A Witness & Testimony That Cannot Be Denied

Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle written by the apostle Peter written unto the pilgrims who were scattered abroad throughout the known regions during that day. More specifically today’s passage is found in the second chapter of this New Testament book. “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:1-3).

 

            “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame. Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are obedient, The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone, and, A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:4-10).

 

            “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having you conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may be your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 1:11-12).

 

            “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13-17).

 

            “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for the righteous—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2;18-25).

 

            When you come to the second chapter of the first epistle written. By the apostle Peter unto the pilgrims which were present in the earth you will find the apostle beginning to provide them with practical instructions for Christian living. As I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but think about doing an in depth study on all the practical instructions that were given unto Christians during the days of the early church. Beginning with the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome all the way through the epistle written by Jude we find account after account of practical instruction being given unto the saints which were present in the earth. From the apostle Paul, to the apostle Peter, to the apostle John, to James, to Jude and even the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews we find countless examples of instructions in Christian living that were given unto the saints which were present in the earth during those days. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the instruction that was given unto the saints that they might understand how to live their lives as Christians in the midst of the earth. I am convinced that if we want to truly understand how we ought to live our lives and how we ought to conduct ourselves in this generation there is a great need to recognize and pay attention to the words which are found in the various epistles found in the New Testament as they provide us with instruction given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the church.

 

            The more I think about and consider this the more I am brought face to face with the the ultimate account of practical instruction that was given unto the saints of God and unto those who would profess to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Within the four gospel narratives of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ we encounter Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount which within it provides a tremendous manifestation of instruction according to the kingdom of heaven. In all reality we must needs recognize that when Jesus came preaching the kingdom of heaven He was indeed and was in fact establishing a kingdom in the midst of en empire. During the days in which the Lord walked upon the earth in the form of flesh and blood He was establishing a kingdom directly in the midst of the Roman Empire which was the dominant superpower in the earth during those days. The earth had already seen the Egyptian Empire, the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Grecian Empire and now they were witnessing the might, the dominion and control of the Roman Empire. By the time Jesus began walking upon the earth the Roman Empire was the dominant empire which was present upon the earth and controlled most of the known nations, lands and peoples. What makes this truly astonishing and interesting when you take the time to think about it is when you consider how everywhere Rome went they exercised and established their authority and dominion. The Roman Empire was one of the most powerful empires to ever exist upon the earth and they were known from utter domination, control and authority in the midst of the earth. During the days of Jesus the Roman Empire was known for their oppression of those people who were under their control and under their rule which is why the Jews during the days of Jesus’ day thought that He would cast off Roman oppression and aggression.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it brings us face to face with the truly wonderful truth surrounding the aggression and oppression of the Roman Empire during the days of Jesus. When John the Baptist came he came baptizing in water unto repentance for the remission of sins and calling on men and women to repent for the kingdom of heaven was near. When Jesus came preaching in Galilee He would also emphatically call men and women to repent for the kingdom of heaven was upon them. What we must needs recognize and understand concerning this is that during the days when John the Baptist preached in the Judean wilderness and even during the days in which the Lord Jesus preached in Galilee and Judaea they emphatically declared that the kingdom of heaven was soon to be manifested within the earth. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in the four gospels is through healing, through signs, through wonders and through miracles Jesus was establishing the dominion and authority of the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth. Oh Jesus never exercised authority over the Roman centurions which were present during those days and Jesus never challenge Caesar or Rome itself, however, Jesus did exercise authority over different forces that would oppress, torment and exercise aggression over the people which were present during those days. As you read the four gospel accounts you will find Jesus exercising authority and dominion over unclean spirits and demons as He would expel them from those whom they tormented, oppressed, possessed and exercised their aggression against.

