Posts Tagged '1 Peter'

Peter and Jude, Part 3

How can you tell if somebody is a “follower of Jesus Christ?” Is it because they and other people call them a “Christian?” Is it because they go to church? Is it because they wear a cross? How can you tell? Peter tells us:

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 | NIV84)

That’s it. A “follower of Jesus Christ” is one who follows in Christ’s steps; He learns from Christ’s example and then lives accordingly. By necessity that means following Christ will change a person’s life. For some, the changes will be drastic, and for others not so much, but every follower of Christ lives a changed life.

That’s the basis of this quick study. Let’s take a look at what kind of changes take place in a person’s life when they make the decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

Living blamelessly

Throughout 1 Peter 2, Peter wrote about the practical implications of one’s salvation, demonstrating that a believer’s new relationship with Christ would impact his existing relationships with the government, his employer, and his family. Being a Christian should make a person a better citizen, a better employee, and a better family member. In chapter three, Peter continues this line of thought by giving similar exhortations of a more general type. In all, Peter writes about five things a Christian should have going on in their lives.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8 | NIV84)

First, in verse 8, there’s this:

live in harmony with one another…

Christians are to “live in harmony with one another.” That sounds so easy, but it’s not. Sometimes it’s hard to get along with certain people. Disagreements easily arise when two people talk together for just a few minutes. What does Peter have in mind here? Simply put, the character of a believer is determined and revealed by the things that are foremost in his mind. As far as Jesus was concerned, His followers should be united in a common goal and common interests. That doesn’t mean that Christians should always agree with each other on every single issue in life. But it does mean that as followers of Jesus Christ, our minds should be controlled by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Paul had a similar thought when he wrote to the Philippians:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5 | NIV84)

All believers should hold the same attitudes about things as did Jesus. Other translations refer to this as “having the mind of Christ.” His mind – His attitudes – serve as examples for us to follow. Essentially, that means that we need to adopt a Biblical worldview; a worldview that frequently, though not always, runs contrary to a secular worldview. In order to accomplish this, believers need to know the Word of God and need to follow Christ’s example.

Second, believers are to be sympathetic, also in verse 8. This means that Christians should have an active compassion for each other. In fact, the Greek word really means “suffering together.” That means Christians ought not to be selfish. What affects one believer should affect all believers.

Third, still in verse 8, Christians should love as brothers. It’s not that we form a brotherhood when we confess Christ, it’s that we become members of one big family: The family of God. Think about how you get along with your mom and dad, or your siblings. Surely you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Surely you have your disagreements. But in the end, you would probably give your life if it meant saving a member of your family. That’s the idea Peter is trying to get across using the phrase, “love as brothers.”

Fourth, believers need to be compassionate. The Greek word carries with it the idea of being “kindhearted,” to be “sensitive to the needs” of other believers. Christians should never be afraid to show genuine affection to each other.

Fifth, followers of Jesus should be humble. This kind of humility has to do with being humble in spirit – it’s the same kind of humility that characterized Jesus. Humility is a big thing in the Bible, where it paints a humble person as one who sees himself as weak or dependent upon God, one who is a finite being whose existence depends on the God he serves.

Those simple characteristics should be obvious in every believer’s life. Next, Peter tells his readers how to manifest them.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9 | NIV84)

That, of course, is exactly opposite to our natural response: We strike when stuck. But because our lives have been changed, we won’t do that. To retaliate is not the Biblical answer. Jesus taught:

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44 | NIV84)

When Peter wrote that we should “bless” those who hurt us, the Greek word he used suggests that we speak well of those speaking evil of us. In other words, we treat them opposite to the way they treat us.

He then quotes from Psalm 34, which gives the believer certain guidelines to follow if he wants to live a life full of meaning and purpose.

Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 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 3:10 – 12 | NIV84)

In all, there are three things a believer must do. First, he must keep his tongue from evil and lips from deceitful speech. If you want to live a good life and love the life you’re living, never say words calculated to hurt another; never say anything tainted with falsehood. If you do, in the end you will regret it.

Second, believers must turn from evil and do good. There’s more going on in those six words than meets the eye. Doing evil takes planning; most of the time we don’t accidentally do wrong. Therefore, if you want to live a worthwhile life, instead of planning ways to sin, plan ways to do good things.

Last, we must seek peace and pursue it. This doesn’t mean Christians are to be passively sitting around letting fascists steamroll over them. What it does mean is this: We will live disciplined lives; we won’t say things that tear people down; we don’t repay evil with evil; we don’t run around insulting people we don’t like. Instead, we will be peacemakers; we will find peaceful solutions to arguments or disagreements.

Peter uses the rest of Psalm 34 as a reason to live this way. First, God is well aware of everything going on in our lives. Everything. Because of that, He is attentive to our prayers and ready to help us. But second, God is steadfastly against all who do evil. He will deal with evildoers in His own way and it won’t be pleasant. That’s reason enough to abstain from retaliating in kind!

Suffering is no problem

Then Peter askes a rhetorical question:

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? (1 Peter 3:13 | NIV84)

The cynic in me cries out, “Anybody!” And I’d be right. Plenty of do-gooders have been harmed or killed over the centuries since Peter wrote verse 13. Look at all the missionaries who became martyrs! But it’s verse 14 that’s important:

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14 | NIV84)

It’s important but paradoxical. If you are suffering because of your faith, you should consider yourself “blessed?” Really? Peter is not suggesting you should be thrilled with the prospect of losing your job because of your faith or with being lied about because somebody wants to cause your problems on account of your faith. The idea here is “privilege.” Jesus suffered because of who He was and what He believed, so if the same thing is happening to you, you’re doing something right. Something Paul wrote to the Romans makes this idea of suffering a bit more palatable:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 | NIV84)

Then there’s this bit over in 2 Thessalonians 1 –

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. (2 Thessalonians 1:4 – 7a | NIV84)

The unpleasantness a Christian goes through because he is a Christian prepares him for what lies ahead. God, as any good parent would do, allows His children to pass through difficult times to teach them discipline; to toughen them up. Neither Peter nor Paul has in mind suffering because of misdeeds, but suffering for living right.

Keep in mind that Peter wrote to suffering Christians. Suffering for doing wrong is easy to wrap our minds around, but not so suffering for doing good! It’s a challenge to accept the very notion. It’s funny that this Biblical teaching on suffering has been in the Bible for 2000 years yet even the most seasoned saint seems surprised by it to the point that they try to avoid this kind of suffering!

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:17 | NIV84)

It may well be that suffering for doing good is God’s will. Doing good, by the way, is rarely an easy thing to do under the best of circumstances. When suffering touches our lives, God uses it for good:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, a who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 | NIV84)

That kind of insight is usually only seen in hindsight. That’s why it’s helpful to know the Bible. Joseph, in hindsight, realized the truthfulness of what Peter and Paul taught. Here was a young man who had risen to the heights of Egyptian politics and was used by God to rescue his entire family from drought and starvation. But all that was possible only because of what his nasty brothers did to him.

