Suffering for Blessing
1 Peter 1:7–9
1 Peter Lesson #031
October 22, 2015
“Father, again we’re thankful that we have You to come to in time of need. You have already known about every situation and every circumstance and difficulty in our lives. No matter what this situation may be that we face, we know that You are not surprised.
It may be a shock to us. It may run counter to our hopes and dreams and plans but we know that You are, nevertheless, in control and Your plan is working itself out in human history. We know that You are overseeing all things and that You have given us everything that we need in order to face and surmount whatever challenges and speedbumps we face along the road of life.
Father, we know that we are to learn Your Word, internalize Your Word, and hide it in our heart that we might be able to apply these doctrines and the promises and the principles of Scripture to each and every situation that comes up.
Father, as we continue our study in 1 Peter, especially in relation to facing and handling adversity and understanding the role of testing in our lives, we pray that we might be encouraged and strengthened this evening. In Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re going to continue with what we started last time which was on the doctrine of suffering for blessing. In the middle of this we’re going to have a little speed review. For those of you for whom this may be new material, I apologize. For everyone else, it’s time for you to sprint now and then and focus and learn and learning some things and get a good review. We’ll get to that eventually.
As a reminder, Peter is addressing this group of primarily Jewish-background believers living in the area of north central Turkey, what is now Turkey. He’s addressing them in terms of adversity they are facing. This is not an official kind of persecution from the Roman Empire as much as it is that they are probably facing a lot of rejection and hostility from their fellow Jews who have not trusted in Jesus Christ as Messiah.
That’s manifesting itself not only in personal problems such as breakdowns in personal relationships, breakdowns in business relationships, and they are being excluded from the community out of which they have come. They have to learn how to apply doctrine and trust the Lord and keep moving even in spite of these difficulties and problems.
When we get into the letter itself and we read about salvation, salvation is not talking about getting into Heaven. We have looked at the fact that in God’s plan of salvation, there are three stages: Phase One, we are saved from the penalty of sin, Phase Two, we are saved from the power of sin [the spiritual life which we also call experiential or progressive sanctification] and then in Phase Three we’re saved from the presence of sin in glorification.
What Peter is talking about, just as James in James 1 is talking about this same thing, is how to experience salvation or deliverance here and now in Phase Two from the trials, the testing, the difficulties, the adversities, the heartaches, and the disappointments of life.
This is the focal point. We have to understand this basic framework.
This is where we look at 1 Peter 1:6, that we’re to have joy, “Though now for a little while, if need be, you’ve been grieved by various trials.” That’s that same word that’s translated testing in some places just like James 1 says “Count it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith…” Those are the same words: trials and testing.
Here it talks about the fact that the genuineness of your faith, the doctrine in your soul, is being evaluated. It’s being examined to see how well we apply. It’s taking us from book knowledge, academic knowledge to application. Understanding how to put the principles into effect in day-to-day life.
This testing of your faith is more valuable than all the wealth in the world. God looks at this as more valuable than money, more valuable than stocks, more valuable than retirement security, and more valuable than having a 100,000-acre ranch. Nothing can equate to the value of having our faith tested and matured because that brings eternal praise to the Lord Jesus Christ at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
It focuses us on Him. He is the One who should motivate us. It’s that occupation with Christ that motivates us. “Whom having not seen you love, though now you do not see Him, yet by believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory when you receive the end of your faith.” That is the end of your trust in Him in the difficulty, the deliverance of your life. That is the corrected or expanded translation.
These verses are talking about rejoicing in the midst of the present fiery trial because our knowledge of the Word and our love for the Word and the love for the Lord Jesus Christ enables us to look to a future deliverance in this life as well as the future.
Slides 6 and 7
By way of review, we saw that a test is any situation or circumstance where we have to make a choice. Too often when I taught this in the past, people say, “Well, I don’t really go through any big test.” We all go through tests. Every time we have a choice whether to obey or not obey, whether to rely on the Lord or rely on our own resources, that’s the test.
Every situation that comes along that gives us a choice, whether we’re going to rely on our own resources or fall back to the default position of the sin nature, mental attitude sins of anger, lust, resentment, sins of the tongue: gossip, maligning or whatever it might be, any time we fall back to that default position we have failed the test.
When we walk by means of the Holy Spirit and apply the Word, then we go forward. There are all kinds of tests. This is not an exhaustive list. We have people tests, just getting along with folks which happens all the time. It happens a lot in churches. This can always be a problem because two sheep can get crossways with each other. Often they’re not significant things but like everything else in life, two people can get together and work together as long as one person doesn’t succumb to arrogance.
