Our suffering as accomplishment (1 Peter 5:9)

“But resist him (the devil), firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” – 1 Peter 5:9 (NASB)

            Christ has suffered, and so His body, the church, is also called to suffer. Paul’s goal is to know “the fellowship (“koinonia” in Greek) of Christ’s sufferings (Philippians 3:10).” It may correctly be said that to be a Christian is to anticipate suffering for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:10-12). The apostle Peter mentions in his first epistle that Christ suffered and left us an example to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21). As Christ has suffered, so we will suffer as witnesses to Him. Jesus said, “And you shall be My witnesses (Acts 1:8),” and the Greek word for witnesses is the word “martyr.” So, we are certainly to anticipate suffering for the name of Jesus. But while it is true that Christ suffered in the flesh (1 Peter 3:18; 4:1) and that the church also suffers, there is a profound difference between these two experiences of suffering.

            Christ has suffered in the flesh and has perfectly accomplished the work the Father gave Him to do. In John 17:4, Jesus said, “I glorified You (the Father) on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” What work did He accomplish? Jesus accomplished the work of atonement. That was the reason Jesus was sent to the earth, to accomplish the work of atonement, a work that He alone could accomplish. To accomplish this work, Christ had to endure the full fury of the wrath of God against all the sins of all His people of all time. Thus, Christ suffered as a means of accomplishing His work. Accomplishing His work involved suffering, but His work was not the suffering itself. How much suffering was Christ required to endure? Exactly the amount of suffering needed to propitiate the wrath of God against His people’s sins.

            Then, when God had poured out all His wrath on Christ, Christ’s work was done. Therefore, Jesus could cry out, “Tetelestai!” “It is finished (John 19:30)!” Three hours of suffering the full wrath of God had been endured and His work was accomplished. Once Jesus’ work of atonement was accomplished, His life could be yielded up (John 19:30; Luke 23:46; Matthew 27:50), because the purpose of His life was fulfilled, and now He needed to die.

            We have already said, “Since Christ suffered, so we will also suffer,” but for Christ’s body, the church, our suffering is central, not incidental. That is, there is an amount of suffering that the body of Christ must accomplish. Note what Peter says in 1 Peter 5:9: “the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” The verse says that the suffering is the work being accomplished. God has ordained that the body of Christ must suffer as an end and not merely as a means to some other end. As we have seen above, Christ’s suffering was the means necessary to accomplish His work of atonement, but the church’s suffering is the work to be accomplished.

            The New Testament has much to say about suffering for the name of Jesus Christ, but there is also an underlying theme in the New Testament suggesting that there is a predetermined amount of suffering which the church must “accomplish” to fulfill her purpose of witnessing. Consider these verses.

  • “Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered’ (Romans 8:36).” As the sheep were sacrificed routinely and anonymously, so the church suffers continually and without glory to give testimony to the worth of Christ.
  • “Now I rejoice (!) in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Colossians 1:24).” Notice that Paul’s sufferings are on behalf of the church and that they are “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” This thought is consistent with the idea that the purpose of the church is to witness to Christ through suffering.
  • We have already looked at 1 Peter 5:9, “the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.”
  • Underneath the altar were the souls of those who had been slain (for Jesus), and they cried out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood?” They were told to rest a little while longer until the number of their fellow servants who were to be killed even as they had been would be completed also (Revelation 6:9-11). The clear message from this passage is that God has determined a set number of martyrs who must be killed to complete the testimony of the church.

The church is called to be a witness to the risen Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). This is one of the purposes of the church, and the collective suffering of the entire church is accomplishing this part of the church’s purpose. Thus, it may be said that a suffering church is an accomplishing church.                         

SDG                rmb                 1/20/2021

The death of David’s son (2 Samuel 12:14)

“Because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” – 2 Samuel 12:14

If we are watching a courtroom drama unfold where the guilt of the accused party has been clearly proven by evidence and cross-examination and there is no reasonable doubt that they committed the crime, and then the jury returns a verdict of “not guilty,” we are justly outraged. The guilty one has been unjustly acquitted. The law has been violated because the guilty have gone free. The law is in place to punish the guilty, and yet this guilty one has not been punished.

