Jul 23 - Can God Use Me?

Can God Use Me?

July 23, 2017

2 Peter 1:1-3

 

CAN GOD USE ME?

2 Peter 1:1-3

July 23rd, 2017

 

At the Holy Spirit Gospel Tabernacle, the pastor was concerned that things weren’t “happening” in the church.  So he approached one of the leading elders in the church.  “Marvin, what’s wrong with our church?  Is it ignorance or apathy?”, to which the elder replied, “Pastor, I don’t know and I don’t care.”

 

This morning we begin a series of messages on the 2 Peter, which is one of those books, like 2 & 3 John, Jude and Revelation, which took considerable time to be accepted into the canon of the NT (not until the latter half of the fourth century AD).[1] 

 

2 Peter claims to be penned by the apostle Peter.  One of the reasons why it was rejected as canonical for such a long time is that its style, vocabulary and content does not resemble the book of 1 Peter. 

 

Instead, 2 Peter resembles the book of Jude (or Judas [Gk.] = Judah [Heb.]) closely: in subject-matter, vocabulary, phrasing, and order of ideas.  There is a particular close overlap between the 2nd chapter of 2 Peter and Jude, so almost all scholars recognize that there has to be some kind of literary dependence between the two books. 

 

Three options are possible: either both of the authors had a copy of a third document from which they both worked, or Jude had a copy of 2 Peter or, most likely, 2 Peter had a copy of Jude (on which he elaborated).[2]

 

Both 2 Peter and Jude may have been letters that were to be circulated among a number of churches.  Both warn of false teachers who had infiltrated the church. 

 

But 2 Peter also stresses the hope of the Christian, including the problem of an apparent delay in Christ’s return, and he also stresses the kind of life that Christians should be living.[3]

 

In the letter we find out that Peter was convinced, that if someone really gets to know God, then they will be transformed both spiritually and morally, and they will have eternal life after their death. 

 

Can God use me, is the question I want to address today.  And the answer is “Yes,” under the following condition:

 

God will use me if I am available

 

  1. Not because I’m capable

     

Human beings often focus solely on ability.  But in God’s eyes, availability is so much more important.  Some Christians may want to use their lack of ability as the reason for their inaction:  “Oh!  I can’t do that!  God cannot use me in this way.

 

We may think that we are not super Christians, we are not super-gifted, we are not super-talented, we lack degrees or talents or skills.  We are neither brilliant nor knowledgeable.  And therefore, God cannot use us. 

 

But think about the kind of people who Jesus called.  The disciples, who would become the apostles, by and large were uneducated country-bumpkins.  In the eyes of their contemporaries, they were less than impressive.  In fact, some of the educated religious people considered them to be losers. 

 

But they were available.  When Jesus called them to follow him, they did.  {God will use me if I am available …)

 

2. Not because I'm sinless

 

We may also think that our past disqualifies us from being used by God.  There may have been a moral failure.  Or perhaps we are currently struggling with addiction issues.  Are we therefore permanently disqualified?  The answer is “no”. 

 

Yes, there may be some areas that we can’t serve in.  For example, if we have repeatedly committed adultery, we are really not the right person to work with the opposite gender.  Or if we are addicted to alcohol, we’d better not allow ourselves to enter situations where we may be tempted to drink. 

 

However, the general truth is that God doesn’t need perfect people.  In most cases he uses ordinary and fallible people who are open and available to being used by Him. 

 

Remember the disciple called Simon the Zealot (Mk 3:18; Matt 10:4; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13)?[4]  Prior to following Jesus he was a part of a group of Jews who committed acts of violence against the Roman occupying force.  He was part of a freedom force, a man of violence, likely not the most pleasant of people.  Yet he too became one of the 12 apostles.   {God will use me because I’m available …}

 

  1. Despite being busy

     

Many Christians today exclude themselves from being used by God because they think that they are too busy.  “Wait ‘till I’m retired, THEN I’ll have the time to serve God.”  Do you know what happens when we retire?  We are still busy!  So even the busiest of us, should be able to some find time to serve God. {God will use me because I’m available …}

 

  1. Despite having responsibilities

     

We may think that we have too many responsibilities to be used by God.  Spencer, you don’t know what it’s like to have small kids.  Well, actually I do.  Been there, done that. 

 

Spencer, you don’t know how important I am to the company.  Without me, things would come to a grinding halt.  The truth is that no-one, and I mean no-one, is indispensable.  So even the most important of us, should still find time to serve God.