As soon as one person succumbs to arrogance and it has to be done the way they want it done, then you have a crisis. That happens in business. It happens in marriage. It happens in friendships. It happens in any kind of tasks where you have more than one person working to accomplish something. That is why arrogance is such a horrendous and destructive sin.
The people who are around the arrogant person have to learn to deal with them in unconditional love, learn how to have a relaxed mental attitude and treat them in grace even though this person is acting way out of line. That always creates problems and that’s a test in itself.
You have authority tests. You’re working somewhere and you have someone in authority over you who is not trustworthy. Or someone who is not a leader or someone who is always taking credit for the work that others do. There’s a thousand different problems with authority that we could talk about.
Obeying authority as long as that authority is not asking you or requiring you to do something that is not violating the Word of God is fundamental to all areas of life. If we do not learn to be authority oriented then we will succumb to all kinds of problems.
That’s one of the reasons parents are to discipline their children. Children learn authority orientation in the first two to three years of life. You don’t wait until they’re old enough to understand your explanation before you start teaching them authority. As soon as they disobey you from the beginning, there’s some sort of negative consequence that they have to face and that’s what will do them great blessing for the rest of their life.
System tests. Bureaucracy tests. We run into these things all the time. Customer service tests. That’s another one we run into. We have to learn to relax and have humility.
Someone recently shared a list of promises with me they had put together. One category was called “customer service tests”. I love it. It was a series of problems related to the use of the tongue and speech. Mostly from Proverbs. Terribly convicting, so let’s move on to the next test.
You run into moral tests. You run into thought tests where you give into certain kinds of thoughts. They can be immoral thoughts, sexual lusts, all the way to thoughts related to power lusts, revenge motivation, and no one ever sees whatever goes on inside your thoughts. It can be thoughts related to arrogance.
When you have little kids that dwell on those things, you can’t see that. I can’t see that. They dwell on those things and we don’t know where that thought life is going. That can set certain patterns that the consequences of which five or ten years down the road can be devastating.
Thought tests and emotional tests are extremely significant.
I want to review the chart that some of you saw on Tuesday night when we reviewed this. It really fits in what we’re studying here in 1 Peter. It’s the flow chart on the Christian life. We start off with salvation. We trust in Christ as Savior. Immediately we enter into the family of God as a newborn baby.
We have to grow. We have to be disciplined. We have to be taught discipline. We have to be nourished. We have to build muscles, spiritual muscles. All of these things develop and that’s done through the Word of God.
1 Peter 2:2 says we are to desire the milk of the Word that we may grow thereby. It is the Word that is the primary agent under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit that God uses to mature us. As we take in the Word, what we take in and what we learn is going to be tested so we have these tests of faith. Tests of what we believe to teach us application and the issue there is always going to be volition.
Are we going to apply what we’ve learned? Are we going to keep on doing things the same way we’ve always done things? What happens is we go through a cycle as long as we’re walking by the Spirit. When we walk by the Spirit we produce good. This is a good of intrinsic value, based on the Greek word. We call it Divine good because it’s produced by God the Holy Spirit.
It produces the abundant life. Our life becomes evidence of the truth of God’s Word and the value of the plan of God. We prove that the Word of God is of great value. As that’s tested it then produces a steadfast endurance, a persistence in obedience. That’s what perseverance is. What my mother used to call stick-to-itiveness.
We don’t give up. Some days we do good. Some days we fail. The next day we might fail worse but we don’t quit. We keep plugging away because as long as we’ve got that nasty sin nature we’re always going to struggle with it. So we have to persist. Then that eventually leads to the adult spiritual life.
I didn’t put the other diagram with the two circles up here, one related to eternal values and positional truth. The other one on the right side that relates to our day-to-day experience of walking by the Spirit. We’re either in the circle or out of the circle.
This is that circle. If we stay in the circle, walking by the Spirit, abiding in Christ, walking in the truth, these are the various stages of growth and production that take place. These include the fruit of the Spirit.
On the other hand if we don’t use doctrine and we don’t use and apply what we’ve learned, that produces sin, overt sins, sins of the tongue, and mental attitude sins. It produces human good. We may be moral but it’s done from the flesh, not from the power of the Holy Spirit. It produces a death-like existence. There’s no real joy or happiness there.
