Study 4 – 1 Peter 2:13-25

Live as free people – live as God’s slaves.

Context

Peter has intended this letter of 1 Peter to travel abroad to all Christians scattered across what is modern Turkey (then Asia Minor). He explains to all who come to Christ in faith that they are the people of God! They must not find their identity in the passing things of this world but on the truth that gives eternal life. Christians are born again into a family where God is their Father who has given Jesus as the sacrifice for their sins. The truth to live by is that Christians are given and eternal hope and destiny that will never perish or fade.

He has already warned his readers to not gloat over their position but to live out their time in this world as strangers – not identifying primarily as a citizen of this world – and in reverent fear of a Father who judges justly. We are to be holy as God our Father is holy. We are to rid ourselves of all kinds of evil. And now, Peter continues his exhortation on what type of people God’s people ought to be.

Observation

Structure

  • 13-17 As free people – live in rightful respect and submission
  • 18-20 Respond to your boss as God’s slave
  • 21-25 Follow Christ’s lead in this.

13-17 As free people – live in rightful respect and submission

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake” The word ‘submission’ seems like an anti-equality phrase in our present age. But the word really refers to identifying ones role in a relationship. Those in authority really have a responsibility of care for those they have authority over. Those willing to submit ought to recognise the purpose and reason for others to be in the position of authority. All things being equal, those submitting ought to enjoy that role and those in authority ought to govern with great care and love.

In Peter’s context, he refers to citizens of this world submitting to their governments. In verses 18-25, he will stand by his command to submit, even to governments who mistreat their people.

He does not mention wives here but he will in the next section and the bible elsewhere does teach wives to submit to husbands (Ephesians 5). So, briefly, wives are instructed to choose to submit to their husbands who are instructed to love their wives sacrificially. This is a beautiful relationship. Never are husbands instructed to demand submission. Never is submission a forced position. Always, husbands are to lay down their lives for their wives. Even here, in 1 Peter 2:13, Christians are taught to submit themselves to human authority.

Tricky examples will always be brought up where authorities ask people to do or comply with immoral laws. A broader study of the bible is required to examine each ethical dilemma on this. But here, as a general rule, Christians are advised to wilfully submit to authorities. A good guide on tricky issues is to start with what is instructed and err toward compliance. Where immorality or force is present, then love of God and neighbour will help find a solution.

“…to every human authority…who are sent by [the Lord]” This phrase teaches us that all authorities are put in place by the sovereign hand of God. We are not to distinguish some who are placed there by God and those who are not and therefore not to be submitted to. Even harsh governments are in place because the Lord wills it. Their evil deeds are not committed at God’s command but they are allowed to do evil and even their actions will bring about God’s will. But Peter gives an optimistic view of government and shows that human authorities act as tools of God for maintaining peace and order in this fallen world. Judgement and reward are common tools in every society for keeping peace and order. Surely this is a small clue that humans all come from the common mind of God – we bear his image – even though it is a fallen and damaged mirror!

“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people” Is this passive aggression (lol)? Quarrelling and strife is not the way that God desires his scattered people to win over this world. In society, we are to be good. Pay tax. All of it. Drive safely. Show respect and honour to the police. Don’t sledge the government. Keep your property tidy. Dispose of rubbish properly.

But what is the ignorant talk of foolish people? Peter used the word ‘ignorance’ earlier when he refers to those who have not come to Christ – even Christians once lived in ignorance. They do not recognise a God who is sovereign over all! A just judge! A mighty saviour! These truths will change the way that we think of the society we live in. We don’t need to fight over silly disputes which the world will demand to win – since we live as those who have the hope of eternal life! When we seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6), we don’t fight tooth and nail to get what we probably even deserve in this life. Let those still living in ignorance worry about silly things. Let’s obey God by doing good. See 1 Corinthians 9:19.

