The year 2020 will be remembered as one of the most disruptive and challenging years of our lives. The Coronavirus has changed us in ways we can immediately measure-like thousands of people getting sick or dying from the virus, as well as the economic devastation felt throughout the entire world. We have probably also been changed in ways we haven’t imagined yet. One thing we are sure of, however, is that all of us have been negatively affected. We are all in the midst of difficult days.
One of the most unexpected changes affecting the Body of Christ was reported by the American Bible Society a few weeks ago-13 million Americans who were formerly read the Bible regularly, have stopped reading it all together since the Pandemic began. A director for the American Bible Society said, “What we saw between January and June was that 13 million people in America, who were previously really engaging meaningfully with Scripture, no longer were, and that was a serious drop-off.”
As a church, our ministries have always depended upon us being a Bible believing people, our classes committed to Bible teaching, and our pastors have all been focused on Bible preaching. All of those ministry commitments begin with a passion for individual Bible reading.
We cannot reverse the inaction of 13 million people who have stopped reading the Word, but we can refuse to be guilty of it ourselves. So I’m offering our congregation a new Bible Reading Challenge 2020. I’m asking all of us to read one simple, short chapter every day for the next 21 days beginning Sunday August 2 through Saturday August 22, 2020. Will you accept the challenge?
All of the chapters I’ve chosen are easy and quick to read. Why did I choose short easy to read chapters? I want everyone to participate. Good habits like daily Bible reading can be established in 21 days and they can last a lifetime. There’s really no reason not to jump on board with this challenge. It all starts next Sunday August 2 and we will find multiple ways to communicate to our church family throughout the challenge.
Thanks for being part of a Bible teaching, Bible believing, Bible reading church!
Recently I’ve been asked the reason why Bible translations are often so different. There are two primary explanations. The most significant reason has to do with the ancient manuscripts which the translations are based upon. The second reason relates to translation philosophy. Both reasons are important factors in determining the final product. Let’s quickly examine these two issues.
A true translation, as opposed to a paraphrase like the Living Bible, is based on the original languages of Scripture. One of the goals of the translator is to communicate the ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text into readable English (or whatever language the modern reader needs). It sounds simple enough, but there are numerous considerations to take into account when moving an ancient language into a modern one.
For one thing, the most literal translation of the original language may not convey to the modern reader what was obvious to a reader 2000 years ago. Language is crammed with cultural assumptions and colloquiums, immediately relevant to the time in which it written, but sometimes confusing to readers generations later who are removed from the ancient cultures.
Good teaching can clarify most of those issues, but translators have to decide if they want to begin that teaching process by building it into the translation itself. In other words, the exact literal words from an ancient language, moved to a modern language, may require some additional explanation to capture the true sense of the author’s intention.
Consider, for instance, the instructions of the Apostle Peter regarding our call to live holy lives. In the historic and beautiful King James Version the Apostle advised, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” (1 Peter 1:13)
Perhaps you’re a biblical scholar and you get the meaning, but to the average American, what do you suppose it would mean to “gird up the loins of your mind”? Is that particular vocabulary, which employs a literal, though idiomatic, expression from Greek the best way to communicate the truth of the ancient Greek passage? After all, what does “girding the loins” have to do with our thinking process? Our minds don’t have “loins.” Obviously, Peter is using a metaphor of some kind, urging us to be mentally prepared.
In Peter’s time, when men wore long robes, they would frequently need to pull the robe up between their legs and tuck the long cloth in their belts to free their legs for running, fighting, or working. In other words, “girding their loins” was a way of preparing for physical activity. So using the literal phrase, “gird up the loins of your mind” does not necessarily easily communicate to a modern reader what Peter meant, and what his ancient readers would have understood as a figure of speech. Obviously, Peter is urging us to be mentally prepared.
Compare the literal King James passage to a couple of modern translations. The English Standard Version says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13). The New International Version takes a similar approach, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” (1 Peter 1:13)
So here are 3 translation choices for the same phrase:
▪️“Gird up the loins of your mind” (KJV)
▪️“Preparing your minds for action” (ESV)
▪️“With minds that are alert and fully sober” (NIV)
The differences in translation reflect a different translation philosophy. The King James Version is literal and reflects a “word for word” literal translation. The modern versions instead usually choose a “thought for thought” translation, to give the modern reader the benefit of not only what Peter says, but also what he means.
