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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Peter 2:13-17; God Honoring Conduct; The State

02/01 1 Peter 2:13-17 God honoring conduct; subjection to political authority

This morning we are going to jump back into 1 Peter 2:13-17. We haven’t been in Peter for 2 months, so we need to start with some review to put this passage into its context.

Peter is writing from a prison in Rome, awaiting his own execution under the evil emperor Nero. Peter is writing to persecuted Christians scattered across Asia Minor, encouraging them to suffer well. At the close of the letter he says:

1 Peter 5:12 …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

He addresses the believers as ‘elect exiles’ (1:1) or ‘chosen outcasts’ or ‘the selected rejected’. Because these people had embraced Jesus as their God, they had become strangers in their own hometowns. They no longer fit in to society. They maintain a distinct identity. They don’t think and feel and act like the rest of society, and because of this they are rejected and persecuted. But their rejection is because they are objects of God’s great mercy and his special favor. They have been selected by God to be his. This is a position of safety and security. So Peter goes on to tell them about their inheritance (1:3-5). They have become heirs because God caused them to be born into his family. Their inheritance is being kept safe for them and they are being kept by God’s power safe for it. Any trials they face serve to prove the genuineness of their faith so that the outcome will be the salvation of their souls (1:6-9). Their salvation has been the focal point of prophets, evangelists and angels (1:10-12).

Peter has begun this letter by unveiling the bedrock foundation of our security in Jesus. He spent the first 12 verses pointing us to massive truths about God’s work of redemption as a ground for joy and worship. Then, in verse 13 he shifts gears from telling us our identity and security as recipients of God’s great mercy to giving us big broad commands of how we are to live our lives. Because the triune God is at work to secure your salvation, this is how you must respond; this is what you must do. His very first command is this: you must fix your hope fully on future grace (1:13). Hope! Hope in God and all that he promises to be for you in Jesus Christ! Look back on what he has done to initiate your salvation and be convinced that he will finish what he has started. Then he commands us to be holy (1:14-16). You have a new driving passion in your life so live set apart and devoted to God. Be passionate about God; be consumed with delight in who God is. Be holy. Next he commands us to fear (1:17-21); fear living in such a way that indicates Jesus’ blood is not precious to you. Hope, be holy, fear and love. Love one another with genuine un-hypocritical heartfelt self-sacrificing love (1:22-25). Then he commands us to crave milk (2:1-3). God has brought about new life in you. Long for those things that will sustain that new life. Consistently feed on things that will make you grow.

In 2:4, Peter moves to talk about the corporate existence of those who come to Jesus. We are built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering sacrifices that are acceptable to God. We are a distinct people for his own possession and our reason for existence is to proclaim the excellencies of him (2:9). We have been shown great undeserved mercy and we can now point others to a God who is rich in mercy to undeserving sinners. We were made to give glory to God. We are made recipients of God’s great mercy so that we will bring glory to our great God. Peter continues in this present section to tell us how to live our lives in such a way that we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us. He says:

2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Peter’s prescribed method for bringing glory to God is both positive and negative. Negatively, abstain from the passions of the flesh, because these will destroy your soul and you will make shipwreck of your faith and bring reproach to the God you claim to follow. Positively, keep your conduct honorable and your good deeds observable. Be known in the community as someone who has genuine integrity and love for others. Perhaps from observing your faithful God honoring life, God will visit them with mercy and they will be brought to trust in Jesus. The goal is God’s glory, the means is their salvation, and the method is our life of integrity. Peter points us to our relations to the government, to our employers or masters, and to our husbands and wives as arenas where we can put the glory of God on display. Today we will look at the arena of the state as an opportunity to glorify God.

2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover–up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Peter reminds us that the primary motivation for a godly life is the glory of God. We don’t live a godly life because there are health benefits or tax benefits or social and economic benefits. We must live in a way that puts God on display and represents God well to our community so that God gets the honor and attention that he deserves. We are told to submit to human institutions for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ; not because it is good for us, but because it is good for him. We want to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light; we want people to see our good deeds and glorify God. So how do we live in relation to our government so that the glory of God is put on display?

Peter tells us to ‘be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution’. Literally the text says ‘to every human creature’ or ‘every human creation’. The point is that all people are created by God and in the image of God, and as such are worthy of honor and respect. Peter may be reminding his readers that the emperor is not divine, but a part of God’s creation. Paul says:

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

All authority that exists has been instituted and appointed by God. They are God’s servants for your good, as well as God’s servant to carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. In Daniel 2 we are told of God that

Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;

Peter, in prison in Rome under the maniacal emperor Nero, acknowledged that it is right to be subject to those God has placed in authority over him. He even specifies the king or emperor as supreme, and more immediately applicable to his readers, the governors that are sent out by the king to rule various areas.

The purpose of government is clearly and succinctly stated here in verse 14: ‘to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good’. Governments are responsible to punish evil doers. Individuals are not to seek revenge, but to trust the authority structure to carry out justice. Governments are responsible to reward and encourage those who do good. If you are a Christian then you should be in this category, being praised by your government for doing good in your community and thus bringing honor and glory to God.

