The Petrine Epistles
I Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ
Peter, conscious no doubt, of speaking the words of God, makes clear for his readers the authority by which he speaks-an apostle, or sent one, of Jesus Christ. None of the biblical writers spoke of their own accord or commission. “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables…” II Pet. 1:16, and even the Son received the spoken word (II Pet. 1:17). From Jesus he was called, showing that those sent are first of all those who follow (Mt. 4:18-20, Mk. 1:16-18). Again, he followed the Lord, not “cunningly devised fables.”
From Jesus he received a new name (Jn. 1:42)-not to focus on Peter as the Roman Catholics would have us believe-but on what he was commissioned for-as an apostle with the message of the promised One, the One who had called him and given him his new name. “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”” Mt. 16: 16-17
Note well, this knowledge had to be revealed to Peter, and this revelation was the testimony of the Father to the Son, given we must add, by the inspiration of the Spirit. “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed…for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (II Pet. 1:19-21) We do not look to flesh and blood Peter, but to the triune God who has revealed the word to him, and to that word thus revealed. In those famous words of Jesus we find one of the great points of divide. Will we trust in flesh and blood or the word spoken and written. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16: 18-19)
Now, does any serious student of scripture honestly think that Peter could bind and loose in heaven? God revealed to flesh and blood Peter-not vice versa. The rock upon which Christ is building His church is clear from this context-the word revealed from heaven, albeit spoken from those to whom He has chosen to call and commission for this very task. “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” The church is built with the word of God and not with the flesh and blood of men. If you don’t understand this you have missed everything! By Peter’s own admission, he was called, followed, and was sent, not with his own word but with that which was revealed to him from the beginning. Peter bound and loosed what proceeded from the throne of heaven.
I Peter 1:1-3 Elect Pilgrims Dispersed
As noted previously, Peter spoke and wrote as an apostle-one who was called, followed, and then was sent. Furthermore, he spoke and wrote only that which was revealed to him from heaven. He could only bind on earth what was bound in heaven, or loose on earth what was loosed in heaven. We are no different. We can bind or loose nothing but what is revealed from heaven. It is upon the testimony of holy writ that the church is built.
From the perspective of those who think that this world is all that there is, we are indeed pilgrims and sojourners. It is in the plan of God that we be as foreigners to the world’s standard, and that we be dispersed to live and proclaim a far different message-one revealed from heaven. What sets these two groups apart? The sovereign work of the Holy Trinity. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” As we have seen, Peter knew he was the receiver not the giver. Man no more earns election than he originates the divine revelation thereof. God’s foreknowledge is his electing love set upon us.
“In sanctification of the Spirit for obedience.” We are also elect to a different way of life. Election which does not show itself in sanctification to obedience is a false hope. It is part and parcel of the unified and complete work of the Holy Trinity. “And sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Of course, without the shed blood and finished work of Christ one cannot first be justified. The work of salvation is conceived in eternity and is the effectual work of all three persons of the Trinity. To such, grace and peace is multiplied. Grace doesn’t stop at election or justification. Grace and peace is the atmosphere of the believer, from beginning to end.
I Peter 1:2 Excursus On The Sprinkling Of The Blood
This is a tough verse for the so-called “credo” Baptists, because the creed of scripture, which ought to be paramount, conflicts with their Baptist creed. Much is made of the supposed newness of the new covenant among such who create differences which biblically don’t exist. Of course, the mode is very much connected with the recipients, but the fact that infants were always included in the one covenant of grace in the old testament has led some to drive a wedge where one does not exist. Just the opposite in fact exists. The new testament and new covenant passages themselves speak of the sprinkling of the blood of Christ-not immersion, and forgiveness is in the blood after all. For “without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Heb. 9:22)
This same mentality fails to see the church as Zion, the city of the living God. However, the new testament itself speaks otherwise. “But you have come to mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than the blood of Abel.” (Heb. 12:22-24) To the blood of sprinkling, not to the blood of immersion! This is in covenantal continuity with the old testament witness. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” (Lev. 17:11)
Jesus fulfilled this requirement in complete covenantal continuity. Lest we forget, God clothed Adam and Eve after the fall by shedding blood and Noah also brought clean animals on the ark-not just two of every kind. Noah didn’t dream up this idea on his own! We know from scripture that God does not tolerate man coming up with his own kinds of worship or sacrifice. “For this (the passover) is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Mt. 26:28) Both baptism and the Lord’s supper speak to the remission of sins by the shedding of the blood. To speak of either in any other way is to depart from the biblical testimony, in particular to make them man centred acts rather than grace signifying testimonials to the remission of sins through the shed blood of Christ.
I Peter 1:3-5 A Call To Worship-Begotten To a Living Hope
One of the dangers to having shorter periodic entries of scriptural commentary is the possibility that the reader may lose the context, in particular of that which has preceded. To that end, it is important to note first of all that Peter is continuing in his explication of the sovereign work of the Holy Trinity in salvation. The very thought of his subject material however, causes him to begin with exultation and praise to and of the glory of God. True theology will always lead to worship from those whose hearts are renewed. In fact, we might say that verse two is in fact the beginning of a blessing and doxology-an invocation in worship, of the sovereign work of the Triune God in salvation-a salvation which is necessary to such an approach to the glory throne. All scriptural study, to be true to the document at hand, must begin with worship. Such is how Peter begins his epistle.
Here we have this unique relationship of the Father to the Son. The Lord is his name. He is altogether set apart from us in His sonship thereby-for this is an appellation of worship. We praise Him not only for who he is, but also for what He has done. The elect are such out of sovereign grace and mercy alone. God foreknows because He predestines, and this foreknowledge is His showing favour and mercy upon the completely undeserving. Nothing therefore could be more absurb than the distorted notion that God would somehow elect lost sinners because He foresaw them electing Him. Such a notion is completely contrary to the unified biblical testimony-to which Peter provides his part here.
The first order of business and first item of praise in this sovereign triune salvation is our regeneration, for it is by regeneration that we are translated from death to life. Regeneration is the cause of faith and not vice versa. Faith is but the instrument (v.5). As Jesus made abundantly clear to Nicodemas-we must be born again. (John 3:3) Regeneration, furthermore is the work of the Spirit-it is not by flesh and blood. (John 3:4-8) This is “according to His abundant mercy.” (I Pet. 1:3) Furthermore, our hope is a living hope, for Christ has not only sprinkled us with His blood, but He has risen from the dead-the surest sign of all that His blood was accepted by the Father on the altar of sacrifice. (cf. Heb. 12:24)
“To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away.” (v.4) Salvation itself is our inheritance (cf Heb. 1:14), and it is by regeneration that the Son becomes our brother and kinsman redeemer (Heb. 2:10 ff.). This salvation will endure forever-it is incorruptible or imperishable. Just as it’s beginning is not of flesh and blood so it’s life and end is that of perseverance. The saints, those begotten again to a living hope, will persevere forever, for it “does not fade away.” (cf. Rom. 8:16-18)
By “reserved in heaven for you,” Peter certainly does not mean we do not enjoy salvation now, but the full benefits of redemption still await glorification. In particular, we look for the full redemption of our bodies-a living hope. For we are not only born again by the power of God, but it is the power of God which keeps us for all eternity. This is the gospel, of which the apostle Paul would say “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Rom. 1:16)
I Peter 1:6-9 More Precious Than Gold
Peter’s readers, including us, indeed rejoice in the blessings he has just enumerated. However, he acknowledges that “now for a little while, if need be,” they “have been grieved by various trials.” We should not miss Peter’s qualifiers here-“now for a little while, if need be.” It would be wrong to say that the Christian life is one of constant unending trials. It would be equally wrong to believe that they have no purpose. So what is this “need” which Peter speaks of? The context tells us that the need is simple-that the genuineness of their faith might be shown.
When one has faith in Christ, trials will inevitably come. God is intent on completing that which He has begun. Peter would reiterate this point in his second letter also. “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure.” (1:10) This faith is more precious than gold, but like gold it must be tested and tried to remove any impurities. Even gold will perish, but faith will not. The goal is that it “may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (v.7)
Jesus is coming again, to be sure, but we love Him nonetheless. We do not see Him but we do believe Him and in Him. Don’t miss this point-faith is not just trusting in Jesus, it is belief. What you and I believe is like gold being tried. Your “trial” may be the realization that what you have or are believing is in fact not in harmony with holy scripture. So indeed, in these trials we greatly rejoice “with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” (v. 8) Our faith awaits glorification but our joy is full of glory now, for we know that we are receiving the end of our faith-the salvation of our souls.” (v. 9)
I Peter 1:10-12 One God And One Gospel-Sufferings And Glories
Keeping on his theme “of this salvation,” Peter turns to the prophets, and what was of concern to them was “the grace that would come.” Peter was not writing about something foreign to the old testament. This can’t be stressed enough. He is not speaking of a salvation or grace foreign until that time, rather he is writing about the fulfillment of what was promised, what was in seed form is now grown. Note well, they knew about this grace, what they were searching for was the details and the timing of its fulfillment. It was “the Spirit of Christ who was in them.”
Barclay also made an interesting point here. “We are told two things about the prophets. First, they searched and enquired about the salvation which was to come. Second, the Spirit of Christ told them the truth of Christ. Here we have the great truth that inspiration depends on two things-the searching mind of man, and the revealing Spirit of God.” ‘The Letters Of James And Peter,’ p. 213. Of course, God sovereignly created and sustained these writers, but not as automatons, rather as unique participants in the unfolding revelation of the Spirit.
Some Christians speak of the gospel of Christ’s sufferings and glories as though it were novel to the new covenant or new testament revelation, but these scriptures themselves speak otherwise. On the road to Emmaus, after his sufferings and resurrection glories, Jesus revealed to the two travellers, from the prophets, that the Christ had to suffer and then enter His glory (Luke 24:25-26) “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Note well, beginning with Moses-that is, beginning with Genesis and the Pentateuch, “and all the Prophets-not just some, and indeed “all the scriptures.”
It is absolutely mind boggling that anyone would suggest that the gospel was not preached in the whole of the old testament scriptures. Frankly, you can’t be a genuine follower of Christ and what he taught, and believe that, without sinning! From Genesis 3:15, and God Himself shedding blood to cloth the fallen Adam and Eve, the gospel of blood sacrifice has been since the need required it. For “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them.” (Heb. 4:2) Without the shedding of blood there is no atonement (Lev. 17:11). Therefore, also, the bloodless “gospel” of liberalism is every bit as much a denial of the gospel as is that of those who deny it’s presence in the old testament. This is something that the gospel deniers of certain “conservative Christians” and liberals have in common.
Calvin makes two valuable points here. “These two things ought to be distinctly noticed: he (Peter) declares that more has been given to us than to the ancient fathers, in order to amplify by this comparison the grace of the gospel; and then, that what is preached to us respecting salvation, cannot be suspected of any novelty, for the Spirit had formerly testified of it by the prophets.” Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XXII (I Peter), Baker Book House, 1984, p37
Concerning the sufferings and the glory Barclay wrote the following. “This passage tells us what the prophets told. They told of the sufferings and the glory of Christ. Such passages as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52:13-53:12 found their consummation and fulfillment in the sufferings of Christ. Such passages as Psalm 2, Psalm 16:8-11, Psalm 110 found their fulfillment in the glory and the triumph of Christ.” (pp. 213-214) Dr. Edmund Clowney went further still. “The message of the prophets pronounces God’s judgment on the sin of his people, but it does not stop with judgment. The final vision of the Old Testament is not of dry bones in death valley. (Ezek. 37) Rather, it is renewal beyond conceiving. The prophets picture the restoration of all that had been lost: the land, the temple, the sacrifices, the priesthood. (Is. 2:2-4; 56:7; Ezek. 40:2; 44:9-31; Je. 33:18) But the restoration does not look back to recover the past; it looks forward to God’s final renewal. God’s fulfillment will transform everything. Not only will the remnant of Judah and Israel be gathered, but the remnant of the Gentiles will be gathered with them. (Is. 2:2-4; 56:6-8; Mi. 4:1-3) Not just Israel, but Egypt and Assyria will be called the people of God. (Is. 19:19-25; 66:21; Zc. 14:16-20) Eden will be restored, and more: God will make a new creation where peace will be universal and darkness will be gone. (Is. 11:6-9; 30:26; 35:9; 60:20; 65:17; 66:22)” Edmund Clowney, ‘The Message Of I Peter,’ Inter-Varsity Press, 1988, p. 57
This one gospel message has come from the One triune God. It was the “Spirit of Christ” who was in the prophets, and the same One sent by the Father is the One who commissioned the sent ones-the apostles. This is the apostolic gospel-old and new testament together as one with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So it was Christ Himself, through the Holy Spirit, who bore the prophets along to speak to Peter’s hearers, through him and the other new testament prophets and apostles, and to us also. And let us not also miss this point about Jesus, He the anointed One in His threefold office. As we know from the prophets, only the Messiah could and did bring the three offices of Prophet, Priest, and King together in His one person. Furthermore, His kingship comes by way of His priestly sacrifice-the sufferings came before the glories. But make no mistake-the glories came and are coming still!
