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Category Archives: 1 Peter

1 Peter 5 – Shaped Like the Cross

The cross, as a symbol of Christianity, has lost a lot of its meaning. You find it everywhere. Scantily clad women dangle it. You see it tattooed on men who are singing about their unChristlike lifestyles. We upholster the cross with cowhide. Adorn it with gold or silver to decorate our walls. The cross in a lot of ways has become a symbol that has lost meaning.

For the early church, when the cross began to be associated with Christianity more and more, the cross was a continual reminder of the life they has been called to. Christ called us to pick up our cross and follow him. The cross is a reminder that we, in all areas of our lives, should become cruciform (shaped like the cross). Peter, as one of the few who witnessed Christ’s sufferings, reminds the Elders and the flock that they till will undergo suffering. If you are living out the cross of Christ suffering will happen. As Elders, they should take their call seriously as servant leaders who look to best serve the flock and to set an example for them. They will receive a reward when the Chief Shepherd appears.

Peter has continued in his push for humility. It isn’t just for those who have high positions but for everyone. Humble yourselves so that you will be lifted up. This is a hard one to grasp. I’ve seen people use this concept in incredibly arrogant ways. Their humility becomes a point of pride and in the end they elevate themselves. Be completely humble with faith knowing that you will be exalted in the end. This is still hard to get my mind around though…because true humility does not look to your own gain. All in all…let the cross shape your life and your humility. You see Jesus agonizing over the upcoming crucifixion while in the Garden. Jesus believed that he would be raised from the dead and glorified in the resurrection. Humbly he went to the cross knowing this to be the reality. We too are called to live humbly knowing that we will be glorified in our resurrection. The cross shapes our humility.

Suffering will happen when you allow the cross to shape your life. Be alert! The devil is present around us always. One of my friends went on safari in Africa and his guide told them that if they could hear the lion then they were safe. I don’t think this would be much comfort for me. The lion does not announce his presence if he is prowling around. Satan acts in the same way. He is crafty and undetected. Be alert! Be sober in your thinking! Have a clear understanding of the faith. In the faith we are united with a family who undergoes the same kind of suffering. We are not alone. The faith we are firm in is the faith that unites the Family of God. After suffering comes glory. He will make us strong, firm, and steadfast. These are things we cannot do ourselves. Submit yourself to God and allow Him to do this for you.

Peter ends his letter with a blessing of peace to all who are in Christ. When we think of peace, we think of a life lacking trial and suffering. Peter has spent a good amount of time talking about how suffering is inevitable and how they should go about living while undergoing suffering. The peace Peter ends with is a peace that is found deep at the core of a your being. It is a peace that is otherworldly. It is a peace that comes from knowing your foundation and security are in Christ. Peace be with you!

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2013 in 1 Peter, Bible Blog

 

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1 Peter 4 – They Killed the Best Man

As Peter returns to the topic of persecution, he seems to do so with awareness that tougher and more intense persecution is coming for the church.  This discussion occurs at both the beginning and end of this chapter.  When you suffer, take on the attitude of Christ Jesus.  Later Peter says that we shouldn’t be surprised by our struggles, but instead should recognize that Jesus suffered and certainly his followers will share in his suffering, so rejoice that you are found worthy of sharing.  If you suffer, consider yourself blessed.  Don’t feel like you are being punished for something like a criminal, but recognize that your suffering is not shameful but honorable.  As such, when you suffer you should be drawn to a greater commitment, rather than being drawn away from God.

Peter’s argument here is a tricky one.  If you’ve ever heard somebody tell a teenage girl, “If he’s being really mean to you it means he actually really likes you.”  That could be true.  Or, perhaps somebody needs to tell her, “He’s mean and he’s just not interested in you.”  Now, I am not in any way trying to draw a parallel between God and suffering in the world and teen romance.  I am trying to show a similarity in the logic Peter is using here.  If you suffer, it’s because God finds you worthy so you should celebrate.  It’s a little bit (or a lot) counter-intuitive.  So what’s Peter doing here?

I’m reminded of a round table discussion I was a part of some years back at a youth ministry conference.  The topic was something like “Dealing with Complaints in Your Ministry.”  The guy leading it started out by discussing how we all assumed that if we are running an effective Bible-based youth ministry that we would not have dissension.    He then asked the group, “How many of you are perfect?”  Nobody.  “Has there ever been a perfect ministry leader, or even person?”  We knew this one…Jesus, of course.  “And what did they do to him?”  We all had to stop for a moment as we remembered that he was arrested, tried, flogged, and executed and we tried to find a way to say that.  Into the silence, the leader simply said, “So if Jesus was perfect and they killed him, why do you think they will like you?”

