OUR GLORIOUS INHERITANCE
My teaching notes for “Search the Scripture” Conference, June 20/21, 2014 in Ibadan, Nigeria
AN EXEGESIS OF I PETER 1
Vs. 3-4. ----- “Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope, 4 and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away.” GNT
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you” NIV
Point 1: It is clear that two people are mentioned here, not one person in two different forms. Mention is made of one God who is also the Father of another personality - our Lord Jesus Christ. Though this is not our point, I need to point it out in passing because there are sects within Christianity that sincerely believe that it is one single personality simply manifesting in three different ways. That is one in three and not three in one. But it is so clear in this opening greeting of Peter, as also in the greetings of Paul in virtually all his letters (Rom. 1:7, I Cor. 1:3, II Cor. 1:2, Gal. 1:3 etc), and in fact, all other epistles that two different persons are in view. The early church never had any confusion over this matter. The confusion arose a number of centuries later when Grecian/scholarly minds began to ask, “You Christians, just how many Gods are you worshipping: one or two or three?” Now, in the attempt to use human thinking to relate with that allegation, one is pushed to the defensive and made to say, “Well, yes, it is only one God... but... em... you see... actually...” While this discussion is not at all focused on explaining how three persons can be one, anybody reading plain English will immediately see this unambiguous distinction in the opening greeting: there is God who is the Sovereign Potentate; this one God also happens to be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ - two unquestioningly distinct personalities - full stop. A separate seminar might be put together sometime later to do a comprehensive exegesis on the doctrine of the Trinity.
Point 2: It is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that our new life is anchored on. Wait a minute; don’t just hurriedly gloss over this. Do you really believe that somebody somewhere at a time actually rose up from the dead – all by himself? Is this just a casual mental belief that is powered by a religious spirit or has this become a deep-rooted conviction that has found a place in your heart? If the latter is true concerning you, in the same vein, you can also dare to believe that your old person have died and begin to express the new life of yours on the strength of your conviction that Christ indeed rose from the dead. For through faith, i.e. by believing in His death burial and resurrection, I have identified with Him in his death. That means, I was actually in his loins when he was dying and of course, I was also in him when he rose. I can confidently say, it is no longer I that liveth but the resurrected life of Christ now living in me. The old Temidayo who loves to fight everybody and keeps malice and proudful and arrogant has died in the old Christ who hung on the cross. It is now a new man, living in the new life that the resurrection of Christ gives – halleluyah. I believe it – and that settles it.
Beloved, this is no mind-job or religious hypnotism or indoctrination. This is faith – for we walk by faith and not by sight and without this faith, you can as well forget about a life in the Spirit or a walk with God. The me you now see is not the same guy just trying to turn over a new leaf. I am a new being in Christ Jesus!
Christianity today has a big problem with authenticity because there is hardly any difference between its adherents and the rest of the world. What excites the world excites us; we enjoy glorious fellowship with one another in our exotic meeting places but when we get out there into the real world, the difference is almost negligible. This is not supposed to be. When a man comes into Christ, there should be a clear testimony both within himself and to those around him that certain things have very definitely changed about this man. This change goes beyond a moralistic attainment which other religionists may also claim. It is not a superficial momentary change but a true heart change which has had a profound effect on previous attitudes, temperaments, likes/dislikes, tastes, appetites, preferences, interests, aspirations, ambitions, values & life principles, pleasures, company/relationships, allegiances, commitments – you name it. The more authentic the new life is, the more profound and deep-rooted this change is.
Today, the Spirit of God is challenging us to begin to live out our new life in Christ; to make it clear that we are strangers and pilgrims here. Our allegiance is to another value system, another culture, another Kingdom. Our behavioural pattern derives from an entirely different life philosophy and ethos. That is what differentiates us from other religious folks who preach morality but remain slaves to the principles and philosophies of this present world.
