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Meditation of the Month Archive

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1 Peter

Chapter 1

1:9: The apostle proclaims the goal of the Christian faith: “The salvation of your souls.”  The “soul” implies the whole person. Salvation is the final positive outcome of trusting God through all the trials of life. In one sense, Christians now possess the result of their faith – the deliverance from the power of sin. Secondly, and what I believe the apostle is relating here, Christians are waiting to receive the consummation of their salvation into eternal glory (glorification) by the redemption of their bodies (Romans 8:23, 1 Corinthians 15:51 – 54). What a tremendous encouragement that was to the Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire who were suffering for their faith.

1:10 – 11: The focus of the OT prophets and their study of the Scriptures was not the “what” of our salvation but the “when.” They wanted to know when the Messiah would suffer and when the glories of the end times would be revealed. Though they trusted God and were saved through their faith and obedience to God, they nonetheless could not fully understand all that they wrote, much less what was involved in the life and death of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 11:13, 39 – 40), that would remain a mystery until the NT. However, the “sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” is a theme running throughout the Bible (Psalm 22; Psalm 45:6 – 7; Isaiah 11; Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12; Zechariah 9:9 – 10; 13:7; Matthew 16:21 – 23; 20:19; John 2:19; Acts 3:17 – 21). Here Peter tells us that the OT prophets wrote by the “Spirit of Christ” that was in them, thus confirming that the OT was inspired of God (2 Peter 1:20). These OT prophets understood the grace of God, but they foretold an even greater exhibit of grace through the suffering of the Messiah. The combination of this grace and glory was difficult for them to comprehend. As the prophets looked down through the eons of time, they saw these two events as two distant mountain peaks appearing close together; what they didn’t see was the valley of time in between. You and I are in the unique position of living in that interval of time, called the church age (age of grace), the time between the suffering of Christ (the past) and the glory of Christ (the future), and that time is already approaching two thousand years in length.

1:12: The above mentioned OT prophets who wrote about the coming of salvation understood it was a future Savior who would come, and therefore, they were really writing to those of us on this side of the Cross. As also mentioned above, the OT prophets could not make the distinction between the suffering of Christ and His glory. The NT apostles and preachers of the gospel, on the other hand, had the privilege of proclaiming, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, that the prophecies written by the OT prophets had come to pass. The “Holy Spirit” was sent from heaven by Christ on the Day of Pentecost at which Peter was present (Acts 2:33). God the Father also sent the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26).

“Even angels long to look into these things” is an interesting and oftentimes glanced over passage. God’s heavenly host, His created intelligence are looking down from heaven and perhaps wondering why we are not busy giving out this wonderful message of grace and salvation of God. They would likely love to come down and proclaim it to the world themselves. Recall how the angel Gabriel came and made the announcement to Mary and later Joseph that Jesus was to be born and He would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). And he announced to Zachariah that he was going to have a son, named John, who would be the forerunner of the Messiah. However, we are not living in the day of the ministry of angels. God is using mankind, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, to get out His Word to the world. As children of God, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). As mighty as the angels are, I do not believe an angel could do something more for you that the Spirit of God could not. We are living in the day of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the age of grace, when the Spirit of God takes the things of Christ and reveals them to us. So, I ask, what are we to do?   

Shortly following the rapture, marking the end of the age of grace, the dreaded seven-year Tribulation Period will begin on earth. This will be a time of intense judgments brought upon the wicked and rebellious left behind. During that time, God will use the ministry of angels, among others, to accomplish His purpose and get the gospel message out to those who would choose Jesus Christ as Savior over Antichrist. In fact, the Apostle John foretells of an “angel flying in midair” who will proclaim “the eternal gospel” to those who live on the earth (Revelation 14:6).

Sanctification of the Believer

1:13: Here is the first of many exhortations from the apostle. The phrase “prepare your mind for action” is translated from the KJV, “gird up the loins of your mind.” In first century language, this meant to gather and fasten up one’s long robed garments and be ready to move in a hurry. This is a graphic call for action, metaphorically to one’s thought process. It means rejecting the things of the world and focusing entirely on the future grace of God. Peter says to be “self-controlled,” or “sober” (KJV). To be sober minded means to adopt a serious attitude in the study of the Word of God. It includes self-control, clarity of mind, and moral decisiveness. A sober Christian has their purposes and priorities in proper order and is not taken in with worldly allures.

