By Spencer D Gear
Down through the years in conversation with ordinary folks or university professors, I have heard some interesting views about religion and Jesus Christ. I have been told:
- “All religions are the same; how dare you say that yours is the correct one.” I sometimes say,
- “If you believe that all religions are essentially the same, you are telling me that you haven’t read those religions very carefully.”
- Christ said that he came, died on the cross, and rose again so that people could have abundant life now and for all eternity.
- “Buddhism and Hinduism, on the other hand, teach that life is a great evil. What we should seek after is the ending of all personal life in nirvana.”
- “Islam . . . vigorously teaches that there is one God [but not 3 persons in the Godhead]. Hinduism . . . teaches that there are at least 300 million gods.”
- Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an, teaches that Jesus was not crucified on the cross for our sins (read that in Surah 4:157). The NT is very clear that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world.
- Jesus said, according to Matt. 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The Qur’an says, “O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him” (Sura 9:123).
- “Confucianism recognizes no god.”
Please tell me: Are all these religions the same?
When push comes to shove, the difference with Christianity is the Person, Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). He did not say, “I speak the truth so follow me because I will teach you the truth.” He said, “I am the truth.” The uniqueness of Jesus Christ is what makes the difference between him and any other world religion.
Here in First Peter, ch. 1, we learn the radical difference between Christianity and ALL other religions. The difference is the Christ. These believers in Asia Minor were suffering “all kinds of trials” (1:6). 1 Peter 4:12 calls it a “painful trial” (NIV) or “fiery trial” (ESV). No matter what the persecution, you will not survive if you depend on “perishable seed” (1:23). You need the “imperishable” (1:23). We learned about Christ earlier in
I Peter 1:
v. 2, sprinkling by his blood;
v. 3, we have new birth for a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead;
v. 11, the sufferings of Jesus Christ and the glories that would follow;
v. 13, Jesus Christ will be revealed again;
v. 19 we learned that we are redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, a lamb without blemish or defect. Now in I Peter 1:20-21, we learn that
- v. 20, Christ was chosen;
- He was chosen before the creation of the world
- He was revealed (what does that mean?)
- When was he revealed? “In these last times” (So, when did the last days begin?)
- Why was he revealed? “For your sake.”
This amazing Christ did not do this all for his own benefit. The Christ’s life and death were meant for all human beings. V. 21, through this amazing, one-and-only Christ, you
- Believe in God
- The resurrection is core
- God glorified him. What does that mean?
- It is in this God that you have faith and hope.
Most of the world’s religions are based on the teachings of each of their founders. You could have Buddhism without the Buddha because Buddhism is a matter of teachings. If Jesus Christ never existed, there would be no Christianity. Christ did teach, but Christianity does not have its foundation just on the teachings of its founder. Christianity would not exist without the birth, atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s the unique person of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection that separates Christianity from all other religions.
Christ words are: “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:18) and John 14:19, “Because I live, you [who have faith in me] also will live.”
The main thrust of my message today is:
B. In any time, especially in times of terrorism, your faith and hope must be in God alone
When I speak of God alone, I am referring to the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Here the focus is on the unique person of Jesus Christ. The Christian life is lived in the light of who Jesus is. Let’s look at vv. 20-21 today:
1. The unique Christ was foreknown (ESV)
The NIV translates as “he was chosen.” The KJV reads that Jesus “was foreordained.” The ESV, “was foreknown.” What does it mean? It’s a straightforward Greek word, but it’s in the perfect tense, meaning that Christ was foreknown in the past with results continuing into the present time.
It means to “foreknow, [to] know beforehand or in advance, [to] choose beforehand.” God foreknew and chose what Jesus Christ was to do in the world “before the creation of the world” (v. 20) – better, “before the foundation of the world.” Jesus’ virgin birth, dying on the cross for our sins, rising again for our justification, was not a hastily made decision by God in the first century. Before the creation of the world, the Godhead made this decision of redemption, to be made available for the whole human race.
When God foreknows something it is His guarantee that it will happen. Remember Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2:23, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” This is God’s decree that it will happen.
We need to note that this language of foreknowledge of Christ’s saving plan is written for the benefit of the human race. Here we learn one of the attributes of God. “God is not subject to time,” so “for him there is no ‘before’ and no ‘after’. . . Christ’s sacrifice was seen by God as eternally present. . . before time existed, thus in eternity, timelessly, God foreknew.”
We must get a handle on God’s attribute of eternity – the timelessness of God. There is no before, now and after with him. God lives in the eternal present. This is emphasised by verses such as these:
Ps. 90:2, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
In Job 36:26, Elihu says of God, “the number of his years is unsearchable.”
