Having Unity of Mind

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Peter chapter 3 verses 8 through 12, which ends an important section here of Peter’s
epistle. 1 Peter 3 verses 8 through 12, you’ll find that on page 1205 in your pew Bible.
Let us hear God’s holy word. Finally all of you have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly
love, a tender heart and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling,
but on the contrary bless, for to this you were called that you may obtain a blessing.
For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and
his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace
and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to
their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. The grass withers
and the flower fades, but the word of our God endures forever. Let’s pray for the Lord
to bless the preaching of his word. Oh heavenly Father, we pray that by your spirit you would
open our minds and our hearts once again to behold wondrous things from your word. And
we ask that you would cause your word to find a lodging place in our souls. Bear spiritual
fruit in us and through us through that which we hear this evening. And set a guard over
my lips, Lord, that I, your unworthy servant, may only speak that which is faithful and
true to your word. And for the edification of your people and the glorification of your
holy name. In Jesus’ name we pray and all of God’s people said, Amen. You may be seated.
There’s four words that the children can listen for this evening in my sermon, Unity, Virtue,
Sympathy and Love. Well, dear ones, my sermon text for this Lord’s Day evening, as I mentioned,
it completes this particular section of St. Peter’s first epistle. And what we have seen
in this section is that the governing theme of this section of God’s word appears to be
the theme of honorable conduct. As we learned back in chapter 2 verse 12, Peter writes,
keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable. What’s he talking about among the Gentiles?
Well, in Peter’s vocabulary, the word Gentiles is used to refer to unbelievers generically,
or at least to unbelieving Gentiles in particular. In other words, what we have from chapter
2 verse 11 through chapter 3 verse 12, which we are considering this evening, this ending
section. In this section, Peter has been concerned to tell his readers how to live as good witnesses
for Jesus Christ in the midst of a hostile and unbelieving world. And we find ourselves
in the midst of such a world today as well, don’t we? It seems that our world is growing
increasingly hostile towards traditional versions of Christianity and anything that smacks of
biblical fidelity, faithfulness to the word of God. This honorable conduct among the Gentiles
involves many things, but Peter includes among those things submitting to legitimate God
ordained authority. And so, for example, we saw that all believers are to submit to the
governing authorities, the civil authorities. Servants are to submit to their superiors,
which in today’s context would mean that employees are to submit to the legitimate demands of
their employers. And wives are to submit to their husbands and so forth. You see, Peter
knew that unbelievers would sometimes seek to slander and tarnish the good names and
reputations of believers. And think about it, in a fallen and sin-cursed world, would
we expect otherwise? Would we expect in this world where slander and seeking to cancel
others and destroy others’ good names and reputations is so common, would we expect
unbelievers to respect us as believers, respect our beliefs and our witness? Of course not.
And so it should not surprise us when they speak ill of us, brothers and sisters. But
let us as believers not give unbelievers seemingly valid reasons for their criticisms. Peter
wants us to avoid giving unbelievers such ammunition. And one of the ways that we avoid giving unbelievers
ammunition for their slanders and criticisms of that is by living honorable lives in their
midst. Beloved in Christ, as believers we have been redeemed and saved by the grace
of God and through the blood and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore we
are to live such holy lives that unbelievers will have no valid reasons for their abusive
criticisms or their slanderous accusations against us. In this section, Peter is telling
us that part of what it means to live holy lives is to submit, as I mentioned, submit
to legitimate authority, as we learned in chapter 2 verses 13-25, and also to live in
accordance with the divine creation order, as we’ve been learning here in chapter 3 verses
1-7. Now in this final part of this section, which we’ll be considering this evening,
which goes from verses 8-12 of chapter 3, Peter addresses all believers in this summary
exhortation. He’s been addressing various parties. He’s been addressing wives and husbands,
servants and masters and so forth. But here he addresses all of us as believers in the
Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 8, he gives us a number of commands which concern how we
are to get along with our fellow Christians. And then in verse 9, Peter seems to be giving
a basic command for how to deal with those who are hostile toward us. He probably has
unbelievers in mind in verse 9, although these same principles would apply in a situation
where a professing Christian is being treated in an unchristian way by another professing
Christian. And finally, in verses 10-12, Peter quotes from Psalm 34 verses 12-16 in order
to give some Old Testament scriptural backing for his admonition. And so let us direct our
attention to this passage of God’s holy word. And I first of all want to direct your attention
to verse 8, where Peter says, finally, in other words, he’s wrapping up this particular
section of his epistle and he says, finally, all of you, so he’s addressing the believers
in general, all of you have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and
a humble mind. If we pause and meditate on and consider these various things that we
are called to here, it’s really quite a list, isn’t it, that he calls us to. But the first
thing I want to focus on in verse 8 is Christian unity. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let
us strive to maintain Christian unity with one another. Let us maintain Christian unity
with one another. Again, as the Holy Spirit through Peter says, all of you have unity
of mind. What does that mean to have unity of mind? Does that mean that we all have to
think alike? Does that mean that we all have the same perspective on everything? Of course
not. As Dr. Norman Hillier points out, Christian believers must live in harmony with one another.
