Sunday, August 09, 2015

Reading Through 1st Peter

index peterI am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. This post quotes from the book The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, written by Edmund P. Clowney. My analysis of the letter by 1st Peter is in black below. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I post quotes from these commentaries on my Facebook page and periodic summaries of the commentary here on my blog. I welcome discussion on these post on my Facebook page. As always, quotes from the author are in blue font.

The epistle identifies the author as the apostle Peter and this has not been doubted until recently by critics. There are many parallels between Peter’s sermons and this letter. (1:20 and Acts 2:23, 4:5 and Acts 10:42) The advanced vocabulary and Greek style (as opposed to 2 Peter) could be explained by Peter‘s use of Silas as secretary. (5:12) It was originally written to believers scattered throughout the northern regions of Asia Minor, who mostly Gentile believers under persecution in their communities. The empire–wide persecutions under Nero had probably not yet begun. But, as Christianity began to spread, hostility against and suspicion  of the new faith were on the rise. The place of writing is given as Babylon (5:13) but there is no evidence that Peter was ever there. Most scholars think that this is a cryptic reference to Rome. This could be a comment on the lifestyle there or it could be that Peter, under persecution, wished to conceal his location.

The theme of the letter is "Stand Fast in God’s Grace."  It was written to encourage believers to stand in the righteousness they have received by grace through Jesus, to follow Jesus‘ example of submission in human relationships, and to encourage believers to persevere in suffering so that God‘s grace can accomplish His will in them. The overall message of the book is "God gives grace to every believer to live as Christ did, despite persecution, which guarantees that we will be glorified with Him as the outcome of salvation." 

His purpose is to deepen the understanding of the whole Christian church in Asia Minor so that believers may face the testings that await them with strong hope in Christ. 1 Peter 1.1-2, 30

1 Peter Color ChartBelievers have a guaranteed inheritance because they are chosen for sanctification by God. Thus, they can joyfully serve God, despite trials, as the prophets did. This is guaranteed by the Father’s choice, the Son’s blood and the Spirit’s work. The believer’s inheritance, from the new birth to ultimate salvation, is guaranteed by God’s power. Thus, believers can joyfully and boldly serve God, despite persecution, because the Gospel guarantees the glory to come. 1:1-12

Peter does not call us as Christians to flee from the world. Neither does he write to isolated pilgrims pursuing a lonely way through the desert. Rather Peter writes to the scattered Christians as a community; they are the people of God in the world. Like the Diaspora of Israel, they, the true Israel, may be recognized in the world by a different lifestyle. Indeed, through the power of the Spirit, their lives are to be more radically different. 1 Peter 1.2, 39–40

The least disciple of Christ is in a better position to understand Old Testament revelation than the greatest prophet before Christ came...The cosmic sweep of God’s redemption is all centred in Christ, whom we know and love. The petty dreams of earth’s little tyrants shrivel before the majesty of the kingdom of God, ministered by prophets and apostles, but now realized for those who know Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1.10-12, 59–60

Believers then must live out God‘s grace because of the price Jesus paid for their salvation and because of the enduring truth of the Word of God.  Believers must enthusiastically and actively obey Christ and resist evil and live reverent lives, striving to be like Christ, because the price Jesus paid for salvation, and the glory He provides, obligates holy living. Our new relationship with God obligates us to love others deeply. The word of God is an enduring standard for behavior and truth. 1:13-25

There is a marvellous simplicity in a holiness patterned on God himself; it does not require encyclopedic grasp of endless directives and prohibitions. It flows from the heart; its key is love. 1 Peter 1.14-17, 67

Reading the Bible is addictive when we begin to get the taste. What we taste in Scripture is not simply the variety and power of the language. What we taste is the Lord. 1 Peter 1.22-.23, 80

Believers must grow in their knowledge of and service to Jesus because He is the only sure basis for life and what he has done for us obligates us to set aside our lives to serve Him. We should crave the Word so that we can grow into our salvation. We should offer ourselves and our service to Jesus so that He can build His church, because He is the only sure basis for our lives and we are created to be His special people set aside to serve Him. 2:1-10

Our mutual union with Christ removes the tension between the claims of the individual and of society. In Christ we find the meaning of our personal lives; in Christ we find the joy of belonging to one another. We rejoice in the honour and the ministry of being built together. 1 Peter 2.4-10, 88

