Lecture 25: 1st Peter
This is the 25th lecture in the online series of lectures on New Testament Survey by Dr Thomas Schreiner. Recommended Reading includes: Article on Divorce and Remarriage – Craig Blomberg, Trinity Journal, 1990; The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris; Are there Two Will in God by John Piper; Two views on Women in Ministry by James Beck and Craig Blomberg; Word Bible Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46, by William D. Mounce and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood, by Wayne Gudem and John Piper (article by Vern Poythress entitled, ‘The Church as a Family’)
(Any slides, photos, notes or outlines that the lecturer refers to should be down loaded separately. If they are not available, you may be able to find something similar using the Google© search engine.)
Peter’s call to look forward to our future inheritance and live as God’s people.
Trace James 2:20-26
Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Faith without works is his main thought. There is no getting around this point. As for as Abraham, the works that he is referring to is the actual offering up of his son on the altar; and Rahab was also justified by her works in the process of helping the messengers. (The lecturer goes through this Scripture breaking it down into a sort of grammatical exegesis or rather a ‘trace’ using words like temporal, action and result, ground, idea and explanation and series, etc.) The statements of Abraham and Rahab are temporal situations, not pertaining to eternity. In regards to Abraham believing God, this is action and result and then he was called a friend of God; this is a series along with a man being justified by works along with his faith. There is an idea and explanation in regards to Rahab being justified by works when she received the messengers and then sending them out another way. The difficulty of this passage is due to the author saying the same thing in different ways. There is a series between 22 and 23. Was not Abraham justified by works and then you see that a man is justified by works is either a series or idea – explanation. Verse 20 is the main proposition and so thus it is a ground. It is not the kind of passage having really clear markers to help us even hindering us from seeing a real structure in it.
I. 1st Peter – Author
The author is perhaps the apostle Peter and Silas or Silvanus was the emanuances; that is the secretary. In 5:12 it says, ‘by Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that the true grace of God.’ Some read this as Silvanus being the secretary but really it denotes him as the carrier of the letter. Randy Richards, a Southern Baptist says it isn’t clear whether Silvanus is the secretary or not. The problem comes from translating the cultivated Greek of the letter which makes people wonder whether or not Peter could have written it. But we need to remember that Galilee was bi-lingual and therefore many people spoke Greek in Galilee. There are hundreds of Jewish Ossuaries, stone coffins that have been found around Jerusalem and many of those have inscriptions only in Greek. You would have expected them to have written in Aramaic or Hebrew. Many people point to Acts 4:13 to say that Peter could not have been the author because he was uneducated or even illiterate. But really it only says that they were not rabbinical trained. Another point, Peter was a business person from the middle class and if we compared him to John who had servants working for his household. Others say that there are too many examples of Pauline theology but why would we think that they were so different; certainly not in that one incident in Galatians 2 where they argued.
II. Date of the 1st Peter
Most people think is from the early 60s when this epistle was written. Some argues that the persecution in the letter fits under the Emperor Trajan who was emperor between 98 and 117 AD, but this is very late for Peter. It was written from Babylon which everyone agrees is Rome. There is no clear evidence of state sponsored empire wide prosecution. Instead it was sporadic and unpredictable persecution of Christians that arose in various places and times. So there is no need to put it in Trajan’s reign or any other emperor’s reign. And 1st Peter doesn’t reflect this either, especially of Christians being put to death. The kind of persecution that they are experiencing seems to be social ostracism and ordinary discrimination that does on in society. We do know that Nero persecuted Christians but it was a sporadic outburst in order to set fire to Rome.
III. What was the destination of the letter?
It was written to the churches in Asia Minor. The cities of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia probably relates to the order of the circulation or route of the letter itself. The readers seem to be mainly gentile believers from a pagan background.
In reading the letter, we notice that he addresses the exiles in the letter. But is he speaking literally in referring to the exiles? Most agree that he is speaking spiritually here. So they are spiritual exiles because they belong to Jesus Christ now. It is not that they are cast from their home lands. He says that they are elect exiles; they are God’s people. What was true of Israel is now true of God’s people. They are now his elect. Israel was God’s elect in the Old Testament but now it is the people of God comprised of Jews and gentiles together. They are elect to God’s foreknowledge; so God destined in advance that they be his people. Now the new people of God are the gentiles and Jews together in the body of Christ and in according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God; the setting apart that takes place when we are saved. This is another way of speaking about salvation. Sometimes in having systematic theology in our minds and then coming to the word ‘sanctification’ we immediately read think that it is talking about ordinary growth in the Christian life. Of course, sanctification doesn’t always mean that. We have to discern its meaning in context and here I think it is about coming to faith. So in Christ we are sanctified, definitively and positionally. It is almost like forensic justification. There is also an emphasis on obedience and also the washing away of their sins through blood. Note that there is also a Trinitarian reference in this greeting. We have the work of the Father, the Spirit and the Son.
