Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle which was written by the apostle peter unto the strangers which were scattered abroad. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the fifth and final chapter of the epistle. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the fifth and final chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Peter wrote unto the strangers which were scattered throughout the regions of the earth. I have to admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed this journey through the first epistle which the apostle Peter wrote, and I have been absolutely and wonderfully impacted and challenged by his words concerning suffering and affliction. If thee is one thing I can’t help but find incredibly compelling about this epistle is the words which the apostle Peter writer concerning suffering—and not only suffering, it both the suffering of the saints and Christians, as well as the suffering of Christ. The more I read through this epistle the more I am completely and utterly captivated with and by the fact that the apostle Peter seems to intrinsically link and connect the suffering of Christ which the suffering we as Christians and the followers of Christ experience and walk through during the course of our lives. What’s more, is that it’s almost as if the apostle Peter is calling us to look at and view our suffering through the lens of the suffering which Christ experienced during the week of His passion. In other words, it’s as if the apostle Peter sought to bring us to the place where we no longer viewed our suffering in a vacuum, nor as an isolated event and occurrence, but rather through the lens of Christ’s suffering while on the earth. There is a growing tendency to view our suffering as an isolated event, and as being exclusive and specific to us, and yet any suffering, any adversity, any affliction we experience takes on a whole new meaning when we view it through the lens of the suffering which Christ Himself experienced.
As you come to and approach this fifth chapter you will find the apostle Peter transitioning from language concerning suffering, affliction and adversity to now writing unto the strangers scattered abroad concerning the elders among them. When you come to this fifth and final chapter of this first epistle you will find the apostle—not only writing unto the elders among the churches, but also unto the younger men within the church. This fifth and final chapter found within this epistle is one that is centered upon the very reality of corporate living among the saints—not only concerning the elders who have been given stewardship over the body, but also concerning the younger men which are found present within the body of Christ. Essentially what the apostle Peter was writing in this fifth and final chapter is words which pertain to living in community one with another—community which is about the entire body, but which has as stewards over the body elders. The apostle Peter brings us face to face with how corporate living within and among the body should be like within this final chapter, for there is not only a responsibility the elders have, but there is also a responsibility the younger men within and among the body have. Would it shock, surprise, and perhaps even stun you to hear that the responsibility for the function of the body doesn’t rest solely on the elders, and upon those who have been given stewardship over it? Would it surprise you to learn and discover that you and I have just as much a responsibility to the function of the body as those who have been placed in positions of authority and leadership do. A great tragedy and atrocity has been committed within the church, and it has been committed by those among us who think and believe that it is solely up to the leaders of and the leaders within the church to ensure that it works properly and functions correctly. Oh how we deceived and naïve we truly are when we think and believe the lie and the deception that it is the leaders’ responsibility to ensure the body of Christ functions the way it was created and intended on functioning.
The more I read the words which are found within the writings of the apostles and writers of the New Testament, the more I am absolutely and utterly convinced that there is a tremendous weight, and there is a tremendous burden that is placed upon the shoulders of each and every soul within the body of Christ to ensure that it in ruins and operates the way it should. I absolutely love how the apostle Paul used the reference of the body to describe the church of God in Christ, for a body cannot function and cannot survive without each and every member working together and performing and completing their own function the way they were designed and intended on functioning. One of the most beautiful realities concerning the body is that it was designed in such a way that all the members of the body work together in harmony and unity to function the way it was designed to. There is a growing tendency to think and believe the lie and the deception that the body can somehow function without certain members being a part of it, or without the members of the body working together, and yet we do a great disservice when we think and believe along these lines. One of the most central truths about the body is that it has at the very helm of it the eternal Head, which is Jesus Christ. If there is one member of the body with which it cannot function apart from, it is the Head which is found seated st the right hand of all majesty and glory within the earth. It is the Head of the body which ultimately determines and dictates how each of the members of the body functions and operates, and it is the Head which determines where each of the members of the body fits, functions and operates. With that being said—it is true that Christ gave gifts unto the church, which are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers—however, just as certainly, and just as truly as Christ gave these gifts unto the body of Christ, so also did Christ give each and every member of the body as gifts unto the body. Would it surprise and stun you to know that you are indeed a gift unto the body of Christ, and that the gift you bring to the body is just as important as the gift others bring?