Peter’s doing a similar thing here in the text, and it’s really important.  Just like all of the ministers at that round table thought that if we did things right everybody would like us, the ancient world believed that if God is pleased with you, then you will be blessed.  This is dangerous logic for a people who are about to undergo radical persecution, so Peter has to make sure that they aren’t shamed by their suffering.  He reminds them that Jesus suffered and so when they suffer they are sharing in that with him.  They aren’t suffering as criminals, but are doing so as God’s blessed people.  In fact, you can even suffer and rejoice.  And when you do suffer, you certainly should not be discouraged in your faith, but should be encouraged.

In the middle of this discourse on how to deal with suffering is a contrast between faithless living and faithful living.  One is characterized by evil, sin, wild living and other junk.  The other is characterized by love, hospitality, and using our gifts for God’s Kingdom.  Live differently than the faithless people of this world.  When you do, you will likely suffer.  Love anyways.  And don’t be discourages because of your suffering or persecution.  Rather, recognize that it is an honor to suffer like your Messiah did, so take on his attitude and grow in your faith through it all.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2013 in 1 Peter

 

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1 Peter 3 – Saved Through Water By Wood

Kent pointed out yesterday that we had a long conversation about 1 Peter and that we have different approaches and different views of the text. This is a small glimpse of what has been so amazing about this whole blogging process. Kent and I have had a good long friendship of being able to discuss the Bible and continually see each other as Brothers even though we don’t always see things the same way. What you get is the blog. What we get is a continual deepening of our faith and understanding because we have been able to approach Scripture in community with each other and with you. So, here we are at a random place in this whole process and I just wanted to say thank you for joining us in this community of people reading Scripture together and spurring one another on to be who Christ has called us to be.

Peter continues in chapter 3 with the household code. We, as a culture, don’t like these codes because our culture says power and these verses say submission. You’ve been called the people of God doesn’t mean that you can leave your unbelieving spouse. Peter reminds these women that the true beauty they have is the beauty that they have in Christ lived out in their flesh.

I honestly haven’t read too much about the cultural background of the phrase “weaker partner” in regards to women so you’re about to get “Ryan’s reading” of the passage. I know a lot of people take this as a degrading statement but I think when they are quick to get offended there they fail to see the powerful statement following, “treat them…as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.” In a culture where women are treated more like property than people, Peter is calling husbands to treat their wives as though they are heirs with them. He’s saying treat them as your equal because you are both heirs. On a side note…when people say “weaker partner” is sexist and that we are all equal I quickly ask them why women have their own sporting leagues and don’t play with the men at the professional level. This isn’t a sexist comment but a realization that men are typically stronger than women. Peter is saying not to take advantage of them because you have all the power.

As Peter moves into his section on persecution he begins by reminding they church how they should live together as the Family of God. Be like-minded. Sympathetic. Love one another. Be compassionate. Humble. Do not repay evil with evil. Do not repay insult with insult. Repay evil with blessing. Simply…to one another you should be good. To those not in the Family…you should be good. It is kind of hard to persecute those who are doing good. But…if you should suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. When you keep doing good for others they are going to want to know why you act the way you do. They will want to know the reason for the hope that you have. Will you know the answer?

The early church believed that Christ conquered death for them and therefore they would risk their lives for others because death isn’t that big of a deal. When pagans saw this kind of dedication they wanted to know what the Christians had that they didn’t. The answer is that they had hope in Christ. While we need to be prepared to give an answer we also need to stop and ask if anyone is asking us the question…this should give us cause for alarm and a need to self-examination.

Justin Martyr, 100-165AD

I want to finish up with one of the more bazaar passages in the New Testament. A lot of assumptions have been made about what is going on here and there is no consensus amongst scholars. I’m not sure where Jesus has gone after he died, some assume hell, but we don’t have anything right here that necessitates that conclusion (it would seem odd since he told the thief on the cross that he would be with him today in paradise).