The Bible is ancient literature. The oldest passages were written at least 3500 years ago and the most recent written passages are 2000 years old. We do not have any of the original manuscripts of any biblical book, but we have thousands of ancient copies in multiple languages. No other ancient literature in the world has anything close to the abundance of copies- from so close to the original writing- as the Bible enjoys. The translator’s goal is to get back as close to the original manuscripts as possible so we can be confident of what the Bible’s authors originally wrote, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
It isn’t unusual for someone to notice that the modern translations do not include all of the verses or phrases included in the King James Version. This obviously raises questions, especially for those of us who believe in the trustworthiness of Scripture to lead us to God and guide our lives. So, we are tempted to ask why the modern versions leave out verses. Perhaps the more important question is why does the King James Version add verses?
Remember, the Bible is between 2000 and 3500 years old while the King James Version is only 500 years old. The translators seek to get as close to the original manuscripts as possible- not as close to the King James as possible.
Think about how many things have changed since the early 17th century when the King James Version was translated. The 19th century, for instance, brought the world a flurry of advances unknown to previous generations. Medical advances increased lifespans and overall well being of entire populations. Travel became more affordable, faster, and safer than ever before. Communication options took giant strides forward. In the Western world there was an increase in almost every aspect of the quality of people’s lives, including a greater quest for global exploration and a desire for more scientific knowledge. Compared to any other time in history the 19th century was on the fast track to modernity. As a result, the science of archeological discovery enjoyed a “golden age.” This was true in nearly every field of enquiry- including the discovery of breathtakingly important ancient biblical manuscripts, even continuing into the 20th century. How does archeology affect biblical translation?
The King James translators did not have access to the oldest manuscripts available, even though it is an older translation. Today, almost all of the modern translations are based on much older manuscripts- written much closer to the date of the originals- while the King James Version is based on newer and fewer manuscripts. Over time, as manuscripts were copied by hand, it is obvious some of the copyists, in some of the manuscripts, added sentences in a few places. The King James Version is based on these less reliable manuscripts. At first glance we may think we can never know, as a result, what the original manuscripts, written by the prophets and apostles, actually said. Nothing is further from the truth. The sheer abundance of manuscript evidence – the thousands of copies- leaves us today with the most reliable text any generation has ever had. We know what the Bible says. It is reflected in many of the modern English translations.
WHAT ABOUT INERRANCY?
I am an inerrantist- in other words I believe the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is without error. Inerrancy is not a political or denominational position – it is a doctrinal position. So you may ask “If there are differences in the translations, how can one believe in inerrancy?” That’s a fair question with a direct answer. The doctrine of biblical inerrancy is a belief that the original manuscripts as the Spirit inspired them and as the prophets, apostles, and others wrote them, are completely without error. “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” ( 2 Peter 1:21) The transmission of the original text across the centuries has been incredibly pure and the sheer number of copies in numerous languages, along with ancient sermons and writings filled with enough Scripture to nearly reconstruct the Bible from those sources, demonstrate the reliability of our translations today.
We trust the Bible because it is the Word of God. Committed scholars, devoted to knowing the truth, have produced for us accurate Bible translations which are fully reliable. Whichever translation you choose remember, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
There’s a prayer movement happening in the Capital City of Texas. Last winter we sensed the Lord’s leadership to pray 24 hours a day for one week. We announced the vision at a January pastor’s prayer retreat and half the churches needed volunteered immediately.
This week, September 28-October 4, we did it. Seven churches in Austin, Texas took a single step of radical obedience to pray non-stop for 24 hours for 7 days. Today is day 7 and Hyde Park Baptist Church is “on the wall.”
The churches and pastors who prayed 24X7 are:
1) Northwest Fellowship (Trey Kent)
2) Austin Reconciliation Church (Abraham C. Perez)
3) River in the Hills Church (Kyle Hubbart)
4) Hill Country Bible Church (Tim Hawks)
5) Capital City Church (Blaise Raccuglia)
6) Austin Christian Fellowship (Will Davis, Jr.)