V. Called to Salvation as Exiles 1:3-2:10
Peter’s primary emphasis here is to praise God. ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!’ This is because he has shown us mercy in that he has given us new life; we have been born again. This regeneration is through grace and the work of God’s mercy. There is nothing to do to prepare yourself for it. So, I think that regeneration precedes faith; so faith is a consequence of regeneration. Praise God that you are born again. We didn’t choose to be born nor did we choose to be born again except by exercising faith. We are born again through a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter emphasizes our hope in heaven. He describes the heavenly hope in verse 4 as an inheritance. In the Old Testament, the inheritance was the land and in the New Testament it is the new heavens and earth, but Peter doesn’t use this language. This inheritance cannot perish, it can never be tainted and it will never fade away. It is a permanent possession. So he tells the suffering people to hang on, they have something great in store for them. We are guarded by God’s power through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time and notice that salvation here is eschatological. It is a salvation that will be revealed in the last time. It is a salvation that will be given to you and revealed in the end times. Meanwhile we are guarded by God power through faith. God will see through it that you will make it through to the end. God has the power; we have the faith. So does God helps us in our trusting him? God’s protection is his job and faith is our job.
So how is God guarding us? How is he preserving us? (Note that all sin comes from a lack of faith) If we sin, we are not trusting God; we are not clinging to him. I think Peter is saying that God’s guarding also includes his giving us the faith to make it, otherwise God is doing nothing. Still, it is also true that we must believe. Every good thing that we do is from God and yet we still must believe. If we have received it, why do we boast as if it was not a gift? This is a great encouragement to us; we must believe until the end to be saved and God will grant us that faith as Christians. In the meantime, life is full of difficulties; Peter tells them that we may suffer various trials. This while I think refers to our whole life and compared to eternity, it is only a little while. And in terms of our earthly lives, sufferings may come and go or they may last the whole of the time we are on earth. But Peter says that in these trials we are to rejoice, not because they are pleasant. And we have seen this many times, in James, in Romans 2 and so it is not new to us. We rejoice because God is using this to make us more holy. So we rejoice in these trials because as Christians our greatest desire is not to be comfortable although this is our natural inclination; however our greatest desire is to be like Jesus. I think Peter is very optimistic here in these verses.
A. Praise for Salvation 1:3-12
Even though you haven’t seen Jesus, you love him now and you believe in him and so then rejoice in your faith and the outcome of that faith is the salvation of our souls. But unlike those without love; as Christians we love our brothers and sisters and through love help each other in these trials. We are all in the same ‘boat’, aren’t we? Even Peter is suffering here; he has his trials and temptations. And there are many Christians throughout the world that do not live in the comfort that most people of industrialized countries live in. What do we say to them? What is the greatest hope we can offer these people? It is heaven, because heaven is real; for if heaven isn’t real, then what do we have? But in itself, heaven is an astounding hope. Yet for many who have the good life on earth think that their heaven is going to be on earth. Having heaven before us is one of the foundations of the Christian hope. So Peter is pointing suffering people toward heaven because people need strength to go on; they need a hope that is beyond life on earth. The only thing that some people can look forward to is this heavenly inheritance.
In verses 10-12, the Old Testament prophets longed to see the fulfilment of what they foretold and we have to privilege of experiencing it now and two thousand years ago for those to whom Peter wrote this letter to. Thus we see that it is better to be on this side of the Cross than the Old Testament side because we now understand things which it was impossible for them to know. Even though they longed to see the fulfilment in Jesus Christ, they didn’t see it and now those this side of the Cross do see it and we are blessed for it. We now see things about God through Christ that the Old Testament prophets never saw. According to the Scriptures, even the angels don’t grasp these things like we do. (We don’t really understand this.) Why have these things been revealed to us; we can praise God and be grateful and joyful and happy with what we have. This is so the church will be a radiate community and if our churches are joyful, others who don’t know Christ will be attracted to what Christ has to offer. And if they are not then people will be repelled.