“Live as free people…but…live as God’s slaves.” We are not bound to the things of this world. Free yourself of all the fighting and ambition and lust and sinful cravings of this world – but beware that you are bound to one authority and that is God. He is our Master. ‘As a cover-up for evil’ is an interesting phrase which is expanded on in verse 17. Christians may find their minds settled on God as their authority and that they no longer belong to this world and so therefore are free BUT we must still show respect, love and honour to people both inside the church as well as outside. Do not let your Christian identity disrespect the authorities that God has put in place for the benefit of the world.

18-20 Respond to your boss as God’s slave

“Slaves” Peter gives specific advice to one category of people: slaves. This word can also be translated ‘servants’ and must be understood in its historic context. True, slavery is not condemned in the bible. In fact, we are to regard ourselves as slaves to God! But this is not the same as the barbaric slave trading era with regards to African-Americans. Servants worked for their employer to serve as their boss instructed them to. The master was in a financial position to employ servants and the servant was living through their means of serving a master. We make ourselves ‘slaves’ when we agree to work for an employer. It is a choice but we agree to work under them in return for pay. Now, slavery in the bible is not exalted as a neutral life decision – it is always better to be a free person! See Leviticus 25:39-46; Numbers 16:14.

“…in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters.” The point here is whom you are to respond in fear to. Do not act out of fear of your earthly master but be motivated by your reverent fear of God (1 Peter 1:17). Christians are free from all human boundaries and yet we are motivated to live good lives amongst the pagans because of our fear of our true Master – God the Father.

“…not only to those who are good and considerate…” The principal here is that Christians are not rebels or anti-authoritarian. In general, we are to practice submission even when things don’t seem fair. However, if we are able to be released from authority, we should seek it (1 Corinthians 7:21).

“For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering…” This is self-explanatory however I need to put in writing that nobody is required to remain in a position of unjust suffering if they are able to gain their freedom. This applies to both slavery and domestic violence.

The principle Peter is laying out in this passage is an awareness of our eternal freedom from this world while persevering under both good and bad authority – conscious of God in every circumstances. God has not given us new birth in order to play the rebel in this world. We will be doing God’s will when we submit to authority regardless of its quality. Peter goes on from verse 21 to remind us of how Christ demonstrated this principle.

21-25 Follow Christ’s lead in this.

“…Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” When Christ suffered, not only on the cross, but in becoming human, he certainly did leave us an example to follow. Some Christians believe and teach that this is all Christ did for us – give us an example to follow and that following him we show ourselves to be Christian. This is only part of the truth though. We only need to read a few more verses to see more of the picture: he bore our sins in his body on the cross. Let us not escape the lesson though, that Christ is our example through suffering. He did not demand his rights! Peter goes on to remind us of what Jesus did.

“He committed no sin…he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” Verses 22 and 23 are a profound rebuke to all of us who desire justice here and now. Whenever anything unfair happens, who of us gets angry, bitter and resentful? Jesus did not retaliate. Jesus did not make threats. What did he do? He entrusted himself to the One who always judges justly. Our motivation is not only to follow the example of Jesus but also to understand his rationale: God the Father is the just Judge who will not allow anyone to get away with evil. We don’t need to grasp for justice now because justice has already been promised for us. Our mission in this world is not to ensure justice is served here and now, but to plead with people to be reconciled to God for their sin before they must face him and be judged (Hebrews 9:27).

“…you were like sheep…but now you have returned…” Again, Peter contrasts the prior way of life of all before coming to Christ. Like sheep going astray, the people of this world seek vengeance and retribution – that is their ignorance speaking. But we have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. Leave the future to him. It is His body that has bore our sins. It was his wounds which healed us. We did not achieve this and no amount of fighting in this world will improve our already excellent standing before God! Let him also be the judge of this world. By grace we are made righteous and by grace we are freed from the daily insults, deceit and injustice of this world.

“Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” As a shepherd takes care of his sheep, so too, and overseer ‘over sees’ those he is in charge of. God has shown how sacrificial he is to keep our souls protected. He gave his own life and suffered so that our souls would be sin-free, righteous and healed.