You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good. (Genesis 50:20 | NIV84)

This is God’s amazing grace in action. When we choose to serve Christ and devote our lives to living for God with Christ as our example, the Lord promises to use everything for our benefit.

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Peter and Jude, Part 1

Peter wrote two letters that we know of and Jude wrote one. In the world of New Testament epistles, Paul gets all the press but Peter and Jude had some very significant things to say to Christians. And these three letters are very similar, and because of that, they are frequently studied together.

We’ll begin our look at these letters by looking at what Peter had to say about “hope.” Robert Schuller, who pastored his Crystal Cathedral for an astounding 55 years, had this to say about “hope”:

Let your hope, not your hurts, shape your future.

That sounds good, but it only works when your “hope” is built on the right foundation. I prefer what Mote had to say about the topic:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

And then there’s what Peter said:

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Peter 1:3 | NIV84)

Born again to hope

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1, 2 | NIV84)

Peter was an interesting man who had an interesting career. He was a fisherman who had been called by Jesus Christ to become a “fisher of men.” Doremus Hayes, theologian, once described Peter as being: “…a likeable man…a hasty man…a going man…a loyal man…a “rock” man…a growing man…the Apostle of Hope.” He was certainly all those things at various times in his life and career.

The recipients of this letter are described as “God’s elect” by Peter. The Biblical doctrine of “election” bothers some Christians and has been a source of conflict among Bible scholars for generations. The Bible teaches “election.” In fact, you can find three kinds of Biblical election, according to Benjamin Field:

• The election of people to perform certain kinds of service;
• The election of nations or groups of people to receive religious blessings;
• A personal election of people to be the children of God and the heirs of eternal glory.

The third form of “election” is the one Peter is referring to. But this “election” of some to salvation does not exclude others from this blessing. God’s election and predestination are tremendous provisions and blessings for all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not an arbitrary predetermination of those who can believe. All who confess Christ become the “elect,” living with the realization that God will enable them to live victoriously on earth and enter eternity to stand before the Lord as His chosen.

That’s the foundation of the hope Peter’s readers had, and it should be foundation of your hope, too. Peter was writing to Christians living in horrible conditions. Although Nero had yet to begin his persecution of Christians, animosity toward them was growing in intensity. If any people needed some encouragement and to be reminded of the hope they have in Christ, it was the people to whom this letter was written.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3 – 5 | NIV84)

The “living hope” of the believer is based on his personal relationship with Jesus Christ – the living Savior. The hope of these believers, living in tumultuous, uncertain times, was in the One who triumphed over His circumstances; He rose from the dead. That’s not an insignificant declaration. We, as Christians, have a living hope because our hope is in a living Savior!

But that hope we share with Peter’s readers is also in the fact that we are part of God’s family, and are therefore heirs to the glorious inheritance of God! Everything He has is ours. This would have been a big deal to Peter’s readers, many of whom had lost or would lose everything as the heat of persecution got dialed up. The state may be able to take your home and property, but what you get from God can never be taken from you! You may lose your job and your family may abandon you, but what God has in store for you is permanent. Being faithful in this life guarantees your full inheritance. Paul wrote something very similar to the Ephesians:

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13b – 14 | NIV84)

The basis of our hope

That the basis of our hope shouldn’t be in our circumstances is a thought that Peter expanded upon in this group of verses:

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:7 – 9 | NIV84)

The “these” are all the problems his readers are facing because of their faith. Peter provides an invaluable insight into how God works. The trials and tribulations that his readers were facing, and indeed the trials and tribulations we face, too, were not unknown to God, nor were they punishment from Him, nor were they arbitrary! They served a very distinct purpose: to strengthen their faith in Christ. That’s right; those things we try so hard to avoid; those unpleasant things we plan our lives around escaping, are the very things God uses to make us better Christians! James thought about this very issue and came to the exact same conclusion Peter did:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2 – 4 | NIV84)

As you read what Peter wrote, you realize the power of our salvation. We believe in a living Savior! Ours is not a dead philosopher, whose philosophies couldn’t preserve His own life! Our Savior is the One, the only One in fact, who rose from the dead. Through the power that raised Him from dead, He has reached out and forward in time and space to save us, as we place our faith in Him. From time to time, hard times may come into our lives, but our lives are being actively preserved by that same Resurrection power to the point where what is meant to harm us – what would do irreparable harm to the unbeliever – does us good, making us stronger and wiser and far more valuable to God.

Our salvation is so special and so spectacular, that angels are fascinated with God’s work in man.

Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1:12b | NIV)

That’s right. The salvation that we so often take for granted and abuse is so unique and so phenomenal that angels, those eternal spirit beings with amazing powers, are desperate to understand it. They can’t possibly because they can’t experience it. Only sinful human beings who have placed their faith in Christ and have had their sins forgiven can. Luke put it this way:

…there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10 | NIV84)

Only man can know the salvation God provides through Jesus Christ. Johnson Oatman, a prolific hymn-writer who wrote some 3,000 hymns in his lifetime, captured the thought perfectly in his hymn, “Holy, Holy Is What the Angels Sing”:

Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven ring;
But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.

Now would be a good time to ask yourself the question: What have the angels learned about MY salvation by observing MY life?

Transformed by hope into a holy person

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13 – 16 | NIV84)

As the Bard wrote, “Ay, there’s the rub.” God did so much for us Christ, but we have a responsibility – an obligation – to live holy lives. Uncertainty, difficult times, trials, and tribulations must not cause believers to give up and go back to their old ways of living, from which they’ve been saved.

Peter’s first bit of advice, “prepare your minds,” tells us something very important. The key to living a victorious Christian life is having and maintaining the right mental attitude. It all starts between our ears; by not allowing our minds to dwell too long on our circumstances, good or bad. Success in the Christian life depends on our intellect working with our moral and spiritual faculties. Paul knew the connection between the mind and the quality of our lives ran deep:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 | NIV84)

Changing our habitual way of thinking is up to us; God won’t do it for us. We wish He would, though. It’s not an easy thing to do. But if we’ll honor God, we must. According to what Peter wrote, we ought to be living and thinking as if Christ could return at any moment. The incredible privilege and glorious future of “the elect” demands that we adopt the “pattern” revealed to us: God is holy and we must be holy.

That phrase, “be holy in all you do,” has been translated by J.B. Phillips as:

Be holy in every department of your lives.

What is in the heart will be manifested in how you live your life. True holiness is not revealed in a church service where you are surrounded by other believers, but in how you live daily. True holiness is related to all civic, personal, religious, private, and public aspects of life. It is demonstrated in all your relationships. Holiness, morality, and ethics are all intertwined and cannot be separated because true ethical conduct is patterned after God, and He is our pattern.