7) Hyde Park Baptist Church (Kie Bowman)
Why did we do it? For one thing, we think Jesus is worth it. He deserves and expects unceasing prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
In addition, the city we love needs prayer. Our families need prayer. Our churches need prayer. Crying out “day and night” to change circumstances and alter history is the plain teaching of Jesus (Luke 18:7).
Finally, we undertook this step of testimony and obedience because we believe what Jesus said when He declared, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17). We don’t function as houses of prayer by merely believing in prayer, preaching on prayer, or having a church prayer list. We are houses of prayer when we pray.
What will happen as a result of this week? That’s in God’s hands but those who participated will never forget it and have already received a blessing. Prayer, after all is, in some ways, it’s own reward because when we pray we’re talking with God and that’s always a good thing.
Where will it lead? Again, it’s in God’s hands but Charles Spurgeon once said, “He who prays much will pray more and he who prays little will pray less.” In other words, prayer leads to more prayer. In fact, we agree with Samuel Chadwick who said, “The greatest answer to prayer is more prayer!”
There’s no shortage of prayer requests. The needs are everywhere. I encourage everyone reading this message to join the prayer movement. How? First, make prayer the priority of your spiritual life. Next, find another follower of Christ who values prayer and spiritual growth like you do and start meeting together for prayer. Ask God to lead you to others in your city with the same passion. Pray for and encourage your pastor. The prayer movement is already happening- God will place you in it where He can best use you.
You can can join us at Hyde Park Baptist Church, Austin, Texas anytime today or tonight, Friday October 4-7am Saturday October 5, 2019.
Do you need to make a decision? If so, do you ever feel unclear about what you should do? You’re not alone. Today we often suffer from choice fatigue and decision overload. We have so many options, narrowing down the best path can open us up to less clarity and more confusion. What should you do when you need a clear direction but you’re faced with fog?
In addition to asking for advice, making lists of pros and cons, and praying about it, have you ever considered the role that fasting could play in helping you find clarity?
I was a college student the first time I attempted to fast. I did a water fast for 2 days. It was exhilarating. I felt hungry but I also experienced the mild euphoria and spiritual boost associated with fasting and prayer. It’s counterintuitive but fasting makes us feel better (even though we’re aware of our hunger).
It’s not unusual to experience clarity and sharper focus during a day or more of fasting and prayer. One of the first books I ever read on prayer mentioned fasting. The author had fasted 17 days and received a fresh vision for his ministry. As a new follower of Christ, I was shocked when I read that because I had never known anyone who had ever fasted (except biblical characters and at that time I hadn’t read much of the Bible). I was, however, intrigued by the possibility of connecting with God in a more “tuned in” way.
The next book I read that mentioned fasting was a biography. The author mentioned an even longer fast than the previous author. He claimed at about two weeks into his prolonged fast he was able to easily concentrate on anything for long periods of time. It wasn’t long before I tried fasting and experienced the focus and mental clarity others had described. Why does this happen?
Let’s ask someone who may know. Mark Mattson is a professor of neuroscience in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His research these days is in the science of fasting. The motivation for Dr Mattson does not appear to be spiritual. He’s interested in the neurological effects and the physical benefits of fasting. As it turns out, there are many.
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON FASTING
Dr Mattison believes the evidence demonstrates “fasting several days a week might help your brain ward off neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s while at the same time improving memory and mood.” (https://www.johnshopkinshealthreview.com/issues/spring-summer-2016/articles/are-there-any-proven-benefits-to-fasting) When you eat normally, glucose is stored in the liver and converts to a substance called glycogen which serves as the nutrient that feeds your brain. After about 14 hours without food, the body depletes the glycogen and starts feeding instead on fats which fuel the brain with ketones.
The difference between glucose and ketones is the basis for the popular “keto diet.” The ketones fuel the brain in a different way. You feel “sharper” and more focused. Unfortunately, most Americans never allow their bodies a break from 3 big carb and sugar rich meals a day, supplemented with more sugar, carbohydrate snacks, and soft drinks. As a result, our brains are fueled with glycogen rather than ketones. Think about how you feel after a big Thanksgiving meal. Do you feel sharp and focused or are you ready for a nap because you’re in a “food coma”? It’s a fact, too much food makes us drowsy and fasting sharpens our focus.