Some more observations:

Notice the reasons given for all of Peter’s instructions: “For the Lord’s sake” (v12); “For it is God’s will” (v15); “as God’s salves” (v16); “fear God” (v17); “in reverent fear of God” (v18); “because they are conscious of God” (v19); “this is commendable before God” (v20); “you were called” (v21).

Notice also the free choice of responding to God’s call as well as our free choice to submit to authorities. In both senses, we have freedom! It is our freedom to choose life and come to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.

Meaning

In Christ we have been adopted into the family of God and so free from the impact of this passing world. God calls us, however, to live conscious of Him, the righteous judge, the redeemer of souls, and the perfect example of a Master. Let us live in peace with earthly authorities because we answer ultimately to our Lord, our Shepherd and protector.

Application

  • Topic A – Who has authority over you in at this present stage? List them all, from the Queen down, and discuss how you go at submitting to them as Peter has instructed.
  • Topic B – Responding to injustice. You or your group may have some stories to share of injustice in this world. If you are able to share them with objective restraint, can you discuss how Peter is teaching us to respond as people of God? What would happen if you took up Peter’s challenge?
  • Topic C – Conscious of God. Ignorance or short-sightedness will influence our responses to people and events in this world. We are likely to fight for justice, to deceive ourselves or others about who or what is right and true, and to create unjust situations so that we come out on top. But when we live conscious of God, his just judgement, his sacrifice for sin and his invitation to be his children, our responses in this world ought to be affected tremendously. We are much more likely to live good lives to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people because we are not seeking our own ‘cred’ or justice but leaving it to God. Discuss.

Prayer of the Week

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. Psalm 23

1 Peter 2:4-12

But you are a chosen people

Context

In writing a letter to Christians scattered across the world, Peter encourages his readers to remember the promises of God fulfilled in Jesus. What joins us together is not this world or geography or heritage but the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have been born again into a the family of God. We are no longer part of this world but must set our minds on our eternal future. Everything in this world will pass away, but the promises of God stand forever.  He instructs us to live like we are God’s children in this world and not like we are making this world our eternal home.

The next section continues the theme of our new identity in Christ and uses words and concepts which harken back to the book of Leviticus. While preserving great links between the Old Testament and the New, Peter describes a great divide in this world between those who come to the Living Stone and those who reject Him.

Observation

Structure

  • 4-6 You are being built as a spiritual house
  • 7-10 Once you were not…but now you are!
  • 11-12 Live lives that glorify God.

4-6 You are being built.

“As you come to him…” Notice the progressive language here. Peter will teach us in this passage that we have been chosen by God (2:9 and 1:1) and that there are two different people in this world: those who reject Jesus and those who accept him. But here, those who accept Jesus are described as coming to him. They are inclined toward him. Salvation is both a binary and a progressive event. We are both holy now, and waiting for our glory to come. We are both saved and righteous now but also ridding ourselves of our previous way of life (2:1).

“…the Living Stone…” Peter identified Jesus as the Living Stone back in Acts 4:11-12. He alludes to Psalm 118:22; see also Isaiah 8:14-15; 28:16; Zechariah 10:4; Matthew 21:42-44; Romans 9:32-33; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:7. Every reference in the NT about this OT stone identifies Jesus as the stone. The OT itself identifies the cornerstone as the Messiah and all that was left was to identify Jesus as the Messiah.

“…rejected by humans but chosen by God…” Peter’s two early sermons in Acts 2 and Acts 4 focus on the line that God had clearly approved Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ but that mankind rejected and killed (Acts 2:36; 4:10-11). This reality of being rejected by men but chosen and precious to God flows through the rest of what Peter will say about Jesus and his followers. We will be rejected too, but the reality is that God has chosen us and we are precious to Him!

