Today’s selected reading is found in the second New Testament epistle written by the apostle peter unto the strangers which were scattered abroad. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first eleven verses of the first chapter. When you come to this particular passage of Scripture you find the second epistle written by the apostle Peter opening up and beginning. As you begin to read the words which the apostle Peter wrote in this second epistle you will notice that instead of it being written to those which were scattered abroad throughout various regions and recesses of the earth, it was written “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 2:1). This second epistle which was written by the apostle Peter begins and opens up much like the other epistles which were written by the New Testament authors. With the notable exception of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews, each of the epistles found within the pages of the New Testament began with a general greeting and salutation—a greeting which would typically include the name of the author of the epistle, as well as a declaration and statement of grace, faith and peace. In fact, when the first epistle the apostle Peter wrote began with the following words: “Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied” (1 Peter 1:1-2). This is worth mentioning and worth noting, for when the apostle Peter began and opened up both of the epistle which are found within the New Testament, he did so with a statement of that which those to whom he was writing had received by, through and according to the person of Jesus Christ according to the great grace of the living Father who dwells in unapproachable light. In the first two verses of the first chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Peter we find him writing and speaking of the like precious faith which was unto them through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. In the first two verses of the first chapter of the apostle’s first epistle, we find him writing concerning their election, which was according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, which was through sanctification of the Spirit, unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
If we are going to understand the epistles which were written by the apostles and New Testament authors within the New Testament, we must first recognize and understand how they began such writings—not only with a general salutation and greeting, but also with a powerful statement concerning that which we as the saints of God have received by and through the finished work of Jesus Christ which was completed on the cross of Calvary two thousand years ago. The apostle Peter opened up his first epistle writing and speaking of election, and he began and opened up this second epistle writing and speaking of faith—and not only faith, but like precious faith. It’s necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to this, for that which the apostle Peter was doing was intrinsically linking and connecting the saints of God together with a faith which is shared by each and every one of us. It is true that the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation in his first epistle unto them that faith is in fact a gift which has been given by the Spirit of the living God, and it is true that unto each and every one of us has been given a measure and degree of faith. With that being said, however, I am completely and utterly convinced that there is a faith which we all share—a faith which touches each and every one of us. Regardless of race, regardless of geographical location, regardless of what church we attend, or perhaps even what denomination we are apart of and affiliated with, there is a faith which we all share together as one. It has often been said that we all bleed the same blood, and that it is this bleeding of the same red blood that makes us no different from those next to us within the earth. With that being said, I would like to take that a step further and state that in addition to us all bleeding the same blood, we have all been bought with the same precious blood. In fact there are specific references which are found within the New Testament writings of Scripture which bring us face to face with the fact that not only have we been bought with the same precious blood, but we have also been justified and made righteous by and with the same blood. Consider if you will the following words which are written and found within the various epistles which are found within the New Testament:
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have not received the atonement” (Romans 5:3-11).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all thigns in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trued in Christ, in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:3-14).
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in thee flesh, who are called Uncircumicion by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made night by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconciled both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” (Ephesians 2:11-17).
As I read the words which are found and contained within this particular passage within the New Testament epistle which was written by the apostle Paul, I cannot help but be gripped and captivated by something the apostle Paul wrote. In order to set the stage for that which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular epistle, I feel it necessary to first preface it by turning and directing your attention to an event which took place during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ—when Jesus entered into the Temple and observed that it had become a marketplace, and a place of commerce and merchandise. If you read in the second chapter of the New Testament gospel of John you will find the account of Jesus entering into the Temple which was in Jerusalem at the time of Passover. Beginning with the twelfth verse of the second chapter of the New Testament gospel of John you will find the following words:
“After this He went down to Capernaum, He, and His mother, and His brethren, and His disciples: and they continued there not many days. And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the Temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when He had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But He spake of the temple of His body. When therefore He was written from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said” (John 2:12-22).