 

            The incredible truth surrounding the manifestation of Jesus in the earth in the form of flesh and blood is that He didn’t fit the mold for what many Jews expected concerning the Messiah and the Christ. There were countless Jews during those days who wanted, hoped, expected and desired the Messiah to cast off Roman oppression and aggression and even thought that Jesus Himself would be that one who would do it. The more you read and study the four gospels the more you will encounter the tremendous truth surrounding an authority and dominion that was entirely different than what they were hoping for. If you read the four gospel narratives you will find that during the days in which the Lord Jesus walked among us as the Word which became flesh He did in fact exercise dominion and authority, however, He would exercise it in an entirely different manner from that which they thought, expected and assumed. Jesus would indeed exercise authority and would do it by the finger of God, however, the authority and dominion He exercised during those days was authority and dominion over unclean spirits and the demonic realm. What’s more is during those days the Lord Jesus would exercise authority and dominion over blindness and deafness as He would give sight to those who had never had it before and restored sight to those who for whatever reason became blind during the course of their lives. Jesus exercised authority by loosing tongues, by opening blinded eyes and by opening deaf ears completely and utterly changing the lives of countless individuals during those days. During the days in which the Lord Jesus walked among us as the Word made flesh and dwelt among us He would exercise authority over leprosy as He would cleanse those whose bodies were racked and riddled with it. Jesus would exercise authority and dominion over all manner of sickness and would even cause the lame to walk. What’s more is that there were specific accounts in the four gospels when Jesus would exercise authority and dominion over death itself as He would restore life to those who were dead—the son of the widow from Nain, Jairus’ daughter and of course the ultimate example which was Lazarus.

 

            The undeniable truth that is found within the four gospels is that the Lord Jesus exercised dominion and authority over a host of different forces which were oppressing and exercising aggression against and upon many during those days. Scripture is entirely unclear as to how many people Jesus healed during those three and a half years in which He walked upon the earth. Even the apostle John—at the conclusion of his New Testament gospel—emphatically declared that if all the miracles which Jesus performed during those days were written there would not be enough books to contain them all. Scripture seems to indicate that Jesus performed a number of miracles beyond what we read and understand within the four gospel accounts presented at the beginning of the New Testament. Many of the Jews were looking for the Messiah to come and exercise authority and dominion over and against the Roman Empire and yet the truth of the matter is that when Jesus came and was publicly manifested in Galilee, Judaea and Jerusalem He exercised no such authority over Rome. There are no accounts of Jesus leading a revolt or rebellion during those days to cast off Roman oppression and aggression—this despite the fact that there were others who had indeed attempted a coup against Rome and against its authority and dominion during those days. Even the thief and murderers who was released in the place of Jesus—Barabbas—was guilty of sedition during those days and attempting to lead a rebellion and revolt against Roman aggression and oppression. How absolutely incredible it is to think that Jesus took the place of that one who did attempt to lead a rebellion and revolt against Roman aggression and oppression despite the fact that He Himself never had nor ever would have led a rebellion against Rome and its dominion and authority.

 

            Within the four New Testament gospel narratives we encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding Jesus’ establishing the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth and yet this kingdom would not seek to overthrow the dominion and authority of Rome. If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning the establishment of the kingdom of heaven in the earth during those beginning days it’s that it was never meant to cast off or overthrow the dominion and authority of the Roman Empire. Oh there would come a point in time when the Roman Empire would be divided into an eastern and western realm with the eastern realm of the empire being known as the Byzantine Empire under the reign of Constantine. It would be during the days of Constantine when he would make Christianity legal and even the official religion of the empire. Prior to that and during the days of Jesus, however, there is absolutely no account of the kingdom of heaven ever seeking to overthrow the Roman Empire and its dominion and authority. The Roman Empire together with its government, dominion and authority was authorized by the living and eternal God and Jesus was never sent to the earth to overthrow and cast it off. Despite the fact that Roman tax collectors pillaged and abused the people of Judaea, Galilee and Jerusalem through taxes Jesus never came to cast off their dominion and authority. In fact Jesus would call one tax collector who was a son of Abraham to walk with and follow Him as a disciple. Not only this but another one who was a chief tax collector named Zacchaeus would find salvation when Jesus entered into his house as he offered to give half his possessions to the poor and restore four-fold to anyone whom he might have defrauded during those days.

