Display a New Identity

Explore the Bible Series

March 18, 2007

 

Background Passage:  I Peter 2:1-12

Lesson Passage: I Peter 2:1-12

 

Introduction:

 

The longer I study the Bible, the more I become convinced of the inadequacy of human language to express the wonderful, heavenly truths contained in the Scriptures.  Think of it: the Holy Spirit revealed these breathtaking things to men, and then commissioned them to record these verities in language that mortals could grasp.  Evangelicals, of course, believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible; nevertheless, the expression of heavenly truths, in human must have proved a difficult task.  How can mortal expression reveal the matchless word of God?  If my point holds water, Bible students must exercise great caution in the interpretation and application of the things found in Scripture.

 

One helpful interpretive model relates to the use of analogy.  The Bible’s authors commonly employed analogies: the use of a familiar image that resembles, in some important ways, the doctrine or ethical principle being discussed.  In other words, they borrowed recognizable, everyday images to convey some great principle.  Jesus, for instance, used parables (according to A.T. Robertson, more than fifty such stories) to teach his disciples about the Kingdom of God.  No reasonable person reads Jesus’ parables like someone would read a history book (I affirm that much of the Bible is historical in nature).  When Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a man sowing in a field, few would interpret his words to mean that the Lord had a specific, historical farmer in mind; rather, he used a commonplace experience (observing a farmer planting his crops) to express the varieties of human response to the “sowing” of the gospel.  Linguistic experts divide analogies into at least two categories: metaphor” and simile.

 

Metaphors compare two things that may be dissimilar in many ways, but share at least one thing (maybe several things) in common.  Usually, one aspect of the metaphor conjures a familiar impression and reveals an important element about the greater truth.  This sophisticated use of language assumes that the reader (or hearer) understands the nature of the discourse and does not distort the analogy by pressing the analogy too far.  For instance, the Bible describes God’s paternal relationship with God using the analogies of regeneration and adoption.  Let’s use adoption as a helpful illustration of the point.

 

In several places, the Scriptures trace the genesis of this paternal relationship to adoption.  A child, born to a biological family, is chosen by the adoptive parent and made a part of a new household.  This doctrine brings marvelous encouragement and blessing to God’s children, but no reasonable person would press the metaphor beyond its intended purpose.  For example, the divine transaction of adoption has no place for an adoptive mother.  Should the Bible reader believe that God files legal papers with some governmental institution to bring the adoptee into the new family?  No, the metaphor intends for readers to understand that adoption gives some helpful and blessed insight into the nature of God’s relationship with his children.

 

A simile, while serving a similar purpose to the metaphor, introduces the analogy with the words “like” or “as.”  Again, Jesus used this imagery in the parables.  Often the Lord introduced his helpful stories with the words, “The Kingdom of heaven is like…”  He did not intend that his hearers press the parables to find meaning in every aspect of each story; instead, he generally had one major point in mind that he wanted to communicate, in understandable images, to his disciples.

 

Peter, in this week’s lesson passage, employed a series of analogies (metaphors) to depict the nature of Christian life. The apostle stated his principles in powerful images that grant great insight into the practical conduct of regenerate people.  Indeed, Peter constructed this whole section around very powerful images, and he changes the analogies very rapidly and comfortably.  Perhaps we should, at the outset of this study, recall the apostle’s admonition to “gird up the loins of our minds” as we approach the text.

 

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   The Analogy of a Soiled Garment (v. 1): Peter used a participle (“laying aside”) to describe those aspects of ungodly living that the regenerate person must discard.  The believer must put off these worldly characteristics as a result of their new birth and sanctification by the Holy Spirit.  Think of these characteristics as filthy clothing that a man has soiled through arduous, dirty labors.  Upon return to his family and friends, the man discards his unseemly apparel; indeed, he finds the garments odious and repulsive.  The text identifies five characteristics that regenerate people must discard.

A.    “Malice”: This general word for vice or wickedness, in this context, relates to all characteristics that produce discontent and disharmony among the people of God.  It acts as an introductory word to usher in the more restricted (in meaning) terms to come.

B.     “all guile”: This term describes malignant deception.  Originally, the ancients referred to the bait in a trap with this word.  It indicates actions with insincere and base motives.  The Pharisees, for instance, tried to catch Jesus at his words by posing “trick” questions to the savior.  They were not genuinely seeking information or insight; instead, they hoped to ensnare the Lord in his words.

C.     “hypocrisy”: This Greek word originated in the theater and depicts the donning of a mask to play a role on the stage.  It reeks, in this context, with deception and pretense. Brethren, how much “role playing” takes place in the average Baptist church?  Peter calls believers to authentic Christian living, without deception or pretense.

