The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
February 27, 2011


1) 1 Peter 4:3 (Tom Edwards)
2) A Few Good Men (Steve Klein)
3) News & News


1 Peter 4:3
by Tom Edwards

After citing the Lord, who "suffered in the flesh" (literally died), to encourage the Christian to cease from sin (figuratively die to sin), but live to God, Peter then says in 1 Peter 4:3, "For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries."

Peter is certainly not indicating by this that there ever was a time in which it was all right for people to "sow their wild oats" by engaging in these sinful activities.   For that would never be right.  But, rather, he is speaking ironically.  For since all accountable people have sinned and come short of the glory of God, we should learn from our past transgressions that that is not the way to live.  In other words, we had time for all that in the past -- and it proved to be fruitless, a waste of time, an abuse of life itself, and a path that was leading to an eternal separation from the Lord.  

We can liken this to Romans 6:21, in which Paul is writing to the Gentiles and referring back to when they were "slaves to sin."  He states, "Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death."  So, in other words, they had been through all that then -- and what did it accomplish?  Only shame and death!

Though we normally think of the term "Gentile" in referring to anyone who would be a non-Jew, Peter is using the phrase, "the desire of the Gentiles," to describe the one who would give himself over to the sinful ways of the world, rather than to the way of Christ.  For Peter is writing this epistle to primarily Gentiles, but they were now Christians who were striving to live a righteous life with new, godly desires.  But this phrase would, no doubt, evoke their remembrance of those former days and the culture they had been brought up in, prior to their conversion, when they had given themselves over to the immoral and corrupt ways of the world.

Notice how Paul describes that time prior to the Ephesians' conversion: "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest" (Eph. 2:1-3).   

In Romans 1:21-32, Paul becomes even more graphic in describing those who drifted farther and farther from God, where they are depicted as giving themselves over to idolatry and various lusts and corruptions, which include lesbianism, homosexuality, greed, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, insolence, arrogance, bragging, disobedience to parents, untrustworthiness, being unloving, being unmerciful, and giving hearty approval to those who practice such things.  

The Greek word for "sensuality" (aselgeia) in 1 Peter 4:3 is defined as "licentiousness, filthy, lasciviousness, wantonness" (Strong).  It is listed among the deeds of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 that will keep one out of the kingdom of God.  Thayer defines it as "unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence."  It is also rendered (in 1 Peter 4:3) in some other Bible translations as: "unrestrained behavior," "habitual licence," "lasciviousness," "riotousness," "licentiousness," "debauchery," and "lewdness."

The Greek word for "lusts" (epithumia) in 1 Peter 4:3 is defined as "desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust" (Thayer).  One source said that this term "is used exclusively of sinful desire"; but that is not always the case.  Though this term is used in the Scriptures to more often refer to the wrong kind of desires, here are a few examples where it is not used that way:  In Luke 22:15, Jesus states, "I have EARNESTLY (epithumia)  DESIRED (epithumeo) to eat this Passover with you before I suffer."  In Philippians 1:23, Paul had a "DESIRE to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better."  And in writing to the Thessalonians, Paul speaks of how he and some others were "all the more eager with great DESIRE to see your face" (1 Thess. 2:17).

In differentiating "lusts" (epithumia) from "sensuality" (aselgeia), Guy N. Woods shows that whereas "sensuality" refers to "outward actions and overt deeds," "lusts are inwardly entertained."     

Peter had warned the brethren about this kind of lust earlier, that they would abstain from it -- for it will "wage war against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:11) and can become a cruel "master": "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts" (Rom. 6:12).  "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another" (Titus 3:3).  "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts" (2 Pet. 3:3).  These mockers would probably feel like they were heading exactly where they wanted to go; but would it not be that it was their own lust that was not only leading them there, but also deceiving them in the process?

Another sin, Peter points out is "drunkenness" (oinophlugia) in 1 Peter 4:3.  This Greek word is actually a compound word.  It comes from the Greek words "oinos" (for wine) and "phluo" (which means "to bubble up, to overflow").  

The harmfulness, foolishness, and sinfulness of drunkenness is clearly seen in the Bible.  See, for instance, Proverbs 23:29-35.  Solomon shows (in v. 21) that the remedy for this is to never begin: "Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup...."  If you never get even that far, you can then go no further with it.  (See also Prov. 20:1 and Isa. 5:11,12.)

According to 1 Corinthians 6:10, no drunkard will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such had been the case of some of the Corinthians, prior to their conversion; but now they had changed.  They  had been "washed," "sanctified," and "justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (v. 11).  

Drunkenness is one of the ruins of America.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the New Hampshire Department of Safety, more than a quarter of a million people  in the United States have died in the last ten years due to alcohol related accidents.  That's about 500 people each week, 71 people each day, about 3 people each hour or 1 person every 20 minutes.  In that same period of time, more than 7 million people were injured in those 10 years, 708,000 in one year, almost 2,000 each day, and about 80 people each minute -- so at least 1 person each second.   50% of all fatal highway crashes involving two or more cars are alcohol related.  65% of all fatal highway crashes involving just one car are alcohol related.  According to a study by Allstate Insurance, alcohol-impaired drivers are costing American taxpayers about $21 to $24 billion per year.  Of course, there are other ways, too, in which people under the influence of alcohol can cost others -- even when not in a vehicle.  National Geographic, for instance, has put the cost to American society, due to alcohol abuse, at $136 billion annually, and 65,000 lives.  Also, 40% of all suicide attempts, 54% of all violent crimes, 60% of all emergency room admissions, and 80% of all domestic disputes are said to be alcohol related.   So, clearly, drunkenness or alcoholism is a major problem in our nation.  