There may be a temporal joy or happiness on occasion but long-term it doesn’t produce a quality life. That’s temporal death. It produces spiritual weakness and instability and eventually it leads to spiritual regression and a hardened heart, hardened into negative volition against God.
At the end of life in Phase Three we appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ. We either receive rewards and inheritance for what has been produced by our walk by the Spirit or we experience a loss of rewards and temporary shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ. That’s the process.
Slides 9, 10, 11, and 12
We have Phase One, relating it back to the initial diagram. Then Phase two and Phase three in the Christian life. That breaks it down a little bit to help us to understand how this fits together. This is God’s plan, the overall blueprint for spiritual growth or spiritual failure.
The second thing we pointed out last time was that God’s training program utilizes adversity to teach us these ten spiritual skills that are needed for spiritual growth. I pointed out that a skill is something you develop. It’s something you practice.
I put up this chart. I’m not going to go through the ten spiritual skills tonight. We did that last time. We go through spiritual childhood. The first one I’m going to come back to later on. That is confession of sin. We go through this cycle. It’s kind of amusing and sometimes sort of frustrating. We go through a cycle.
I have now been in some form of ministry for over forty years or approximately forty years. I’m seeing a third cycle where people are beginning to look at 1 John 1:9 and say, “I’m not sure that means we need to confess our sins every day. That means something else.”
This pops up every now and then. That is the standard interpretation within Reformed Theology. It flows out of their interpretation of 1 John. This is one of the things that concerns me. 1 John is one of the most difficult epistles in the New Testament to interpret. You have a whole lot of terminology there that comes out of the Upper Room Discourse in John 13–16. They go together.
How you understand one impacts how you understand the other. What I find that pastors and theologians do not understand and I’m really speaking to the fact that there are some free grace pastors and theologians who should understand this but don’t. They get wrapped around the axle on some minutia within the book that causes them to interpret this passage or that passage in an alternate way.
Either everything is related to a contrast between a believer or unbeliever which is a position called “The test of faith view”. That’s the Reformed view, that 1 John is saying that this is how you know if you’re saved. If you do these things, you’re saved and if you don’t do these things, then you’re not saved.
The other view which I’ll call for lack of a better term, the free grace view, which is that John is talking about two different types of believers, those who are walking in the light versus those who are walking in darkness. They’re both believers. So you have a lot of different terms there.
Everything in the book is either believer versus unbeliever or it’s carnal believer versus spiritual believer. If you go in and you take one passage from 1 John 5 or 1 John 4 and say this is believer versus unbeliever, then it destroys the fabric of the entire epistle. It destroys the logical consistency of the comparative vocabulary.
What you’ll have in one place is term A and it is surrounded by terms B, C, and D. Now term A may be only used twice in 1 John. But terms B, C, and D are used several other times. In all of the other places the B, C, and D are used it’s talking about this contrast between a carnal believer and a spiritual believer. That means that in this one or two cases where Term A is used, they also must, to be logically consistent with the language of the epistle, be referring to the same thing, that is, a contrast between a carnal believer and a spiritual believer.
When you break that, your interpretation of the whole book falls apart and it’s going to boomerang into John 13–16 if you’re consistent and then that, in turn, is going to boomerang into some other passages. The Bible is laid out like a jigsaw puzzle, in that each book is another piece of divine revelation.
You don’t get the whole picture until you get the last piece in place. You can get partial pictures. That’s why Paul says that we know in part and we prophesy in part but when that which is perfect [complete] comes, then that which is partial will be done away with.
It’s when we get the last piece of Revelation in place then we can look at that whole picture just like you can look at a picture on the box of a jigsaw puzzle. What happens is that people look at Ephesians as one piece. Galatians is another piece. John 13–16 is another piece. 1 John is another piece. 2 John is another piece. 3 John is another piece. So what happens is that all of these have to fit together. We end up taking them apart.
God doesn’t tell us everything about sanctification in one spot. Now that just sets you up. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
What you have here is confession which restores us to fellowship so we can walk by the Spirit. Then when we’re walking by the Spirit we can trust the Lord and God the Holy Spirit uses that to mature us, to strengthen us, and to produce fruit. At the same time we have to orient to the grace of God and orient to the Word of God.
2 Peter 3:18, we’re to “Grow by the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We’re never going to master those things perfectly. We don’t master them one at a time. It’s like building a house. Sometimes you come to Bible class and I’m talking about something in Hebrews and we’re focusing on occupation with Christ.
