“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” 2 Peter 3:18, ESV.
In this single verse, the apostle Peter tells us everything we need to know about the good news of Jesus Christ.
Jesus suffered only once.
He suffered and died for sinners, for persons who did not and do not deserve His sacrifice.
Jesus suffered and died to bring sinners to God ( not God to sinners, by the way ).
And how did Jesus accomplish this miracle?
Jesus brought sinners to God by “being put to death” — in other words, by execution which implies a courtroom, a judge and a sentence of death for guilt. Whose guilt? Not His own for He was and is without sin. The guilt that Jesus was sentenced to death for is mine and yours.
For why what is to me in heaven; and what would I of thee on earth? (For what is there for me in heaven, but thee? and what else do I desire here on earth, but thee?) My flesh and mine heart failed; God of mine heart, and my part is God [into] without end. (Though my flesh and my heart fail; but God is my strength, and my portion forever.)
David could be the weary and suffering Job in this passage. Here David speaks perhaps after the shame of murdering Uriah so as to have Bathsheba; perhaps after the death of his son. At any rate, David sings that even if his flesh and heart fail, God is his strength and his portion forever. David rhetorically asks, What else in heaven and earth do I desire? And his answer is, Nothing but You, God.
This truth is what Job discovers in his ordeal. At the end of his rope, so to speak, Job realizes that only God matters, that everything else is a pale shadow compared to Him. Job’s devotion to God does not, however, diminish his love of others or his view of himself. Rather, as Job falls in humility before God, God lifts him up and places him above where he was in the first place.
If I should climb up to heaven, thou art there; if I sink down to the world beneath, thou art present still. ( Psalms 138:8, KNOX )
A puzzle here in David’s words and in the oral rendition of the story of Job – God is everywhere! We imagine God is incapable of being in the presence of evil, but that is obviously not so. Yes, He turns from His Son at the Cross when all the sins of the world attach themselves to Jesus; but God is found even if we climb to the heavens or descend to the realms of death and hell. That the Lord comes into the presence of the Enemy, Satan is evident in the beginning moments of the story of Job.
6 One day, when the heavenly powers stood waiting upon the Lord’s presence, and among them, man’s Enemy, 7 the Lord asked him, where he had been? Roaming about the earth, said he, to and fro about the earth.8 Why then, the Lord said, thou hast seen a servant of mine called Job. Here is a true man, an honest man, none like him on earth; ever he fears his God, and keeps far from wrong-doing. 9 Job fears his God, the Enemy answered, and loses nothing by it. 10 Sheltered his life by thy protection, sheltered his home, his property; thy blessing on all he undertakes; worldly goods that still go on increasing; he loses nothing. 11 One little touch of thy hand, assailing all that wealth of his! Then see how he will turn and blaspheme thee. 12 Be it so, the Lord answered; with all his possessions do what thou wilt, so thou leave himself unharmed. And with that, the Enemy left the Lord’s presence, and withdrew. ( Job 1: 6-12, KNOX )
God’s ability and willingness to be in the presence of the Enemy is nearly as difficult to understand and accept as His ability and willingness to suffer and die. God is engaged with death and evil. To think He is not is to misunderstand Him. God does not create death and evil; but He allows both. In so many ways, He uses both. Why?
“Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
God tells us to “give thanks in everything.” Sometimes this seems impossible! But note : God doesn’t say give thanks for everything; instead He commands us to be grateful in everything! You may not rejoice that you are unemployed or unhealthy, but you can give thanks while you are without a job or in poor health. Your attitude makes the difference between defeat and victory in Christ!
The main idea is that God wills you to rejoice always in Christ, who is your ultimate circumstance! As you live in Him, gratitude naturally flows from your heart. Be victorious because He is your victory!
I don’t think Job says it much differently than “God proves me as I pass through fire” as I indicate via the title of this little note. Job must feel as if the fires of hell are descending upon him as his children, his servants, his animals die, and as his own body is attacked. Yet, he denies sin. He cries out:
10 But [God] knoweth my way, and he shall prove me as gold (and he shall assay me like gold), that passeth through the fire.
11 My foot followed his steps; I kept (to) his way, and I bowed not away from it.
Job claims to follow God’s steps, to keep to His way, and to not stray from the truth. His friends protest, saying that can’t possibly be true; but God scolds them.
Job continues to maintain his innocence until God confronts with this: “Who are you to question Me?” God says to Job, “Brace yourself like a man; I question you, and you will answer Me.” (Job 38:3, NIV)
Jesus warns that those who suffer are not worse sinners than others. He uses the example of eighteen who are killed when the tower in Siloam falls on them. He says these are not “worse offenders than all the others who live in Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:4) Then Jesus twice tells us that “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3,5)
Sin is sin, says Jesus. We all alike are sheep gone astray, and unless we repent and rely upon the sacrifice of Jesus, we die in our sin.
A woman is caught in adultery, and the Pharisees bring her to Jesus for judgment. The Pharisees challenge the Lord to follow the Law of Moses, which calls for the woman to be stoned to death. They rhetorically ask,”So what do You say?” (John 8:5) Jesus writes in the dirt. When He stands, He says to the Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) He writes in the dirt again. One by one, the Pharisees walk away, “beginning with the older ones” until Jesus and the woman are alone. (John 8:9) Jesus stands up, looks at the woman and asks her where her accusers have gone. He wants to know if anyone is left to accuse her. And she says, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11)
Jesus tells her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)
Repent, or perish; sin is sin; all alike are gone astray. And, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you.” I can hear Him say, “Why would I condemn you? I came here to earth to save you, not to judge you. My blood covers your sin. You suffer, but not any more than anyone else. Come; turn and follow Me.”
“God, who is like You? You cause me to experience many troubles and misfortunes, but You revive me again. You bring me up again, even from the depths of the earth. You increase my honor and comfort me once again.” (Psalm 71:19-21)
I “endure suffering as discipline. God is dealing with [me] as [a] son. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if [I am] without discipline — which all receive — then [I am} an illegitimate child and not a son.” (Hebrews 12:7-8)
But,”You redeem me.” (Psalm 71:23) Therefore, “my mouth tells about Your righteousness and Your salvation all day long, though I cannot sum them up. I come because of the mighty acts of the Lord God; I proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone.” (Psalm 71:15-16)
I “strengthen [my] tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for [my] feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead.” (Hebrews 12:12-13)
“My lips shout for joy when I sing praise to [God] because [He] redeems me.” (Psalm 71:23)