Such a gospel has caught the attention of the angelic hosts all through the ages. The gospel, and the giving of it, is a “manifold wisdom” which “the principalities and powers” of the angelic host long to look into. (Eph. 3:10) “Not only did the prophets inquire about the marvels of these things, but also the angels in heaven have desired to look into the depths and the riches of the gospel. We are told that when one person repents, there is joy in heaven among the angels (Luke 15:10). The angels delight to watch the ministry of Christ unfold in history.” (R. C. Sproul, ‘Be All The More Diligent To Make Your Calling And Election Sure. I-2 Peter. Crossway 2011, p.40) “The cosmic sweep of God’s redemption is all centred in Christ, whom we know and love. The petty dreams of earth’s little tyrants shrivel before the majesty of the kingdom of God, ministered by prophets and apostles, but now realized for those who know Jesus Christ.” (Clowney, p. 60)
I Peter 1:13-16 Be Mindful
“Grace to you” (1:2), is a note that sounds throughout the letter. Peter’s readers started out with the grace which the prophets spoke of (v. 10), and like them we not only live by grace but look ahead to grace that is to come with “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v. 13), that is, His second coming. Grace is present all the way to glorification. Grace is never a license to sin-quite the opposite. It is the knowledge and experience of grace that equips the saints to be “obedient children.” We all were once conformed to our former lusts through ignorance.
Sanctification requires a rigorous process of mind renewal. “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober.” (v. 13) We might say that we must be real-be sober when thinking about what is going on in the mind. Paul made this same point in Romans 12:1-2. But we must rest our hope “fully upon the grace that is to be brought.” We must have hope, and this hope must “rest fully upon” grace. So what are you resting upon? Are you relying on your own efforts only, or are you resting fully upon grace?
Just as the gospel is carried forward from the old testament even so is the same standard of sanctification-holiness. Peter, quoting Leviticus writes, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (see 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7) Holiness is the goal of sanctification, and conduct can only change when one has a renewed mind which is sober or real, and one is resting upon grace. We must be made children by grace, but as children of God we must follow the pattern of out elder Brother. We are in a new family, the family of grace living in obedience to the Father.
I Peter 1:17-21 Our Passover Lamb
There is a place for systematic theology, including the doctrine of the Trinity, but for Peter and the other biblical writers, they write of these doctrines in the warp and woof of life. We can call on the Father because He has called us (v.15), and God’s call to His elect (v.2) is effectual. Peter just states matter of factly that God “without partiality judges.” Peter came to this understanding in a concrete way after the vision recorded in Acts. He was able to say, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (10:34-35) But note well-the ultimate condition of acceptance is the same. “The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ-He is Lord of all.” (v.36)
Only those who have made “peace through Jesus Christ,” can live as God has called us to live. This peace has come through “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (v.19) Redemption is required, but with something more precious than silver or gold. What Peter is referring to here is the passover lamb (Ex. 12:5), selected according to the number of persons in the household (vv. 3-4). One wonders, as an aside, if those who argue for the personhood of the fetus will here deny the personhood of the infants and little ones of the household. In any case, while partaking of the passover Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Peter is here drawing this connection. The “Lord’s supper” is the passover fulfilled in the One who was “without blemish and without spot.”
Peter already referred to his hearers and readers as pilgrims, and he reiterates this perspective here by telling them to conduct themselves in their stay or sojourn here in fear. The child of God is an alien to the conformity of the world. We are to be in the world but not of it. Men without God, live as though this world and their own thoughts are all there is. The Christian does not live by their own works but in light of the precious redemption accomplished and applied. Believing God itself comes from Christ (v.21). “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” (v.20) In the council and counsels of the trinity this redemption was foreordained. “But was manifest in these last times for you.” Clearly “these last times” found their fulfillment with the coming of Christ in the first century. He is The Passover lamb to which all the other merely looked ahead to.
Peter was indeed sent primarily as an apostle to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and this seems the more probable make up of the first recipients of this letter. But Peter also had to learn that God does not show partiality to any. All are sinners, and all can be the subjects of sovereign election. We all have lived our “aimless conduct” received by tradition from our fathers. However, Peter is here speaking specifically of those of the people of Israel in His day, and the point he is making is that their conduct was based on their traditions and not on the law-word of the triune God. In “these last times” the word of the prophets, beginning with Moses, has found it’s fulfillment.
Of course, Peter’s message, the gospel, does not end with the slaughter of the passover lamb. The Father showed His ultimate acceptance of the Son by raising Him from the dead and ascending Him to glory, so that He now reigns with the Father in glory! Peter saw something of this glory cloud at the transfiguration (Mt. 17:1-8) For this reason “our faith and hope are in God.” This is also why Peter called it a “living hope.” (1:3) And just as this salvation and redemption is the something more precious than silver or gold, so is the perfection of our faith (1:3).
I Peter 1:22-25 What Abides.
Here is a test. I once preached a sermon where I made like I was quoting scripture and said, “The meek shall inherit heaven.” Yep. Got some affirmative nods with that one, before correcting it. Peter says, “since you have purified your bodies,” or is that “souls”? A little test for how paganism may have conformed your mind. Sanctification involves body and soul. This purification comes through obeying the truth. Yes, there is such a thing as ‘truth’, which is, as we will see, the word of God. As Peter noted in his introduction, it is through the Spirit that purification and obedience comes. “Elect…in sanctification of the Spirit for obedience.” (1:2)
We obey the truth through the Spirit, and the chief sign of this is a sincere love of the brethren. Yep. There is another one that will catch a lot of folks. Not something you normally read or hear in a lot of churches. Not just love, but “sincere love.” What is “sincere love?” Peter says it is to “love one another with a pure heart.” Again, when the bible uses the word heart it speaks to our core. Sincere love is a love which has integrity. What is shown comes from the core or heart of the person, and it is thus pure-unadulterated. Like gold or silver purified seven times-our faith lived.
Such love can only come from those who have been born again (v.23), something we have no authorship of, and being born again can only come from the word of God. So we see yet again that the word is the first axiom of all thought and existence. A pure heart can only come from a pure word applied by the Holy Spirit-“the word of God which lives and abides forever.” It is indeed one of the unique things about the word of God-it is living-just like the author. It also “abides forever.” There is no need for correction-God got it right the first time. It is incorruptible, and it “abides forever.” All other words will fail and fall-not His word.
What does Peter use to “prove” this? Yep, the word of God of course. This, my friends, is an axiom, and for the biblical writers/authors, and in this case apostle, it is the first axiom of all thought and existence. There can be no other “proof” higher than scripture itself. Will men sit in judgment as to what is God’s infallible word? “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord abides forever.” (Is. 40:6-8) This word blows upon all others and they wither and fall away. “Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” (v.25)
I Peter 2:1-3 Grace And The Word
So what is the ‘therefore’ there for? Clearly Peter wants to connect what he is about to write with what he has just written. In light of purifying one’s soul in obeying the truth, with sincere love for the brethren from a pure heart, Peter shows us the opposite. Sproul writes that, “malice has to do with a desire in the heart, a purposeful desire to wound or hurt another person. He said we are also to put away all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking, or slander. I believe he gives us the whole followed by its parts. All that Peter lists here are examples of malice.” (I-2 Peter, p. 59)
Concerning deceit he writes, “deceit involves a definite attempt to distort, hide, or undermine the truth. It is done intentionally.” (p. 59) As such it is a kind of twin to hypocrisy. In the same way, envy and evil speaking or slander are also twins. Envy not only covets what another has, but it does not want to other person to have what belongs to them. This is where slander comes in. A good example is someone’s reputation. Out of envy one may seek to destroy someone else’s reputation through slander, since they cannot have that reputation themselves.
Sanctification is never just a matter of aiming for certain things, it is also a matter of putting to death other things. The anecdote for this is, like new born babes, to “desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” (v.2) This does not necessarily speak to an immaturity in Peter’s readers, as is the case elsewhere. It speaks more to the word being all that is needed and all that should be wanted, and that with a fervency. Again, one is only a new born by grace, for Peter adds, “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” Therefore there are two things here which are the beginning of the Christian life and must be present until glory-grace and the word. Only by desiring the pure milk of the word, and tasting that the Lord is gracious, will one be and grow as a true child of God.
I Peter 2:4-8 The Living Temple Of Zion.
This is another passage which only makes full sense if one keeps in mind that Peter mainly had the lost sheep of the house of Israel in view. I believe that a strong and necessary case can be made that all the new testament writers wrote before 70 AD, and this is certainly true of Peter’s epistles, since he was martyred in the 60s. So at this time the temple was still standing and functioning. Much like the author to the Hebrews, Peter was dealing with people who were likely temple witnesses and participants who followed its services. In this context Peter wants to remind them of an even greater temple not made with hands, a temple that was living and would remain so. This critical period is often missed-the time between Christ’s “manifestation” and the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Peter calls this period “the last times.” (1:20)
Jesus predicted the temple’s end. “And Jesus said to them, “Do you see all these things? Assuredly I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”” (Mt. 24:2) The reason for this was clear-Christ’s sacrifice of Himself and his own blood, was the fulfillment of what the sacrifices and services of the temple looked ahead to. “These last times” was a transition period and it was critical that these early believers understand this. And lest his readers think that he was conceiving of a novel idea, Peter appeals to the scriptures of the old testament itself.
Christ is the living stone, but He was indeed rejected by “His own.” Peter refers to these “builders” by first alluding to, then quoting Psalm 118:22 as fulfillment. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” Jesus Himself quoted and referred to this passage in His parable of the wicked vinedressers-same topic and same message. (cf. Mt. 21:42; Mk. 12:10-11; Lk. 20:17). Moreover, this was Peter’s brave and fearless testimony before the Sanhedrin. “This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.” (Acts 4:11) Notice how Peter applies it to the then Jewish leaders as “you builders,” but speaks of Jesus as the stone in the past tense as the One who has now come. There was a transition taking place, and some would not follow God’s plan and person.
But Christ was “chosen by God and precious.” (v. 4) He is the lamb without spot or blemish, the perfect sacrifice to bring an end to all others, and fulfill what they looked ahead to. “He indeed was foreordained (ie.,“chosen”) before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (v. 20) So He was foreordained long before anyone ever thought of building a temple made with hands. And the glory of the “chief cornerstone” far exceeds that of the stones soon to be thrown down (1:21).
“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (v. 5) So Peter makes a contrast. Unlike the temple made with actual stones, they as Christ’s people are living stones with He as their chief cornerstone. Why then as members of a living temple would they cling to a bunch of stones that would soon fall to the ground and perish? But, again, what was the real focus? It was the priestly sacrifices that took place there still, that caused one to think that things would continue on as they had always been. But Jesus in His once and for all finished work and sacrifice brings that system to a close. Now there is a holy priesthood that will last for all eternity, and Peter’s readers, and us with them, are a part of it! Our sacrifices are acceptable to God because they are “through Jesus Christ.” The old system has found its fulfillment. To try and continue with the old when the new has come is to lose both.
“Therefore,” Peter goes on to say, and we ask again-what is the ‘therefore’ there for? Peter wants to make crystal clear that there is a definite conclusion to be drawn here. And notice again, where he goes for “proof.” He goes to the very scriptures which his objectors would no doubt turn to. Peter, as an apostle, had clear title to speak and write the very words of God, by God’s commission. But this is what the Holy Spirit inspired him to write. He goes to the then scriptures and quotes them as witnesses fulfilled. “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture.”
