My funeral, my life

Series title:  “Better things are coming”

Scripture Readings

  • Romans 6:1-14
  • 1 Peter 4:1-6


There’s only one thing more sure than life, and that is death.

Death is so final.  The time of death can’t really be postponed to create opportunities for the person who is dying or for the close relatives to put things right.  It is only in very rare occasions that people have this opportunity.  But once death has arrived, it’s all over.  Those who are left behind can speak, but there is no reaction from the one who just passed away.

Death is decisive and absolute.  There is this final moment of moving from this world into the next.  There is the final heartbeat and the final breath.  Once death has stepped in, it’s over; nothing can beat or cheat death; it always has the last say, and it leaves human beings speechless in its power.

Death is certain.  Apart from Enoch and Elijah, who did not die the normal, but was taken to God by Himself, death has a 100% success rate.  It’s inescapable.  It was not so from the beginning, but man’s rebellion and sin against God brought death into our world, and life on earth has become a painful place.  If God left man to himself he would live in misery and he would die in misery.  Nothing would have any meaning, not even meaning itself.

Spiritual death – a life without Christ

Apart from dying physically, every person born into this life has to reckon with the fact that he/she is spiritually dead.  Not only does our heart stop beating and do we stop breathing and do our bodies become lifeless, but spiritually we are headed for a spiritual death, the second death.

The non-Christian or non-believer in God, is controlled by human desires.  This is the “me”-life.  It’s about what I want for myself; it’s self-termination and a life determined by what my heart desire.

It’s a life of thumbing the nose at God.  When it’s all about me and my desires, it quickly becomes an immoral life.  I become the standard of who I do and what is right.

Verses 3-4 of 1 Peter 4 refers to (1) sexual sins—indecency, lust; (2) sins displaying a lack of restraint—drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties; and (3) wrong religious practices—disgusting worship of idols.

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. (1 Peter 4:3–4, NIV)

Drunkenness conveys not only excessive drinking, but habitual intoxication Orgies describes the result of excessive drinking; another way of expressing it is excessive feasting, wild parties. Drinking parties is similar to orgies, but one is result of drunkenness, and the other provides the occasion for it. Included in the word is the idea of drinking competitions to see who can drink the most. I get a vision pub crawls. Wild parties used to be the exception; it seems as if people are now creating reasons to have it.  Going to a sporting event now has become the reason to be drunk and drugged.  One’s heart cringes to think ahead of the coming Christmas season!

To better understand what Peter is conveying here one can combine the meanings of orgies and drinking parties.  It’s not uncommon in our day for people to habitually and specifically create occasions to get together to drink a great deal and act in a shameful manner, and almost consider it as a human right to be drunk and become immoral and disgustingly silly.

Peter refers to a flood of dissipation.  Literally it means to pouring out, or to overflow, like a river which bursts its banks; here it refers to the overflowing in immoral acts. The way of life of the prodigal son was reckless (Luke 15:13, the same word is used there). Paul uses the same word when he writes:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18, NIV)  

Applied to the life of an elder, Paul writes:

An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. (Titus 1:6, NIV)

The flood of dissipation describes a person who no longer cares about anything as long as he can enjoy the pleasures of life. In reckless living he lives a life without any limits, or living in such a way as to fulfil every desire of his body.  We live in the “who cares” generation.  In other words, living without concern for the consequences of what one is doing.  This was the way hippies chose to live.  Of course one can only live this way if some others don’t:  at the least the doctor, nursing staff, police and the ambulance driver need to be responsible and sober-minded!

Living such a life is to be a nothing, a non-entity in the eyes of God.  Peter writes in 2:10:

Once you were not a people … once you had not received mercy … (1 Peter 2:10, NIV)

This leads to judgement.

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5, NIV)

Some who heard the message of the Gospel did not respond to the grace of God and they died.  Peter says:

For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (1 Peter 4:6, NIV)

What does it say?  They hear the Gospel; they reject the grace of the Gospel call; they die; what they did in their bodies stand as judgement against them; and at the day of judgement God will deal with them applying the standards of his eternal judgement.  Spiritual death leads to the second death, which is eternal and like physical death final, irreversible, and certain.

Spiritual Funeral

The verse we look at now is 1Peter 4:1

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. (1 Peter 4:1, NIV)

It’s the last part of this verse we need to look at now.  “… whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.

Paul helps us to understand this better:

We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:2, 6–7. NIV)

Paul continues:

… count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:11–13, NIV)

Back to 1Peter 4:1-2.  One of the marks of a Christian is his union with Christ.  He is willing to suffer with Christ, for Christ and like Christ – but thank God, not the same way Christ suffered, and surely not for the same reason and purpose.

This verse implies that anyone who in his/her walk and witness as Christian suffers physically at the hands of those who reject Christ has turned his back on sin, and no longer has any desire to keep on sinning.  He has said no to sinning and has turned away from sinning.  This takes us back to chapter 2:11

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11, NIV)

There we have seen that this abstain has the meaning of being satisfied with what what one has in Christ.  The Christian is not controlled by his own desires, but now lives under the control of God’s will.

This life-changing event makes to non-Christian wonder.  Why not enjoy the so-called good things in life?  You choose to become one of those who can’t enjoy yourself!  What’s wrong with you?  And you call what we do wrong?  Come one, just one night of wild parties, what can go wrong?  If a wild night results in the conception of a child, just abort it!   Do you really tell me that you will forever be satisfied with one woman or man?  Are you keeping your body from enjoying what everyone enjoys?

I find it interesting that a so-called scientific study has now found that being homophobic is the result of something that is psychologically wrong, which calls for treatment.  Those who practice homosexuality just do what is naturally right!  In a matter of a short space of time right has become wrong, and wrong has become right.