In verse 15 he gives the reason why we are to be subject to those in authority over us: ‘for this is the will of God’. There are so many Christians that are wandering through life asking the question ‘what is God’s will for me? what does God want me to do?’ Here is the authoritative word of God for you. This is the will of God for your life – submit for the Lord’s sake to those who are in authority over you! In submitting to authority and doing good ‘you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people’. ‘Put to silence’ is the word used for muzzling a wild animal. There were rumors circulating about the Christians. Because Christians would not worship the emperor, they were considered atheists, unpatriotic and dangerous. Their reference to fellow Christians as brothers and sisters was misconstrued to indicate incestuous practices, and their celebration of the Lord’s supper won them the accusation of cannibalism. Peter did not instruct them to rent billboards and take out newspaper ads to correct the public thinking and clear up the misunderstanding. Instead, he tells them to muzzle the ignorance of fools by persistently doing good. According to Proverbs 1:7, fools are those who do not fear God and walk in his ways. If you are living in a manner that is clearly above reproach, the accusations and rumors will soon be displayed as foolishness.

Verse 16 is paradoxical. Peter tells us to live as free slaves to God. Jesus said:

Luke 4:18 … He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives … to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” …36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Paul preached:

Acts 13:38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything 39 from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

And he tells us in Galatians:

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Peter told us

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ…

Revelation tells us that Jesus is the one:

Revelation 1:5 … who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

So we have been set free from our sins and we have been ransomed from a life of futility to live a life that counts for the glory of God. We have been set free by Jesus and we are free indeed.

On the flip side, he tells us:

16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover–up for evil, but living as servants of God.

There are many that misunderstand the freedom that we have in Christ. Rather than a freedom from sin, they take it as freedom to sin. This is a dangerous misunderstanding of freedom and misuse of grace. We were slaves of sin, and a return to sin is a return to slavery. True biblical freedom is the freedom to please and honor God. Paul addresses the issue extensively in Romans 6:

Romans 6:18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness… 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

In Galatians he says it this way:

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Living in true Christian freedom is really living as the slave of God in full submission to his absolute authority. True freedom is the freedom to be who we were created to be and bring honor and glory and praise to God.

Peter concludes this section with four imperatives:

17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

First, we are commanded to honor everyone. All people must be shown the respect due to those who have been created in God’s image. The brotherhood is a word unique to Peter to refer to believers. We are to self-sacrificially love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Reverential fear and awe is reserved for God alone. God alone is to be worshiped. God alone has the ultimate authority and power to determine existence. Peter concludes with the emperor, and drops back down to the level of honor, which he already said should be extended to everyone. The emperor is here explicitly included as worthy of honor, regardless of what you think of him, although not necessarily love and certainly not fear.

What Peter doesn’t say in this passage is interesting. He tells us to be submissive to every human institution. Where’s the ‘except’ clause? We know that when Peter and the other apostles were arrested and commanded not to teach about Jesus they responded:

Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

We’re waiting for Peter to say that it’s O.K. to submit to authority as long as and only until and under these conditions. Submit to authority up to this point and then you have every right to rebel. Peter doesn’t even go there. He doesn’t play the ‘what if’ game. He doesn’t list any exceptions to the rule, and there are legitimate exceptions to the rule. But our tendency is to find ourselves in the exception and ignore the rule. Most of our heroes held up for us in the media are guys who do it their own way and disregard authority and get the job done. They always have a sarcastic remark and a biting comeback. Where is the hero who plays by the rules and submits to authority and treats everyone with respect and honor? Where is the hero whose speech and conduct is above reproach? Peter is giving us the general rule. God has instituted government for our good. Even tyrannical governments do some good in keeping the peace. Our goal is not to come out looking good but to make our God look good. We proclaim the excellencies of him who called us when we incessantly do good and show honor to authority.

Pliny, Letters 10.96-97

Pliny the Younger was governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD.

Pliny to the Emperor Trajan

It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ–none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.

February 1, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:6-9

9/21 1 Peter 1:6-9 trials; necessity, purpose and outcome

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1: 6 en w agalliasye oligon arti ei deon luphyentev en poikiloiv peirasmoiv 7 ina to dokimion umwn thv pistewv polutimoteron crusiou tou apollumenou dia purov de dokimazomenou eureyh eiv epainon kai doxan kai timhn en apokaluqei ihsou cristou 8 on ouk idontev agapate eiv on arti mh orwntev pisteuontev de agalliate cara aneklalhtw kai dedoxasmenh 9 komizomenoi to telov thv pistewv swthrian qucwn

Peter is addressing the suffering saints in Asia Minor. He recognizes their situation as aliens – exiles in their own hometowns because of their decision to follow Jesus. But he points them to their position before God – they are elect, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, and for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.