 

I am available to be used by God if ...

 

  1. I am willing to submit to him

 

Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ.                                                                     2 Peter 1:1

 

Literally, Simeon the Rock.  This nickname was given to Simon by Jesus:

 

And I tell you that you are the Rock (Petrus, Peter) and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell (lit. hades) will not overcome it.                 Matthew 16:18

 

Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Meschiach, which we pronounce Messiah in English.  So Peter is a slave and apostle of Jesus the Messiah.  But what does Messiah mean?

 

Meschiach in Hebrew and Christ in Greek, both derive from the word meaning “anointed”.  So Peter is a slave and apostle of Jesus, the anointed one (of God).  In the OT, kings were anointed with oil when they were crowned.

 

The term Messiah then, was short-hand to refer to the one in the lineage of King David who would be anointed by God to restore the nation of Israel.  In Jesus’ day, the Messiah was hotly anticipated to appear at any time and overthrow the Roman occupying forces. 

 

Peter calls himself an apostle.  In the first century, the term “apostle” was generally reserved for those who actually had personally met and followed Jesus.  An apostle’s teaching was considered to be completely authoritative. 

 

However, in this verse, being an “apostle” is listed after the term “slave” (Gk. doulos).  The author called himself first a slave of Jesus and then an apostle of Jesus.  The use of the term “slave” could be based on Jesus own teaching.

 

At one point, Jesus told hjs disciples, his followers, that the one who is going to be in charge will need to be the slave (doulos) of all, the one who serves all the others (Mk 10:42-44; Matt 20:25-27; Luke 22:26).[5]  Granted that being “a slave to Jesus” is different from being “a slave to the other disciples,” but I can’t imagine that either sounded particularly attractive.

 

In the first century, slavery was a normal part of society, and slaves were the lowest possible position one could find oneself in.  Slaves were individuals who were considered to be the property of another human being.  As such, they had no personal rights. The duty of slaves was to do exactly as they were told by their masters, and their masters could mistreat them, if they so wished.  It really was not an enviable position to be in.

 

I don’t know anyone who wants to be enslaved.  All of us have grown up being free, as did our parents and grandparents, and great-grandparents.  So it would be natural to consider ourselves as slaves, even if we are to be slaves to God:   

 

What do you mean, I am to submit to God and do what he wants?  I’m THE one and the ONLY one, who will be in charge of my life!

 

And what exactly does it mean to be a slave to Jesus or a slave to God?  Does it mean that everything we are currently and will be in the future belongs to God?  Does it mean that our abilities, skills, and talents; our possessions, money and resources are to be used as God sees fit?  Well, the answer to that question would be a resounding “yes”, that’s exactly what it means!

 

Coming to God is given our whole self to God unreservedly. It is often accompanied by a prayer of commitment, a prayer of submission to God’s will.    

 

So if that’s the case, what would the implications be?

 

  • Will I have to sell all my possessions and give away all my money to the poor?

  • Will I have to eat oatmeal or dry bread for the rest of my life?

  • Will I have to join a monastery?

  • Will I have to speak only about God and so alienate those who don’t want to hear about him? 

  • Will I no longer be able to have fun or enjoy the good things in life?

 

Very likely being submitted to God as a slave does not mean any of these things, although the implication of being a slave to God is being obedient in doing everything we sense God is telling us to do.  And for that we need real discernment.

 

Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ. To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and (our) Saviour Jesus Christ.                                  2 Peter 1:1

 

There are a number of important points to take note of.  For one, this may be one of the passages in the NT where Jesus is called God.  Like John 20:28 where doubting Thomas calls Jesus his Lord and God.

 

Literally: 

 

... in (the) righteousness of the God of us and Saviour Jesus Christ.                       Word for word from the Greek

 

The terms God, Saviour, Jesus and Christ are all in the genitive case. 

 

... through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.                                             ESV (NIV)

 

... through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.                                                      KJV

 

A possible translation, however, in the Greek, prepositions are always placed after the noun they are referring to, so “our” in the original is actually referring to God, not to Jesus.

 

... through the righteousness of our God and the Saviour Jesus Christ.                             New World Translation

 

The New World translation is the Bible of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and it is specifically worded this way to make sure that a differentiation is made between God and Jesus.[6]

 

Is this verse referring to Jesus as God and Saviour?  It could very likely be, but the original wording isn’t 100% conclusive.  Looking forward to v.4, it’s probably best to translate:

 

… through the righteousness of our God and (our) Saviour Jesus Christ.

