B.C. Askins

The Man With the Golden Gun

Archive for the tag “suffering”

My Psalm

I am covered in blood.
It is mine
And my neighbors’
And my enemies’.
I have been so near to death
That I can’t relate to the living.
I have held so many hands
Until they could hold mine no longer.
I have walked to the veil of death
So many times
Where so many faces dissolve
Into just so many memories.
I have carried so many
To the grave.
Who will hold my hand?
Who will walk with me?
Who will carry me?
I endure,
But I am not strong.
I’ve simply never known anything else.
If I could quit
If I knew how to die
I would have long ago.
But I can’t.
So I walk alone
Covered in blood
And even my shadow would leave me
If it could.
And I can’t go on.
Who will carry me?
Who will walk with me?
Who will hold my hand?
The hands of the Lord have scars on them.
If they did not
Then I could not
Believe in him.
But because his body is covered in scars
I can believe in nothing else.
It is difficult to believe that God created a world
Where so many suffer so much.
But it is unbelievable that He created a world
Where no one suffers more than He suffers.
And I believe the unbelievable.
So I am covered in His blood
And I no longer walk alone.
For greater love has no one than this
That one lays down his life for his friends.
I am the friend of God.
And He will carry me.
He will walk with me.
He will hold my hand.
Until death is put to death
And life is brought to life
Forever.

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Exegesis of 1 Peter 3:13-17: Verse 17

3:17, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

The substantiation of a Christian’s good conscience is in our good behavior in Christ. This is the condition which 3:17 reinforces, that it is always better for a believer to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (cf. 2:19-20).

It is widely recognized that the “it is better to… than to…” formula is proverbial, stemming from OT wisdom literature. The proverbial wisdom laid out in this verse was common to the larger Greco-Roman cultural context in that day, but Peter has demonstrated that a Christocentric understanding of this general moral principle radically alters the ground and purpose for suffering righteously while enduring injustice.

It is this unjust suffering, combined with the believer’s righteous life, reasonable hope in Christ and gentle, reverent attitude which create a powerful witness that God may have ordained as a means leading to salvation for someone. The hoti clause of verse 18 shows that such suffering is Christ-like. “Just as Christ endured unjust suffering for our salvation, Peter reasons, so we are blessed by God if we endure unjust suffering for the salvation of others.” (29) Clearly, such suffering is much better than suffering for wrong-doing, especially when it is instrumental in leading others to hope in Christ.

The missiological and eschatological senses of kataisxunthosin in verse 16 are reinforced in verse 17 as well, in that it is better to suffer now for doing good to the missiological end that some might be saved through such a witness, than it is to suffer finally for wrong-doing under the eschatological judgment of God. This rendering also reinforces the need for responding with gentleness and reverence before our enemies when suffering, remembering that we are far better off than our oppressors – and would be no better off apart from the grace of God.

The optative mood of pasxoite completes the inclusio from 13-14b, finishing the application of his earlier exhortation to righteous living under the circumstances of slander and suffering.

(29) Wayne A. Grudem, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: 1 Peter, An Introduction and Commentary. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 162.

Exegesis of 1 Peter 3:13-17: Verse 14a

3:14a, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.”

The contrastive conjunction alla introduces a clarifying qualification on verse 13, which recognizes that there are exceptions to the general rule that Christians will not suffer if they do that which is right. (7) Indeed, even in these times of suffering the author asserts that they are blessed.

The future tense of the participle is probably functioning much like the subjunctive here, (8) and in conjunction with the optative mood of the verb in the contrastive parallelism it may function to anchor the optative as more than a bare possibility for many believers. (9) “Peter was not teaching that suffering is rare, only that it is not perpetual.” (10) This interpretation is reinforced by Peter’s use of ei kai which can describe a condition which is either already fulfilled or is likely to be fulfilled. (11) It is also helpful to remember that this epistle was written to a diverse audience throughout several geographic locations, so the optative mood allows both for the transitory nature of suffering in the life of the church, as well as the diverse circumstances of the various churches being addressed.

Peter’s use of makarioi clearly echoes the eighth and ninth makarisms (or beatitudes) of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (12)

This echo is worth considering in some detail. Of specific value in the current context is the parallelism found between the two beatitudes: the ninth beatitude amplifies and personalizes the eighth. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of (heneken) righteousness’ sake… Blessed are you when others… persecute you… because of (heneken) my account.” (13) In this parallel Christ subtly identifies himself as righteousness, since persecution because of righteousness is persecution because of Christ. In the same way, Peter declares that his readers are blessed when they suffer on account of righteousness, which is suffering on Christ’s account. After presenting a quote on righteous living from one of the psalms which prophesied about Christ’s crucifixion (Ps 34) in verses 10-12, Peter echoes Jesus’ own teaching on a righteous response to suffering and persecution (Mt 5:10-11) in verse 14a. A further echo to the same beatitudes is made in verse 16 when Peter refers to “those who revile your good behavior in Christ.”

The echoes of this beatitude in verses 14 and 16 appear to be intertextually emphasizing the divine righteousness of Christ, particularly in response to his own persecution, while contextually drawing central attention to the admonition enclosed between them in verse 15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”

Associating blessing with suffering is initially counterintuitive, but when the church endures suffering righteously, believers receive the blessing of experiencing unity with Christ, which is the greatest sign of God’s favor, providing evidence of salvation and presenting an experiential basis for the hope referenced in verse 15.

(7) Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010), 107.

