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How would Peter define what a Christian is (2 Peter 1:1-4)? July 19, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Faith, Jesus, Peter the Apostle, Religion, Second Peter, Sermons.
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What is a Christian Anyway (2 Peter 1:1-4)?

When we were missionaries in Germany, we were brought in contact with a group of asylum seekers from an Islamic country. A few were sincere seekers after the truth but many wanted to convert to Christianity so that they might start a new life in a new country. In order to do this, they needed to convince immigration officials that they were truly Christian. They would come to us with lists of questions concerning the religious holidays of Christianity. Others sought baptism as a way of becoming officially Christians. It did not take long for most of them to realize that we were not going to be much help to them and they fell away. They fell away because they did not understand what it means to be a Christian.

What we are asking today is not how one becomes a Christian, although we will also be looking at that. Nor are we discussing what a Christian looks like and does in his everyday life. We will be looking at that question next week. Asked another way the question is this, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”

A Christian is one who belongs to Christ. When Peter begins this letter, he identifies himself by name and makes it clear that he is a Christian, that is, that he belongs to Christ. How does he do this?

First, he says, “I am a bondslave of Christ.” A Christian is a slave belonging to Christ. We are His slaves (verse 1a). Romans 6 explains how that we were in bondage to sin but that through the death and resurrection of Christ we become slaves of righteousness. This means that we now do what Christ wants us to do. In 1 Peter 2:13-16, Peter explains how that works in a specific situation. There was the temptation for believers to refuse to submit to the government because Jesus was their king. Peter makes it clear that our slavery to Christ’s will compels us to obey the government. In other words, a slave of Jesus Christ is one who does the will of Jesus Christ. Peter states clearly that he does that will of God, not his will and not the will of any man but rather the will of God.

Secondly, Peter claims to be a servant. He uses the word apostle, that is, a sent messenger. The word “bondslave” makes it clear that Peter does the will of Christ. The word “apostle” tells us what Christ’s will actually is, to go with a message from Christ. In the same way, we are Christ’s servants (verse 1a). We do not all hold the office of an apostle but we are all sent messengers.

We have heard this morning from Susan Blodgett about her missionary work on the college campus and her recent missionary trip to the Dominican Republic. We support her financially. We pray for her. We rejoice in the work that God has given her and the part in the work which we have. We are no different than her, however. We are also bondslaves and as bondslaves we are responsible to do the will of God and the will of God is that we witness, that we serve as messengers of the gospel of Christ. That is our commission as servants. That is our task as slaves. In John 20:21, Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” We are indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit, according to the book of Acts, for the purpose of being witnesses throughout the whole earth. In Matthew 28, Jesus said all authority is given to me. For that reason, “therefore” go and teach, that is, make disciples. We are sent out with a message under the authority of our master to follow the model of our master empowered by the Spirit of our master. That is what a Christian is. He or she is a messenger, an apostle.

We are His called ones (verses 1b, 3b). This is referred to in verse 1 through the word “obtain.” It is the word used when they cast lots letting God determine their course of action. Peter says here, “Every Christian is a Christian because of God’s determination.” Peter is an apostle who walked with Jesus Christ who was given the honor of leading the church at Jerusalem but his faith is exactly like our faith. Our faith is equal to his in value and in honor. And He obtained His faith like we obtained ours, by the grace of God.
This faith is also obtained by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:24-26 explains what this means, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” What both Paul and Peter are saying is this, although one is a Christian by grace, it is a free gift, it was not free. Jesus Christ died, demonstrating the righteousness of God through His execution for sins, making it possible to obtain salvation by faith in Jesus. In other words, if one says he believes in Jesus but refuses to believe that Jesus is the only means of salvation, that person is not a Christian. He may speak of Jesus as His Savior but without faith in His death for my sins, He is not my Savior but rather my judge.

This is the description of the calling that we find in the last part of verse 3. Five times in 1 Peter it is written that believers are called but today I only want to call your attention to one of those passages, 1 Peter 2:9-10. Peter writes that we are called out of darkness into His marvelous light so that we might obtain mercy. Christians are called ones. We are called to faith by mercy and grace through the righteous, the just death of the Son of God. Just and righteous not because He got what He deserved but just and righteous because He got what I deserved.

Since we are called with such a merciful calling, it is no wonder that we should submit ourselves to slavery in the will of God, to service in telling the message of His mercy and righteousness in His death on the cross.