Point 3: This new life, made possible by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death, is actually expressed in hope. This new life is defined and characterised and powered by hope – a living hope, a hope that is full of conviction. That new life is lived and expressed in the context of this hope. Looking at that verse again, the NIV says he has given us a new birth INTO a living hope. Using the illustration of a babe in the womb, the environment of that babe, of course, is the womb. But once there is the push and the babe comes out of the previous environment, it gets born INTO an entirely new environment. It must learn to live in the context of this new environment else it may not survive for long. Now, we can only survive our new life in the environment of hope – a living hope. Hope is the new environment into which we were born. How much I really wish this fully dawns on you.
Casting my mind back to my growing up years as a Christian right up to this period (that covers about 25years within which I have seen a bit), I try to review how much of this subject of hope has been emphatically taught. If you have been around for a while yourself, particularly in mainstream Pentecostalism, you will agree that the subject of hope, if mentioned at all, is often perceived as something subservient and inferior to faith. We are not emphatically taught that we are saved in hope (Rom. 8:24) and that this hope is actually a sure anchor for our soul (Heb. 6:18,19); and that our new life cannot be lived outside of this context of hope. The average Christian today understands very little, if any at all, of this hope. This study aims to shed greater light on this subject.
Point 4: A living hope implies that there is a perishable or a dead hope. This is too crucial a point to miss but we’ll come back here.
Point 5: Hope of what? Of obtaining or possessing an inheritance incorruptible, unfading and imperishable. That inheritance is actually reserved in heaven. Thank God for whatever we get on the earth but the gospel message of Christ - which he handed down to the apostles who later penned down the same for subsequent generations - clearly portrays this glorious inheritance as its primary (if not sole) reward awaiting all faithful believers who are also expected to look forward to it in earnestness and eagerness. In fact, that inheritance cannot be compared in any way to anything of this earth. Relating with the gospel message of the New Testament as well as the spirit and epistles of the apostles in their truest context, anything and everything that is of this earth diminishes and fades into oblivion in the light of this glorious inheritance that awaits the children of God. A Christianity that does not speak, breathe and glory in that inheritance is at best a dangerous distraction; an Ishmael perhaps, or an Ishbosheth. We must begin to critically rethink Christianity today to centre around that inheritance.
Let me make a comment on this. That inheritance within modern day Christendom is hardly known or understood and would be something so vague and abstract, something intangible and impractical, and something that has no bearing with present realities. But that is because we have not given ourselves to speaking about it, to studying it, to research into it, to analysing it and applying it to everyday life. The more we do this, the more we begin to see it come out of vagueness into our living reality.
Point 6: This inheritance is reserved in heaven – for safe custody. This doesn’t mean that heaven itself is our inheritance or we are to think of spending eternity in heaven. Just limit yourself to what that scripture says: our inheritance is reserved for us in heaven; in the same way the gratuity of a civil servant is reserved in the Ministry of Finance or Central Bank in Abuja until he has served meritoriously. That civil servant, upon retirement, is not expected to relocate to the Ministry of Finance in Abuja and demand for an apartment there, in order to enjoy his retirement benefits – certainly not. We’ll come back here.
Point 7: There is a deeper dimension to salvation beyond what is currently understood as salvation. Vs. 5 --- “Who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” We usually say that we are “saved” whenever we recite the sinner’s prayer and become “born again.” To an extent, yes, but, as we shall see more and more, ultimate salvation is to be revealed at the last hour. Again, we’ll look at this in more detail as we go on.
Let us stop our study of I Peter here and ask ourselves: what is our current understanding of this inheritance in the context of the church today?
- Enjoying the best of things here on earth?
- Going to heaven at last?
At surface level, this is it. But can we establish a strong theological foundation to support this popular assumption? Perhaps, we need to take a deeper look at this subject of our inheritance to see if the bible has more to say about it. We have read earlier that it is unfading, incorruptible and imperishable and that it is reserved in heaven. Are these allegorical statements or poetic expressions or statements that border on esotericism? What would they mean in literal context? Is that even all that the bible has to say about what lies ahead? Can we attempt to compare scripture with scripture in order to get a fuller picture of this inheritance?
To be continued...