Thursday, October 22, 2015

Honorable Conduct (1 Peter 2:12)

The “builders” rejected God’s “cornerstone,” which became to them a “stone of stumbling” (1 Peter 2:6–8). This stumbling occurred because they “disobey the word” (v. 8). However, the obedient were found to be “a people for his own possession” (v. 9). Thus, Peter instructs them on how to live as the people of God in a pagan world (vv. 11–17). “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (v. 12). Gentiles (Gk., ethnos) refers to people groups who do not worship the true God (Deut. 32:8, 9).
Believers are to live life in keeping with God’s reputation. That is what it means to be honorable (Gk., kalos, “powerful,” “vigorous,” “excellent”). To be kalos is to have everything in proper order; thus, to reflect God’s character. This is important when believers are maligned as offenders. The accusations come because Christ is offensive to pagan principles. If one claims to be a Christ follower but is not spoken against, he is not living the Christ-life. The obstruction to his witness may be that his soul has surrendered to his fleshly passions, obscured his calling (v. 11). The Lord gave the Holy Spirit to believers in order for them to manifest the fruit of the Spirit in every situation of life (Gal. 5:22–26), especially when they are reviled (1 Pet. 2:23; Matt. 5:11).
The obligation of God’s people living among the pagans is to be a witness against them on judgment day because those being judged will have no excuse. They will have seen a Christ-like proper response (Gk., kalos ergon, how one does excellence) to their malicious accusations, forcing them to “glorify God”—to reluctantly admit that the Lord is just in their condemnation.
What follows in the next verses is instruction on how to live honorably in an evil culture. First, believers must be law-abiding citizens. They are to submit to every God-ordained human institution for the Lord’s sake, and this submission includes authorities at every level (v. 13). God instituted human authority for the welfare of the race by encouraging good behavior in a fallen world (Rom. 13:1–7). Remember, Peter wrote this instruction during the reign of Nero and with considerable personal experience in persecution (Acts 4:19; 5:29). The principle here is that authorities must be obeyed except when they claim for themselves what belongs only to God.
It is God’s will that believers’ doing good—properly responding to reviling—foolish ignorance (used only twice in the NT, meaning the willful rejection of the Word of God, 1 Cor. 15:34) will be silenced. The foolish are those who deny God any place in their scheme of life (2 Pet. 3:5, 8). The truth is self-evident but is overlooked when people refuse to investigate the facts (Acts 26:26).
Second, believers are to live free by not covering up evil (v. 16). Freedom is not the absence of restraint but willing submission to God’s plan to restore true liberty in Christ. Ironically, this freedom is enjoyed by those who become the slaves of God, not self (Rom. 6:16, 17).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The People of God (1 Peter 2:9–12)

Peter uses terminology that once identified ethnic Israel as the sole people of God. For example, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). The reference is Exodus 19: 5, 6: You shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” It would appear that Peter was writing this letter to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He referred to his readers as “the elect exiles of the dispersion” (1:1). A wrong understanding here can lead to confusion when it comes to correctly interpreting Peter.
Most commentators lean towards Hebrew Christians as Peter’s target audience. He was the apostle to the circumcision as Paul was to the Gentiles, was he not (Gal. 2:7, 8)? However, Peter also uses language informing his readers that salvation brought them into a new covenant relationship with God that so they were no longer to be conformed to the passions of [their] former ignorance” (v. 14). Ignorance was a term used of Gentiles outside the old covenant community (Ephesians 4:18; Acts 17:30). Also, note that verse 9 is followed by this: “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people” (v. 10, citing Hosea 6:9, 10). Paul cites the Hosea passage in Romans 9 to argue that Gentiles were also being called as a people for His name (vv. 24–26). The gist of the Hosea text is that Israel’s unfaithfulness made them like the Gentiles, “not a people of God.”
The confusion of many is due, quite frankly to dispensational error that insists that God has two separate and distinct peoples: the nation of Israel and the church of Jesus Christ. They teach that while Jews are being saved in this gospel age, most will not have God’s particular attention until the end times when He will remove the church and focus again on the nation of Israel. (I do believe that God will save a remnant of the Jewish nation when Christ returns as per Zechariah 13:8, 9.) This confusion is particularly noticeable in interpreting end-time prophecy.
Paul’s discussion in Romans 9 is key and pertinent to defining who the people of God are. In verse 6, Paul’s problem is stated: God’s promise and covenant to the seed of Abraham seems to have failed and His Word voided because, save a few, God’s people rejected their Messiah. Paul’s response is that God never intended to save all of ethnic Israel (vv. 6–13). He will save a remnant, but not all ethnic Israel is to be included into spiritual Israel, the true people of God.
The purpose of ethnic Israel was to bring in the true Israel, Jesus Christ. The gospel privilege was never intended to be limited to the Jewish nation but to include Gentiles as well (Eph. 2:11–22). The New Covenant people of God are not an extension of the Old Covenant community but a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:5).  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Lord’s Goodness

