Series: Maintaining this hope
The Inoffensively offensive Christian Life
We are back in 1 Peter 2 starting in verse 16 this week.
In our study of 1 Peter we’ve seen him address
- the believer’s awareness and sense of belonging to Christ and His cause.
- The purpose for the sufferings and persecutions of believers
- The need for Christ to be formed in us
- That Christ being formed in us requires the renewing of our minds through the word of God by faith.
- Finally, when our minds have been renewed it produces works which are the fruit of the conformity of our soul to Christ – our soul salvation or Christ in us.
It was this later bit about our actions and good works which we ended with last week. Those works are both an offense to the world and a testimony to them. It puts them face to face with Jesus – the scandalon Whom everyone will trip over and be offended. This will result in surrender to Him or rejection of Him.
We ended last week with several scriptures illustrating that producing and maintaining good works is an essential part of our salvation.
Let’s review those before picking back up here in 1 Peter 2:16…
Eph 2:10, “(10) For we are His creation–created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”
2Tim. 3:16-17, “(16) All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, (17) so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Titus 2:14-15, “(14) He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a special people, eager to do good works. (15) Say these things, and encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
Titus 3:8, 14, “(8) This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone. …(14) And our people must also learn to devote themselves to good works for cases of urgent need, so that they will not be unfruitful.”
Heb 10:24-25, “(24) And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, (25) not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Mat 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. (14) “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
All that Peter is about to encourage us regarding in terms of behavior are examples of the good works we just read about which are evident tokens and fruit of our salvation.
“(13) Submit to every human institution because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority, (14) or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. (15) For it is God’s will that you, by doing good, silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
A practical example from the life of Jesus was the temple tax. Let’s read it in Matt. 17:24-27,
“(24) And after they had come to Capernaum, those who receive the half-shekel temple tax came to Peter and said, Your teacher, does he not pay a half-shekel temple tax? He says, Yes. And after Peter had come into the house, Jesus spoke to him before he could get a word in edgeways, saying, “What do you think, Simon? The kings of the earth, from whom are they accustomed to receive import and export duties and a tax? from their sons or from those who do not belong to their families?” And Peter having said, “From those not of their families”, Jesus said to him, “So then, the sons are exempt. However, in order that they may not find something in us of which they would disapprove, having proceeded to the sea, throw in a fishhook, and the first fish that comes up, seize at once, and having opened its mouth, you will find a shekel. Having taken that, give it at once to them for me and you.”
Now your translation will likely say it was a half-shekel tax or the double-drachma tax. This was NOT a Roman tax, because all such taxes were required, not voluntary as this one was and such taxes were paid in Roman script NOT in gold or silver weighed out to the established weight of the shekel of the temple. The “shekel” was a measurement of weight – not the name of a coin.
This is where your learning in our trek ‘Thru the Bible’ can aid you.
There was no official temple tax in the bible…there never was…not from God.
The original custom was an order of the Lord to Moses, upon numbering the people; that everyone that was twenty years of age and upwards, should give half a shekel as atonement money, or as a ransom for his soul. This was to be for the service of the tabernacle, Exod. 30:12.
Later during the reign of Josiah king of Judah, a voluntary collection was taken for the repair of the temple using the collection of Moses in the wilderness as an example, but no set amount was even suggested.
Later, during the time of Nehemiah, Israelites set up and agreed to a yearly charge of the “third” part of a “shekel”, for the service of the temple, but this was not done by command of God and did not agree with the law.
So Peter had been approached with a question which was intended to trap Jesus and His followers. Notice however, that Jesus did not worry about how it might be used, or how it may or may not make Him look in the eyes of man. He simply established a truth and then walked in love.
The truth was that as sons of God, they need not pay the tax. The “walk of love” was to give it anyway, let He offend them – cause them to stumble.
Now this word “offend” is G4624 σκανδαλίζω skandalízō from which we get the word from last week in 1 Peter 2:7 skándalon (G4625), though this word from last week has the notion of trapping someone. Actually a scandalon is the trigger of a trap on which bait is set, leading to entrapment. This can be used in a good way or in a bad way.
Here are three examples of scandalon – used in three different ways…
- Rom. 9:33, “As it is written: Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over, and a rock to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
- Rom. 11:1-10, “(1) I ask, then, has God rejected His people? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. (2) God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the Elijah section–how he pleads with God against Israel? (3) Lord, they have killed Your prophets, torn down Your altars; and I am the only one left, and they are trying to take my life! (4) But what was God’s reply to him? I have left 7,000 men for Myself who have not bowed down to Baal. (5) In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace. (6) Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace. (7) What then? Israel did not find what it was looking for, but the elect did find it. The rest were hardened, (8) as it is written: God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear, to this day. (9) And David says: Let their feasting become a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a retribution to them. (10) Let their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent continually.”
- Rom. 14:13-18, “(13) Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another, but instead decide not to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. (14) (I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.) (15) For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. By what you eat, do not destroy that one for whom Christ died. (16) Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, (17) for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (18) Whoever serves the Messiah in this way is acceptable to God and approved by men.”
The word used here with Jesus and Peter in Matthew, means to give a cause to fall.