In the Old Testament, each and every man and woman would bring gifts unto the door of the tabernacle which the priests would offer as sacrifices and gifts upon the altar. What is so incredibly important about this reality is that there are no gift which was more important and more valuable than another gift. Each and every man and woman within and among the children and people of Israel has a gift which they could bring unto the true and living God. What’s more, is that three times a year the men among the children of Israel were to appear before the Lord, and when they appeared before the Lord, they were to ensure that they did not appear before Him empty handed. I absolutely love this reality, for it brings us face to face with the awesome reality that not only are each and every one of us a gift unto the body of Christ, but each and every one of us has a gift, and gifts we can bring before the Lord. Each and every one of us has something we can offer before and unto the Lord, and each and every one of us is something which can be offered unto the Lord. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand that not only do we have something we can offer unto the living God, but each and every one of us is something which can and should be offered unto the Lord. We are and we have been called to being our gifts and our sacrifices before and unto the living God, however, more importantly than this, is the reality that we ourselves are a gift and sacrifice before and unto the living God. In fact, I am convinced that this is what is so amazing and incredible about the words which are found in the Old Testament concerning sacrifices and offerings, and how the Lord doesn’t delight as much in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as He delights and desires in us ourselves. Consider if you will the various references concerning the Lord’s delight in us as the sacrifice, and us as the gifts and offerings which are being presented unto the true and living God. It is within these references where we come face to face with the awesome reality that the Lord God Almighty doesn’t care and is not as concerned with the gifts and offerings we can bring Him, as much as He is concerned with the fact that we ourselves are the gifts, the offerings and the sacrifices which are being and have been offered unto Him upon the altar—gifts, offerings and sacrifices which are to be sweet smelling fragrance and aroma of fire before and unto Him. The following references are found within the Old Testament, and are of such a nature that they bring us face to face with the awesome and tremendous reality that as certainly and as surely as we ourselves can bring gifts and offerings before and unto the living God—we ourselves are the gifts, the sacrifices and the offerings presented unto and brought before the living God:
“And Samuel said, hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).
“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).
“Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what’s doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justfly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:6-8).
“Hear the word fo the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; Give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he gaots. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:10-18).
Each of these passages brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that while it is true that we can bring gifts and sacrifices unto the living God, there is more that can, and there is more that should be offered unto Him. I am convinced that we spend far too much time focusing on the specific gifts, sacrifices and offerings we can bring unto the Lord without recognizing and realizing that we ourselves are the gifts, the sacrifices and the offerings which are to be brought before and unto the living God. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth chapter of the epistle which he wrote unto the saints and Christians which were at Rome: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). Within this particular passage of Scripture the apostle Paul brings the saints and Christians which were at Rome—and ultimately each and ever saint and child of God which would read these words thereafter—face to face with the awesome and incredible reality, that we are to present ourselves, and offer ourselves as living sacrifices before and unto the living God—sacrifices which are holy and acceptable unto the living God. Imagine how vastly different our gatherings would be if we spent more time focusing on ourselves as the gifts, and ourselves as the offering than we did in what we can bring unto Him. It almost seems like a paradox and an irony of all ironies, for it was the Lord Himself who prescribed the gifts, the sacrifices, and the offerings of the Old Testament. It was the Lord who through Moses presented unto the children of Israel the pattern for the tabernacle, and how to worship Him with their gifts, their sacrifices and offerings. With that being said, it is absolutely and incredibly interesting to consider the fact that even though it was the Lord Himself who prescribed the presenting and offering of sacrifices and gifts before the priests at the Tabernacle and Temple, it would be the Lord who would declare that He has not as great a delight in sacrifices and offerings as He does with the condition of one’s heart. The Lord on multiple occasions declared that the the gifts and sacrifices which were pleasing and acceptable in His sight were that of a broken spirit, and that of a broken and contrite heart. We spend a considerable amount of time focusing on the gifts which we can bring unto the living God, and all the while we don’t recognize or realize that we ourselves are the gifts and sacrifices which are presented and offered unto the living God. I am utterly and completely convinced that we should spend more time focusing not only on what we have to offer, but also who we have to offer. It was the apostle Paul who wrote unto the saints which were at Rome concerning presenting their bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto the Lord, and we would be incredibly wise to recognize, consider and understand this awesome reality.