The foundation has been laid, and the framing’s up but the plumbers just showed up and they’re doing some plumbing. They’re finishing out the third-floor bathroom. Then the next week the carpenters show up. All they have time to do is put in the cabinetry in the second floor.
The next week someone else shows up and they do the sheetrock on the first floor and the third floor. They didn’t bring something so it’s a while before the second floor gets all the sheetrock in. That’s the dynamic of how we grow. We don’t grow in a logical flowchart. It’s dynamic. It’s messy. But that’s how life is.
This is how they fit together logically but not how they fit together in terms of order. So we learn a little here, a little there, a line upon line, precept upon precept. The Holy Spirit puts it all together in the process of our spiritual growth.
As we’re mastering those basics then we begin to fill out a little bit in terms of things we’ll need to know in terms of spiritual adolescence. That’s when we begin to think beyond the end of our nose, as my mother used to say. We plan for things that are going to impact us down the road.
We quit living today in light of what’s right now. When you live in a narcissistic culture, that’s a problem because the only thing that matters is right now. Our culture feeds this kind of spiritual narcissism where it’s all about me and it’s all about right now. We’re not thinking in terms of next year, next month, or definitely not to speak of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
We have to learn to live in the light of eternity. As we grow and continue to study the Word, our understanding of who God is and what He has done deepens, becomes much more robust, and our love for God matures from the love of a child to the love of a mature adult. We come to appreciate Him in ways we couldn’t imagine when we were younger.
That leads us to a greater appreciation and love for other people, even the nitwits. Even the idiots. Even the people that are there to test us so that we learn to be grace oriented. We focus more on Christ as we come to understand the depths of His suffering on the Cross. Those three go together: personal love for God and impersonal love for all mankind.
That word “impersonal” doesn’t mean it’s not personal in terms of being a real love that you care about people. It means that you don’t necessarily have a personal relationship with the person you are demonstrating love to. You don’t know the name of that cashier at HEB. You don’t know the name of the person who just cut you off on the freeway. You don’t have a personal relationship with the people you are dealing with in customer service. But you deal with them in love. It’s called impersonal because there’s no personal relationship there. It’s unconditional love. So we’re going to treat everyone that way, not as if they’re just an impersonal robot.
Then comes occupation with Christ. This leads to and develops personal happiness in our lives. We covered all of that last time.
The four spiritual skills we saw in 1 Peter. Joy is what is referred to as inner happiness. Faith is what we believe, which is doctrinal orientation. Love for Christ is what we refer to as occupation with Christ. By believing is what we refer to as the Faith-Rest Drill.
Point number three is that God trains us through these situations which teach us to respond biblically. In doing this we have to learn to think and not to emote. It’s like going through basic training in the military or going through police academy where you’re constantly put in difficult situations and you can’t vibrate, you can’t react. You have to think and learn what the protocols are to respond to the circumstance and focus on those objective principles.
God trains us in these situations to teach us to respond biblically, to teach us to think and to teach us not to just react. We need to have thoughts come into our minds initially like, “I wonder why God brought this into my life at this point. How am I supposed to respond? What are the verses I should be focusing on?” We should do this rather than just reacting emotionally.
The fourth point is that we call these spiritual skills because a skill is something that has to be practiced over and over and over again in order for it to be mastered. There are some skills that will come easier to some people than others. Other skills that will come easier to you than to others.
A skill is something, though, that depends upon developing self-discipline and self-mastery. To be able to do anything well, we have to make it an objective. We have to focus on it. We have to practice it. It’s not just going to happen. Some people have gotten the erroneous view that when you’re filled by the Holy Spirit that means the Spirit takes over your volition and doing the right thing is just going to naturally happen.
Doing the right thing only happens as a result of our volition. A very bad word was used by some people to describe the filling of the Spirit as control. Control implies overriding the volition. Its influence, just like the sin nature influences us. But the determiner is our sin nature. The sin nature chooses to follow the influence of the sin nature or chooses to follow the influence of God the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
We make conscientious decisions as to which way to go and we have to practice. We have to practice correctly. You can practice incorrectly but it’s only perfect practice that makes perfection. If you practice imperfectly then you will only produce imperfection. Perfect practice makes perfect.
We have to practice these skills to be grace oriented. It may be mechanical or seem mechanical at first because it’s not natural. When you look at a ballerina on the stage, she has spent thousands of hours practicing those moves. At the very beginning they may not have felt very natural at all and she had to break them down into the individual components and learn them in a very mechanical way.