When we fast, therefore, in addition to spending more time in Bible reading, worship, and prayer we’re also flooding our brain with a nutrient that leads to more energy, focus, and an overall sense of well being. Why is this important?
CLARITY TO KNOW GOD’S WILL
Suppose you have a big decision to make and you want to know God’s will. Or, imagine you’re at a crossroad in life and you need God’s guidance. Is fasting helpful? Ask Nehemiah who fasted for days before he decided to leave the security of his life to go rebuild a wall around Jerusalem. “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4)
Ask Paul. It was while he was fasting and praying with leaders in Antioch that he received the calling to minister to gentiles which defined his life. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’
Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2-3)
Ask Jesus. After being anointed by the Holy Spirit for public ministry He disappeared into the desert to fast and confront the temptations of the enemy. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:1-2)
Fasting helps clear our minds so we can focus on God’s voice, His call, and His purposes for us. Believers have known about this for centuries. Now neuroscience is helping us understand why and how decisions seem clearer when we fast.
Do you need to get a fresh word from God about your life? Fast and pray. Expect clarity, but more importantly, expect God to speak!
If Misty Edwards was a pop singer she would be the biggest phenomenon in the country. She’s that good. But Misty Edwards doesn’t perform secular music- she’s a worship leader and her albums are praise music- and the music she makes is some of the best in the world.
As strange as it might sound, Misty Edwards and Bill Gates have something in common that could affect the way you pray and fast. In fact, just for fun, you can throw the Beatles into the conversation as well.
One of the most interesting authors today is Malcom Gladwell.
He has written 5 books that reached #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list (https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/). My favorite is Outliers which examines the question of why some people are immensely more successful than the average person. One of his answers Gladwell calls “the 10,000 hour rule.” He argues that 10,000 hours of doing a thing repeatedly gives you a competitive edge and makes you a virtual expert in whatever venture you’ve been willing to devote the time .
Gladwell uses the Beatles as an example. When they met as teenagers they were an average amateur group of mostly self taught musicians. What distinguished them was their early, long term engagements in little clubs in Hamburg, Germany. It was there- where they played week after week in all night sessions for more than two years, that the group became the tight unit of performers who went on to become the legends they are today. They played live for more than 10,000 hours.
Now, what does any of this have to do with Misty Edwards, or your prayer life? When Misty Edwards was 19 she went to Bible College in Kansas City and at that time could play only 4 chords on the piano. At about that same time the International House of Prayer in Kansas City was starting and needed non-stop worship music playing to support those who came to pray. The little group only had 25 players available to cover 168 hours of non-stop prayer and worship every week. Since Misty Edwards knew some chords, and had grown up singing in church, she spent 6-8 hours a day in the prayer room playing her piano and singing. Soon, the four chords she knew became 8, the 8 became 12, and so on (https://youtu.be/Wf5CoAXnlTE). Today, Misty Edwards is one of the most gifted worship singers with one of the purest sounds in the world. She unknowingly achieved the 10,000 hour rule.
What if you wanted to develop your prayer life beyond the norm? How could you? The answer is arrestingly simple. Pray more. Fast more frequently. Give God more time. Jesus prayed long hours. Luke tells us, “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12).
I’m planning to pray more during this period of 40 DAYS of Prayer and Fasting. I have committed to a plan for prayer which will include getting up earlier every morning. I know exactly which Bible passages I am going to read each day. I have chosen my days of fasting. I have arranged my schedule to allow much more time in prayer than normal. Why? I am planning ahead to give God my best and make the most of this time in our life as a church.
Can we really pray 10,000 hours? If you start young enough, say at age 20, you can pray 30 minutes a day and hit 10,000 hours in prayer by age 80. That’s not a bad way to spend 60 years. If you’re older than 20 you might need to get caught up so you better get started. There’s no better time to begin than now if you want to reach your goals. Just ask Bill Gates or Misty Edwards!
Congratulations-you’re following the advise of Jesus! One day He was challenged by His critics because His disciples didn’t fast. He reminded them the disciples were with Him and didn’t need to fast. He compared Himself to a Bridegroom at a wedding and His disciples were like the friends of the Bridegroom. That’s not a time to fast-it’s a time to celebrate and rejoice! But Jesus knew He was going back to Heaven soon and things would be different for the disciples at that time. He said, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day” (Mark 2:20). Did you notice Jesus said while He is away, “they WILL fast.” Since He has not returned yet, we live in “that day.” Because we are His disciples, it’s clear we “will fast” in fulfillment of His prediction.