As an aside, we do well to follow this principle also. It is a basic biblical principle of interpretation that we let scripture interpret scripture to find its meaning, and not impose a framework from the outside. Note also, instead of quoting Isaiah 28:16a, “Therefore thus says the LORD God,” Peter writes, “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture.” Peter thus adds his own apostolic witness and contribution to the “thus says the LORD God.” That is, the covenant making and keeping LORD God! There has always been two covenants-one with the LORD for life, and the other with death (Isaiah 28:18). The chief cornerstone will annul the latter.
Therefore, not only Psalm 118:22 but also Isaiah 28:16 affirm his point. “Behold I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Notice where this chief cornerstone is laid-in Zion. After all he has said about the new living stones and spiritual service he hearkens to Zion. It was literally an area of Jerusalem called “the city of David” (cf. II Sam. 5:6-9; II Chr. 5:2). Commenting on its use in II Samuel 5:7 the ‘New Geneva Study Bible’ has the following. “The name originally designated a fortified mound located at the southern end of the Ophel ridge. Eventually the name came to be used in an extended sense for all of Jerusalem (2 Kin. 19:21; Is. 2:3) and even for the entire nation of Israel (Ps. 149:2; Is. 46:13). The name occurs frequently in Israel’s poetic and prophetic literature, where it is often presented as the place of God’s mighty acts of salvation and judgment (eg., Ps. 14:7; Is. 4:4; Lam. 4:11).” (p. 433)
The ultimate meaning of Zion was God’s kingdom which had no bounds and “abides forever.”(Ps. 125:1) The writer to the Hebrews picked up on this when he wrote, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb. 12:22) This was always that which was before and of which the earthly was meant to follow as the pattern. “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion.” (Rev. 14:1) This is the same heavenly vision which Peter is seeking to portray-it is the apostolic witness to an old testament truth. There can be no doubt that “the songs of Zion” (Ps. 137:3) don’t have the appeal they once did in the visible church, because she has lost her biblical identity as Zion, “the heavenly Jerusalem.” Examine any concordance on ‘Zion’ and one will find a lost treasure cove, especially in the Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the prophets.
Christ is the “chief cornerstone.” In any building one needed a cornerstone. Such a stone had to be perfect. From it the structure was built. If it was off the whole building would collapse. From the chief cornerstone the walls were extended and the plumb line was drawn. To this Christ was elected, chosen, and foreordained. Only those who believe on Him can be members ultimately, and they “will by no means be put to shame.” And it is only to those who do believe that He is precious. But to those who are “disobedient to the word,” He is “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.” (v. 8 Is. 8:14) And in the predestinating work of our sovereign God it is to such an end that they were “appointed.” (cf. Rom. 9:22)
I Peter 2:9-10 A Royal Priesthood, A Holy Nation.
The scriptural allusions in these two verses are many, brought together into a beautiful tapestry by the apostle. The first we are to think of is the revelation of Moses in Exodus 19:1-6 in particular. Having been delivered from Egyptian bondage, the people of Israel were assembled in the wilderness of Sinai. On the mountain, as always a symbol of rule and power, in this case God’s, Moses is given a revelation from God. After recounting the deliverance The LORD says, “if you indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you will be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (vv. 5-6) There was a key condition to this covenant relationship, and it is a condition of all the administrations of the one covenant of grace-obeying His voice. This is Peter’s point. The builders of Jesus day rejected the voice of covenant fulfillment in the chief cornerstone. They disobeyed His voice and stumbled as a consequence.
We must notice, though, the covenantal continuity. It is not as though it wasn’t God’s goal that His people under the old testament administrations was decidedly different. It was His goal that they be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Furthermore, among those who looked ahead to Messiah, they were such. God has always had an elect group within the “elect” nation, what the scriptures call the ‘remnant’. This was Paul’s argument as well. “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Romans 11:5) Throughout the history of the church in both the old and new testaments, God has always had “a remnant according to the election of grace” within the visible church. In every administration of the covenant of grace from Adam to the new covenant, there have always been those who partook of the outward and visible only, but yet there has always been “a remnant according to the election of grace.”
Paul made his point by quoting from the prophet Isaiah. “Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved. For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.’ And as Isaiah said before: ‘Unless the LORD of Sabaoth (hosts) had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah.” (Romans 9:27-29) This is Paul’s point. What happened to Sodom and Gommorah happened to them after a remnant was removed in Lot and his family. Israel’s judgment was not to the extent it could have been, because in the remnant God’s conditions were being met, and this because there was “a remnant according to the election of grace.” Paul would go on to speak of the deciding factor for Jew and Gentile being the righteousness that comes by faith (cf. Romans 9:30ff.), for “He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness.”
This period of transition is marked by two things-old covenant judgment and new covenant renewal. Throughout the old testament the prophets spoke of covenant lawsuit upon the nation of Israel for violating the covenant. However, they also predicted new covenant renewal. “God’s judgment on his people would be neither total nor final. Not total, for God would preserve a remnant. Not final, for God would give renewal. The remnant survives (Am. 3:12; 4:11; Is. 1:9; 17:6; Ezk. 11:13-21) and will be righteous (Je. 3:12, 14). The renewal brings not only restoration, but glory (Mi. 7:18; Is. 4:3; 37:31; 28:5; Ezk. 48:35; Zc. 12:8).’ Clowney, ‘The Message Of I Peter’, p. 93 As Clowney pointed out, God poured out “the vengeance of the covenant” (p. 92 cf. Lv. 26:25), but this was not the end of the story. “Against the dark background of God’s judgment, the reality of God’s choosing of his people shines with new glory. The chosen of God are his elect remnant, those whom he will come to gather at last.”
Furthermore, the old testament itself testifies that this remnant is made up of more than those of the nation of Israel. “The prophets describe the marvel of God’s restoration in the latter days. Not only will the remnant of Israel be gathered to worship the Lord; the remnant of the nations, even the enemy nations, will be gathered too.” (Clowney, pp. 89-90 cf. Is. 19:24-25; 56:6-8; 66:19-21) This is what Peter is pulling together here in his letter, and his purpose, as Clowney also pointed out, was twofold. “As God’s dwelling-place, the church has both a status and a ministry.” (p. 88) We can’t have the one without the other.
As to our status, we already saw how we are the living temple of Zion, a spiritual house as it were. Peter now uses a series of descriptives for the church throughout the ages which speaks to her glorious status as the people of the covenant. He already spoke of the church as a holy priesthood and now he adds that we are a royal priesthood. These two adjectives of ‘holy’ and ‘royal’ themselves speak to our status and ministry. The designation “royal priesthood’ in fact speaks to the One whom we serve, for the Messiah alone is the Priest-King. Sproul makes the point that, “in the old testament, apart from Melchizedek, there was a sharp line of division between the function of the king and the function of the priest.” (1-2 Peter, p.68)
This is a point made very thoroughly by the writer to the Hebrews-Jesus’ priesthood and kingship were unique, but no less predicted. The fact also remains that no one but Messiah was ever to occupy the two offices as a prophet. One of the chief signs that Jesus fulfilled the prophetic messianic witness is that He in His one person occupies all three offices. However, as his people we are a royal priesthood, and this defines what it means to also be called ‘a holy nation’. We are a people chosen or set apart to be a holy and royal priesthood. This is the nation which Peter wanted his readers to rejoice in being a part of.
However, Peter also alludes to other prophetic passages which themselves looked ahead to a people which would also include the gentiles. We have been translated, called “out of darkness into His marvelous light.” There can be no doubt that he hearkens back to Isaiah here as well and 11:1-2. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (cf. 42:16) Paul, in making the same point, hearkened back to creation. “For it is God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (II Cor. 4:6)
However, Peter also alludes to Hosea 1:9-10 and 2:23. Note well, it was not the gentiles who were here called not God’s people, but it was Israel. Peter “encourages the embattled church members by telling them explicitly what they are, namely, a continuation of the Old Testament covenant people. Not the synagogue but the church is the heir of the rich covenant promises.” (C. Vanderwaal, ‘Search The Scriptures 10 Hebrews-Revelation, p.41) Thus, it is both the non-people of the gentiles, and those of the house of Israel, who together are God’s holy nation and royal priesthood.
We are called for a purpose. We have both a status and a ministry. We are called to proclaim His praises. We are called upon both to praise God for who He is and what He has done, but also to declare His mighty acts to the world. We are called upon to tell the world who God is and what he has done, including, and especially what he has done for us in obtaining mercy, for it is by mercy alone that the church exists at all. Peter will carry on with this call in the verses which follow and show what ought to characterize the true people of God. It is the remnant who “shall take root downward and bear fruit upward.” (Is. 37:31)
I Peter 2:11-12 Living For God’s Glory
Peter again addresses his readers as pilgrims and sojourners, and he is going to amplify what he means by those terms. As noted before (1:1) he has in mind being in the world but not of it, as it were. He begs them to abstain from “fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” It is not a war of flesh and spirit, it is a war against ‘fleshly lusts.” Desires which are legitimate and good get perverted and affect body and soul for evil.
There is also the added incentive of thinking about one’s witness in the world. Peter is not referring to the typical idea of a witness here. Of course we would hope and pray that others would be convicted and come to a saving knowledge of Christ. However, no matter what, we will witness. The world may in fact dislike a Christian’s good conduct, but the focus is not ultimately to be on us, but on God. The idea here is, when the day of visitation comes, which will be a day of judgment, there will be one more thing for which they will have no excuse.
When they observe a Christian’s good deeds they should look to and glorify God. When they choose rather to speak evil they heap judgment on themselves, since God left them yet another witness to Him. Have you ever thought of the fact that even when people scoff at your behaviour as a Christian you will nevertheless be glorifying God not only in the present, but your life will testify to His glory at the judgment? (4:11, 16; cf. Mt. 5:16) If one’s conduct is good, then those who revile will only be ashamed (3:16).
I Peter 2:13-17 Christian Submission
So what is the ‘therefore’ there for here? Here we have some practical examples of what abstaining from fleshly lust, and having conduct that is honourable, to God’s glory, is all about. What Peter directs us to is probably not the first things many would think of-especially when we see the term “fleshly lusts.” “Submit yourselves to every ordinance (or institution) of man for the Lord’s sake.” This is not a blanket submission to be sure. Peter, along with John, made clear that the Lord rules over all, seen in his speech to the Sanhedrin. “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20) It is interesting that in history it is often the religious leadership of one’s own that will oppose the true work of God. It to often seems that it is the leadership of the mainline churches in the west who pose the greatest obstacle to the faithful witness of the visible church. In any case, Peter’s priorities were clear.
It is “for the Lord’s sake,” that Peter calls for submission to the ordinances and institutions of man. Jesus, of course, established an important principle. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mt. 22:21) Note well that it was Caesar-not exactly a “Christian” administration. However, nothing could be more foundational than taxation. Without money nothing, including government, can fulfill its mandate and functions. Again, the apostles allowed for a nuanced view here. Paul said that a slaves should honour and serve their masters, however if they could gain their freedom lawfully they could do so (I Cor. 7:21).
“Whether to the king as supreme, or to governors as to those who are sent by him.” Personally I believe in a republican form of government, but I live as a citizen of a constitutional monarchy. For me, I will always labour for freedom from monarchial rule. However, until such a day happens, I will honour the monarch. Furthermore, I do not see any biblical grounds in my case for any kind of armed insurrection or revolution. However, every country is unique. One always must ask themselves at what point the principle laid down by Peter above demands an opposition to the authorities that be. But even in Peter’s case, it was not an opposition to Caesar per se, and there was no hint of any justification for an armed revolt.
It is also important to note that there is a general principle here that crosses cultures-in referring to Caesar Jesus was justifying the submission to the authorities that be. Not only this, but Peter also saw the application of this principle of submission to lesser magistrates. One can imagine some refusing the rule of a local governor by suggesting submission only to the king, or vice versa. But these governors do his bidding. To rebel against the governors was to rebel against the king, just as refusing to pay taxes to the collector was rebellion against Caesar. The fact that Peter penned these words under the rule of Nero, under whom he was martyred, is all the more striking and instructive for us.