Rev. 1:8: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'”
Jesus’ bold use of the present tense verb in John 8:58, “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!'”
Ex. 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM.” God is the eternal “I AM,” the one who eternally exists.
In the words of Bible teacher, Wayne Grudem, God’s eternity can be defined as: “God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in his own being, and he sees all time equally vividly, yet God sees events in time and acts in time.”
Do you understand how this applies to us?
1. God knew what would happen to the world before he created it, planned for Jesus to come as our Redeemer before the creation of the world, planned for the Redeemer before Adam and Eve sinned. What about the future?
2. This God whose plan for the world from eternity past goes into eternity future. He is utterly dependable and God’s foreknown plan will happen to this wicked world. It includes his allowing Sept. 11 2001, the tsunami, and the bombings in London. This world is running to God’s foreknown plan. It will come to an end in God’s time.
3. You can trust the Lord of the universe with your future. He’s an utterly just God who does all things well. If God sustained the Asia Minor believers through “fiery trials” (I Pt. 4:12) in the first century, he can sustain you and me if and when violence like London’s comes to Australia.
4. Matt. 24 tells us the sign of Christ’s second coming “and of the end of the age” (24:3) will be: “You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. . . Many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. . . There will be great distress unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (24:9-11, 21, NIV).
It should give us great confidence in God and God alone that he who planned Christ’s coming before the creation of the world, knows exactly what will happen as the signs of the end of time and the end of the world. It is difficult to get our eyes off the violence in London and the havoc that terrorists create (bombs “killed at least 54 people and injured 700”), but at times like this, remember to put your total and complete trust in the eternal God who is always present.
This unique Christ who was foreknown by God,
2. Was revealed (NIV)
Or, to put it another way, he was “made manifest” (ESV, KJV). This happened at an instant in time. It happened when Christ appeared on earth, starting with the virgin birth, his life, his death on the cross, his bodily resurrection, and ascension. This was when the Gospel was announced to the whole world.
Please note: When was Christ manifested or revealed? V. 20 says that it was “in these last times” (NIV). So, when did the “last times” begin? We often think of it as the rapture or Christ’s second coming. However, here it is stated that the “last times” began when Christ came to earth as the God-man. So to speak of the “last times” as the end of the world and Christ’s second coming is not exactly correct. The “last times” began about 2,000 years ago.
What Christ would do was foreknown by God, was revealed in these last times, but for what purpose?
3. “For your sake”
God’s planning for Jesus’ death and resurrection before the creation of the world was not for the benefit of God but “for your sake.” Are you grateful that you are included in the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection? What does that do for your motivation to reach Gin Gin and district with this glorious Gospel?
Now come to v. 21.
C. This unique person, Jesus Christ, is the one to whom you should turn (v. 21)
1.”Through him you believe in God”
Remember Jesus’ words to Philip:
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:8-9).
Jesus came to earth to reveal God in a concrete way. Note here one of the core facts about this unique Jesus.
2. God raised Christ from the dead
In I Peter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is mentioned three times: 1:3; 1:21; and 3:21. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ so important? Acts 2:24 states, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
Jesus said, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).
Paul, the apostle wrote to the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (I Cor. 15:14). A dead Christ is useless for Christianity. If you don’t believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave, 3 days after he died, you can’t be Christian. Your faith is unfaith, i.e. you have a useless faith.
Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is no future hope for believers. There is no heaven to gain and no hell to shun. Life after death is guaranteed because of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
In the ancient world, outside of Judaism and Christianity, the people did believe in “life after death in general” but “they did not believe in resurrection.” Resurrection for the Jew and the Christian “was not a disembodied ‘heavenly’ life; . . It was death’s reversal.”
Therefore, it should not be surprising that people down through the years have launched vicious attacks on Christ’s resurrection. This has continued until present times. It has spewed forth from the printing presses around the world at the popular newspaper level, scholarly journals and scholarly books. I want to mention a few examples of destructive comments made against the resurrection of Christ, because the mass media turn to people like these for their profound negativity at Easter every year.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses try to explain away the empty tomb by stating that, “The human body of flesh, which Jesus Christ laid down forever as a ransom sacrifice, was disposed of by God’s power.” They say, “the fleshly body of Jesus Christ was disposed of on earth by Almighty God and not taken to heaven by Jesus.” The founder of the JWs, Charles Taze Russell, claimed that Christ’s body that was hung on the cross “dissolved into gasses” or is “preserved somewhere as the grand memorial of God’s love.”