Literally being of one mind, a single word in the Greek, the term is intended to convey
a unity of aim and purpose, a oneness in attitude. And Dr. I. Howard Marshall says
they should live in harmony with one another. The Greek word literally to be of like mind
means that Christians should have the same basic aim of serving God and loving one another
instead of being guided by individual selfish interests. Christians therefore will work
together and not act in isolation. Now of course we cannot work together to glorify
and serve God and to love our brothers and sisters in Christ unless we have a basic
doctrinal unity in the truths of the Gospel. Nevertheless, the focus is on unity of aim
and purpose here. Beloved in Christ, what is the unity that we are to aim for according
to Peter? Well beloved, the unity to which the Holy Spirit through Peter is calling us
is a unity of aim and purpose. What are we about as the Church of Jesus Christ? What
are we about as disciples, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ? What has the Lord called
us to? What is our mission, our calling, our purpose as the people of God? Our ultimate
aim and purpose as followers of Christ should be to love, to serve, and to glorify God and
to love one another. I know I quote it often and you folks know it by heart. But what is
the chief end of man? Man’s chief end, our ultimate aim and purpose is to glorify God
and to enjoy him forever. And we are to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor
as ourselves. But what is again, what is this unity of aim and purpose based upon? What
is it grounded in? Is it grounded in and based upon our own moralistic self-righteousness?
Is it based upon a pharisaical ethic? No. Christian unity, this unity of aim and purpose
as followers of Jesus Christ to which we are called in this passage is a unity that is
grounded in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any other kind of unity is not true
Christian unity. It’s not the unity that Peter is speaking of. It’s not the unity that the
spirit is calling us to through Peter’s writing here. We are to be united in the gospel, the
good news of the Lord Jesus Christ and thus our unity is grounded in this book. It is
grounded in the inerrant, infallible, authoritative word of God. Peter does not explicitly mention
here doctrinal or spiritual unity in this passage. But nevertheless, this unity of aim
and purpose, this oneness of mind in serving Christ, serving his people and serving the
cause of God’s kingdom in this world would be impossible without the truth of the gospel
message. The gospel is that which gives us incentive to glorify and enjoy God and to
serve him in missions, in evangelism, and in our callings and vocations out there in
the workaday world. The reason that I mention the importance of the gospel and of the word
of God to our Christian unity is because there is this idea out there that says, and it’s
often expressed in some ways like this, why can’t we Christians all just, why can’t we
just love Jesus? Let’s forget about all this doctrinal stuff. Let’s forget about all this,
all our arguing and bickering. Can’t we all just get along? Can’t we all just love Jesus?