Next week, we will consider a couple other terms in 1 Peter 4:3 that pertain to the drinking of alcohol -- and one, in particular, that does not even necessitate the point of intoxication in order to be wrong.  

In today's lesson, we have considered  three things that the Christian is to put off: sensuality, lusts, and drunkenness.  Not only do we please the Lord by abstaining from these things, but in doing so, it also enables us to live a better life -- free from these snares of sin. 


A Few Good Men
by Steve Klein

The United States Marines are always looking for "a few good men."  That recruiting slogan actually dates all the way back to 1779 when it was used by Marine Captain William Jones who was seeking a crew to man a 28 gun marine frigate, the Providence.  The word "few" implied that not everyone could be a Marine.  To this day, the reality is that relatively few men have the physical and mental toughness to become Marines.  And fewer still possess the "always faithful" spirit of dedication to serve what can be long tours of duty away from home in hostile environments.

The Lord is also looking for a few good men with the extraordinary spiritual toughness and the dedication of heart needed to serve Him.  The duty Paul gives to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3 is the duty of every Christian: "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."

The hardships that we face as Christians are also described in the Bible as the "fiery darts of the wicked one" (Ephesians 6:16). Christians are constantly under fire from Satan.  He tempts us and tries us, inflicts us with illness and afflicts us with pain.  As he did with Job in the Old Testament, Satan may also shoot at us by taking our family, our possessions and our health; he may even succeed at getting close friends and loved ones to betray us!   Serving in the Lord's army requires faithfully fighting this warfare.  By His grace, the Lord provides us with the strength to meet our challenges and the necessary armor to protect us from Satan's onslaught (Ephesians 6:11-18).  But He has also provided us with something else -- each other!

Twice in the New Testament Paul refers to brethren in the Lord as "fellow soldiers" (Philippians 2:25; Philemon 2).  As we battle Satan, it is crucial that we are not only always faithful to our cause, but also faithful to one another.  We are in this war together. We are to "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27).  

Faithfulness to the Lord, to His cause and to one another will lead us to victory!  The Lord guarantees it.  "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).  

The words penned long ago by Isaac Watts seem to catch well the spirit of someone who would be one of the few good men: 

Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb, and shall I fear to own his cause, or blush to speak his name?
Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign; increase my courage, Lord.  
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by thy word.  

Semper Fidelis!

-- Via The Bulletin of the Church of Christ at New Georgia, November 21, 2010


News & Notes

The neck surgery for Pam MacDonald last Wednesday went well, and also the knee surgery for Cheryl Anderson on the following day.  Let those of us who are Christians be praying that these ladies will soon be completely healed. 

Let us also be praying for Virginia Fontenot who has come down with a serious case of the flu, which is causing even her breathing to be difficult. Her daughter (Linda Blevins) took her to the walk-in clinic, where they put her on tamiflu and told her to take it easy for a while.  They were also told that even those who had already had their flu shot for this year have been showing up at the clinic with the flu.

The gospel meeting in Athens, Alabama, went well.  It was good to see the brethren there again, since it had been at least the seventh time I had been a guest speaker for them, but about 12 years since the previous time.  It was also good to meet Jeff May, their preacher, along with the others who had been new to me -- and some of the previously young ones who also seemed new because they were now so grown up, and some of them married.  The singing from service to service was truly uplifting.  Folks there really sing out and know well and blend well the bass, tenor, alto, and soprano parts.  They love doing that, and also have monthly singings in which Christians from numerous other congregations come and participate, which has been so well attended that the Oakland congregation had to expand their parking lot to accommodate everyone.  I also appreciate their hospitality, as I was in different people's homes (Eugene and Janice Persell, Lynn and Vickie Persell, Mark and Beth Ham, Wayne and Crystal Hancock, Caleb and Bethany White, Jeff and Kay Peek, Huston and Shirley Ball, and Alice Miller) from day to day for dinner and to spend some time together.  One of the families (Jeff and Kay Peek) even gave me their fairly new, resort home, along the Tennessee River, to have for my own during the week I was there, from which I had a good view of the river and found to be a great area for my morning walks, where little traffic was -- maybe just about a dozen cars, a couple golf carts, and a bicyclist or two were the only ones that passed me during the several times I walked and jogged through that peaceful community.  The brethren at Oakland were very encouraging to me, and I appreciate that also.  In addition, it was good to see Chuck Bartlett again, who was in Athens to preach elsewhere a Friday-through-Sunday meeting, which began the last night of the one we had at the Oakland church of Christ.  So Chuck and I got together that Saturday morning, before I headed back for Louisiana.  The last time we had actually seen each other face to face was probably around 1982.  For the last few years, Chuck has been preaching in Newburgh, Indiana (near Evansville), where he continues to do a great work for the Lord.    

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://home.onemain.com/~tedwards/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://home.onemain.com/~tedwards/audioser.html (audio sermons)