But you don’t have to go to the cults to have Jesus’ resurrection attacked. At Easter time 1999, Rev. David Kidd of the Bundaberg Uniting Church, wrote an article in The Bugle newspaper that was titled, The Resurrection of Jesus. This is what he said: “The resurrection of Jesus. It’s impossible. Even our brain dies after a few minutes of death. It’s just not possible.'”
John Dominic Crossan, who taught biblical studies for 26 years at the Roman Catholic, DePaul University, Chicago (and is now retired), wrote about “the apparition of the risen Jesus.” What’s an apparition? A ghostly appearance, a phantom, “anything that appears, especially something remarkable or phenomenal.” He says that “bodily resurrection has nothing to do with a resuscitated body coming out of its tomb.” “Empty tomb stories, ” he says, “are parables of resurrection, not the Resurrection itself.”
So, what happened to the body of Jesus? In his book, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, Crossan wrote: “Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical. He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals.”
What does all of this mean? Somehow this phantom Jesus, who did not rise from the dead, is experienced among believers in some powerful way. Come on folks! This is invention out of the mind of John D. Crossan. It’s an heretical version that attempts to shatter the fact that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. What does it do? Empties churches!
We note this especially in the diocese of former Episcopalian (Anglican) bishop, John Shelby Spong. In his book, Resurrection Myth or Reality? he claims that “the angels of the empty tomb, the tomb itself with its massive stone and its female visitors, to say nothing of the entire burial tradition, must all be dismissed as not factual.” So, what are they?
Get this, from a leader in the church: “All of the appearance narratives that purport to be the physical manifestations of the dead body that somehow was enabled to be [revived] and to walk out of a tomb are also legends and myths that cannot be literalized.”
The Anglicans of Spong’s diocese voted with their feet while he was bishop of Newark, New Jersey. One report said that
He has presided over one of the most rapid witherings of any diocese in the Episcopal Church [USA]. The most charitable assessment shows that Newark’s parish membership rolls have evaporated by more than 42 percent. Less charitable accounts put the rate at over 50 percent. [He’s now retired.]
What gets me about some of these fellows is that they should be working with those who practise magic (if the subject were not so serious), but instead, they are allowed to devastate the church – from within the church and, as is the case with Spong and the pastor in Bundaberg, are paid by the church to do so. This is a BIG statement about the nature of those denominations that allow this kind of heretical doctrine to come forth from the pulpit, and from a bishop of the church.
A reviewer of one of Spong’s books put it so well: “Rather than build his own home, his own churches, his own infrastructure, his own congregations, Spong would rather kill Christianity, and take over its shell.”
Yet, eminent British New Testament Scholar and Anglican Bishop of Durham, Dr. N. T. Wright said:
I simply cannot explain why Christianity began without it [ie without the resurrection of Christ]. . . There were many other messianic or would-be messianic movements around in the first century. Routinely they ended with the violent death of the founder. After that, what happens? The followers either all get killed as well, or, if there are any of them left, they have a choice: They either quit the revolution or they find themselves another messiah. We have examples of people doing both. If Jesus had died and stayed dead, they would either have given up the movement or they would have found another messiah. Something extraordinary happened which convinced them that Jesus was the Messiah.
N. T. Wright has since written these 817 pages to support the resurrection and refute those throughout church history, including current scholars such as John Dominic Crossan, who deny the literal resurrection of Jesus. Wright concluded: “The proposal that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead possesses unrivalled power to explain the historical data at the heart of early Christianity.”
The Apostle Paul agreed. In I Cor. 15:14-17 he stated:
If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
If you are mad at me for mentioning names of people who teach false doctrine, I am simply following the example of the apostle Paul who, in Galatians 2:11ff, condemned the apostle Peter, and named him. Peter had been eating with the Gentiles, but when certain Jews came from James, Peter drew back and separated from the Gentiles. Paul named Peter as a hypocrite and we have had it in writing for 2000 years.
Paul said in 2 Tim. 4:14, “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.” We have had this also on record for 2,000 years.
When people are preaching false doctrine in the church or anywhere, when people are harming the church and God’s people, we need to name them, correct them, and proclaim the accurate biblical message.
Why have I spent this time on what the Bible says about resurrection and those who attack the resurrection? Because this is core Christianity and I urge you to keep it at the centre. I will stand up and defend the bodily resurrection of Jesus wherever it is challenged because it is central to Christianity and life after death.
Please notice in v. 21. . .