 

Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ. To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and (our) Saviour Jesus Christ.                                                      2 Peter 1:1

 

The expression, “God and Jesus’ righteousness” can refer to God’s and, in particular, Jesus’ right conduct, that is, his sinless nature.  If it were not for Jesus’ sinless nature, then his sacrifice on the cross would have little meaning. 

 

Or God and Jesus’ righteousness could be referring to the righteousness that is brought about in the lives of the believers, possibly to the righteousness, the right standing, which God bestows upon believers based on Jesus’ sacrifice.  The apostle Paul used this expression in this way.  Believers are freed from guilt in God’s eyes, therefore justice or fairness no longer demands payment from them because of their sinfulness.

 

Either way of interpreting this passage is possible.  {I will be available to be used by God if ...}

 

2. ...  I value others

 

Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ. To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and (our) Saviour Jesus Christ.                                                      2 Peter 1:1

 

The author is lifting his readers to his own spiritual level.  Their faith is “as precious as ours.”  In other words, their faith is on par or on equal standing with his own (and presumably those who are with him).  He takes the focus off himself and places it upon them.

 

I heard it quipped once that there are two kinds of people in the world.  There are those who come into a room and say “Here I am!,”  and then there are those who enter a room who say, “Ah, there you are.”  (I actually happen to think that most people enter a room and don’t say anything because they are too shy). 

 

In the case of the author of 2 Peter first said, “here I am,” but he quickly moved to, “there you are.”    If we see others as important as ourselves, then chances are is that we serve them in God’s name. 

 

{I will be available to be used by God if ...}

 

3. ... I truly know God

 

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

                                                          2 Peter 1:2

 

Knowledge here is referring to more than just knowing there is a God.  Gk. epignosis, lit. ueberknowledge, speaking of true knowledge, accurate insight …

 

Grace and peace is what Peter really wants to see happen in the lives of his readers.  [He ends the letter on a very similar note, where he again combines knowledge and grace].[7]

 

Peter notes that abundant grace and peace depends on a person truly knowing God and Jesus.  Knowing God and Jesus as they really are will be the means by which his grace and peace become large and powerful in our lives. 

 

But where true knowledge of the love and holiness and excellence of God is lacking, there could potentially be a shortage of grace and peace. 

 

For example, if my view of God included the image of someone who doesn’t really care very much about how I live my life …. or, if I see God as someone who is stringent and mean and demanding and harsh and unforgiving and unloving ... in other words, if my picture of God is wrong, then grace and peace will tend to elude me.  

 

The result is that, as a believer, I will likely not experience a very fulfilled or joyous life.  In fact, chances are that I will be rather miserable (really a tragedy given that God wants to give me grace and peace and a fulfilled and joy filled life). 

 

More than that.  If my knowledge of God is wrong, then it is not likely that I will want to serve him.  On the other hand, if I know God as he truly is, then I will respond in service.

 

The author of 1 John makes that point.  In his letter, we are told twice that God is love (1 John 4:8,16).  And then we are told that because God loves us first, we respond by loving others (1 John 4:18: “We love because he first loved us”).  What John was saying is that, having received God’s love, we are compelled to demonstrate love toward others.  We cannot but.  And if we don’t, something is very, very wrong when it comes to our knowledge of God.

 

I am available to be used by God if ...

 

  1. I am changed by God

 

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.                2 Peter 1:3

 

[Godliness = Eusebius – can also be translated “goodness.”

Knowledge = Epignosis – again, Ueberknowledge.

Goodness = in reference to God’s virtue or moral excellence.]

 

Godliness.  I’m reminded of a story about a church that from time to time, would replace the regular service with one that was focused on worship only, and which they called “sing-spiration.”  It was quite popular, so it was always announced via a number of means.  One time, there was a typo, and the announcement read that the church would have a “sin-spiration” service.  As a result, the church was packed.   

 

Christians are to be empowered by God toward two things:

 

1. Life –probably in reference to eternal life, but we could also think of a meaningful or fulfilled life on earth which precedes eternal life.

 

2. Godliness or goodness – really a transformation to Christ-likeness, which includes compassion and moral fortitude (never completely attainable in this lifetime). 

 

There is a close connection in Peter’s mind between eternal life in the spiritual realm and a godly life in the earthly realm.  He makes this explicitly clear in chapter 2 when he deals with the false teachers who were morally corrupt.  If goodness and godliness are rejected to such an extent, hope in an eternal life is lost.

