Conclusion 1st Peter, Introduction to 1st John
Lecture 27: Conclusion 1st Peter, Introduction to 1st John
This is the 27th 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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Concluding verses in 1st Peter and the Epistle of 1st John. The purpose of John’s epistles is to give people assurance of their faith.
Trace 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.
This trace assignment involves a sentence by sentence analytical and linguistic approach in understanding 1st Peter 2:18-25. The word ‘servants’ is the same as slaves. Peter is most likely intending this to address the whole community because of the oppression which slaves are receiving from their masters. This also represents the persecution experienced by the church. So when the church looks at this, they see how this relates to them not literally but analogously as they too are experiencing oppression. Again, we are talking about slaves here, be submissive to your masters in all respects. Peter has a qualification here that includes masters that are unreasonable. Whenever we have a ‘not only, but also’ it is really a progression. This is not a negative / positive. This helps to explain the main proposition. Be submissive to your masters; I mean even bad masters, he is saying. And verse 19 is a little tricky! This finds favor with God when a person suffers unjustly. Verse 20 is really saying, ‘for the sake of your consciousness of God, you bare up under sorrows. If you do that you will find favor with God. Here he reverses the ‘if / then’. After this we have another ‘if / then’ that goes backwards. If you endure what credit is there? There is no answer given as it is a rhetorical question. The answer is ‘no favor’, however if you do what is right and suffer for it, and you patiently endure it, this finds favor. If you patiently endure it when you do what is right, this finds favor but if you endure it when you do wrong there is no favor thus it becomes a negative and positive. All verse 20 does, is to unpack and explain verse 19. He has only been explicating this theme: if you bear up under sorrows in suffering unjustly, this finds favor. You don’t find favor if you are suffering in doing wrong; then you deserve the suffering! If you are suffering and doing right, you find favor. So the main proposition is ‘servants are to be submissive to their masters’ because you will be rewarded if you do that (verses 19 and 20).
We have a ground in verse 21; you have been called for this purpose because Christ also suffered for you and leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps. This is an action or either a series. He suffered in that he left you an example. This is an example theory of the atonement; Christ’s atonement is not only substitutionary but it is also an example for us. This rest of this text is going to unpack this for us. Verses 21 to 25 grounds 18 through 20; servants be submissive because you will be rewarded. Why? It is because you have been called to do that, like Christ. This is the main thought. In verse 21, we have the notion of Christ suffering and then we have an idea / explanation. Verses 22 – 25 are going to detail sufferings and will be a series. So now be like Christ as this is the way Christ lived. Christ committed no sin nor was there any deceit found in his mouth. So we have a series of things happening now. This refers back to Isaiah 53 of course. And so while he was reviled, he didn’t revile in return; this is temporal. It really is hard not to come back on people who have spoken badly to us or who have done us wrong, yet Jesus didn’t! And if body has warrant to revile, I think it was Jesus, but he didn’t. While suffering, he uttered no threat which is just amazing. It is also tempting for us to say, ‘God is going to get you!’ Jesus didn’t do that; he kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously. This is a negative / positive sentence structure. How did Jesus make it when he was suffering so much? He entrusted himself to God! And he said, ‘God, you will make everything right in the end!’ You will ultimately take care of me.
So how is it that we can have the strength not to threaten others and revile others? Jesus got that strength knowing that God would set everything right again. So if you don’t believe in God and trust him then you take that upon yourself. So if we really believe, we have to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and he will take care of me. He will take care of me and will make everything right. This is very practical for us, to entrust ourselves to God as Jesus did. That is where he got the strength to do it. He gave himself to God. Of course Jesus’ suffering is also unique as he bore our sins; we don’t follow his example there as we don’t bear anyone’s sins. That we might die to sin and live to righteousness is a series. By his wounds you have been healed is a ground and an action / purpose as a whole. He bore our sins so that we would live a new life. Note that healing here clearly refers to the forgiveness of sin in this context. I don’t think he is talking about physical healing. Theologically, it is interesting here in regards to substitutionary atonement as many consider there is no reason for living a new life in regards to this. But Peter provides us with an example of the substitutionary theme. They are not separate from each other. The substitution is unique and can’t be repeated and we also have Jesus as an example for us. In verse 25, ‘for you were straying like sheep’; this is from Isaiah 53. So we have the example of Christ, the substitution of Christ; the example is in verses 22 and 23 with the substitution in verses 24 and 25. All of this is to say, ‘servants submit to your masters’. Why, because you will be rewarded and why should we do this? It is because we are called to live that way and that is the way Christ lived. So this is a well-structured paragraph. So 22 to 25 is all part of a series, starting at 22a. This is a great text to preach on.
