1 Peter 5
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
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Gifts: Extensive and Intensive
Ignatius of Antioch, Pastor and Martyr
17 October 2014
The work of Christ has such a grand and sweeping impact on the consciences of poor sinners like us. This is why we live in this fabulous freedom in which we have no fear of the law, death, sin, hell, the devil, or any other plague. Christ's salvation leaves nothing to chance. Nothing is doubtful about the intensive and extensive fullness of the salvific work of God's eternal Son. He does everything and does if perfectly. How could it be otherwise? If He is God then in what way would His work be incomplete, imperfect, or only partly done. Christ our Lord, God of God, could hardly be accused of acting like a teen ager, who will hardly ever do a task completely and correctly the first time. Yet many so-called Christian preachers presume that Jesus is just that kind of cosmic teenager who has trouble getting His work done completely and correctly. Worse yet, those who preach this way always presume that we need to help Jesus by completing what He has left unfinished. Jesus is not quote competent and really needs our help. At bottom this is a sin against the first commandment, because it attributes to us what God alone could do and takes from Christ His divine glory by refusing to attribute what is properly and rightly His.
We should bask in the completeness of Christ's work and luxuriate in the freedom which He has lavished upon us by the power of His blood and death. Not only does He grant us His righteousness as a gift, so that we stand before God as holy, He also counts all our actions to be right, and when we fail and fall into sin, he remits all our guilt. We are like the baseball team that seems to get a hit every time they swing at a pitch. Nothing can go wrong. Why shouldn't we live in this freedom? To live like we are slaves again is to deny that Christ can do what He promises He did. It is to step up to slave market and indenture ourselves to the worst tyrants and give ourselves back into bondage.
The completeness of the work of Christ, then, is both negative and positive, as well as intensive and extensive. Positive, in that it attributes to us Christ's righteousness; negative in that it forgives or remits sin. It is intensive, in that it is absolutely complete and perfect at any given moment; extensive in that it endures through time with the same perfect merit. This means that we are continually living in the freedom with which Christ has set us free. The imperative verb when Paul tells us to "stand firm" in our freedom (Gal 5:1) implies that this is our ongoing status before God. But this is exactly where we often struggle with our confidence in God's grace. We have trouble seeing its enduring merit; especially in the midst of suffering or spiritual struggles. Our sin looms up before our eyes in our weakness and we begin to think we are in charge of "fixing our own stuff." This is why the church's preaching must be predominantly the gospel so that in the midst of our weakness we fully experience our freedom: intensively and extensively.
"Let us learn to set a high value on this freedom of ours; not the emperor, prophets or patriarchs, not an angel from heaven, but Christ, the Son of God, through whom all things were created in heaven and earth, provides it for us through His death, to set us free, not from some physical and temporary slavery but from the spiritual and eternal slavery of those most cruel and invincible tyrants, the law, sin, death, the devil, etc., and thus to reconcile us to God the Father. Now that these enemies have been defeated and now that we have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is certain that we are righteous in the sight of God and that all our actions are pleasing to Him; and if there is anything of sin left in us, this is not imputed to us but is remitted for the sake of Christ. Paul is speaking very significantly and emphatically when he says 'Stand in the freedom for which Christ has set us free' (Gal 5:1). Therefore this freedom is granted to us, not on account of the law or our righteousness but freely on account of Christ. Paul testifies to this and demonstrates it at length throughout this epistle. Christ says: 'If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.' (Jn 8:36). He alone interposes between us and the evils that oppress us. He conquers and abolishes them, so that they no longer oppress and condemn us. In place of sin and death He grants us righteousness and eternal life, and He changes slavery and the terrors of the law into the freedom of conscience and the comfort of the gospel, which says: 'Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven' (Mt 9:2). Therefore he who believes in Christ has this freedom."
Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.1
Lord Christ, You have done all things well. You grant us Your grace in the face of all our enemies. Help us to stand fast in the freedom with which you have freed us. Keep us from the timidity and doubt. Amen.
For all those whose timidity keeps them from experiencing the fullness of the freedom with which Christ has set us free, that they would have the courage of a bold faith
For all pregnant mothers, that the Lord, who grants the gift of children, would watch over both mothers and children
In thanksgiving to God for all those who have gained employment and are again offering productive service in their vocation
Art: Crucifixes Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)
© Scott R. Murray, 2014