It is interesting to note what Peter holds to be the dual purpose of government-“for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.” Of course, the biblical theology of government is much more than these verses in Peter-but we do have some important principles here for the Christian. It is for the Lord’s sake, as bondservants of God, that we are to exercise our freedom. Liberty is never to be a “cloak for vice” for the Christian. So here we have another principle. Just because the government gives its citizens liberty on some things, does not mean that they are necessarily liberty issues for the Christians. Sadly, there is no shortage of examples where this is the case today.
Peter also highlights another important principle-government exists not simply as a consequence of the fall. Government is not simply for “the punishment of evildoers.” Government also exists “for the praise of those who do good.” I have noticed, especially in the American scene, a Christian conception of government which sees it simple as a response to the fall. Grudem has an interesting point here. “Nor should we think that the need for authority is only due to sin, for there is authority among sinless angels (I Thess. 4:16; Jude 9), the redeemed in heaven (Luke 19:17, 19; cf. I Cor. 6:3), and even the members of the Trinity for all eternity (I Cor. 11:3; 15:28).” (‘1 Peter,’ p. 126) Indeed, the fall itself was a rebellion against both Divine, and Divinely instituted authority.
Honourable conduct involves honouring all people, including all those in authority. This is but the expression of the commandment to love ones neighbour as oneself. “Love the brotherhood.” These are some of our closest neighbours, if not always geographically. These are the “beloved.” (v. 11) “Fear God.” (cf. Prov. 24:21) To fear God stands on its own, but it is also the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7; 15:33). “Honor the king.” Clearly, to submit to the king, is to honour the king.
To honour those in authority over us in fact goes back to the fifth commandment. “Honor your father and your mother.” (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16) It was always God’s intention that parental leadership would be a child’s first government, school, and society. To honour those in authority is to ultimately honour God, with the promise of a long and prosperous life. Clowney noted well that we fear God and honour the king, and the fear here speaks to worship of the Divine. We do not fear those in authority, unless it is the fear of justified punishment. Rather, we fear God, but honour those in authority over us (cf. pp. 106, 109) Peter knew something of the cost of rejecting the fear of the King that he might fear God, and yet he does command honour where honour is due, and this out of fear of God.
Grudem affirms the same thing here. “while positively affirming the obligation to honour the emperor (consistent with vv. 13-15), he (Peter) also subtly implies that, contrary to the claims of Roman emperors to be divine, the emperor was by no means equal to God or worthy of fear due to God alone. Christians have obligations to the state, but their obligations to God and to the brotherhood of believers are higher.” (p. 131)
However, the Christian is not, and cannot be, a libertarian. Clowney stated it well when he wrote that, “the liberal ideal of liberty is bankrupt. The liberal ideal would free every individual to do what he wants. If there must be curbs to this freedom, they must be neutral and impersonal. But the liberal can find no ground for this neutrality, for, on liberal assumptions, the language of law is arbitrary, carrying such meaning as we choose to assign to it. Similarly, if law is viewed as social policy, neutrality is impossible. If there is no standard for values outside of society, there can be no true liberty in social policy. Peter proclaims liberty in Christ. Because our liberty is under God there is an objective standard of value.” ‘The Message Of 1 Peter,’ p. 100)
Whether it be an autocratic monarchy or a participatory democracy, the principle of submission is for the Christian the same. The authorities that be are given by God, and we are called upon to submit to them as such. “The idea of the New Testament is that life is meant by God to be an ordered business, and that the state is divinely appointed to provide and to maintain that order.” (Wm Barclay, ‘The Letters Of Peter, p.243 cf. Mt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-7; I Tim. 2:2) I would argue, that in this respect, the New is in full harmony with the Old.
However, there is also another Christian principle at work here-submission as service. Again, Barclay, in quoting Cranfield explained this principle as, “a voluntary subordination of oneself to others, putting the interest and welfare of others above one’s own, preferring to give rather than to get, to serve rather than to be served.” (p. 244) “Christian freedom is always conditioned by Christian responsibility. Christian freedom means being free to do, not as we like, but as we ought. Christian freedom is the freedom to serve.” (Barclay, p. 246)
I Peter 2:18-23 Conscience Toward God.
As noted earlier, Libertarianism is simply not a viable biblical position, either personally or politically. The fact that it is logically impossible is a whole other discussion itself. It really is a stupid indefencible position to hold on all grounds. The Christian alone is free-free from the bondage and slavery of sin for sure. But we are also free from the conformity of the world, for we have a revelation of true wisdom and knowledge from the creator and sustainer of the universe, and our redeemer. But this is the thing-we are bondservants of God. As Dylan put it-you gotta serve somebody, and the Christian serves God. Therefore, our freedom is not a freedom for vice. There is no such thing as bare freedom-this is the belief of the fool, who denies God’s existence.
The Christian is free to do God’s will. This is the Christian’s only freedom. To that end, part of God’s will is to respect and honour those in authority over us. This even included the first century slave. How much more the 21st century worker. The Christian submits ultimately for conscience sake toward God, even to the point of suffering wrong-this is commendable before God. To this we have been called. We live in a fallen world-leadership at all levels will fail. The Christian worker ultimately commits themselves to “Him who judges righteously.” Sometimes correction is deserved. However, Christ has laid down a pattern for us in all circumstances, since He alone was without sin and yet suffered from those who were not. But, as noted earlier, Paul opened the door for freedom if one could do so lawfully (cf. I Cor. 7:21).
I Peter 2:24-25 Live For Righteousness.
Peter has just made the point that Christ was without sin (v. 22 Is. 53:9). This is one sign that Jesus fulfilled this part of prophecy (cf. 1:10-11). We had no choice but to sin. Jesus also had a choice-He chose, Himself, to bear our sins. In His death we died to sins, and are able to “live for righteousness.” (v. 24) This is healing-by His stripes we have been healed of our bondage to sin and death (Is. 53:5-6). “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.” (Heb. 9:28) Like sheep we were going astray-missing the mark, and a blessed eternal destiny. Christ is our ultimate shepherd and overseer-that is, pastor and bishop of our souls. All pastors and bishops are but under-shepherds (cf. Ezek. 34:23).
I Peter 3:1-6 The Winsomeness Of Godly Character.
“Wives, likewise,” refers back to the same principles applied to the other relationships covered. Submission as a citizen to the authorities that be, and of a servant to master or worker to employer. This submission is done out of conscience toward God (2:19), but also with the promise of good (2:14). Furthermore, if we suffer wrongfully we nevertheless have the example of Christ, and our good can “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (2:15) However, with wives there is the added motivation here of winsomeness, but a universal principle nonetheless.
Note well, the guide for husbands in their behavior is the word. “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.” (v. 1) So, husbands should follow the word, but some do not. This could mean those who do not believe, but it could mean those who believe but are still falling short of the word in some area. In this case, is it more important to win an argument or to win the person?
The fear Peter refers to is that fear of God or reverence whereby all Christians live out of conscience toward God. Such fear shows itself in chaste conduct, and is it’s true accompaniment. Sometimes actions do speak loader than words. In any case, one’s conduct can close the door when it is not in harmony with the word. This is the goal, lest we forget. Wives here, like all Christians, should be less concerned with winning an argument, and be primarily motivated for the other person to follow the word. It should be the chaste conduct and fear of God that the husband sees first and foremost.
It is not as though fine clothes, jewelry, or hair styling of any kind is wrong. Peter’s point is that godly women have a beauty that is not merely in outward adornment (I Pet. 3:3). After all, these things are only worn-a godly character is lived. A godly woman has “chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (v. 2), which can be observed. It is sadly the case that those with outward physical beauty are often the farthest away from a beauty of character. What really matters is the condition of the heart. As always, the bible here means the persons core-what makes a person tick, so to speak. Outward beauty is corruptible, inner beauty is not. It is “a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (v.4)
In his commentary on Proverbs, Dan Phillips turns to I Peter 3:1-6 to help explain what is a gracious God fearing woman. “What matters least about a woman? Verse 3 and 4a tell us: a woman cannot make up for internal deficiency by external splendor. What matters most in a woman? Verse 4a reveals God’s answer: her spirit is gentle. The Greek word praus, which as we noted earlier signifies power under control. It is used in Greek literature of a soothing medicine, of a tamed horse or wild animal, and by a child asking his doctor to be gentle with him. Jesus used the word to describe Himself (Matt. 11:29): now, there was a powerful man; and at the same time there was a man whose power was always under control.” (‘God’s Wisdom In Proverbs,’ p. 220) So Jesus also provides a counter-cultural true definition of manhood. “To the delight of any lover of God, verse 4b reveals that this quiet and gentle spirit is “precious” in the sight of God. “Precious” translates poluteles, which means very valuable, very expensive, very costly.” (p. 220)
It is a matter of trusting God. It was the manner of holy women in former times to put their trust in God in their relationship with their husbands. Peter refers to Sarah as an example. In the end, she walked with Abraham as a woman of faith. They trusted in more than an idea, they trusted in the living God-the only one who can change the human heart anyway. If their husbands needed to heed the word it would only be by God’s sovereign act that this would happen. However, conduct unbecoming certainly places obstacles in the way, and a gentle and quiet spirit can be winsome indeed. It is chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
I Peter 3:7 Joint Heirs.
It is interesting to note that, as with all those in authority, the Christian is called to submit to those in authority out of fear of God. We are not to fear those over us. In fact, it is just the opposite. A proper fear of God casts out all fear-including of those in authority over us. Like Christ, we are to commit ourselves “to Him who judges righteously.” (2:23) Not being “afraid with any terror,” (3:6) is every bit a mark of a godly woman as is “a gentle and quiet spirit.” (3:4) These might seem to be contradictory, but it is fear of God that drives out all other fear (3:2). Likewise, husbands are not to lead by fear, but rather by love, out of reverent fear of God. The roles are different, but the motivation is to be the same.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.” (I Jn. 4:18) We do not fear, because Christ has suffered for us. It should rather be the husbands motivation to lead his wife in their fear of God by loving his wife as Christ has loved the church. This was Paul’s argument (cf. Eph. 5:22-33). There was no more perfect love than what Christ had and has for his church, and His goal was to bring us to Himself and to the Father through Him. “But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (I Jn. 4:18) Love began the process of new birth, and only love can lead it on to sanctified perfection. Christian husbands should know where this love comes from. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (I Jn. 4:19)
In the case of the wife and the husband, these duties are not conditional upon the behavior of the other. Wives are to submit-even to those who don’t heed the word. Likewise, husbands are to love their wives, even those who do not submit as they should. Both are to show respect for each other as joint heirs of the grace of life. Given the context that some may not be believers, I think what is in view is life in general. For those who believe, there is the added thought of life eternal. Certainly this holds true for prayers offered. Prayer is hollow if there is disrespect in the marriage relationship. How we conduct ourselves in human relationships has a definite bearing on our relationship to God. There is no room for spiritual cop out here, such that one believes it doesn’t matter how one relates to others, in that all that matters is one’s relationship to God. The two are inseparable.
Husbands are to have “understanding.” Husbands should understand what is going on with their wives and be considerate. To “dwell,” means more than simply occupying the same space. The husband is to give honour to the wife “as to the weaker vessel.” Given the word ‘vessel’, it would seem that Peter is referring primarily to the body. Generally speaking men are stronger physically. He is not saying they are weaker mentally or even spiritually. Even physically, by being weaker does not mean they are inferior. Men and women simply have differing roles and functions and physical strength appropriate for such. Like the trinity, they are of equal substance, but as persons in the marriage their roles are different. A Christian husband’s primary duty is to ensure that nothing hinders his wife’s relationship with God, and his own.
I Peter 3:8-9 Christian Virtues
It is common to see doctrine as less important than living. However, this is foreign to the scriptures. One cannot have orthopraxis or true practice, without orthodoxy or true beliefs. To this end Peter says of the church that we should be of one mind. This is one clear argument for confessions and catechisms. They express the mind of a particular expression of the visible church. It may be a far away hope for unity across all the visible church before Christ’s return, but it should be the goal and aim of the church of which we are part to aim to be of one mind. Even in those contexts where there is not confessional unity on all matters, true believers should seek out those essentials with which they hold in common with their fellow believers, wherever they may be. (cf. Rom. 12:16; I Cor. 1:10; 3:3; Phil. 1:27; 2:2; 4:2)
Furthermore, we should be of one mind with respect to what follows. We are to have compassion for one another. Sympathy and empathy are to be visible marks of Christ’s church. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15 cf. I Cor. 12:26). Further, our love for one another is to be familial-we are all adopted into the same family with our elder brother Jesus and one Father. (cf. Jn. 13:34-35; I Jn. 3:14-15; 4:20) We cannot say we love God and hate his children. This makes one a liar. In other words, loving the family of God is a fruit-bearing sign of being a member of the family.