“…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…” How incredible to be compared even remotely to our LORD! While Jesus is the cornerstone, we are also stones making up the same house. Our nature derives from the resurrected Lord who has give us new birth into a living hope. While we are all stones making up this spiritual house, Jesus is the cornerstone which defines how the rest of the house will be built. The house is not a physical one but spiritual. Since Peter will speak of a priesthood and since the house is spiritual, we ought to think of the temple – the place where God met and dwelled with Israel. The temple and the priests were established so that God could dwell with his chosen people. All of this imagery, Peter embraces to describe Christians now! Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and together we make a spiritual house. God’s dwelling place among humans is in the lives of his chosen people – those who accept the Living Stone.

“…to be a holy priesthood…” although we have no need for blood sacrifices any more – because Christ’s blood has been offered for us, once for all – we offer spiritual sacrifices as God has described. We have already heard Peter command us to love one another deeply, to rid ourselves of our old ways and in verse 11 we are instructed to live exemplary lives. Like the whole tribe of Levi were devoted to God, Christians offer their whole lives to God. Living sacrifices, see Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:15-16.

“…acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” A good life on it’s own is not acceptable to God – but by grace and faith through Jesus Christ. We cannot be born again except through Jesus Christ. We cannot be pleasing to God except through Jesus Christ. All of our acceptable spiritual sacrifices are offered in the context of what God has done for us through Christ.

7-10 Once you were not…but now you are!

“Now to you who believe…” A new subsection begins with the word ‘Now.’ This section has a flow that looks like this: To you who believe…but to those who do not…but you. Peter describes the great divide between those who believe and those who do not. If there is one thing that will highlight a true believer it is this: that Jesus is precious to them.

“The cornerstone” Both Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14 are quoted by Peter to show that the one who has been rejected is both the cornerstone (foundation stone) and a stumbling block.

“They stumble because…” Verse 8 here gives us a classic picture of human judgement mixed with God’s sovereignty. Many will get fixated on God’s predistination of both the elect (1:1) and the damned (2:8). But Peter doesn’t say they were pre-destined, just that they were destined. This was going to be their end because – they disobey the message. God’s word is open and available for all to read and respond to (yes, there are closed countries and difficulties – but across time and the world the word has been made available). In our culture, there are dozens of Christian churches in every city. Their doors are open every Sunday and more! Their websites are running 24/7 and their members are living in and around the community ready and prayerful to share the good news of new life through Christ. Yet people stumble because they disobey the message. It was always going to be the way. “Christ is laid across the path of humanity on its course into the future. In the encounter with him each person is changed: one for salvation, another for destruction. …One cannot simply step over Jesus to go on about the daily routine and pass him by to build a future. Whoever encounters him is inescapably changed through the encounter: Either one sees and becomes “a living stone”, or one stumbles as a blind person over Christ and comes to ruin, falling short, i.e., of one’s Creator and Redeemer and thereby of one’s destiny.”

NB: be careful to conclude verse 8 is about predestination to damnation. It could be saying that ‘they’ are destined to disobey or it could equally mean all those who disobey are destined to stumble. That is the destiny of every person who disobeys the message that they stumble for they have no other hope.

“But you are…” In contrast to those who reject Jesus as Lord, we, who see him as precious, are described by Peter in holy and sacred terms.

“…a chosen people…” not just wandering into the sheepfold of God but called by name. Not only are Christians chosen but also the type of people they become are the choice people that God ordained – they are Jesus people, i.e., they cannot simply be loved by God but they are the people God has chosen them to be through Jesus. Israel were known as the chosen people of God because he regarded and treated them as special out of all the other nations but this was not of their own greatness but of God’s mercy (Exodus 19:5). The purpose of this calling, even of Israel were for proclaiming his praise before all the other nations (Isaiah 43:20-21). So, royal priesthood, holy nation and God’s special possession are all synonymous for the same thing: that God has chosen those who have accepted Jesus to speak into this world the good news about God.

“…holy nation…” As 1 Peter 1:1-2 implies, Christians are united on the basis of their faith in Christ. We may be scattered and vary in all sorts of ways but we are a singular group – a nation of people set apart by God and for God.