And then he leads them in worship. He points them to the work of God in their new birth. Their new life in Jesus is rooted in the great mercy of God the Father. He caused them to be born again, and they were born into a living hope. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead secures their hope in the inheritance that they have been born into. That inheritance is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, it is kept safe in heaven for us and God’s power is at work to keep us believing so that we indeed will receive the promised inheritance. God’s power is guarding us right now through our faith for the final salvation that we look forward to. This is foundation for worship, and it is a cause to rejoice. Peter points his struggling readers to their source of joy so that they can stand firm even in the middle of trials.

In this you rejoice; this, that God fathered you into a new life of hope in an incredible inheritance, and that God is keeping the inheritance safe for you and is keeping you for the inheritance. Peter goes out on a limb here and assumes that his readers are indeed rejoicing in their salvation. These are people who are suffering for their faith. They are aliens in their own communities. They certainly have a lot on their minds, but he confidently says ‘in this you rejoice’. He is certain that any true believer will resonate with joy over what he has said. I am filled with joy when I think of how rich in mercy God is toward a hell deserving sinner like me. My joy overflows when I reflect on the new life that God has created in me. I am engulfed in delight when I think of the inheritance that awaits me, secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I am flooded with a sense of awe and thanksgiving when I think that God by his awesome power is at work to keep me believing so that I will receive the inheritance. Joy is a ‘given’ in the Christian life. Rejoicing over God at work in our salvation is something we Christians do. As Peter begins to address the issue of suffering as a Christian, he first points them to this overarching joy that spans the chasm of suffering and keeps us looking toward the goal of our salvation in spite of the trials. Peter says a few things here about the trials we face, that are essential to preserve the proper outlook.

  1. The Necessity of Trials

  2. The Character, Variety and Duration of Trials

  3. The Purpose of Trials

  4. The Certain Outcome of Trials

First, the necessity of trials. Trials are necessary. But he’s not talking about circumstantial necessity or inevitability – fate. Bad things are bound to happen and there’s nothing anybody (even God) can do about it. No, he is saying they are necessary, in that they are designed to serve an essential purpose in your salvation. This is not the necessity of chance, this is the necessity of the plan of God being worked out. What God plans he will do (Is. 46:11). This is the kind of necessity Jesus spoke of when he said:

Luke 24:7 …that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

Peter makes it explicit that this is what he means in:

1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

So we can take comfort that whatever trials we face today, they are not meaningless or senseless or random. They are designed by our merciful Father to play an essential part in our salvation. We can trust him that they are for our good.

The second thing we learn about trials is their character, variety and duration. He says ‘you have been grieved by various trials’. Peter does not make light of their trials. He acknowledges that they are weighty – heavy. Grief is real and it is painful. He uses the same word that is used of Jesus’ sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

Peter is not asking us to just put on a happy face. Christians do grieve, but we do not grieve as others who have no hope (1Thes.4:13)

And Peter is not quick to say ‘oh, I’ve been through that. I know exactly how you feel’, because he knows that the experience of trials is different for everyone. He says ‘you have been grieved by various trials’. The word literally means ‘many colored or variegated ‘.

Their trials are unique and they are grievous, but they are also short. He says ‘though now for a little while‘. Peter is not saying that he knows their trials will soon come to an end. Some of his readers may suffer their whole life. Some may die suffering. He is not saying that their suffering is short in comparison to other people’s suffering. He is saying that their grief will be short in comparison with eternal joy. We see that this eternal perspective is his frame of reference from verse 7, where he points to ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’. Paul puts it this way:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

2 Corinthians 4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus,… 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

So trials are temporal, they are necessary, they are grievous, and they come in many colors, but what is their purpose? In verse 7 he says ‘so that’; that indicates purpose.

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

God has a purpose in your trials. Satan has a purpose in your trials too. Satan would like to destroy your faith and cause you to walk away from Jesus. He seeks to devour you and steal your joy. God’s purpose for trials is different. Jesus said:

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

While Satan’s purpose is to destroy, God’s purpose is to test your faith in order to prove it genuine. Muscles, if they are not used, will atrophy. Muscles need to be exercised to stay healthy and grow. God has given you the muscle of faith. Now God is bringing into your life circumstances and experiences that will cause you to get up out of the easy chair of complacency and apathy and fight the good fight to believe (1Tim.6:12).

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called …

Remember, we learned in verse 5 that God, by his power, is guarding or keeping you for salvation through faith. I think this verse explains the phrase ‘through faith‘ in that verse. How is God in his power using my faith as a means to preserve me for salvation? One answer is that God is bringing the exercise of adversity against the muscle of my faith so that my faith will be vital and thrive rather than atrophy and die. Trials prove faith. Anyone can say they believe in Jesus. Anyone can say a prayer. But when adversity comes, it reveals the true nature of that faith. If it was mere lip service to please a person, testing will reveal it for what it is. Genuine faith, when it meets adversity will cling all the more closely to Jesus. But the trials serve a good purpose even if your faith is proved fake. When trials come and you let go of Jesus and cling to other things, that should awaken you to what you are truly trusting in and cause you to turn from that to Jesus.