But living under the grace of God changes everything.  It changes the way I look at things, the way I laugh and what I laugh about; I changes the way I choose my friends and who I hang out with;  it changes the way in which I spend my money;  and moreover, the saving grace of God changes the way I spend my time. My previous life was a waste of time, it was a waste of oxygen and energy.  God loves me in Jesus Christ and gave me eternal life, and I owe my life to Him:  I need to love Him with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength and all my mind.


I met this lady in Sydney.  I was billeted to her during one of the Assemblies.  She was well into her seventies.  I was surprised to see many theological and other very good Christian books on her bookshelf in the sitting room.

The way she spent her days also intrigued me:  every day of the week was filled activities connected to the church of which she was a member – Bible studies, hospital visitation, evangelism, caring for those in need, feeding the hungry.

I asked her one night to tell me more about her life in the Lord.  She told me her husband had become very ill and ended up in hospital, terminally ill.  At that stage he was not a Christian, but the pastor of the church of her daughter came to visit him and led him to Christ.  He died in peace knowing that his sins were forgiven.  At his funeral the same pastor preached.  The pastor told the story of how her husband repented of his sins, confessed it to the Lord and asked for forgiveness, accepting God’s grace in Christ.  He then said, “We will  join him in heaven one day.”  Next to her were her daughter and son-in-law, a minister himself.

My lady-host said God worked it in her heart to understand that if she wanted to see her husband again, let alone see Christ and God and heaven, she must do the same:  before the sun set that day she confessed her sins to God and received the grace of Christ.  She was a new person.

Then she said to me,

“I have wasted a lot of time in my life.  There is so much to know about God, and I can’t stop reading about Him; there are so many people who do not know God, and I can’t stop helping them to learn more about his love and forgiveness.”  

Her life without Christ was spiritual death, aimed at herself – but it led her nowhere.  Her turning to Christ was her spiritual funeral – there she said no to sin and she became obedient to the will of God; she learned to reckon that she was dead to sin.  She heard the Gospel call and she responded with her whole life.  Her life in Christ was the beginning of her walk to eternal glory.  She was prepared. She knew better things were coming.

I enquired about her when I saw her son-in-law last time.  He told me she went into glory with God.

The big question now today:  have you been to your spiritual funeral?  Are you living a life to the glory of God where only his will counts?  Can you face the ridicule of the world and the sufferings of a Christian? Do you do so because by faith you know better things are coming?  Amen

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 1st November 2015


Christ’s victory: all enemy defeated

Better things are coming (Series Title)

Scripture Readings

  • Genesis 6:1-8
  • 1 Peter 3:17-22


There are days in the life of a minister that he needs to hide his pride in his pocket and admit that the Bible sometimes is not altogether easy to preach.  Today is one of those.

The readings for today come from two passages many theologians interpret in many different ways.  I pray that God will give me the grace to be a help rather than a hindrance.  We need to pray that the victory of Christ will be seen, and that all the glory will be his – even through our meditation on these two paragraphs.

The victory of Christ

I titled this sermon “Christ’s victory: all enemy defeated”,  because the context of 1 Peter 3, especially verses 17-22, is about the victory of Christ through his cross and resurrection.  Let’s just recapture:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18, NIV)

There is victory in this verse.  He died but was brought back to life. It takes us back to chapter 1:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18–19, NIV)

Of another verse in chapter 2:  1 Peter 2:4 refers to the truth that we have come to Him, and then Peter says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6, NIV)

We have come to Christ, and Christ, according to our verse in 1 Peter 3:18, through his death and resurrection He takes us to the Father.  His vicarious, or substitutional work not only takes us to God, but is the anchor for us in difficult times.

The cross and the open grave

Peter is addressing people who knew better things were coming in eternity, but the here and now of their struggle against those who reject them because they rejected Christ, cause them a lot of suffering.  And Peter now wanted them to not only follow the example of Christ by being submissive, but to see the victorious Christ who, according to the last verse in this chapter, has all powers and authorities in submission to Him.

Peter mentions something in this section which is not easy to understand.  Let’s read verses 19-20 again:

After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, (1 Peter 3:19–20, NIV)

This fact of the ministry of Christ in not mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures.  It seems at first sight if this may be mentioned in chapter 4:6:

For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (1 Peter 4:6, NIV)

The end of this verse however refers to people who were dead but now live in regard to the spirit.  I have however no final resolution on this verse, because there are more than one way to interpret this verse.  We will get there next time we continue with 1 Peter.

So the question is, when did Christ go and preach to whose spirits are kept in prison, who were they, and what did He proclaim to them?

Sin, rebellion and destruction

Our verse refers to those who lived in the days of Noah, those who were disobedient, despite the patience of God to see them repent and be saved.

Let’s go to Genesis 6.  The first problem we walk into is the reference to “the sons of God who married the daughters of men.”  Who were the “sons of God” and who were the “daughters of men”?

Let’s just go back a chapter or two in Genesis. After the death of Abel and the  tragic life of Cain who became a refugee, Adam and Eve had more children.  Seth was born to them.  There is an interesting statement in chapter 4:26:

At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:26, NIV)

Then in chapter 5:3 we read:

When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. (Genesis 5:3, NIV)

If we read these two verses together within the context, it seems not impossible to deduce that and Enosh worshipped the Lord, and that they could be known as “sons of God”, or children of God.  As time went by and people increased on the face of the earth, some departed from the Lord in sinfulness.  It is not impossible to think that some actually started to intermarry with the offspring of Cain.  The expression “they married whom they chose” in 6:3 may indicating that man’s own choice, rather than the choice of God of who he could marry was his own standard.

It does not take long before a godly family can go astray and become worse than the worst.  Old Eli was a god-fearing man to begin with, but his two sons were evil to the bone.  David walk with the Lord, Solomon deviated somewhat, and his son rejected the fear of the Lord.