 

            There is something truly astonishing and captivating about this when you take the time to think about it as it calls and draws our attention to the fact that when Jesus came to the earth He didn’t come seeking to overthrow the Roman Empire and its authority and dominion. When Jesus came to the earth He came to establish a kingdom and yet that kingdom was never designed nor was it intended to overthrow the Roman Empire and to somehow deliver the people from the rule, the oppression and aggression of it within the lives of those who were present. What Jesus came to do was establish a new and living kingdom within and in the midst of the Roman Empire. If you read and study the four New Testament gospels you will find Jesus continually seeking to establish the kingdom of heaven upon the earth—and not only upon the earth but also right in the midst of the Roman Empire. Pause for a moment and think about how absolutely incredible this truly is and how during those days the Lord Jesus would indeed seek to establish a kingdom upon the earth while there was in existence the Roman Empire. What’s more is the Roman Empire together with its authority, dominion and government was indeed authorized by the living God for there is no power given on the earth that is not ordained and authorized by the living God. In fact I would day say this reality of the kingdom of heaven being established in the midst of the Roman Empire is perhaps best recognized and understood within the words which are found in certain epistles present in the New Testament. Neither the Lord nor any of the apostles nor any of the church leaders urged and encouraged men to challenge the authority and dominion of Rome but rather to submit themselves to government. Oh to illustrate this all the more I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the words Jesus spoke concerning rendering to Caesar what belonged to Caesar and the words which the apostle Paul and the apostle Peter wrote concerning submission to government and the authorities which were present given authority in the earth:

 

            “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do you care about anyone, for you do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do you think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why do you test me, you hypocrites? Show me the tax money. So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, Whose image and inscription is this? They said to Him, Caesar’s. And He said to them, Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. When they heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way” (Matthew 22:15-22).

 

            “Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. When they had come, they said to Him, Teacher, we know that you are true, and care about no one; for you do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay? But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, Why do you test me? Bring me a denarius that I may see it. So they brought it. And He said to them, Whose image and inscription is this? They said to Him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answered and said to them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. And they marveled at Him” (Mark 12:13-17).

 

            “So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous that they might seize on his words in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. Then they asked Him, saying, Teacher, we know that you say and teach rightly, and you do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not? But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, Why do you test me? Sho me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have? They answered and said, Caesar’s. And He said to them, Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. But they could not catch Him in His word in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent” (Luke 20:20-26).

 

            It is quite clear from the words presented in this passage of Scripture that Jesus didn’t come challenging the Roman Empire or its authority and dominion. If you read the four gospel narratives you will encounter the tremendous and incredible truth surrounding Jesus’ preaching humility, submission, and even obedience during those days. The entire Sermon on the Mount is a powerful and wonderful invitation given unto Jesus’ disciples and the multitude to partake in a kingdom that was entirely different from the Roman Empire they had known. What’s more is the kingdom of heaven was entirely and altogether different from the government and authority that was manifested in the government of Herod during those days. Oh you cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding Jesus’ establishment of a kingdom within and upon the earth—one that would be established directly in the midst of the Roman Empire. The kingdom of heaven did not come overthrowing or even replacing the Roman Empire but was instead established directly in the midst of it. What makes this even more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the fact that Rome itself never came after nor targeted the Lord Jesus. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the New Testament gospels you will find that nowhere in any of them did Jesus ever anger, offend or upset Rome or Caesar himself. Despite the fact that Jesus came preaching a kingdom that was being established in the midst of the earth he would never find Himself at odds with the Roman Empire. There was never a single instance when Roman centurions or even Roman legions gathered and amassed themselves to come after Jesus or any of His disciples while they walked upon the earth. The sole opposition and aggression to the kingdom of heaven came not from sinners nor even from the pagan Roman Empire but from religion and the religious leaders during those days.

 

            There is something incredibly unique when you think about and consider the words which are found in the four gospels for within them you will find the Lord Jesus teaching and preaching the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. At one point a Roman centurion came unto Jesus Himself on behalf of his servant who was sick at home and on the verge of death. The gospel narratives call and draw our attention to the fact that this centurion entreated Jesus to heal his servant and yet when Jesus offered to come with him unto his house he proceeded to speak unto Jesus and declare that he wasn’t worthy to have Him under his roof. Instead this Roman centurion spoke unto Jesus concerning authority for not only was he himself a man in authority but he was also a man under authority. What’s more is this man understood the importance and power of command and the authority behind the command for he would say to this group come and they would come and unto this group go and they would go. Oh there is something truly wonderful and powerful about this for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding Jesus’ commending this man and declaring that He had not found so great faith in all of Israel. Here was this Roman centurion who neither knew the Jewish Law nor customs and yet he displayed faith in an even greater measure than anyone during those days. Oh how absolutely wonderful this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that during the days in which Jesus walked upon the earth He never challenged Rome nor did He ever invite His disciples to challenge Rome to somehow cast off its oppression and aggression.