Peter quoted from the Old Testament book of Leviticus to proof text what he wrote about the imperative to be holy:

I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44, 45 | NIV84)

The reason God wants us to be holy is because He Himself is holy. It is His supreme purpose for His people to be as He is: Holy. It is part of our election; our calling. We can’t be holy simply by doing things. It requires our minds being reigned in so that we begin to see life as God does. We become holy because our God is Holy and when we are in a relationship with Him, we become like Him.

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4 | NIV84)

Holiness is God’s choice for the moral condition of His people. In his commentary on 1 Peter, Roy Nicholson makes a valuable observation:

Because of God’s nature it is right that man should resemble Him. He is the Creator. Because of man’s nature it is possible for him to resemble God. The possibility of being holy determines our duty to be holy.

 

 

BE’s of the Bible, Part 1

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In Scripture, the little word “be” when it is spoken by the Lord is always part of something He wants from us; it always precedes a command or is part of an admonition. When the Lord uses “be” it’s always an imperative – the one to whom He is speaking is left with a choice: either do what the Lord is saying and be blessed, or don’t and be prepared for trouble. That’s one good thing about the Lord that a lot of people who aren’t part of the Christian faith don’t get. Christians aren’t robots; we aren’t being forced to serve God; we aren’t coerced into living righteous lives. The very God who created us and saved us also gave us a free will and He expects us to use it, along with our reasoning minds and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. So God always gives us a choice: be what He wants us to be or not. It’s always a choice.

Let’s take a look a few examples of the choices God wants us to make as we examine the first “Be” of the Bible.

Be Holy, 1 Peter 1:15, 16

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (NIV)

That’s pretty simple. Believers are expected by God to be holy people. And this isn’t a new idea, by the way, so to back up this New Testament admonition, Peter quotes from the Old Testament book of Leviticus. The notion of God wanting His people to be holy is as old as God Himself; it’s not a new idea.

Peter wrote his first letter to both Jewish and Christian believers – believers who were scattered all over.

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia… (1 Peter 1:1 NIV)

You can imagine that these believers, some of them living in hostile areas, needed to be encouraged to keep the faith; to be patient, to remain hopeful, and to continue living lives of holiness in the pagan cultures in which they were living. Merrill C. Tenney put Peter’s aim in writing this letter like this:

Peter teaches his readers how to live out their redemption in a hostile world.

That’s right. Just because it may not be popular to be a Christian or just because it may be inconvenient to live a righteous life, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. In the darkness of a pluralistic society or secular world, Christians are supposed to shine all the brighter. And they do this outside of the church; they shine for Jesus at work, at the market, at school, in town, everywhere.

Chosen

For people who were having a hard time living out the Christian faith, knowing that they were chosen by God was important. Some of these people had been forsaken by their families and friends, but never by God. How could the God who elected and then chose them, simply walk away from them?

To God’s elect…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood… (1 Peter 1:1, 2 NIV)

These believers, as all believers have been, were “chosen” by God. In fact, as Peter explains it, each member of the Trinity is involved in the salvation of a person. In the first place, election is “according to the foreknowledge of God the father.” Each believer’s election began in the mind of the Father as part of His great plan of redemption. Secondly, the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is involved in his sanctification, which carries with it the idea of being “set apart” or being “made holy.” It is a work of the Spirit to conform the believer into the image of Jesus through spiritual growth. And lastly, Jesus Christ is the member of the Trinity that shed His very blood and gave His life as a sacrifice so that man could enter into a relationship with God.

So important and significant were these believers that each one of them received the personal attention of each member of the Godhead. That’s a powerful thought, and it’s a motivating factor for the things Peter will be dealing with later on in this letter.

Deferred gratification

And so believers are chosen or elected by God. That’s a comforting thought. But sometimes the real world hits us like ton of bricks. It’s relatively easy to live a holy life in the safety of our church. It’s easy to be a Christian when you’re among Christians. But eventually you have to go to work. At some point you will encounter resistance to your faith; you will be questioned; you will be forced to take a stand and defend what you believe; you will have to explain why you abstain from certain activities that all your friends are participating in. At those times, it’s good to remember some of the things Peter wrote:

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3 – 5 NIV)

We need to pause for a second to consider that phrase “great mercy,” because it’s not just a throw-away phrase. His “great mercy” actually reveals something about God’s character: He is all beneficent, and because He is, He is the source of our hope as believers. And it was the resurrection of Jesus that proved God’s acceptance of His sacrifice on our behalf. Because the Father raised the Son, we have the abiding hope in a future “inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” That may not sound like a big deal to you, with the imagined security of a job, a warm home, and healthy retirement account, but to these struggling, first century believers who had nothing and were slightly better off than nomads, it meant everything!

All believers are heirs of God and an inheritance awaits them. We’re all familiar with what an inheritance is, but the one God has reserved for us is a permanent one – it is perfect every way; we can never use it up or break it; it will never deteriorate or disappear. This inheritance from God is being kept absolutely secure for believers, who are being kept for it. The word translated “kept” really means “guarded,” which means that our inheritance is being watched over and protected for us by God!

In a world where everything is so temporary, this is something to look forward to. It puts into perspective the riches of this world.

As if the idea of our eternal inheritance being guarded by God isn’t enough, believers are likewise “shielded by God’s power.” But this shielding by God is activated by having faith in His power. He has the ability to keep or shield every believer who commits his life to His care. And that’s the rub. Not all believers are that committed to God. Are you? Or are you like a lot of believers who have confessed Christ but have distant relationship with Him? You may be close enough to Christ to get into heaven (for now), but not close enough to receive the kind of “shielding” God has for you. Living like that is, to say the least, very precarious. There is eternal security for the believer – but it’s not unconditional. It takes faith, which itself involves mental assent and personal commitment.

There’s a purpose

With verse six, Peter gives his readers the “why” everybody wants to know.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:6 NIV)

All the things Peter wrote about up to this point were cause for his readers to “rejoice,” but the reality of the kind of lives these people were living comes out: they were suffering “grief in all kinds of trials.” That’s a big pill for any believer to swallow. Sure, the future looks great for believers, but what about the here-and-now? Unfortunately there are a lot of believers who think there is something wrong with their faith if they are suffering “grief in all kinds of trials.” That’s just not necessarily true, according to Peter. When the bad times comes, there is a reason and purpose behind them –

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:7 NIV)

Yes indeed, joy and grief may be present in the believer and that’s completely understandable and normal. The key is understanding why the grief is coming. The problem of suffering is something that has always bothered Christians, yet Jesus Himself told us not to be dismayed – that in this world Christians would have trouble. In Hebrews we are told that God tests His people by trials. James said that testings come from God. It’s not a popular thing to say, but the Bible is very clear on this: the path to glory always leads through opposition. But this opposition – trials and suffering – serves to purify the soul and display the soundness of the believer’s faith in and love for Jesus Christ.

