1st Peter Part 2
Lecture 26: 1st Peter Part 2
This is the 26th 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’)
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Peter calls followers of Jesus to persevere by responding to suffering in a Godly way.
Flow assignment 1st Peter 2:18-25
‘Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 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. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.’
Let’s look at the linguistic structure. There is an admonition to the servants followed by a ‘not’, ‘also’ construction. There is a ‘for’ in 19a which is our key word. We have an ‘if’ in the next verse and notice what clause that matches. There is a ‘when’ in 19c and in 20 we have a ‘for’ with and ‘if’ at the end of this. Then we have a ‘when’ and nothing in 20c but in 20d we have a ‘but’ and an ‘if’ and a ‘when’ as well. 21a start with a ‘for’ and then in 21b, the keyword is since. We have a participle ‘leaving’ and a relative pronoun in 22 with a ‘nor’ in 22b. There is a ‘while’ in verse 23 and a ‘while’ in 23c. In 23e, there is a ‘but’. And we have a ‘for’ and ‘but’ in verse 25.
III. Living as Aliens to Bring Glory to God in a Hostile World: 2:11-4:11
A. The Christian Life as a Battle and Witness: 2:11-12
The writer introduces this section with an exhortation to them as aliens and exalts them as spiritual aliens in this world. So he is saying that to the persecuted church. In verse 11, he exhorts them to abstain from fleshly lust or desires which wage war against the soul. He tells us as Christians that we have desires from the flesh that arise in us. In thinking about the Christian life, being a new creation, it would be great if there were no sinful desires in us at all. But he says that there are these desires of the flesh that arise in us and they can be very powerful as they wage war against the soul. So there is a warfare going on in us and he summons us to say no to those desires and to resist them because we are born of God. This is a very practical word for us as Christians. The Christian life is a war against good desires and bad desires. It would be nice as Christians if we could sit back and just let things flow. But the scriptures say that there is a war going on and we much make choices to resist these fleshly desires so that our conduct is good amongst unbelievers. And ultimately we would glorify God in the day of visitation and what is this day of visitation? We are not sure whether Peter is saying that on the last day we will be judged by God or is Peter saying that they will glorify God by being saved? But the reference to visitation does suggest that it will be judgement. The idea of glorying God suggests that is will be salvation. So is he talking about salvation or about judgment? The commentators go back and forth on this.
B. Testifying to the Gospel in the Social Order: 2:13-3:12
In the next part of the letter, Peter deals with different groups. He first starts with the government and this is similar to what we see in Paul. He begins by exhorting the readers to be subject and submit to governing authorities. This is a typical New Testament exhortation. Peter doesn’t mention any exceptions but clearly there are exceptions. This is not a treatise on this issue as we only have this information in three or four verses. He is not trying to sketch in every situation here. He is talking about what we normally do as Christians. We have to read and study all of Scripture to discern if there are any exceptions. Clearly, there are mandates: if the government orders us not to preach the Gospel, we preach the Gospel as we have been extoled to do by Jesus. Our inclination should be submission to the governing authorities and by doing we silence the ignorance of foolish people. So the theme throughout Peter is that the church shows the power of the Gospel by the kind of lives we live. People are impressed with the kind of godliness that is in the church. Submission in the Bible is never understood as being wimpy as seen in verse 16, ‘we submit as free people’. Submission flows out of freedom in Christ and the relationship we have with God. We are also to honor all people and to love the brotherhood. No matter how evil, whether believer or unbeliever, there is still a way of honoring them. We are to fear God and honor the emperor and when Peter wrote this, Nero was an evil despotic emperor.
We will come back to 2:18-25; but in chapter 3 we have this section on husbands and wives. The section is sometimes called the household code; we saw this in Ephesians and also in Colossians and Titus. Here we have the typical New Testament exaltations; wives are to be submissive to their husbands and we have seen that this submission comes out of freedom. It describes Christ’s relationship to the father as from 1st Corinthians 28 that Christ submits to the Father. We shouldn’t read this in a negative fashion but look at it out of freedom to the Lord. Peter focuses on wives that are married to unbelievers. They are to submit so that husbands may be won over without constantly berating a husband to believe. There is a focus on the behavior of Christians as a means by which people are convinced of the love of Christ. Some say that we don’t pay attention to what Peter says in verses 3 and 4 in regards to the adorning and braiding of hairs and clothing and the wearing of gold and jewelry that any adorning should be from within, so why should be pay attention to this submission to husbands? People certainly adorn themselves in church and out of church today with their hair, their dress and even jewelry. But I would say that verses 1 and 2 is the Word of God, yet in verses 3 and 4 there is a principle which Peter is stating. Verse 3 in Greek actually says, ‘the putting on of clothing’; so it is obvious that is not what he is saying here. He means don’t focus on clothes and these things and thus it indeed is still a powerful word for today as we are not to set ourselves apart from people who would be put off coming to church. This is the Word of God for our materialistic culture that is very concerned about appearance. The focus of our lives should be the hidden person of the heart.