Point is, who was known as “the sons of God” got entrapped in marriages with daughters of this world.  The difference lies in their origins:  “of God” and “of men”.  It never works, and always leads to disaster.  The result of these unions was outright rebellion against God.  Like the people of Babel who rebelled against God and looked at themselves as important and great, so the people in the time of Noah drifted away from the worship of God to the worship of themselves and their own achievements; in their own eyes they were giants! And this pattern is repeated even into our day.  The wise, the great and the important thumb their noses at the King of the universe and his Son, and they refuse to bow the knee before Him who already have them at his feet.  Listen to Psalm 2:

The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” (Psalm 2:2–3, NIV)

How does this Psalm warn them?  Listen:

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:10–12, NIV)

Over and over again we read: in Genesis 6:

The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. (Genesis 6:6, NIV)

Righteousness calls for punishment

In his righteousness He sent the flood to punish sin.  He gave them 120 years to repent, but nothing happened.  And all along Noah drove one nail after the other in to ark, which would become the salvation for him and his family.  God promised that this will never happen again – no flood.  But it meant that God had to set in motion his plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Those who walked in darkness, those who were first not a people, are by grace -through the cross and resurrection of Christ brought to God.  Instead of rightfully punishing the world for their sin, He sent his Son to be punished in our place.  THat’s why we read about the victory of Christ through the cross and his resurrection.

Those who cause pain in the heart of God, who caused God’s judgment upon what He had made so that about everything was destroyed and God had to start from again, their spirits are kept in prison till the final judgement of the white throne before God.


We don’t know exactly when, or at what point in time it happened, but the victorious Christ went to preach – or proclaim – something to the these spirits who are bound in the pool of fire till the last day of judgement.  From the context we need to understand that Christ proclaimed to them his victory.  They caused the world to be destroyed through their disobedience and hardened hearts, but Christ was the One who restored it and reversed the wrath of God upon this sinful world.  He did not preach to them grace; their fate is sealed.  They are with their leader, Satan, the father of lies, and the deceiver from the beginning, sealed up in the abyss till they will stand before the throne of Him who overcame:  Jesus Christ; and He will avenge the blood of those who fell by the hands of sinners by sealing them up in this lake of fire:

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14–15, NIV)

Don’t be found with them.  No!  come to Christ who will take you to God through his death and resurrection.  United to Him (of which baptism and communion is a sign) you will stand and survive.  As a matter of fact, the tribulations of this world and it’s sufferings is for a moment compared to what is waiting.  Peter rights a bit further into this letter:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12–13, NIV)

See, we are united to Christ by faith; baptism is the sign and seal of our union with him.  Peter writes:

and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21, NIV)

Noah believed.  The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in accordance with faith. (Hebrews 11:7, NIV)

In closing

My dear friend, physical persecution has not come our way yet.  But it is true that if we live as true aliens, or passers-through, in this world, we are on its wrong side.  The life of a Christian is not always easy; on the contrary, it can be very hard and disheartening at times.  But it serves to test us.

Let us never forget this truth when we face difficulty for loving Christ and his Word:  Christ is victorious; in essence the enemy is defeated.  By union with Him your place is secured in heaven where your inheritance cannot be spoiled of fade.  Look up, better things are coming.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 18 October 2015


The right answer about our hope

Better things are coming (Series Title)

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 34
  • 1 Peter 3:8-18


My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

One thing about a Christian is that the direction of his/her life completely changed when Jesus Christ appears on the scene.   One day the apostles were professional fishermen, the next they became followers of Jesus Christ. leaving everything behind.  On one day Paul was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians, the next he was worshipping the same Jesus he tried to stop.  The Ethiopian was on his way back to Ethiopia, probably expecting to continue his life the same way he had done before, but when he met Christ his life changed.  Paul, Peter and the other disciples in the end chose to die for the One who saved them from eternal hell to bring them to God. It still happens today.  I want to read parts of a report :I received this week.  It’s about Christians in Syria.  The Syrian ministry workers in those villages chose to stay in order to provide aid in the name of Christ to survivors.

“I asked them to leave, but I gave them the freedom to choose.  Every time we talked to them, they were always saying, ‘We want to stay here—this is what God has told us to do. This is what we want to do.’ They just wanted to stay and share the gospel.”  The 41-year-old team leader, his young son and two ministry members in their 20s were questioned at one village site where ISIS militants had summoned a crowd. The team leader presided over nine house churches he had helped to establish. His son was two months away from his 13th birthday.

“All were badly brutalised and then crucified.They were left on their crosses for two days. No one was allowed to remove them.”  The women, ages 29 and 33, tried to tell the ISIS militants they were only sharing the peace and love of Christ and asked what they had done wrong to deserve the abuse. The Islamic extremists then publicly raped the women, who continued to pray during the ordeal, leading the ISIS militants to beat them all the more furiously.  

As the two women and the six men knelt before they were beheaded, they were all praying.  “One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, ‘Jesus!'”

She knew her hope.  These people knew Christ, and they knew their hope.  They died in with honour, and the doors of heaven were opened for them.

The Christian understands and fully believe his position in Christ: pardon and acceptance with a reconciled God; fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and constant grace and peace out of his fulness; the preserving and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit; victory over death and hell; and an everlasting possession of heaven as a inheritance gift.  By hope he understands it all, anticipates it all, enjoys it all.

The world has no idea

Why does the Christian turn his/her back on this world?  Why allow good prospects of career advancement pass you by just because you are a Christian?  Why does the Christian choose to be the odd one out to not laugh when bad jokes do the round, or when the outcast is ridiculed?  Why not grab take the bribe and go on the promised holiday?  Why give some of your income to support the poor or missionaries far away, while you can enjoy it yourself?  Why not allow the white lie to go through if the truth is going to hurt your chances in life?