Peter compares the tested genuine faith that trials produce to the most precious and enduring thing that we know – gold. Gold for thousands of years has not lost its value. Gold when it is refined does not perish but becomes more pure and more valuable. But Peter tells us that compared to gold, genuine faith is more valuable and less perishable. Tested faith is worth more and will last longer than gold! That’s amazing, because I think of my faith as fickle and unreliable.

Think of Peter. Peter saw Jesus walking on the water in the storm, and Peter believed that if Jesus commanded, he could come. But when he saw the wind he was afraid and began to sink (Mat.14:28-31). If my faith were solely up to me, I would be sunk and give up hope. But when I realize that my faith is a gift of God, and God is using his power to sustain my faith, then I begin to see how my faith could be more precious and less perishable than gold.

And the next phrase boggles the imagination!

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

At the revelation of Jesus Christ, when my faith has proved genuine because God gave it to me and sustained me in it, God is going to praise and honor and glory in me! God will sustain your faith through the trial, and then when you arrive safely in heaven, God will crown you because your faith stood through the trial!

But we might ask ‘how can I know if my faith is the genuine kind that will last or if it is fake and will be destroyed by the fire? What will be the outcome of the trial?’ I think the next verse answers this question. Peter observes the new affections and the new delights of the believing community, and points to this as evidence of tested genuine faith.

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Jesus is not yet revealed. We can’t see him. We can’t sit down with him and talk over a glass of wine and a loaf of bread. We don’t see him walking our streets, healing the sick and raising the dead. We can’t hear him speaking with infinite wisdom and authority, confounding his enemies and comforting the downcast. How do you love someone that you have never met? Peter points his readers to their love for Jesus as evidence of the genuineness of their faith. In spite of not having seen him, you love him. Even though you don’t now see him, you believe in him.

Notice how belief and love are parallel ideas? The kind of belief or genuine faith we are talking about is not an intellectual agreement with certain facts. Genuine faith does include an appreciation for certain foundational truths, but it also necessitates an emotional response. Jesus is not the distasteful firefighter with awful body odor and annoying mannerisms that you tolerate as he carries you down the ladder simply because the fire is worse than his smell and once you are safe, other than a polite thank you card, you will never have to see him again. No, Jesus is the one, fire or no fire, I just want to be near him, to know him and be known by him, to admire him, to enjoy his presence.

Notice, too, that joy is characteristic of the Christian life. Peter is not telling the believers what they should be doing, he is simply stating what they are already naturally doing. They love Jesus, they believe into Jesus, they rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. This is a joy that simply cannot be put into words. This is a doxological joy – a joy that is full of glory; full of praise. It cannot be communicated except by the common experience of it. This is a joy that is known by anyone that has a healthy understanding of their own hopeless undeserving condition, who has experienced the limitless mercy of our good God, who so loved us that he gave his only Son, who has given us new birth and adopted us into his own family, made us participants in an unfathomable inheritance. I am loved by God the Father, I am being set apart by the Holy Spirit, I am washed clean by the blood of Jesus, one day I will receive praise and honor and glory in his presence when he says ‘well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master (Mat.25:21)’ not because I have been able to pull it off, but because he has been at work in me sovereignly empowering me to persevere to the end.

Joy is not an optional extra in the Christian life like the way you order your salad – I’d like lots of peace sprinkled all over it. Can I have the joy on the side? Hold the longsuffering. No. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is in you, he is producing joy. Jesus said:

Luke 6:22-23 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven;

It is interesting that the context of Jesus command to rejoice and leap for joy is the similar circumstance of being hated and excluded and reviled and spurned. Jesus is saying that you are blessed or joy-filled, in fact you can leap for joy when you face trials because, look, your reward is great in heaven! You are the elected rejected and your inheritance is certain. Your loving and believing and joying in Jesus is evidence that you are obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

So we can rejoice and praise God even in the midst of trials because we can see that trials are necessary; they are not senseless and random, but they are ordained by God for a good purpose. And the purpose of trials is to prove our faith genuine, to force us to flex the muscle of faith so that it does not atrophy. And we can have confidence that the outcome of the trials is certain. When we see love for Jesus and believing into Jesus and joy in Jesus welling up in our hearts even in the midst of adversity, we are seeing evidence of the Spirit of God at work in us creating new affections and new desires. We are obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

September 21, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:3-5

9/14 1 Peter 1:3-5 praise God for new birth and the guarding of my faith

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1:3 euloghtov o yeov kai pathr tou kuriou hmwn ihsou cristou o kata to polu autou eleov anagennhsav hmav eiv elpida zwsan di anastasewv ihsou cristou ek nekrwn 4 eiv klhronomian afyarton kai amianton kai amaranton tethrhmenhn en ouranoiv eiv umav 5 touv en dunamei yeou frouroumenouv dia pistewv eiv swthrian etoimhn apokalufyhnai en kairw escatw

Peter is writing to encourage the suffering saints scattered across Asia Minor to stand firm in the true grace of God.