When reading this particular passage it is necessary to recognize and understand the fundamental difference between that which was made with, and that which was made without human hands. Jesus spoke and declared unto those whom He was interacting with on this particular occasion that if they destroyed the temple, He would personally raise it up in three days. This particular statement thrust those which were present into confusion, for they knew and understood that it had taken forty-six years for the Temple which stood in Jerusalem at that time to be reared up and built. When Jesus spoke of the Temple being destroyed, and that He would raise it up in three days, they thought He was speaking of the physical Temple which stood on the Temple Mount within the city of Jerusalem, and yet that was not at all what Jesus was referencing. John records in this passage that the temple which He was speaking of was the temple of His body, which would be destroyed (or killed, or murdered, or crucified), buried in the grave. Despite the fact that this temple would be destroyed and would lie buried in the grave and the tomb for three days, on the third day, He would raise it up again. When the Jews asked Him on what authority He based his actions on, His response was one of resurrection, one of power, one of strength, one of might, and one of the divine work of God which could turn back even death. As I read this particular passage I am immediately drawn in and captivated by a fundamental difference between that which was made with and by human hands, and that which was not made with human hands. The words which Jesus spoke thrust the Jews into confusion, for they thought that He spoke of that which was built with and by human hands, and yet the apostle John writes and records that what He was writing about was a temple which was made without human hands—a temple which could be touched and destroyed with and by human hands, yet a temple which human hands would not have any authority or dominion over. It is absolutely wonderful and powerful to think about and consider the awesome fact that there is a work which has been done with and by human hands, and there is a work which has not been completed and performed with and by human hands. In fact, despite the fact that there is much around which has been built and constructed with and by hand hands, there is a tremendous amount of what is around us which has not been created with and by human hands. There is a work which man can do and perform with and by human hands, but there is an overwhelming amount of evidence within and upon the earth which points to that which has not been performed or completed with and by human hands—just look at nature and the environment around us, and you will find an overwhelming evidence of this reality.
With all of this being said—as I was reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian saints and congregation—I couldn’t help but be drawn into the reality of a work has not been and is not currently being done and performed by human hands. In fact, there are two specific examples within Scripture which my heart and mind are inevitably drawn to when I think about and consider this reality. The first is that of the Jewish Temple which was built and constructed with and by human hands, and an entirely different Temple which was not built and constructed with human hands—namely, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, which is the church of Jesus Christ. The second example is the physical and natural work of circumcision which was performed upon the human flesh by human hands, and a different work of circumcision which is and has been performed without human hands, and is a work which cannot be seen with or by the naked eye. When you study Scripture you will find certain and specific examples of a work which was performed and which was completed by and with human hands, but you will also find examples of a work which has been, and is not performed and completed by human hands. . In the eleventh verse of the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian congregation, the apostle Paul wrote the following words: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands” (Ephesians 2:11). Within this single verse the apostle Paul not only writes and speaks of an external work which is performed upon the flesh with and by human hands—namely the rite of circumcision which was given unto Abraham in the Old Testament book of Genesis—but he also wrote and spoke about another circumcision. Within this single verse there are two distinct forms and methods of circumcision—one that is performed by human hands and touches the flesh, and another which is performed without human hands, and which touches not the flesh, but the heart. In fact, when writing unto the Colossian congregation the apostle Paul wrote the following words: “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11). When writing unto the Ephesian congregation, as well as the Colossian congregation, the apostle Paul wrote of a circumcision which touched the flesh of a man, and one which was performed with and by human hands, but the apostle Paul also wrote of a second circumcision—one that was not performed by human hands, and one that did not and would not touch the flesh, but the heart. Consider a couple other references which are found within the New Testament concerning this work of circumcision which was completed without human hands, and which touched not the physical body, but the heart:
“But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:29).
“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 4:1-6).
“As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcixsed; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the makes of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:12-17).
It is quite evident and quite clear when reading the words which are found and contained within these passages that there is in fact a work which is completed upon the flesh—a work which is performed with and by human hands. With that being said, this work which is performed upon the flesh, and this work which is done by human hands only touches the flesh, and never touches the heart that is found within man. There is a circumcision which takes place upon the human flesh of a man, and yet this circumcision has and is of no effect within and upon the heart of a man. Only that circumcision which is performed within and upon the inward man—a circumcision of the heart—is what truly matters, and what truly avails much in the sight of the living God. There were those who would attempt to enslave and entangle Gentiles in false yokes of bondage by declaring unto them their need to engage themselves in this work of circumcision—this work upon the external man by touching the flesh—and they in fact compelled them to be circumcised in order that they might please the living God. The apostle Paul, however, expressly condemned those who would seek to enslave, ensnare and entangle others in chains and yokes of bondage and oppression by compelling them to receive a circumcision performed with and by human hands. The apostle Paul recognized and realized that this external work performed by human hands availed nothing, for it completely ignored a deeper circumcision—a deeper work which was made without and apart from human hands, and one which touched the heart. It would be very easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in the external work which is performed by human hands, and completely neglect and ignore the inner work which is made without human hands, and by doing so, we allow ourselves to get stuck in the same rut which Jesus denounced and condemned the scribes and Pharisees for in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clear the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:25-28). ;
In addition to this, I am reminded of a second work which was done with human hands, and a work which was performed without and apart from human hands. In order to understand this work which was done with and by human hands, and the one which was done without human hands, it is necessary to journey to the seventh chapter of the New Testament book of Acts—specifically, Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin and those who sought to accuse and condemn him. If you begin reading with and from the forty-fourth verse of the seventh chapter of this New Testament book you will find the following words:
“Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God crave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of david; who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built Him a house. Howbeit the most High dwellth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? Saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murders: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:44-53).