B. Exhortations for Elders and Younger Ones: 5:1-5
There are elders in 1st Peter’s churches. All of them have elders. Peter considers himself to be an elder. He also uses the word shepherd. In chapter 5:2, he says to shepherd to flock. So elders are to be a shepherd to flock of God. Then he uses the participle, overseeing them. So in this one passage we have ‘elder’, ‘to shepherd’ and then ‘oversee’ and we know that all of these represent the same office. Peter admonishes them to do their jobs but for us today if we don’t like serving in ministry or if there is no joy in it for you, we should quit. However, there will always be difficult times and when you feel like quitting, you should continue on, asking God for help and trusting in him. And he says not to do it for money, but motives often do shift, especially in today’s society. Thirdly, the pastor’s job is not to be domineering and tyrannical but to be an example to the flock. Pastors do have authority and power yet you shouldn’t think that it must always go your way or else for it is so easy for this to happen. Pastors are to be examples, not tyrants. Peter talks about the reward that will be received on the last day. The younger people are to subject to the elders. All of us are to be humble with one another thus having a unity of believers working together for God. He says to humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand in order that he might exalt you in time. Verse 7 is not a new sentence but in Greek it contains a participle. You should humble yourself by throwing all of your worries upon God because he cares about you. There seems to be a relationship between humility and worry in these verses.
So is worry a form of pride? That seems to be what Peter is saying; if we worry we are proud. In worry, pride comes from not trusting God, but trusting in your own self thinking that the world is on your own shoulders. The thinking is that you must make life work; you don’t need God to take care of you. You decide to take all the concerns upon yourself. Peter tells us to humble ourselves under God’s sovereign hands. Not only is God sovereign but he cares about you. And it is easy to read these propositions and think, yeah, that is what we need to do but we need to conquer these areas in faith. We are to be on guard because the devil is going about wanting to swallow up people who are Christians and destroy them. We resist the devil by being firm in our faith and by relying on God’s grace all the way; that is how we resist the devil; not in our own strength. So in being a Christian you will suffer and you must realize that the God who called you, will complete his work in you.
VI. Concluding Words: 5:12-14
To conclude, we see the word about Silvanus in verse 12 and his last exhortation. He declares that this is the true grace of God and we are to stand firm in it. In verse 13, Babylon, I think, stands for Rome. The Roman church sends you greetings. He mentions Mark as his son.
I. Author and Date
John the apostle wrote the letter. I think it was written after the Gospel around 95 AD.
II. Structure and Purpose
The structure of the letter is difficult to unpack. The purpose of the book is to give people assurance in the faith. He says in 5:13, ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.’ I think he wants to assure the believers and give them confidence because there seems to be secessionist who have actually left the church, even leaders in the community that have left and those who left were questioning apostolic authority in verses 1 through 4. Secondly, besides leaving the church they claim to have no sin in their lives at all which is from verse 8. I understand that verse 10 says in chapter 1 that they claim that they have not sinned since their conversion. It is difficult to fully understand what is going on but they seem to believe that once becoming a new person in Christ, they could not sin. They don’t sin; this can’t be and so this seems to be their theology. This is problematic because in the end, whatever you do is okay. Of course this is heresy. They claim to be without sin but John says that they don’t even keep the commandments. Of course, if you can’t sin, you don’t have to worry about the commandments. The fourth point, they hated their brother, John says that they also hold to Docetism, the view that Jesus seemed to have a body but not really; he appeared to be human but he really wasn’t because he was only divine. So that is why we see the statement about Jesus coming in the flesh in John. Interestingly, most heretics today deny that Jesus was truly divine. This is due to liberalism but in the early church they battled with whether Jesus was truly human.