3. God “glorified” this Christ
What does that mean? God “glorified” the Christ of the cross and through his resurrection. Literally: “glory was given to him.” On the meaning of “glory”, go back to I Peter 1:11, where it is said of the OT prophets that they were “trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”
In John 17: 1, 4-5, Jesus prayed for himself before his arrest before the crucifixion: “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. . . I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
Luke 24:26, Jesus to hid disciples asked, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
So the glory that Christ experienced was through his death, resurrection, ascension and going back to the father. What is “glory”? What does it mean that “glory was given to Christ”? Doxa, glory, means “the luminous manifestation of his person”; Christ’s “majesty and power” are dominant. For Christ to be glorified, it means that “something radiates from the one who has it.” We honour and magnify him because of His death, but especially, in this context, because of his bodily resurrection from the dead.
And so . . .
C. Through this unique person, Jesus Christ, you believe in God and it is essential that you place your faith and hope in this God Him alone (v. 21)
You will be tempted to fear terrorism, your “fiery trials”, the state of Australia’s economy, or your family situation. Turn on the Tele, listen to the radio, read the newspapers, go to school, on the job, and wherever you go, you can be sucked in by all of these wonderful offers of the best way to success.
We have just had a week of world history that should convince you that you cannot place your faith and hope in anything in this world. If you do, terrorists will rob you of your faith and hope. Devastation in Australia may cause you to lose your joy.
This book of I Peter was written for those who were going through “fiery trials.” To them, Peter says, in v. 21, “Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
If you place your faith and hope in anything other than God Himself, you should be in the deepest despair at times like this. With John Howard saying that there could be sleeping terrorist cells in our own country, you dare not place your faith and hope in anything earthly.
As we learn in the verses that follow, “for ‘all flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (I Peter 1:24-25).
There was a small town in the [State of] Maine [USA] that was proposed for the site of a great hydro-electric plant. A dam would be build across the river and the town submerged. When the project was announced, the people were given many months to arrange their affairs and [to] relocate.
During those months, a curious thing happened. All improvements ceased. No painting was done. No repairs were made on the buildings, roads, or [footpaths]. Day by day the whole town got shabbier and shabbier. A long time before the waters came, the town looked uncared for and abandoned, even though the people had not yet moved away. One citizen explained: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.” That town was cursed with hopelessness because it had not future.
If your faith and hope for the future are based on anything this world has to offer, you are doomed to despair. Terrorists are here to stay. “Fiery trials” may be the lot for you as a believer in this world. Therefore, as Peter has taught us: “Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
Therefore, you need to meet regularly with a caring Christian community of believers who reinforce your faith and hope in God alone. Are you that kind of Christian community?
 These verses read: “004.157, YUSUFALI version: “That they said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not” (available at: http://www.comp.leeds.ac.uk/nora/html/4-157.html; accessed 20 March 2013).
 The Qur’an, YUSUFALI version, available from: http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/quran/index.htm (Accessed 20 March 2013).
 P. Jacobs & H. Krienke, 1975, ‘Foreknowledge, Providence, Predestination’, in Colin Brown (ed.), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology , vol. 1, The Paternoster Press, Exeter, p. 693.
 Things in Which It is Impossible for God to Lie 1965, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, p. 354, cited in Hank Hanegraaff 2000, Resurrection, Word Publishing, Nashville, Tennessee, p. 10.
.”The Resurrection of Jesus” was the title of the article and the first sentence began with, “It’s impossible. Even our brain diesY,” so I am left to conclude that the article’s title was the introduction to the first sentence.
 According to his autobiography he was hired as an ex-priest and associate professor in 1969 and “took early retirement from DePaul in 1995.” He wrote that “institutional integrity . . . kept me at DePaul for twenty-six years” (John Dominic Crossan 2000, A Long Way from Tipperary: A Memoir, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 95).
 Lasley, D. M. 1999. ‘Rescuing Christianity from Bishop Kevorkian, review of John Shelby Spong’s, Why Christianity Must Change or Die‘, for Anglican Voice, posted June 2 1999. Now available at: http://listserv.virtueonline.org/pipermail/virtueonline_listserv.virtueonline.org/1999-June/000415.html (Accessed 20 March 2013).
 “Peter Jennings Reporting, ABC television (USA), aired on Monday, June 26 2000. This quote is from Christian Research Institute 2000, “Point-by-point Response to ‘Peter Jennings Reporting: The Search for Jesus,’ available from: http://www.equip.org/free/DJ036.pdf [31 May 2005]., p. 51.
 John Maxwell 1984, Your Attitude, Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardino, CA., p. 120, cited in Robert J. Morgan 2000, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, p. 449.
Copyright (c) 2007, Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at: 13 October 2015.