The thing is, our trials are only temporary. Like the riches of this world, the trials of this world will pass. Paul understood this –

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (1 Corinthians 4:17, 18 NIV)

Our salvation demands holiness

Our eternal inheritance is cause for us to rejoice, and the rough times we experience here on earth are serving a purpose that, in the end, will greatly benefit us. Now we learn how precious our salvation both is and will be. God’s plan for the redemption of mankind is so unusual; so intricate, we are told by this – Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1:12b NIV)

Man’s salvation boggles the angels! They didn’t need saving, so they can’t possibly understand the magnitude of God’s incredible plan. Too bad we don’t appreciate it that much. And that brings us to the first “Be” is this series. In light of everything that believers have received from God, God expects something in return –

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do… 1 Peter 1:15 NIV)

God calls and man responds. God gives man the pattern to live by and it is man’s responsibility to adopt it. There’s no mystery to holiness for God has modelled it.

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6 NIV)

A lot of people misunderstand what holiness is all about. Even among Christians, there is wonky idea that a holy person is a super pious person. A holy person to some is the weirdo who never leaves his house, doesn’t have a TV or radio, always wears a shirt and tie and when you do chance to see him through the fence, he’s always reading C.S. Lewis and the Bible.  But that’s not it all.

God wants all of His people to enjoy life – to get the most out of living. It is possible to experience life to the fullest without sinning. Holiness is to the spiritual life what health is to the physical life. Holiness is not a superficial thing; it is not accomplished through deprivation or rituals. Our holiness is not an attribute like God’s holiness is. He’s perfect but we never will be. But God wants us to be spiritually fit. Holiness means resembling Him. Because of man’s nature, this is wholly possible! The possibility of being holy makes it our duty to become holy. A holy Christian is a healthy Christian and that’s what God wants of us. To live like Jesus did is what will please God. And that should be our goal.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14 NIV)

 

Right Relationships, 1 Peter 2:13—3:12; 5:1—5

Relationships are a big deal to Christians, especially our relationship to and with God, from which all other relationships descend. Peter had a lot to say about Christian relationships that we need to take heed of. The way we relate to others in the church, to our spouses, and to our peers in the workplace should be based on what our faith says, not on what our culture says. Sometimes, our faith clashes with the forces of our culture, and when that happens, Christians are faced with a choice: do we choose to be obedient to the Scriptures or do we all the culture around us to dictate how we ought to live? For Peter, there really is no choice.

1. Government and business relationships, 1 Peter 2:13—25

(a) Christian citizens, 13—17

A Christian is called to proclaim his faith to the world around him. How is he to do that? Should we sing hymns all day? Are we supposed to dress in white robes and live communally? The most effective way to share your faith with the world at large is to not manifest the “works of the flesh.” A good way to introduce a discussion on Christian relationships is verse 12—

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

A good way to do that is to be a good, Christian citizen.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority. (verse 13a)

This is Peter’s “political philosophy.” What is he really saying? Christians are to “submit” to every “human authority” “for the Lord’s sake.” From what Peter writes, it is clear that “every human authority” refers to elected officials. Whether that elected official is right or wrong, Christians are to “submit” to them. The idea of “submission” is a major theme in Peter’s writing, and “submission” comes from the Greek hypostasso, which means to willingly “submit oneself.” It in no way suggests a kind of slavery to the state; rather it is an acknowledgment of our respect to instituted authority. This is quite a remarkable statement for Peter to make, considering who the “instituted authorities” of his day were: the Romans under Nero, the famous torturer of Christians!

It is probably significant that Peter puts submission to governing authorities ahead of any other relationship in the Christian’s life. This is because every single Christian has some kind of relationship to the government, but not every Christian may be married or have an employer.

Unlike today, in the first century citizens could not legally demonstrate against their state; such demonstrations would probably result in their imprisonment and execution. In modern America, such freedom is enshrined in the Constitution; part of being a good citizen means, if need be, speaking out against the governing authorities. That freedom should always be exercised legally and in such a way as to glorify God and show respect for the governing authorities even while their policies may be protested against.

Verse 14 seems to limit the Christian submission to governing authorities to authorities that actually govern in a godly manner—

who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

Obviously, Peter is writing in generalities; he cannot be referring to governments that persecute or rob citizens of their freedoms. Submission to those kinds of states may be seem like a good idea, but may not always be glorifying to God. We know, for example, that Peter and Paul followed the “higher law” on different occasions; preferring to be obedient to God and preach the Gospel even though the authorities strictly forbade them. Sometimes preferring God over man results in punishment and persecution; such was the promise of Christ, however.

(b) Christians in the workplace, verses 18-20

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (verse 18)

During the time of the New Testament, the slavery practiced was not like the slavery most Americans are familiar with. New Testament slaves were not, in the main, like the slaves of pre-Civil War days; they were more like employees with strings attached. Ancient slaves often were very prosperous and respected members of society. However, like employees today, sometimes these slaves were taken advantage of and treated poorly. To these folks, Peter’s advice stands: treat your masters with respect for God’s sake.

Unlike submission to governing authorities, submitting to cruel masters comes with a kind of reward—

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. (verse 20b)

As you honor your employer, God will honor you! The word for “commendable” is charis, from which the word “grace” comes. Charis is an attractive quality to God.

(c) Christ’s example, verses 21—25

These verses are really directed to Christians who were (and are) suffering unjustly—

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (verse 23)

These verses seem to make plain a couple of points. First, as in the case of Jesus, God knows when one of His own is suffering injustice. Second, even more than knowing, just as Jesus was called to suffer, so some Christians may live under that same calling. Not all Christians are called to suffer, but some are, even it if be for a brief time. If you are suffering for the cause of your faith, then Christ is your complete example, not only in how conducted Himself during His suffering, but also the fact that He was destined to suffer. In the economy of God, suffering for the sake of the Gospel—something modern Christians run from like the plague—is as much a calling as the call to salvation itself or the call to preach.

2. Marriage relationships, 3:1—7

(a) Wives, verses 1—6

The opening phrase, “in the same way” hearkens back to 2:13. Christian wives are not be in subjection to their husbands like slaves, but the general idea is that Christian submission to God’s will should be observed in every area of life, including marriage.

Since American culture is obsessed with “the women’s movement,” any discussion of the place of women in marriage always needs to be preceded by the statement that in matters of the faith, women are co-heirs with men; there is no distinction between the sexes from Heaven’s perspective. However, when it comes to family life on Earth, there is an order that must be observed if Christian marriages are to be functional.

While men and women are equal in God’s estimation, they are obviously different in many ways and those differences should be respected and even celebrated within a marriage. As to why a wife should submit to her husband, Peter gives a very practical reason—

if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives…(verse 1b)

Nothing is more important the salvation of a soul and a wife’s example may lead to the conversion of her unsaved husband. In fact, as we read this whole section of advice to wives that Peter wrote, it seems that is the whole reason for the way she dresses, her whole outward appearance, and even her general attitude is that she set a good example for her children and others. If ever there were a passage of Scripture that celebrated the power and influence of a woman, it must sure be this one!