The same thing happens with piano players. The same thing happens with any musical instrument, dancing, and football players. You break any movement down into its components, master each component, and then put them together gradually until it seems like it’s just one fluid natural movement.
That’s what we have to learn in terms of learning to confess our sins and claiming promises. It takes a long time and effort to memorize a lot of promises and to categorize them so that we can we use them at the right time and the right opportunity. For example, you could take a list of promises related to things like “a soft answer turns away wrath”. You could memorize those, review them, and then pick up the phone and call customer service. While you’re on hold, you can continue to repeat those promises.
In the Christian life we have two options. We’re either walking by the Spirit, in which case we apply the teaching of the Scripture. Or we opt for the sin nature. Those are the only two options. There are some people who say, “Yeah, we have mixed motives, don’t we?”
We do. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Mixed motive messes up the whole thing. We have to learn to deal with that and as Paul says in Romans 8, we have to learn to put to death the deeds of the flesh and not let those erroneous motives come in.
We have these two options. It’s one or the other. It’s not a little bit of both. I’ve heard pastors teach that. I’ve heard theologians teach that because they don’t understand the basis. You get into Galatians 5:16. Dwight Pentecost said it very well in his commentary on Galatians. He said the way the Greek is set up there it’s mutually exclusive. You either walk by the Spirit or you’re walking according to the sin nature.
There’s no middle ground. It’s one or the other. As soon as you quit walking by the Spirit the default position is not a position of neutrality. It’s a position of sin nature control. The only way out of that, we believe, is to confess it as sin.
You have these parallel phrases, to walk according to the sin nature in Galatians 5:16, walking according to the flesh [a synonym for the sin nature] in Romans 8:4, walking in darkness in 1 John 1:6 and 2:11, and walking according to our lusts in 2 Peter 3:3 and Jude 16.
Point 6 we have the opposite phrases: walking in the light in 1 John 1:7, Ephesians 5:8; abiding in Christ, John 15:1–7; abiding in the light in 1 John 2:10’ walking in truth in 2 John 4 and 3 John 3; walking by the Spirit in Galatians 5:16; walking according to the Spirit in Romans 8:4; and living according to the Spirit in Romans 8:5.
Now if you noted, the passages are in 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John, the Johannine epistles, Ephesians 5, Galatians 5, and Romans 8. Those are your key passages. I go back to the point 5 and we see the same passages are listed: Galatians 5, Romans 8, 1 John 1, 1 John 2, and 2 Peter 3 and Jude 16. These are your critical passages.
It takes a lot of time to put all of this together and to really understand how all the pieces fit. Think about that image of a jigsaw puzzle again. Once you get Galatians in place, then you get John 13–16 in place. Then you get some passages in Corinthians in place and you get Romans 6, 7, and 8 in place. Then you get Ephesians 5 in place. Then you get 1 John in place. Then it begins to make sense.
God didn’t say in one place that you need to walk according to the Spirit. Then when you fail and start walking according to the sin nature, then you need to confess your sins so that you can recover. That gets put together once you get all the pieces in place, comparing Scripture with Scripture. Then it’s all there.
God didn’t give us the Word as a completely correlated systematic theology. What God gave us was these epistles in the New Testament and historical books in other places and the prophets to give us all these different components. He did it that way in order to force us to stop and think and reflect. How does this fit with that? How does this go here? What does this writer mean by this?
If God had just given us a systematic theology, we would read it and say, “Okay, I got all my questions answered. Let’s bow our heads and go home.” By putting it the way He did, it forces us to constantly go back and rethink and reevaluate and to put it together. It forces us to constantly stay in the Scriptures.
That’s the idea. It’s absolutely brilliant. Every time I go back through this I see something new and see some different and new correlations. Either that or I’m just getting old and everything old just seems new again. One way or the other.
So we have these passages here. Now let me run through this. This is not going to be on the slide but I’m going to put this together because the question I’ve heard since I was in seminary, before I went to seminary. The first time someone asked me this question was the summer of 1975. That was 40 years ago. The question was: Ephesians 5:18 talks about being filled with the Spirit. There’s no mention anywhere in Ephesians of confessing sin. So how can you say being filled by means of the Spirit is a consequence of confession?
1 John 1 talks about confessing sin in 1 John 1:9. There’s nothing in 1 John 1 or anywhere else in 1 John that talks about being filled by the Spirit. How can you say that confession of sin is necessary to recover from sin and to be filled by the Spirit?