Jesus made proclamation. This is different from preaching. Preaching expects a response while proclamation is a making of an announcement. What did Jesus proclaim? While I have no real way of knowing I was something along the lines of, “I’m hear will all you dead people but I’m not staying…”

This passage on baptism, I believe, is one of the more powerful passages on baptism. Justin Martyr, a second century Christian writer, says that the mystery of the cross is that Christ is the firstborn of all creation who begot a new race by him through water, faith, and wood.

In the same manner “Noah was saved by wood when he with his family was borne over the waters…” in faith by wood. The wood of the ark is the cross and the “water symbolizes baptism that now saved you also.”

Peter clarifies that this is not simply a “ritual act” of removing dirt from the body but an action that gives us clear conscience toward God. There’s a few different ways “pledge of a clear conscience toward God” can be translated but no matter how it is translated we must recognize that baptism is not something that we do but it is something that is done to us. It is something we receive. It is not our action in baptism that saves us but it is God’s action that saves us. We have no power in this action but can only submit ourselves to where God is working and what God is doing. Think about your baptism. Remember what happened in God’s action there. Now go and live out that reality as aliens in a foreign land.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2013 in 1 Peter, Bible Blog

 

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1 Peter 2 – Live Well Among Pagans

If you missed Ryan’s intro to the book yesterday, go back and read it now.

Now that you’ve read it, welcome back.  Here’s what I love: in both Peter’s world and our world there is a temptation to deal badly with persecution.  We shouldn’t assimilate, retreat, or retaliate.  1 Peter is going to tell us how we should deal with being marginalized in our society.  However, I do want to add my own two cents to a couple of Ryan’s thoughts.  He and I visited about this for awhile last night and while he pointed out that much of the language of 1 Peter seems targeted to Gentiles, I think there is a decent amount that seems directed to Jews as well (speaking of them as diaspora or using exilic language to describe how they are scattered).  I tend to think that this letter is directed to the broader audience of all Christians.  Ryan and I both thought the other made good points, but neither of us were convinced so we present you with both views for your consideration.  Either way, it does’t affect the meaning of the letter significantly.

I would also like to follow up on the type of persecution that was going on.  We know from Acts that a great amount of Jewish persecution (stoning, jail, riots) took place against the early Christians very early on.  We also know that later under Nero and Domitian there was a great and violent Roman persecution (fire, crucifixion, lions) against the Christians.  It is likely that 1 Peter writes sometime between these two great persecutions.  However, as Ryan mentioned, that doesn’t mean it was easy to be a Christian.  I have talked to Bill in the past about how hard it is to convert Greeks out of the Greek Orthodox Church.  They are often exiled from their families.  They can lose their jobs and be unable to find other work.  They can lose friends and social standing.  And while this isn’t lions, it is an extremely difficult culture to grow a church in.  Bill has shared with me before how often the young people go back to the Greek Orthodox Church because the cost is just too high.

America today becomes more and more like this every day.  So Peter has something to say to the churches today.  In chapter 2 he begins by connecting the Church to the Temple.  As the Temple was built of stones, the Church is built of living stones, the followers of Jesus.  This is extremely important to a scattered group of believers to know that God’s presence goes wherever they go and that it is not tied to a building.  Additionally, the Temple was the place where God’s presence intersected with this world.  Now, Peter powerfully declares that God’s presence intersects with this world through each of the people who believe in Jesus.  If you are a Christian today, then you are where God’s presence intersects with the world.  You should be like a tilted mirror that reflects God into the world and you should reflects the world back to God.

Peter then says several things that would have been like a punch to the stomach of any non-Christian Jew.  Christians are the chosen people.  Translated: Israel is no longer God’s chosen people; Christians are.  Christians are a royal priesthood.  Translated: Israel failed to be a mediator between God and the world, showing them what it means to be His people and inviting them in to a special relationship with Him; now Christians will accomplish this.  Christians are a holy nation.  Translation; It’s over Israel; the Church is where its at.  Christians are God’s special possession.  Translation: This is personal.

Then Peter transitions into instructions on how Christians are supposed to do all of this.  If they aren’t supposed to assimilate, retreat or retaliate, then what?  If they are now the holy nation, royal priesthood, and Temple, then what does that look like?  Pay attention now, because this is one of the most important principles in 1 Peter.  