“…that you may declare…” There is a purpose or a responsibility to all who call on the name of Jesus to be saved. We are to declare or speak or proclaim to all that God is mighty and sovereign and the only source of salvation is through Jesus. Let’s celebrate and be people who worship with joy and thanksgiving to the God who raised us from darkness to light. It’s such a puzzle why we fail to do this – except that we fail to set our hope on the grace being brought to us through Christ (1 Peter 1:13). The remedy may well be to meditate on verse 10 which follows…

“Once you were not a people…” The value of ‘not a people’ is quite extreme but Peter appears to be taking language from the Old Testament prophet, Hosea. Through that book, the prophet was commanded to take a bride and have children and name them in ways that communicated God’s plans for Israel who were being unfaithful to God. Hosea 1:6-10, one of Hosea’s sons was named Lo Ammi which means ‘not my people’. Prior to being the people of God, we are nothing. At that time, we had not received mercy but now, what defines us as the chosen people of God is that we have received mercy from God. To be his people is to have God’s mercy poured upon you (Deuteronomy 7:7, 9:6).

11-12 Live lives that glorify God.

“…I urge you to abstain…” The Christian life is a life of denying self. Peter has already talked about offering spiritual offerings and about ridding ourselves of the old way of life we once lived when we were in ignorance of God’s grace and mercy.

“…sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” The spiritual battle we will always find the hardest is the one going on inside our very minds and hearts. Paul talks about this battle between the flesh and the Spirit (Romans 7-8). Even a Christian living in isolation from the world, as if they could find a place to escape from it, will continue to experience this warfare going on inside themselves. The command is to abstain and be in control of this battle – unaware or unconcerned with this battle will just not do. The good news here is that signs of inner struggle is not evidence of unconversion! Even God’s chosen, holy and royal priesthood will need to combat their inner conflict: to serve the flesh or to live as children of God.

“Live such good lives…” The level of good here is simply the kind that stands out in a pagan world. The result though is sobering – it won’t be the Christian praised for their goodness (this is not the purpose for our good living) – it will be God who is praised. This glory that God receives when he returns may not be of a saved person praising God – rather, that all mankind will see what great mercy and work God has had on mankind – it may be recognising God’s glory through a snarly face.

Meaning

There are two type of people in this world: those who love Jesus and those who do not. The difference is huge! The former are called the chosen people of God – set apart to worship him with their whole lives, while the latter remain in darkness, receiving no mercy from God and destined to  remain in that state. Those who come to Jesus do so at the mercy and grace of God and are called to live wholly for Him.

Application

  • Topic A – Rejecting or accepting Christ. Can you say that your faith is based on a living relationship with Jesus? How can we remove human obstacles and create as many paths for people in our community to come to Jesus and receive him? We cannot force people to love him but we can certainly try to make him known. Who are you praying for at the moment to bring the gospel to ?
  • Topic B – Declaring the praises of God. How can you express your gratitude to God for calling you from death to life, darkness to light, outside his mercy to inside his grace? Consider how our praises can be displayed in prayer, in song, in our conversations with Christians and those outside our Christian community.
  • Topic C – The war against your soul within. To what extent are you aware of a battle going on within you? What is your strategy for combat? James says to resist the devil and he will flee (James 4:8); do you have a method for resistance? Being aware of the particular temptations that ‘get’ us is a good place to start. Think of, or even share with others, the particular sins that you are most vulnerable to.

Prayer of the Week

Our Lord God and King, may we live our lives grateful for your salvation and always ready to declare what you’ve done in us. Thank you for embracing us as your people. Please help us in our ambition to live holy and exemplary lives for you and your glory. Amen.

1 Peter 1:13-2:3

Live your lives as foreigners here in reverent fear.