Now indeed, there is a spirit of sectarianism and divisiveness that we need to avoid as
brothers and sisters in Christ, especially when we have differences, when we study the
scriptures together and come to different conclusions. We are intended by God to study
the Bible, not just in isolation. Certainly, I would commend and encourage you to read
the Bible in private. But this is the church’s book. This is revealed by God to the covenant
community. We are to read this together. We are a community of interpretation. And so
if you’ve come to an interpretation of the Bible that no one else has ever thought of,
99.9% chance is that you are wrong. I remember hearing an OPC ruling elder many years ago
describe the word new when it came to interpretations of the Bible. He said, yeah, when it comes
to Bible interpretations, new means nearly everywhere wrong. And that is the case. The
reason I stress this is because of the doctrinal indifferentism that we find in theological
liberalism, which says, you evangelicals, you reform folk, you conservatives, however
they label us, oftentimes fundamentalists, you’re just so you’re so uptight about things
like the deity of Christ and the atonement and the bodily resurrection. Isn’t it all
about being like Jesus? No, no. Which Jesus are we to be like? The biblical Jesus or
the Jesus of theological liberalism? The kind of unity that we are to have is a unity that
is grounded in the revealed doctrinal truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we’re not
to hold this truth, again, we’re not to hold it in a divisive with a divisive spirit or
a spirit of suspicion toward fellow believers. But nevertheless, we are to hold fast to the word
of truth, that common faith that we have confessed. Dear listener, do you believe the truths of the
gospel, the truth that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, the truth that you and
I are sinners, that we’ve missed the mark, that in our fallenness, we do not love the Lord our God
with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, that we do not love our neighbor as ourselves,
and that therefore we deserve God’s wrath and judgment, that we have no hope of salvation in
ourselves, in our own works or merits or efforts or even in our own religiosity, the truth that
only Jesus is our hope of salvation. Jesus says, I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh
unto the Father except by me. He is Lord. He is the word made flesh who died for sinners and rose
from the dead so that all who believe in him might not perish but have everlasting life. This is what
unites us together. We come from different backgrounds. We come from different upbringings,
from different socioeconomic backgrounds, different educational levels. But we, if we have the biblical
Lord Jesus Christ in common, we have in common that which matters the most. We have unity of mind if
we are in him. Praise be to God. And I think Paul puts it well. I read this earlier in the service,
but let me just remind us again of what he writes in Ephesians chapter 4. When he says this,
I therefore a prisoner for the Lord, meaning the Lord Jesus, he’s writing this from prison,
I urge you to walk, that is to live, in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain
the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And he reminds us there is one body and one Spirit.
Just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith,
one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. And then
skipping down to verse 11 and following, what does God give to work for this unity of mind? Well,
it says, he gave as a gift to his church from his heavenly glory. He gave the apostles, the prophets,
the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to do what? To equip the saints for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge
of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
so that we may no longer be children. God does not want you or me to remain spiritually immature.
He wants us to grow up in Christ, to mature in Christ. He does not want us to be tossed to and
fro by the waves or carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness and
deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in harshness, no, speaking the truth in love,
speaking the truth in love. We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head into Christ,
from whom the whole body joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped. When
each part is working properly makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. May that be
our goal, our aim. May we, by the grace of God, seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the
bond of peace. And that unity is a unity that is grounded in the truth of God’s Word. But next,
beloved, let us practice Christian virtue. He says in verse 8, finally all of you have unity of mind,
but then he mentions what? Sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Let’s
first of all talk about being sympathetic. What does it mean to be sympathetic? This means that
we are to share each other’s joys and sorrows. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12 verse 15,
rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. How can we do that if we are not involved
in each other’s lives? If we are not a community? If we just parachute in and then parachute out
and are disconnected? The Lord by his Spirit has brought us together as a local expression of the
body of Christ and we are to be connected to one another. And that will look differently in
different people’s lives in different ways. There are different callings and so forth. But we are to
have a fellow feeling, a sympathy for one another. Are you brothers and sisters praying for each
other? One thing I would encourage you to do is to have a prayer calendar and to take the church
directory and make sure that you’re on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be every day. You can
work out your own schedule. But are you praying for each and every member and friend of the church
on a regular basis? That’s one of the ways that we show sympathy for each other. Pray for each other.
We should be praying for each other. One of the things that I am so thankful for for Grace Church
is that this is a praying church. We do care enough about each other to pray for one another. Let us
keep on keeping on with that. Let us be sympathetic to one another. Rejoicing with those who rejoice
and weeping with those who weep. The ability to enter sympathetically into the experiences of our
fellow believers is an important virtue when it comes to maintaining the unity of the body of Christ.
Christ is the perfect example, of course, of what it means to be sympathetic. For he left his throne
in heaven and he clothed himself in our humanity in order to put himself into our shoes and to die
for our sins and accomplish our redemption. As our intern candidate Mr. English so excellently
explained in the sermon this morning when he talked about the incarnation of Christ. But not
only are we to have sympathy, we are to have brotherly love. Again, to quote from Dr. Marshall,
he says, the ideal Christian community is one which produces between people who have no blood
ties the same bonds of affection as are expected between brothers. And then he refers us to Psalm
133 verse 1 where the psalmist writes, behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell
in unity. But you know the opposite is also true. How unpleasant and how difficult it is when
brethren do not dwell together in unity but are at odds with each other. Again, Christ is our supreme
example of brotherly love. He is the divine son of God. He is our savior but he is also described
in the Bible as our elder brother. By his grace we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God
and therefore we are spiritual brothers and sisters in the household of God. You’re my brother, my
sister in Christ and I am your brother in Christ and we belong to the forever family of God.