That’s an excellent question. It comes only when you have taken the time to compare certain aspects of Scripture. I want to summarize this. I’ve taught this before many times in a series of lessons but we’re going to run through this like a speed drill. Okay? That way you see the whole picture.
First of all, John 15. We’ll do a little sword drill tonight and go back and look at these passages very briefly as we go through them. You can even underline the critical verses and make a note. We’ll go to John 15 and from there we’re going to go to Galatians 5:16 so put a little note there.
In John 15 Jesus starts off by talking about the fact that He is the vine and the Father is the vinedresser. In verse 30 He says, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away.” Then if you skip down you read in verse 5, “I am the vine. You are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit for without me you can do nothing.” So the sole and necessary condition for bearing fruit in John 15:5 is what? Abiding in Christ. He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit. The sole and necessary condition to bearing fruit is abiding in Christ. Okay, that’s John 15:5.
In your margin there you ought to put Galatians 5:16. We’re going to turn over a few pages and books to Galatians, which comes before Ephesians, after 2 Corinthians. In Galatians 5:16 Paul says, “Walk by means of the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” In verse 22 he says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, against such there is no law.”
What’s the command here? Walk by the Spirit. What is the consequence of walking by the Spirit? The fruit of the Spirit. So in Galatians 5, what is the necessary and sole condition for producing fruit? Walking by the Spirit. In John 15 it was abiding in Christ. “Abide in me and you’ll bear much fruit.” In Galatians it’s walk by the Spirit and the Spirit will produce fruit.
If producing fruit is a result of abiding in Christ and walking by the Spirit, then abiding in Christ and walking by the Spirit must be pretty close to the same thing. They must be related to each other. Two sides of the same coin kind of thing. So Galatians 5:16 says the necessary and sufficient cause is walking by the Spirit. Therefore, point number three is that abiding in Christ and walking by the Spirit must be equivalent.
That’s really important to understand that. We’ve defined abiding in Christ and walking by the Spirit as roughly synonymous. They’re equivalent concepts. Now let’s move on to look at another chapter. Turn over to your right to the next epistle which is Ephesians. Turn to Ephesians, chapter 5.
Ephesians 5 starts off as the last three chapters of Ephesians cover the Christian life under the metaphor of the Christian walk. In Ephesians 4:1 it began, “I, the prisoner of the Lord beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you’ve been called.” A command to walk worthy presupposes that you cannot walk worthy.
What we have here is a bilateral situation. Either you’re walking worthy or you’re not walking worthy. John 15 presupposes that you can either abide in Christ or not abide in Christ. In Galatians 5 you can either walk by the Spirit or not walk by the Spirit. These are presented as mutually exclusive options.
In Ephesians 5:1, still in keeping with the theme of Ephesians 4, 5, and 6, which is the Christian life under the metaphor of the Christian walk, we’re told to walk in love. In Ephesians 5:8 we’re told to walk as children of light. Ephesians 5:8 is important because it says you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord.
That’s positional. Then the command is to walk as children of light. That’s experiential. We are, in terms of our identity as a new member of the body of Christ, the family of God, children of light. But we have to walk like we are our Father’s child. That implies we can walk as if we’re somebody else’s child.
We can walk as if we’re not a member of the family of God. We can walk like we’re the devil’s seed. We can walk like we’re the enemies of Christ. We can walk according to the flesh and we can be just as evil and nasty and wicked as any unbeliever.
We can probably do them one better because a lot of time we’re rationalizing it and saying, “I just need to confess it and the slate’s wiped clean.”
In our fourth point, Ephesians 5 says we’re to walk in love. Ephesians 5:8 says we’re to walk in the light. The result of this, because all of these walks in Ephesians 4, 5, and 6 are all talking about the same thing, if you look at Ephesians 5 [New King James version], it says, “Walk as children of light because the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” Now I believe that probably the original reading is fruit of the Spirit there because that’s what’s in the Majority Text. Some of the older manuscripts [Nestle-Aland and the UBS] omit Spirit and it reads light. That’s found in about three manuscripts but because they’re older, in that theory, they should be the original. I think it’s more consistent that it’s the Spirit.
