November 15, 2015.
Daily Reading: I Peter 1-3.
Background: The author of this epistles self-identifies as Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, who is a very explosive and important character throughout the ministry of Christ and in the book of Acts. This epistle was written to several churches in Asia minor where many Christians had spread likely due to persecution. Because of the context of the epistle, it is speculated that it was written around 64 AD just as Christian persecution was on the rise. This is what Peter deals with in the letter, to stand steadfast under trial and not lash back at the persecution, but rather to set an example of peace and righteousness so that they would not have anything substantial to lay their claims. It would seem from his introduction and the context of the message that he was writing to both Jews and Gentiles who were of the faith, not just Jewish Christians.
Concepts and Connections.
The refining of faith and call to be holy: Peter opens his epistle with grace and peace to those of the faith who had been spread abroad in Asia minor, ever exalting the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He reminds them that they have been born again (see John 3, Romans 6) to a new hope and an inheritance that was imperishable, undefiled and unfading. He reminds them of this because of their present persecution and suffering, offering hope and purpose to their time here on earth. Peter knows that in the end, any affliction here will be but momentary and light in comparison to the glory that will come in the resurrection (Paul talks about this in Romans 8). Here, Peter discusses this suffering an persecution as a testing and refining of their faith, showing it to be genuine and resulting in the praise and glory of Jesus Christ at His revelation. These were believers who had not seen Jesus, but had put their faith Him, and through this they would receive the salvation of their souls. Peter writes to them explaining the privilege they were given to be alive at this crucial point in the history of humanity, as the prophets who had come before them had ever looked and longed for this time when the Messiah was revealed, and in a way, they were serving those who had now seen Him and believed in Him through their prophecies. The good news had been preached to them openly and the Holy Spirit had come, revealing to them the good news that angels longed to know. They indeed were born again to a living hope.
Because they had been given this hope and received the good news about Jesus Christ, they were called to be holy, just as God is holy (see Leviticus 11:44). There is a certain amount of responsibility placed on believers here to be sober-minded and prepared for action. We are not to be conformed to the passions of the world, passions and desires that we were once entangled in, but rather to be hold in our conduct. Peter reminds his audience that the Lord will judge each man impartially for his deeds, and so we should properly conduct ourselves with fear. We were ransomed not with things that are perishable and that are fading away, but with the imperishable, precious blood of Christ, our Lord who was raised from the dead. May we ever give Him glory and put our hope in Him. Let us love each other earnestly with a pure heart and purify our souls through obedience to the truth, showing our rebirth into Christ. This Christ was the imperishable seed of God (see John 1), the blessing that came through Abraham (see Genesis 12:7 and Galatians 3:15-17), the everlasting word of God (see John 1, Isaiah 40:6, 8). Certainly good news has been preached to us.
A holy people: Continuing on the thoughts from the previous chapter, Peter calls his audience here to put off unholiness and long for the spiritual milk given from the Lord that they might mature into salvation. He calls on prophecy from the Hebrew Scriptures to show that Jesus was the cornerstone that the Lord had laid in Zion, the foundation of our faith, but also the stone that the builders (the Jews, His own people) rejected. This same stone is one of hope to those who believe, and a stumbling block and rock of offense to those who don’t. We are to be a chosen race, called out from the world for the possession of God. They had received the mercy of God and were to proclaim His excellencies to the people of the world. Then he begins a discussion of Christian conduct, teaching us to keep our conduct honorable before the world that they might see our good deeds and glorify God. We are to be submissive to governing authorities, even when we are persecuted. If we endure when we suffer for the sake of Christ, it is a gracious thing in the sight of God. In this, we have the perfect example of Christ, who suffered great agony that our wounds, our sins, might be healed and forgiven. Note here the example of Christ, that when he was reviled, He did not revile again, nor did He threaten when He suffered. He did no sin, but went to the cross for our sake, bearing our sins on the tree. Thus we die to sin and live to righteousness (see Romans 6:1-11), having returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. By His wounds are we healed, and thus we should live by His example.
Christian conduct amidst suffering: Peter uses much of this chapter to give practical wisdom on Christian conduct, beginning with the Christian household. The order of the household places the wife in subjection to the husband, even in households where the husband was not a Christian, that through her respect and pure conduct, she might win her husband to Christ. Obviously, this submission would be in everything until it conflicted with a matter of faith. Her adorning was not to be merely outwardly, but inwardly, adorning herself in righteousness, which is much more important, clothing of a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God. Peter points to the example of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, to be their guide. Husbands too are told to live with their wives in an understanding way, honoring them as they are fellow heirs in Christ. Finally, everyone is addressed and told to have unity of mind, sympathy and brotherly love, displaying a tender heart and a humble mind. We are not to repay evil for evil (see Romans 12:9-21) but rather bless that we may obtain a blessing. Peter quotes from Psalm 34:12-16 to drive home the point of having a pure and holy conduct before men. Note here the focus Peter has on ourselves, not trying to find fault and fix issues that other people have, but rather calling us to look inwardly and see to our own issues. If in the end we suffer for righteousness sake, we will be blessed. We are always to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within us, to whomever may ask, making sure that even the answer is given with gentleness and respect. We are to do all these things, keeping our conduct holy, so that if we are slandered, those who revile us will be put to shame. In the end of the chapter, Peter points to Christ once again as our example, who suffered once for sins, though He was righteous and knew no sins, so that we could be reconciled to God though His sacrifice. Just as eight people were saved by water in the deluge of the day of Noah, so now we are saved though baptism. Note the correspondence here, as the deluge of water washed away all the sin and iniquity over the earth (see Genesis 6:5-8) and brought Noah and his family safely through to enter into a new life that was purified from iniquity. So too does baptism wash away our previous life of sin and iniquity and allows us to enter into a new life with Christ (see Colossians 2-3). Note also that the point of baptism is not merely a physical washing, but rather it is an appeal to God for a clean conscious through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we are buried with Christ in baptism, we are asking God to wash us clean in the blood of Christ and raise us anew though His power, not our own. It is our submission to Christ, our death burial and resurrection with Him (see Romans 6:1-11). Let us ever be in subject to our King.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Deuteronomy 4-6.
All praise be to the King.