Peter presses the value of the Word of God as the source of the gospel message of salvation. It is only through the hearing of the Word that the Spirit grants faith to believe the message (Rom. 10:17). It is only through the living and abiding Word that the divine seed has produced the new birth in the spiritually dead (1 Peter 1:23). Because the Word is eternal, being the Word of the eternal God, it produces that which returns eternal fruit.
In light of this truth, Peter urges his readers to “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander”—all motives and methods of carnal and worldly scheming for successful living in a sinful world (2:1). Instead, the new-born saint is to find his nourishment in the unmixed, unadulterated, pure Word that produces guileless people without dishonest intent (v. 2). It is only by this means that true believers will mature into the full and complete salvation Christ has prepared for them.
This operation of God’s Word, however, does not produce the same effect in everyone. Therefore, Peter adds, “If indeed you have tasted [experienced] that the Lord is good” (v. 3). This is taken from Psalm 34:8, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” The writer of Hebrews applies the psalm in this way, “You . . . have tasted the goodness of the word of God” (6:5). One cannot taste and see that the Lord is good unless he has tasted Him through the revelation of Christ in the Word. The Puritan, Stephen Charnock, wrote:
“Prize and study the Scripture. We can have no delight in meditation on him unless we know him, and we cannot know him but by the means of his own revelation. When the revelation is despised, the revealer will be of little esteem. Men do not throw off God from being their rule till they throw off Scripture from being their guide; and God must needs be cast off from being an end when the Scripture is rejected from being a rule.”
Have you experienced the Lord’s goodness—His gentleness and usefulness? Jesus invites us, “Come to me . . . take my yoke . . . and learn from me . . . for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:28–30). This invitation comes after Jesus declared, No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” He had just expressed wonder and delight in the fact the Lord of heaven and earth had willed to hide these truths of salvation from the “wise and understanding” but, instead, revealed them to “babes” (Matt. 11:25). No doubt Peter had this text in mind as he penned the exhortation to “new born infants” and that they should “long for pure spiritual milk” (2:2).
“As you come [are coming and keep on coming] to Him [having tasted of His goodness]. . . you yourselves are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (v. 4). 

The Lord's Portion

“When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the Lord’s portion is his people” (Deut. 32:8, 9).
Believers are instructed, As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (1 Pet. 1:14). Paul echoes this admonition: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed” (Rom. 12:2). The issue here is huge. It is not that we must stop enjoying a few morally questionable habits for an austere life of joyless conformity to God’s law. If that is your view of the Christian life, you are not a Christian.
True believers have been born again to a whole new life (1:23) from a former existence compared to grass that withers and perishes. The new life is like the seed that produces it—eternal life (1:24, 25). The powerful image described here is the operation of the living God. His word, spoken by the Spirit, is the creative force that brought all things into existence (Psa. 33:6–12). “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).
The point is that the Lord is gathering out of the world a new race, a new nation, a new people, the Lord’s portion (2:9, 10). Each believer is a “stone” in the construction of God’s spiritual house (v. 5). The purpose of the house—a temple with priesthood—is to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” This purpose “stands in Scripture” (Gk., to surround or encompass). In other words, this project of the Lord’s gathering His portion is the central subject matter of Scripture.
Jesus Christ is the focal point. Peter quotes from Isaiah 28:16, to which he applies, “You believers see His value, but unbelievers stumble over Him” (1 Pet. 2:7, 8). Why is this? It is because, as Peter declares, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own” (v. 9). Every new creature in Christ now enjoys a glorious new privilege and opportunity. Believers, by their transformed lives, are to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (v. 9).
Believers have received mercy. They were once lo-ammi, “not a people” (Hosea 1:9, 10; 2:23; cf. Jer. 30:22) now they are the people of God. What a responsibility! Peter started the passage by urging believers to put away malice (Gk., to lack something, thus, be incapable), deceit (Gk., crafty), hypocrisy (Gk., to wear a mask), envy, and slander. Instead, they are to long for “pure spiritual milk” in order to grow into salvation, the transformation they were saved for (v. 1). He finishes the passage with the same charge (vv. 11, 12). You do this if you have “tasted that the Lord is good” (v. 3; Matt. 11:28-30).