Notes On Peter’s First Epistle (14)

“Pondering Peter”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!


The Pure Spiritual Milk (Chapter 2 Verses 1-10)

Taking up from yesterday’s note Peter goes on to his next injunction, the consequence of the previous chapter (vv1-3). As we have been reborn through this living, enduring word, we ought to have a desire, a passion for this word, to live and to grow by it. There is a negative (v1). Then there is a positive (v2), and then thirdly a question (v3). If the answer to verse three is positive, then we have made a once-for-all break from our past life, we have begun all over again, a new life in Jesus (2Corinthians 5.17). And one of the most vital things that has become new is our relationships with other people. It is not that our relation to God is not important, of course it is, but if it is right, then our dealings with people will be right too. We will want to rid ourselves of these ingredients, malice, guile, insincerity, slander and envy (1John 4.20; Matthew 5.23). But are not these the very things which rive the Church apart today? The sinful nature (Galatians 5.19-21). Are not these the things which come out of an impure heart (Luke 6.43-45)? So if this is what is coming out of the mouth of the Church, surely that means the Church is in need of a renewed heart? No, not a new message, not even the gospel message, the new wine of the gospel would just burst those old, dry, withered, hardened wine-skins (Matthew 19.17)? No, the Church needs to be renewed in heart first, she needs God’s Holy Spirit to come with a fresh baptism, with renewing grace, with energising power. With an effective love and grace, putting passion back into her soul.

It is a going back again to that child-like simplicity, and humility, like new-born-infants (Matthew 18.3). It is so hard staying there too, is it not? We grow up, or think we have, we become independent, self-dependant, get a bit of theology under our belts and before you know it we are teaching God a thing or two. The picture of this infant is so clear, an infant feeding upon its mother’s milk, and will not settle for anything else, humbly dependent. So every Christian, in the same child-like fashion, should ever desire the spiritual milk of the word (v2). When Christians cease to long for this divine milk, they go into spiritual decline, when they grow tired of the simple, saving, wholesome word something else takes its place. The flesh-pots of the world perhaps, and it ends in spiritual death if the descent is not halted. Pray for a real spiritual hunger and thirsting after God and righteousness (Psalm 119.20; John 7.37-39).

(© James R Hamilton, written May, 1998)

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Notes On Mark’s Gospel (61)

“On Your Mark”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!


Right Thinking (Chapter 6 Verses 45-56)

The question why they are so amazed (vv51-52) is in itself amazing, because it is not the first time (Mark 4.41). But we see why, the root of the sin is revealed (v52). The whole trouble lay in their hearts. Because they could not, did not or would not understand, their hearts, the very centre, source of their spiritual lives (Proverbs 4.23), were hardened. Not the obduracy of the Pharisees and Scribes, but none the less hardness of heart. Yes, it can happen to a Christian, be careful, guard your heart. They should have been at the stage of expecting Jesus to act and behave as the Son of God which he himself claimed and revealed himself to be. And of course they themselves had confessed and experienced him to be so (Matthew 16.16). It is out of the heart that proceeds every evil and iniquity (Matthew 5.19), Jesus warns. Even the sudden flash of anger is, as a thought, incubated in the heart before erupting as emotion. Our deepest thinking is vitally important. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 24.7). The rich fool (Luke 12.16-21), thought (v17) and ended up taking a course of action that cost him his soul. If God is ours, we ought to be able to control the intellectual capabilities we have, in order to think about good and holy things. Else Paul would not tell us to do so (Philippians 4.8). The whole of our inner, spiritual life depends upon it.

They crossed over and the crowds were there again with all their needs (vv53-56). The people as soon as they saw Jesus, became immensely excited, and coming in faith were ministered to in a variety of ways. We have been speaking about the heart, and now these people with their enthusiasm leave us with an interesting thought to finish the chapter. Does our Christian experience and worship belong to the ice age? With our focus upon objective Bible truth, have we perhaps lost some of our old enthusiasm, and excitement about the Lord Jesus? If in our Church there is not a joy, an enjoyment of worship, people will start to look for it in other things. To fleshly things, to entertainment, to gospel boogie-nights, to amusements. We do have a right to be joyful in Jesus, we have the new wine of the gospel, the Spirit of God within us, who satisfies us immensely, or should do. We need to dig deep at the wells of salvation, the water of life is there, and it is ours. Let us once and for all, away with the ice-age gospel, of coldness and stiffness, (we must not mistake these for reverence), let us warm our hearts again with the Spirit’s fire and offer to our Redeemer a worship which is white-hot with gospel love.

