FacebookTwitterRSS FeedPinterest

By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 1045am Service, 2013-09-01

Text: 2 Peter 1:7

I would like to begin by asking what you think we are as a church. Do you think we are merely a group of people who happen to share the same beliefs, and gather together every week for worship? Some of us live very far from here. What makes us come all the way here to Gilstead Road on Sundays when there are other Bible-believing churches that are much nearer to our home? Is it just because we can receive a certain kind of teaching here that cannot be found elsewhere, or is it because we all happen to like the preaching or singing that is found here? Does that make us then like any other group or association of people who meet regularly because they share a common interest? 

No, we are actually much more than that. God has placed us here together so that we should be part of a family. This is the biblical way of viewing ourselves – not merely as a group that shares the same interests or beliefs, but as a closely-knit family of God. In Ephesians 2:19 the church is described as the household of God. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;” The word “household” here means “family.” We are supposed to function as a special family where we relate to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. And when we come here every Sunday it is for a blessed family reunion at God’s throne of grace. 

Viewing our church as a family adds a dimension of warmth, tenderness, care, concern and loyalty to our interaction with other worshippers. These are the things we expect to find in a close-knit family. But family life does not happen automatically. In some families today the members hardly communicate with one another. The busy lifestyle of most Singaporeans has reduced family interaction to a minimum. Father, mother and children all lead their own separate lives. Some do not even have any meals together because each of them comes home at a different time. Family life needs to be cultivated and every family member has to do his or her part. 

The same thing is true of our church family. We need to put in effort to cultivate our family life. We have to make a conscious effort to regard one another as brothers and sisters, and to show brotherly kindness to one another. This cannot be treated as something optional, because it is essential for our spiritual growth. That is why brotherly kindness is included in the list of essential virtues we have been studying, as given in 2 Peter 1:5-7. The Greek word used in v.7 for brotherly kindness is “philadelphia”. It has a stronger meaning than kindness. This is the only instance in the NT where this word is translated as “brotherly kindness.” In all other instances philadelphia is translated as “brotherly love.” E.g. 1 Thessalonians 4:9 – “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.” 

The key to understanding this virtue is found in the word, “brotherly”. This distinguishes it from the kindness or love that friends, colleagues or acquaintances share with one another. This word tells us that it is all about the mutual caring affection that siblings normally have for one another. There are many heart-warming stories about tender affection between siblings. For instance, you may have heard about how someone willingly donated his kidney to his brother or sister who needs a kidney transplant. 

I read one report recently about a boy who saved his sister’s life 22 times after she was born with a condition which could stop her breathing at any time. This 8-year old boy named Harry Flynn learned how to resuscitate at the Red Cross Teddy Bears club. His sister Isabelle was born 3 months early, and suffers from a condition called apnoea of prematurity that causes her to stop breathing suddenly and without warning. Harry has performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her while watching TV, during visits to the supermarket and on family days out. Isabelle would have died if not for her caring big brother. I am sure she will be very thankful for his brotherly kindness as she grows up. 

Do you know that we too have a big brother who is like that? One who cares enough for us to save us from death? – He is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ! (Romans 8:29) Cultivating brotherly kindness therefore makes us more Christ-like in character than any other virtue. You will notice that this virtue is placed almost at the end of the list in 2 Peter 1:5-7. All the virtues that came before it have to do with the inward and upward aspects of growing into the image of Christ. The upward aspect of Christlikeness is built up through faith, virtue, knowledge, and the devotion of godliness. The inward aspect of Christlikeness is developed through self-control, perseverance, and the discipline of godliness which we focused on last Sunday. As we now come to the last two virtues of brotherly kindness and charity (or love), we realize that Christlikeness is not only inward and upward, but also outward. Growing into His image must affect the way we act and respond toward other people. Hence they are sometimes referred to as ‘social virtues’ as they make an impact on others. 

As Jesus loved all men, and even those who crucified Him, so must we learn to love all others without distinction – even our enemies. This point will be the expounded in greater detail in next week’s sermon on Cultivating Love. But our focus this morning is on the love we ought to have for fellow Christians – those who are in God’s family. In order to cultivate brotherly kindness, we need to understand three things:

I. The Common Bond that Necessitates Brotherly Kindness 

What is it that causes difficulties to arise in human relationships? It is the fact that people are different. God did not make us all alike. Each person has his or her own unique personality, likes and dislikes. Some people have rather strong and aggressive personalities. Others are quiet and timid. And yet others are highly-strung and very easily agitated. Each person also has his own opinions and his own way of doing things. This variety of personalities and opinions makes life very interesting (‘Variety is the spice of life’), but it can also become a big source of problems. How can we then overcome these differences in order to be in agreement with one another and love one another? 

We who are fellow believers have something that others do not have – We have a common bond that unites us to one another. Though we may be different in many ways, we all share ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in [us] all’ (Ephesians 4:5,6). We are different in superficial ways, but we are the same in essential ways. There is more that joins us than divides us. 