In verse 5, Peter talks about the women of old who were submissive and focused on a gentle and quiet spirit, whose hope was in God. Many people argue today that submissiveness doesn’t involve obedience but we see that Peter changes from the word submission to obedience in verse 6. This is very obvious in the Greek, but such submission should not come from fear. Peter may be focusing on those wives who are in a so-called oppressed position. Then Peter has a word to the husbands in verse 7; live according to God will show honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life. A husband has a responsibility to the wife to live in accordance with God’s will. This is a very broad admonition; bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex. I don’t think he means weaker intellectually nor weaker emotionally; we need to realize there are strengths and weaknesses on both sides, male and female. I think like most other commentators that he is referring to physical weakness, yet we must realize that woman tend to live longer and even bare pain better than men. But, just a generalization, most men are physically stronger than most women. And notice also that Peter emphasizes the equality of men and women, being fellow heirs in the grace of life. So there is a sense that we are equal and a sense that we have different roles. We ought to be treating our wives with respect and honor because otherwise it will hinder our prayers.
We all need to have a unity of spirit, sympathy, love, a tender heart, humble mind; this is main stream Christian teaching in verses 3:10-12. We see in verse 12 that the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and God listened to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Those who do evil are in a wrong relationship with God and God is opposed to them. Those who love eternal life will live in a different way by God’s grace.
C. Responding in a Godly Way to Suffering: 3:13-4:11
I don’t think there is anyone who can harm us if we are zealous for what is good. Physically we could be put to death of course but Peter means ultimately. Even if we are put to death we will go to be with Jesus. I think this is what he is saying. Ultimately no one can touch us and the Bible says this many times, for example in Luke 22 where he says some of us will be killed but then he says not a hair on our head will perish. So I think 1st Peter 3 is saying that we can’t be destroyed and if we suffer for righteousness, we are blessed. In this, we see that the teachings of Jesus impacts on Peter very clearly. It is a blessing to suffer for Christ. No one likes to suffer but if we suffer for Christ’s sake and in his name, it is a blessing. If we are being persecuted we will always have a defense for the reason of our hope in Jesus and we are to do that in gentleness and respect. If we are being persecuted and we show the fruit of the spirit, people will wonder about what we have. They will say that in all the areas of our life and Peter says that we are to be ready yet realizing that we are not all apologetic people. Yet as Christians we all need to have something intelligent to say about our faith that is meaningful. We need to see that we do indeed have a mission to the unreached people around us for this is our calling. We need to have a clear conscience so that we will not be put to shame when people slander us. So we see the emphasis in 1st Peter to live Godly lives that is pleasing to the Lord. In verse 18, we see that Christ died once for our sins; the righteous for the unrighteous, the righteous one died for the unrighteous so that he might bring us to God. This is the Gospel compactly stressed.
In verse 19, we have a difficult verse telling us about Jesus going and proclaiming the Gospel to the spirits in prison. Note that this could be a release to those repented just before the flood and Christ allowed them into heaven, but this view includes the idea of purgatory and thus isn’t acceptable. It refers to human beings between the death and resurrection of Christ that had a chance for release, a release for the righteous and condemnation for the wicked. So you have the idea that he liberated the Old Testament saints out of Sheol. Why would Peter bring up the idea of a second chance to a suffering church? So the two most popular views today are: the passage is talking about Christ in his preexistent state preaching in the days of Noah and through Noah. This is Augustin’s view with prison being a metaphor for those in sin. This is a long historic view in the church and it is certainly a possibility. It really doesn’t contradict anything in terms of the faith. Another view is the one I support along with many other commentators today. I don’t think this passage is about preaching the Gospel of Salvation to anyone because the word ‘preach’ can mean herald and the word ‘spirits’ usually refers to demons. So I under that this passage is saying that Jesus is heralding victory over demonic spirits after his resurrection. And I think this fits with verse 22; verse 19 says he went and preached and then verse 22 says he went into heaven after preaching to these demonic spirits after his resurrection. Thus back in Genesis 6:1-4 with the sons of God and daughters of men with the sons of God being demons and that it is speaking of demons having sexual relations with women. These demons took on human flesh and that was the means by which the sexual relation took place. This is how all the Jews interpret this passage. I think they were judged for doing this and thus it doesn’t happen today and he inhibited them in a different way. This tradition is in many other cultures as thus there seems to be a memory of it. But remember, these points are not that crucial in our Christian lives today.