These questions and the answers and Christians give stuns the world.  Are you out of your mind?  Grab the day!  No one is going to pick you up when you have fallen.  No one is going to stand in for you when you tell the truth and get fired.  Wake up to yourself!  Get real!

The Christian answers, not with any smugness or self-pity, but with gentleness and respect,  “I have never been more real in my life!  See, the difference in Christ!”

For this the Christian is more often than not excluded from friendship circles,; they are not invited to parties anymore; they are not included in deals anymore; they sometimes become lonely; they become the outcast, the weird, the dumb, the stupid.  When they resist temptations to immoral activities, when they stand up for the sanctity of marriage as God intended it to be, when they speak up against abortion and one night stands or any change in the definition of marriage, they are condemned as unloving, bigots and downright evil.  That’s when we know that evil has become good and good ahas become evil.  Woe to you when men speak well of you, our Lord said.

Christians are not welcome in the world

When we did our series from John we heard our Lord said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19, ESV)  

When Jesus called his disciples He warned them:

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12, ESV)

The prophet Isaiah prophesies about these things:

Hear the word of the Lord, you who respect what He has to say! Your countrymen, who hate you and exclude you, supposedly for the sake of my name, say, “May the Lord be glorified, then we will witness your joy.” But they will be put to shame. (Isaiah 66:5, NET)

Our chapter takes us to Psalm 34 to teach us how we should react to the hostilities of this world and even those who proclaim to be Christian, who are not.

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:12–14, NIV)

Who said these words?  David.  When?  Although Samuel anointed David as king, he was nevertheless forced to become a refugee before Saul. David, the elect of God, was forced to suffer on the earth as an exile.  Twice during those refugee years David had the opportunity to take Saul’s life. On the first occasion David cut off a corner of Saul’s robe when Saul had come unknowingly into the cave where David was hiding.  After Saul arose and left, David called to him from the opening of the cave, and Saul replied:

“Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.  When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. (1 Samuel 24:16-17, 19, NIV)

On the second occasion David spared Saul’s life while he slept in his own camp. He did not take Saul’s life, only his spear and helmet.  Saul then said:

The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph.” (1 Samuel 26:23, 25, NIV)

Our chapter says of those who are wronged by this world while they submit to the Lord:

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:9, 12, NIV)

God knows our struggle and our loneliness when we are rejected and would, if things were in our hands, love to see retribution:  His eyes are upon the righteous, and his ears listen to our prayers.

When the time comes and people want to know why we act differently, and why it sometimes look as if we don’t have any backbone to stand up against those who would love to tread us underfoot, we regroup, we fix our eyes upon Christ, we reaffirm our submission to Him – we set Him apart in our hearts as our Lord – and we take his Name as the sweetest of all names on out lips as we stand firm for his glory; we pray that He will give us his gentleness, and we look at those who want to ridicule us as God’s own creatures – with respect -; we pray that Christ will keep us from falling and so defile our own conscience before Him and those who falsely accuse us – because we only want to see glory of our Lord on display – and we tell them of Him who called us our of darkness into his marvellous light.  He gave us a hope which cannot fade, an inheritance which cannot be spoiled, now already put away for those who hope in Christ in heaven.  And we leave it to God to use our testimony to the salvation of the lost, or to the hardness of heart of those who revile our Lord.

This is how Jesus set the example

Peter continues in his letter:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18, NIV)

He was reviled and denounce, mock and spat upon.  They hated Him to the point that they stripped Him naked, put a crown of thorns on his head and nailed Him to a cross, all they way mocking and jeering the Son of God!  He was willing to take this treatment to bring up to God.  So, we should not be surprised if those of the same spirit do the same thing to us.

But, and this is the great BUT, He was made alive.  Peter records something which is hard to understand because it is only here we read about Christ preaching to the spirits of the disobedient.  We don’t know when it happened, and we don’t really know who the disobedient spirits were.  What we know is that their disobedience is connected to Noah and the flood.  These people probably thought old Noah was some stupid and off his mind when he, the righteous preacher warned them of the pending judgement of the Lord upon their sin – they thought they had the last word – but they were wrong!  the victorious Christ who was raised by the Spirit of God did not go to preach to them any message of hope as Noah would have done; no, his message as the Victor over death, hell, sin and Satan was to seal their condemnation – forever!

And, united by faith to Him through baptism – and we can say today, through the sacrament of wine and bread, we share in his victory.


Truely, the Bible teaches us today that better things are coming.  So, my dear friend, when the hard times come, or when you face the ridicule of this world because of your testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, follow the example of David’s Son – Jesus Christ.  Take it on the chin, but never, ever forget this:  victory is ours through Jesus Christ.  We have a hop which cannot spoil of fade, kept in heaven for us, shielded by the power of God.  In the meantime, follow in the footsteps of our Saviour:  submit to all authority, but never disobey or disown your Lord.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 11 October 2015

Marriage as an effective tool for evangelism (2)

Series Title:  Better things are coming

Scripture Readings

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
  • 1 Peter 3:1-7


A wool growing farmer on an outback station once made this remark about Christians and effective evangelism (and he probably just applied some principles of breeding and selecting stock to build up his sheep):  “Pastor, there’s one sure way for Christians to get the upper hand over non-Christians – we need to start breeding Christians!”  He went on to say, “If every Christian marriage can be successful in raising Christian children, and they do the same thing, before long we would populate this planate.”

His premise is probably somewhat naive and simplistic, but there is something about the truth in it.  Can you for just one moment let your mind go and work out how much different this planet would have been if every child growing up in a Christian home, would continue to do the same – generation after the other.

Biblical framework:  Marriage

I find it very significant that the Bible, right at the beginning, states that God created animals and made it possible for them to multiply – and this was possible because there were generally two opposites, male and female.  When He eventually made man to rule over what He had made, He gave him a helper – and both of them were created in the image of God.  So, creation was blessed by the first marriage mentioned in the Bible – a work of God’s hand.