Context

Peter is writing to God’s chosen people who are scattered across the globe but who have come to know and believe in the gospel. He describes that Christianity is not to do with land or geography or on material possessions but to do with our relationship with God the Father which goes back before our knowledge of him. What was seriously sort after by the Old Testament prophets and even the angels in heaven, is now here for us. Although we have not seen Jesus, we know him, we believe in him and we love him because what is at work in us is holiness through the Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ. We live in an age where Christ has been revealed and those God has chosen are growing in their joy, love and trust in him.

The structure of this section may remind us of the message of God to Israel once they had been rescued from Egypt and made a people of God. They were to set their minds on worshiping God in the promised land; they were to learn how to be holy; they were commanded to love God and love their neighbour; and all this because they had tasted that the Lord is good.

Observation

Structure

  • 13 With sober minds – set your hope
  • 14-16 As obedient children – be holy
  • 17-21 As children of an impartial judge – revere God
  • 22-25 With purified minds – love one another
  • 2:1-3 As those who have tasted what is good.

13 With sober minds – set your hope

“Therefore” The therefore is there for all the reasons spelled out in verses 1-12. See the context above or the previous verses.

“With minds that are alert and fully sober” Peter calls us to wake up and see reality clearly. Like the person who interrupts jokes and laughter with “now, on a serious note” – Peter challenges his hearers to be clear headed about where their life is headed. This is not simply saying to stay away from alcohol (sober) but is the idea of being clear headed with regards to grace and hope. 1 Thess 5:4-8.

“Set your hope on the grace to be brought to you.” Like the previous section, Peter declares that there is a future inheritance and reality that we are living for now by faith. The whole point in putting our trust in Jesus is for the future reality that will supercede what we think we know right now.

“Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” The only thing left in the plans of God are for Jesus to return. Acts 1:9-11; 2 Thess 2; 1 Thess 4:16-18.

So, think clearly about life. We are not random beings floating through time and space but we are the people of God. Like people keen to reach a destination, set your minds on where we are going because we know that is where true life is at.

14-16 As obedient children – be holy

“As obedient children” Peter had already mentioned obedience in verse 2 as something that goes hand in hand with being sprinkled with the blood of Christ. He mentions it again in verse 22. We are saved and will therefore choose obedience. Put it another way, even the act of repentance is a declaration that you wish to turn around from rebellion to obedience. There is no works righteousness here. This is the standard teaching of what naturally (or spiritually) follows repentance and forgiveness.

“The evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” Ignorance is not to be confused with stupidity. God revealed himself to us and prior to that we were ignorant of what we truly needed to know. We must not get too frustrated with how the world acts and thinks since we would be just like that too if it weren’t for the grace of God to reveal truth to us. But there are actions that coincide with ignorance. A baby will throw themselves off a high couch or into a deep pool without a thought of breaking something or drowning. That is ignorance. Deceit, envy and slander flow from an evil heart. Blasphemy and immoral behaviour or joking do not feel out of place to those ignorant of true holiness, righteousness and grace.

“Be holy because I am holy.” This comes from the book of Leviticus (11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7). The end of salvation is for us to be in God’s presence, to be welcome into his house, to dwell with him and he with us, and that we would be like him. Humans were created in His image, and although twisted and distorted by sin, the blood of Christ and the work of the Spirit means that we are being made like him once again. Why should we behave ourselves as Christians? Because God will love us? No, because that is what we were made for – because God is holy.

So, in the context of our relationship with God rather than our relationship with evil, we ought to be holy. This is our aim and agenda. The presence of sin and the battle within our hearts will continue in this life (Romans 7 and 1 John 1:8-9) so that we will fail to be holy in this life – but we pursue it nonetheless because God our Father is holy.

17-21 As children of an impartial judge – revere God

“Since you call on a Father who judges…live…in reverent fear.” It is true that God is merciful and gracious. It is also true that he does not show favouritism (Romans 2:11). Our salvation has not come cheaply to God and to live our lives carelessly would be to dishonour our Father who saved us. We have been told not to conform to the ways of this evil age any more and now are reminded why we ought to think soberly about our salvation too.