5:12 …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

He points them first to their position as Christians in tension; they are the elected rejected; the chosen outcasts. And he points them to the work of the trinity in securing this position for them. The Father had foreknown them; the Spirit sets them apart; they are destined for obedience to the gospel and washing with Jesus’ blood. He points them to the origin, the experience and the destiny of their elect standing with God.

Next, and flowing out of the trinitarian work of election, he leads the suffering church in worship. This teaches us some things about worship: worship is appropriate even in hard times. Peter’s readers may have read this and responded ‘but we don’t feel like blessing God. Peter, we want you to lobby the government about our situation. Get some good lawyers to change the political landscape. Raise some funds to give us some relief from our difficult circumstances.’ But Peter starts by turning their attention away from their situation and toward God. They need to look up and have God in his awesome majesty consume their entire field of vision before they can look rightly at their own circumstances.

Another thing we learn about worship: worship is substantive. Worship is not merely a feeling or experience. It is that, but it is more. It is a feeling or experience based on and coming out of solid biblical truth. We will see what Peter points to as a foundation for their worship.

This text is a worship text. So I pray that as we study it together and learn what it says, our response is that of worship. I hope that a deep heartfelt sense of gratitude wells up inside each one of us. So after his profoundly deep theological greeting, He starts with the words ‘Blessed be’ or ‘praise be’. The word is ‘ euloghtov eulogetos‘ and it’s where we get our English word ‘eulogy’. When I think of an eulogy, I think of all the nice things someone says that may or may not be true of the person in the casket. Their strong points are exaggerated; their weaknesses are forgotten. They are painted larger than life. But when our eulogy, our praise is directed toward God, we are seeking to express what is true about him, to give him the honor and praise that is his due. That is what worship is – declaring the worth of God, speaking to him and to ourselves and to those within earshot of how truly awesome he really is.

Our worship is directed to God. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not just addressing any god. Peter specifies – this is the God that Jesus worshiped and prayed to. Jesus connected us with the God who revealed himself in the Old Testament scriptures as YHWH, the self existent creator of all things, who would send his only Son to suffer and die for our sins. This is the God and the Father of Jesus. Jesus described his relationship with God the Father in terms of the relation of a loving father to his son, and he said this was true even before the foundation of the world:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Jesus is described as ‘our Lord’; our master, our sovereign, our ruler, our king, the one we submit to as our absolute authority. And he is the Christ – the fulfillment of all messianic hope and expectation. Our worship is directed to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And then the grounds for worship are given. Why are we worshiping? Because of who God is and what he has done. Before he explains the main subject of his praise, Peter gives a descriptive phrase about the character of God: ‘according to his great mercy’. This is the origin of what follows. Just as God’s foreknowledge was the source or origin of our election in verses 1-2, now God’s great mercy is the source of his action toward us. God is a merciful God. So let’s define mercy:

mer·cy \ˈmər-sē\ noun 1 a: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment <begged for mercy> b: imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder (taken from

Mercy is forbearance shown to an offender; not giving the guilty party the full punishment that their crime deserves; clemency.

When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said:

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Part of God’s glory is his authority and freedom to show mercy to whom he wills. And when God declared his nature and character to Moses, he started with mercy:

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

The distinction between mercy and grace is that mercy is negative and grace is positive. Mercy is the ‘slow to anger’; grace is the ‘abounding in steadfast love’. God’s mercy is his not giving us the punishment we deserve; grace is giving us blessings we didn’t earn. From our point of view, mercy is not getting what we do deserve; grace is getting what we don’t deserve. And Peter praises God because God has ‘much mercy’. One way to encourage persecuted Christians is to remind them of what they deserve but have been spared of. These Christians might fear the emperor; if they don’t bow and worship him as a god, they might even be put to death. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

We have committed hight treason against the King of kings. We refuse to bend our knee. We think and feel and act as if we were more important than the king. We walk into his presence and expect Him to bow to us and do what we demand! If we contemplate who we are and what our sins deserve, this is grounds for worship! Praise God that he is more than just and righteous! Praise God that he has ‘much mercy’!

Peter tells us here that God’s mercy is the source of our new birth. It is according to the muchness of his mercy that he has caused us to be born again. This is the same metaphor that Jesus used with Nicodemus to describe the work of the Spirit. I want you to think for a moment about being born. I trust all of you in this room have been born, so we share that common experience. Reflect back on your conception and birth. What was your part in it? Could you in any way say that you caused your conception and birth or was it something that happened to you? You can thank God for it or you can complain to God about it, but you can’t take credit for it. That’s what Nicodemus struggles with when Jesus tells him that he must be born again. How can I do that? What do I have to do? I can’t very well get back inside my mother’s womb. Being born isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens to you. Jesus pointed to the fact that rebirth is the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter here points us to the truth that our new birth is a merciful act caused by God. And when you’re born, you’re born into something. We were all born into this cold cruel world. I was born into my family. Peter tells us that we were born again into a living hope. Jesus said:

John 10:10 …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

And when we were conceived spiritually by the Father, that new life was created in us. We were dead, but God in his mercy made us alive.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved––

Peter is writing to scattered aliens in a hostile community. People will treat us badly. They might make fun of us. They might take our stuff. They might even harm us or kill us. And Peter tells them that they have an unquenchable life force inside of them that gives an unshakable hope in the future. When the gun is at the head of the Christian we can say with joy:

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

And that’s the new life inside of us speaking. This new life comes ‘through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ We might think, since we’re talking about the Father and new birth that it would say ‘through the incarnation in the manger at Bethlehem’. But never is our new birth tied to the incarnation. The new life we have is resurrection life.

