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Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 30

1 Peter (Part 2)

The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 30
Watching Now
1 Peter (Part 2)

III. I Peter – Perseverance Despite Persecution

A. Similarities that 1 Peter has with Hebrews and James

1. 1 Peter and Hebrews

a. Same date and circumstances: early to mid 60's near the onset of Nero's persecution (see esp. optative in 1 Peter 3:14)

b. Different audience ("Western Turkey") and provenance ("Rome")

2. 1 Peter and James

a. Similar introductions (James 1:1, 1 Peter 1:1)

b. James implies Jews, 1 Peter doesn't (see especially 1 Peter 4:3-4; cf. 2:10)

c. Both primarily exhortational

B. 1 Peter Outline (Simplest Version)

1. The Problem of Suffering (1:1-12) [N.B. purifying value]

2. First Response: Holiness (1:13-2:10) [N.B. language of "Israel" applied to "church"

3. Second Response: Right Living in Society (2:11-3:22) [N.B. apologetic value of submission (2:12, 15, 3:1, 16)

4. Suffering and Eschatology (4:1-19) [N.B. summary in v. 19]

5. Conclusions (5:1-14) [N.B. addition to domestic code in 5:1-4]

C. The "Domestic Code" (Haustafel) in the Epistles

1. Colossians/Ephesians

a. Husbands/Wives

b. Parents/Children

c. Masters/Slaves

2. 1 Peter

a. Government/Citizens

b. Husbands/Wives

c. Masters/Slaves

d. Elders/Rest of the Church

D. 1 Peter Outline

1. Greeting and Thanksgiving (1:1-12)

2. Call to Christian Holiness (1:13-2:10)

[First Christological Confession]

3. Principles of Submission (2:11-3:7)

a. Citizens and government

b. Slaves and masters

[Second Christological Confession]

c. Wives and husbands

4. Suffering for Being a Christian

[Third Christological Confession]

[Christ announcing victory over demonic realm during ascension?]

[Creating significant purification for us now (4:1) and full salvation after death (4:6)]

5. Exhortations (5:1-12)

6. Closing (5:12-14)

E. 1 Peter 3:18-22 Unpacked

1. Vv. 18-19 – "by the Spirit, through whom," vs. "in the spirit, through which"

2. V. 19 – "preached" as "proclaimed message," not "offered salvation" (k_russ vs. euangeliz¬_))

3. V. 19 – "spirits in prison" as demons

4. V. 20 – disobedience = role in Genesis 6 (cf. 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6)

5. V. 21 – "baptism saves" as "pledge" or "response"

6. V. 22 – when all this happened – during ascension

F. Responses to Persecution and Injustice in James and 1 Peter

1. James 5:7-11

a. Prayer

b. Trust in God's eschatological vengeance

c. Denunciatory, prophetic rhetoric

d. No actual justification for violence

2. 1 Peter 2:11-4:19

a. Do good to those mistreating you (2:11-17, 3:8-16)

b. Bear unjust suffering as Christ did (2:18-25, 3:17-4:11)

c. Do not submit to authorities' anti-Christian mandates (3:1-7)

d. Trust in God's eschatological vengeance (4:1-19)

e. No actual justification for violence


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  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

     

  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.

     

  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.

 

Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
nt512-30
1 Peter (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript

 

This is the 30th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 

 

To continue from lecture 29 on 1st Peter part 1, there is however, a slightly fuller outline that recognizes the role of three other passages, superimposed onto the simpler structure we’ve already identified. Each of which forms a tightly knit paragraph of densely packed Christological doctrine in ways reminiscent of Colossians 1 and Philippians 2 and 1st Timothy 3, suggesting that these may, like those texts that had been early Christian hymns or creeds or confessions that predated Peter in the early 60’s and are once again, a window into the high and very developed Christology in the church, very early within its first generation. Unlike those liberal revolutionary hypothesis that are claimed only by the very end of the first century or later, was anybody speaking of Jesus as a simple Jewish rabbi in such exalted terminology. 

 

The first of these Christological confessions punctuates the call to holy living and comes at the end of chapter 1:18-21. ‘For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handled down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ; a lamp without blemish or defect, he was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. To him, you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, so your faith and hope are in God.’ There are references to redemption, references to Christ’s lack of sin, to his veracious sacrificial atonement, to his election as part of God’s plan before the creation of the world to play the role that he did; to the fact that the end times now have begun since he was revealed to the world. A reference to the manner of appropriating that salvation by belief, faith and hope; a reference to the central features of the climax of Christ’s earthly ministries that make that faith properly placed. The resurrection, the ascension and return to the right hand of the Father. 