He talks about Noah also and Noah is like the church in that there are only eight righteous people. The church is a minority in the world. God preserved Noah and he will preserve us. So we see that Jesus is the victor over demons as we have the victory by God’s grace and we will conquer. Now we have a statement regarding a baptism that saves you. Note that in the early church, people were all baptized after accepting Christ as their Savior; not being baptized was unheard of then. There were no body baptizing infants as such; once you accepted Jesus as Savior, you got baptized. There is no magic in the water as it is only an appeal to God for a good conscience based on the resurrection of Christ.
Another debated verse is 4:1 where it says that whoever has suffered in the flesh has cease from sin, etc. Some people think it is talking about Christ in that he ceased dealing with sin. I don’t think that is clear and then some think he is talking about dying with Christ in Romans 6. Wayne Gurdon says when you agree to suffer for Jesus; you have made a break with sin in your life. In being willing to stand up for Jesus in your life, something has happened in your life and you have come closer to understanding the Gospel of Christ. If you are willing to be counted in a situation where you are being discriminated against, then you have changed for the good; so I think this is what Peter is saying. Note that these verses show that these are converts out of paganism. So then, for the rest of your life, don’t live for human passions but instead live for God. Don’t live like the gentiles do; they live in sensuous passions, drunkenness, rebels and lawless idolatress and drinking parties, drugs, and sexualizing. It still speaks of the 21st century because people haven’t changed; sin is sin. So these people have come out of this kind of background. So many people in our own culture live this sort of way today. When I was in high school, I started to go out drinking with friends to make friends. But there is a change with Christians and non-Christians are surprised that you don’t do it anymore and so they abuse you. Being abuse, reviled and criticized is a form of persecution and we have that today, everywhere. Peter doesn’t mention anything about Christians being put to death here. He talks about social discrimination and abuse, similar to what we experience today. Of course eventually, one leads to the other and who knows what will eventually happen in our culture. But Peter reminds them in verse 5 that these people will be judged; there is a judgement on the last day.
Another difficult verse, ‘for this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.’ So what does it mean to say that the Gospel was preached to the dead? Is he saying that believers have a second chance? Some people argue this today; John Sanders and others within the broad evangelical circles. But I don’t think this work at all that it is referring to a second chance. Let’s look at the context; you are suffering for the faith and Peter is telling them to hang on to Jesus because those who aren’t related to Jesus are going to be judged. If there is a second chance then it doesn’t make sense to what Peter is saying. Peter would not be stressing that we are to hang on and then say that there was a second chance. This robs the passage of any strength. Others argue and this is a possibility that he is speaking of those who are spiritually dead. But it seems to be referring to those who are physically dead. I prefer the view that it is referring to those who have died since they have been converted. This view is accepted by many commentators. What Peter is saying is the Gospel was preached to these people when they were alive but they have since died and because of this, unbelievers think that we die the same as they do. Everybody dies so what difference does it make? Yes, they die but they live in the Spirit according to God; it is not the end of them. So I think that this is the solution for this passage.
In verse 7, ‘the end of all things is at hand; therefore you should be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.’ What would you do if someone said that the end of near? You would think that we should do something that is really radical. Peter says that we should keep sane first of all and pray and love each other and invite people into our house and use our spiritual gifts. Just do what God calls you to do that day.
IV. Persevering in Suffering: 4:12-5:11
A. Suffer Joyfully in accord with God’s Will: 4:12-19
‘Don’t be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.’ We should expect to suffer as a Christian and rejoice at the privilege of suffering. But make sure that you are suffering because you are a Christian, not because you are a wrong doer of some kind. Verse 17, ‘for it is time for judgement to begin at the household of God; and it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?’ and then verse 19, ‘therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.’ I think this verse sums up 1st Peter. Let us do right and trust our lives to God. Give your life to God in suffering and keep doing right because he can be trusted and he will take care of us. What does he mean in verse 17 with ‘judgement begins with the household of God?’ I think he means that suffering is God’s way of purifying the church, his people. I think he is saying that God’s people are saved through the difficulty of suffering. Judgement has a purifying effect on us. It is not a sign of God’s anger but instead it is love, so we are saved with difficulty thus we must wonder what will happen to unbelievers.