 

            With all of this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in certain of his epistles concerning civil obedience and civil living during those days. It is absolutely impossible to read the writings of the apostle Paul and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding his instruction and exhortation to the saints of God to guard carefully their testimony and witness in the midst of their generation. What’s more is one of the greatest witnesses and testimonies which was present during those days was how they reacted and how they responded to the authority and authorities above them. Not only this but one of the greatest witnesses and testimonies present during those days was how they responded to those who were given authority over them. You cannot read the epistles written by the apostle Paul unto the various churches—even unto his spiritual sons—and not encounter the tremendous instruction given unto his audience and readers concerning their civic and civil responsibility to those who were placed in authority over them. Within the epistles written by the apostle Paul unto the churches we find countless examples of his instructing them how they ought to live in the midst of their generation—specifically how they ought to live in response to government. There is not a doubt in my mind that the same words we find within the epistles and writing of the apostle Paul provide us with a great deal of instruction concerning how we ought to live our lives during the days in which we are living. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the writings of the apostle Paul beginning with the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome:

 

            “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:1-7).

 

            “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, all are summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).

 

            “And do this, knowing the time, that it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:11-14).

 

            It is quite clear from the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular section that we have indeed and have in fact been called to not only put on Christ but to give no occasion to the flesh. What’s more is the apostle Paul also called and instructed his reachers and audience to be those who owed no man anything except to love one another. The apostle Paul would go on to declare that anyone who loves another has fulfilled the law for the love is summed up in the single command that we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider how the apostle Paul opened this passage of Scripture. In the beginning of the thirteenth chapter of this epistle written unto the saints of Rome the apostle Paul instructed and admonished them to let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. The apostle Paul goes on to declare how there was no authority except from God and that the authorizes that exist are appointed by God. Paul goes on to further declare that whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God and that those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. This would be followed by a powerful description of the authorities that were set up by the living God and that they were not terrors to good works but to evil. The apostle Paul asked his readers and audience in Rome if they wanted to be unafraid of the authority that was present in the earth during those days and then instructed them to do what is good and as a result they would have praise from the same. For the apostle Paul one of the greatest witnesses and testimonies during those days was in how we conducted ourselves among men within our culture, society and generation.

 

            If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote here it’s that his words must be carefully understood in light of the generation and culture in which we are living. If you have taken a look at and been aware of any of the events which have taken place over the past two and a half years you have seen a tremendous increase in disrespect for government. What’s more is not only has there been a disrespect for government but there have been countless individuals who have taken to social media to unleash their vitriol and poison against those who were given authority within this nation. I have to admit that I myself have been guilty of this and have used social media to express my opinions and views. Oh would it should and surprise you to know and understand that Jesus didn’t die for us that we could live our lives full of opinions and views? Jesus didn’t die for our opinions and views that we might voice them in the streets of our cities nor even on social media. Oh we might have the freedom of speech which is one of the amendments granted to us in the constitution, however, we must needs recognize that there is a great law to which we are subjected. Despite the fact that we have the right to free speech according to the law of the land the same does not apply to the law and the principles of the kingdom. Jesus didn’t die for us that we might protest in the streets, that we might engage in riots, and that we might resort to social media platforms to voice our opinions and views—even though such realities are indeed afforded to us and protected by the Constitution. We must needs recognize and understand that Jesus didn’t die on the cross to protect our civil liberties nor civil freedoms and that which we are somehow entitled to by the Constitution.

 

            I find it absolutely necessary at this particular juncture to ask you how you would live your life in the midst of this culture and society if all your civil liberties and freedoms were stripped from you. How would you live your life if you woke up tomorrow and the rights you have long boasted of and prided yourself in were somehow removed from you? Ask anyone who has spent any amount of time incarcerated in any number of the maximum security prisons throughout this country and they will be able to provide you with a powerful picture of the loss of freedom and the loss of rights as a result of violating the law. The reason I mention this is because even if all our civil liberties and freedoms were stripped from us tomorrow and were no longer afforded to us the Law contained within Scripture would still stand. For Christians and those who profess the name of the Lord Jesus Christ the Constitution is not the ultimate authority for our lives. For the Christian and those who profess allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ it is the royal law that is the governing reality within our lives. They could strip all of our freedoms, liberties and rights tomorrow and yet we would still be left with the responsibility that is found in the Royal Law which is summarized by the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. What’s more is the greatest command is to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength. Even if all our liberties, freedoms and rights were removed tomorrow we would still be citizens in heaven and as such are also strangers and pilgrims upon this earth. Oh I fear there are more individuals who pride themselves in their citizenship of this nation and country than they do their citizenship in heaven. Please note that when I write these words I am not speaking of those who do not know the truth but those who do know the truth.