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Ephesians 1:18 …that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

And that is the power that is at work in us as a result of our new birth. And this resurrection power is securing for us our inheritance. By the Father’s great mercy he has given us new birth and since we are born into his family, we are born into his inheritance:

4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

Here’s where language fails us and disappoints. Peter doesn’t tell us what the inheritance is. All he can tell us is what it’s not. Your inheritance is so !!!! There’s no words to express it. So think of the best earthly inheritance you can think of and I’ll tell you how it’s different. Peter tells us the inheritance we have is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is free from death and decay; it is free from uncleanness or moral impurity; it is free from the natural ravages of time. And it is not kept in the stock market which can plummet on any given day. It is kept in heaven for you. Just as Jesus said:

Matthew 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

So your inheritance is incredible beyond words. It is free from all the negative implications that an inheritance might have here. The inheritance is safe. Nobody can get to it. But that may raise the question: will you be able to get to it? Is it so safe that you will not be able to access it? It is kept safe for you, but in the end will it be kept safe from you? It is safe in heaven, but what if I can’t make it safe to heaven to claim it? What if I fail along the way? Will I make it? What if I throw in the towel; give up; what if I stop believing? So Peter turns his attention from the inheritance to you, the elected rejected:

5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

So God’s resurrection power produced the new life in you, and God is keeping the inheritance safe for you, and now God’s sovereign power is keeping you for the inheritance. The word ‘guarded’ is a military term that can mean both ‘kept from escaping’ and ‘protected from attack’ [Grudem, p.58]. The issue clearly is salvation; our future final salvation. We are being guarded for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. We are not being guarded until the salvation is made ready – Jesus work is finished and perfect. The salvation is ready and waiting for the right time to be revealed. The implication is that if we were not being guarded by the power of God we might not be saved. So from what are we being guarded and how are we being guarded? Peter is going to warn us in chapter 5 to:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober–minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

So we could say that we are being guarded from the devil. But in what way is Satan seeking to devour us? We could say he is seeking to kill us. But if that is what we are being protected from, then God’s power to guard has failed Peter and countless other Christian martyrs. If Satan succeeds in killing a believer, he has only sped them on their way to heaven – remember, to die is gain! So the guarding can’t mean that they are protected physically. The only way the devil could devour a believer is to cause him to walk away from Jesus and stop clinging to Jesus. Paul warns about the potential of believing in vain:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you––unless you believed in vain.

Jesus used the image of a branch being connected to the vine and drawing its life from the vine, and he warned:

John 15:6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

So if we don’t hold fast to the gospel we will have believed in vain, and we will not be saved, and if we walk away from Jesus we will be destroyed and Satan will have won. So being guarded by the power of God must mean that God is guarding our faith. God is using his power to keep us believing. I think the context makes it clear that we are on the right track. Peter says in verse:

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––…––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

And in this verse he says:

5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

So God is not guarding us in spite of whether we keep on believing or not. He is guarding us through our faith. He has caused us to be born again, and he will nurture that life of faith so that we are indeed saved in the end. I think this was especially personal and precious to Peter. Before his betrayal and arrest, Jesus said to Peter:

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus was going to allow an intense trial in Peter’s life to sift him, so that the chaff would blow away and only the wheat would remain. The danger of this is that if Satan is allowed to sift you, there might prove to be nothing left. And Jesus says ‘but I have prayed for you’ and what was his prayer? ‘that your faith may not fail’. Jesus was sustaining Peter’s faith. And Jesus wasn’t wondering what the outcome would be. I wonder if Peter will make it. When Jesus sustains your faith, your faith will not fail. And Jesus is praying for us too:

1 John 2:1 … we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Jesus looked right through the trial to the other side and said ‘and when (not if but when) you have turned again, strengthen your brothers’. Peter was sifted like wheat. He denied Jesus three times. And he went out and wept bitterly. Those tears were produced by God in answer to Jesus’ prayer. And Peter is now strengthening his brothers scattered across Asia Minor and strengthening us by reminding us that God’s power is guarding us by keeping us believing so that we will obtain the inheritance in the end. All the resources of sovereign omnipotence are fighting for your faith. God is at work in you to keep you believing. And this is a reason to worship God. God’s great mercy has caused us to be born again and God’s great power is guarding us so that our faith does not fail and we do obtain the promised inheritance.