Whenever we read the Biblical admonitions about wives and husbands, many of us snicker and roll our eyes and make jokes about “obviously a man wrote these rules” or we look at Peter and Paul as barbaric chauvinists. However, God ordained an order for families to follow and He assigned very specific roles to each sex. Perhaps if Christian couples paid attention to and practiced what the Bible teaches about the marriage relationship, the divorce rate among Christians would finally drop back down below 50% and more Christian teens would remain committed to their faith instead of wandering away from it.

(b) Husbands, verse 7

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.

It may seem odd to some that Peter spent so much more time discussing wives than husbands, but if we read what he expected of husbands, we would see their very success as a Christian hinges on how they treat their wives! It boggles the mind, but if you, as a Christian husband, fail in that regard, your prayers will go unanswered!

When Peter refers to wives as the “weaker partner,” (TNIV) he does not mean weaker morally or spiritually or intellectually; he means weaker physically. Why does he bring that up? He does so to demonstrate how a Christian husband ought to treat his wife; in ways that are helpful and ways that build her up and empower her. No husband should ever embarrass or belittle his wife; that would be like beating up on a tiny, weak person. Peter uses the word “as,” meaning that sometimes a wife might, in reality, really be stronger physically than her husband. Notwithstanding that, though, a Christian husband needs to hold her up as though she were really weaker than he.

Husbands and wives are really one—they are a unity—but the husband is not responsible for the sins of his wife nor is she for his. Both husbands and wives, however, are responsible for encouraging one another in their faith and fostering growth in that area by praying together, reading the Bible together, helping one another stand against temptation and so on. A good way to start that is to observe the roles assigned by God to each partner.

3. Church relationships, 3:8—12; 5:1—5

(a) United believers, 3:8—12

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 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. (verses 8, 9)

In Peter’s concluding remarks on “submission,” he wrote about harmony; how Christians ought to live with each other as members of Christ’s Body. Here is Peter’s pattern for Christian conduct.

1. Be like-minded. This means members of Church should live in harmony with each other. This in no way means all Christians should think exactly the way about every issue. In fact, Paul’s makes mention of this in Philippians 3:15—

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

Peter wants all believers to live and function with the mind of Christ, so that whatever they do they build up and build the Church, not cause strife and division.

2. Be sympathetic. This means showing genuine concern and interest in the well-being of other members of the Body of Christ, not just in word but more importantly in deed.

3. Love one another. It seems strange that Peter would have to encourage his readers to do this, but loving fellow believers doesn’t always come easily! If Christians would busy themselves trying to love one another, they might find they have less time for gossip and backbiting.

4. Be compassionate. In the Greek, the word rendered “compassionate” is extremely descriptive, picturing feelings that radiate out from our most inner parts—intestines, literally! We might say Christians should be “tenderhearted” toward each other.

5. Be humble. Humility is a divine virtue that does not come naturally to human beings. Jesus demonstrated humility when He washed the disciple’s feet. True humility is preferring others over yourself.

Peter goes on to describe a Christian life in opposite terms to a worldly life. We are to treat our enemies in a way that is opposite to the way they treat us and also opposite to the way we think we should treat them.

When we live as we should, we do not earn a blessing; we inherit one!

to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (verse 9b)

(b) Godly leaders, 5:1—5

Finally, Peter gives some brief advice to the leaders in the Church. He uses the word presbyteros to describe these church leaders. They were elders, as Peter was, and by the time Peter wrote this letter, the structure of a local church was firmly in place.

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve. (verse 2)

Peter uses the sheep/shepherd analogy to describe the ideal kind of relationship that should exist between elder and congregation. We would expect this from Peter, since it was to him that Jesus said “If you live me, feed my sheep” (John 21:15—17). But the image of shepherd/sheep is important to understand if we are to understand how God views the position of “elder.” Just as a shepherd is responsible for the safety and well-being of his sheep, so the elder(s) of a church are for responsible in the same way for the congregation under their care.

An elder should be motivated to care for his people because of their needs, not his; he does not serve his church for what can get out of them, whether it’s money or power or prestige or vanity. The relationship between elder (pastor) and congregation is one based on privilege and responsibility. It is a privilege to pastor a church and with that privilege comes an awesome responsibility to act as a “good shepherd.” From the congregation’s perspective, having a godly pastor is also a privilege, and they have a responsibility to look after him as they allow him to look after them.

It all boils down to relationship. All too often, how we treat our spouses and fellow believers is indicative of how we treat God.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

“PECULIAR” PEOPLE

1 Peter 2:9—12

In studying the historical books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, we are struck by the similarity of two very different groups of people:  Israel and the Church.  It is acknowledged that the Church has most definitely not taken Israel’s place in God’s great plan for the world; that God is by no means finished with the nation of Israel despite the lowly position she currently occupies.  There is a segment of the Church that believes God has replaced Israel with the Church, but we know there is a great and glorious in store for a nation that remains God’s chosen people.  See Romans 11 for God’s purpose and plan for Israel as a nation.

Notwithstanding all that, there are some remarkable similarities between these two groups of “God’s chosen” that bear looking at in the light of day.

1.  A nation of priests, verses 9, 10

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The words “but you” are intended to show a marked contrast between disobedient believers (verses 7, 8) and the faithful, believing members of the Body of Christ.  Other scholars see a contrast of another type:  between the believer’s present (verse 9) and their past (verse 10).  Regardless of exactly the contrast Peter intended, both ideas work and both contrasts serve to show the glorious position genuine, faithful believers find themselves in.  We—the Church of Jesus Christ—are a people that are owned by God (“peculiar” people in the KJV), and are therefore different from anybody else on Earth.

In describing the Church, Peter uses terms and descriptors from the Old Testament that originally applied to Israel:  Exodus 19:5—6; Deuteronomy 4:20; 7:6; Isaiah 43:21.

(a)  A chosen people.  Peter applies this term to the Church, but it was originally used to describe Israel—

…my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.  (Isa. 43:12)

This phrase means several things, but at its core it relates to God’s loving and sovereign choice of bringing redeemed people—the Church—to Himself.  The initiative was His to begin with, not ours.  Just as God chose to form the nation of Israel for Himself and for His purposes, so He chose to form the Church; a group of chosen, elected, called out people for His purposes.

(b)  A royal priesthood.   Exodus 19:6 records something God instructed Moses to tell his people—

‘…you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’  These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.

In a very real sense, the entire of nation of Israel had been chosen by God to be His priests.  However, because of their willful rebellion and sin, God instead chose His priests from one tribe only.  Today, there is only one body of priests God recognizes:  the Church of Jesus Christ.  “A royal priesthood,” or “a body of priests” emphasizes a couple of things:  first, each and every Christian is identified with the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, and we share His royal authority and are therefore free to approach God through Him just as He may approach God as He wills.  Second, we are to engage in priestly functions on a routine basis:  corporate worship, intercession, and ministry within the Body of Christ.