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

  • Abstain from evil.  Quit sinning and doing bad things.
  • Live such good lives among the pagans (people who don’t go to church) that they don’t even believe their own attacks against you.  In fact they will praise God because of your good living.
  • Submit to every human authority (of course you can still send slanderous emails… he just meant in other ways you should submit).  Christianity wasn’t meant to overthrow governments and be political. It was supposed to be salt and light and use goodness, love, and forgiveness as tools of worldwide transformation.
  • If you live well there is no way people can smear your name of God’s people.
  • You are free, but that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want.  You are free to choose God.
  • Behave yourself.  Good Christians are good citizens.  People, even non-believers, should want Christians as employees or in-laws.  Governments should desire Christian populations.

In a world going wrong, how can Christians turn things around?  Maybe if we are more “seeker friendly”, “make people feel at home” and churches feel like a mall or Starbucks…but if we are constantly trying to make the church in the world’s image, isn’t that just assimilation?  Well if the world is that bad then we should keep from letting ourselves be influenced by the world…and retreat in such a way that we also have no influence on the world.  Or perhaps we could boycott, form political action groups, and go after anybody who disagrees…retaliating until everybody lives by the standards of a God they don’t believe in (but we do).

Peter’s solution is shockingly simply.  Be in the world, but be different.  Be strangers and aliens in the world.  How different?  Good different.  Really good.  So good that people will look at you and the way you live and say, “I may not believe in their God, but I do believe that they believe in their God.”  That will make all the difference and God will take care of the rest.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2013 in 1 Peter

 

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1 Peter 1 – How to Live as Foreigners in America

I have really come to love this book over the last year or so. I don’t know if it is just where I am in my walk with Christ or what but I feel like it really speaks to where things are currently in the church in America. It is written by Peter, who as we know as the Apostle to the Jews (and Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles). Peter in this letter is actually writing to Gentiles, which will become a little more apparent throughout the reading. Interestingly he uses very Jewish language to speak to them. In the first two verses he refers to them as the diaspora or “Those who are scattered” and those who are chosen. The diaspora are the Jews who were scattered at the time of the exile, scattered to the nations. The Church at this time are the ones who were scattered, living as aliens in a foreign land.

Peter writes to those who are being persecuted. They aren’t undergoing state sponsored persecution to where they are being thrown into the coliseum or anything like that. This doesn’t seem to be the kind of persecution Peter is addressing. The church, being at the margins of society, are looked at funny, treated as a cult, has rumors spread about them, and are being treated as second-class citizens. In short…they just don’t fit in with the culture around them and society is going to make sure they understand that. The question Peter answers is, how are you to live in a foreign land that rejects you?

I am under the belief that this book hasn’t been overly relevant to Christianity in the West for the last 1700 years. The Church took the spotlight in society during the 4th century and has been at the top ever since. We are entering a time where 1 Peter is becoming more and more relevant as Christianity in our society moves from the center point back out to the margins. How should we respond?

There are three bad ways to respond to this culture shift:

Assimilate – Become like the culture around you. Blend in. Don’t do anything to stand out. Be a resemblance of the culture around you so you won’t be persecuted.

Retreat – Run away from the culture and separate yourself from it. Don’t have any interaction with it. Build big churches to hide in and invite people to it but do your best not to get outside of the walls or you will be corrupted.

Retaliate – Fight back the changing culture. Become violent, either verbally or physically, with the culture that is changing. Burn down clinics. Verbally abuse those whom you do not agree with. Etc.

The church has sadly responded poorly in different ways to the power shift that has taken place in our society. So…we need to be looking at what Peter says about living out our Christianity in the margins of society. Be looking for how he addresses this. Today, Peter reminds us of the salvation that we have received. This is something that the prophets searched intently to understand and the angels long for. Don’t take it for granted! It is this salvation that sustains you in the margins. God, chosen as his special possession, has accepted you and you have no need for acceptance from this society. This inheritance brings you into a Kingdom that is greater than the one you live in so live as aliens here.

In my recent studies of this book I’ve began to see that the focus of this letter is to remind them of what they did in their baptism and to let that reality shape who they are as foreigners in this world. Peter starts in v. 3 with “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection…” and goes on to talk about how great this transition is. The response to this transformation in baptism is for us to “Be holy, as he is holy.” In our new creation, Peter reminds his readers to “Love one another deeply,” because we have been “born again” of imperishable seed. The Church, marginalized in society, loves deeply like Brothers and Sisters because we’re born of the same seed. I look forward to seeing how this focus plays out throughout the letter coming to its climax in 3:21. Spend some time reflecting on your baptism and what it means for your life today.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2013 in 1 Peter, Bible Blog

 

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