Because salvation guarantees God‘s ultimate blessing, believers should live lives of submission and harmony with each other and with the world. We should live such exemplary lives before the world that they draw unbelievers to God. We should respect and submit to all authorities, even harsh ones,  in order to have a good reputation, promote stability, to live as a free servant of God and to receive God‘s commendation. Jesus is the ultimate example of submission as he endured persecution, insults and suffering without retaliation. By doing this he accomplished salvation. Wives should Live out the gospel by submitting to and respecting their unbelieving husbands and living according to God’s standards of beauty, not the world’s. Believing husbands should imitate Christ by being considerate and respectful of their wives as a partner in salvation and service so that they can fully experience their relationship with Christ. Submission is living compassionately, humbly and in harmony with one another, trusting God to take care of your personal interests. This works because God’s protection and provision are guaranteed for those who live submissive lives. 2:11-3:12

The high holiness of fellowship with God must also produce observable conduct, admirable in its consistency and integrity. 1 Peter 2.11-17, 103

That which is to be feared is not the wrath of men, but the wrath of God. That which is to be desired is not the passing comforts of the world, but the blessing of God’s eternal inheritance. This is not just a matter of suffering now and glory to come: the promised blessing is already the possession of believers in Christ. They now taste the joy of heaven, for they taste the Lord’s grace. 1 Peter 2.24, 122

Christians fear God; they are his slaves, therefore they do not fear people. They are free, because they are the royal people of God. Free in slavery to God, free as followers of Christ, they submit themselves to others freely...The Christian who follows Jesus does not grasp for privilege; he or she is already privileged beyond imagination. The Christian seeks rather opportunities to imitate Christ in willing subjection to service. 1 Peter 3.1-6, 127–128

So, as Christians, we should expect and welcome trials because they work out God’s will for our ultimate salvation. Suffering for doing what is right and good provides good witness to the world and brings blessing. Jesus is the ultimate example that suffering leads to exaltation, reward and benefit to others. so, we should respond to trials and persecution with acts of grace enabled by God‘s power. The benefits of suffering like this are fellowship with Christ, glory, blessing of the experience of the Spirit, bringing praise to God, purging of sin and completion of God‘s work of grace in our lives. Church leaders, especially, should serve sacrificially as Jesus did, sharing in the sufferings of their people. Young people should live submissively and humbly, faithfully standing in God‘s grace despite trials. Everyone must faithfully live out God’s grace in the power He provides.  3:13-5:14

To break the throttling grip of fear we must confess God’s lordship with more than mental assent. We must confess it with our heart’s devotion. Setting him apart as Lord means bowing before him in the adoration of praise. A praising heart is immune to the fear of other people. 1 Peter 3.13-15, 146–147

Noah was brought through the waters of the flood. Christians are brought through the waters of death, the flood of destruction, in order that they might be established upon the rock, secure in the resurrection life of Christ. 1 Peter 3.18-22, 166

Since death is God’s judgment on sin, and since Christ has paid the price of sin, it might seem that Christians should not die, but live until the second coming. Peter explains that even though they are judged in the body according to men (‘in the eyes of men’), they live in the spirit according to God 1 Peter 4.2-6, 176

We do not love others if we take delight in finding and exposing their faults and sins. Rather, love covers over a multitude of sins (4:8)...Love does not keep score, but grants forgiveness freely to every brother or sister who seeks it. 1 Peter 4.8, 179–180

God’s fire in his temple purifies the faith of his spiritual priesthood. By that faith, more precious than refined gold, God will keep them for the glory to come. The flames of persecution, therefore, are a token to Christians of the faithfulness of God who will deliver them from the wrath to come. 1 Peter 4.17-19, 195

Christian submission to authority, however, is never servile, and Christian exercise of authority is never authoritarian. Our awareness of the Lord gives dignity to our obedience and humility to our rule. In both we serve him. Elders serve in the freedom of the gospel as they watch over the doctrine and life of Christ’s flock. 1 Peter 5.2-4, 204

Christian humility is realism that recognizes grace. 1 Peter 5.5, 209

The danger to the Christian is not that he is helpless before the devil. He is equipped with the whole armour of God: the shield of faith will extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one. The danger to the Christian is that he will fail to resist, that he will not watch and pray, that he will not put on the whole armour of God and take the sword of the Spirit. That sword, the word of God, was the weapon Jesus used in his ordeal in the desert; it is ours to use in his name. 1 Peter 5.8-9, 215

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