When Jesus began his ministry on earth, He chose to perform his first miracle at a wedding celebration.  it is as if Christ knew the importance of marriage as a way of building the kingdom of God.

The last few pages of the Bible take us again to a wedding:  this is the wedding of the Lamb, Christ Himself.  Right now He is preparing the rooms and the mansion of his Father, and when the fulness of time arrives, He will come back and take his church to be with Him.  The marriage will be consummated when He purifies his bride with fine linen, and being washed clean from all sin in the blood of the Groom Himself, they will be united with Him forever.

Three images of marriage;  right in the beginning with creation, right at the beginning redemption in Jesus Christ, and then the image of and eternal union with the Groom at the end of time.

The day God “took a wife”

The Bible is full of images of a marriage relationship between God and his people.  Some might find it offensive to think about our relationship with God is this way, but we cannot escape the expressions pointing to this in the Scriptures.  Let’s listen to a few Scripture passages:

For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. (Isaiah 54:5, NIV)

As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5, NIV)

“Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. (Jeremiah 3:14, NIV)  

It all began when God rescued his people out of Egypt.  The very same word the Bible uses for a man who “takes” a woman in marriage is used in Exodus when God rescued his people from sin.  For instance:  when Abraham pretended that Sarah is his sister and give her to Abimelech the Lord appeared to Him with these words:  But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him,

“You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” (Genesis 20:3, NIV)  

Deuteronomy 24:1 uses the expression.  When Boaz married Ruth, he used the same expression.  Now, let’s go to Exodus.  God sends Moses to his fellow Israelites with these words:

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6:6–7, ESV)

Ezekiel chapter 16 in very explicit way describes the relationship between God and his people:  God picked up this young girl who was rejected by every one else and took her to be his wife.  The book of Hosea is all about the marriage relationship between God and his people.  Their unfaithfulness is expressed as adultery.

Now, what was God’s purpose of taking Israel as his wife.  We can only look at one passage:

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her (or Hephzibah) , and your land Married (Beulah); for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. (Isaiah 62:3–4, ESV)

Without confusing you, “husband” in Hebrew is ba’al.  It can also mean “owner”, or “lord”.  In this sense God is the husband, or the Lord and owner of his people:  He bought them in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.  The world Beulah in the verse in a way refers to the other partner of the marriage:  the woman, or the bride.  The whole picture is so beautiful:  the diadem, the beauty, the lonesomeness change into the delight of the groom.

The point to make further is this:

The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. (Isaiah 62:2, ESV)

The relationship between God and his bride-church is to show the nations who both God and the church is.  The whole idea is that this attractive and beautiful marriage will draw people to be part of it, seeking the God who so loves and cares for his bride that they too will want to be part of it.

The husband under God

With all of this in mind, we now go to 1 Peter 3:7

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7, ESV)

This is not the easiest verse in the letter of Peter.  But a good way of interpreting Scripture is to have other passages help you.  Now, quite often in the Old Testament where the wife is referred to as “vessel” it has in mind the marriage relationship.  The husband, the “lord” “took” his “vessel” and cared for her and loved her.  In a sense, both of them are “vessels” in the hands of God as part of his bride-church, but the husband caring for his “vessel”, his wife, cares for here using the relationship of God between Him and his people as example:  he cares for her as he cares for his own body.  As a matter of fact, this is what Paul had in mind in Ephesians 5:

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, (Ephesians 5:28-29, ESV)

She was made from the man, in a sense he is not complete without her.  So is the wife always part of her husband.  The husband acts like the Lord God, who will do everything to see that his “weaker vessel” is cared for, that she is loved.

Commentators see the resemblance between this verse and 1Thessalonians 4:4

that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, (1 Thessalonians 4:4, ESV)

The Greek in this verse uses the word “vessel” (translated as “body”), and adds the word “own” (translated as “control”).  The context here is very clear:  live holy, avoid sexual immorality, not in passionate lust like the heathen, no one should wrong his brother (which in the context means to not defile the marriage of another).  Another translation of this verse can then go like this:

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you keep yourselves from fornication, that every one of you know how to hold his own vessel in sanctification and honour (i.e., live with his wife in sanctification and honour), not in passionate just like the Gentiles who know not God.

This corresponds with Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:2

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2, ESV)

The unfaithfulness and spiritual adultery of God’s people stood in the way of the nations to seek God.  In the same way, unfaithfulness in the marriage will stand in the way of outsiders seeking the Lord.  On the contrary, the faithful and godly marriage reflects something of the relationship between Christ and his church, and it’s at this point that marriage is such a mighty tool for evangelism:  it is not only an example to your children to love the Lord, but it is attractive to outsiders.  It becomes one of the best and successful tools for evangelism.

Understanding and knowledge

A translation of 1 Pet 3:7 reads:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way  (1 Peter 3:7, ESV)

Most of us will never know how to understand our wives!  So, what does this verse tell us?  I know one can stretch the point a bit, but “know” and “knowledge” in the Scriptures very often refers to the intimate relationship between husband and wife.  In the same way do we find the word in Hosea – the book about God’s marriage relationship with his people – and brings out this charge against the people:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you …(Hosea 4:6, ESV)

Of course this knowledge implies knowledge, but the lack thereof stems from their poor relationship with the Lord.

In the same way, it is possible to understand the words in 1 Peter 3:7 that the husband’s relationship to God is somehow conditioned by or dependent on his relationship with his wife, and vice versa.  If husbands do not apply everything they know about God and his Word in their marriage relationships, marriage will suffer.  The verse says:  both will receive the gift of life.  It is God who gives it, and He is most pleased when husband and wife live in a relationship which reflects his relationship with his church.