The point is that in 1 Peter 2:8 Jesus IS the offense and here in Matt. 17, He is attempting to NOT offend.
What is the difference?
Well, AS the scandalon, Jesus is literally the trigger in the trap set for man. From our perspective it may appear a little more than temptation, though we know that is not the case, Jesus is not tempting mankind, or provoking them to fall short of Salvation through offense – rather He is placing in front of them their only means of salvation which triggers a response.
There are only two responses to this trap – surrender or death. The point of offense depends on the individual. For the Jews the offense was ultimately the cross according to Paul.
Gal. 5:11, “(11) Now brothers, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has ceased.”
Turn with me to 1 Cor. 1 and we will examine this issue of Jesus being an offense, yet not wanting to cause one.
To the Jews Jesus was an offense in that they were looking for signs of a conquering hero, who would live and establish a Jewish kingdom which would last forever and instead Jesus was a meek and mild teacher who died.
But this offense also affects non-Jews for other reasons.
1Cor. 1:18-31, “(8) For to those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power. (19) For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the understanding of the experts.
(20) Where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? (21) For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached.
(22) For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, (23) but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block [scandalon] to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.
(24) Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, (25) because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
I said last week how both our persons and our testimony are a scadalon to the world. Meaning it is a baited trap…one to which they have NO OPTION but to respond, and as I said earlier there are only two responses. One is submission and belief leading to life and the other offense and rejection leading to death.
As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17,
“(14) But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ, and spreads through us in every place the scent of knowing Him. (15) For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. (16) To some we are a scent of death leading to death, but to others, a scent of life leading to life. And who is competent for this? (17) For we are not like the many who make a trade in God’s message for profit, but as those with sincerity, we speak in Christ, as from God and before God.”
So what does this have to do with Matthew 17 & 1Peter 2:16?
Well, Peter just got done telling us about the necessity of good works and then begins by offering examples of good works – the first of which was to submit to every MAN MADE ORDINANCE.
This led us to Jesus’ response to the MAN MADE ORDINANCE of the temple tax.
Jesus established that as sons they did not OWE it, but lest they offend they would give it. This word offend means to trip up and cause someone to fall into ruin. So while the words are very much connected, they are different.
This is the type of offense Paul warned about in Rom 14 & 1 Cor. 8 regarding offending your brother with food and drink or anything which would cause your brother to fall from his steadfastness in Christ. Regarding this kind of offense Jesus told us in Luke 17:1-2,
“(1) Jesus said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that causes of stumbling should come; but alas for him through whom they come! (2) It would be well for him if, with a millstone round his neck, he were lying at the bottom of the sea, rather than that he should cause even one of these little ones to fall.”
What the scriptures do not mean by this is doing things which a brother may or may not like and may be irritating or aggravating to them.
If such was the case would could do nothing – for everything is offensive to someone. No, he was talking about doing something which would place a roadblock between them and surrender to the truth in Christ Jesus. Here Jesus made a pragmatic choice – surrender to a law which has no hold on Him in order to not offer these Jews one more reason to reject Him as Messiah.
Like I’ve told you many times, sometimes our “freedoms” in Christ HAVE to be surrendered in order to walk in love and not be an offense or a stumbling block to Christ.
One more quick example. Paul acknowledged that it was a command of Jesus that those who preach the gospel make their living by the preaching of the gospel [1Cor. 9:14]. Paul referred to this remuneration for ministry as his “right over them” [1Cor. 9:11-12], yet Paul set this aside for the Corinthians because they were people of affluence and no-one is more suspicious and offended at being required to pay for something than the rich. So Paul preached the gospel there for free (for more on this see – Grace, The Law & Tithing).
So we continue…
“(16) As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil.
(17) Honor everyone.
Love the brotherhood.
Honor the Emperor.
(18) Household slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel. (19) For it brings favor if, because of conscience toward God, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly.”
Now this is a VERY unpopular verse to be sure. I would wager to bet that when a Christian’s bible falls open to a certain location due to wear and frequent use, this is NOT the page it falls open to – yet it should be one of them for in these verses we learn more perfectly how to live as Jesus – to allow Him to be formed in us -that we might bear fruit – receive the salvation of our souls….whatever New Testament wording you wish to use!
Notice, that we are to respond well to the cruel – not just the kind. To endure grief unjustly and that this brings the favor of grace!
Most of the times we get indignant, we feel as if we have the right to claim, “Well they accused me unjustly!” or “they were just being cruel for no reason at all!” Do you see that it is in JUST THOSE CASES where we are called upon to endure and show respect!
Why? Out of debt to your brother or sister or owner? NO, but out of conscience to God.
What does that indirectly tell us? That if you feel justified in reacting poorly to unjust and cruel treatment your conscience towards God is dulled!
Peter continues…[1Peter 2:20]
“(20) For what credit is there if you endure when you sin and are beaten? But when you do good and suffer, if you endure, it brings favor with God. (21) For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps.”
“(22) He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; (23) when reviled, He did not revile in return; when suffering, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to the One who judges justly.”
“(24) He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; by His wounding you have been healed. (25) For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”