Saying that does not denigrate in any way the natural family or the importance of the natural
family but it does give us an eternal perspective. We are to exhibit brotherly love one to another.
By this brotherly love we show the world the reality of Jesus Christ and we evidence our
salvation. Consider what our Lord says for example in John 13 verses 34 and 35 John 13
verses 34 and 35. Our Lord says this, a new commandment I give to you that you love one another.
It’s not brand new, it’s new given the newness of this stage of redemptive history where where
God has become incarnate in the person of Christ. It has a new meaning, a new significance,
a new commandment I give to you that you love one another just as I have loved you.
And how did Jesus love us? He died for us. He laid down his life for us. A new commandment I
give to you that you love one another just as I’ve loved you. You also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.
Not if you are bickering with one another, if you are at odds with each other but you love one
another and you show that love. You lay down your lives one for another counting others better than
yourselves. Or consider what the apostle John writes in first John 3 14 and 15. By this we know
love that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need yet closes his heart against him,
how does God’s love abide in him? Little children let us not love in word or talk but in deed
and truth. And then chapter 4 verse 20 John writes if anyone says I love God
and hates his brother he is a liar. John doesn’t mince words. He is a liar. For he who does not
love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment
we have from him whoever loves God must also love his brother. So we are to have sympathy. We are
to have brotherly love and also he mentions next a tender heart. Dr. Marshall writes Christians
should be compassionate showing loving consideration to people who are in need
instead of ignoring them. Here the word suggests that they should have actual feelings of concern
for others which are then expressed in action. And again Jesus Christ was the supreme example
of this kind of tenderness this kind of compassion. Consider for example our Lord’s encounter with a
leper recorded in Mark 1 verses 40 and 42. And this is a tremendously powerful passage.
I just want to read these verses and comment briefly on them. It says this in Mark chapter
1 beginning at verse 40. And a leper came to him imploring him and kneeling said to him if you will
you can make me clean. Now I want you to I want you to remember what it was like to be a leper
in that context. If you were a leper you were cut off from all human contact. You did not know the
blessing of the human touch. You did not know the blessing of receiving a hug or even a handshake
or a pat on the back. You were cut off from that and you had to advertise unclean unclean to warn
others not to touch you. And so here’s this poor leper. He comes to Jesus and and he says if you
will if you’re willing to you can make me clean. He expresses faith but he also wonders is he
really willing to do this? And how does Jesus respond? Does Jesus say get away from me you
leper. Don’t touch me. I don’t want to become ritually unclean. Of course it was impossible
for the Son of God incarnate to be made unclean. He’s the one who communicates cleanness and
cleansing. But it says this of Jesus’s response to the leper in verse 41.
Moved with pity. What does Jesus do? He stretched out his hand and touched him.
Touched him. This man who had probably not known the human touch for a very long time. Jesus gave
him the blessing of personal touch. Touched him and said to him I will be clean. And immediately
the leprosy left him and he was made clean. Christian like your savior you and I are called
to this kind of compassion. It’s not something we can work up in ourselves. We’re naturally sinful
and selfish and we do not show the kind of compassion as we ought. But by the grace of God
as we reflect upon the compassion of Christ let us show compassion to others. Christian like your
savior would you be willing to reach out to the modern equivalent of a leper with a touch of
compassion or would you shrink away in disgust? So he’s mentioned sympathy, brotherly love,
a tender heart. What’s the final thing he mentions? A humble mind. Regarding this humility
again this virtue was supremely exemplified in the life and death of Jesus Christ who as we’re
told in Philippians 2 verses 5 through 11 did not count equality with God. A thing to be grasped,
a thing to be held onto. But he emptied himself. Not that he emptied himself of his divinity.
But he humbled himself in terms of his position. He took upon himself
our humanity. He stepped away from the glories of heaven and took upon himself our humanity
so that we who were in the wallowing in the mire of sin might be cleansed and raised up to glory.
How are we to nurture an attitude of humility? Well first of all let us remember that we are
creatures who are entirely dependent upon our creator. Let us also remember beloved
that we are sinners who are completely dependent upon God’s grace in Christ for our salvation.