B. The Future Inheritance as an Incentive to Holiness: 1:13-21
Peter tells them to set their hope fully on the grace that will be brought to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ, on the day that Jesus will return. Don’t put your hope in this world but on the world to come. We will be of earthly good if we are heavenly minded and if you are not heavenly minded you will not be of any earthly good. We need to disciple our minds not being conformed to the passions of our former ignorance and desires which still afflict us; we have to learn to say no to them by God’s grace and through the power of the Spirit. He calls us to be holy. Notice that these calls of holiness and new life are indicative to what God has done for us. You notice that Peter starts with the fact that they have been born again and that they have a new life and a heavenly inheritance. And in response to the grace that is already ours, now give your lives to God. It is so obvious that we need a good foundation in grace in order to understand Jesus. In verse 17, you call God Father who is the one who judges impartially; so conduct your lives in fear of him, a heathy fear because he is your father. This is not a causal relationship you have with God; we must not lose any sense of God’s awesomeness and his majesty. We see that our Father in heaven is holly and he is our Father.
Thus, we are redeemed by Christ; he saved us from a vain way of living through his precious blood. We have the whole sacrificial idea of the Old Testament emphasized here in these verses which all point to Christ as the perfect sacrifice. Our salvation depends upon him and the Cross work and when it says that Jesus was foreknown so we see that God looks ahead and even appointed the time of Christ.
C. Living as the New People of God: 1:22-2:10
In verse 22-25 he calls them to love one another from a pure heart. This refers to conversion; we are a new people now. We are liberated to love others; this is the real mark of the Christian community. We are to love each other because we have been born again. In having this new life, we are to live a life of love and caring for others. We have been given this new life also through his Word. This is why we need to preach the Gospel to people; salvation comes by hearing God’s Word and hence missions and evangelism and spreading the Word of the Gospel. God uses this to beget new life. The Word of God is powerful in itself compared to us who are like the grass of the field and leaves of a tree. The grass withers and flowers fall off; they don’t stay pristine and beautiful but God’s Word has incredible power and has a staying power. It doesn’t wither nor does it go away, it remains.
In chapter 2, he says to put away our malice, our deceit, our hypocrisy, our envy and our slander. If you have ill will toward anyone or if you are angry with anyone or if you have hatred for anyone or any negativity toward anyone, we have to put all of this away and keep going back to the Lord for forgiveness. Be aware that Peter is not just referring to new Christians; he is talking to all of us. This is for all Christians. We need to grow in the Lord and we want to, because we have tasted the kindness of the Lord. For Peter, he quotes Psalm 34.
In verses 4-10 we have Jesus as the living stone. Stones aren’t living but this one is. He was rejected but chosen by God. Believers in Christ are also living stones because we know Christ and are raised together with him. As believers, we are the new temple and so the earthly temple of the Old Testament isn’t important anymore. We are a holy priesthood now; we are God’s priests. Baptist use this to say that every person has access to God individually and that is true. But Peter is saying that we have access to God corporately also as a body of believers and as the church. Of course we don’t offer literal sacrifices anymore but instead we offer spiritual sacrifices. We see that Peter uses the temple to point to Christians, and then uses the priests to point to us all being priests and the sacrifices point to spiritual sacrifices. He relates this from Isaiah 8 to Jesus being the stone that God has set, the main stone in the building, the cornerstone. This comes from Psalm 118 as well. In verse 8, Peter says that Jesus is a stone that will make people stumble and fall as many people will disbelieve due to not obeying the Word of God. (The lecturer here brings up a point of double predestination yet people are responsible for their choices he says, and God is sovereign over everything and people being destined to be punished.) Peter says that those people who disobeyed the Word were destined to be punished when they disobeyed. I think Peter is saying that God is in control of even our enemies. Even if there is predestination involved, people shouldn’t sin for they will be held responsible for their sins and actions. Peter is saying that God is control of your worst enemies; they can’t touch us ultimately. Peter says to them that they are now the chosen race being Christians, not the Jews like is was in the Old Testament. We are the royal priesthood now and a holy nation, not Israel. Christians are the holy nation. It is God’s people. Verse 10 comes from Hosea and it is talking about Israel but Peter applies it to the church. Once we were nobody but now we are God’s people.