I have been watching some reruns of the old program, “All in the Family,” with Archie Bunker. It often gives me a good laugh just before I go to bed. That show is my tranquilizer.
If you recall some of these programs, you will remember that Archie was quite free to quote the Bible and make it say what he wanted it to say. One night he was talking about the biblical character Job. He described Job as a fellow who had a very rough life; he had a lot of troubles. His kids were killed, he lost his wealth, and his wife was always nagging him. Then Archie said, “You gotta give Job credit. He hung in there, and God gave him a good deal. After Job wrote his book, God found a place for it in the Bible, and millions of people have read it.”
Poor Archie! But he does make one ask the question, Is Archie’s knowledge of the Bible any worse than others who live today, some even being members of a church? I don’t think so. I believe there are many who could have listened to Archie’s comments on Job and found nothing wrong with them, because they wouldn’t have known that his knowledge of Job was only partially correct. Because of this biblical illiteracy, it is important that we continue to teach the basics of the Bible on which Christianity stands or falls.
In our text, Peter is presenting two basic truths on which there is much confusion as to what the Bible teaches.
First, Peter writes about how one enters into a personal relationship with God. When you read the newspaper articles at Easter time, it is evident some of the reporters are not much better than Archie when it comes to Christianity’s teaching about the way of salvation and the significance of the resurrection. Visit with some of your friends about life after death. If you ask, Should you die today, do you know that you would go to heaven, you will find the common answer is, I hope so. If you then ask, If you should die and God asked why he should let you into heaven, the standard reply is, I hope I have lived a good enough life that God will grant me a place in heaven. These answers reveal biblical illiteracy, for the Bible clearly teaches that we can know if we will spend eternity in heaven. It also clearly teaches that we enter heaven through trusting Jesus as our Savior, and not through our good works.
Do we make the message of the Bible so confusing that people cannot understand? Hear these simple, but profound, words, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (vs. 24).
What do these words tell us? Jesus himself took our sins on his body and went to the cross. There he died so that we might be forgiven. By his suffering we have been forgiven and thus healed spiritually. This is how we become God’s child Ð through faith in Christ, and not by our own good works.
Some of our youth understand this message well. The Holy Spirit has created within their hearts a living faith in Christ as their Savior. On Good Friday evening, seven young people stood before one thousand people and talked about what Christ was doing for them. One young man told the audience that he had not been raised in a Christian home. When he was just a kid, his mother died. His world had fallen apart. What will happen to me? was his concern. Fortunately, he had an aunt and uncle who cared for him, and told him about Jesus. Soon he became involved in Sunday school and church. The youth program was a blessing for him. Through these means, God’s Word became clear. As a young man of eighteen years of age, he told the congregation he had learned what it was to “cast all of your cares on the Lord, because he cares for you.” He continued, “I have a Savior, and He has made me what I am today.” What a thrill it has been to follow this high school senior through these difficult years in his life and now watch that faith blossom!
Another young lady held the congregation spellbound when she told of her experience with Christ. She, too, is eighteen years of age. The high school years have not been easy for her. During that time, her father was found guilty of a federal crime and is now serving a prison term. This has brought real bitterness to her soul. However, her relationship with Christ is strong and personal, and little by little she is beginning to love her father again. This is Christianity in depth.
Peter discusses another basic truth that Archie and others have difficulty understanding. Archie had a gallbladder operation and was suffering discomfort. In the midst of his trouble, he asked the question, “Where is God? How come I have to go through all of this pain when so many terrible sinners enjoy the best of health?”
This is a question many people are asking. Why do bad things happen to good people? Read Peter’s words: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his footsteps” (21).
Peter makes reference to the slaves who were Christians. It is said there were sixty million slaves in the Roman Empire, and many of them were believers in Christ. They were domestic slaves, meaning many of them were not doing minimal work. Instead, they were doctors, lawyers, teachers, and well-educated people. These slaves could belong to the same congregations that their masters did. They often suffered unjustly from these masters. For example, if a slave/doctor was treating the master’s family and one of them died, the master could punish him severely. When such suffering occurred, Peter reminded the slave to “endure the suffering.” Perhaps this would be a witness to the master.
It is a difficult question Ð why is there so much suffering Ð and we will not fully understand this until we get to heaven. In the meantime, God’s Word clearly teaches that our Christian faith does not free us from suffering. Archie did not understand this, nor do millions of others, but live with Christ on a daily basis and you will soon learn that, while we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He walks with us and gives us grace to endure all suffering.
Our relationship with God is more than just having a clear understanding of the basics of the faith. However, before we can have a relationship with Christ, we must have a clear understanding of the basic truths of the Word. When the understanding is clear, the Holy Spirit goes to work and makes these teachings living truths that draw us closer and closer to God, and He gives us a peace and security that can only come from knowing Christ.