As we remember this, as we remember that especially as we see others who fall or stumble into sin
and we’re tempted to look down our noses at them let us always remember there go I but for the grace
of God. It is only the grace of God that holds us up and keeps us secure. But not only should we
seek to maintain Christian unity and to practice Christian virtue in order to live as good witnesses
for our Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of a hostile world we are also called to love our enemies and
this is my final point as we wrap up our time in the word this evening. Let us love our enemies.
Look at verse 9. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling but on the contrary
bless for to this you were called that you may obtain a blessing. While Peter begins verse 8
addressing believers in particular as he addresses all of you it seems as I mentioned it seems that
he implicitly shifts his attention back to admonishing his readers about how they should
deal with those who persecute and revile them especially remember that Peter is writing this
letter to a group of Christians who faced the prospect of severe persecution for their faith
in the Lord Jesus Christ. So he’s writing to them to bolster them to buoy them up to encourage them
and strengthen them in their faith as they face hostility for their faith and so he is again
shifts to that his attention to that and in this verse Peter is simply echoing the clear teachings
of our Lord Jesus in the Gospels especially for example the Sermon on the Mount where he called us
to love not just our neighbors not just our friends and our family but to love even our enemies.
What is Peter saying though what’s the point that he’s making here? Well first of all he says that
we are to avoid personal vengeance. Christians are not to be about the business of revenge
or taking vengeance on against others even against our worst enemies. For Peter writes
or the spirit through Peter exhorts us tells us teaches us here do not repay evil for evil
or reviling for reviling. What’s our natural sinful instinct when someone reviles you
when someone calls you a name when someone is nasty towards you the the natural response is to
be nasty in return is it not and it takes a supernatural grace to respond to that treatment
in this way. But Peter’s point is that look it’s not your business or my business to exact revenge.
What does the Lord say in the scriptures? Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord I will repay
trust God to take care of the vengeance of vengeance. Vengeance is God’s prerogative
not ours and he will bring his vengeance upon the unrepentant wicked in due time
but it’s in his time not in your timing or my timing. In the meantime let us seek to bless
our enemies not only does he tell us what we are not to do he says do not repay evil for evil
or reviling for reviling. Well you say then well what am I supposed to do positively? Well he says
on the contrary bless bless those who curse you do good to those who are who mistreat you and so
forth. This means doing what you can to secure your enemy’s highest good and what is anyone’s
highest good their eternal salvation. So think of that person in your life perhaps who most annoys
you who gets under your skin or perhaps who gossips about you or seeks to destroy you and
tear you down and let me ask you are you praying for that person’s salvation and repentance and
are you seeking to do that person objective good? It doesn’t mean you have to like them or like the
way they’re treating you doesn’t mean that you can’t guard your boundaries and protect yourself
or your family from their harmful influence but it does mean praying for them and seeking as you
have opportunity to bless them instead of responding to their curses in like manner. Again
why should we do this? Well we should do this because as Peter says to this you were called
we were called to be peacemakers we were called to be God’s instruments of blessing in this world
full of curse and secondly we should do this so that we may obtain God’s blessing it says
for to this you were called that you may obtain a blessing. Now he’s not teaching here works salvation
he’s not saying well the only way that you can get the blessing of salvation is by being a blessing
to others no this is not speaking of salvation or works righteousness but it is the natural outcome
of our union with Christ that we will seek to be a blessing to others and thus in this way in this
pathway we receive God’s blessing. So again what is our incentive for seeking to maintain Christian
unity practice Christian virtue and love our enemies? Peter closes this section with a quote
from Psalm 34 12 to 16 a quote which gives us powerful reasons for putting these admonitions
into practice as he says whoever desires to love life and see good days let him keep his tongue
from evil and his lips from speaking deceit let him turn away from evil and do good let him seek
peace and pursue it for the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their
prayer but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil may we seek by the grace of God
to be peacemakers may we have unity of mind sympathy brotherly love a tender heart
and a humble mind by the grace of God let us pray. Heavenly Father
we would ask that by your spirit you would help us to take these truths to heart
pray that you would enable us to bear the fruit of your spirit in response to your word
and we would pray Heavenly Father that we would maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of
peace as we seek to point the world a lost and dying world to the only hope and source of
salvation our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for it is in his name that we pray and all of God’s people
said amen. For our closing psalm let’s rise and we’ll sing number 133a how excellent a thing it is.