Either way what we’re talking about is that when we walk as children of light, what is produced? Fruit. Let’s put it together. What is the sole and necessary condition of producing fruit in John 15? Abiding. What’s the sole and necessary condition for producing fruit in Galatians 5? Walking by the Spirit. What’s the sole and necessary condition for producing fruit in Ephesians 5:8? Walking in the light. Walking as children of the light.
The result of this has to do with fellowship. We have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. But when we’re walking in darkness we do have fellowship with them.
Then we see a distinction made here. If we’re walking in darkness we’re going to have fellowship with the works of darkness or children of darkness. If we’re walking in light we’re going to have fellowship with those who are walking in the light.
That’s going to be important because that terminology is picked up by John in 1 John 1. What we’re seeing here in point 5 is that equivalent terms are abiding in Christ, walking by the Spirit, walking by the light, and walking in love. Those are all basically describing the same thing, this unique spiritual life that we have in the Church Age. We’re either doing that or we’re walking according to the sin nature.
Now in the sixth point, in each of these passages just to reiterate, we’re either walking by the Spirit or according to the flesh. In Romans 8 it’s walking according to the Spirit or according to the flesh. We’re either walking in the light or walking in darkness. We’re either abiding or we’re not.
I think the clearest image is walking in the light. If you’ve ever been down in a deep cavern like I have you’ll know what I mean. I remember the first time I did this I was probably about 10 or 11 years old. I was at Camp Peniel and we went down to the Longhorn Caverns outside Marble Falls. We got down into one of those deep, deep caverns where you’re hundreds of yards down below the surface and they turn off all the lights to see how dark it is.
You can’t even see your hand in front of your face. You can’t see anything. It’s just pitch-black darkness. Then the guide struck a match. Then you could see everything. A little bit of light dispels all the darkness. So you’re either walking in darkness or you’re walking in the light. A little bit of light dispels all the darkness. These are mutually exclusive. You don’t have just a little bit of light. It changes everything.
These metaphors that are used here are mutually exclusive. They’re one or the other.
Let’s look at Ephesians 5:15 under point seven. “See then that you walk circumspectly.” What do you say that walking circumspectly is synonymous with? Walking in the light, abiding in Christ, walking by the Spirit, walking in love, that’s walking circumspectly. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.”
That means that walking circumspectly is walking wisely. That means it’s mutually exclusive to walking like a fool. That makes sense. Think about Proverbs. You’re either taking the path of wisdom or the path of the fool. There’s not a middle path where one leg is wise and one leg is on the foolish path. It’s one or the other.
You may think this is really simple. I’ve heard this all my life. Yes, but there are people who are listening who are getting great flashes of insight right now. And there are people who should be listening who should be getting great flashes of insight right now.
This is so predominant in our evangelical world today. They think we do things from mixed motives and there’s no light or darkness. This idea of being mutually exclusive as one New Testament theologian at Dallas Seminary said, “It just borders on spiritual arrogance.” But that’s what the Scripture says. It’s one or the other.
Abiding in Christ is not something that is true of every believer. It is true of those who are walking by the Spirit. Yet there’s one Bible translation out there, The New English Translation [NET in which the New Testament was produced almost exclusively by Dallas Seminary faculty] and in one of the footnotes in 1 John 2 they said that abiding is what every believer does. They said it was spiritual arrogance to think that it is an elite group that abides and the others don’t. That’s the view out there.
That is a dominant view among evangelicals today. We’re in the minority. I just don’t see it. I’m trying to take you through this to see the reasoning for this.
So we either walk wise or we walk as fools. Verse 17, “Therefore don’t be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is.” That takes us right into verse 18, “The one who understands the will of the Lord is filled by means of God the Holy Spirit.” The one who understands the will of the Lord contextually is the one who is walking circumspectly, walking in love, and walking as a child of light.
The one who is walking as a fool does not understand it and is not being filled by the Spirit. This is mutually exclusive. It’s one of the other. A or B.
That’s point number 8. The wise person is filled by means of the Spirit and the fool is not being filled by means of the Spirit. I think it’s very important to translate that correctly, being filled by means of the Spirit. The Spirit is not the content. We’re not getting more Spirit. We’re fully indwelt by the Spirit at the moment of salvation but the Spirit is the One who fills us with something.
Grammatically, this verse uses the Greek EN preposition plus the dative. That’s not the way to express content. Content is expressed through a genitive case.