 

            Taking a step back at this particular juncture I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words the apostle Paul as well as the apostle Peter wrote unto the saints of God during those days and that generation. It is absolutely impossible to read the words which are found in these epistles and writings of the apostles and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth that we have indeed been called to submit ourselves to a Law that is greater than the law of the land. If we are being truly honest with ourselves we must needs admit that we have indeed and have in fact been called to submit ourselves to a greater Master than any governing authority that is present in the midst of the earth. With this being said it must be said that if we truly submit ourselves to the Lord Jesus we can indeed submit ourselves to any authority that is manifested and present in the midst of the earth. In fact there is a part of me that feels if we truly submit ourselves to the authority of Jesus the Christ we can submit ourselves to the authority that has been entrusted to and bestowed upon any individual in the earth. I am absolutely convinced that if we live our lives in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ there is not a single authority on the earth that we cannot submit ourselves to. With this being said, however, it’s important to recognize what we find in the New Testament book of Acts. It is in the New Testament book of Acts where we find the religious leaders during the days of the early church threatening the apostles and demanding that they cease preaching in the name of Jesus. It was the apostle Peter together the apostles who emphatically declared that in this matter it was better for them to obey the Lord Jesus Christ and the living God than men. This is something which we must needs recognize for if we find ourselves in a place where we are being commanded, demanded and even instructed to do something contrary to the word of the living God then we have a responsibility and duty to obey God rather than man.

 

            It is with all of this being said I find it absolutely necessary to draw your attention to the words which the apostle Paul and even the apostle Peter wrote as they instructed their readers and audience to be such who committed their lives to loving their neighbor as themselves. Oh would it shock and surprise you if I told you that submitting yourself to those who were entrusted with authority over you is a demonstration and manifestation of loving them as you love yourself? What’s more is would it anger and offend you if I told you the same thing was a demonstration and manifestation of the golden rule that calls on you to do unto others as you would have them do unto you? If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we have indeed and have in fact been called to be those who commit and give ourselves to the living and eternal God as those who love our neighbor as ourselves, as those who would do unto others as we would have them do unto us and submit ourselves to those who have been given authority over us. We must needs be those who carefully guard our witness and testimony in the midst of the culture, society and generation in which we are presently living. With this in mind I Invite you to consider the following words which are found in the writings of the apostle Paul and even the writing of the apostle Peter in this very epistle:

 

            “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is slave or free” (Ephesians 6:5-9).

 

            “Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality” (Colossians 3:22-25).

 

            “Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things” (1 Timothy 6:1-2).

 

            “Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:9-10).

 

            There is a great need to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for when you come to the second chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter you will find this apostle of Christ urging and exhorting the pilgrims on the earth to not only submit to government but also to submit to their masters. It’s important to recognize and understand that during the days of the early church it was culturally acceptable for masters to have slaves and servants under them. Slavery and servitude was a standard and normal practice during those days and even one of the epistle written by the apostle Paul was written unto one such individual who was a slave owner and was also a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in these passages of Scripture that during the days in which the apostles lived upon the earth Christianity was not only present among those who were free but it was also present among those who were servants and slaves. Christianity touched the free as much as it touched those who were servants and even those who were in positions of authority. During the days in which the apostle Peter wrote this epistle there would have been masters who had servants under them and even some of the parables Jesus delivered conveyed the principle of servants and masters. Perhaps one of the most notable parables of Jesus—the parable of the talents—describes a master who departed on a long journey and entrusted a portion of his wealth unto his servants. Oh this is important for us to recognize and understand for as much as there was indeed a call to submit to government there was also a call to submit oneself to masters—those who were given authority over others. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the pilgrims which were present in the midst of the earth beginning with the thirteenth verse:

 

            “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13-17).

 

            “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was revolved, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:18-25).