A good marriage and answered prayers

A crippled marriage relationship has a result a crippled prayer life.  A healthy marriage has a result a healthy prayer life.  A husband who does not know Christ and his redeeming love for his church, which is his bride-church, will not know how to pray for his family, or even the word around him.  We cannot try to get around this.  We may say how many prayers, and we might even be serious about it, but according to this text, we will have unanswered prayers if there is something wrong in our relationship as marriage partners.

I think the same applies for the wives:  if they do not understand their relationship with Christ correctly, and live in perfect submission to Him as the Bible says, they prayers will remain unanswered.

A house that prays together is a house that stays together.  I wonder if our stale prayer life as a church can not be taken back to unfulfilled marriage relationships.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 4th October 2015

Marriage as a tool for Evangelism (1)

Better Things are Coming

Scripture Readings

  • Ephesians 5:22-33;
  • 1 Peter 3:1-7

Catching up

Christians are people who once were lost, but:

  • who received a new life from God by grace
  • who have an eternal hope which cannot be destroyed
  • who believe that the Bible is about God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ
  • who now live as aliens in this world
  • who are now satisfied in Christ, and say “no” to sinful desires
  • who now freely submit to worldly authority for the honour of God
  • who only fear and ultimately obey God as their highest authority
  • who need to bring holiness into the work place

Today’s message

  • Irrespective of social standing, race or gender, all who believe in Christ are heirs of God’s grace in Christ
  • All Christians submit to authority as God ordained for his glory
  • The beauty of a Godly marriage is attractive, even to the unbelievers


More and more people seem to forget Henry Ford’s sage advice when asked on his 50th wedding anniversary for his rule for marital bliss and longevity. He replied, “Just the same as in the automobile business, stick to one model.”  He’s talking about faithfulness.  This advice does not rest on sound Biblical principles, but it reflects the principle which God instituted.  Yes, marriage is between one man and one woman for live, with the exclusion of any other person.  Any other definition cannot stand the test of Scriptures.

The fundamentals:  all who believe in Christ are heirs of God’s grace in Christ

Peter writes:

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7, NIV)

There are people out there who want to discredit the Bible, leaving the impression that it endorses an idea that men are superior to women.  What a nonsense!

The verse we just read states very clearly:  husbands and wives are both partners of the gracious gift of life.  As far as a husband standing before he became a Christian is concerned, there is no difference between him and an unsaved wife:  both stand guilty before the throne of God and both will end up sharing the same eternal punishment.  If the husband became a Christian, God’s grace turns him over from eternal damnation to become someone who shares in the grace of God; the same thing happens with his wife.  Other religions might want to treat women as second class citizens with no rights to forgiveness and salvation – this is not true of Christianity.  Paul writes:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:28–29, NIV)

As a matter of fact, up to this point in the letter Peter works on the principle that all who respond to the Gospel call and come to Christ, are partakers of the new birth through the Word of God.  All, and this includes husbands, wives, sons, daughters slaves and free,  become part of the holy nation and the royal priesthood spoken of in chapter two.  Yes, they were once living in darkness, but are now called into the marvellous light of God.  All thus changed by the grace of God find in themselves war against the things of this world, and find themselves on the road of a pilgrim in a world where they have no permanent address.

One very important lesson we need to take along from the Scriptures is this:  most forms of relationships mentioned in the Bible reflects something of the relationship between God and his people.  God says of Israel:  I am your husband.  Of the church the Bible says that she is the bride of Christ.  God’s people are known as the sons and daughters of God.  Even the relationship between slave and master reflects something of the relationship between God and his people.  We saw that last week:  Christian slaves in this world become salves to Christ, and brothers to other Christians.

This is an extremely important principle:  healthy earthly social relationships do reflect the relationship God has with his people;  warped earthly relationships make people to look at God in a bad way.  We will come back to this point.

God ordained authority for his glory

As we have seen two or three weeks ago, God is a God of order:  He ordained authority, even the authority of kings and rulers.  Paul writes:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1, NIV)

The fifth Commandment forms the basis of all authority:  “Honour your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land Lord your God is giving you.”  The Larger Catechism puts is this way:  “… not only natural parents but all superiors in age and gifts and especially … those over us in authority , whether in family, church or government.

As such we all honour governments, even the bad ones – although we reserve our highest respect and fear for God, who put all authorities in place;  we also respect and honour those over us in the workplace and in the school.  And, now – and this is the prickly point for some – we submit under God to what He instituted for the best way for a marriage and a family to work:  wives submit to husbands, and husbands submit to God – not because the husband is intrinsically better or superior, or because the wife is fundamentally inferior.  No, the same principle is valid in the workplace:  the employer is not better than the employee, in the same way as the policeman is not intrinsically better that the citizen, or the judge is superior than the witness of the one charged.

God ordained order, because He is a God of order.  And as far as marriage and family is concerned, God ordained for the husband and father to lead his family.  It is never about the husband, but it is always about the husband between God and his family – all for the sake of God’s glory.  In the end, my dear brother, you lead your family not to honour you; you are not the one who gets the glory – your responsibility is to live in such a way before your wife and children that they – and the world around you! – will find it easier to believe in God as Father.  There are children wandering the streets who just can’t reconcile the idea of a loving God because they cannot fathom a Heavenly Father who loves, respects, is trustworthy and caring if they look at their own father.

The beauty of a godly marriage

O, if only we had enough time today to step by step go through the verses of our chapter.

Remember the remark of last week:  the best gift the church of Christ can give to the world would be to live like the church of Christ.  If only husbands and wives can be like these verses instructs us; if only dads and moms can consequently reflect the principles of these verse our world would be so much different.


The very principle that applied to all to submit to worldly authority, even to the godless Caesar, and the same principle that applied to salves in relationship to their masters, and to masters to their slaves, is continued into the next section.  What does it say:  Christians, now aliens and pilgrims in this world live under God, but obey Him as they submit to what He ordained for an orderly society.