This is Peter’s great epistle of Christian hope, a hope that rests upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostle also points to the “grace to be given” to every Christian “when Jesus Christ is revealed.” When the Lord comes at the rapture, He will bring plenty of grace with Him. By His grace, He will remove from the world every believer. And every believer will have their works, Christian service done while in the body of Christ, judged at Christ’s Judgment Seat (Bema Seat). At that time, we will either suffer loss or receive a reward (1 Corinthians 3:10 – 15) – all by His grace.

The fact that we will be judged someday is another incentive to persevere and endure the trials of this world. God uses trials and troubles to bring us to full spiritual maturity according to His plan. Christ’s final act of glorifying Christians and giving them eternal life in His presence will be the culmination of the grace initiated at salvation (cf. Ephesians 2:7).

1:14: As “children” born into the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, Christians are exhorted to be “obedient.” Only the Word of God can lead us to obedience. Recall that James, the brother of Jesus said, “Do not merely listen to the word … Do what it says” (James 1:22). The Word of God not only brings us hope, but it also leads us into obedience. The Word of God is to be obeyed and we are to yield to its instruction.

Peter’s exhortation is in contrast to the “evil desires” and behavior of the person before their conversion; they did not know better. They were ignorant of God, but now they are transformed from the inside and are to live lives which reveal a genuine transformation. That is only possible by yielding to God and His Word.

1:15 – 16: “Holy” means blameless, separated from sin and set apart for God’s use. Holiness defines the Christian’s new nature and conduct in contrast to their pre-salvation lifestyle. Believers are to live in a manner totally dedicated to God and separated from the sin of the world. And God wants His children to enjoy life, not in sinfulness, but real enjoyment in the life He has given them. Holiness is to the spiritual life what health is to the physical life. Holiness is to be healthy and robust spiritually, to live life to its fullest in Christ Jesus.

Our holiness, however, is not to be an attribute like that of God. Our God is perfect, and we will never reach that state while we are in this life. Believers do, however, glorify God most by striving to be like Him (Matthew 5:48; Ephesians 5:1). So what does it mean to be holy as God is holy? Our God is a complete and wonderful personality. Though we are mere human, we are exhorted to grow and strive toward a higher plain of spiritual maturity in Christ. Christians should be continually growing spiritually throughout their entire life, and the only thing that can produce that kind of growth is the Word of God. The Word of God is inexhaustible – it will sustain you for a life time.  

1:17: “Since you call on the Father” is simply another way of saying, “since you are a Christian.” God the Father judges the work of every Christian “impartially” and without “favoritism” (Romans 2:11). Christian works is defined as works of service to God that a believer does after becoming a member of the body of Christ (the church) through faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Christians, therefore, are “strangers” in the world because they have an eternal home waiting in heaven. And because God shows no favoritism in judgment, Christians can have wholesome and “reverent” respect for God which is the basis of all godly living. The gospel transforms lives and brings with it a living hope which rests upon the resurrection of Christ.

1:18 – 19: The verb “redeemed” is translated from the Greek word lutroo which means “to release on receipt of ransom.” Redemption was the term used for money paid to buy back a prisoner of war, or in the Greek world, to purchase freedom for a slave. Peter is speaking of the objective work of God for the believer’s salvation. All of mankind stood under the judgment of God because His Word says, “The soul that sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). God has never revoked that decree, He is unchanging in His nature; therefore, God had to pay a price to purchase freedom for humanity, all of whom were under the bondage of sin. The price paid to a holy God was the “precious” shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ, which is far more valuable than “silver or gold.” Although silver and gold can be purified through heating, even they will corrupt and tarnish over time. Christians are not redeemed with corruptible things. Simon Peter lived with Jesus for three years and said He was “a lamb without blemish or defect.” In other words, He was absolutely sinless. We should take Peter’s word for it. Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrificial lamb was offered in our place to pay our ransom and hence, “redeemed” believers from the “curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13) and “all wickedness” (Titus 2:14). Christ obediently and willingly gave His life as ransom for all mankind. His substitutionary death was unlimited in its sufficiency to reconcile mankind to the Father; therefore, God could offer it to everyone.  