“As foreigners here.” Remember being described as sojourners or exiles in Peter’s greeting? This world is not our home, we are just a passin’ through. It is hard to live as a foreigner. The locals find us odd and we do not understand entirely why they don’t follow Jesus too. It will always be like this until Christ returns and is revealed.

“…not with perishable things….but the precious blood of Christ…” This is the second time that Peter has referred to precious things like silver and gold as perishable (1:7) – these are things that the locals who live in this world chase after. But these will all pass away. The precious thing to us is the life and blood of Jesus Christ – our perfect sacrifice without defect.

“…and so your faith and hope are in God.” Peter compares and contrasts the empty teachings and ways of this world with the eternal things of God. Which are you going to put your hope in? Peter’s theology goes back before the creation of the world! And his theology foretells the everlasting future. It begins and continues with God. He prepared the sacrifice from before the creation of the world! Did God know that Adam would sin? He foreknew that you needed to be redeemed! We believe in God and his salvation because he raised Christ from the dead. This verse which ends our present sub-section (verse 21) outlines really what our whole faith and life and hope is based on. Jesus is the reason and evidence for believing in God! Why? Because Jesus was raised from the dead and glorified God, so we put our faith/trust and our hope in God. Want to break Christianity? Disprove the resurrection. Faith that is based on wishful thinking or superstition or just what your grandmother told you to do is weak and foolish. Our faith is grounded on the historic power of God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

22-25 With purified minds – love one another

“…purified yourselves…” The doctrine of grace teaches us that God has chosen us, saved us, and is at work in us to sanctify us. Here, however, we hear Peter say that we purify ourselves. The two thoughts sit hand in hand because it is through the message of the gospel, the word of God, that we understand and learn of the truth and we transform our minds through hearing, retaining and persevering in our understanding of the truth. So, it truly feels like it is our work to listen and understand God for the purpose of obedience. Peter says that we purify ourselves by obeying the truth. We cannot summarise what ‘the truth’ is in a sentence. It is all that God has revealed of himself from Genesis to Revelation. Love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourselves is the summary of the commandments. Love flows from our own experience of God’s love first to us. This is how we know what love is: Christ died for sinners.

“…love one another deeply, from the heart.” If you want a real practical application from grace it is to love the brothers and sisters in Christ deeply and sincerely. Those of us (yes me especially) who are task oriented, need to learn and practice loving people sincerely. We have been told to be holy because God is holy. Now we are told to love one another deeply because this is what we know God is like. And we know that through his eternal and imperishable word.

“…through the living and enduring word of God.” Now, I don’t want to rave on about this but I want us all to stop and think about it. The word of God is described as living. It is described as enduring. And it is described as from God! We ought to include all of the following in our minds when we hear the phrase “word of God” – it is the bible because all of it is God-breathed like words are – it is Jesus of course (John 1:1) – and it is any and every message you have heard that carries the very message of the bible, of the gospel and of the kingdom of God. See the end of verse 25: this is the word that was preached to you! Every God-Spirited sermon which proclaims that Jesus is Lord and Saviour is the word of God (not equal to the scriptures since the scriptures are the source and rule for the truth that we preach!).

“For ‘All people are like grass…” See Isaiah 40:6-8. Slight differences in the text of 1 Peter with Isaiah is due to the difference between the Hebrew Old Testament documents and the Greek translated version known as the LXX. It’s easy to see that the meaning has been retained but Isaiah not only declares people to have a fleeting glory or faith but that God simply breaths and they are blown away.

So, our strength is in the word of God. The truth of the gospel is our purification. Our immortality is grounded and preserved in the faith of God through his word which outlasts this world.

2:1-3 As those who have tasted what is good.

The final section here lists what we are to be driven away from and what we are to crave and the reason is that we have already experienced the goodness of God. Grace comes before obedience!