If we look over at Colossians 3:16, Paul says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell richly in you with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” The result of letting the Word of Christ dwell richly in you is teaching, admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The result of being filled by the Spirit is the same thing, “Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”
So if A produces C and B produces C, then A and B are related to one another. We’ve already had this syllogism once tonight. The One who fills us is the Holy Spirit but what He fills us with is the Word of God. Ephesians tells us we are to filled by the Spirit with something but it doesn’t tell us what the something is. Colossians 3:16 tells us that what we’re being filled with is the Word of God. It’s the Word of God and the Spirit of God that matures the child of God.
There’s no other way around it. Point 8 again. The wise person is filled by means of the Spirit and when we compare Ephesians 5:18 with Colossians 3:16 we realize that it’s the Word of God we’re filled with.
Now let’s turn to 1 John. We have three more quick points and I think we’ll get all of this in tonight. 1 John, chapter 1. Point number 9, 1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light.” Now that’s a contrast to something in verse 7. We know it’s a contrast because of that big “but” at the beginning of verse 7. Verse 6 says, “If we say we have fellowship with Him.” Now we’re back to that fellowship idea and that word was used in verse 5.
“If we claim to have fellowship with God and we walk in darkness...” If we claim that we’re walking in fellowship with the Lord and we’re walking in darkness, we’re not walking as a child of light but we’re walking in darkness, then we lie and we don’t practice the truth.
We’re walking in darkness so we can’t be having fellowship with God. We can’t be enjoying a relationship with God because God is light [verse 5] and in Him is no darkness at all. So under point 9 1 John 1:7 says that when we walk in the light we have fellowship with each other. 1 John 1:6 says that fellowship is also with God.
The implication of verse 7, “if we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His son, cleanses us from all sin.” A lot of people camp out on that verse. They say, “See, as long as we’re walking in the light we’re automatically scrubbed by the blood of Christ.”
If that’s true, then why 1 John 1:9 at all? Why say that if we confess our sins God will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we are walking by the Spirit, we’re automatically scrubbed clean, why confess our sins? Why even talk about it? The only answer to that, it seems to me, is that verse 7 is telling us what the basis is for the cleansing. It’s the death of Christ.
The mechanics of realizing it is what’s then iterated in verse 9, confessing our sin. If we’re automatically cleansed, then why even mention confession? It would be irrelevant. For confession not to be irrelevant then it has to mean that’s how we realize the application of Christ’s death when we have sinned and we’re walking according to the sin nature and walking in darkness, not abiding in Christ, not walking in love.
Point number 10, 1 John 1:8 says that if we claim to not have sin, in other words if we deny our sin, the truth, John says, is not in us. We deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Therefore we’re not walking in the truth. The person who denies sin isn’t walking in the truth, isn’t abiding in the light, isn’t walking in love, and therefore is walking in darkness.
How do we recover? How do we go from walking in darkness to walking in light? Walking in hate to walking in love? Not abiding to abiding? How do we move back? That’s where John 1:9 comes in at the next point. “If we confess our sins, then God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
So the eleventh point is 1 John 1:9 then tells us how we move from being out of fellowship to in fellowship, walking in darkness to walking in light. Not abiding to abiding. That’s how you put those passages together. You draw a conclusion by comparing these different passages to see how they fit together.
One of the big flaws that has developed in evangelical exegetical mythology in the last thirty or forty years is the idea that you don’t put these books together. You go through Ephesians and you study what Paul says to the Ephesians but you don’t correlate it to what John said in his epistle which was probably to the Ephesians.
And you don’t correlate that to John 13–16. These books remain isolated entities. You teach the biblical theology within each book but you don’t go to the next level where you start integrating it by comparing Scripture with Scripture to come to theological conclusions, which is where application comes from. That’s where you learn what it means when you’re going to put the Bible into shoe leather.
We’ll stop there. We just got to point six tonight which will give me something to say when I get back from Connecticut. Then we’ll close in prayer.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things, to be reminded of how these things fit together and how we shouldn’t isolate the different parts of Scripture but we should put them together, one with another, in order to understand the totality of what it is You are teaching. Help us to be consistent with Your Word, consistent in our theology, and that we can truly understand how to apply these things.
Father, we continue to pray for our nation. We continue to pray for our leaders. We pray that You would prevent those from getting into leadership positions who would harm this nation or endorse policies that would be destructive of our national security. Father, we pray that You would hinder those forces that continue to seek to promote human viewpoint and evil in this nation.
We pray for the city election in Houston coming up. We pray that we might all who can vote in it vote and that this evil ordinance, this Proposition One, would be defeated.
We pray all these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”