In fact, this principle is found right at the beginning of the chapter in which our passage is found. Look at v.1–“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with usthrough the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” We have obtained the same precious faith as what Peter and the rest of the apostles have obtained. This precious faith binds us with them and with one another in a spiritual union which is as real as the blood-relationships that keeps family members together. This is why Peter addresses all his readers as ‘brethren’ (adelphoi) in v.10 (“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure…”) This term, which means “brothers and sisters,” is used 230 times in the Bible to address no one but God’s people. And it literally means “from the same womb.”Since no one can enter God’s kingdom except by being born again (John 3:3,5,7), all true believers are inseparably joined to each other through a common spiritual birth. 

The word ‘brethren’ is also found in Psalm 133, where God says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is forbrethren to dwell together in unity.” Why does God take such great delight in seeing us dwell together in unity? The answer is found in the prayer that Jesus made shortly before He went to the cross – “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” (John 17:11; cf. vv.21,22) From this we know that the common bond that we share as believers is actually a reflection of the special bond that is shared by the three persons within the Godhead. We ought to love one another because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit love one another. What a glorious thought this is! 

All this means that we must treat each other with care, according to the common bond that we share as brothers and sisters in Christ. However different you may be from others – in age, gender, or abilities, in education or social status – you must regard every fellow Christian as someone for whom Christ died and in whom Christ dwells. How can you treat a Christian brother as a stranger if God loves him as much as He loves you? How can you ignore the needs of a sister in Christ if she is as precious in God’s sight as you are? Everyone who is in Christ must be precious to you, someone who deserves your attention, interest, love and devotion. 

Our Lord Jesus made this the distinguishing mark by which the world would know that we truly belong to Him. He said this in John 13:34-35 – “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Brotherly love was the hallmark of the early church. Acts 2:44 tells us that “…all that believed were together, and had all things common.”

Tertullian who lived in the 2nd century AD, records what the pagans of his time were saying about the Christians: “See how they love one another and are ready to lay down their lives for each other.” (Apology 39) This kind of testimony has caused many people to turn to Christ for salvation. Art Lindsey wrote a book entitled, Love – the Ultimate Apologetic, in which he demonstrated that love is the heart of Christian witness. Francis Shaeffer, a Christian philosopher and theologian, believed that the ‘final apologetic’ is the special love that Christians have for one another. This is something that we all can have and should have, because of the common bond that we share in Christ. We only need to put in the necessary effort to cultivate it in our lives. To do this we need to adopt…

II. The Attitude that Produces Brotherly Kindness

This attitude is to put others before self. The more we focus on others rather than self, the easier it becomes for us to cultivate brotherly kindness. This is mentioned in Romans 12:10– “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul teaches us to get rid of our self-centred attitude, and become others-centred instead – “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Without having this others-centred attitude, it is absolutely impossible to cultivate brotherly kindness.

If you are spiritually strong, having this others-centred attitude will make you considerate toward a brother who is spiritually weak (Romans 15:1 – “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, andnot to please ourselves.”). Rather than insisting on the freedom you have in Christ to enjoy all things, you willingly limit your freedom for the sake of your brother’s spiritual well-being. 

If you were to visit a church in a third world country, you may find yourself with brethren who hardly have any education, and who may seem to be shabbily dressed to you, even though what they wear to church is their ‘Sunday best’. After the worship service they invite you to join them for a fellowship meal with the most unpalatable food you can imagine on the table. Someone smiles warmly at you and offers you the best piece of bread or meat with both hands (VIP treatment). You look at it and wonder whether he had washed his hands before holding it, and whether you will get sick after eating it. But the thought that he is a precious soul for whom Christ died, will remove every barrier that keeps you from accepting his love and enjoying good Christian fellowship with him. 

When I was a missionary in the Philippines I joined a local church which I had been serving for a 3-day Easter camp. It was a new experience for me and my family as we really had rough it out – very different from our recent church camp in Bintan. There are only a few rooms at the campsite and only one toilet for everyone to share. Each room has to accommodate two or three families (very crammed!). For most of the meals we ate only rice with roasted fish. But despite all these inconveniences, I thoroughly enjoyed the meaningful time of Christian fellowship and the opportunity to minister God’s Word to them. Why? because I saw them as my own brothers and sisters in Christ! 

We must learn to do the same thing here in Life Church. We must adopt the right attitude – the attitude that puts others before yourself. And adopting this attitude means having pure selfless motives in all that we do for others. The apostle Peter insists that we must have this in 1 Peter 1:22 –  “…see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” Without a pure heart, the brotherly love we show to others becomes a sham. Outwardly, we seem to be very good and nice toward others, but inwardly we are expecting to receive some favours in return. Let us therefore be watchful against impure motives, and always be careful to ensure that we love one another with a pure heart fervently. As we adopt the right attitude toward our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we will then be able to carry out…

III. The Actions that Display Brotherly Kindness 

There is no point spending hours talking about it if this does not lead to action. Action must be our ultimate goal for cultivating brotherly kindness. As God’s Word says in Galatians 6:10– “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” It is the good things we do for others that make us bear the likeness of Christ. 