In these situations where men have ignored and run roughshod over man’s laws, it is right to be angry and outraged. How much more outraged should we be, then, when a person is proven guilty of violating God’s Law and is unjustly acquitted! Yet this seems to be exactly what we find in 2 Samuel 11-12 in the incident with David’s famous sins.

A quick review is in order for this familiar story. In 2 Samuel 11, “in the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David remained at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1).” Whether by design or by chance, David is walking on his roof and sees Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, bathing. He sends messengers to bring her to his house, “he lay with her, then she returned to her house (11:4).” Bathsheba becomes pregnant by David, and now David has a problem. After calling Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba’s husband, back from the battlefield to Jerusalem, David tries to convince Uriah to go to his house to be with his wife. The noble and loyal Uriah refuses to go to his house to lie with his wife while Joab and Israel’s army are out in the open field fighting the Ammonites. With Plan A foiled, David then implements Plan B, which is to have Joab “set Uriah at the forefront of the fiercest fighting and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down and die (11:15).” Uriah is thus killed, so Plan B appears to have worked, “but the thing that David had done displeased the LORD (11:27).”

In the next scene, the prophet Nathan comes to David and tells him a story about a grave injustice done by a rich man against a poor man. Incensed by the injustice, David cries out, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die (2 Samuel 12:5).” Nathan famously declares to David, “You are the man!” The prophet then proceeds to tell David the details of his sins and the consequences that the LORD is going to bring on David because of his sins. David then says to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD (12:13).” Astonishingly, after this simple and brief confession, Nathan responds to David by saying, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die (12:13-14).”

What?? This is outrageous! David willfully commits adultery with Bathsheba whom he knows is married to Uriah the Hittite, one of his thirty mighty men (23:39), and then wickedly sees to it that this noble man, Uriah, dies in battle, effectively murdering him, and then utters a brief confession of “I have sinned,” and he gets off the hook? “I have sinned,” and adultery and murder are just sort of swept away? How can this be right? O yes, I am sure it was extremely painful to watch as your infant son die, knowing that his death was your fault, but that in no way satisfies the demands of the Law. Surely this is gross injustice! How can the LORD allow this?

SOLVING THE OUTRAGE

            This does seem to be an outrage but consider these things. The death of the child born to Bathsheba highlighted David’s guilt and reminded him of the wages of his sin, but the death of that child brought him no forgiveness. For if Nathan is telling David that he is forgiven because of the death of the child of Bathsheba, then the injustice of that forgiveness and the outrage remain. David violated the Law of God on two counts, and the Law of God demands death for the violator. By David’s own words, “The man who has done this deserves to die!” “The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4).” The justice of God demands a death penalty for these sins, and the death of Bathsheba’s son could never satisfy the Law’s demands. Bathsheba’s son died as a judgment for David’s sins, not as a propitiation for David’s sin, because this unnamed son of David was not an acceptable sacrifice for David’s sin. This child was not a worthy substitute.

            How, then, can the LORD take away David’s sin, and how can the LORD legally forgive one who has flagrantly and repeatedly and willfully rebelled against His holy Law? If the death of this child cannot atone, what can wash away David’s sin?

            Nathan can declare that the LORD has taken away David’s sin not based on the death of Bathsheba’s son, but based on the death of Mary’s Son. The death of David’s son born in Jerusalem could not atone for any of David’s sins, but the death of David’s Son born in Bethlehem atoned for all of David’s sins. The unnamed son of Bathsheba was not an acceptable sacrifice for David’s sin, but the Son of Mary, who was named Jesus because He would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), gave His life as an acceptable ransom (Mark 10:45) for David’s sin by His substitutionary death on the cross. Therefore, Nathan can declare that the LORD has taken away David’s sin because Jesus the Messiah, the glorious Son of David, that Child who is born to David shall die.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a  propitiation in His blood through faith (Romans 3:23-25).”