This reality of not only having something to offering unto the living God, but also being something which can and should be offered unto the living God is a line of thought which must be carefully examined and studied by anyone who would seek to be a saint of God and disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. We spend a considerable amount of time focusing our attention on the fact that we may have something which which we are to offer unto the living God, and we spend a considerable amount of time focusing our time and attention on the fact that we have gifts with which to offer unto the living God, and yet we aren’t aware of the fact that we are the gift. Even Christ Himself recognized and understood this reality, for while it is true that He gave gifts unto men, He Himself was the ultimate gift, He Himself was the ultimate sacrifice, He Himself was the ultimate offering before the true and living God. Not only would Christ give gifts unto men, Christ Himself was also the gift which was given unto men. Oh how many men and women spend more time focusing on the gifts they can receive from Christ rather than recognizing and realizing that Christ is the ultimate gift which was offered, and continues to be offered unto men. When we present ourselves as gifts and offerings unto the church, and when we present ourselves as gifts and offerings unto others, what we are actually doing is following in the example, and following in the footsteps of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. I am completely and utterly convinced that our services, our gatherings, our meetings together would be completely and drastically different if we spent more time focusing on Jesus Christ as the gift we receive, as well as the fact that we are a gift to others. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when was the last time you focused on your life and considered the fact that you are indeed, and you are in fact a gift which is being given unto others? When was the last time you went to your place of work and employment and considered the fact that you were and you are a gift which is given, and a gift which has been given unto those who are around you? I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote—not only in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints, but also in the twelfth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the congregation and saints at Rome. I present for your consideration the words which the apostle Paul wrote in both epistles unto these specific congregations:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body: is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of Himself more highly than he ought to think: but to hint soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Ashore that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:3-21).
These two passages focus solely on the tremendous reality that we as the saints of God, and we as the people of God are and have been given as gifts unto the body of Christ. What’s more, is that if we are willing to be truly honest with ourselves, we must admit that we have been called to be gifts which are given unto our families, gifts unto our jobs, gifts unto our friends, gifts unto those we encounter. STOP GIVING GIFTS AND BE THE GIFT! If there is one thing I absolutely love about the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s that He didn’t merely give gifts unto the church, but He was the gift which was given unto the church. Consider how vastly different marriages would be if instead of focusing on what gifts could be given unto each other, husbands and wives focused on how they could be a gift given unto the other? I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation—words which are found in the fifth chapter of the epistle beginning with the eighteenth verse:
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also. Loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having sport, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth Himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as Himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ephesians 5:18-33).
As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated by the reality that while it is true that we can give and bring gifts unto the true and living God, it is more important that we ourselves are the gifts which are being offered unto the true and living God. It is true that we can offer and present gifts unto each other, but more importantly, and more necessary than presenting and offering gifts unto others, we must focus on the awesome reality that we ourselves are the gifts which can and should be given unto men. We must focus on the awesome reality that as often and as much as we can give gifts unto our spouses, we have been called to be a gift unto our spouses. Oh how vastly different our gatherings and assemblies would be if we focused on the fact that we are the gift instead of bringing and offering gifts unto each other. While receiving gifts might be nice, and while it is true that we might welcome gifts being given unto us by others around us, I am convinced that there is no greater gift that can be given unto us than the gift of oneself, and the gift of each other. How often do we enter into the house of the living God and spend our time focusing on how we can be a gift which is given unto others? How drastically different would our meetings and our gatherings together truly be if we spent our time focusing on how we could be gifts unto each other, and how we could offer ourselves unto each other, rather than always looking for handouts, and rather than always looking to receive? I am convinced that this is what is so incredibly important and amazing about this reality of submitting ourselves one to another in love, for the only way we can truly submit ourselves one to another in love is if we recognize and realize that we are gifts which can be given unto each other. When writing in the fifth and final chapter of this first epistle unto the strangers which were scattered abroad, the apostle Peter wrote and instructed the body of Christ to submit themselves one to another in love, for in the fifth verse of the chapter, the apostle wrote: “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). These words echo that which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Roman saints in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto them, for in that epistle the apostle wrote: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10). We can also look to the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian congregation, for in the second chapter of the epistle, we find the apostle Paul appealing to the example of Christ to show and demonstrate how we ourselves are to be a gift which is given unto others. Beginning to read with and from the first verse of the second chapter we find the following words:
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my present only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputing: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).
I love how the apostle Peter closes out this first epistle, for not only does he admonish and instruct the elders within the body of Christ, but he also exhorts and admonishes the younger men within the body. When writing and speaking to the elders, he instructs them to feed the flock of God, to take the oversight of the flock of God, and to not do so by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. What’s more, is the apostle Peter would go on to write unto the elders instructing them to refrain from being lords over God’s heritage, and to instead be ensamples to the flock, for when the chief Shepherd shall appear, they would receive a crown of glory. The apostle Peter would then transition to the place where he speaks directly to the young men, and instructs them to submit themselves unto the elder. He would then transition to the body as a whole, and instructing the body itself to be subject one to another, and to be clothed with humility. In all reality, what the apostle Paul writes in this passage is made possible solely and squarely upon our need for humility. I leave you with the words which the apostle Peter wrote unto the strangers which were scattered abroad beginning with the fifth verse:
“Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Peter 5:5-10).