Be tender hearted. These mercies should come from the core of who we are. A tender hearted person is not superficial-they are sincere-they feel with us to their core. These are not passing thoughts or feelings. It is understanding where the other person is at, and identifying with them. Finally, being courteous means showing honour and respect for all-even as Peter delineated earlier between citizen and rulers, servants and masters, and wives and husbands. This courtesy should be shown by all and to all in Christ’s church.
The Christian always is to have a heavenly perspective. We are to return evil or reviling with blessing-we are called to this as God’s children (cf. Rom. 12:14). This is storing treasures in heaven-a lasting inheritance of the children of God. In blessing others we are blessed. These virtues are to be our sanctification goals. “These five virtues to which we are called as a church describe the ideal church. We are not an ideal church. We do not always share feelings with our friends. We are not always of one mind. We do not always love each other as family, nor are we always tender, courteous, and respectful, but these are the values that God loves.” (R. C. Sproul, ‘1-2 Peter,’ p. 102)
I Peter 3:10-14 Love Life-Seek Peace
It is interesting that of all the Psalms that Peter could refer to it is Psalm 34 which figures prominently. 2:3 is a likely reference to Psalm 34:8. This formed a question for Peter’s readers-had they tasted that the Lord was gracious? Were they recipients of God’s grace? They would know if they laid aside all malice and craved the pure milk of the word (2:1-2). Now, after his treatment of submission and other Christian virtues, he buttresses his argument by quoting this Psalm. All that he has taught is consistent with the way of the saints of the LORD-those who love life and seek peace. (Please see the blog post on this Psalm.) Peter would have also known something of the messianic fulfillment of Psalm 34:20 (cf. John 19:36).
The focus of this Psalm is if one loves life then one’s words and deeds will reflect the will of God. Those who are blessed are a blessing. Peter himself introduced the Psalm when he encouraged his readers to return blessing upon evil and reviling. The saints of the LORD leave vengeance and judgment to Him. God will answer the prayers of the righteous. “But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” (v.12) He repeats what he wrote of earlier-suffering even for doing good (v. 13 cf. 2:19-23). Christ is our example.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you are blessed.” (3:14a) Then he repeats another point which he has made before. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” (v. 14b) The saints do not fear men precisely because we fear God. Never did Peter say in all his talk of submission that we should fear man. The only people who should fear those in authority are those who do wrong. The saints, on the other hand, fear God and therefore have no fear of men. Those who fear God, even if they suffer wrong, will ultimately be blessed. By quoting Psalm 34, Peter was affirming that the saints are those who love life, seek peace, and leave the outcome to their covenant LORD.
I Peter 3:15-17 Christian To The Core.
Sanctify or set apart Christ, or the Lord God, in your hearts (v. 15a). This is the crucial thing. Peter is saying-don’t be superficial. Set Christ apart in your heart-in your core. They needed to have the root of the matter in them. A superficial faith of words only or words and deeds which contradict the truth, will not do. True saints are converted to the core. Only those who have the faith rooted in the core of their being will bear fruit in keeping with the profession called for here. Without this, one is not ready to give the defense Peter exhorts. The hope we are to give a reason for must be in us (v. 15).
The second thing to note is, how verse 15 comes couched in Peter’s treatment of suffering from evildoers for practicing good. He has laid this down as a major theme in this letter, and he set forth Christ as out example to follow. There is nothing to be happy about if one suffers for doing evil, but to suffer for doing good and reproach for Christ-this is a blessing. Furthermore, only those who return blessing for cursing and good deeds and words for reviling, will ultimately find an open door and open hearts to defend the faith. It is only true saints who have the root of the matter in them and show it in word and deed, who are going to be asked for the reason for their hope. This is because it is this very hope which is what shows itself in the lives of the saints.
We are people who have hope. Christ has suffered for us, therefore we have a good conscience-we have hope now and for eternity. We have hope because God our Father will judge righteously, both in this life and ultimately in the next. Some people claim to have hope but with no real good solid reason for it. We have reasons. We are “elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit for obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” (1:2) The only triune God of scripture is our God-Creator and Redeemer. His grace and peace to us is multiplied.
Furthermore, our hope is a living hope. Through His mercy we have been begotten “to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1:3) Furthermore, through our union with Christ and adoption into His family, we have an inheritance (1:4). On and on Peter goes, laying layer upon layer of the truths which are the foundation for this living hope. Not only do we have an inheritance which is “incorruptible, undefiled, and that does not fade away” (1:4), but “we are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation.” (1:5) So we are begotten through the events of history, applied to us by a sovereign God, who promises to keep us to the end.
But we return to Peter’s main theme-suffering for our faith-which proves that it is genuine (1:6). Again, the defense must be done “with meekness and fear.” (v. 15) This is too often missed at this verse when one talks apologetics. A true Christian must be so to the core. A true Christian has a good conscience-their words are in harmony with their core-their conscience isn’t screaming otherwise. A good conscience, showing itself in word and deed, will put to shame the scoffers and revilers, and it will open the door for others to ask the reason for such hope. Knowing what you believe is indeed necessary for being ready, but so is living it.
I Peter 3:18 The Just For The Unjust-Made Alive By The Spirit.
There is so much theology in this verse alone that it justifies a singular treatment. We have the very core of the gospel here. Justification, the heart of the gospel message is-the just dying for the unjust. “For Christ also suffered,”-the just one. Christ suffering only meant something because He was just. He Himself lived a sinless spotless life. Without His righteousness there would be no just dying for the unjust. Though He was without sin He did suffer once for sins. As Paul also witnessed, “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:26)
There is another crucial point here-He suffered once. In contrast to the OT sacrificial system, and in final fulfillment of it, Christ suffered once (cf. Heb. 9:12). It is also a clear repudiation of the Roman system of the mass, which purports to sacrifice Christ afresh. This has been the classic defense of Protestantism against Romanism, Judaism, and all forms of religion which purport that more is required. “But now once at the end of the ages He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Heb. 9:26)
There is something else which this verse and passage repudiates, something which makes this otherwise enigmatic passage difficult to interpret. Christ suffered once, “that He might bring us to God.” He died not to make it perhaps possible to go to God, nor did He die to bring us to an intermediate holding zone like purgatory. His sacrifice was offered once because He Himself said, “It is finished.” (Jn. 19:30) Furthermore, He said to the repentant sinner on the cross at His side, “today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Jesus could not have been clearer on both points. “It is finished,” and for this reason, “today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus crucifixion is an historical fact-a real death of a real body on a tree. However, it is an equally historical fact, attested to by many witnesses, that this same Jesus rose from the grave. “Made alive by the Spirit.” (3:15 cf. Rom. 1:4, 8:11) This is the reason for our living hope-“the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1:3) It is testament to His sacrifice accepted, and His victory over sin’s penalty-death. As Paul also pointed out-this is the basis of our eternal hope (I Cor. 15:12-19). “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” (I Cor. 15: 3-4)
So to refer back to 3:15, the reason for our hope is “according to the Scriptures.” There is no such thing as bare evidence, such as is purported by evidentialist or so called “classical” apologetics. Paul and Peter and all the biblical witnesses state emphatically that the scriptures are the first axiom of all thought and existence. The scriptures are the one and only standard that sits in judgment on all others. The scriptures interpret the essential facts of history, and it is this testimony alone which is infallible. All the reasons Peter gives of this hope we are called to defend come from the testimony of the biblical authors. Without the scriptures, there is no defence.
I Peter 3: 19-22 Victory!
The salvation of 3:18 is that of the triune God. Christ was crucified, was raised by the Spirit, to bring us to the Father. He also preached a message of victory and vindication. As was seen in 3:18 there is no holding pattern for lost souls, as it were. As the writer to the Hebrews put it, it is appointed unto all to die and after this the judgment (9: 27). For the saints, Christ has paid that price (9:28). Therefore the preaching spoken of here is not to salvation, but rather, it is a message of judgment-the previous message given in the time of Noah is now ultimately fulfilled and vindicated, by the same Spirit through whom Christ was raised to victory.
However, as in the days of Noah, when only eight souls were saved, having heeded the message, so now there are those delivered from sin through the salvation spoken of here. Peter sees in Noah an antitype of baptism, as he wrote, not the washing of the body-in fact Noah and those with him were dry-the others were immersed. Rather, it speaks to a good conscience, saved through the finished work of Christ-testified to by His resurrection from the dead. What we have here is a message of vindication over His enemies, in victory. Christ “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.” (v. 22)
I Peter 4:1-6 The Dead And The Living.
Once again we see how central is the theology of 3:18. Peter hearkens back to Christ’s suffering. In 3:18 he points out that He suffered for sins not His own-the just for the unjust-to bring us to God. He now expands on this justification with the implications, once again, for sanctification. He challenges us to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ-it is a battle to be fought. Like Paul (Eph. 6:13-17), it is not a war against flesh and blood per se-but a war with spiritual powers (Eph. 2:1-3). We are to have the same attitude or mind toward sin as Christ. Christ put to death sin definitively in His death and resurrection. It is the goal of sanctification to make it a reality in our lives. The principle is the same-suffering in the flesh-dying to sin that we would live for God (v. 1 cf. Rom. 6:1-4). Flesh itself, or living in the body, is not sin-Christ showed us this. Rather it is as Peter said-“the lusts of men.” Instead we are to live “for the will of God”-body and soul (v. 2). We are to live in the flesh for the will of God (v. 2). Our members are designed to be instruments of righteousness (cf. Rom. 6: 5-14).
Peter elaborates on what he means by living for “the lusts of men.” These are “lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.” (v. 3) It is not the drinking of alcoholic beverages per se, but drunkenness. It is not partying per se, but partying celebrating drunkenness and excessive consumption. These are always accompanied by lewdness and lusts, and ultimately “abominable idolatries.” Men will worship something-God or an idol. “The lusts of men,” is ultimately a competing religion-of self and man. So for us, suffering in the flesh means putting to death our former way of life. This will come as strange to those who revel in “the lusts of men,” and it will also convict, such that they will speak evil of those who do not follow suit. (v. 4)
There is a judgment coming, and this is both a warning and a comfort to the true saints (v. 5), and a warning and call to the dead then living. Accounts will have to be given and paid, and God is ready to judge. Having ascended to the right hand of the Father, Christ is now ready (3:22). There is a shift here however, from the preaching and audience that he wrote about earlier. “The living and the dead” are clearly those who are spiritually living or dead-whether in this life or the one to come. These are the same as those who will be judged-clearly both groups then passed on to the next life (4:5). At the judgment the living-those spiritually alive in Christ, and those dead-those apart from Christ, will be judged. As the writer to the Hebrews put it, it is appointed unto all to die and after this the judgment (9: 27). For the saints, Christ has paid that price (9:28).
However, for the dead in this life there is still an opportunity to respond to gospel preaching. This is not like the preaching of Christ referred to earlier (3:19), to the dead then dead. This is a preaching of the gospel by the church to the dead in this life. Those who did not heed in the days of Noah, should come as a warning to heed the gospel now preached to them. Peter’s point-there will be no second chance after death. Better to accept the judgment of God now “in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit.” Justification, the sovereign work of the triune God, is the beginning, and glorification is the end. In the interim, we are sanctified through suffering in the flesh, to live according to the will of God.
I have departed from the NKJV by capitalizing Spirit here. It is the same pneumati. It also seems more consistent with the context on at least two points. First of all, it hearkens back to 3:18 where Christ’s suffering in the flesh is followed by His being made alive by the Spirit. It is this same Spirit who must also empower us in the journey of sanctification (cf. Rom. 8:11). Secondly, it is more in harmony with the biblical testimony of the unity of body and soul or spirit. Our battle is not ultimately between flesh and spirit, but a life lived in the body without the Spirit. This is what the baptism Peter referred to earlier symbolizes-our union with Christ lived. We died with Him, and we are raised to new life to live with and for Him. Not the washing of the body-this is not the focus-rather it is a good conscience of having peace with God-body and soul. Sanctification involves the whole person-inside and out, in the power of the Spirit.