(c)  A holy nation.   It may seem odd that Peter would refer to the Church as a “nation,” holy or otherwise, but, once again, he is borrowing an Old Testament word that described Israel.  As used to describe Israel, “holy nation” was political; Israel was literally a nation, with a king and a political structure that had been set apart—separated from all other nations.  How does the term “nation” apply to the Church?  Consider:  a nation is comprised of citizens who live within clearly defined borders, obey certain laws and regulations, and work for the common well-being and safety of their society.  The fact that the Church is compared to a “holy (separated) nation” suggests each citizen-member of the Church shares certain characteristics with Jesus Christ, the Head of the “nation,” and though living among non-citizens they are really living a life separated from them.  Being “set apart” also suggests that citizen-members of the Church are set apart to God for His purposes.

(d)  A people belonging to God.  This stresses God’s ownership of the Church corporately and individually.  Wesley translated this phrase, “a purchased people,” and that is a perfect description of believers—people purchased by the blood of God’s Son.  The phrase also suggests that we are God’s “prized possessions.”  Regardless of where a believer lives in the world, He belongs to God.

These four phrases describe the Church of Jesus Christ, and the next phrase describes the purpose of the Church—

…that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  (verse 9b)

Peter points out that the special job of God’s special people is “declare (advertise) the praises of [God].”  This means that the Church and its citizen-members are obligated to advertise the wondrous acts of God (what He has done) in their lives, their church , and in history.

The contrast with their past lives is pointed out with verse 10; previously these friends of Peter were not God’s people, but now were.  Peter freely uses the words of the prophet Hosea in verse 10, specifically Hosea 1:6; 9—10; 2:23.  In their original context, Hosea wrote to Israelites who had been rejected by God because of their disobedience, but stressed they would be restored by His grace and forgiven of their sins.  Peter uses Hosea’s words to describe the marvelous salvation experienced by his readers.  Once not so long ago, they were “not a people” but now they were “God’s people.”

2.  Living like a priest of God, verses 11, 12

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

How does the believer best advertise the greatness of God?  Does this mean going to church services every Sunday?  That is one way to do it, but the world does not see you singing praises to God in church; the world sees how you live your life.  Not manifesting “sinful desires” is the best way to advertise God!  Christians are really just visitors to this planet; they are in the world but not part of it.  The New Testament teaches that the things of this world are passing away—they are transitory—and Christians are not to attach themselves to things that are passing way.  We are eternal beings and we ought to cling to worthy things of eternal value.  Peter in no way teaches that everything in the world is evil, simply that we don’t really belong here and so we shouldn’t become fixated on things that do.

Wesley wrote that Christians are sojourning in a strange house (the body), and are pilgrims in a strange country (this world).   While we are living here temporarily, we are not to be like the citizens of this world; that is, we are to be “separated” from them by our actions, our attitudes, and our world view.

However, Peter does not suggest Christians ought to live in communes up on mountains, behind high walls.  The Godly life is not just refraining from sin but it is actively living differently than those around you.  Verse 12 is crystal clear:  live among the pagans.  How can Christians manifest Christ before a sinful world unless we live among them?  The purpose of living a “good” life (“noble lifestyle”) is two-fold—

  • The pagans (unsaved people) will see our good works and honorable lifestyle.  They will take careful notice of the fact that we behave differently from others.  Christians should seek to live in such a way that even if they are accused of wrongdoing, the evidence will show otherwise.   Peter does not mean to suggest that if believers live good lives all will go well with them, just that pagans will see—take notice—of their Godly lifestyle.
  • In the future, these same pagans will glorify God.  Does this mean that by our lifestyle we may lead pagans to Christ?  While this can happen, it generally doesn’t.  What Peter means is this:  though the pagan world may not like believers, honesty would compel them to glorify God.  That is, they would at least acknowledge the reality of God because of how a believer advertised Him in the world.

The fact is, whether we realize it or not, we as professing Christians are ever-scrutinized by the world; they listen to how we talk, they watch how we act and react to the world around us.  So we must ask ourselves:  do our neighbors and co-workers who don’t know God see God in us?  Do we act like priests?  Or do we act like pagans?  According to Peter, we have a lot to live up to!  We may not wear flowing robes and work in a temple as Samuel did, we are, nonetheless, priests before Jehovah as he was.  Do we take our role as a priest before God as seriously as he did?  Good question!

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

Stewardship: It’s NOT What You Think It Is, Part 2

last-will

A Whopper of an Inheritance, 1 Peter 1:1-5

As we continue our look at Biblical stewardship, it would be helpful to recall how Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word “stewardship”:

the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care

We have already considered the stewardship of the things God has given us that we often squander on selfish things, like the pursuit of money for example.  Our time, our talents, our character, our ability to dream and imagine, and other things we take for granted have been given us to glorify God, yet all too often Christians are guilty of using these things for our purposes, not God’s.  Being good stewards of what God has given us means that we use what we have to magnify and glorify God in our lives.  In this way, we are accumulating treasure in heaven.   Our treasure in heaven is a direct result of what we have done here on earth.

We now turn our attention from our treasure, which we are responsible for accumulating, to our inheritance, which is something given to us, based on the work of someone else.

1.  Handpicked, verses 1, 2

To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.

When we read all the epistles in the New Testament, whether they were written by Peter, Paul, or John, we need to remember that they were all written to Christians, so the blessings, promises and truths contained in the epistles are exclusive to Christians.  Into that context, Peter makes some stunning comments.

(1)  God’s elect

Christians are first and foremost described by Peter as “God’s elect.”   In the Greek, the word “elect” is by itself; the noun “God” is absent; Christians are simply “the elect.”  Of course, as we read on we know that God is the One who has elected or chosen the readers of this letter.   A great many Christians have difficulty understanding what the doctrine of election is all about; instead of giving to glory to God that they have been chosen by Him, they get angry that some have not been chosen.  However, that kind of thinking shows a complete misunderstanding of the essence of election.  In fact, the doctrine of election is linked by Peter to three separate acts of God involving His entire Person; furthermore, election primarily concerns Him, not us.  Consider these points:

  • Foreknowledge.  Foreknowledge means much more than just having knowledge about the future.  It has to do with the absolute sovereignty of God in His decision to implement a plan to save sinful man.   God has a plan and He working out His plan for you in the way He sees fit.  God’s plan for you will glorify Him in that His holiness, His sovereign acts done on your behalf, and His grace will be manifested such that all will see His goodness toward you.
  • Sanctification.  Peter writes that those whom God has chosen, the elect, are sanctified through the Holy Spirit.  This includes yet another work done on behalf of sinful man for his benefit.  Man, because of his sinfulness, cannot enter into God’s presence, so God cleanses man’s sinful heart so that he may enter into fellowship with his Creator.  This does not man that sinful man is made morally perfect which would preclude the possibility of improvement, but it speaks of a careful and deliberate restoration of God’s image in the soul of man.  This amazing work for man makes man fit for life and service to God, yet does not represent man in a perfect state.  This means that our sanctification is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in and for us.  In this process, we are not passive but we are actively cooperating with the Holy Spirit (see verses 15 and 16).
  • Obedience and sprinkling. God elects and the Spirit sanctifies for a very specific reason:  it is so that we may be obedient to Jesus Christ.  Peter uses the words “obedience” and “sprinkling” as a reference to Exodus 24:3—8).  After Moses read the Law to the people, the people promised their obedience and then Moses sealed the deal by sprinkling them with the blood of a sacrifice.  Similarly, through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross and the shedding of His blood, He redeemed and purchased the elect.