III. Against secessionists who:
John’s other purpose in writing this is letter is to counter the ideas and false teachings created by these secessionists and at the same time comfort those who stayed behind in the church. Those who stayed behind were shaken by these heretics. He starts out by saying, ‘that which was from the beginning.’ Here, he is talking about the message and person of the Gospel, Jesus. We have a reference to Jesus’ eternality here; this was the beginning before the beginning. That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes; the present perfect tense; here, he is speaking as an apostle. It is that which he had seen with his own eye, which he looked upon and had touched with his own hands. In each step he goes closer and thus he progresses to a climax from hearing, to seeing and then to touching. He is saying that our faith is a historical faith. We believe that Jesus really lived and really died and that our faith depends on historical events that truly happened. The light was manifested and we apostles saw it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life. We bear witness to this and announce this eternal life to you which was from the Father. This eternal life was Jesus who was with the Father. In verse 3 John is emphasizing again that they have seen it and heard it and now proclaim it to them. John is saying that you got the message of Jesus Christ from them, the apostles in order that you might have fellowship with them. This is the apostolic witness of Jesus and the Gospel. And these people who have left the community have rejected the apostle’s testimony and the apostle witness and their teachings of Jesus. They don’t know God. The apostle’s teaching is in the Bible; it is the books of the New Testament. If you depart from this Biblical Scriptural witness, you can’t have fellowship with God. Note that fellow in verse 3 means salvation. The Greek here refers to a partnership with God. This fellowship is a partnership with God and it refers to being saved.
IV. John’s Counterattack
In verse 5, ‘this is the message we have heard from Jesus and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him there is no darkness.’ God is good and holly and there is no evil in him. John says that if we are saved we and we walk in darkness, we lie and do not know the truth. If we say that we are saved and live evil lives like these heretics do. He is telling them not to worry, these people who left don’t know God. If we walk in the light (the pronoun ‘we’ includes all Christians here), as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. This is Christian fellowship with believers and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins. He means that if we live holy lives then we will have true Christian fellowship with one another. Is John saying that if we walk in the light then we know we are Christians? This happens because the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. So walking in the light cannot be equal to perfection. There is such a thing as walking in the light and not being perfect; this is an important distinction. Those who walk in darkness are dominated by evil. The Christian life is a walk that is pleasing to God, but it is not a perfect life, there is still sin in us. In many ways we still fall short, yet there is new life in us. So walking in the light should not be equated with perfection. Yet being saved is a new direction and a new orientation that we have in us. The secessionists are saying that they don’t have sin in them. We have none, but John is saying that they are deceiving themselves and thus there is no truth in them.
Even today in Wesleyan theology, it says that they can reach a point that they don’t sin. Yet hardly anyone is the Wesleyan church have said that they have ever experienced this so their doctrine is very theoretical. And today they are not emphasizing this at all and people don’t even talk this way anymore. And I think that it is dangerous to have this belief. Walking in the light means that we bring our sins to God; we confess them and admit that we are sinners. Because of the pride that is in us, it is so hard to admit that we are wrong sometimes, yet that is the requirement to receive forgiveness. But when we admit our sins, Jesus forgives us. I take that forgiving and cleansing to be the same thing here. I think in verse 10 these heretics are sayings that they haven’t sinned since conversion, and John says that Jesus’ Gospel is not in them.
Chapter 2:1, ‘my little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. This is the purpose, but if anyone sins, we have an advocate, a Paraclete, with the Father. Jesus is righteous and thus he is just, because Jesus died for us, for sinners. He is the perpetuation not only for our sins but for the whole world. I think this verse actually supports limited atonement instead of contradicting it, rightly interpreted. Jesus is the satisfaction for the sins of all, but I think ‘all’ means without distinction. However, this is somewhat of a debate.