I Peter 4:7-8 Love Above All.
“But the end of all things is at hand.” Some would suggest that this refers to the second coming. However, of that day no one knows except the Father, and Peter makes the point that this end is “at hand.’ It is more likely that what Peter is referring to is the destruction of the temple and the whole of the OT sacrificial system, as Jesus predicted in Mt. 24. This was “at hand,” as it did occur in 70 AD. It had great significance because it brought to an end a system which found its ultimate fulfillment in the finished work and once for all sacrifice of Christ (cf. Rom. 13:11).
Some would suggest that a doctrine of Christ’s immanent return is necessary to spur the saints on to live a godly life. However, since any of us could die at any time we don’t need a doctrine of immanence to be faced with this reality. But it is also worth noting that just because it may have immediate reference to the coming events of 70 AD, it does not make what Peter has written any less relevant for us. The vast majority of the bible is written to and by individuals in specific historical contexts. This does not mean that these examples aren’t relevant for us either.
Sproul actually looks at this verse on its own, and he argues against a view of the consummation here, for one chief reason-the consummation never ends with the end of the earth. “The biblical view of the consummation of the kingdom of God and the completion of the work of Jesus is not the end of the world. The future of the planet, according to the New Testament, is not annihilation but restoration and renovation. (Rom. 8:22-23) God’s work of redemption is cosmic in scope. He is not just going to save us out of the world; He will redeem the world and everything in it.” (‘1-2 Peter,’ pp. 151, 152)
“Therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.” The upcoming events would have inspired and informed the prayer life of Peter’s readers, no doubt. But our own circumstances and brevity of life also inspires us. Barclay translates this as, “be, therefore, steady and sober in mind.” Relating this to one’s prayer life he wrote the following. “We only learn to pray when we take life so wisely and seriously that we begin to say in all things: “Thy will be done.” The first necessity in prayer is the earnest desire, not to get what we wish, but to discover the will of God for ourselves.” (‘The Letters Of James And Peter,’ p. 299)
This prayer life Peter unites with love. It is good to know what is our attitude and reason for prayer. Love is above all things, and it is to be fervent. Concerning the greek here for love exercised-ektenes-Barclay notes two meanings. One thought is that agape is to be constant and consistent. But more than this, it never gives up, it is never failing. “Christian love is not an easy, sentimental reaction. It demands everything a man has got of mental and spiritual nerve.” (p. 299) Peter finds in Proverbs 10:12 a reference for what he means by love, and this among the saints. “Love will cover a multitude of sins.” Love does not deny that sin is sin. Love simply chooses to forgive and move on. Without this love prayer is futile, and something we must also be serious and watchful of.
I Peter 4:9-11 Stewards Of His Manifold Grace.
Biblical love among the saints, as we saw, is consistent and persevering. It puts off keeping a record of wrongs. Instead it puts on hospitality. Biblical love is more than a feeling or even simply words-as important as these are. Love acts. Hospitality freely and genuinely given is rare-grumbling is the usual accompaniment. Bitterness often results because of time, resources, and solitude disturbed. The Lord is always looking at the heart as well as the word or act. This is impossible without grace.
Grace is too often viewed generically, with no variety whatsoever. Peter calls us to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Peter makes a basic affirmation here-all the gifts we have of talent, time, and resources are purely as a result of God’s grace. We are called simply to be good stewards. This is the first hurdle to overcome in our thinking. Everything is on loan to us-including life itself. “As each one has received,” is the point. It is also true that we are not asked to give what we have not received. The church is a body, with each member having a gift or gifts to contribute.
Gifts are given to minister to others. It is certainly the case that one should not presume to have a gift which one does not have. However, it would also be a sin to refuse to minister to others a gift which God has given for this purpose. The end purpose is God’s glory. God provides the ability for this purpose. It is part of man’s chief end-to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. Those who speak should do so not to just share their own thoughts, as it were. The church will only be benefited as this speaking is in harmony with the word.
It is also important to note that we are stewards not only by God’s grace but, God is “glorified through Jesus Christ.” It is through the word alone, grace alone, and Christ alone, for the glory of God alone! It is to God alone that the glory is due. It is the only sensible and reasonable response. His also is the dominion. “Your kingdom come,” is the church’s prayer and purpose, and part and parcel of this is the love we have and show in our service to each other to God’s glory, “as stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
I Peter 4:12-19 Suffering And Glory.
Peter returns to a major theme-suffering as a Christian. No believer should ever consider this a strange thing (v. 12). Anyone who seeks to follow Christ will suffer. As Peter points out again, there is no blessing in suffering for doing wrong (v. 15). But to suffer as a follower of Christ is a blessing, and cause for rejoicing (vv. 13). Those who share in His sufferings will also share in His glory. Gladness and exceeding joy await us (v. 13). We can only do this in the power of the Spirit (v. 14).
However, we also share in His glory now. One can think of Stephen in Acts 6, when in the midst of martyrdom the Glory cloud rested upon Him, and He saw Jesus seated upon His heavenly throne. This was the Glory Presence which was meant to abide in the house of God. But as Peter has pointed out, in Christ God has a living temple, made with living stones. Clowney suggests that this passage in fact alludes to Malachi 3:1-3, where the day of the Lord’s coming is a day of judgment. It is probable that when Peter speaks of the judgment beginning at the house of God that he has in view the impending destruction of the temple, which occurred in 70 AD. This would be the final Ichabod (I Sam. 4:21-22), for God’s Glory Presence would finally rest upon the living temple of the followers of Christ.
Commenting on the glory spoken of here Barclay envisions the Shekinah presence. “The Shekinah was the luminous glow of the very presence of God. (Exodus 16:7, 24:16, 29:43) When the tabernacle was completed, “then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34)” (‘The Letters Of James And Peter,’ p. 307) This same Glory Presence once also entered the Temple as the successor of the tabernacle. “For the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.” (I Kings 8:10-11) With Jesus there has come the transfer of the Glory Presence once and for all-the Glory cloud of God’s Presence through the Spirit. “It is Peter’s conviction that something of that glow of glory rests on the man who suffers for Christ.” (Barclay, p. 307)
Christ always elicits one of two responses, because in the end there are only two classes of people-those who revile His name-which is blasphemy, and those who glorify Him. Suffering as a Christian is not something to be ashamed of (v. 16). We choose rather, to glorify Him in all circumstances-under the shadow of the glory cloud of the Spirit presence with us. “When Stephen was on trial for his life, and when it was certain that he would be condemned to death, to those who looked on him his face was as the face of an angle (Acts 6:15). The reproach of suffering for Christ becomes a glory; something of the very glory of God rests on the man who suffers for Christ.” (Barclay, pp. 307-308)
“What will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (v. 17) This was and is the ultimate question, and it will be the ultimate question at the judgment. Those who obey the gospel, who thus cling to the righteousness of Christ alone, will suffer the discipline of the Lord as we are sanctified more and more to His likeness. But for those who reject the gospel of God there is no hope. Those who still clung to the Temple needed to know that the glory had departed because Jesus brought all that it represented to fulfillment in the once for all sacrifice of Himself.
Barclay points out that the same word used for the Christian to ‘commit’ their soul to God is the word used by Christ when He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) “Jesus unhesitatingly committed and entrusted His life to God, certain that in the end God would not fail Him-and so may we.” (p. 311) To this end, and under the presence of the glory cloud of the Spirit, we are called to do good, suffering for the will of God, for He is faithful.
I Peter 5:1-4 Presbyters/Bishops Shepherd The Flock.
So Peter was not only “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1), he was also an elder, “and a witness of the sufferings of Christ.” (5:1) Paul also reflected on this (Rom. 8:17-18). As a “fellow elder and a witness,” Peter was in a position to speak to his colleagues with some authority, and empathy. Exhortation was in order. No doubt his reference to Christ’s sufferings was a reminder to them that they were also called to share in the same, along with His glory. He has already brought this idea to bear on the entire assembly, so how much more the under-shepherds of the flock. It is worth noting that Peter considered himself to be partaking in the glory in the here and now, even though the full weight of the Glory Presence waited to be revealed. We must be partakers of the glory, for it speaks to God’s presence among us, which we need.
Peter also knew something of the call to feed and tend to Christ’s sheep (Jn. 21:15-17). It was an expression of His love for the Lord, and this must be the motivation of all His shepherds. Peter also was informed of his end (Jn. 21:18-21). He would indeed suffer. This makes his instructions here all the more poignant. Shepherding involves service-“serving as overseers.” That is, overseers, not overlords. The elders or presbyters were to serve as bishops-overseeing the flock as servants. Incidentally, this is but one example why Presbyterians are not Episcopalian. The presbyters are also elders-both titles and functions are exercised by the same persons. However, it is also why we do believe in an ordained ministry-Peter is here speaking to a specific group of men called to shepherd the flock.
Like a shepherd they were called to oversee the well-being of the flock. Shepherding requires guidance and protection. This is a full-time job! Those assemblies which fail to maintain a full-time ministry, when they are able to do so, are sinning. It can only lead to the detriment of the flock. As Paul made so abundantly clear, “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” (I Cor. 9:14) You can’t live on a few bucks for sharing a message Sunday morning, and shepherding involves more than simply preaching on the Lord’s Day. Sin is rebellion against God’s commands, and this is what God has commanded! It is also part and parcel of the Lord’s plan to build His church. Not to fulfill this command cannot but hurt the flock in the long run, every bit as much as failed leadership.
This needs to be borne in mind when we read what follows from Peter, for he warns against being motivated by “dishonest gain.” But shepherding with right motives, according to the word, is not dishonest. Again, as Paul also noted, “if a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” (I Tim. 3:1) Note well, it is not only a function-it is also a position. A bishop is a steward (Titus 1:7), called to serve another faithfully, with what has been given. This service should be willingly-motivated by love of the Lord and the flock. One must desire this work-as Paul noted. There should be an eagerness, serving out of love (cf. II Cor. 5:17).
As stewards, the Lord entrusts the flock to those who he has chosen and called to the work. They were also called to be “examples to the flock.” Ezekial spoke to the two kinds of shepherds, what to avoid and what to look for (Ez. 8, 34). Paul also pointed out how presbyters and bishops must be blameless. They are stewards to “the Chief Shepherd,” and when He appears they “will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” (cf. II Tim. 4:8; Heb. 13:20-21) Paul had a similar exhortation to the bishops at Ephesus. “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28) The church is Christ’s blood bought possession, of which bishops or presbyters are made under-shepherd stewards, and this by the Holy Spirit.
I Peter 5:5-11 Perfected, Established, Strengthened, and Settled.
Peter returns to his theme of submission-in this case mutual. It comes from humility which is itself the product of grace. The proverbs figure prominently for Peter (cf. Pr. 2:17; 3:9, 13; 4:18), and here the message is equally one of grace (5:5). Submission to God is the most important thing. Those who fear God have no fear of man-indeed, the humble are exalted. Peter referred to a number of relationships already, where submission is required, and he does not want to forget the younger members of the church toward their elders. It is worth noting again, that the fifth commandment, from which this injunction flows, comes with the promise of long life and prosperity (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16).
Peter reminds his readers that the devil is still at work. It is indeed true that all powers have been put into subjection to Christ (cf. 3:22), but we must stay humbly connected to Him. The devil must be resisted, but this can only happen if one remains “steadfast in the faith.” (v. 9, cf. Jas. 4:7) Like Peter, we need the Lord to pray for us (cf. Mk. 14:37-38; Luke 22:31-32). We must remain sober and steadfast, particularly knowing that those who follow Christ will suffer (v. 9). The saints can only do this by God’s grace, through Jesus Christ (v. 10). We are ultimately called to glory. Glorification is the ultimate end of being united to the Christ Jesus, but the way there is a battle, but one He will equip us to win.
Christians live with a God authored mission and purpose. It is His will that we be perfected, established, strengthened, and settled (v.10). Barclay notes of these four things the following (‘The Letters Of James And Peter,’ pp. 323-325). God restores, that is, he mends like the mending of a torn net or the setting of a fracture. This is needful, for we are in a battle, and we will suffer. In the midst of this battle it is nevertheless true that it is God’s intention to establish us, that is, to give us a firmness and solidity of character that could only come from God in the midst of our trials. Strength is required to this end, which God also provides.