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)

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Notes on Peter’s First Epistle (13)

“Pondering Peter”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

The Living & Abiding Word (Chapter 1 Verses 22-25)

The source of our spiritual life is the divine seed (vv23-25). Our rebirth into a living hope (v3), comes to us as a result of what that seed actually is, “the living and enduring word of God” (v23). The word of the good news about Jesus which was announced to us (v25b). Peter has spoken about a living hope (v3), which was brought to us by means of this living word (v25). Which in turn is an enduring word because it is living and active (Isaiah 40.6-8; Hebrews 4.12). Jesus speaks of its durability (Matthew 24.35). As is the word through which we were born again so is the life produced, living, enduring, incorruptible. As is that word so are we. Now it is this word, and obedience to it (v22), that has drawn us together into the community of the Church (Hebrews 11.10), the brotherhood of believers (2.17). And made us strangers, foreigners to the world (v1). Now look at the quotation from Isaiah, people in their natural, bodily state, born of earthly parents. Whatever is good, attractive and grand about that condition? However proud a person may become of their beauty, wealth, honour, achievement, greatness, and heritage It is at the end of the day no better than a bloom, or blade of grass, it will wither. It is transient, it will fade, it will not last.

But. The word of God is not transient, it endures forever. That is the word, says Peter, that was proclaimed to you (v25b). Or better “this word is the good news that was preached to you” (v25b). It entered your hearts, birthing you to eternal life, overcoming your former life-style, and replacing the corruptible with incorruptible. and yet stands immovable. So instead of holding pity-parties, becoming sad and gloomy over our circumstances in the world and around us. Peter says, there is cause for rejoicing in the precious price paid for our salvation, in the trust and hope we have. Particularly if we consider the price, the cost of our former life-style, the toll it took on us, the power of that kind of living, how it destroyed our health perhaps, ruined us spiritually and morally, living in fear and dread, with the shadow of death lingering over us like the sword of Damocles. But now with the salvation of ours souls secure (v9), living in the fear (filial) of God, exerting that new life in love within the community of faith (2.17; Galatians 6.10). We are a people with the ability to live confidently, to live powerfully, a life-style that should leave the world breathless!

(© James R Hamilton, written May, 1998)

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Notes On Mark’s Gospel (60)

“On Your Mark”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!


Don’t be Afraid (Chapter 6 Verses 45-56)

The Lord saw, by Divine revelation obviously, his disciples in distress (vv47- 48a). It surely is an encouraging, and comforting thought that the Almighty, is also the All-seeing, the Omniscient one (Psalm 33.18; Psalm 34.15). There is no distress we get into but he does not see and know and care about (1Peter 5.7). He knows the way we take, he understands human life in this world, he remembers what it is like. It is all under his gaze, and control (Psalm 34.15). You can trust him every step of the way. Did the disciples, perhaps not verbally, but inwardly wish he were there with them in the midst of this storm, as before? And had not Jesus perhaps many times told them he would never leave them. And when sending them ahead would no doubt have told them he would come to them? Well here he is (v48b), so why are they terrified (v50)? They are in great distress, and danger, surely his coming toward them spells only one thing, deliverance, rescue? What is there to be afraid of in Jesus?

Is it not true for salvation that there has to be a proper reception of Jesus (John 1.12)? Would he have passed the disciples by (v48b) had they not received him on board (v49)? So, so many things people are afraid of today, were they afraid of the darkness, was it some silly sailor’s superstition that caused them to be so terrified? Frightened of ghosts (v49)? That is not as daft as it may sound, is it? The answer surely to all our phobias is the Lord himself. Simply because he is the Lord (Philippians 2.11). The Lord of the wind and waves (Mark 4.41), the Lord of heaven and earth (Matthew 28.18), the Lord of all principalities and powers and everything else (Colossians 1.15-20). Away with your fears, and superstitions, exercise faith and courage, ‘it is I’ (v50b), the one who was their Lord and Master, whom they knew too well. You see our faith does have to be exercised, courage does have to be taken (Joshua 1.9), they do not work automatically. Faith needs something to go on, get hold of. Who Jesus is for instance, ‘it is I’. In other words the revelation of God, what he says about himself, what he has done, his ability, his promises, his purposes. The more saturated you are with his word, the more your faith will have to act and live upon, and the less fearful you will be. You will begin to recognize him in any given situation, in crises, and instead of panicking, hopefully you will learn the more and more to trust him.

