Children’s Sabbath – Marriage for the Sake of our Children – 1 Peter 2.9-10
Who is Peter? Our text today is a letter from the Apostle Peter. Peter is a substantial character in the New Testament. Peter was born around the same time as Jesus and so he would have been about the same age. Peter was a contemporary of Jesus or someone who would have lived in the same time and cultural experiences as Jesus.
It is believed that Jesus lived with Peter and his wife in the community of Capernaum, a fishing village on the north shores of the Sea of Galilee with a population of about 1500 people. Jesus spent much time at Peter’s home. In fact Jesus initiated his ministry from the synagogue at Capernaum, which was located near Peter’s home.
It is at Peter’s place that Jesus establishes his authority to forgive sins when a man is dropped down through the roof by his friends. It is in Peter’s very own home that Jesus demonstrates his authority as the Son of God. It was here in Capernaum that Jesus initiated his claim to be Messiah, and was promptly run out of town. Though Jesus’ childhood hometown was Nazareth, Capernaum was where He lived during the Galilean ministry (Matthew 4.13, Matthew 9.1, Mark 2.1).
Across the pages of the New Testament Peter’s relationship with Jesus unfolds. The relationship seems to begin at the water’s edge when Jesus calls Peter to lay down his career of fishing and travel with him across the land of Galilee to proclaim God’s Kingdom. Peter is brought into Jesus’ inner circle of friends, and is given the opportunity to hear and experience the Kingdom.
When we look at Peter’s first letter, we discover some important teachings. Peter wants his hears to know that there really is a new birth experience into a living hope (1 Peter 1-2). Peter wants his hears to know that we become God’s holy people (1 Peter 3-5), and with the designation as a holy people you and I …we will experience sufferings and be persecuted because we are holy. Peter’s first letter is a guide to understanding our identity as a holy people and what that means to be in relationship with others.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1 Peter 2.9-10 TNIV
What is a holy people? Disciples are called to be a “set-apart and holy people.” Holy means set apart for God. To be holy means to be whole, clean, healthy, and harmonious. From the moment of our water baptism and subsequent spiritual new birth experience we begin our transformation to be set apart as holy and dedicated to God. A baptized person is born anew and lives in a new community. Baptism is a moment in time that symbolizes the entryway into the new life with God’s holy people.
Peter’s letter offers us a very practical understanding of holy. Peter wants his reader to understand that a disciple is someone who stands apart in the crowd by their behavior in words and deeds. A disciple is called to a set-apart life. A disciple is called to a royal priesthood, and to become a member of a holy nation. Disciples know themselves as a peculiar people bearing the marks of compassion from the inside out.
First Peter tells us that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people (2.9). We are called to be holy like God. God is holy. The Old Testament Law sets out the parameters around what it means to be holy, and what God expects from his people (Leviticus 19). Peter lays out the parameters of what it means to be a member in the Christian community.
Peter wants his readers to know they must be self-disciplined (1.13). As Christians we are called to be obedient children, not conformed to our fleshly desires (1.14). We are to be obedient to the truth, showing genuine mutual love from the heart (1.22). This new holy priesthood of all believers is to rid themselves of malice, guile, insincerity, envy, and slander (2.1). We are called to offer spiritual sacrifices (2.5).
We are to set our aim at abstaining from the desires of our flesh (2.11). We are to conduct ourselves with honorable behavior in word and deed to glorify God (2.12). We are to be distinctively honest, humble, and caring. We are to place ourselves under authority (2.13) unless our belief in God is threatened (Acts 4.19-20). We are to show respect and obedience to civil authority, pay taxes, and honor the government leadership. Christians are to stand on their beliefs in the face of imprisonment and death.
The foundation of our faith lies in the history of the covenant commitment of our father Abraham and his descendents who walked by faith and not by sight, who turned away from their culture to serve only the One True God. This covenant community was based on trust in God, Sabbath Rest, and hospitality to strangers, widows, and children. This community was guided by principles of love of God and neighbor that set them apart from the world around them. This covenant community was unique in their worship and rituals relating to family.
In Peter’s letter he lays out the importance of relationships founded on the Old Testament principles of self-giving love. Peter’s advice is very practical. He doesn’t talk with lofty words that we can’t understand. He states what he means very plainly how we are to love one another so that the Gospel Good News can be shared with others. Peter requires his hears to come under public authority. Peter requires the slave to submit to their masters. Peter requires wives to submit to their husbands, and husbands to be considerate and respectful of their wives. These words of exhortation set precedence for every believer who hears this text to treat others with mutual self-giving love.
As covenant people we are guided by principles of self-giving love. Family is important in this new covenant community, but family now includes those who willingly surrender their cultural customs to align themselves with the One True God. As people who are convinced that Jesus is our God, we must live a life that reflects his love. Jesus is bound in a relationship of love to the Father and Holy Spirit, which provides for us an illustration of mutual love.
How does the Trinity illustrate love? The Trinity is our example of mutual self-giving love. We call God’s mutual indwelling of God as three persons in one a hypostatic union. It is a profound theological concept but a necessary one that you and I must grasp to fully embrace what it means to love one another.
