows us that, normally, men don’t want to retain God in their correct knowledge (G1922 – epigenosis) of him. They wish to change that knowledge. Even today men wish to change the Gospel, just as men tried to do in the first century AD. To know (epigenosis) Christ is to know him not only in word and deed, but also in suffering. To seek to remove suffering from the correct knowledge we’ve been given in the Gospel is to remove the one who suffered on our behalf. To disassociate ourselves from brethren who suffer for the name of Christ, is to disassociate ourselves from Christ, himself. The world simply doesn’t want to suffer that they might know, but we, who seek to add these things (1Peter 1:5-7) to our walk with Christ, are to seek them eagerly or with diligence.

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Posted by on March 3, 2017 in Epistles of Peter


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