In these opening two verses, we marvel at two things.  First, an uneducated fisherman like Peter was able to explain a complex theological doctrine that stymies highly educated people today.  Second, the Triune God has done so much for sinful human beings:  God the Father foreknows and elects them; God the Holy Spirit sanctifies them; and God the Son cleanses them through the shedding of His precious blood.  Even though Christ’s blood was shed one time only, it continually cleanses the human heart.

All this was done for the handpicked few.   Just because there are some “elected,” this does not mean that others are excluded.  All sinners may become the elect by choosing to respond to the calling of God.  Purkiser writes,

God’s election and predestination…are His gracious provision for and purpose to save all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not an arbitrary predetermination of those who can believe.

2.  Hope, verse 3

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

The Christians to whom Peter was writing were facing terrible trials and unbelievable hardships, and so Peter wrote to remind them of two things.  First, the purpose and power of God as revealed in their salvation, and second, to encourage them to face their future with holy boldness because their salvation was not only secure now but would be perfected in the future.   Despite their hopelessness, they were not hopeless. As one theologian said,

Hoping is disciplined waiting.

The Christian has a living hope because Jesus has been raised by God the Father.  Our faith is not based on a dead person’s words or ideas.  Roy Nicholson observes:

Faith establishes Christians in believing; obedience directs them in doing; and patience comforts them in suffering.

Patience is linked to hope; it is believing that something better is coming.  This makes perfect sense because this world is temporal in nature, and the things it gives us, good or bad, are also temporary.   It is important to keep this in mind, that whatever state we may find ourselves in will change; nothing ever stays the same.  It is this way by God’s design, so that human beings will never be satisfied with the things of the earth, and believers will understand that their sufferings are temporary.

Our hope of a better future is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  At first, we may wonder what those two things have to do with each other.  The resurrection of Christ was a good thing for Christ, but what does that have to do with our future?  It goes back to the previous verse about the blood of Christ; a body without blood is dead, but a living body has blood flowing through its veins.  We have a living hope because Christ shed His blood for us and it courses through His Body:  the Church.  In other words, the power that raised Christ from the dead is within the Body of Christ and within each individual believer.  Now, that is real power!   Our hope is rooted in the power of the resurrection; if Christ could be raised from the dead, then nothing is impossible with regard to our future.

3.  Inheritance, verse four

an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you…

Part of our new birth is an inheritance.  Once again, we have a working definition of “inheritance” courtesy of Merriam Webster:

the acquisition of a possession, condition, or trait from past generations

“Inheritance” is the key word of verse four and it must be understood correctly to be appreciated.  Hebrews 9:16—17 helps us in this regard—

In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.

This links an inheritance to somebody’s death, but Peter uses the word in the context of life, namely, eternal life.  In verse 3, Peter wrote that through the death and resurrection of Christ, we have a hope, and we find out that part of our hope is that we are now the recipients of an inheritance.   But our inheritance can’t be enjoyed here because it is being kept for us in heaven.  Oddly, instead of receiving an inheritance because somebody else died, we are the ones that have to die in order to receive our inheritance!

The Jews understood “inheritance” well.  Since the days of Abraham, the nation of Israel has been waiting for their inheritance; a permanent home.  It is true that for a while Israel occupied their inheritance, the Promised Land, but it has never been safe and secure.  Israel has always had to fight for their inheritance.  But for the child of God, the “inheritance” is not for a plot of land; it is something different.  Our inheritance refers to the salvation—not that we already have—that we will receive upon our deaths and entrance into eternal glory.

But what exactly is it?  Peter, for some reason, cannot put it into words, so he describes our inheritance in negative terms.

  • It is imperishable.  Our inheritance cannot be destroyed and it won’t die.  It is therefore not subject to the laws of time, but it of eternal nature.
  • It is undefiled.  Our inheritance can never spoil, be corrupted or be polluted, or watered down.  Our inheritance in heaven will be forever free form any kind of blemish and is eternally pure.
  • It is unfading.  In other words, our inheritance is always brand new!  No matter how beautiful a rose is at its peak, its beauty has already begun to fade.  However, our inheritance in heaven will always be at its peak!

Earthly possessions are subject to change; they rot, they get damaged or they wear out, or we get bored with them.  But our inheritance in heaven is safely guarded by God for us.   The Greek for “kept” (NIV) is teteremenen, which means “reserved for.”  The word is in the perfect tense, meaning our inheritance is being actively reserved by God for us.

God, like a doting and loving Father, is carefully holding on to our inheritance until we arrive in heaven to enjoy it.

Conclusion

Finally, to demonstrate how seriously God takes our inheritance, we read this in verse 5—

…who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

God’s people, the ones whose inheritance is being kept in heaven by God, are also seen benefiting from something else being done by God for them while they are on earth to ensure that they get to heaven to enjoy that inheritance.  The Greek is very descriptive:  “the ones being guarded”  is actually a military term that can mean either “to protect someone from danger” or “to prevent someone from escaping.”  The Greek is also in the present passive tense, meaning God’s involvement in the lives of His people is ongoing.  There never is a time when God is not active in the life of a Christian.  How is He active?  He protects believers from the onslaught of Satan; he cannot harm us as long as we are under God’s protection.  But God also is active in keeping us from leaving Him.   This really is a phenomenal thing!  There is security for the believer; it is for all eternity, but it is not unconditional, for it requires faith, which is a mental assent and a personal commitment.  The key is the phrase “through faith.”  This means that we have a responsibility in all this.  Although God has promised to protect us and save us, we must use our faith in our fight against the Devil and the dark powers around us.  Faith in God and in His power is both subjective and objective.  In other words, we just can’t sit around and coast until our deaths.

God shields us, according to Peter, until our salvation, which we have now, becomes complete upon our entrance into heaven.  God protects us in order that we may receive our inheritance.  Some scholars believe that “salvation” and “inheritance” are synonymous terms, although I believe they are two separate blessings; our salvation is what unites us with our inheritance.

When we realize all that God has done and continues to do for us, it is hard not to want to be good stewards of His gracious blessings.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

Bless The Lord, O My Soul

A Study of 1 Peter 1:1-5

In most translations, the title of this letter is very simple, 1 Peter. Some versions entitle this letter “The First General Epistle of Peter.” That’s accurate because 1 Peter belongs to a category of writings in the NT known as the General Epistles, or the Catholic Epistles. Along with 1 and 2 Peter, the General Epistles include Hebrews, James, 1,2, 3 John and Jude.