If you were study the life of our Lord Jesus Christ in the 4 gospels you will observe that He did many things for His disciples. Here are 6 of them: He admonished them (Matthew 16:8-11 cf. Romans 15:14 – “admonish one another”). He comforted them (e.g. Matthew 14:27 cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 – “comfort one another”). He cared for them (Mark 6:30,31 cf. 1 Corinthians 12:25 – “have the same care one for another”). He prayed for them (John 17:9 cf. James 5:16 – “pray one for another”). He served them (John 13:5 cf. Galatians 5:13 –“serve one another”) and He forgave them (John 21:15 cf. Ephesians 4:32 – “forgiving one another”). 

Did you notice something interesting in all six of them? The things that Jesus did for His disciples correspond very closely to the ‘one another’ commands given in the New Testament. These and many other ‘one another’ commands teach us what it means to display brotherly kindness. This helps us now to better understand why Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (v.35) The more that we love one another the way that Christ loved His disciples, the more we will bear His likeness in our lives, and the more that people around us will be able to see Christ in us and recognize that we are truly His. 

Thus we have seen that brotherly kindness is (1) Necessitated by the common bond that we all share in Christ; (2) Produced by the attitude of putting others before self, and (3) Displayed by the actions that we do to and for one another. The question we face now is, ‘How do we put this into practice?’ The problem is always in the application! 

We must realize that it is impossible to do this on our own. No amount of self-will and personal resolve will work. Our sinful nature works against us, and causes breakdowns in our relationships with others. This sinful nature makes us cold and indifferent even towards our own family members. It breeds brotherly rivalry instead of brotherly love. It made Cain murder his own brother. It made Jacob scheme to obtain his brother’s birthright and blessing. It made Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery. It made the Prodigal Son’s elder brother refuse to come into the house to rejoice over his return. Therefore the very first thing you need to do is to deal with this sinful nature within by making sure that you are truly saved.

1. Make sure that you are truly saved. 

We need to be restored to a right relationship with God before we can be restored to a right relationship with our brothers. As 1 John 4:7,20 tells us, “love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God…he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”Please examine yourself – Are you truly born of God? Have you truly received Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord? It is only when you are born again that you can be assured that God is working in your life to transform you. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:9, God Himself will teach you to love others (“But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.”)

2. Reflect on your actual union with fellow Christians 

Keep reminding yourself that Jesus has made us children of the Father and brothers and sisters of one another. Let the Bible’s teaching on this sink deep into your mind until it influences your attitude toward others.

3. Evaluate your attitudes towards them 

What are your feelings toward Christian brethren? Are there any barriers or hindrances that hold you back from demonstrating love toward them? Are you fearful of being hurt either by someone who coldly refuses to receive your love, or worse still by someone who abuses your love? Please remember that the majority of Christians will not let you down if you take the initiative to reach out to them with brotherly kindness. All of us who are truly in Christ should be able to trust one another with our love and have no fear at all that the love we share will be refused or abused.

4. Seek reconciliation with those you have wronged 

There will be times when we sin against one another, but where brotherly kindness prevails there will also be forbearance and forgiveness. If you have said something hurtful to others or wronged them, please take the initiative to approach them and seek to restore the damaged relationship. Matthew 5:23-24 says, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”Doing nothing about your damaged relationship with a fellow brother or sister in Christ will affect the whole church! In the Philippian church there were two very committed Christian women, Euodias and Syntyche. They had worked closely together with Paul and both of them were very dear to him. And both of them were probably good friends before.

But because of some disagreement they were not on talking terms with each other. They would come to church every Sunday refusing to greet one another. One would sit in one corner and the other would sit at the other corner. And after the service, they would leave at different entrances so that they would not meet each other. The news about their disagreement reached the apostle Paul, who was far away in a Roman prison. And in his letter to the Philippians, Paul pleaded with both of them to be reconciled and he even asked others to help bring them back together again (Philippians 4:2,3). This shows that such disagreements cannot be overlooked or ignored. The fact that Paul under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration considered it to be important enough to mention here, teaches us that we must seek reconciliation with those we have wronged.

5. Respond to the needs of others

Think about what you can do after hearing this message to reach out more to others. Get to know more church members and interact with them. Enlarge your circle of friends here. Get into the habit of being more attentive, more alert, more sensitive to people around you. Be interested to know how they are getting on – whether some are retrenched, sick or discouraged and respond to them. And this must become a habit, as Hebrews 13:1 says, “Let brotherly love continue.” May the Lord help us as we seek to cultivate brotherly love for one another.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25