“From the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers” is a peculiar phrase. The word “empty” is translated “vain” in the KJV and vain means hopeless, without purpose, and meaningless. Peter was writing to Jewish Christians who were traditionalists and stressed the influence of the father as teacher in the home. Here the apostle is saying that their teaching was vain, it was empty without the redemption of Christ. There is nothing quite as meaningless as mankind apart from the redemption of Christ. Everything else in life serves a purpose, plants, animals, the sun, the moon, etc., but man without God is meaningless. We have not been redeemed by corruptible things – not anything from this empty life. Mankind has nothing to offer to God for his own redemption.

1:20: See notes on verse 2. In eternity past, God planned the redemption of sinners through Jesus Christ. What was known only to God before is now made known to us. The phrase “last times” is a reference to the current age of grace (the church age) in which we live. It is the time from Christ’s first coming to His second coming. Jesus Christ was the Lamb who was slain before the creation of the world because God knew that mankind would need a Savior and He loved us enough to provide that Savior – by His mercy and by His grace.

1:21: Peter keeps reminding us of the resurrection of Christ. Afterwards, God, through the ascension, returned Christ to the glory that He had with the Father before the world began (John 17:4; Acts 1:9 – 11; Philippians 2:9 – 11). In verse 13, the apostle put together the words grace and hope; here it is faith and hope. This is Peter’s great epistle of hope, a hope that rests upon the resurrection of Christ and the faith we have in a living Savior who will be returning one day.

1:22: I like what the KJV says here: “Purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit.” The KJV adds the word “Spirit.” It is the work of the Holy Spirit that makes God’s Word real in the heart of a person and brings their soul to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Saving faith regenerates a person into new life, a “purified soul,” and one focused on serving Christ rather than the world. The Word of God made real through the Holy Spirit is a miracle cleansing agent. Your relationship to the Word of God will lead you to a right relationship with other believers. “Sincere” or “fervent” (KJV) love means whole-hearted love, and it is based on the command our Lord Jesus gave to His disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples; if you love one another (John 13:34 – 35). The Apostle Paul, likewise, encouraged his readers regarding brotherly love, urging them to love “more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9 – 10).

1:23: Peter brings us back to the Word of God again.  In the phrase “born again,” the Greek word for “again” is anothen which means “from above.” In the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus in the night, Jesus told him that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again … born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:3 – 5). What does that mean? Well the word Spirit is capitalized, so we understand that to be a reference to the Holy Spirit; thus the Holy Spirit is involved in this process. But, what is the water? When Jesus uses the word water in His teaching, it is always symbolic of His words – the Word of God. Today, our Bible and here including the red-lettered words of Jesus, has a cleansing and sanctifying power and is thus likened to water. To be “born of water and the Spirit” means that a person is “born again” by the Holy Spirit using the power of the Holy Scripture. The Word of God plays an important role (James 1:18). In other words, a person is born from above by the use of water (the Word of God) and the Spirit (the Holy Spirit), making the Word of God real in that person’s heart.

In this context, the apostle likens the Word of God to an “imperishable seed,” which is living and enduring. It is the gospel seed implanted and watered by the Holy Spirit that penetrates a person’s heart and gives them new birth (v.3) as a child of God. The Word of God reveals Christ, then something tremendous takes place – they are born again!

1:24 – 25: Peter quotes the Prophet Isaiah in order to reinforce his point about the generating power of God’s Word. There is absolutely nothing of value that mankind can offer to God. All of mankind’s glory is like a fragile flower or grass, pretty and green in the summer but brown and dead in the winter. Oh, how we need the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, there is no substitute for it for “the word of the Lord stands forever.”