For wives to submit, or to be submissive to husbands in our day is heresy.  The spirit of our time, especially driven by the Feminist Movement, is to reject male authority, and even to hate it.  Let’s add to this that scores of men hate the idea of being the leaders of their families.  Yet, the God of order ordained it, and as such it must be good.

If wives really understand what God demands of husbands this godly submission will be a delight, and not a infringement on their social rights.

The behaviour of a submissive wive is ruled, first of all be here submission to God.  God through his Spirit living in her, changes her whole attitude to those around her.  If she became a Christian as a married wife, her life – even without words – can draw her husband closer to God.  Everything she does is to live like the church as the bride of Christ before her husband.  She is pure and reverent in living out the Gospel – the Word which her husband still does not want to hear, but now see being played out before his eyes.  They way she does her homework, care for her family, and live in marriage relationship with her husband becomes a sermon preached well.  Her obedience to God sets the example of reverence and worship to God.  Her true beauty does not lie in outward adornment, but comes from her heart.  If she can obey me because she loves her Saviour even if do not treat her well, then surely there must be something in this Saviour.

The Christian wive is not forbidden to have jewellery, but her beauty does not rely on the glitter and gold.  Her beauty is not dependent on her hairdos, however, she will always present well, not because she represents a paint company or a cosmetics house, but because she represents her Saviour and his bride, washed and purified in his blood.  The beauty she wants to display to her husband and family is the ageless beauty of a sinner restored to God.

That is why she has a gentle spirit.  She is gentle, calm and collected.  Why?  She reflects the fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Gal 5:22). This is what God looks on as being really beautiful; its the kind of beauty which God values greatest.

God-worshiping women who lived long ago did the same.  Take Sarah as example.  She was confident that God would fulfil what He had promised, and although Abraham kept seemingly aimlessly wandering from one point to the other, only holding on the the promise of God, Sarah called him, “My lord”.  Although not always, she hoped in God and were tender and obedient to her husband.  If Abraham is the father of all believers, then surely Sarah is the mother of them all.  Take her example:  even when she was beyond her years of childbearing, she trusted God through Abraham, and she experienced the joy of holding a baby of her own at the age of ninety.


My dear friends, the wives gathered here this morning, does your life display these qualities?  Do you represent your Saviour to your husband and children with the beauty that lasts and comes from within?  Are you a picture of the bride of Christ wishing to do the bidding of your Groom?

Evangelism, winning souls for Christ, can and should begin right in your house.  Your family should always be your first target.

I love the words of this old gospel song:

While kneeling by her bedside in our cottage on the hill 

My mother prayed her blessings on me there 

She was talking there to Jesus while everything was still 

And I heard my mother call my name in prayer

She was anxious for her boy to be just what he ought to be 

And she asked the Lord to take him in his care 

Just the words I can’t remember but I know she prayed for me 

For I heard my mother call my name in prayer

So I gave my heart to Jesus and I’m living now for Him 

And someday I’ll go and meet Him in the air 

For He heard my mother praying and He saved my soul from sin 

Yes He heard my mother call my name in prayer

Yes I heard my mother call my name in prayer 

She was pourin’ out her heart to Jesus there 

Then I gave my heart to Him and He saved my soul from sin 

Yes I heard my mother call my name in prayer

Summing up

  • All who believe in Christ are heirs of God’s grace in Christ
  • God ordained authority for his glory
  • The beauty of a godly marriage – evangelism begins at home

Sermon Preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 20 September 2015

Holiness in the workplace

Series:  Better things are coming

Scripture Readings

  • Philemon 1
  • 1 Peter 2:18-25

Catching Up

Christians are people who were once were lost in sin, but:

  • who received a new life from God by grace
  • who come to Christ and honour Him
  • who spiritually sacrifice praise to God
  • who draw from eternal hope to overcome present suffering
  • who now live as aliens
  • who are now satisfied in Christ, and say “no” to sinful desires
  • who now freely submit to worldly authority for the honour of God
  • who respect worldly authority because kings are under God
  • who only fear and ultimately obey God as their highest authority


Holiness in the workplace:

  • Christians are always mindful of their salvation in Christ Jesus
  • Christians always follow the example of Christ Jesus
  • Christians always respect those in authority over them
  • Christians demand no right other than what they enjoy in Christ


It would be reasonable to think that all politicians, once elected into parliament, would aspire to become a minister of some department, or even become Premier of Prime Minister.  In Australian politics, especially in the current climate, there are two departments considered to be prickly ones:  Industrial Relations and Immigration.  Both departments can prove to be full of land mines; think about dealing with Unions on one hand, and refugees on the other hand.

Our text deals with both:  we are refugees on a working visa, without any right or citizenship; and we find ourselves in the workplace every day, either as employer, or as employee.  The question is, how do Christians live as employers and as employees – sometimes in hostile environments?

Christians belong to Christ

In a seminar I recently attended the question about what the church has to offer to this world was on the table.  The short answer was:  the greatest gift the church of Christ can give to this world is to live like the church of Christ.  if we apply this to the workplace we can sum it up by saying that Christians need to radically live out who they are in Christ in the way they do their work, and in the they they treat their workers.We are Christians because we belong to Christ; our very name connects us to Him who we serve – we slaves of Christ, and we need to seek his glory in anything we do because Christ connected us to Him.  How?

Let’s begin at the end of this chapter, verse 24-25:

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24–25)

Verse 25:  We were like lost sheep, going our own way. We faced danger and death and, like the lost sheep, we could not find our home back to God.  We were not born with spiritual compasses to find our way back home.  Delivered out into the snares and pitfalls of our archenemy, the devil, our life was hopeless, without sense and meaning, without future.  Paul puts it this way:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10–18)

But God…

But God … The grace of God in Jesus Christ is this:  Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree, by his wounds we have been healed.  These words come from Isaiah 53, that wonderful chapter in the Old Testament referring to Christ as the suffering Servant.  When Philip explained to the Ethiopian in his chariot (Acts 8) the meaning of this chapter about Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, he believed and was saved.  He was made a new man in Christ.  He became a servant of Christ, a Christian.