There is a kind of progression here, if we imagine a soldier coming through a battle. We can’t stand firm without the strength which the Lord provides. The goal is to be settled-confident in the bedrock of one’s faith-both propositional and experiential. “Through suffering God will settle a man. The verb themelioun, which means to lay the foundations. It is only when we have to meet sorrow and suffering that we are driven down to the very bedrock of faith. It is then that we discover what are the things which cannot be shaken.” (Barclay, p. 325)
The Lord promises to care for His own. We are to cast all our cares to Him, not just some (cf. Ps. 55:22). It is for His glory that we live, and it is His kingdom we are to seek in the here and now. “Peter had been there for the Sermon on the Mount. He had heard Jesus explain how to pray: “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:13)” (Sproul, ‘1-2 Peter,’ p. 191) One wonders how much this is a present prayer and praise of the visible church, but forever and ever includes the time of Peter’s writing and now! When the church makes this her prayer and praise she will indeed be in a battle, but the outcome is assured. Not many can go into a battle, knowing that they will win.
I Peter 5:12-14 Grace, Love, And Peace.
Silvanus could be the Silas of Acts 15:40, and he “may simply have carried the epistle, or he may have acted as a secretary, perhaps even helping Peter draft the letter.” (NGSB, p. 1977) Whatever the case may be, Peter considered him faithful, and we all need others we consider faithful. Peter didn’t work alone, he had help, and we all need help. We need to be thankful for the faithful one’s God brings into out lives.
Peter also considered that his letter was brief. He exhorted and testified for he was both an apostle and a witness of Christ-of his sufferings and His exaltation. His being a witness helped qualify him as an apostle-at least it was necessary (Acts 1:21-22). True grace causes one to stand, “steadfast in the faith,” as Peter has already noted (5:9). Babylon could be a reference to Rome, speaking to the idea of exile. Whoever ‘she’ is, it seems she was yet another whom Peter counted among the elect and conveyed her greetings to the same.
Then there was Mark or John Mark , whom he considered to be as a son, the author of the gospel (cf. Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37-39). “According to Papias (c. AD 60-130), Mark worked closely with Peter and derived much of the information for the Gospel of Mark from the apostle.” (NGSB, p. 1977) They all were united in love, as should be the church today (v. 14). Peace is what is shared by those ‘in’ Christ. It is union with Christ from which everything flows. To this the saints concur with a hearty “Amen.”
II Peter 1:1 Like Precious Faith.
Peter carries forward the twin purpose he had in his first letter-refuting false teachers and defending the content and practice of the faith. Peter adds to the title ‘apostle’ the term ‘bondservant’, like Jude (1:1). Doulos means slave-“of Jesus Christ.” One can’t be a true apostle without being a bondservant. An apostle is one sent, by a higher authority, as an ambassador with a message not their own. Not only was the message not his own, but the faith is also something that is received-this is what is conveyed by it being ‘obtained’. It is not conceived or obtained by human imagination or effort-it is by the sovereign grace of God.
Peter was confident that his readers had obtained the same “like precious faith” as himself-having delivered it to them before (3:1). This letter, like the first, was intended as a reminder of this faith and the need to defend it. The faith is precious-as Peter wrote in his first letter-more precious than gold (1:7). To us who believe, Christ is precious (2:7), and the living out of this faith is also precious (3:4). Faith as both doctrine and life is precious, as is having both together. Again, this faith was obtained-“by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” This is a gift which the saints have received.
The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is the grounds of our justification-from this everything else flows, including the faith we have to believe. Peter makes a clear statement here of Christ’s deity-He is our God and Savior. This goes to the core of the orthodoxy of the faith-without this one does not have the faith. This is the apostolic witness. Also, it is precisely because our Savior is also God, that our salvation is secure. It’s origin, reception, and continuation are all a sovereign work of the triune God. This letter comes as another reminder to those who are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit for obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 1:2).
II Peter 1:2-4 The True Knowledge Of God.
Grace and peace is multiplied again (I Pet. 1:2). Grace doesn’t stop at election or justification. Grace and peace is the atmosphere of the believer, from beginning to end. This was in fact a common Hebrew greeting or salutation. It echoes the benediction of Numbers 6:24-26. It is a reminder that peace rests upon grace, as does the knowledge of God. It is by God’s grace alone that we have any knowledge of Him. “The knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,” figures prominently in this letter. Peter has just described Jesus as God and Savior-so this is saving knowledge and more affirmation of the trinity, with the inclusion here of God the Father.
To the justification based on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (v.1), Peter adds the work of sanctification. As in his first letter (1:5), this sanctification is also dependent on God’s power, flowing from God’s grace and mercy being multiplied. “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” One must know God in a saving way, for this process to take place. Without His call there is no power-it is thus an effectual call-it is a call accompanied by the power to achieve it. “All things pertaining to life and godliness,” covers everything. Peter also makes clear, in these beginning verses, where this knowledge is to be found-in the word. For Peter, the word is the first axiom of all thought and existence.
We are sanctified through the promises given. Godliness is both knowing about God, and living in the light of that knowledge in a way pleasing in His sight. Knowledge of God, which comes by grace, is both knowing about Him and being known by Him. No one can have true and full knowledge of God, which is what the word epigenosis means here, who does not know Him as Savior. Sin will forever keep one from a full and true knowledge of God, something only grace can overcome. Here, specifically, it is God’s promises, pledges of His covenant love and mercy, which are ours to have and to hold. Promises from sinful human beings often fail, but God will never fail to keep His promises.
Referring to the following verses-John 17:3; Jer. 9:23; Hosea 6:6, J. I. Packer focused on the centrality of one’s knowledge of God as that which God Himself desires of us. (cf. p. 29, quoted by Helm, ‘1 & 2 Peter And Jude,’ p. 194). Peter here combines beautifully the knowledge which God gives us by revelation in the promises of His word, with the end in view-sanctification or godliness. Like Christ Himself, and our faith, these promises are indeed precious. This is what Peter means by us being “partakers of the divine nature.” God provides the standard of what it means to be godly, but He also provides the means to achieving it-by His word and His power. There is no other way to escape “the corruption of the world though lust.” The word and power of God are needed and given to this end.
II Peter 1:5-11 Virtues-Call And Election Sure.
“For this reason,” means that on the basis of what he has written in his introduction, Peter adds the following. Since we are made partakers of the divine nature, through the word and power of God, and by these we escape the corruption that is in the world through lust, we are to add to the sanctification begun. By God’s power we are to give “all diligence.” All diligence is only possible with God’s power.
The list of virtues is not so much an order as it is a collage, except for the beginning and end-faith and love. “Early Christian virtue lists often begin with “faith,” the starting point of the Christian life, and end with “love” (Rom. 5:1-5; I Cor. 13), the preeminent fruit of the Christian life.” (NGSB, p. 1980) Virtue here has the idea of excellence, land that is productive and fruitful, and those who have courage (Barclay, p. 356).
In keeping with the rest of this list, it is likely that the knowledge Peter refers to is a practical application of one’s faith. It is also suggested by the virtue of self-control. As already noted, all these virtues contrast and are opposed to “the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Perseverance is paramount if we are to end well. As Paul noted, it is tribulation which produces perseverance and perseverance which produces character (Rom. 5: 2).
Godliness, as we have seen, has the idea of piety. The godly fear God, and their lives reflect this-doing that which is pleasing in His sight. Brotherly kindness speaks to the familial nature of the church, and the care and compassion which should be present. The agape love is that which the saints are to have for all-including one’s enemies. To this end we have Christ for our example.
All of these virtues have to do with “the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Those who truly know Christ will bear this fruit. The Christian life is in stark contrast to “the corruption that is in the world through lust.” The former has all the fruitfulness of the Spirit’s presence, the latter is corruption. Being cleansed of one’s sins means leaving them behind and producing fruit in keeping with a new life.
All these virtues and more, give evidence of one’s call and election. It is important to note that they are not the basis of this call or election. Nevertheless, without these virtues and more, it is doubtful that one is called or elect-this is the end which God has in view. Peter again reiterates the need for diligence. This diligence is possible because God’s call is with power-it is effectual, and we persevere because He preserves us for His everlasting kingdom.
II Peter 1:12-21 The Prophetic Word Confirmed.
“For this reason,” Peter again connects with what he has just written-namely, the need to continue to grow in the faith through the word and power of God. Though they knew and were established in the truth, it was Peter’s intention to leave them a reminder, and so we have his letters. Peter knew he would soon die-even as the Lord predicted (v. 14; Jn. 13:36, 21:18-19). To this end, Peter reminds his readers that his message was not something he just dreamed up on his own.
“The power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” was something he was an eyewitness of. Peter witnessed the “Excellent Glory,” no doubt a reference to the Glory Presence, and the witness of the Father to the person and work of the Son-Mt. 17:1-8; Mk. 8:2-8; Lk. 9:28-36 (cf. I Pet. 1:11). He who manifested the Glory at the transfiguration is “the Bright and Morning star.” (Rev. 22:16) The word spoken to Him by the father, the word spoken by Him, and the prophetic word confirmed-came as light in the darkness.
Not only this, but they also bore witness to “the prophetic word confirmed.” This also was not just Peter’s private interpretation, the word given was something which could be tested and tried. Peter’s message, and indeed that of the Lord Himself, was in full harmony with, and in fulfillment of, the prophetic word already given. The reason is simple-“for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (v. 21; cf. II Tim. 3:16) Among the many human authors there is yet one divine author-the Holy Spirit.
Therefore the witness of the scriptures is one, and the faith is one. Peter was affirming the scriptural nature of his letters, and he was giving his readers the standard by which to judge what they were hearing. He reminds his readers of these things so that they will be prepared to pass judgment on the false teachers in their midst. The word comes as light in darkness, not as myths, but as historical events that were witnessed by the authors. Furthermore, Peter invites his readers to judge his words by the prophetic word confirmed.
II Peter 2:1-3 The Destructive Ones Will Be Destroyed.
Embedded in the beginning verses of this chapter is a common biblical motif-apart from grace one reaps what they sow. Those who secretly bring in destructive heresies, will themselves face destruction after open judgment. One should not miss that twist-what they sought to bring in secretly is what they themselves will face in the open. Attempting to hide their intentions and beliefs, they will in the end be subject to an open accounting before all. However, until that day, Peter wants to remind his readers that they have a standard by which to make a judgment in the here and now-the prophetic word confirmed.
False prophets were not new. Jeremiah laid down some guidelines by which to judge the prophetic word (Jer. 23). True prophets have stood in God’s council-the Glory Presence, and received His counsel (vv. 21-30). The false prophets speak from their own hearts a dream. It has always been the goal of false prophets and teachers to destroy (Jer. 23:1). They seek to deceive by delivering a message of peace when judgment is on God’s mind (8:11). Peace can only come by grace, as Peter has reminded his readers (I Pet. 1:2; II Pet. 1:2). The false teachers see no need for grace-they do not admit to sin.
Those who prophesied by another were clearly false, but so were those who spoke contrary to the word already given, and to a lifestyle in contradiction to that word (vv. 9-17). Those who predicted what did not come to pass were also clearly false, but the prophetic word fulfilled was confirmation of its truth. Jeremiah himself predicted the coming of the Branch, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (vv. 5-6). The false teachers in Peter’s day were openly denying this One, and they no doubt appealed to the temple as did the prophets in Jeremiah’s day (Jer. 7). But the Lord has a new temple, the remnant (23:3).
Jesus gave assurance that these false prophets would not be able to deceive the elect (Mt. 24:24), but his people would have to be vigilant. The false teachers claimed to be bought by the Lord (v. 1), but their words and actions spoke otherwise. By departing from the biblical witness they showed that they were not of the elect (cf. I Jn. 2:19). The Spirit also warned that there would be those who would come seeking to deceive, as Paul noted-I Timothy 4:1-2. The focal point seems to be the person and work of Christ. Others would in fact come claiming to be Christ, and others would come denying His deity or His humanity. The saints needed to heed the eyewitness accounts of the apostles, and the prophetic word confirmed.
False teachers are not only destructive to the church, but they also seek to hinder her witness (v. 2 cf. Rom. 2:24). In both doctrine and life, they are false. Their motive is greed, having given themselves over to covetousness. Exploitation is always the goal of those who seek to deceive. How opposite this is to the words and actions of those who love the church! It has always been the case that heresies are often accompanied by men and women who profit immensely from their teaching. The examples one might appeal to today are legion. By their fruit they are known (Mt. 7:15-20).