This letter was written some time around 63 by Simon Peter, a leader in the Jerusalem church. It is addressed:

To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia…

It is not addressed to any particular church or person, and that is why it is known as a “general epistle.”

1. Election, 1:1a

In the Greek, the adjective “elect” or “chosen” is written in the plural with no mention of God. However, the context of the letter shows quite clearly that God is the one who has elected or chosen the readers of this letter. This must have been the most encouraging thing his readers could have heard; they were separated from their homeland, experiencing hatred and enduring hardship and persecution. Despite this, they were the ones whom God has chosen. Out of all the people on earth, God had chosen a few to be His people. Jesus said as much in Matt. 22:14–

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

In simplest terms, the adjective “elect” or “chose” is nothing more than a description of Christians generally (Titus 1:1, for example). In Biblical teaching, the broader doctrine of “election” is a key theme and the foundation of all spiritual blessing (Deut. 4:37; 7:6; 14:2; Ps. 105:6, 43; Isa. 45:4; Eph. 1:4-5). It’s a pity that so many believers feel threatened by this wonderful doctrine. Every time election is mentioned in Scripture it to comfort and encourage the reader. Nicholson, citing Benjamin Field, gives three different kinds of Scriptural election:

  • The election of certain people to perform a specific task, 1 Sam. 2:27-28; Jer. 1:5; etc.
  • The election of nations or groups of people to receive special blessings, Deut. 4:37; 7:6; 10:15; Isa. 41:8-9; etc.
  • The election of individuals to be the children of God, 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13-14.

No one should ever think that the election of individuals to be the children of God implies “an exclusion of others from that precious blessing…nor does it render their final salvation irrevocably secure; they are still in a state of probation, and their election, through unbelief…may be rendered void and come to nothing.”
Pukiser, on the issue of election, makes a noteworthy statement:

God’s election and predestination are His gracious provision for and purpose to save all who savingly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not an arbitrary predetermination of those who can believe.

2. Strangers, 1:1b

These elect, the readers of this letter, are described by Peter as being “strangers in the world.” This is an apt description of all believers, who are “resident aliens” in this world:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. (Heb. 11:13)

The phrase suggests that this is a temporary condition, as our true citizenship is in heaven, Phil.3:20,

But our citizenship is in heaven.

As “resident aliens,” the readers of this letter didn’t have a permanent home; they were moving from place to place, looking for somewhere to live or trying to live in peace in new and strange place, driven from their homes by persecution.

3. Holiness: the purpose of election, 1:2

With this verse, Peter gives the readers the reason for this election and gives some of the basic themes of this letter, including the foreknowledge of God, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and obedience to Christ. This verse also shows the Trinity in action.

The “foreknowledge of God” is more than God simply knowing the future, it includes His comprehensive knowledge existence from before the creation of the world. It includes the absolute sovereignty of God in determining and implementing His decision to save sinful man. Key in understanding the relationship between election and foreknowledge is a sentence in Peter’s sermon, preached on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:23–

This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

Peter implies that God worked according to his sovereign plan and purpose which He made in advance. Paul also writes about God’s foreknowledge in Romans 8:29–

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Foreknowledge and predestination go together as acts of God before the creation of this world, Ephesians 1:4-5. This work is carried out through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit in a believer that brings about separation and holiness and an ability to do works of service for the Lord. In the Greek, the sanctifying work of the Spirit is an ongoing process, it is never a completed act. While it is the Spirit that works in us to make holy, man is not just a passive bystander; he is intimately involved in his evolution in holiness. Peter admonished his readers:

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1:15-16)

Finally, the Spirit sanctifies believers so they may be obedient to the Christ. This part of the verse seems awkward to modern readers:

…for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.

That makes little sense to us, but to the converted Jews Peter is writing to, this phrase was rich in meaning. Kistemaker explains that Peter links the terms obedience and sprinkling together referring to the confirmation of the covenant that God made with Israel in Exodus 24:3-8. Moses read the Book of the Law to the people, and the people responded that they would do everything the Lord had told them to do. Then Moses sprinkled blood on the people and said these words:

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Ex. 24:8)

Peter masterfully shows how the Trinity is at work in the redemption of man: God the Father foreknows them, God the Holy Spirit sanctifies them, and The Son cleanses them from sin through the sprinkling of His blood. The words of William Cowper’s hymn come to mind:

There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.

4. A Living Hope, 1:3

Throughout this letter, Peter encourages his readers to hope. But hope for the believer is not some ethereal thing floating out in space, it is based on a living faith in Jesus Christ; the Christian has a living hope because of the resurrection. The thought is that if God the Father could bring about the resurrection of Jesus the Son, nothing is too hard for Him.

This message was vitally important for his readers, who were daily experiencing fiery trials and unbelievable hardships. It’s interesting that in one verse, Peter shifts gears from the heavy doctrine of the Trinity to the reality of hope. But this hope, which is something personal and living, is not necessarily something that pertains to the future. Rather, it brings life to God’s elect, just as God brought life to Jesus, and this hope enables believers to carry on, no matter what life’s circumstances may be. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the basis of the believer’s new life. God made us alive, as He made Jesus alive and has given us a living hope.

5. A Secure Inheritance, 1:4

This living hope is further described in verse 4 as an inheritance “that can never perish, spoil, or fade.” Unlike earthly treasures, which are temporary and fade away, this spiritual inheritance is incorruptible; it remains new and perfect and unchanging because God made it that way. What awaits the hopeful believer is something will be fresh and new forever, and it is absolutely secure for believers because it is being “kept” for them.

Curiously, Peter doesn’t tell his readers exactly what is being kept for them in heaven, instead of describing the inheritance, Peter uses three adjectives to tell us what our possession is not:

imperishable;
undefiled;
unfading.

6. A Joyous Salvation, 1:5

God’s people are described as being guarded. The Greek phrase is written in the present passive, meaning believers don’t guard themselves, God does the guarding all the time. This remarkable verse shows the continuous involvement of God in the lives of His children. The phrase “through faith” is man’s only responsibility in the matter. We are shielded by God through faith. So, although God has promised to protect us, we must use our faith in our fight against the dark spiritual forces. As Kistemaker noted, faith in God is both objective and subjective. Objectively, faith means that God is seen, not merely “felt.” But faith also has a subjective side, where the believer truly feels the working of God within.

God shields us for a purpose:

…the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

The salvation we possess now in principle will become our permanent possession in reality when we enter heaven. God protects us now so that in the future we will receive all that is ours in promise. This not unlike being mentioned in a will; we know that have an inheritance, but we have to wait for the death of the testator and for legal matters to be settled to receive it. But even during the waiting period, the value of the inheritance doesn’t diminish; it’s there, waiting to be grabbed hold of, just like our salvation.


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