This is what happens to every Christian: out of the darkness, as Peter puts it earlier in this chapter, God calls us into his marvellous light.  His call is based on the work of Christ who is the Cornerstone once rejected by the builders.

What now?  No-one walks away from Christ the same way he or she came to Him.  Listen:  “So that we might die to sin and live for righteousness”.  We are united with Christ, we are forgiven and healed, we return to Christ on the calling of God through the Gospel to die to sin – and live for righteousness.  The Bible calls it first of all repentance, but repentance for the Christian never stops – it continues in the daily repentance of sanctification:  to more and more we say “no” to the world” and say “yes” to see the will of Christ displayed through our Christian witness.

With this in mind let’s go to the second point.

Christians need to live like Christ

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21, NIV)

There is not an moment in the life of a Christian that he or she should take his eyes off Christ.  In every situation, under all circumstances, by and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit we must follow Him.  A true disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who walks with Christ and learns from Him.  I find it interesting that Jesus demanded of his disciples to follow HIM, not in the first instance remember his words.  How important that might be to know the Bible, read it and even drill into our memory some verses of the Bible, these things cannot take the place of our complete submission to Christ and to walk with Him.  Listen to John 15:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5)

O, may we as church of the Lord Jesus Christ understand these words – it will make all the difference.  This is exactly what Peter wanted those who read his letter wanted to understand:  Christian living is not memorise and a set of rules; Christian living is to walk in the shadow of Him who healed us by his wounds.  At his command we do, and for his sake we follow his example.

What does all of this to do with the workplace and the way we are good employers and employees?   In short, we need to do as He set the example.

Respect for bosses and labourers


“Submit to your masters in all respect.”  Another way of translating this is “Show your masters all the respect you can.”

When Peter wrote this letter, working as a slave was very common.  Slaves outnumbered free people in cities like Rome. Not all of the slaves were uneducated; in fact many of them had a very fine education, so much so that the majority of the teachers, doctors, and other professionals belonged to this class. Can you remember how the old Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey sneered at the young lady teacher, saying that education is of no use to high society for as long as there are people of the lower classes who know how to do arithmetic and can write?

Slaves had no rights; they were completely owned by their masters, who did with them as they pleased.   And some master were horrible.  The text in 1Peter 2 refers to “crooked” masters; they were unjust and treated the slaves harshly.

Some of Peter’s readers became Christians after they were bought as slaves.  If they were free in Christ, and if they now belong to another Kingdom, did that imply that they were free from their masters, even the bad ones?  No, Peter said, take your salvation as Christian into your workplace and live as Christian by the example of Christ, as someone saved from the slavery of sin.

Christians are not called to be Christians only on a Sunday.  That’s where we make a mistake.  The way we do our work every day is in itself an enormous witness.  Paul writes:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, (Ephesians 6:5–7)

Colossians 3 puts it this way:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23–24)

The worker on the workshop floor, the mechanic under the oil-dripping car, the office worker trying to make the books balance, the teacher trying to instil knowledge in their students, do what they do for Christ.  Yes, our trustworthiness, punctuality, honesty and reliability are things that adorn our message of Christ.  We need to do what we do very well; if we did, talking about Christ becomes so much easier, and makes so muck more sense.  The opposite is glaringly true:  the unreliable, untrustworthy and dishonest worker will have a hard time to try to convince his unbelieving employer to follow Christ.  If the attitude of Christ is reflected in our everyday work, then there is something of a holiness in the workplace, then the workplace becomes on of the most important files for evangelism.  Even if it means that we take it on the chin when we are treated badly – because this says our text, is what our Lord did.  And besides, the text says it is grace, or a gracious thing to do.


Not all of us work for someone – we have people working for us.  Our text in 1 Peter does not deal with it, so I am not going to elaborate on the subject, other to take what Paul writes to Philemon:  A worker who has become a Christian – and all Christian employers should pray for, and work towards the salvation of their employees – is better than a slave, he is a dear brother.  If he or she is not there yet, treat them as Christ would have in love and respect.

Just a word to contemplate:  Christian employees working for Christian employers should not automatically expect favours because they are in the service of a brother/sister; in this situation, everything the Bible says about holiness in the workplace stands.  The opposite is also true:  the Christian employer has no right to exploit his Christian employee, purely because Christian workers might be willing to walk a second mile without complaining.  Sadly, many Christian employers dodge appointing Christian employees (and vice versa) because some Christians can be so un-Christian in the workplace.  What a charge against Christianity!

One “right” – my standing in Christ

I think we would understand the Bible wrongly if we think it endorses the practice of slavery – especially as it was practiced in the time of the Roman Empire.  What the apostles wanted the new Christians to understand very clearly is that they did not become Christians to overthrow all laws and customs.  Surely the outcome of their testimony and the way they practiced their walk in the Lord did call for better work practices, and rightly so did Christians take the lead in the abolition of slavery, while the rest of the world clung to it purely to exploit their labourers.

So, ultimately, for the Christian at least, we do not claim as absolute standard and rule our rights under present governments or workers unions.  My worth does not lie in my rights; my worth lies in my standing before God who called me to be his own through Jesus Christ who took my sin upon Him.  Therefore, in some cases Christians might work the extra hour or two without pay; they might need to take it when they are not treated according to the standards of this world.  After all, I think Christians should always approach their labour as service, first of all to God:  it is He who enabled us to work and to earn a living.  If things are going hopelessly wrong for Christians in the workplace, their first port of call is not industrial action, but a bended knee before the Saviour.


Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 13 September 2015