This calling, this slavery, this servant hood is great and marvelous but a Christian is much, oh so much much more, than just belonging to Christ. A Christian belongs to a body, the body of Christ.

We are called to a common faith through knowledge of Jesus Christ (verses 1-3). We have already seen that our faith is the same faith as Peter’s faith both in value and honor. The phrase “with us” may seem small but it underlines that our calling is not just an individual calling but a calling of a people. Look again at 1 Peter 2:9. God does not call Robert Talley to be a Christian. Now He worked in my life as an individual and He saved me individually but He called us to a common faith through Jesus Christ. Perhaps verse 5 can explain this concept better. We are his building. Many individual stones but one building.

We are called by a unique Savior (verses 1b and 3b). The body of Christ is inseparable from its Head. It has no sustainability without its Head. We have already seen that we are called together into one body through His righteous death. We are also called by His glory and virtue.

His glory according to 1 Peter 1:11, 21 is what happened after his death, His glorious, bodily resurrection and His even more glorious ascension to heaven to sit in authority on the right hand of God. There is none like Him. His glory is like that of no other.

His virtue is also like none other. Again in 1 Peter 1 we have a description of His virtue. Verse 19 describes Him as a lamb without blemish and without spot. There was nothing inappropriate much less sinful about Him. He truly is like no other.

It is the uniqueness of Christ that is our common bond. He lived like no other man, He suffered like no other man, He was glorified as no other man. He is our head. As we saw last Wednesday night from Ephesians 4:1, 4 the knowledge of our calling by this unique Christ is the foundation for part in the body of Christ and to not commit ourselves to other believers is unworthy of our calling in this unique Christ.

We are called based on great promises (verse 4a). These promises have great value. They are precious. These promises make it possible for us to be partakers of the divine nature. You see, belonging to Christ, being a Christian is more than going to heaven, it is more than being forgiven, I along with every other believer become a partaker of God’s divine nature. That is what it means to belong to the body of Christ. We share a common faith based on our knowledge of a unique Savior but we share more. We share much more. We share His nature. Christ being are head is not just getting corporate strength and direction from Him. His nature is our nature. How is that possible? The beginning of verse 3 tells us how. By His divine power. How is it that we have God’s nature? How is it that we can be one body in Christ? By His divine power through the knowledge of Him.

This is why you should integrate yourself fully into the body of Christ as practiced within a local church. If you are a believer in Christ and do not identify with a body of believers, do not integrate yourself fully with them, bear grudges against them, you are denying the common bond that we already have. Could you imagine a building where the stones are constantly pulling away from each other or pushing each other away? You know that such a building would collapse. Yet many believers claim to be Christians but refuse to commit themselves both formally and informally to other believers. As we saw in the book of James this morning in Sunday School, such a refusal to commit to other believers ultimately brings our Christianity into question.

A Christian belongs to a new world order (verse 4b). Being a Christian, belonging to Christ, belonging to His body is radically different. It is described in Scriptures as a separate reality.

Our old nature is corrupt, that is, doomed to destruction. The next chapter of 2 Peter describes this corruption in more detail. It is not a pretty picture (2 Peter 2:12-19). They are like rabid animals hunted down so that they might be destroyed (verse 12). The lust of the human nature is like rabies. It drives the animal to its own destruction. The animal no more fears that which can harm it. It is doomed.

But our new nature is divine. Could you imagine an animal, mad with rabies, doomed to death and dangerous to all with whom it comes in contact and then through the divine power that comes through the knowledge of Christ and through faith in Christ escapes the destructive disease and becomes not just a healthy animal but a partaker in the nature of God? It is beyond my comprehension but that is what a Christian is.

He belongs to Christ now.
He belongs to the body of Christ now.
He belongs to a new world order, a new realm of reality.

Do you belong to Christ? If you do, then you are a Christian. You belong to His body, you belong to a new world order. Do you live like it? There is nothing stranger than person who is not rabid acting as if he was. Do you walk worthy of your calling in Christ? Have you integrated yourself with the body or do you live the spiritual life of a lone wolf?

Perhaps you do not belong to Christ. The knowledge of Christ and the faith in Him produced by that knowledge will immediately make you a member of His body and a partaker of His divine nature. Will you trust Him today? Your choice is between two types of slavery. The slavery of corruption and destruction described in 2 Peter 2:12-17 or the slavery of righteousness through the death of Christ. Trust Him today!

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