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

September 14, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter Introduction

8/31/08 1 Peter Intro (1:1; 5:12-13)

This morning we are going to start the precious letter of 1 Peter. This letter is almost 2000 years old, so in order to help us understand what is written, we need to fit it into it’s historical time frame. We’re going to spend some time this morning looking at who wrote it, who it was written to, when, and what the circumstances were that prompted the writing. We will look briefly at the main themes of the letter. That will set the stage for us to reap the greatest benefit from this short letter. Ultimately we come for selfish reasons. We study a book of the bible because we want to be changed by it. We want to know God better as he reveals himself in his word. We want to hear the voice of the shepherd calling to us from it’s pages ‘follow me’. So turn in your bibles with me to 1 Peter and we will get started.

The opening verse reads like this:

1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

We’ll start with the recipients and move to backwards to the author and the setting. The letter is addressed to the ‘elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythinia.’ We know where those places are; in the northern part of Asia Minor, in modern day Turkey.

Pontus was the rugged region south of the Black Sea extending east from Bithinia into the highlands of Armenia. After Pompey conquered the kingdom of Mithradates in 65 B.C., the area was divided. The western part was united with Bithynia under Roman administration.

Galatia was ruled by the Celtic Galatians until the area was made a Roman province in 25 B.C., and parts of Phrygia, Lyconia, and Pisidia were added to it, so that the new Roman province of Galatia extended much farther south than old ethnic Galatia. It was in this new southern part that Paul planted churches and it was to them that he wrote the letter of Galatians. Peter was writing primarily to the northern section.

Cappadocia was a mountainous inland area in eastern Asia Minor. It was incorporated by Tiberius in A.D. 17 as a Roman province.

What is referred to here as ‘Asia’ was the Roman province occupying the western regions of Asia Minor. It was constituted a Roman province in 133 B.C., and was the most developed and prosperous region of Asia Minor. ‘Asia’ included the important cities of Ephesus and Colossae that Paul wrote to and in which he had established churches, and the seven cities addressed in the book of Revelation: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

Bithynia lay along the southern shore of the Black Sea west of Pontus. In 74 B.C., the last king of Bithynia bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans. Bithynia included the important cities of Nicea, Nicomedia, and Chalcedon. Most of these regions were represented in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost where it says:

Acts 2:9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,

1 Peter was intended as a circular letter to be passed around broad geographical regions rather than being delivered to a particular church in a particular city. It was meant to address the common struggle of Christians scattered over an extensive area. A traveler could sail from Rome, around Greece and through the Bosphorus strait into the Black Sea, and land at Sinope or Amisus on the seacoast of Pontus, then travel southeast, crossing into Galatia and then Cappadocia, then turn west along an important trade route crossing another part of Galatia and into Asia, then north into Bithynia and departing from one of the sea ports of Nicomedia, Heraclea, or Amastris. At each stop of the courier, copies of the letter would be made for the churches in those areas and the original would be carried on to the next destination.

The designation of the recipients as ‘elect exiles of the dispersion’ sounds like he is addressing Jews dispersed from Jerusalem. That is how the term is used in John 7 and in James 1

John 7:35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?

James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.

The Jews were the chosen people of God, and there were no doubt Jewish people scattered among this predominantly Gentile region. But although he uses some very Jewish sounding terminology, he also says things in his letter that would be more applicable to a Gentile audience than a Jewish one:

1:14 …do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance…

1:18 …you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers…

2:10 …Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people…

4:3-4 The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you…

And unlike John and James, the word dispersion (diaspora diaspora) in Peter does not have the definite article ‘the’. So most likely, he is simply addressing Christians, whether Jew or Gentile in background, as the chosen people of God, and by following Jesus they have become aliens in their own home towns.

The letter claims to be written by ‘Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ’, and as such it was received as early as we have records. Even the letter of 2 Peter refers to an earlier letter from Peter.

2 Peter 3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,

It is possible that Clement used 1 Peter in his writings as early as A.D. 96. Polycarp clearly quotes from it around A.D. 112-144, but he doesn’t cite the author. Tertullian in 200-206 A.D. cites verses from 1 Peter and identifies Peter as the author. Clement of Alexandrea (150-220) and Irenaeus (180) do the same. Some scholars have objected that Peter could not have written the letter because the Greek that 1 Peter is written with is too polished for an unschooled fisherman to write and they cite:

Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

The word translated ‘uneducated’ (agrammatov )can mean ‘illiterate’ or it can simply mean untrained in the rabbinic traditions. It would be the equivalent of questioning how someone could be a pastor having not been to seminary. And the critics overlook the fact that this verse says the rulers and scribes were ‘astonished’ at their performance in spite of their lack of technical training.

Silvanus is said to be the bearer of the letter in chapter 5, and it is possible that he also served as amanuensis or scribe to Peter.

5:12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

He was also known as Silas, and was a companion of Paul and Timothy on missionary journeys, and in the writing of the Thessalonian letters.