So, let me encourage you in your fast- you’re doing God’s will. He’s going to help you.
1) While fasting drink a lot of water.
2) During the times when you would normally be eating, spend that time reading the Word and praying. Remember, fasting means the least amount of food and the most amount of prayer!
3) Fast for a purpose– expect a breakthrough, an answer, a spiritual insight, or direction for a decision you’ve been wrestling with.
We have tools to help you achieve your spiritual goals. For instance, you can find multiple prayer guides to help you pray by going to hpbc.org/2418. For encouraging, brief, daily devotionals during the 40 DAYS follow me on Twitter at @KieBowman. I will be posting a new devotion written by 40 different Christian leaders every morning during the 40 Day fast. In addition, I’m going to post an encouraging, practical blog – like this one- at least once a week here at kiebowman.com.
WHO’S YOUR ONE?
One ofourreasons for calling the 40 day fast is to increase our effectiveness in prayer for the “one” on our list who is far from God. Pray for your “one” to have an open heart to the Gospel. Pray for other believers to influence their lives at work, school, or home. Pray your “one” attends the Ronnie Hill Harvest September 15-18. Ask God to help you be ready to engage your “one” in spiritual conversations. Be bold when you pray for the lost!
I want to encourage you with one last thing- you’re not alone! Several people have signed up to fast on your day. You CAN do this!
Jesus is coming again! The promise of His return dominates the pages of the Scripture. His second coming is mentioned at least 300 times in the New Testament. In addition to the promises in the Word of God, due in part to the increase of international distress, the church today is anxiously looking for His return. For instance, the late Billy Graham recently said, “The Bible teaches that Jesus is coming again. And I don’t see any other hope, because we’re heading toward a catastrophe in our world.” (https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/january-2009/the-second-coming-of-christ/)
In the last few days of His life on earth, Jesus addressed an important concern. His disciples had asked Him a pressing question we’re still asking today, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) Jesus went into explicit detail when He answered their questions.
He promised signs would precede His coming, and those “signs” will obviously help us recognize when His return is getting closer. We would be foolish to predict the day and hour when Christ will return and equally foolish to ignore the signs He left us regarding His return.
One sign I am particularly interested in has to do with evangelism and global missions. Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
(Matthew 24:14) No generation in history has been more capable of fulfilling this final sign than our generation.
As you know, our church is part of a prayer movement-a local expression of a global phenomenon-the likes of which the world has never seen. All over the world Christians are committing to unceasing prayer as never before. Why is this? I believe God is preparing His church for something on a global scale. Could it be a spiritual awakening leading to the greatest evangelistic thrust in history-in order to finally evangelize the entire human race? Could this global army of evangelists be the final surge before the return of Christ? Maybe. I think it’s possible.
Can we be absolutely certain the signs are pointing this way? No, but we are instructed to pay attention to the signs and learn from them. For instance, I recently drove several hours through the night and the closer I got to my destination the more signs I saw announcing the final location. That’s how signs work. They exist to guide us. Christ left us signs of His return and one of those signs- in fact the final sign- is an unstoppable evangelistic push across the entire world.
Scripture and history demonstrate that major movements of God’s power in the earth are preceded by prayer movements. Is God rallying His global community to unceasing prayer to help mobilize the final, global evangelistic saturation of all the nations? Have you ever noticed that the last prayer in the Bible is for His return? “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20) It’s a simple 4 word prayer-“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
Someday Jesus will answer that prayer. The final sign before His return will be the mobilization of the church to take the gospel to every region on earth by every means available. You and I have a role to play in this unfolding plan of God. We can join the prayer ministry and “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38)
For 2000 years Christians have eagerly looked for the sign of the times. We may actually be living in the time of the signs! Keep praying and don’t lose hope because Jesus is coming again.
There is no other book in the New Testament like Revelation. For centuries credible interpreters of Scripture have wrestled with the best way to understand Revelation. For instance, John Calvin never wrote a commentary on Revelation- even though he wrote commentaries on every other New Testament book, (except the two tiny books of 2 and 3 John). It’s believed by many that Calvin didn’t write a commentary on Revelation because he didn’t understand it.