Within Stephen’s defense he spoke of a Temple which was made with and by human hands—namely the Temple which was found within the heart of David, yet was built by his Solomon during his generation. This first Jewish temple would remain in Jerusalem until the time of Nebuchadnezzar when Babylon would enter into and invade Judah and Jerusalem and would completely destroy the Temple and burn it to the ground by fire. For seventy years the land of Israel would be without the Temple of the Lord, until the decree of Cyrus not only permitted them to return unto their own land, but also to build unto the Lord a Temple as had stood among them in previous decades and centuries. When you come to the time of Jesus you will find that there did in fact stand a second Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount within the city of Jerusalem—one that was made by human hands, and one that was known as “Herod’s Temple.” It’s actually worth noting that at one point upon the earth there existed two distinct and two unique temples—one temple which was built with and by human hands, and a second temple which was built and made without and apart from human hands. For at nearly forty years there existed upon the earth two distinct temples unto the Lord—one that was made with and by human hands, and stood on the Temple Mount, and one which was made without human hands, and was formed and created on the Day of Pentecost. IN the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we read of the outpouring of the Spirit of the Living God—the promise of the Father sent and released by Jesus Christ upon the one-hundred and twenty in the upper room. What’s more, is that in the sixth chapters of both the first epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation, as well as the second epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation, the apostle Paul writes and speaks of this second temple which was made without and apart from human hands:
“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the m embers of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:15-20).
“Be yet not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? OR what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be there God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord almighty” ( 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
I fully recognize that what I have just written about isn’t necessarily mentioned or alluded to in the first chapter of the second epistle which was written by the apostle Peter, however, I am convinced that it serves as an incredibly powerful foundation for that which the apostle Peter writes. I am utterly and completely convinced that we have great need to understand and recognize that deep and hidden work of the Spirit which is wrought within and upon our inner man according to the person of Jesus the Christ who is our Lord. The apostle Peter in the first chapter of this second epistle wrote how according to the divine power of the living God, we have been given all things which pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue. The apostle Peter writes of a certain and specific life we have been, and are called to in this generation within and upon the earth. The apostle Peter would go on to write how this same God has given unto us exceeding great and precious promises—promises which enable us to be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through. Lust. Within the first chapter of this second epistle—not only did the apostle Peter declare unto us how God hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, but he also wrote how this same God has called us to glory and virtue. What’s more, is that this same living God has given us exceeding great and precious promises—promises which enable us to not only be partakers of the divine nature, but to also escape the corruption which is in the world through lust. What’s more, is the apostle Peter would go on to invite his readers and audience to a place where they would build upon this faith which we have been given, in order that we might be fruitful before and unto the living God. Inverses five through eight the apostle Peter writes how beside this we should give all diligence to add to our faith virtue, and to our virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brother kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. The apostle Peter wrote and declared that if we have such things in full operation within our hearts and lives—and not only present within our lives, but also abounding in great measure—such should make it to where we are neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter would go on to declare that those who lack such things are blind, cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that they were purged from their old sins. Where the rubber really meets the road is in the final verses of this particular section, for the apostle Peter goes on to instruct and invite u s to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure, and if we do such things, we shall never fall, and an entrance shall be ministered unto us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Oh that we would take the words which the apostle Peter wrote to heart, and that we would commit ourselves to this hidden work within and upon the inner man in order that we might become all the Lord our God has called us to be in our generation.