 

Then comes the domestic code or way of life which in 3:7 where the three explicit pairs of subordination and authority relationships are finished though there is no natural fanatic break and grammatical suture at the same time from this theme until chapter 3. Tucked into this segment at the very end of the chapter 2, we read in verse 21-25, ‘to this you were called enduring suffering at times for doing good (verse 20) because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth. Then Peter continues when they heralded their insults at him, he did not retaliate. When he suffered he didn’t make any threats, instead he entrusted himself to him to judge justly. ‘He bore our sins in his body on the cross so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness’, quoting from the suffering servant passage of Isaiah; ‘by his wounds you have been healed, for you were like sheep going astray’, and Peter closes in his own words, ‘but now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls. Still, primarily focusing on Christ’s death but now going beyond the atoning purposes which are foundational and preeminent to the extemporary purposes; a model for believers to follow, non-retaliation, not committing any sins, even verbal sin when mistreated or abused or sinned against, trusting God as a just judge who will punish the unrepentant persecutor beyond anything we could ever hope to meet out on them. Meaning that it is no role of ours to make life anymore miserable for them; to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute them as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. Preeminent so that if there might be any means by which they might come to faith in Christ and avoid an eternity of suffering for their sins, that that might take place. This is a beautiful metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep, of the true bishop or pastor, the overseer of our souls, who heals our wounds, our sins that we might live to righteousness. 

 

And then the third Christological confession, tucked into the later part of chapter 3 which is clearly transitional in everyone’s outline. It’s just harder to know whether it goes more with what comes before or more with what comes later. But even this outline for the sake of presenting a different approach makes the break with 3:7 and begins a new section in 3:8 to the end of chapter 4, but still can be entitled, ‘suffering’ for being a Christian. This is the most lengthy and complex and puzzling and hence controversial of the Christological confessions anywhere in the New Testament. Christ also suffered once for our sins as 3:18 says, ‘the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the spirit. In that state, he went and made proclamations to the imprisoned spirits to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah when the Ark was being built, which only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water and this symbolizes baptism that now saves you also, not the removable of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscious toward God that saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has gone into heaven and is now God’s right hand with angels authority and powers in submission to him. 

 

An emerging consensus certainly within the last half century of commentary writing on 1st Peter and other forms of scholarly investigation. This is well unpacked in meticulous detail along with the full history of the investigation of this passage and of its treatment throughout the church history and a book, now in its second edition, by William Dothan called ‘Christ’s Proclamation to the Spirits’. Dothan, in keeping with our senses formulates an understanding in this passage in what is being described here, after Christ’s atoning death. In verse 18a, Christ is announcing victory over the demonic realm as part of return to heaven to the right hand of God, the Father in what has become known as his ascension.  Though that last piece as part of his return to heaven is the least agreed upon; some would agree that this is Christ announcing victory over the demonic realm but would want to place it as church tradition has historically, far more often than not, placed it between the death of Jesus’ body and that body’s resurrection and reuniting with his spirit. We will come back to that passage and see how such interpretation has arrived at, but before we get lost in the forest and the lose sight of it for the sake of looking at individual trees. Notice the function of this confession, as for it immediately goes on to disclose with its transitional therefore, ‘since Christ suffered in his body,’ in the crucifixion in some subsequent time led to the announcement of his victory over the demonic realm. Arm yourselves also with the same attitude, being willing to be martyred if it should come to that extreme, because those who have suffered in their bodies are done with sin. And that is certainly true for the Christian martyr; it’s by no means true in any absolute sense but those who suffer short of death, at least not in this life. 

 

But Peter is probably linking this back to the point he made already in 1:7 and following, about the purifying value of at least a significant quantity of the dross of our souls. And then in verse 6 of chapter 4, a verse that has often been taken as referring to the same thing as 3:18-22, whatever that is; this is the reason the Gospel was preached even to those who are now dead. What reason verse 5 tells all people, good and evil, alive and dead, Christian and non-Christian, will have to give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. And because that judgement is a fearful thing for the unbeliever, the Gospel is preach even to those who now have died, with the suppressed understood clause that those who became believers as a result. Though they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, they die like everyone else, perhaps even under persecution. So that they might live according to God in regards to the spirit; in the intermediate state, they would be alive with Jesus in heaven and that spirit would one day be reunited with its resurrection body in the eternal state, rather than judged and thrown into hell. 