 

            Oh there is a great need for us to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we not only find instruction given concerning submitting to government but we also find instruction given unto servants concerning their masters. When writing unto his audience the apostle Peter urged and exhorted them to submit themselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake—whether to the king as supreme, or to governors who were those who were sent by the king for the punishment of evildoers. The apostle Peter would go on to declare that submitting ourselves to such ordinances was the will of God that by doing good we might put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. This is something we must needs recognize and pay careful attention to for within this passage we find the apostle Peter writing of “the praise of those who do good” and of “putting to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how incredibly important it truly is for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding these words for at the very heart and center of it is the testimony and witness we have been called to have in the midst of our culture and society. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that how we conduct ourselves in the midst of our culture and society can and will have a direct impact on our witness and testimony. I would dare say there are countless men and women who have destroyed and who are presently destroying their witness and testimony in the midst of the earth because they are completely abandoning and despising the royal law of the Lord. These individuals live their lives in complete contradiction to that which was commanded in the Word of God and choose to live their lives how they themselves think and feel they should. Such individuals have absolutely no regard, no respect nor any type of obedience to the living God in regards to those who were placed in positions of authority over them. These individuals have completely and utterly abandoned and forsaken their witness and testimony and care absolutely nothing for it.

 

            It is here at this particular juncture I would like to call and draw your attention—not only to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome but also the words which our Lord spoke in His famous Sermon on the Mount. I am absolutely convinced that if we want to truly understand the words which both the apostle Peter as well as the apostle Paul wrote there is a great need to consider the words which Jesus Himself spoke. If we are being truly honest with ourselves we must needs admit that at the very heart of the commands of the apostles and early church leaders were the words and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this being said we must needs recognize and pay attention to the fact that we as the saints of God have indeed and have in fact been called to be those who know and obey the words and the commands which our Lord Jesus spoke while He walked among us as the Word made flesh. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which we find in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints of Rome as well as the words which were spoken by the Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:

 

            “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teachers, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).

 

            “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good thing in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the LORD. Therefore, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).

 

            Consider now the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and the words which our Lord Jesus spoke in His famous Sermon on the Mount. It is here where we find the foundational teaching for the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. In chapters five through seven of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find the first account of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and this is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding how we have been called to live in this life in light of the manifestation and demonstration of the kingdom of heaven. Oh it’s important for us to recognize that the demonstration of the kingdom of heaven comes in power and authority—power and authority over sickness, over disease, over death, over unclean spirits, and the like. Within the New Testament gospels we see the demonstration of the kingdom of God in power as Jesus healed the sick, opened blinded eyes, opened deaf ears, caused the lame to walk, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead to life, and cast out unclean spirits. The manifestation of the kingdom of heaven, however, is entirely different for the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven comes in how we live our lives in response to the words and commands of the Lord Jesus Christ. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew beginning with the first verse:

 

            “And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 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, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:1-12).

 

            “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

 

            “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will.by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” i(Matthew 5:17-20).

            “You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, Raca! Shall be in danger of the judgment. But whoever says, You fool! Shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown. Into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:21-26).

 

            “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right check, turn the others to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (matthew 5:38-42).

 

            “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what’s reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

 

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in in the second chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle Peter. Beginning with the fourth verse the apostle Peter declares that we—as living stones—are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood that we might offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. If you continue reading the words presented in this epistle you will find the apostle Peter goes on to declare of these pilgrims in the world that they were a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and God’s own special people that they might proclaim the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. This is incredibly important for the apostle Peter goes on to declare that these strangers and pilgrims were once not a people but are now the people of God who had not obtained mercy but have now obtained mercy. The apostle Peter goes on to exhort them as sojourners and pilgrims to abstain from fleshly lusts which warred against their soul having the conduct honorable among the Gentiles that when they speak against them as evildoers they may by their good works which they see and observe glorify God in the day of visitation. It is imperative we recognize and understand these words for it was Jesus Himself who emphatically declared unto His disciples and unto the multitudes that they ought to let their light so shine among men that they might see their good works and glorify the Father who was in heaven. Oh we have a great need to recognize and pay attention to these words for the call and draw us attention to truly understand how’s important our witness is in this generation. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we have indeed and have in fact been called to be those who recognize how utterly important our witness is in this generation and live our lives that we might indeed glorify our Father who is in heaven. As strangers and pilgrims who recognize that this world is not our home we must needs acknowledge the great need for us to maintain our testimony on the earth that we might not only please the Father which is in heaven but might also serve as a witness unto the Gentiles who do not know God and do not know the truth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s