 

Now notice that the power that propels us toward godliness and eternal life is provided by God.  That’s a bit humbling if you think about it.  However, that does NOT mean that we simply give up trying and just wait for God to miraculously make us into better people. 

 

As the apostle Paul wrote, even the knowledge that God is at work within us should make us strive all the more to work out our salvation (Phil 2:12-13).[8]

 

So the Christian life does not simply consist of believing a set of doctrines.  It also consists of experiencing positive change because of God being at work.  It’s not just about what we believe about God, it’s also about experiencing God.

 

In verse 2, grace and peace come through the full knowledge of God.  In verse 3, divine power comes through the full knowledge of God.   

 

Can God use me?  Will he use me?  Absolutely.  If I am available and have not written myself off as lacking ability, lacking perfection, as being too busy or as having too many responsibilities.

 

And that availability to be used by God depends to a large degree on my submission to God.

It depends on whether or not I see others as important and valuable as myself.

It depends on whether or not I know God as he truly is.

It depends on whether or not I am experiencing God’s power in my life.

 

CAN GOD USE ME?

 

This is really the wrong question.  God wants to use us, you and me, and he will if we’re available.  The real question is:

 

CAN I MAKE MYSELF MORE AVAILABLE TO HIM (to be used by him)?

IF SO, EXACTLY HOW?

 

 

[1] Jude was listed as canonical in the Muratorian Canon (beginning of third century), Tertullian (De cult. fem. 1.3).  Eusebius classes it as one of the contested books (Hist. eccl. 6.13.6; 14.1).  Jude’s position was only assured when Athanasius included it in his famous canonical list, the first of the present 27 NT books (367).  2 Peter (earliest version in Coptic at the beginning of the third century) was generally dismissed as canonical even as late as Athanasius, who included it in his list.  Jerome reported its iffy status (De vir. ill. 1).  Eusebius rejected it as canonical (Hist. Eccl. 3.1-4; 25.3).

[2] It is far less likely that Jude abbreviated 2 Peter and much more likely that 2 Peter elaborated on Jude.  However, some point out that the future tense in 2 Peter 3:3 (... knowing that there will come [eleusontai - future middle] mockers) must chronologically precede present tense used in Jude 18 (... there will be [esontai - present, passive/middle participle] mockers).  This is a very weak argument since both passages speak about a present reality.  Further, the better grammar of Jude indicates its priority - after all, why would Peter reword a more polished Greek into something less polished.

The difficulty with Petrine authorship are numerous.  One problem is that in 3:4, the author mentions “the fathers who have fallen asleep,” not in reference to the OT patriarchs, but the first Christian generation, the ones who had known Jesus personally. At the time of writing, a collection of Paul’s letters was already in circulation (3:15-16). Similarly, Jude, in v.17, speaks of the [past] predictions of the apostles which they had delivered to his readers, and in v.3 of a message of faith that “once” was delivered to the saints.  Both statement indicated that Jude was penned in the post-apostolic age, although to those who had personally heard the apostles’ teaching.  If 2 Peter is dependent on Jude, then it may indicate a date of composition after the death of the apostle, particularly Peter, who likely died in the mid-60’s under the rule of the emperor Nero.  Many insist on Petrine authorship only because they are aware that 2 Pet 1:1 would otherwise put into question the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture.  The fact that Jude quotes an apocryphal book (1 Enoch) as history has to also be ignored or explained away.

[3] Those in the church may have adopted an early form of Gnosticism, the one that leaned toward licentious behaviour rather than asceticism, although there is no indication of Gnostic dualism. 

[4] In Mark and Matthew the byname “Kananeus” or “Kananaios” is a derivative the Hebrew “Kana” meaning zealous, and is not in reference to the town of Cana or the region of Canaan. 

[5] Matthew follows Mark - “Whoever would be great must be your servant (diakonos) and whoever would be first among you must be slave (doulos) of all”; Luke - must serve.

[6] It is, however, a potentially valid translation due to the oddity of the so-called anarthrous words that, in the Greek, do not have a definite article attached to them, but which, at times, may need one supplied in the English in order to convey the correct sense.  Conversely, there are articular words that in the Greek have a definite article attached to them even though these would be omitted in an English translation (i.e. prior to a proper noun, “the Peter”).  The latter are much more common than the former.

[7] Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18

[8] “... continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is working in you to will and to act to do what pleases him (or: in order to fulfill his good purposes/will).”