 

The interpretation of 4:6 is controversial, not only because of its somewhat opaque nature, but because the NIV and certain other modern translations introduce the word, ‘now or into’ the clause. The Gospel is preached even to those who are dead. This is the closest that one finds anything in the New Testament to the contradiction to Hebrews 9:27 which we discussed in our previous lecture. It is appointed for humans to die once and then comes judgement, but in the flow of thought, it makes perfect sense for Peter to mean that the dead to be those who are now dead and that the preaching of the Gospel occurred earlier when they were still alive. This is by the logic we’ve attempted to rephrase. And then once again, there comes exhortation and closing.  Can we defend it in more detail, this quasi-consensual approach to 1st Peter 3:18-22? Or are we to see this as also second chance at salvation? Or perhaps a first chance for those who have never heard in this life, or is it with certain wings of church history that this is Christ taking those who were Old Testament saints or believers and leaving captivity captive as the Psalmist puts it. As Paul quoted in Ephesian 4 and taking his people as it were now to a new place, heaven, distinct from the general underworld shadowy place called sheol or the place of the grave where good and wicked alike seemingly co-existed in a rather nebulous or rather not too positive or negative existence in pre-Christian times. This last approach is probably the second most likely approach and is the most well-known and the majority view throughout church history. So we would like to suggest that the more modern consensus would otherwise be the second most common approach throughout church history and this is perhaps the most probable.  

 

Problems begin already with the later part of verse 18 and beginning of verse 19, Christ was put to death in the body but made alive in the spirit, or by the spirit. The older NIV additions are preferable to today’s NIV in this respect in giving such options. In that state or in which condition as being made alive in the spirit, he went and made proclamation. ‘For’ could also be translated by whom, capital S as for spirit or through whom. If this is Christ’s human spirit, then it is probably a reference to the portions of three days between the crucifixion and resurrection in which his spirit was temporarily separated from his body. If it’s by the spirit and through whom, it could be the same period of time but it also leaves the door open for it to be some later period of time. Verse 19 declares that Christ went and proclaimed or preached to the imprisoned spirits; the verb here for preached is the verb that comes from Greek Kerusso from which we get the cognate noun ceryx for a herald, one who announces a message. This is not necessarily a message of good news; that verb is euaggelizo, to evangelize. In the Greek New Testament, more often than not this referred to the author of the good news, of salvation in Jesus Christ. So too did Kerusso in various contexts but not as consistently, and its root meaning does not require the news to be good news of any kind as euaggelizo does. That would fit an announcement that at least for the audience for whom it was directed. It would not have been good news at all, the imprisoned spirits. And spirits in Greek is Konueta the plural of Konuma. When used in the New Testament eighteen or so times, without exception in other passages when not qualified, when not further modified by some word or expression making it clear that humans are in view, always refers to angelic or demonic and particular demonic spirits. Given that these are imprisoned, they must be demonic rather than angelic and there is nothing in the passage that would suggest that Peter is using the expression in any other way. 

 

What is this about Noah then, if this has nothing to do with Old Testament saints? Who were those who were disobedient long ago in the days that Noah built the Ark if not the wicked human race of that day? And how then can we take this to be a reference to demonic spirits? At this point, we’ll probably have to reflect on texts like 2nd Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 and other intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic traditions that saw demonic powers behind that uniquely wicked race of humans that God had to judge at the time of the flood. That may be the best understanding of that enigmatic text at the beginning of Genesis 6, ‘When humankind began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humankind were beautiful. Thus they took wives for themselves from any they chose.’ In which the sons of God mingled with the daughters of men and apparently a race of giants more unambiguously, a race of particularly wicked people resulted. Sons of God was a terms that could be used for angels or demons; it could also be used for aristocratic and powerful chieftains in the ancient Middle East. We don’t need to suppose that Genesis here is talking about literal copulation between demons and humans and human women but that powerful godless human leaders took the daughters of ordinary uninfluential families and involved them and their off spring in their wicked practice in a way that could in the unseen spiritual realm be attributed only to demonic forces. Interesting that Peter goes on, not only to make this analogy between the imprisoned spirits of 1st century and representative sampling of them who disobeyed in Noah’s day. But it goes on to contrast analogically or even typologically as well with the physical salvation, the rescue of Noah and his extended family, eight people in all, with Christian salvation. And he thinks of the waters of baptism to which the Christian is immersed and then rescued as it were. The analogy is to the much greater waters that the Ark of Noah had to sail, sustaining and preserving that family from flood that otherwise judged the inhabitants of the earth. 

 

And in making this analogy, he says, seemingly quite plainly in the beginning of verse 21 of 1st Peter 3, this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also. Not in some physical sense obviously but spiritual salvation, for those who endorsed what theologians called the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, this is often presented as the clearest text in support of that doctrine. Baptism now saved you, how clear could you want it? Well, maybe; let us at least read the whole verse, ‘baptism now saves us, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.’ Pledge could also be rendered ‘appeal’ and therefore the entire phrase could be translated as, ‘an appeal to God for a clear conscience.’ Either way, this text is crystal clear but not as one might have thought if one stopped mid-sentence. It saves us in that it is the outward sign, the pledge, the appeal, and a symbol of an inward reality, a clear conscience, born out of faith and not any works or outward ritual. And then let’s at least read on, that this salvation takes place by means of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If it weren’t for God’s finished work, our faith would be meaningless and if it weren’t for our faith, the symbolism of baptism would be meaningless. 