“Therefore rid yourselves…” The response to the word of truth which we put our hope and faith in is to begin to live like citizens of the kingdom of God rather than as citizens of this world. We are aliens and strangers (1:1; 2:11) in this world and need to be sober minded (1:13) and no longer conform to the ways of our ignorant past (1:14). Paul tells us in Colossians 3:5 to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature. In Romans 13:13, he instructs us to behave like those living in daylight and not darkness. See Mark 7:20-23.

“…malice…” wickedness or evil. This is a general word but the opposite of virtue. The list moves from this general word to some specifics. All the words can be taken to impact community negatively and so be the opposite of “love one another deeply from the heart” (1:22).

“…deceit…” cunning, treachery, error or lies.

“…hypocrisy…” play acting, not authentic – even godless.

“…envy…” a grudging regard for the advantages seen to be enjoyed by others. An inconsiderate zeal. James 3:14, 16

“…slander of every kind.” evil report, secrecy, the wrong use of the tongue, defaming or speaking against.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk…” This is a command from Peter. Notice how Peter has been talking about Christians as children of the Father (1:14, 17) and “born again (1:23). Now he continues a newborn child metaphore and commands us to crave pure spiritual milk just like a baby instinctively craves and devours milk when they receive it. What is “pure Spiritual milk?” We know it is something that will grow the Christian up. It is to do with salvation. And it is something that we have already tasted? These clues point us to  what Peter has already described for us: the living and enduring word of God (1:23). This is what gave us new birth, and is the truth which we obey. While Hebrews 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 3:1 use the metaphore of milk negatively, it is not used negatively here. We are not to push an identicle use of the metaphore onto all three passages. The context of Peter’s use is that our source of growth has been and always will be the word of God which lasts forever. He is not talking about shallow learning or elementary truths but the entire word of God that is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3).

“…so that…you may grow up in your salvation…” See the point above and the reference to 2 Timothy 3.

“…now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” This phrase helps us to build upon what that “spiritual milk” is that Peter talks about. It is something that we have already tasted.

Meaning

There are six commands given in this section which all relate to our new life as children of our Heavenly Father: 1. Set your hope God’s promises (Combine 1:13 with 1:3-5); 2. Do not conform to your ignorant past (1:14); 3. Live your life as foreigners here in reverent fear (1:17); 4. Love one another deeply (1:22); 5. Rid yourselves of evil (2:1); 6. Crave the living and enduring word of God (combine 2:2 with 1:23).

Application

  • Topic A – Set your hope on the promises of God. How can you train your mind to be set on the future which God has prepared for us and avoid being fixated on the things of this temporary world? Do memory verses help? What about deliberate times to meditate and talk about the future? Is it sad that we don’t talk about it more often in our community? How can you change your habits or habits among your Christian friends to be setting your eyes and attention on the things to come?
  • Topic B – Living as foreigners in this world. What ways do you think Christians can or ought to appear as foreigners in this world? How does being a born again Christian change the way we do life here? Would you say you are living your life as a foreigner or would you say you are blending in quite well with this world?
  • Topic C – Craving the living and enduring word of God. It is a vivid image to think of a baby guzzling down milk like it cannot wait! What an amazing image to think of us reading, learning, retaining and devouring the word of God like we cannot get enough! Here are 3 suggestions to help you get back to loving the scriptures like this: 1. Write notes during Growth Group and during sermons – it will help engage your brain; 2. Invite a friend to read the bible with you, once a week for 7-8 weeks – speak to your Growth Group leader or one of the ministry team if you want to do this but not sure how; 3. Signup to a bible or theological class and learn something new about the bible and God this year – God’s Big Picture Plus is an excellent course or try on online course through Moore College Distance Learning.

Prayer of the Week

Lord God, we thank you for the new life that we share through Jesus. We thank you for the hope of grace that you have placed in our hearts. Make us a blessing in our community by loving one another deeply and set our hearts truly on the eternal treasures of life with you. May we live as foreigners here in reverent fear and crave your word as life giving food. Amen.