REFORMED WOMEN BIBLE STUDY
Book-Bible Study: “Grace to Stand Firm, Grace to Grow” ["Grace"]
LESSON: Part I “Grace to Stand Firm”: Lesson# 3
TITLE: “The Shift from Doctrine to Practice”
COMMENTARY: ReformedWomen-TheologyGirl Summary & Comments
“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” I Peter 1:13-21
“The indicative of what God has done for us (and in us) precedes the imperative of what we are called to do for Him.” –Edmund Clowney 1/
“The best way for Christians to gird their minds for action is by actively cultivating an addiction to Scripture.” 1/
In this study, Carol Ruvolo has put some feet on what we are learning from I Peter. She is saying, you as God’s child have God’s Word, His commandments, His Spirit and His power to live a life that is pleasing to Him so since you know these things theologically, start doing them practically. In other words, live as you are called, enabled and as the offspring of Christ. You are called to be holy; you have been given the ability to “be holy” in all manner of conversation (conduct) so do it. When we look it at from a simplistic viewpoint, it is easy to understand. God says do it, we do it. We cannot excuse ourselves and say we cannot because we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to do those things we are called to do. The Holy Spirit is our teacher, guide and helper and He will not lead us into paths contrary to His Word. Thus, as we “gird up our minds for action” by reading, studying and believing Scripture, we are empowered to put that knowledge to work. Dr. Clowney says, “The indicative of what God has done for us (and in us) precedes the imperative of what we are called to do for Him.” [Grace, p 41] That means “be holy” because God is holy; put off the old man and his deeds, and put on the new man “which is created in righteousness and true holiness.” It is as Dr. Boice said, “think and act biblically.” Don’t do what you use to do but do what you are called to do now as a believer. Don’t act like an unbeliever, act like the children of your Heavenly Father.
Calvin said, God the Father has called us, “not merely in an external way, by the outward ministry of the Word; but internally, powerfully and efficaciously, by His Spirit and grace” and that we are called to “holiness of life and conversation” having been implanted with the “principles of holiness” so that we are enabled to do those things which He has called us to do. Now we know that Calvin, Ruvolo and Peter know that we are not going to do those things to which we are called in holiness perfectly in this life. We are sinners and sinners will obey the flesh and do those things which are “not convenient” to our own detriment and bring shame to Christ. But God, who is rich and mercy, forgives us and strengthens us to pursue holiness in life practice so that we can, as we seek His help, Word and guidance, pursue that life that is pleasing to Him.
In Ephesians 4, and Colossians 3, God has given us good “feet” instructions on “putting off” and “putting on.” We are a “holy people” and that means we reflect holiness in our lives, i.e., a reflection of a Christ-centered, Christ-loving faith, in our hearts. We are “called out” from the world, the flesh and the devil. We are called to be Ambassadors, ones who imitate the One they serve. We are “like Him” and so Peter admonishes us to live as we are called, “gird up the loins of our minds,” to think soberly and rest our hope in Christ. We are able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think” by His grace and that means we can live a “holy life.” We can forsake the “old deeds” of the flesh and think and act biblically by obeying God’s Word and apply Scripture to every aspect of our life so that we do the good works He has called us to do and glorify Him in our life and in our body.
“The better we know God’s Word, the better equipped we will be to mortify sin in our lives.” [Grace, p. 50] She is saying that we need to be in God’s Word, reading it, studying it, memorizing it, storing it up in our hearts and minds so that “we will not sin against Him.” It is our armour and it protects us from the fiery darts of the evil one and our own sinful natures. Let’s take a practical example: The Word of God tells us in the Commandments, “Thou shall not steal.” If we go into a store and we see something we like, we do not pick it up and put it into our purse. We know in our heart and mind that to do so is stealing, a crime against God and man. It is well-settled in our minds that this is not something we do because Scripture has condemned it and even unsaved man knows that it is wrong. We, as believers, are convicted in our hearts when we do those things that are contrary to the Word of God. The Word of God convicts and the more we read it, the more armour we have on and God promises to write it on our hearts and minds. Thus, all sin, all unholy behavior, all wickedness is to be “put away” from us and the conviction to do so should be in our hearts and minds. We should “run” as fast as our feet carry us from sin. This is what this is teaching us. We know God hates sin and has called us to holiness and thus, as we read, study and apply God’s Word, we will be convicted immediately just like stealing quoted above so that we will restrain, refrain and run from sin. God’s Word is the armour we put on and prayer is the sustaining grace to help us “find help in time of need” so that we are empowered to live this life of holiness that Christ has called us to and that Peter is exhorting us to do. Ruvolo has hit the nail on the head in her statement above and as she states, “when our minds and hearts are managed by Scripture, we will naturally fix our hope on God’s grace revealed in and through Jesus Christ. And we’ll rely on His power to fuel our transition from doctrine to practice so that God gets the glory.” [Grace, p 51]
Ruvolo reminds us again in this lesson that we have a “living hope.” She says, “Living hope lights a fire under righteous behavior because it trusts God to do what He has said He will do.” [Grace, p. 51] Now think of this, here we are empowered by God’s Spirit and His Word to guide our feet in His paths. He is sitting at the right hand of the Father, making intercession daily for us. He has promised us everything for life and godliness and His promises and true and amen. We have a living hope, Christ, and our hope and trust is in Him and Him alone. He will work in our lives “to will and do of His good pleasure.” He will bring us through our pilgrimage to His heavenly eternal kingdom to live in His presence forevermore. It is fact, it is truth, and it is a surety which cannot be changed or removed by our Sovereign God. Our names were written in His book before the foundation of the world to be His elect people. Nothing can pluck us from His mighty and powerful hand. He has showed Himself to be all power, all sovereign, all glorious and all holy. He has called us to be “like” him in all of our conduct. We are to pursue holiness in love and gratitude to Him for what He has done and is doing in our lives. It is not optional for us, it is mandatory. If we are not pursuing holiness “without which no man shall see the Lord,” then we must “examine” our hearts and minds to see if we are truly in the faith. Peter and Ruvolo are calling us to put feet on what we believe and know (the indicatives) and to act on them biblically (the imperatives) so that Christ is glorified and our lives blessed.
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.
Notes: All Commentary by ReformedWomen-TheologyGirl; Ruvolo, Clowney, Boice, Calvin quotes set out in “” marks.
1/ Grace to Stand, p. 46
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