 

And finally in verse 22, ‘who that is Christ has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities and powers being made subject to him.’ This reinforces our understanding of this is about announcing victory over the evil powers; it also provides a hint for those who do locate this action as part of the ascension because the word translated has gone in verse 22, is the Greek participle, peruface, which is the identical word that appears in verse 19, having gone. He preached and in verse 22, Jesus Christ who having gone is at God’s right hand; coincidence? And that particular form of that verb is not common in the New Testament and found nowhere else in 1st Peter. Or is this Peter’s subtle way of tipping off that, the going to the right hand of heaven, ascension and exhortation was also the time in which he went preached to the spirits in prison in case we are thrown right back to our model of multiple heavens and one of those heaven in-between the earth’s atmosphere and final throne room of God is the unseen world of spiritual warfare where angels and demons reside and at times do battle? If that’s not the correct interpretation then we probably are meant to imagine this as a descent to the underworld. But there is no other New Testament text that even is as potentially clearly as this one, teaches that doctrine. Ephesians 4:8 is the next closest, ‘Therefore it says, ‘when he ascended on high he captured captives; he gave gifts to men.’ So what is the meaning of ‘he ascended,’ except that he also descended to the lower regions, namely, the earth?’ This most likely refers to the incarnation and that the lower parts are the earth and Jesus’ words to the criminal on the Cross who repented, ‘truly, I say to you, today, you shall be with me in paradise.’  If he did go to the underworld first, it was a very quick trip because by 3 pm that day he died and the day ended by Jewish reckoning at 6 pm that very same afternoon. So perhaps the view that sees this is part of the ascension should be given more attention than it sometimes is. 

 

There are many other things that we could talk about with respect to 1st Peter; I have chosen only one other and that corresponds to the last slide which reflects on the similarities and differences among the general and Catholic Epistles. It is the responses to persecution and injustice that we have seen but not systematically treated. In James it was the exploitation and withholding of wages, which could lead to poor migrant workers not eating on given days. In James 5:7-11, commended prayer, repeatedly; trust in God’s eschatological vengeance, his perfect justice, another added to his perfect time-table. But yet encouraged, speaking the way of the prophets in Job spoke in the name of the Lord; denunciatory prophetic rhetoric, preaching that includes themes of social injustice and presumably by implication peaceful non-retaliatory means of trying to implement those principles of justice. But never condoning or hinting at any setting in which God’s people as the church, what they may or may not decide to do as citizens. No actual justification for the church for individuals wearing their hats as Christians to take up violence. In 1st Peter, we have longer segments of the domestic code that keeps coming back to this issue, ‘do good to those who mistreat you,’ echoing the language of the Sermon on the Mount. Bear up unjust suffering as Christ did, appealing to his extemporary model, recognizing that at times when non-Christian authorities command things that go against God’s will and then God’s will must be followed and non-Christian authorities disobeyed. In 3:1-7 a couple in largely Greco-Roman land of the 1st century were with a Christian wife and non-Christian husband, unless that Christian wife violated the teaching not to marry a non-Christian husband was because she had converted in response to the Gospel message, but he had not yet converted.

 

And that very act of conversion was an act of disobedience because in the Greco-Roman world, it was incumbent upon a wife to take upon herself if she did not already have it and maintain the religion of her husband. But again, such civil disobedience has its limits as ultimately it is only God who will avenge and once again, no actual justification for violence. One can’t help but ask if the combination, both of those themes that are repeated as well as those that are distinctive to James and Peter is not reasonable indicative of a broader cross section of Biblical theology on the topic, certainly both relying on allusions to Jesus’ own teaching, who we saw when we discussed about James carrying on in the tradition of the prophets and the Torah before them. It does not solve the debate between pacifists and just war or mediating view of just peacemaking of Glen Stassen and David Gussy and others, not least in their recent book, Kingdom Ethics. But it suggest that the Christian has no place for a crusade mentality for going to war in Christ’s name, but what is called is perhaps the most counter-cultural statement of the Gospel, what Samuel Sand, back in the 1960’s said that the only statement out of the Sermon on the Mount that had no ambiguous parallel and subsequent Jewish or Rabbinic thought was to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. That, at least, is what the Christian church is known for. Whatever individual church members as part of citizens feel conscience bound to do when their government calls them to war. How are we doing in the 21st century when tragically most of the world looks at America and at evangelical Christianity and sees nothing but a hand made for the Republican Party and wars in the Middle East? We’ve got a long way to go.