II Peter 2:4-11 Examples Of Judgment-But Also Deliverance.
Peter gives some examples, by way of comparison and contrast, for the just judgment coming upon the ungodly. This section parallels Jude in many respects (cf.Jude 5-8). Some, who believe that angels are referred to in Genesis 6, believe that this is what Peter is referring to. It is a spurious and unfounded interpretation of Genesis 6 however. Jesus made clear that angels are not sexual beings-Matthew 22:30. It is rather a statement in keeping with the consistent testimony of scripture, that with Satan many of the angels rebelled against God and were cast out of His presence, reserved for judgment. There continues to be a battle among the angelic hosts until that day-Rev. 12:7-12. The thought simply is-if God will not spare the fallen angelic hosts, He certainly will not spare the ungodly among men.
Peter’s next example of judgment to come was the generation surrounding Noah. In this case only eight persons were spared, because Noah, a righteous man, heeded God’s commands (Gen. 6-9). In the third example of Sodom and Gomorrah, only three persons were saved-through the instrumentality of angels from God’s presence and under His command (Gen. 19), and the intercession of Abraham (18:16-33). Jude also notes this in Jude 7. These were intended to be examples of the judgment that will ultimately fall on the ungodly (v. 6). However, these examples also show that “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly.” Whether eight or only three-God has always spared the remnant of a godly witness. We should also not miss the fact that God delivered the godly through the covenant headship of Noah and Abraham. Deliverance is always by way of covenant headship.
Two things, in particular, stand out among the ungodly-lust and despising authority. Ultimately, the wicked are those who reject God’s authority in His law (v. 8), and those He has placed in positions of authority (v. 10). The fallen angels are contrasted with those who serve in God’s presence, on the subject of authority-the latter rebelled against the ultimate authority of God Himself, whereas the latter will not even bring a reviling accusation before the Lord, against those in authority. Instead of heeding God’s will, the ungodly are “self-willed.” (v. 10) The ungodly are also presumptuous, for they do not believe that they will suffer judgment. Because the judgment is not instantaneous they in effect presume upon God’s mercy. This is a point Paul also made-Romans 2:4. However, as Peter noted earlier-destruction awaits the destructive (2:1-3).
II Peter 2:12-17 Covetous To The Core.
Peter again reiterates the common biblical principle-the wicked reap what they sow. The principle by which they operate will be their own downfall-they “will utterly perish in their own corruption.” There is another universal truth here as well-the wicked “speak evil of the things they do not understand.” It says that they don’t want to understand. The wicked think that simply speaking evil of something will make it go away or cease to have any weight. How many times have people cursed what they don’t want to take the time to understand? We find this in Jude also, and he adds that as brute beast they simply do what comes “naturally”, without any thought to what is right, wise, truthful, or appropriate (cf. Jude 10). There is also another basic principle here-there is a direct connection between heresy and corrupt living.
Again, the wicked ultimately reap what they sow. They “will receive the wages of unrighteousness.” They simply do what they feel like doing, “as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime.” They have no shame. Hard to be a productive member of society when your busy partying. In a twist of mockery Peter says they are “carousing in their own deceptions.” Ultimately this is the point. Some people would rather live deceived. Peter warns that these are “spots and blemishes”-again, much as did Jude (v. 12). They don’t just have spots they are the spots. They serve only themselves. They cannot cease from sin, including adultery (v. 14). In fact, “they have a heart trained in covetous practices.” They are covetous to the core, and as Paul pointed out, the 10th commandment is the downfall of all the rest (Rom. 7:7).
Peter calls the wicked accursed. Blessing or cursing-there are really only two options. These are covenant terms. These are people who are members of the visible church with the outward visible expressions of the covenant, but the root of the matter is not in them. John also made reference to those not ever of us-I Jn. 2:19. This is borne out by Peter saying that “they have forsaken the right way and gone astray.” This lends support to the idea that Peter was in fact writing to a primarily Jewish audience-since this was his primary call as an apostle. Also like Jude (v. 11), Peter sees them following in the example of Balaam who was a commercial prophet-in it for the money, for what they could get out of their teaching and position. Like Balaam, a donkey has more sense than they. They are brute beasts. At least the donkey is trained for a useful purpose. The false prophets work in opposition to the true prophetic word.
The example of Balaam and his donkey serves to forever mark the folly of being quick to speak as a prophet without first hearing from God (cf. Nu. 22). The irony is for those accursed, was that Balaam was employed to pronounce a curse on God’s people, but God intended blessing. It is also ironic that Balaam cursed the donkey-what he could not understand. Better a dumb ass who has enough sense to shut up and bow in the presence of God, then a prophet who stubbornly insists on speaking his own words. Of course, anyone claiming to be such a prophet today is dumber than an ass, but equally so are those who speak what is contrary to the finished prophetic word.
The word is the final arbiter that these false teachers do not want to be judged by. For Peter and all the biblical witness bearers, the word is the first axiom of all thought and existence, and the final arbiter of truth. It is presumptuous to speak contrary to it. Again, like Jude, these are clouds without water. They give the appearance of providing water-like a well or clouds normally do, but they do not. Where the wind is meant to carry this moisture to water the earth, all these do is take but do not give back. For such, the blackness of darkness of judgment is reserved forever (v. 17). The accursed ones, like Balaam, seek to bring teaching which is a curse, but in the end God brings blessing, and the accursed meet their own end.
II Peter 2:18-22 Escape!
“For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness,” they echo the sentiments of Jude, who similarly describes these false teachers as waves of the sea foaming up, and like the foam their words are all empty fluff (Jude 13). What Jude called shame, Peter describes as “the lusts of the flesh,” and “lewdness.” These are a danger to those “who have actually escaped from those who live in error.” Again, what one believes is inseparable from how one lives. “They themselves are slaves of corruption,” but they promise liberty (v. 19). These are those who teach that the grace of God is a license to sin.
Again, Peter reiterates a basic biblical life principle-the wicked reap what they sow-they will perish by their own devices. “They themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.” This is the irony-liberty promised to those who have it already, by those who are held in bondage by their own sin. In the end Peter says of these teachers what John said of them. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” (I Jn. 2:19)
Peter makes this same point by referring to a dog which returns to its vomit, or a sow wallowing in the mire. These false teachers are unclean. Once again, Peter shows his preference for the proverbs-26:11. These are fools, simply returning to what they really never left in the first place. Their sole purpose then is simply to try and bring others down with them. To put it another way, they did not escape with us, for had they escaped with us they would not have returned to that from which we escaped. This is in direct contrast with those “who have actually escaped.” (v. 18) Are you among those who have escaped? Such a perspective requires the corollary, that one needs to escape, in this case from the bondage of sin.
II Peter 3:1-7 Be Mindful Of The Prophetic And Apostolic Witness.
Contrasted with the wicked, Peter regards his readers as ‘Beloved’. Both his letters were intended as reminders for them to heed the word- that is, “the words spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior.” This is the standard to judge by. Peter considered that they were then living in the last days-the last days of the old covenant administration. People had a choice to find fulfillment in Christ, or to follow the corrupted teaching of the scoffers, who were “walking according to their own lusts.” (v. 3) Of these Peter makes the point that they “willfully forget.” Everyone has the truth of God present, some just choose to “willfully” forget, and so they deceive themselves. In this case, they forget that it is God who created the world out of the water and it is He who through water brought every living thing to destruction-save Noah and those with him.
That they refer to the fathers would again seem to lend support to the idea that the audience was primarily the Jewish Christian community. They suggested that everything continued unabated from the dawn of creation-but the flood they forgot-both which came by the word of God. In other words, they chose to forget judgment, and so they continued to deny the approach of the same. In effect, one can say that God came in the flood, and He would come with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and in the “second” coming as well. There will be a final day of judgment-“preserved by the same word.” (v. 7) God has promised it (v. 9). This promise is every bit as sure as was the promise of the flood, and that which would soon come upon Jerusalem and the temple (Matt. 24:34).
II Peter 3:8-13 The Day Of The Lord-When Righteousness Dwells.
Again, Peter reminds the beloved that, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years.” (v. 8) The wicked scoff because God exercises restraint. Evidently they think that if the judgment is not instantaneous it will not come at all. They, in effect, presume upon His mercy. In fact, God’s judgment is delayed for the sake of the elect-this is what Peter considered he and his readers to be (I Pet. 1:2; II Pet. 1:10), the ‘us’ of verse nine. Longsuffering is not slackness. Quite the opposite! It is God’s will that His people come to repentance.
The day of the Lord may seem a long time coming, but it will ultimately come as “a thief in the night.” Perhaps it is God’s intention to catch some unawares. It is interesting that Peter’s point is not immanence, as many suppose, but rather it is on avoiding placing one’s confidence on what will ultimately be destroyed. This is the incentive for godliness and holy conduct. The wicked live like natural brute beasts-as if this life is all there is-carousing in lewdness and lust, as Peter noted. Peter does not say-just don’t get caught when he appears. Peter is saying-don’t waste your life living only for your own lust and selfish desires.
Furthermore, Peter does not set up a pietistic dichotomy between the soul and the body. He is not saying that we must refrain from bodily pleasures or desires-if fulfilled according to His word. It is not a war between body and soul, but it is a spiritual war with those who follow their own lusts, living self-willed rather than God-willed lives. Peter does not say we look forward to no more earth and a life on the clouds of heaven. Peter says, “according to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This is the point-looking to the time when righteousness alone dwells here. This also is involved in the promise of His coming.
II Peter 3:14-18 Be Diligent, Be Steadfast.
“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things,” and those things include the promise of the judgment to come, but also of a new heavens and new earth “in which righteousness dwells.” How one lives is based on what one knows and believes. Being at peace with God always comes on the basis of mercy and grace, and if one is at peace with God it will show in a life “without spot and blameless.” We are called effectually to be holy sacrifices. God’s longsuffering is also an expression of His mercy-giving an opportunity for repentance.
Peter makes special reference to Paul, as their beloved brother, and what he says about him and his work enlightens us to the understanding they had of how God fulfilled the giving of His word to us. He says that Paul was given wisdom-he didn’t come up with some system or philosophy on his own. It was this wisdom given that Peter also wrote to them about. Furthermore, Peter specifically groups Paul’s epistles with “the rest of the scriptures.” (v. 16) This is further proof that Peter considered the apostolic writings to be fully on par with “the rest of the scriptures.”
It is also important to note that Peter believed that Paul was writing about the same things which he was writing about-“these things.” This was foundational to the formation of the canon of scripture. Peter and Paul were unique individuals with unique callings as apostles-one to the Jews, the other to the gentiles, and yet they wrote of the wisdom they had received. Both of them were part of that apostolic witness which, along with the prophetic, was that to which his readers were to be mindful of (3:2). Peter wrote his epistles in order to “stir up” their “pure minds by way of reminder.” (3:1)
Reminder was important, because Peter acknowledged that in the scriptures, in particular in Paul, there were “some things hard to understand.” But, once again, rather than seeking to understand, the wicked chose rather to twist the scriptures, “to their own destruction.” This is also a lesson for us-many are skilled in the twisting of scripture. As a basic principle of biblical interpretation, we must look to the scriptures themselves for how they are to be understood. It is also important to observe who is handling the scriptures-does their life line up with the testimony of the word?
The scriptures are given to protect the church. Peter makes the point that he wrote his letters to warn the church of these destructive people and their destructive heresies. As always, there are two things-the error of their teachings, and the wickedness of their ways (v. 17). They also needed to be continually growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This is what he meant by their making their “call and election sure” (1:10). Grace is always connected with knowledge, and this knowledge is always propositional and experiential.
Speaking of this knowledge, Peter’s benediction is both a profound statement of Christ’s deity, and also, consequently an act of worship. The glory is that Glory Presence which Peter already spoke of, that which he witnessed at the transfiguration and Stephen in his death. “Both now and forever,” also speaks to this. As God, Jesus occupies the place of glory forever, but it is also something which we celebrate now. Psalm 110, the most quoted OT passage in the NT, lays the foundation that this position of Christ is that which he exercises now, and will do so until his enemies are made his footstool, and we see a new heavens and a new earth, “in which righteousness dwells.” “Amen.”