It is interesting to find that there are unique incidents and expressions that are used in 1 Peter that fit what we know of Peter from the gospels and from his preaching as recorded in the book of Acts. Peter took Jesus’ teaching (Mt.21:42; Mk.12:10; Lk.20:17) pointing to himself as the ‘cornerstone’ of Psalm 118, and preached it to the scribes in Acts 4, and uses this to encourage the believers in 1 Peter 4

Psalms 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Acts 4:11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.

1 Peter 4:7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

Twice in his sermons in Acts, Peter refers to the cross as a ‘tree’ (xulon -xulon), and in 1 Peter 2:24 he uses the same word.

Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.

Acts 10:39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Peter, whose given name was Simon son of Jonah, was a fisherman from the village of Bethsaida in the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, until Jesus called him and his brother Andrew:

Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Peter was apparently a married man, as we see from:

Matthew 8:14 And when Jesus entered Peter‘s house, he saw his mother–in–law lying sick with a fever.

1 Corinthians 9:5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

Peter was the impetuous disciple who spoke before he thought. He was a man of action, who began to walk to Jesus on the water, but after he got out of the boat became fearful and began to sink. Jesus gave Peter the nickname ‘Rock’ which is ‘Petros’ in the Greek or ‘Cephas’ in the Aramaic. He received the commendation of Jesus on his declaration:

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

and then received Jesus’ censure when he told him that he didn’t have to die:

Matthew 16:22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Peter was one of the three disciples that Jesus brought up to see him transfigured on the mountain, and Peter was the one that spoke up ‘because he did not know what to say’.

Mark 9:5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Peter was the one that said:

Mark 14:29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”

Mark 14:31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

And when Jesus asked Peter, James and John to accompany him in the garden of Gethsemane to pray, Peter fell asleep.

Mark 14:37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?

And when the mob came to arrest Jesus, he pulled out his knife and cut off the ear of the servant of the hight priest:

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Then, while he was waiting to see what would happen to his Lord, when the servant girl asked if he wasn’t a follower of Jesus, he denied that he even knew him. Three times he denied that he had any connection with Jesus.

Mark 14:66-71And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”

He was the one that ran to the empty tomb and ran right inside to see for himself that the body of Jesus was missing (John 20:6). Peter was the one that in despair said ‘I am going fishing’

John 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

and then he jumped in the water and swam to shore when he recognized his risen Lord on the beach (John 21:7). Jesus restored the downcast Peter by asking him three times if he loved him, and three times he told him ‘feed my lambs …tend my sheep… feed my sheep’.

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Peter was the one who stood up on the day of Pentecost and preached the message of the good news of Jesus Christ to the crowd, and three thousand were saved.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Peter was the one who, after realizing the freedom that he enjoyed in Christ, bowed to the pressure of the legalists and refused ot eat with the Gentiles. He undermined the good news of justification through faith in Jesus Christ by his hypocritical conduct and had to be rebuked publicly by Paul.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Peter was the one that Jesus told would indeed have the opportunity to suffer and die and glorify God by a martyr’s death of standing up for the name of Jesus.

John 21:18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

And tradition tells us that Peter died a martyr’s death in Rome, probably in 64 A.D. under emperor Nero. Foxe’s book of Martyrs says this:

…Having been nine months in prison, Peter was brought from thence for execution, when after being severely scourged, he was crucified with his head downwards; which position, however, was at his own request, in order that he might die in a more dishonourable manner than his holy Master had done before him. (Foxe, p.13)

The letters of 1 and 2 Peter were written from Rome shortly before Peter’s martyrdom.

1 Peter 5:13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.

‘Babylon’ was a metaphor for the center of world power and sin, which his readers would understand as Rome. Foxe describes the situation in Rome under emperor Nero:

The barbarities inflicted on the Christians, during this first persecution, were such as excited the sympathy of even the Romans themselves. Nero nicely refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for his victims. He had some sewed up in the skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs till thy expired; and others dressed in shirts stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his garden. This persecution was general throughout the roman empire… (Foxe, p.15)

Peter, an imprisoned Christian, awaiting his own martyrdom, was writing to persecuted Christians throughout Asia Minor, encouraging them to suffer well. The verb ‘to suffer’ (pascw pascho) appears 12 times in 1 Peter and only 11 times in all the rest of the New Testament letters. Peter points to the suffering of Jesus as what brought salvation to sinners. And Peter points to Jesus’ suffering as an example for the believers.

Peter is a God-saturated letter. Peter uses the word ‘God’ 39 times in this short letter, about once every 43 words. The only other New Testament writings to compare with this are 1 John (once in 34) and Romans (once in 46). Peter is a deeply theological letter, rooting the conduct and character of his readers in great truths about God.

We find Peter’s stated purpose for the letter in 5:12:

5:12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

Peter wants to establish his suffering Christian readers in their faith. He pleads with them to maintain their stand in the true grace of God that they have experienced. Sink your roots down deep into the doctrine of the grace of God and don’t be shaken by whatever the world throws at you. Stand firm! Stand firm in grace!

August 31, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , | Leave a comment