(8) Brian Vickers, “1 Peter” (classroom lecture, 22760-Greek Exegesis: 1 Peter, Spring 2012).

(9) “The risk, always imminent but… most of the time a threat rather than an actuality, is itself sufficient to explain the optative.” Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010), 107. Cf. 2 Tim 3:12.

(10) Thomas R. Schreiner, The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 171.

(11) Paul J. Achtemeier, Hermeneia: 1 Peter, A Commentary on First Peter. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 230.

(12) The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002), 810.  All subsequent references to Scripture will be taken from this version unless otherwise noted by the author.

(13) The italic font is emphasizing the specific amplification and personalization within the parallelism.

Exegesis of 1 Peter 3:13-17: Verse 13

3:13, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?”

Verse 13 begins a specific application of Peter’s admonitions to righteous living from verses 8-12. The close link between 3:13 and the preceding verses is demonstrated by his use of the conjunction kai even while drawing an inference from verse 12. (2) The link is further supported by the repeated use in 3:13 of key terms taken from the author’s quotation of Ps 34 in verses 11-12, namely ‘doing good’ in verse 11 and ‘doing evil’ in verse 12. (3)

The use of a rhetorical question directs the audiences’ thoughts toward their own circumstances. Who will harm them if they follow hard after what is good? If the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his face is against those who do evil (verse 12) who could ever truly harm believers who zealously pursue righteousness? The answer implied by the question appears to be, “No one.” However, there are many clear examples of believers being harmed, even murdered, for pursuing righteousness. (4) So what are we to make of the apparent conflict with reality created by this implication?

Schreiner resolves this issue by viewing the use of the future tense participle ho kakoson as eschatological, referring to the fact that believers will not be harmed on the final judgment day. (5) However, this interpretation does not account for the contrastive parallelism between verses 13 and 14, where kakoson parallels pasxoite and tou agathou zeilotai parallels dia dikaiosunein. This suggests that kakoson has the same meaning as pasxoite, namely, “physical suffering” – rather than “eschatological harm.” It seems more likely that the rhetorical question is hyperbolic, and qualified immediately by the conditional (ei) and the optative mood of pasxoite in verse 14. Further support for this interpretation is drawn from the fact that every other use of kakoo in the NT refers to physical suffering, not eschatological harm. (6)

Effectively, Peter is stating that pursuing righteousness does not generally meet with opposition, in principle; however, the principle of sin is also at work in the world, at times producing violently irrational responses to the goodness of God, sometimes directed at His followers.

(2) “The kai with which this verse opens functions not so much as a copulative link with the preceding sentence (‘and’) as it does to introduce an inference from the preceding verse, and hence has the meaning ‘then.’” Paul J. Achtemeier, Hermeneia: 1 Peter, A Commentary on First Peter. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 229. Also J. Ramsey Michaels, Word Biblical Commentary: 1 Peter (Waco: Word Publishers, Inc., 1988), 185.

(3) In the text, the terms used are kaka in the quotation and kakoson in the rhetorical question, as well as the neuter singular of agathos in both places.

(4) Acts 7, the martyrdom of Stephen, can be viewed as a representative example.

(5) Thomas R. Schreiner, The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 170.

(6) Walter Bauer, W.F. Arndt, F.W. Gingrich, F.W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed, ed. Frederick William Danker (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 502. Also Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010), 106.

Yes, All Things

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28

Amazing. It’s actually possible to know that God, the Creator and Sustainer
of all of life, is making everything that happens in the world work out for
your own good. We can expect that everything that happens in space and time will eventually work out for our good, if we love God… and we love God if we have been called according to His purpose. So, the obvious questions are:
Have you been called? Do you love God?

The fact is that you probably don’t love God. You probably don’t even know
Him very well. And, of course, you can’t love someone that you don’t know. If
you don’t know Him, what would there be to love about Him, right? So you
don’t know God and since you don’t know Him you can’t love Him. So where does that leave you?

Well, here’s the implication of the verse above: if there are people who know
that all things in life work together for their good, then there must be another group of people who can know just as certainly that all things in this life are working together for their “bad.” You don’t know God, you don’t love God and eventually everything happening in all of history will work out against you. Ever felt like the whole universe is against you? Well, it might be.

The statement at the top of the page assumes that God not only has the power to control all things, but that He exercises that power as well. Every minute of your life so far, where you were born, who your family would be, how you would grow up and who you are today have all worked out exactly the way God planned it. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” (Acts 17:26)

Maybe you have suffered in this life. Maybe you have been harmed, abused.
Maybe evil has been committed against you. This verse is not saying that all
things in themselves are good. Evil is still evil, and will not go unpunished.

God has promised, “I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their
sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the
pride of the ruthless.” (Isaiah 13:11) Still, maybe you can’t believe that
the things you have suffered could ever “work out for good” for you. It is
repulsive to you, the idea that God controls the facts of your life. What
good could possibly come from the tragedies you have suffered? What kind of God plans suffering?

The kind of God who displays His love by suffering for us. “So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.” (Hebrew 13:12)

But here is another implication of the facts above: you are not reading this
blog right now by mere chance. This could be the moment God has planned for the transformation of your life. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you…” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)

Hear the call, come to know God in His Word, the Bible, so that you might see
that He is truly lovely and come to love Him. See that the future of this life and the next is full of hope in God, that you can know that all things are working together for your good.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) Come to God in
Christ and find rest for your weary soul.

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