D.    “envy”: This word describes an inward attitude that gives rise to the actions that precede it in the sentence.  Malice, guile, and hypocrisy grow from an envious heart.  Envy is a form of jealousy, and it lusts for the honor and respect that rightfully belongs to another.   Pastors may grow envious of other servants of Christ that enjoy, at least in observable ways, greater success and ease in the Lord’s work.  Often, church members may evidence envy when they rebel against their God-ordained leadership.  Envy has no place in the hearts of the Lord’s people.

E.     “all evil speaking”: Envy often manifests itself in slanderous speech (this includes modern-day conveniences like telephones and e-mail).  The verb means “to run down” or “disparage.” 

 

II.                The Analogy of a Newborn Baby (vv. 2-3): Peter, of course, did not intend to glorify immaturity in his readers; rather, he used the analogy of the infant’s irrepressible desire for milk as an analogy of Christian living. According to Peter Davids, only one imperative appears in this paragraph (vv. 1-10). The New King James Version translates this imperative “desire”, and it serves as the centerpiece for these encouragements to godly life. Some commentators even argue that the entire Book of I Peter revolves around this verb.  Don’t miss the simile in this verse, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word…” 

A.    The purity of the word:  As addressed in the previous lesson, Peter, at this point in sacred history, could not have in mind the written materials now known as the New Testament.  Most of the New Testament had not been written during Peter’s lifetime, and those books that did exist had not been collected and widely distributed to churches.  Instead, Peter referred to the preaching of the gospel, as these churches had heard and embraced.  The old fisherman affirmed the purity (the word carries the idea of unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed, undiluted) of the apostolic message.

B.     The efficacy of the work: Just as a suckling child grows by the nourishment received from his mother, the believer thrives by a steady diet of the word of God. 

C.     The goodness of God’s word: This first phrase of this verse might be best translated, “Since you have tasted…”  The language assumes that these Christians have already received the word and found it sweet to their spiritual taste buds. 

 

III.             The Analogy of a Spiritual Temple (vv. 4-10): Temple worship permeated the ancient Near East.   Every major city counted some pagan temple among its most treasured public buildings.  Even in Jerusalem, Herod’s Temple dominated the cultural life of the Jews; however, with these verses, Peter reordered the thinking of his readers.  Christ did not come to reshape the architectural history of his people.  He came to renovate the “place” centered worship of the Old Covenant with an animated legacy of transformed lives, a living temple made up of his people.

A.    Christ, the cornerstone (vv. 4-8): Ancient architects structured large public buildings differently that modern men.  Many great buildings were like three-dimensional puzzles: each stone cut to perfect specification to fit a particular structural purpose.  The entire building rested on one key stone, the cornerstone, and the security and stability of the edifice was severely compromised if this corner piece had any flaw. Masons passed over inferior stones in favor of that perfect and approved rock.  Peter used the imagery of the quarry to reflect on the centrality and faithfulness of Christ.

B.     The rejection of God’s cornerstone: The spiritual leaders of Israel possessed little discernment.  They foolishly rejected the choice cornerstone of the Lord in favor of their own imprudent designs, and what they built did not last (Indeed, Herod’s Temple laid in ruins just a few years after Peter wrote this book). They saw God’s cornerstone as a stumbling block and offense.  Peter alluded to a number of Old testament passages to buttress his observations about Christ’s rejection by the mankind (See Isaiah 28:16, Psalms 118:22, Isaiah 8:14).

C.     The service in God’s spiritual temple: Peter used two analogies of the Lord’s people: living stones and a royal priesthood.

1.      living stones and a spiritual priesthood (vv. 5 and 9-10): Peter did not confuse the erection of buildings with the advancement of the Kingdom of God.  God indwells his people, and, in doing so, he creates a spiritual temple of living stones.

2.      The Lord’s people serve as priests in this temple and offer spiritual sacrifices to God’s glory.  Hebrews 13:15-16 identifies these sacrifices as praise, thanksgiving, and service to others. Verses nine and ten connect the doctrine of election to this priesthood and the believer’s status as members of the heavenly royal court.  Also, Peter contrasts these wonderful privileges with the unseemly moral background of his readers.  Once, these people lived in darkness and condemnation. Now, however, by God’s mercy, they have become God’s people and dwell in glorious light.

 

A Concluding Exhortation (vv.11-12):  These transitional verses encourage the Christians of Asia Minor to abstain from fleshly lusts, inordinate desires that war against the soul.  Notice that Peter implied the cultural engagement of these believers, they are among the Gentiles. The text does not encourage a separatistic posture.  The nature of the believer’s warfare demands involvement in the world of the Gentiles