APPLICATION

            Now the question that we asked earlier about David must be answered by every one of us. How can the LORD legally forgive one who has flagrantly and repeatedly and willfully rebelled against His holy Law? For the truth is that we have all rebelled against the Lord and we have all flagrantly and willfully violated His holy Law. How can God legally forgive us? But the good news of the gospel is that the Jesus who died for David’s sins is also the Savior who died for the sins of all those who put their faith in Him. If you repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15), then Jesus died for your sins, as well. Praise God that the Child who was born to David died!

SDG                 rmb                 11/14/2020

Micah 6:6-8 – “How Can I Be Reconciled to God?”

Micah was an Old Testament prophet who lived around 720 BC. Little is known about Micah, but he left us with his prophecies about God’s coming judgment on Israel and Judah because of the multitude of their sins. But in the midst of his prophecies about judgment there is a brief pause as if the prophet is contemplating the terrifying consequences of his own sin and is wondering if there is any way that he himself can escape God’s righteous judgment.

With what shall I come to the LORD

And bow myself before the God on high?

Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings,

With yearling calves?

Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams,

In ten thousand rivers of oil?

Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts,

The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  –  Micah 6:6-7

As he is confronted with the reality of his sin, the prophet looks for an escape or a rescue. He knows that he must stand before the LORD (“Yahweh” in the Hebrew) to be judged, and he knows that in that moment he will fall before the LORD in terror. The holiness and the majesty of God will overwhelm him.

Then he thinks of something that he could offer to the LORD that would satisfy His righteous demands and would turn away His wrath. “Would burnt offerings work? Would the blood of calves satisfy the LORD?” He realizes that these sacrifices are pathetically inadequate to atone for his sin, so he radically increases the number of the sacrifices. “Maybe a few slaughtered calves would not be enough, but what if I poured out the blood of thousands of rams or gushed out ten thousand rivers of oil? What if I gave up my first-born for my rebellious acts and for the sin of my soul?” The prophet thinks of the most precious and costly sacrifice he can imagine in order to relieve himself of the guilt of his soul, and yet he knows that these will not erase his sin. The offense of even one sin surpasses the atonement provided by all the sacrifices any human being could ever offer.

No offering I could ever make will atone for even one of my smallest sins. How, then, can atonement ever be made? Where is the price of forgiveness to be found? How can I ever be righteous before the LORD?

He has told you, O man, what is good;

And what does the LORD require of you

But to do justice, to love kindness,

And to walk humbly with our God.   –   Micah 6:8

The answer offered in verse 8 to the dilemma presented in verses 6-7 is so gentle and so simple that it almost seems as if we must have skipped a verse or two. How can it be that all the LORD requires is “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”? How can this be enough to pay for my sin?

Micah has indeed left out an important piece of the puzzle, because at this point in the biblical revelation it is not yet time to tell of the Savior who will be the bridge between the sinner and the living God. Micah is right to see the evil of his sin and he is correct in saying that the price of atonement for his sins is impossibly high. It is also true that there is no price that Micah could ever pay to buy his forgiveness or to appease God’s wrath. But if all of this is true, what happens between verse 7 and verse 8? What is the missing piece?

The missing piece is the death of Jesus Christ and the promise from God that if we believe in Jesus, God by grace considers us righteous and forgives all our sins. What the blood of thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil could not do is accomplished by the blood of Jesus Christ for the repentant sinner.

Guilty, vile and helpless, we;

Spotless Lamb of God was He;

Full atonement, Can it be?!

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

What happened, then, between verses 7 and 8 was that Micah the guilty sinner became Micah the forgiven saint, and as a forgiven man who has been reconciled to God through faith in Jesus, Micah now does justice, loves kindness and walks with his God with joy. Here in the prophecy of this minor prophet is concealed the gospel, that any sinner can be forgiven if they will place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.