The Greek word “hupostasis” only appears four times in the New Testament. In fact Hebrews suggests that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (1.3).” The author of Hebrews uses the word to implicate the oneness of God. Both the Father and the Son are of the same “nature.” Jesus is “the exact imprint of his nature.” The Early Church went on to define Jesus as being 100% God all the while maintaining his distinctiveness as Jesus the Son. So we understand Jesus as having two distinct natures — one fully human and one fully divine. What the doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches is that these two natures are united in one person in the God-man. Jesus is not two persons. He is one person. The hypostatic union is the joining of the divine and the human in the one person of Jesus.
Jesus’ two natures are perfectly united in his one person. Jesus is not divided. He is not two people. He is one person. As the Chalcedonian Creed states, his two natures are without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation. Jesus is one. Jesus is the first to experience the joining together of the Spirit with the fullness of humanity, and paves the way for us to understand our own union with the Godhead.
God has made the human heart in such a way that it will never be eternally content. God provides the conduit for us to connect with eternity. Jesus is the way in which the Holy Spirit comes to reside in his people. It is through Jesus that our human hearts find its home.
And beyond just gazing at the spectacular person of Jesus, there is also the amazing gospel-laced revelation that the reason Jesus became the God-man was for us. His fully human nature is joined in personal union to his eternally divine nature and is proof that Jesus lives in perfect harmony with his Father. He has demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, he took our nature into his personhood and died for us.
This new birth we speak of as Christians is just what Jesus experienced while he lived upon this earth – a union with the eternal. Christians live in the hope of the resurrected Christ that we will one day be united with all eternity. But until the day of our arrival we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us. There are many analogies about what it is like to have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, but the best illustration is the Trinity itself. And, the best way we can experience a little taste of this mutual indwelling of love is through the experience of marriage. Marriage is an analogy is key in New Testament writings.
How is marriage an analogy? Jesus is on a mission to be united with his people in a mutual self-giving love relationship. The Jewish marriage ritual is the illustration that Jesus pulls from to help the people understand his intent to be one with his people. The marriage covenant between God and his people was established at the First Coming of Christ. And today whenever a person places their faith in Jesus Christ, they enter into this new covenant and become part of His bride. Since the ascension of Jesus following His resurrection, He has been at His Father’s house preparing the bridal chamber for the consummation of his union with his bride.
Steve Seamands in his book Ministry in the Image of God connects the Trinity intimately with marriage. He says that marriage is the deep body and soul relationship we experience nowhere else. And, he gives the example of Adam and Eve who knew each other completely (Gen 4.1). For God created them to fit together to be united in their diversity. God wanted husband and wife to experience the mystical union that Christ has with his Church. Marriage is more than we bargain for. God purposed marriage as a conduit where we are to experience the most real and intimate encounters possible upon the earth. Each day the martial relationships are challenged with the need to mutually indwell each other all the while being wrecked by the sinful nature with all its selfishness.
The best gift we can give to our children is the gift of loving each other well. The best gift we can give the church is to live into our inheritance of becoming the Bride of Christ. It is important for us to remember that we are the Bride of Christ (Rev 19.9). How we live out our relationships together reflects what others can discover about God himself. If we are not able to live into the commandment to love God and neighbor, we fail to be a witness to our children and their children’s children (Psalm 78).
Fr. Cantalemessa in his book Come, Holy Spirit states that marriage is made only in the place of mutual self-giving of husband and wife. Marriage is singularly important in all of creation for in the bonds of marital relationships children are formed. In marriage husband and wife mutually offer to one another reciprocal love. Marriage is at its core the image of the Holy Spirit. It is the relationship between husband and wife that we can most understand the Holy Spirit at work. When husband and wife are joined in loving relationship we catch a glimpse of the Trinity at its finest – mutual self-giving love.
Fr. Cantalemessa points out that in marriage the two become one much like when a person accepts Christ and are joined to the Trinity through the relationship of the indwelling Holy Spirit. In marriage we catch a glimpse of what it is like to be One with God. The Holy Spirit is the catalyst that makes all things new including the relationships between husband and wife. Because we are fallen in our nature, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the marriage to cure the brokenness in the individuals to enable them to become one. The Holy Spirit gives the marriage life just as the Holy Spirit gives life to his Church.
Clark Pinnock in his book Flame of Love speaks about this mutual self-giving love as well. Pinnock highlights the passage in 1 John that states that God is love. God is love (1 John 4.8,16). Three little words that we can only comprehend in the context of self-giving mutual love in relationship with others. Jesus teaches us that he has only loved us with the love that the Father has given him. God’s love for sinners comes from the fountain of love in the relationship of the persons of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
But how do we practically apply this understanding of God in mutual self-giving love for each other. Well, Peter is very practical in helping us understand who we are to live. Peter teaches us that we are to submit to others and by our love others will come to understand what it means to truly love. The submission that Jesus demonstrates to us is to lay down his very life for his friends. This gift of submission to one another is the key to life in the Spirit and life in the Church.
Howard Marshall in his commentary 1 Peter teaches us about mutual self-giving relationships. We can find this illustrated in Paul’s writing to the Galatians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3.28). Paul expresses the equality of husband and wife; they are mutually dependent. This teaching explains that in the “new life” our fallen nature is redeemed and we are provided with an opportunity to live into this mutual self-giving love experience of the Trinity.
How do we apply this teaching to our lives? Peter calls us to submission, honor, and respect in our relationships. The most important place that we can express mutual self-giving love is in relationship with others in marriage. And, today we celebrate Children’s Sabbath. There is no better gift can we give our children that in mutual self-giving love of a father and a mother in the bonds of marriage.