Martin Luther was even more confused about Revelation. He recommended taking it out of the New Testament! Fortunately, he was unsuccessful.
Why is Revelation hard to understand? It’s difficult because we aren’t use to apocalyptic literature. Revelation is apocalyptic literature which uses symbols, numbers, and animals which we’ve never seen to do things that seem impossible. It’s truth communicated in a different way than we are used to seeing in the New Testament. Apocalyptic literature is prophecy drenched in highly symbolic language.
The book is addressed to a group of churches we usually think of as “the seven churches in Asia Minor.” These churches, all located in modern Turkey, were experiencing persecution. John, the last living Apostle, the author of Revelation, looks to the future when God will judge evil and justify His people. The final judgment of the earth as well as the final glory of God’s Kingdom are both described using symbols and vivid imaginative language.
Revelation is the picture of our future when Christ gathers His people into His Kingdom once and for all. It’s a confusing book at times but more importantly it’s an encouraging book for us because it’s filled with promises of our Lord’s final victory.
As you read Revelation be encouraged by what Jesus says and does because His future is the future of every believer! We’re with Him.
Jude is a brief letter written to spotlight error. The half brother of Jesus and full brother of James is aware of false teachers who deliberately corrupt the church for their own selfish reasons. In verse 12 he uses some of the most picturesque language to describe the heretical intruders. He calls them “… hidden reefs at your love feasts…waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead.”
Jude is unhesitatingly critical and pronounces judgment on the false teachers. This is a message our culture will not immediately accept because it runs contrary to the popular but false view that New Testament Christianity is only a message of love. God’s love is real but so is inevitable judgement.
Jude also urges believers to remain faithful and to take responsibility for their own spiritual safety by “…building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit” and he urges us to “…keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (vv.20-21).
The phrase “praying in the Holy Spirit” is intriguing, especially to those who long to seize every advantage in prayer. Clearly we could wish we had more definition about what it means to pray in the Spirit but Jude assumes the readers understand it. Even though little explanation is given about what it means to “pray in the Spirit”, the context suggests it’s part of the process of building ourselves up in the faith and remaining unswayed by false teachers.
Jude is relevant for us today as a corrective in our culture of false teachers and half truths masquerading as the gospel. When we read Jude we are reminded the reality of God’s grace never eliminates the certainty of God’s judgement. We are also encouraged by the fact God’s grace protects us from His judgment!
The Apostle Peter was clearly the leader of the Apostles when they walked with Jesus for 3 years. He could be impulsive, outspoken and easily intimidated. In some ways, he was the most reluctant Apostle. Yet, after Pentecost he was bold and committed, and the other Apostles acknowledged his leadership. Eventually, according to ancient, and probably reliable church tradition, Peter was martyred for his faith in Christ.
The book of 1 Peter reflects the Apostle in his spiritual maturity and demonstrates how much God had transformed the man. The letter is addressed to “exiles in the dispersion” in Asia Minor, which we know as modern Turkey. The letter was probably written about 30 years after the resurrection during the reign of Emperor Nero. The evil emperor had issued an official persecution against Christians, especially in Rome, causing the “dispersion” or “exile” of believers from Rome to other, safer places like Asia Minor.
Peter is therefore writing to Christians who have been persecuted, displaced, and have experienced significant lifestyle disruption for their faith in Christ. When we read the letter of 1 Peter, even when those factors are not overtly mentioned, they should always be remembered to help us understand better what Peter is saying, and what the letter means.
The letter of 1 Peter is “pastoral” in that it seeks to encourage potentially discouraged Christians in difficult circumstances to remain faithful. Peter reminds them to live holy lives in an unholy world. He urges them to remember Christ is coming again and therefore the suffering of this life will be reversed. Peter helps the persecuted church to see itself in a different way by redefining their identity as Christ sees them, rather than as they see themselves. He also suggests practical ways for the believers to behave as faithful followers of Christ in spite of their troubles.
The letter of 1 Peter still encourages modern believers who are not in exactly the same dilemmas but who nevertheless need encouragement and spiritual growth. In other words, while you are reading 1 Peter, you can receive and apply it’s message to your own life and greatly benefit as a result.