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)

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Notes On Peter’s First Epistle (12)

“Pondering Peter”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

The Fellowship of Love (Chapter 1 Verses 22-25)

The vertical consequence has been dealt with (vv13-21), now comes the horizontal (v22). Our responsibilities to the Christian community as a result of God’s plan and Jesus’ sacrifice. We are a community. And we must begin to realise the importance of this aspect of New Testament teaching. The Church has focused far too much upon the individual, our hymns and songs reflect this, instead of a community of people (v1), in whom are the Holy Spirit dwells. Church history has tended to glorify the individual, the loner, the single hero or heroine figure placed upon a pedestal, whom we are all to seek to emulate. No! That cuts across the truth of the Bible, this concept of Peter’s here (v1; 2.9), regarding the people of God. The pattern of Jesus and his disciples, the picture of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. Not to mention Jesus’ own teaching along with the Apostles, of a gathered community (Matthew 18.20). Genuine Christian life is lived in community. This also is part of God’s plan. But for that to be a reality, there must be obedience to Peter’s injunction here (v22), ‘sincere love for one another, deeply from the heart’. There will never be proper, wholesome, healthy growth, except we are part of that community. Your understanding of certain truth will never be a reality unless you are part of that community. There are standards of holiness (v16) you will never attain outside of that community.

How does the Holy Spirit minister to us? Through each other, through the love he has given to us (Romans 5.5), through the gifts he has imparted to us, yes including the supernatural ones. That is how we grow up (Ephesians 4.15-16), as a community, as a body, serving, ministering to one another in deep love commitment to God’s people. The priority of loving relationships cannot be over-stated. We only become effective Christians and Churches as we experience the empowering community life of the Church. And the community is only empowered as it, through the Spirit and use of spiritual gifts sovereignly bestowed, becomes the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The fellowship of love. Those gifts, therefore, are not spiritual peripheries, but completely central to the life, experience, and working of the Christian community (1Peter 4.10; 1Corinthians 12.4). We are being instructed here that the consequence of Jesus’ love is that we ought to open the floodgates and let the full stream of that love flow into and through the Church.

(© James R Hamilton, written May, 1998)

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Notes On Mark’s Gospel (59)

“On Your Mark”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!


A Praying Ministry (Chapter 6 Verses 45-56)

The reason for the haste in departure and to separate the disciples (v45), from the crowd is because of their desire to take the Lord and make him king. So he takes his disciples off for further instruction no doubt. This popularity the Lord has to deal with is one of Satan’s temptations, and remember temptation for him was as real as it is for you and I. But this surely is a massive snare for anyone in public ministry, popularity (Luke 6.26). It ruins more preachers than anything else. In his sending the multitude away he overcomes the temptation. There is no limit to what God can do with a man, providing he will not touch the glory. Is this one of the reasons why he goes up the mountain to pray? In order to give thanks to his Father, for another victory? No doubt he would be pouring out his heart for the Apostles, that they will not be carried away by these people and with their wrong ideas about the Messiah. Here again we are given a glimpse of the prayer life of Jesus, that pure, perfect, exalted communion with his Father (v46).

Our praying is only as powerful as our lives. For some prayer is no more than an escape hatch, you know in times of trouble. It ought to be to us as natural to us as breathing. O for Christians to pray for the ministry of God’s word, as Jesus for his men. “Prayer, to the preacher, is not simply the duty of his profession, a privilege, but it is a necessity. Air is not more necessary to the lungs than prayer is to the preacher. It is absolutely necessary for the preacher to pray. It is an absolute necessity that the preacher be prayed for. These two propositions are wedded into a union which ought never to know any divorce: The preacher must pray; the preacher must be prayed for. It will take all the praying he can do, and all the praying he can get done, to meet the fearful responsibilities and gain the largest, truest success in his great work. The true preacher, next to the cultivation of the spirit and fact of prayer in himself, in their intensest form, covets with a great covetousness the prayers of God’s people” (‘Power through Prayer’. E.M. Bounds). With most of us there is too much business, too many people. A bit less work, and bit more solitude would be much more profitable to our souls, time with God. We would be less hard in heart, less cold in devotion to the Lord, and kinder and more tender-hearted to one another. Nothing spiritual is accomplished without prayer. Pray!

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)

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